Table of Contents
- View The Best Baby Car Seats Below
- 1. Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
- 2. Doona Infant Car Seat
- 3. Graco SlimFit Convertible Car Seat
- 4. Evenflo EveryStage Car Seat
- 5. Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
- 6. Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Convertible Car Seat
- 7. Britax Allegiance Convertible Car Seat
- 8. Safety 1st Grow and Go Car Seat
- 9. CYBEX Sirona M Lavastone Car Seat
- 10. Maxi-Cosi Magellan All-In-One Convertible Car Seat
- Baby Car Seats Buyers Guide
Of all the purchases new parents make, an infant car seat is probably the one they worry about the most. And, sure, it’s a good idea to put time and energy into researching the best baby car seats on the market, but the options can be overwhelming. It’s a decision you need to get right. While the best infant car seats all offer easy installation and state of the art safety features, mom and dad are also looking for a car seat that’s easy to use.
After all, if the installation is complicated, a frazzled parent might get it wrong. The best car seats for babies are not only safe but simple to use and easy to install. Our team researched current models of infant car seats and pored over specifications, user manuals, and customer reviews to find the top car baby seats from the best brands. On the way, we found infant car seat recommendations and tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Highway Safety Traffic Administration; check our buyers’ guide below the reviews for in-depth information.
View The Best Baby Car Seats Below
1. Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
Peace of mind that you’ve installed this infant car seat correctly comes with the audible “click” and easy-to-read bubble level indicators; the assurance you’ll gain from these features make the Chicco KeyFit 30 one of the best infant car seats on the market. It’s suitable for babies as small as four pounds up to 30, lives up to or exceeds infant car seat safety standards, and offers convenient features like a five-point harness that tightens with one motion. We gave it bonus points for the quick-release handle and the removable newborn head support and shade canopy. Without the base, the car seat is also compatible with Chicco strollers.
+Super easy installation with indicators
+Car seat has a simple harness and latch tightener
+High consumer ratings and reviews
+A lightweight but sturdy infant car seat
+Alternate installation – car seat belt option
Why We Like It – Impeccable safety features like energy-absorbing foam in the shell, along with the ease and security of installation, made this winner of our best car seat ranking. The latch system on this car seat was easy to fasten and unfasten, so whether the baby is squirming or sleeping peacefully, you’ll spend minimal time struggling in the back seat.
2. Doona Infant Car Seat
It’s an infant car seat and a stroller all in one, but the engineers who designed this multi-tasking piece didn’t sacrifice safety or comfort for versatility. The car baby seat mode boasts three-layer side impact protection; the handlebar you use in stroller mode serves as an anti-rebound bar in the car. Attention to detail and the maximum utility gives the best infant car seats the edge: this one is FAA-compliant and smoothly goes from car seat to stroller.
+Two-in-one versatility – goes from infant car seat to stroller
+Built with safety and ergonomics in mind
+Infant insert included
+The best car seat for a highly mobile family
Why We Like It – This is one hybrid-style infant car seat that doesn’t lose a single advantage to having a secondary mode. Whether you use it on the road or the sidewalk, this convertible car seat/stroller will justify its price tag. It’s one of the best infant car seats we found, and the stroller is top-notch, too.
3. Graco SlimFit Convertible Car Seat
If you’re on the lookout for affordable baby car seats that will grow along with your little one, we’ve found one of the best car seat options. Graco has streamlined this model, which takes a baby from 5 to 100 pounds (it’s designed for rear- and forward-facing, along with booster). The four reclining positions add comfort; car seat installation and removal is easy, as is buckling, adjusting and releasing the harness. The features of this infant car seat include Safe Seat engineering, and we liked that the materials have been tested to withstand high car interior temperatures.
+One of the best car seats for rear- and front-facing, as well as booster mode
+ Excellent value for a convertible car seat
+Weight limit range takes your baby from 5 to 100 pounds
+The seats are slim-lined to take up less space
+Car seat is crash-tested from all angles, including rollover
Why We Like It – The car seats baby can fit in from infancy to toddlerhood are often the best for your budget – if you can find a seat that offers safety, comfort, and ease of operation. This Graco car seat model hits all those marks, and the rotating cup holders swivel in to save valuable car space.
4. Evenflo EveryStage Car Seat
Slightly heavier and a little more expensive than the Graco reviewed above, this is a convertible car seat that your child can use up to 120 pounds. Use it with the harness as a rear- and front-facing baby seat up to 65 pounds (a little longer than some comparable models), and with your car’s safety belt after that. Evenflo has designed this car seat to recline so the little one doesn’t slump and can breathe freely while sleeping. Safe design and attention to baby’s comfort are built into this, making it one of the best infant car seats (and boosters) that we found.
+Goes from infant car seat to child booster
+Reclining feature is designed to prevent slumping
+Latch system is easy to operate without climbing into the car
+Rear-facing installation okay past the two-year mark
+Exceeds federal safety standards
Why We Like It – The extended weight limit options of this car seat (both for rear-facing and booster use) were bonuses. We also were impressed by the easy installation. You don’t have to climb into the car to fasten/adjust the tension of the latch for this baby (and child) car seat. The neck support for infants and sleepy older babies is superior, too.
5. Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car SeatNo products found.
No products found.
One of two Graco baby car seats on our top ten list, this model is easy to use and offers options beyond the typical car seat weight limits. Infants and bigger babies up to 50 pounds can ride facing the rear, thanks to an extension panel that increases legroom. Besides, once your baby hits 22 pounds (and up to 65), you can front-face. The best infant car seats offer plenty of neck support, and this one boasts a 10-position headrest that’s easy to adjust for your growing baby. Look for the “Fuss Free” harness storage feature – it holds the car seat buckle out of the way while you move your baby.
+Offers maximum flexibility for rear- and front-facing weight limits
+Easy to adjust headrest and legroom extenders
+Harness automatically adjusts to headrest position
+Graco holds its car seats to the highest safety standards
+It’s easy to install and remove this infant seat
Why We Like It – First and foremost, we were impressed with the option to use this infant car seat in the rear-facing mode as long as possible. Beyond that, the convenience and easy operation of the harness and other adjustable features makes a top contender for the best car seat in its class.
6. Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Convertible Car Seat
Most infant car seats work well in theory, but if you don’t do your research, you might discover that a struggling baby and complicated harnesses and latches don’t mix. The best infant car seats offer simple-to-learn and easy-to-execute installation and buckling. On this convertible car seat, the straps stay out of the way until you need them, the headrest and harness adjust in sync – even removing the pad for washing is easy. All the safety features you need are there too, and this car seat will take baby from 14 to 85 pounds.
+Thoughtful touches like flip-away buckle and harness holders
+Max-Cosi’car seat technology offers advanced protection from side impacts
+The car seat pad and (harness covers) are simple to remove and replace
+Harness and height can be micro-adjusted for perfect comfort
Why We Like It – With deep recline in the rear-facing position, breathable fabric, and cushy harness covers, this is a posh infant car seat model that also delivers on safety – and it’s easy on parents, too. We loved this car seat’s harness holders as they facilitate getting baby settled in for the ride.
7. Britax Allegiance Convertible Car Seat
A removable body pillow makes this car seat comfy for infants as small as five pounds, and it’ll adjust to accommodate a 65-pound, 49-inch child. Look for the easy-to-use button latch connectors, and listen as they audibly click into place. The harness has ten position options, and unlike some models, you’ll never have to rethread it as baby grows into the next stage of this car seat. Safety features include Britax’s patented impact protection system, and the foam-lined shell protects the infant seat from side impacts.
+Designed for maximum safety with a tether that reduces forward movement
+Harness and headrest adjust as one
+Car seat includes body pillow for newborns
+Three recline position options
Why We Like It – From features like the extra side-impact protection to the audible assurance that you’ve latched the seat correctly, this is one of the best infant car seats in its price range. With its weight-range options (rear-facing up to 40 pounds), the Britax Allegiance offers plenty of versatility alongside its bells and whistles.
8. Safety 1st Grow and Go Car Seat
Safe for children up to 100 pounds, this is a car seat for babies that will convert to a comfortable and safe perch for your toddler and older child, too (the booster seat is tested for up to 100 pounds). Another model of a car seat with harness and headrest synchronicity, we like the ease of operation – including harness holders that work in both the forward- and rear-facing seating modes. This car seat is comfortable for both baby and parents and is designed to take up less space in the back seat in rear-facing mode.
+Rear-facing back seat position allows up to seven inches of extra legroom in the front seat
+Converts from infant car seat up to 100 pounds with booster and seat belt option
+Baby pillows included for best infant car seat fit
+Holders keep harness where you need it
+Level to ground line indicator for rear-facing installation
Why We Like It – This convertible car seat offers a high weight limit and both easy installation and adjustment. The seat’s safety features include high side-impact protection in both the rear – and front-facing modes.
9. CYBEX Sirona M Lavastone Car Seat
This is a smart car seat, literally – it has a sensor you link to your cell phone that will sound an alert if babies unbuckle themselves, if the car’s temperature is unsafe, or simply if it’s time to get out and stretch. In addition to this savvy solution, the safety on this convertible car seat includes an energy-absorbing shell and five-point harness. Install or remove with one pull, and take advantage of the magnetic buckle holders when the baby is squirmy. We were impressed by the high-tech aspects of this infant car seat, but it’s got all the other features on our must-have list, too.
+Peace of mind with alert system technology
+Car seat features simple one-pull installation
+Linear side impact protection system
+Dual-level indicators for proper seating angle
Why We Like It – Safety meets high tech in this car seat design. We especially appreciated the temperature and unattended alerts, and syncing with your cell phone is easy, thanks to the clear instructions. Reviewers noted the beefed-up side impact protection system as well.
10. Maxi-Cosi Magellan All-In-One Convertible Car Seat
Kids grow by leaps and bounds, and every parent knows there are huge differences between stages. These five-phase car seats take this into account: they split the toddler stage into the rear- and forward-facing weight classes, and then go on to accommodate kids up to 120 pounds. The 14 headrest and three torso height options ensure both comfort and safety in all modes. We took note of the Air Protect feature, which both cushions impact and offer comfort for every size. For a car seat that fits newborns to 10-year-olds, this model is surprisingly affordable.
+One and done: this car seat will take your child from birth to seat-belt size
+LATCH-style connectors make installation easy
+Headrest provides protection through all stages
+Hideaway harness for booster seat mode
+Tons of height positions for accurate fit
Why We Like It – The time-tested car seat brand made us feel secure about this versatile model, no matter what mode it’s set to. Modifications for the perfect fit were easy, including Maxi-Cosi’s latest improvement: the torso height adjuster.
Baby Car Seats Buyers Guide
When you’re shopping for an infant car seat, it’s hard enough to sort through the options without the terms manufacturers throw into their descriptions. What is a “LATCH system,” and why is it important? What’s the difference between a “convertible” car seat and an “all-in-one” car seat, and will either work for an older child? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a car seat glossary on their website (nhtsa.gov), which does an exhaustive job of breaking down the terminology. We’ve put together a quick primer on the subject so you can take an informed approach to find the best car seat:
All-in-one (or three-in-one) seat: Can be used as a rear- or front-facing infant car seat, along with a booster option for toddlers who exceed the weight limit on the first two positions.
Booster seat: A backless (for vehicles with head restraints) or high-backed seat that lifts the child to the proper height for use with the car’s safety belt.
Chest (or retainer) clip: This keeps the harness straps together at the baby’s chest. It’s usually plastic.
Convertible car seat: Designed as both an infant car seat and for older babies, a convertible seat allows both front- and rear-facing orientation (some also offer a booster seat option for when the child grows heavier and taller).
Detachable base: Without the base, some rear-facing car seats can be used as carriers.
Harness: A strap system that holds the child in the seat by buckling at the chest. Baby car seats have harnesses that connect shoulder, hip, and groin straps.
Harness adjuster: Makes the harness fit more or less tautly, according to the size of the baby.
Infant car seats: Rear-facing only seats for newborns and very young/small babies.
Latch plate: This car seat belt component connects the buckle to the webbing.
LATCH system: This acronym stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. The anchors are part of the vehicle’s features, and LATCH car seats are made with the fasteners/tethers.
Lower anchor attachments: Used instead of the car’s seat belt, these bars attach to the car seat’s base.
Recline adjustor: Puts the angle of the baby seat in the right position for rear- or front-facing use.
Shell: the structure of an infant car seat or one for an older child. It’s usually composed of plastic and metal and is key to the car seat’s safety functions.
Tether: A hook-and-strap system that secures the baby car seat to the seat of the vehicle.
What to look for in an infant or convertible car seat
Car seat technology and safety recommendations are always changing. Still, most of the car seats on the market today offer security and features that’ll keep your baby safe and comfortable, whether you do most of your driving on short jaunts around town or take longer trips. Car seats vary in price and can be basic (but still compliant with safety standards) or luxurious. Still, ultimately, you’ll want to seek out brands that have a good reputation and models that have gotten good reviews from parents who have experience. Although the sheer amount of information on the internet can be daunting, the more you know, the better you’ll feel about your car seat decision – and that peace of mind will pay dividends every time you buckle up the baby and get behind the wheel.
Some of the most important factors to consider when you’re compiling your car seat contenders include:
Safety features. Seek out car seat manufacturers who go above and beyond when it comes to crash testing and technological innovations that make their seats safer than the average options. An infant car seat that has been tested for side and frontal impact, along with rollover, may be worth the extra cost. The nonprofit agency Consumer Reports has done in-depth research and its testing on several models; check their website (you’ll need to become a member) for their results.
Weight restrictions and growth options. “Infant” may sound like a catch-all phrase to describe a baby, but infant seats are designed specifically for babies in a certain weight range, usually 20 to 40 pounds. Beyond that, you’ll need to replace the car seat with one suitable for the weight of an older child. (Weight is a vital aspect of car seat safety – parents need to adhere to the seat’s specifications.) Convertible car seats, on the other hand, offer flexibility: they can be placed in a rear-facing position for the littlest babies, and usually accommodate an older child up to 65 pounds in the front-facing configurations.
Some popular options go a step further and feature a booster seat mode; on these kinds of seats, look for a model that can hold a child up to 100 or even 120 pounds. (The booster seat will usually integrate with your vehicle’s seat belt.) Also on manufacturers’ minds: height. Whether your baby is a newborn-sized 18 inches or you’ve got a fast-growing toddler who measures in at 32 inches, check height specs on the car seats you’re considering.
Installation. Even the best infant car seat isn’t safe if it’s installed incorrectly, and manufacturers understand that. Passenger safety technicians work hand in hand with seat engineers to streamline the process and make seats that are easy to install. In addition to one-step seat base attachment, other innovations are the LATCH system and easy-to-reach ratchet adjustors. Many new car seats also offer confirmation that you’ve installed the seat correctly with audible clicks and bubble levels for a visual check, which makes it that much easier to ensure you’ve done the job right.
Buckles, harnesses, and belts
Many of the models we reviewed utilize five-point harnesses to keep your child snug and comfortable. Two shoulders, two hip, and one groin point add up to maximum security; there are still a few three-point harness car seats on the road these days, but five points are where it’s at. There’s a chest clip you’ll adjust after fastening the harness – check to make sure the tension is correct: if you can gather and pinch the webbing, it’s too loose. As your baby grows, you’ll need more slack in the harness. Some car seats will have you removing the entire car seat and rethreading the webbing through the next slot, and it’s a real plus if you can get your hands on an infant car seat that offers easy no-rethreading harness adjustment.
If you’ve invested in a car seat with a booster option, once your child grows into it, you’ll be using the seat belt instead of the harness mechanism. (Read the manufacturer’s instructions to verify that your child is the right height and weight for this promotion – don’t just rely on an exceptional growth spurt!) Some child booster seats have backs, and others don’t, but all will work with your car’s seat belts to accommodate their occupant’s size, taking weight and height into account.
Advice from the experts
The American Academy of Pediatrics has some words of advice about aging your child out of rear-facing car seats. Before November 2018, the AAP had recommended that parents keep children in rear-facing positions until they reached age two. Still, soon after this, they posted an update on their website (www.aap.org), which eliminated the number and simply advised parents to keep their child in the rear-facing option as long as possible.
With that in mind, you may want to search out an infant seat that will allow a heavier child in the rear-facing mode. All infant car seats, as well as car seats for older babies, will list weight restrictions in their specifications. You’re looking for the maximum weight allowable, but for combination car seats, be sure you’re checking the rear-facing number, not the front-facing.
The AAP cites the reason for their finding: rear-facing mode does a superior job of supporting the child’s head, which in turn keeps the neck and spine safer. An infant car seat that faces the front of a car allows a child to be thrown forward – think whiplash, but on a grander scale, as a youngster’s head is disproportionately heavy.
You’ll find hundreds of options on the market for an infant car seat and hundreds more for combination and three-in-one models. Adding to the choices are car seats designed to work with (or as) strollers and carriers. When you’re establishing a budget for all the items you’ll need for your baby; the car seat should be at the top of the list. There’s no need to break the bank. However – there are plenty of reasonably priced models that will meet your needs.
Check customer reviews, go over the specifications, and decide if you’re in the market for a model that will go from newborn to older baby or from infant to older child. Once you’ve landed on a few car seat styles that suit both your budget and your preferences, compare and contrast them by features, safety specifications, and price. It doesn’t hurt to ask around, as well – plenty of parents will be eager to recommend (or advise against) the car seats they’ve chosen.
You may be tempted to use a hand-me-down infant car seat or toddler booster, but the experts unanimously warn against this. You may not have the full history of a used seat, and if it’s been involved in an accident, all those carefully designed safety features might be rendered useless. Say yes to gently used PJs and consider hand-me-down outerwear, but don’t skimp on a car seat – it might just be the most important purchase you make for your little one.
Finally, most car seat manufacturers offer loads of useful information and customer support on their websites, where you can access installation videos and more. Your local police department may also provide seat installation assistance. For a general look at how to properly install various styles of seats, visit www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats#install-instructions.