April 19, 2016 3 min read

What are the Car Seat Laws in New Zealand?

What is the law?

Since 2013, all children up to the age of 7 must be properly restrained in a capsule, car seat or booster seat. While the law works in ages, all children are different, so it's important to make sure your child is in an appropriate restraint for his or her height and weight, even if that means that they're in a car seat or booster after their seventh birthday.

Why it's important to keep children properly restrained.

It might be hard to convince your 5 or 6 year old to sit in a booster seat. As they get a older they'll see mum and dad or older siblings sitting in the normal seat, and will probably tell you they're big enough to do the same! But it's important to convince them otherwise, and here's why.

In an accident, the passengers' bodies are thrown forward, until something stops them. In the case of a capsule and rear facing seat, this is the shell of the seat; for harnessed car seats, it's the harness, for impact shield seats, it's the impact shield, and for booster seats and adults, it's the car's seat belt.

How to tell if your child restraint can legally be used in New Zealand

To fit with the law, all child restraints must meet an approved safety standard. This ensures a restraint's design and construction are laboratory tested under crash conditions and provide the best protection when used according to manufacturer's instructions.

All approved child restraints display standard markings to show they are approved. All the car seats stocked here at Global Baby meet the New Zealand legal requirements, and are certified under either the European, or American safety standards.

Look for a child restraint that shows:

  • a tick mark (indicates the restraint meets the joint New Zealand/Australian Standard AS/NZ 1754)
  • an 'E' mark (indicates the restraint meets the European Standard ECE 44) – the number on the circle will vary depending on the country of certification.
  • Or, look for a restraint that complies with the United States Standard FMVSS 213. The restraint must also show the New Zealand Standard 'S' mark indicating it is certified for use here.

Should you use a child restraint for older children?

While it's the law that every child under 7 must be restrained in a proper child restraint, it's not a bad idea to use a booster seat for as long as your child will fit it, even if they're not legally required to use one.

The current recommendation in New Zealand is that children should be in a booster seat until they're 148cm tall, you may have heard the ads on the radio 'It's safer to wait until 148'. We know that's not always feasible, and we've even had a few mums and dads in the shop who aren't 148cm tall, but we still recommend it as a guide.

A lot of booster seats are made to suit up to a 12 year old child. The Recaro Milano booster seat is a great option for an older child. It has an adjustable headrest that lets it grow with the child, and a handy seat belt latch at the shoulder to ensure that the belt is positioned at the correct position on your child's shoulder.

Recaro Milano Booster Seat
Recaro Milano Booster Seat

Expiration dates

Bear in mind that most car seats will have an expiration date, or a recommended period of use, after which the safety certification is no longer valid, meaning the seat will no longer comply with New Zealand laws.

Most car seats have an expiration date 5-10 years after the date of sale, but it varies from seat to seat. Check the manual of your child restraint to be sure.

This is also important to think about if you're thinking of using a second-hand car seat, or maybe recycling one that you bought for an older child a few years ago. We wouldn't recommend buying a second-hand car seat, unless you're sure you know its history. If the seat has been in a car that's had an impact at more than 10km/h, it will no longer be covered by the safety regulations, so won't comply with the law. If in doubt, don't buy it!

Still not sure?

If you have any questions about what kind of restraint your child needs, or on how to properly install it in your car, stop by our store and we'll be happy to help! Otherwise you can get in touch with your local Plunket car seat service, and they'll be able to give you some useful advice.