LAST UPDATED: April 16, 2019
Best Infant Car Seats: Safety Comes First
Infant car seats help you safely transport your child from point A to point B
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON April 16, 2019
Child safety seats are the safest option for taking your baby on car rides, making them a true must-have item for any parent. Choosing the right seat for your baby’s needs isn’t an easy task, but we are here to help you make the best choice. Read our buying guide below to learn everything you need to know about the best infant car seats available.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy an Infant Car Seat?
- Safety first. An infant car seat is the only safe (and legal) way to transport your young child in a car. Infant seats are made to protect your child from the forces of a crash, dramatically reducing the chance of injury.
- Convenience. Many car seats come in travel combos: the seat and a stroller into which the seat fits. This is a great option if you’re looking for something that’s easy to use on the go, saving you arm cramps from carrying around a heavy car seat.
- Head support. Infants are still learning how to support their own weight and move their little bodies. That’s what makes a car seat useful. They have built-in head support so that your little one doesn’t strain their neck and feels comfortable and supported.
- Comfort. For many smaller babies, an infant car seat will be more comfortable and will provide more support than a convertible car seat. That’s important for your baby’s overall health and safety.
- Secure. Car seats are easy to install, either with a LATCH or base system. Both will keep the seat secure, with the base system having the additional advantage of being more convenient, as you can simply lift out the infant car seat and go.
Founded in 1938, Britax has been in the business of making quality childcare products for over 80 years. Headquartered in the UK, it’s a global innovator in car seats, strollers, and high chairs. Its most popular products include the Britax Allegiance 3-Stage Convertible Car Seat and the B-Safe Ultra.
Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Graco has been innovating practical solutions to parenting problems for over 60 years. Manufacturing high-quality car child seats, it’s a name you can trust. Some of its most popular products include the Graco SnugRide Snuglock 35 XT and the Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Infant to Toddler Car Seat.
Evenflo has been engaged in the design, research, and development of childcare products since 1920. This established global brand is based in Miamisburg, Ohio, and is one of the best on the market. The Evenflo EveryStage DLX All-in-One Car Seat is one of its best-selling infant car seats.
- Under $100: At the budget price range, you’ll find a couple of decent options. Most of these are made from good-quality plastic and fabric, but may not be as durable as other higher-priced options. At this price, you’ll find a solid basic seat with few extras.
- $100-$250: In the mid-range, the selection widens a bit. Most seats at this price point will be well-made, modern, and durable, and have comfortable extras to keep your baby plush and safe.
- Over $250: The luxury price point features some of the most well-known brands and models. Often, you’ll get the best quality materials and craftsmanship at this price, but other times, you’re just paying for a name. Keep that in mind while shopping.
Make sure you know how much space your backseat has for a car seat. Keep in mind that the safest spot for your child’s car seat is in the middle position, so measure the size of the seat and shop with those measurements in mind. A car seat with a large base might not fit in a smaller car, for instance. Likewise, if you have multiple children, and all of them are in car seats, you’ll have to keep those measurements in mind as well.
Infant car seats typically come with one of three harness systems: the three-point, the five-point, and the T-shield. Five-point harness systems are the safest, as they reduce the neck and crotch forces on your baby in the event of a crash. They’re also the most adjustable and customizable, making for a safe, secure, and comfortable fit for your child.
Safety and Comfort
Padding, support, and cushioning all play a role in the safety and comfort factor. Basic seats will often lack some of these important safety features, so look for side-impact protection in the form of foam or air pads on the sides as a minimum. The best car seats will have additional safety and comfort features in the form of an anti-rebound bar, a boot to protect the baby’s feet, and a larger canopy.
- Installation: Although most car seats are easy to install, it’s a good idea to double-check your work and make sure you followed the correct belt path. Installation text and diagrams from the manufacturer are a great first step. Has the installation checked by a professional? You can find an NHTSA inspector to do that for you.
- Cleaning: Choose a seat that is made with a smooth fabric rather than one that is textured, such as corduroy. That will make it easy to wipe clean when little messes happen (and trust us, they will). Keep that in mind when you’re being tempted by merino wool seats.
- Age: We’re talking about the age of the seat here. Make sure that you purchase a new car seat, as second-hand and otherwise used ones, are not as safe. For the best protection, you’ll want to purchase one from a registered retailer.
- Travel System: If you want to save some money and get additional convenience out of your infant car seat, look into travel systems. These make it easy to tote your baby around without needing to move them out of the car seat and into a stroller.
Best Infant Car Seat Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Our top pick is the Evenflo Pivot Modular Travel System. Available for the price of an average car seat, this two-in-one seat/stroller will save you money and deliver the reliability you need. Instead of buying a stroller and a car seat separately, the Evenflo Pivot Seat provides both options together, so you don’t have to spend extra money.
The multipurpose infant seat is equipped with an ultra-safe car seat as its base and an anti-rebound bar that limits movement in front-impact crashes. In addition, the chair is reversible, allowing your infant to face in or out at the click of a button.
An integrated belt lock-off system provides peace of mind because you know that the base is secure at all times. Handling up to 50 pounds, it’s a great option if you’re looking for a multipurpose car seat.
One of the most popular car seats in the United States, the Chicco KeyFit 30 is a great choice for your baby. Made from super durable materials that have been tested to the highest standards, the seat is cushioned and comfortable. Newborns and smaller infants can be supported by the removable head and body supports (a.k.a. infant inserts), making it a customizable and safe fit. The harness system is also unique, allowing buckling at two points to make cinching easy. Tightening is also a breeze with the one-pull harness.
The stay-in-car seat base gives the whole system great ease of use. Attach the base with your vehicle’s LATCH system, click in the car seat, and go. A spring-loaded leveling foot and two easy-to-read leveling indicators make perfect installation of your new car seat a cinch. Another great feature is that the seat clicks into compatible Chicco strollers with equal ease, making the perfect travel system.
Overall, this is a feature-packed and ultra-safe choice for your infant. The one downside is that properly cleaning the car seat can be a bit difficult, as removing the cushioned pads means disassembling a large part of the seat itself, making the task quite an ordeal.
If you’re looking for the ultimate travel system on a budget, this might be the right pick. This jogger and car seat combo comes at a great price and offers a number of features. The stroller is like a jogger, meaning it has extra large bicycle-type tires that easily maneuver over almost any surface. A convenient parent tray with cup holders, a front swivel wheel with a locking mechanism, a covered storage compartment, an extra-wide ergonomic handle, and an easy-trigger fold round out the feature set.
The car seat attaches to the stroller quickly and easily and boasts a number of features as well. A five-point safety harness with easy one-hand adjustment and push-button release keep your baby safe and secure, while an adjustable leveling base attaches the seat securely to your car. EPS energy-absorbing foam creates superior side impact protection, and the seat pads are removable and washable.
Overall, this is a great value pick that will accommodate kids up to 50 pounds and 42 inches tall, so your little one won’t outgrow it too quickly. Keep in mind, however, that you get what you pay for, and the components on this seat are not as high in quality as a more expensive model. That being said, it’s still a great choice for the money.
The Graco 4Ever is a convertible infant and toddler car seat that’s designed to offer at least 10 years of use. The headrest can be adjusted to 10 positions, and the seat can recline to six positions to keep your child comfortable as he or she grows.
It can transform into a rear-facing car seat (supports four to 40-pound babies), a forward-facing car seat (supports 22 to 65-pound children), a high back seat booster (supports 40 to 100-pound children), and a backless booster (supports 40 to 120-pound children).
It’s designed with a Simply Safe Adjust Harness System, which allows you to adjust both the harness and headrest in one motion. You can install the car seat in just seconds. Graco’s InRight Latch system featuring an audio click cue lets you know that the seat is secured. The seat is heavily cushioned to protect from side and rear impacts, and the cover is removable and machine-washable. In addition, it has two cup holders.
However, all these frills don’t come cheap, and you should expect to spend a lot of money on this car seat. It’s also a bit bulky and heavy. Therefore, it may feel a bit awkward when you're carrying it around.
Most parents appreciate an infant car seat that’s easy to install; it’s easy to move it from one car to another, and you don’t waste time. This is what you get with the Mesa Infant Car Seat, which features a Smart Secure System that utilizes latch connectors for fast installation.
You just need to clip the latch connectors and push the base down with your body weight until it’s tightly secured. An indicator will turn green, letting you know that the seat is secure and at the right level.
The unit has sufficient padding at the center and the sides for added comfort and protection from head and side impacts. The headrest is adjustable and has an extensive canopy to keep your baby well protected from the sun. UPPAbaby provides an infant insert and a low harness position, which is suitable for smaller newborns and preemies.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit challenging to install the car seat using the latch when the buckles are far behind the seat, as is the case with some car models. It’s also quite heavy with a weight of a little over 15 pounds.
As the name suggests, the Britax B-Safe Ultra Infant Car Seat comes with a plethora of safety features. Everything is designed to protect your baby from impact, starting from the deep, narrow seat with two layers of energy-absorbing foam for side and head impact protection. An impact-absorbing base coupled with an impact-stabilizing steel frame helps to limit forward movement or seat rotation in the event of a collision.
It has a built-in seat belt lock-off feature, which ensures that the infant seat remains secure on the car’s seat, as well as a level indicator that lets you know if the seat is at the right angle. A European belt guide allows for safe installation when the base is detached. For added comfort, the seat is designed with breathable mesh fabric for enhanced airflow, which helps to keep the seat cool. The cover is removable for easy cleaning.
However, it’s a bit on the heavy side due to the steel frame. Also, the installation instructions aren’t very clear, and you may be better off relying on online tutorials during installation.
The Evenflo EveryStage is a convertible car seat that will grow with your infant until he or she weighs 120 pounds. Its three-in-one design includes a rear-facing harness, a forward-facing harness, and a booster seat to help with belt positioning for a growing child. An in-seat reclining feature helps to keep the seat at a comfortable angle to prevent head slump and to keep the child’s airway open as he sleeps. It can be adjusted to five recline positions.
Installing it is fairly easy, and you don’t need to get in the vehicle to install it. The EasyClick Latch system helps to ensure a tight installation so that the infant seat doesn’t wiggle around as the vehicle moves. Since it has a no-rethread harness, you can adjust the height of the recliner with just one hand by pulling it up or pushing it down. The seat also includes two dishwasher-safe cup holders, and a removable and machine-washable car seat pad.
However, it’s a bulky design and may take up a lot of space in the rear seat of some car models. This can result in an uncomfortable sitting experience for the other passengers in the rear seat.
Peg Perego offers an infant car seat that protects the baby from the elements and the impact of a collision. It features a premium base with a load leg coupled with an anti-rebound bar. Both units can help to prevent car seat rotation by about 50 percent in the event of a collision. Also, an Energy Management Foot at the base of the load leg helps to transfer the impact energy away from the baby. The load leg can be adjusted to 10 different positions or folded back into the base when it’s not in use.
When it's too sunny in the car or when you need to use the infant seat on a stroller, you can fully extend the UPF 50+ hood to protect the baby from the elements. It has mesh side netting to provide ventilation. In addition, it features a Dual Stage Cushion System that’s designed to provide continuous support to a growing baby. Stage 1 protects a newborn's neck and bottom. You need to enlarge the cradle for Stage 2 cushioning of a growing baby.
While the car seat has plenty of cushioning to keep a baby comfortable, it can be quite challenging to adjust the straps, and you may have to readjust them every time you strap in the baby. Also, it’s a bit expensive.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Infant Car Seat
- For safety reasons, you’ll always want to remove heavy or bulky outerwear from your child before buckling the harness of the car seat. This will ensure that the straps snugly secure your baby. To keep your baby warm, place a coat or blanket over the buckled harness.
- Make sure that the shoulder straps are at or below your baby’s shoulders, adjusting them as the child grows. Remember that the harness must be snug enough so there is no slack, the straps should lie flat without sagging or twisting, and the top of the chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.
- Your child is ready for a convertible car seat once his or her head nears the top of the seat. To keep your baby safe, there should be at least a 1-inch gap between the top of the seat and the top of your baby’s head.
- Some infant car seats come with a carrying handle. This is a great convenience feature to carry your infant with you while you’re on the go. Most safety seats require the handle to be in the down position when you’re traveling in the car. Always check the user’s manual of your particular model for detailed advice.
- Many car seats come with bases to make for easy installation and use of the seat. It’s a good idea to purchase several bases and just one seat so that you can easily switch cars without having to worry about securing a new seat.
Q: How long can my baby stay in an infant car seat?
A: This depends on the growth and development of your child. Most guidelines suggest that infants and toddlers ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach two years of age or outgrow the weight and height limits of their infant car seat (this varies by brand and model, but is usually around 30-40 pounds). Convertible seats are a good option as well, as these will last through the toddler years until your child is ready for a booster seat.
Q: Do infant car seats have an expiration date?
A: It might sound strange that a car seat can expire, but that’s the case for infant car seats. Most will have a date of expiration stamped on the manufacturer label, while others show the date of manufacturing. In general, infant car seats expire about six years after manufacturing. For safety reasons, don’t use an expired infant car seat.
Q: Is it safe to use a second-hand car seat?
A: Generally, it’s not a good idea to rely on a second-hand car seat to keep your child safe. New seats are tested for their ability to withstand the forces of a crash and will offer the best protection for your child. Used car seats may have weakened structurally from use, even if they look undamaged from the outside, so it’s worth investing in a new, quality seat.
Q: Where should I position my infant car seat?
A: The right position inside your car will make all the difference in keeping your baby safe. It’s important to remember that rear-facing car seats should never be placed in the front seat. The middle position is preferred since it’s away from side passenger airbags that may cause injury to your young child.
Our top pick is the Evenflo Pivot Modular Travel System. It’s a two-in-one seat and stroller that provides a lot of bang for the buck.
If you’re looking for a great value, consider the Baby Trend Secure Snap Tech Infant Car Seat. It’s designed to keep your infant safe from head and side impacts.