“ Brand: Halfords / Type: Booster Car Seat „
My youngest child has recently grown out of his first stage car seat, resulting in a switch round of our existing car seats. My oldest son was then left without a car seat but, as he is only nine years old and under 135cm tall, he needed a replacement booster seat to comply with the law. A booster seat is the simplest style of child car seat, designed to raise a child up slightly to ensure that the seat belt fits safely and securely. This Stage 3 style of seat is backless and simply rests on the usual passenger seats in the car, without any complicated fitting or adjustments needed.
Despite the simplicity of the seats as a rule, I was surprised to see just how expensive a basic booster seat could be. After looking at some overpriced models online, I popped into Halfords hoping to find an alternative that offered the same level of safety and comfort but at a more reasonable price. I was expecting to pay around £10-£15 for a basic booster so was delighted to discover that Halford's own brand of basic booster seat was half-price, costing just £8.49. We ended up buying two (one for each car) and still had change from £20! (What I hadn't realised at the time was that I could have saved an additional 10%, by ordering online in advance and collecting them free of charge in store.)
These seats have proven to be excellent value for money, feeling just as sturdy and well-made as the far more expensive Graco version that my son had previously used. The only visual difference is that this basic version doesn't include any pull-out drinks holders at the sides, which is no great loss as I find they just tend to get filled with litter and discarded toys. This seat just has slightly raised sides which help to position the seat belt correctly. Certainly in terms of build quality and sturdiness, there is no noticeable difference and I don't feel that I am compromising my son's safety or comfort in any way by opting for this cheaper model. Admittedly, the padding on these seats is pretty negligible but I find that to be the case with these seats in general, not specific to this design. My son has certainly not complained about any discomfort since switching seats (and he likes a good grumble), even when making the 100 mile journey each way on a recent holiday.
One unexpected bonus of this seat is that it is very slightly narrower than other models, making it a better fit for the back seat when trying to squeeze three car seats in there. I would certainly recommend considering this seat if looking for a narrower seat for that particular reason. Despite the smaller width of the seat overall, the actual padded section doesn't appear to be smaller and I would easily expect this to last my son until he no longer legally needs to use a car seat anymore. The style and simple colour scheme are neutral enough not to be an embarrassment, even for a child at the older end of the age spectrum. Available in either blue or red - we have one of each- both colours are shades that are pretty unisex with nothing garish or girly about either of them.
The minimum recommended age for this seat is from four years upwards. Personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable allowing a child as young as four to sit in this style of seat, as I feel they need the extra support offered by a seat including a backrest, particularly if they are still inclined to nod off in the car. My oldest was around six or seven before switching to just the booster seat element, without an additional back support. By this age, children seem to be getting conscious of car seats being 'babyish' and want the less obvious support that a booster cushion provides.
In terms of practicality, this seat completely meets our needs. It is very lightweight (without feeling cheap or flimsy) making it ideal for moving from different cars or storing between uses. The cover fits into position with elastic fastenings and can be removed and machine washed, if needed, although it is easy to wipe clean for all but the most major spillages. Both the cover and seat itself feel robust and hardwearing, with the slightly coarse weave of the covering feeling suitably strong and unlikely to get damaged during typical usage.
I'm not a parent who is willing to compromise my children's safety for the sake of saving a few quid but I certainly don't feel that is the case here. For the price I paid, I got a bargain that offers my son all the protection and support that a much more expensive model would provide. For that reason, I see no reason to pay any extra for a branded product. Obviously, this is exclusive to Halfords and still on offer (September 2011) but, for some reason, the blue version costs just £8.49 while the red colour costs £11.49. Even at the slightly higher price, this is a good value purchase that I'm happy to recommend.