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One question we often get from parents planning a family trip to Australia is what to do about car seats. Should they bring a travel car seat from home? Should they rent a car seat? Should they rely on public transportation?
There’s a lot to consider and some will depend on the ages of your kids and your detailed Australia itinerary. Read on for the important details you need to know as you make your decision!
What are car seat rules in Australia?
Like many countries, Australia maintains a unique set of standards and testing for car seats to be sold and used in the country. Here are some basic Australia car seat rules you need to know before you start considering whether to bring your travel car seat or rent a car seat:
-Babies in Australia must rear-face until 6 months. In Australian car seats, the straps go above the shoulders for rear facing.
-Toddlers in Australia should be in a forward-facing car seat until 4 years old (though they can remain rear-facing longer). In Australian car seats, straps go below the shoulders for forward facing. There are height markers near the shoulder to indicate minimum and maximum heights.
-Older kids must ride in a forward-facing car seat or booster seat in Australia until they are at least 7 years old, but it’s recommended to use a booster seat until 4’9″ tall.
-Car seats are required in Ubers, but most taxis in Australia don’t require car seats (though they’re strongly recommended and we wouldn’t take our kids without them). Taxis in New South Wales require babies under 1 to ride in a car seat.
In addition to those car seat regulations for Australia, there are a few more details you should keep in mind:
-Car seat requirements in Australia prohibit chest clips
-Australian car seats all use a top tether, whether rear-facing or forward-facing
-Backless booster seats (also called “booster cushions” locally) are not recommended in Australia
-Car seats can be installed with either a seatbelt or ISOFIX (compatible with LATCH)
-Can you use a car seat on Quantas or Virgin Australia? Only in certain seats and with advance coordination with the airline.
Should you bring your car seat to Australia?
First up: your American car seat will physically work in Australia. You’ll be able to install it without issue (though you may need a seatbelt locking clip).
The bigger question is should you bring a car seat to Australia or rent one there (or rely on public transportation if staying in the big cities). There’s a lot to consider!
Under Australian law you can only use an Australia/New Zealand certified car seat while in the country. There are no car seats that are certified world-wide, though this booster seat is pretty darn close and working on Australia right now.
Clear cut, right? Except that there are plenty of risks that come with renting a car seat. In Australia one big issue if you have a toddler is that extended rear-facing isn’t common practice or required by law, even though it’s up to four times safer than forward-facing. If you rent a car seat for a 1 year old, you might be given one that only faces forward.
Renting a car seat can also get extremely expensive. Even if a rental agency caps the cost at around $60 per rental, if you fly to different parts of the country on your Australia vacation itinerary it can add up quickly. We had four different car rentals in Australia and we have two kids. Once you add in airport fees, it would have cost us over $500 to rent car seats in Australia!
If you’re staying in the big city centers of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and a few others you can work with public transportation. But I can say from experience that you’d be missing out on some of the most incredible places in Australia if you limited yourself to the cities!
I was also concerned that we might arrive late at night (as nearly all of our Australia flights did) to an unfamiliar destination and be told that, sorry, they ran out of all the car seats that would fit our kids.
Read more: Important info for traveling with car seats
Our Australia car seat solution
Everyone’s decision on the great Australia car seat debate will be different. The only non-negotiable for us was keeping our kids safe.
We visited Australia during our gap year with kids and we had our Bubblebum backless booster seat for our 6 year old and Ride Safer travel vest for our 3 year old. We did not have more traditional travel car seats with us and couldn’t have brought them along.
We’ve heard that police officers in the states of Victoria (including Melbourne) and New South Wales (including Sydney) enforce the “local only” child car seat laws of Australia more strictly than elsewhere in the country. Since we planned to spend several weeks in those states and even drive from Melbourne and Sydney, we opted to rent car seats for that leg of our journey with our rental car.
Our visits to other Australian states were shorter and didn’t involve as much driving. We’d also heard that enforcement of the “only Australian car seats” rule wasn’t as strict elsewhere, so we chose to use our Bubblebum and Ride Safer vest.
Was it the correct legal choice? No. But we felt that it was the safest option for our family. As you plan your trip to Australia, hopefully this information will help you make the choice that’s right for your family.
Check here for all your Australia family vacation itinerary advice to start planning your trip!
Read more: How to travel with car seats – all the info you need before you fly!
Austalia car seat FAQs
The AS/NZ Standard (AS/NZS 1754) establishes the various types of child car seats Australia allows. However, car seat laws in Australia vary by state in the ages/sizes at which different types are permitted. Here are Australian car seat laws by state:
–Queensland car seat laws
–New South Wales car seat laws
–Victoria car seat laws
–ACT car seat laws
–South Australia car seat laws
–Tasmania car seat laws
–Western Australia car seat laws
–Northern Territory car seat laws
Backless booster cushions can no longer be sold by manufacturers in Australia, though families are allowed to use ones they already have.
The Bubblebum is not currently approved for use in Australia. That said, children 7 and over are allowed to ride in only an adult seatbelt so a Bubblebum wouldn’t likely cause a problem for a child 7 or older.
4 thoughts on “Should you bring your car seat to Australia?”
Can I ask I’m from the uk trunki do a back pack booster seat I will have a 7 and 4 year old I only plan to rent from one rental company and drive from gold coast to Sydney would these be demmed illegal would I be better to rent from my rental firm or should I bring the seats with me?
Technically they’re illegal since they’re not tested and approved for the Aus/NZ market. In Australia backless booster seats (sometimes called booster cushions) are no longer legal to be sold.
HOWEVER, children ages 7 and up in Australia are legally permitted to use the adult seat belt on its own. That is NOT a safe choice and not one I would ever suggest, but since a booster isn’t required at that age it’s unlikely you’d get in trouble for using your Boostapak. But since you’ll be doing a very long drive, it would be a better choice to rent a more supporting high back booster seat. Our son was 6.5 when we arrived in Australia and that’s what we did for him.
Your 4 year old is legal to ride in a high back booster seat in Australia, but quite honestly most kids that age aren’t mature enough to sit properly the whole ride – especially on a long drive after a long flight crossing many times zones. I would recommend renting a car seat with a harness at that age. Indeed, even at home I’d encourage you to consider putting off booster seat use until 5 or even 6 depending on your child’s maturity 🙂
Terrible advice. Maybe you need to do some more research and update this page.
Children between 6m and 4y may travel in a ff or RF Restraint. Children 4+ may travel in a booster or restraint with an inbuilt harness. Children 7+ may only travel with an adult lap sash if it’s fitted correctly, which isn’t usually until around 12yo.
Also bringing your bubblegum was definitely wrong decision. And our seats have the highest standards so your children would technically be safer in aus standard seats.
Thanks for stopping by!
The age-based limits you state are what I’ve laid out in the bullet points in this article. If you see a specific discrepancy, please do let me know.
As I mentioned in the article, we did rent Australian car seats for about half of our time in the country. However, it’s disingenuous to ignore the real issues with renting car seats (particularly in a country with seats having a very different design from a traveler’s home country). The seats we rented did not have instruction manuals provided. The car rental agency employees attempted to install them for us, citing their company training, but clearly had no clue what they were doing so I had to do the best I could based on my knowledge of American seats – which are very different. I received no information on the proper adjustments based on my children’s sizes. Most American and European parents visiting Australia are coming off of at least 12 hours of travel with young children and standing in a car park trying to figure this all out on the fly, which is a certain recipe for incorrect usage.
There’s also no way to know the history of rental seats, as these had definitely been used by previous customers and could have been in a crash. In short, Australian seats may be amazing but a properly used foreign seat is likely safer than an improperly used (or even damaged) Australian seat.
I respect your passion on this topic, but there is truly a lot of gray area in how to handle these tricky situations. That’s why I do not tell parents that the must do one thing or the other, but instead present the options realistic with pros and cons and let them evaluate how to proceed.