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Best Car Seats (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Keep your little one well-protected.

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BYRay Prince/ LAST UPDATED ON November 15, 2021

When driving with children, car seats are their safety cages. If set up properly, they can save your child's life in the event of a frontal, side, or rear-end crash by cradling their heads and bodies, absorbing all or most impact. Today, there are four types of car seats chosen based on your child's age and size, including rear-facing, convertible, and all-in-one seats that can be modified to a booster seat as your child grows. Trying to narrow down the wide playing field to one or two car seats? We've got you covered with this comprehensive buying guide with top recommendations, features to look out for, top brands to consider, and answers to the most frequently asked questions. Let’s dive in.

Best Overall

Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

Summary

Well-rounded car seat with 10 headrest positions and six recline positions for comfort.

Pros
  • Adjustable in 10 positions
  • Five extra inches of legroom when extended
  • Comes with two cup holders
  • Highly reputable brand name
Cons
  • Lifting release latch required to pull anchor and shoulder straps
  • Hard to tight seat straps evenly
Best Value

Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat

Summary

Excellent value choice with multiple recline positions, EPS energy-absorbing foam, and two bubble indicators  to ensure a proper installation angle.

Pros
  • Lightweight at only 9.5 pounds
  • Multiple recline positions
  • Adjustable canopy protects against UV rays
  • Two bubble level indicators help with proper installation angle
Cons
  • Only for babies under 30 pounds; may outgrow quickly
  • Compatible with a limited number of strollers
  • On the heavier side
Honorable Mention

Graco 4Ever DLX Car Seat

Summary

Works as a rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seat to keep your child well protected for years.

Pros
  • Takes a second to connect to LATCH system
  • 10-position headrest and six-position recline for comfort
  • Quick and easy to remove car seat cover
Cons
  • Cover is not scratch-proof
  • Limited color options
Best Car Seats (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Our Methodology

For this review, we researched more than 25 different car seats, evaluating them based on several criteria, including but not limited to the type, construction, height/weight limits, padding, and ease of use. We took into consideration all styles of car seats, including rear-facing only, convertible, booster, and 3-in-1 options for infants to school-aged children. Of the 25 car seats, we narrowed down our favorites to 10. To learn more about how we research and provide recommendations, be sure to visit About Guides & Gear, And The Drive’s Product Reviews Department

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Best Car Seat Reviews & Recommendations

Graco offers a budget-friendly, convertible car seat that’s designed for infants and toddlers. It can be used as a rear-facing infant seat (accommodates 4 to 50 pounds) or a forward-facing toddler seat (accommodates 22 to 65 pounds), and has an extension panel for increasing the legroom when used as a rear-facing seat. The panel offers 5 inches of extra room and can be adjusted to four positions.


As with most Graco car seats, the Extend2Fit headrest can be adjusted to 10 different positions and includes a six-position recline. It also has two cup holders and a removable and machine-washable seat pad. What’s more, this car seat has been put through rigorous crash testing to guarantee that it will protect your child from front, side, rear, and rollover crashes. Managing Editor Jonathon Klein has owned two of these car seats and swears by their ease of use and easy cleaning. 


Product Specs:

  • Style: 2-in-1
  • Material: Plush
  • Orientation: Forward and rear-facing 

Pros:

  • Adjustable in 10 positions
  • Five extra inches of legroom when extended
  • Comes with two cup holders
  • Highly reputable brand name

Cons:

  • Lifting release latch required to pull anchor and shoulder straps
  • Hard to tight seat straps evenly

For the price, the Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat is one of the more versatile car seats we've researched as it’s a jack of all trades, starting with multiple recline positions, an adjustable canopy, and eight color combinations, and EPS energy-absorbing foam for a cushy ride. It can accommodate newborns and infants between 4 pounds (with the included newborn insert) up to 30 pounds.


One of the coolest features of the Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat is its two bubble level indicators. Sitting on the car seat's base, it allows parents to discover the right installation angle. An included adjustable foot also helps level the seat if needed. Outside of its impact-resistant shell, we appreciate the fact Chicco has taken extra steps to fortify its seat even further. 


Product Specs:

  • Style: Infant
  • Material: Foam
  • Orientation: Rear-facing 

Pros:

  • Lightweight at only 9.5 pounds
  • Multiple recline positions
  • Adjustable canopy protects against UV rays
  • Two bubble level indicators help with proper installation angle

Cons:

  • Only for babies under 30 pounds; may outgrow quickly
  • Compatible with a limited number of strollers
  • On the heavier side

The Graco 4Ever car seat is a 4-in-1 car seat that only needs slight adjustments to accommodate a growing child. It offers 10 years of use, and you can start using it as a rear-facing seat (4- to 40-pound carrying capacity), a forward-facing car seat (22- to 65-pound carrying capacity), a high back booster seat (40- to 100-pound carrying capacity), and finally, a backless booster seat (40- to 120-pound carrying capacity).


It can recline to six positions to help keep your child comfortable as they grow, and the headrest and harness system can be adjusted to 10 different positions to ensure that your child is constantly secured. Graco’s In-right Latch System also allows for easy installation and makes an audible click when the seat is secured. One of the few drawbacks of this car seat is the quality of the cover. It shows scrapes easily, and the material may thin out when washed frequently.


Product Specs:

  • Style: 4-in-1
  • Material: Metal
  • Orientation: Forward and rear-facing

Pros:

  • Takes a second to connect to LATCH system
  • 10-position headrest and six-position recline for comfort
  • Quick and easy to remove car seat cover

Cons:

  • Cover is not scratch-proof
  • Limited color options

The Safety 1ˢᵗ Grow and Go 3-in-1 car seat is a game-changer for families that are constantly on the go. Unlike many travel systems, it’s just one unit and not bulky. The car seat is specially designed to accommodate your growing child as the rear-facing seat accommodates 5 to 40 pounds, the forward-facing seat holds 22 to 65 pounds, while the belt-positioning booster holds 40 to 100 pounds.


Another feature we appreciate with the Safety 1ˢᵗ Grow and Go 3-in-1 car seat is its harness holders. Its harness holders make it easy for you to put your kid in and out of the car seat. The QuickFit harness also allows you to adjust the headrest in one quick step. The car seat comes with baby pillows that enhance its comfort. Its three-position recline makes for easy installation.


Product Specs:

  • Style: Convertible
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Orientation: Forward and rear-facing 

Pros:

  • Excellent amount of padding for comfort
  • Includes two cup holders
  • Multiple recline options
  • More than 10 different color options

Cons:

  • Only comes with three recline positions
  • Seat adjustment handles may rattle with heavy, bumpy driving

The Primo Viaggio Nido Car Seat is one of the more formidable safety-conscious car seats we've researched. For starters, its 10-position load leg and built-in anti-rebound bar help reduce impact during front, side, and rear collisions, and a stylish, mesh UPF 50+ hood also protects your little one from excess UV exposure.


With all of these safety features, we like the fact the Primo Viaggio Nido Car Seat does not deprioritize comfort. It is easily adjustable to six height positions with an EPP headrest and an EPS shell for good cradling. Two cushions are also used to protect your baby's head and shoulders. And when combined with its canopy and oversized side wings, this car seat looks like a cocoon ready to take on all impact.


Product Specs:

  • Style: Infant car seat
  • Material: Foam
  • Orientation: Rear-facing 

Pros:

  • 10-position load leg for extra impact absorption
  • UPF 50+ mesh hood for UV protection and airflow
  • Six different height positions for comfort

Cons:

  • Strap may fray with heavy wear
  • Hand wash preferred over machine wash
  • Limited color options

For one of the narrowest infant car seats on the market, look no further than the Clek Liing Infant Car Seat. At only 16.9 inches wide, it doesn't skimp on features or safety with seven recline positions, a secure Rigid-LATCH/belt tensioning system, and an energy-absorbing shell with EPP foam. It is an excellent choice for parents with preemies or parents needing to fit two or more car seats in the back of a vehicle with limited space.


One of our favorite features with the Clek Liing Car Seat is its load leg. Not available with most car seats, it consists of a small, base-mounted metal pole that touches your vehicle's floor, providing extra stability and reducing crash impact by up to 40 percent. Most of the car seats we’ve researched do not come with load legs, so this is an added bonus. It is far more expensive than most, though. 


Product Specs:

  • Style: Infant car seat
  • Material: Metal
  • Orientation: Front and rear-facing 

Pros:

  • Super narrow (only 16.9 inches wide)
  • Generous nine-year expiration from date of manufacture 
  • Load leg for extra stability in the event of a crash 
  • Seven recline positions

Cons:

  • Higher than average cost

The Chicco NextFit Zip Car Seat is designed to surround your precious baby in safety and comfort from the first day up to preschool and beyond. It accommodates infants and toddlers in rear-facing and then transitions to forward-facing for older children. And it features a removable newborn positioner that provides a proper fit for newborns, as well as a nine-position headrest for enhanced comfort.


In addition, the Chicco NextFit Zip Car Seat offers an amazingly simple tightening and leveling system with its LockSure belt-locking system and SuperCinch Latch Tightener. The seat provides two layers of side impact protection thanks to its energy-absorbing foam and deep rigid shell. However, the fabric the manufacturer has used to make it is not of high quality and you’ll soon start noticing fuzzballs.

Product Specs:

  • Style: Convertible
  • Material: Foam
  • Orientation: Front and rear-facing 

Pros:

  • SuperCinch Latch Tightener for easy seat belt/latch adjustment
  • Nine-position headrest for comfort
  • Steel-reinforced frame for support
  • Very comfortable EPS energy-absorbing foam

Cons:

  • Very bulky
  • So-so fabric quality; may shed with heavy wear and tear

The Cybex Aton 2 is one of the most adaptable car seats we've researched. Its claim to fame is its light weight (only 9 pounds) and compatibility with over 25 strollers. It is the only car seat on our list to offer a dedicated smartphone app, which can read the car seat sensors to alert parents of an unattended child. It also offers temperature and clip unbuckling alerts, which all could mean the difference between life and death. Not a bad option for parents addicted to their smartphones.


Outside of the Cybex Aton 2's smart features, it is designed to offer comfort with 11 headrest positions and a foldaway sun canopy. As for additional safety features, it also offers a load leg extending down to your vehicle's floor, along with a small tab to the side of the car seat (Linear Side-Impact Protection) promises to reduce side impact by up to 25 percent.


Product Specs:

  • Style: Infant car seat
  • Material: Polyester
  • Orientation: Rear-facing 

Pros:

  • SensorSafe app alerts on car seat behavior
  • Includes load leg and Linear Side-Impact Protection
  • Lightweight at 9 pounds
  • Compatible with 25+ strollers

Cons:

  • Sunshade is too short
  • Plastic finish is not the best (may see discoloration with heavy wear)
  • Shorter-than-average expiration (six years)

One of the top causes of child injury is motor vehicle crashes. But the NHTSA states that car seats can help keep children under the age of five safe. If you're looking for a car seat that accommodates both younger and older kids, your search may stop here. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat can be used as a rear-facing or a forward-facing car seat. The rear-facing seat holds 5 to 40 pounds, while the forward-facing seat is ideal for kids weighing 20 to 65 pounds.


The car seat's patented ClickTight feature makes installation as easy as buckling a seatbelt and the 14-position harness and the two-position buckle allow the seat to fit your child comfortably as they grow. Seven recline positions enhance your child's comfort and make for the best installation angle, and the car seat has a steel frame, an impact-absorbing base, and a layer of side impact protection. And you can choose from 19 different color combinations.


Product Specs:

  • Style: Convertible
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Orientation: Forward and rear-facing

Pros:

  • Very easy to install using the ClickTight feature
  • Excellent adjustability (14-position harness and seven recline positions)
  • Sturdy and durable steel frame
  • 19 different color combinations

Cons:

  • Straps are shorter than average
  • Some users may find adjusting recline position difficult

Many parents love the brand Evenflo because of its high-quality products and the Big Kid Amp is no different. It is specially designed for older kids who are ready to start using a car's seat belt but still need an extra boost for safe sitting. It accommodates children who weigh between 40 and 110 pounds or are at least 4 years old, and the car seat easily transitions from high-back booster mode to no-back booster mode.


As your child grows, you can adjust the back to six different positions for a better fit. Even when you adjust the seat, the side and head supports will remain in the right position. The seat's energy-absorbing foam liner enhances your child’s safety and comfort, and its machine-washable pads allow you to keep it clean. It’s not the easiest for a child to get out of, which could be a good thing as you don’t want them roaming around your back seats. And nor does it have an anchor system, instead relying just on the seat belt.

Product Specs:

  • Style: Booster
  • Material: Plastic and fabric 
  • Orientation: Forward-facing 

Pros:

  • Lightweight and easy to carry from vehicle to vehicle
  • Easy conversion from high-back to a no-back booster
  • Six-position height adjustment
  • Two integrated cup holders

Cons:

  • No anchor system
  • Limited color selection
  • Cup holders made of elastic straps; easy for bottles to fall out

Our Verdict on Car Seats

Our pick for the best car seat goes to the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat. It performs well across all of our criteria, being a budget-friendly rear-facing infant seat and forward-facing toddler seat, and good for four recline positions, 10 headrest positions, and five inches of extra legroom to keep your little one comfortable. You can’t go wrong with a Graco and this one is the best. 

What to Consider When Buying a Car Seat

Infant Car Seat 

Made for infants up to 30-35 pounds, infant car seats are limited to the rear-facing position. They can also double as convertible car seats (forward-facing seat for a child age 2 or older), or a 3-in-1 car seat which works as a forward-facing, rear-facing, and booster seat. Once infants outgrow their infant car seats, parents are advised to place them in convertible or 3-in-1 car seats.

All parents are advised to place infants in rear-facing seats until maximum height and weight for their particular car seat is reached. Please consult with your car seat's manufacturer to learn these height and weight limits.

Booster Car Seat

Booster car seats come in two styles: high back boosters and backless boosters. High back boosters offer proper head support and cushioning for sleeping children. Backless boosters do not have a back and generally offer less body support, ideal for older, taller children.

We highly recommend referring to your car seat's owner's manual to ensure your child meets height and weight limits for your particular car seat.

Convertible Car Seat

Convertible car seats first work as rear-facing seats before being switched to forward-facing. These car seats are reserved for toddlers ages 2 or older and have higher weight limits up to 50 pounds (for rear-facing) and up to 65 pounds for forward-facing.

Many parents may choose convertible car seats over rear-facing seats for infants to save money over the lifecycle of the seat. However, convertible car seats do not offer the same benefits as rear-facing infant seats, such as detachable bases or a plusher feel.

Car Seat Key Features

Height and Weight Limits

Height and weight limits for car seats vary depending on the type. Expect infant car seats (rear-facing only, convertible, and 3-in-1s) to work for children up to age 2 or up to 40 pounds. Forward-facing car seats should support up to 65 pounds, coming with harnesses and top tethers to keep your child well supported for several years.

For older kids, high back or backless boosters work, supporting children up to 8 years old between 40 and 120 pounds. Children ages 9 or over may continue to use a booster seat, depending on his/her height.

Construction

Car seats should be designed for maximum impact absorption. Look for car seats with advanced side impact protection that cradles the head using U-shaped headrests. Other features focus on comfort, such as extension panels that extend rear-facing legroom, plush seat covers, and dishwasher-safe cup holders. Newborn inserts can even provide an added layer of protection for preemies and undersized children. For comfort, look for moisture-wicking performance fabrics, which offer excellent breathability and make it easier for infants and toddlers to stay in their seats.

Other considerations include five-point harnesses to secure the shoulders, hips, and legs, as well as a chest clip that holds them in place.

Ease of Use 

We are big fans of car seats that offer little to no learning curve. Many car seat manufacturers offer features designed to activate in a second or less. For example, Geico's InRight LATCH system allows parents to attach car seats to LATCH anchors in a second, producing an audible click when successful.

Others have adjustable extension panels that allow seats to incline or recline in record time without any pressure needed. Simply one touch and go.

LATCH/ISOFIX

Standing for "lower anchors and tethers for children," almost all car seats use the LATCH system, which consists of lower anchor attachment on your car seat base's left and right side. These lower anchors contain straps that connect to your seat's anchors, locking the car seat firmly enough that it cannot move more than an inch in any direction.

Padding

We highly recommend car seats with plush padding, which can be achieved with a blend of polyester or cotton and a base of shock-absorbing foam. Some also come with an inner support pad or insert that keeps your infant's body in prime position.

Expiration Date

All car seats have expiration dates, due to general wear and tear that affects how safe it is for your child. As a rule of thumb, expect infant car seats to expire roughly six years after the date of manufacture and convertible/booster seats to last up to 10 years after the date of manufacture.

For your car seat's expiration date, please refer to your car seat's manufacturer sticker or owner's manual.

Safety Standards 

All car seats are required to pass rigorous federal safety standards. Some of the more notable distinctions include meeting or exceeding US FMVSS 213 standards for frontal crash tests. Safety even extends to how instructions appear on your car seat. All U.S.-compliant car seats must have instructions with the manufacturer's name, contact information, and date of manufacture. This also helps parents confirm if the car seat is subject to a recall.

We do not recommend buying a used car seat under any circumstances, for obvious reasons.

Brands to Know 

Graco

In business for more than 65 years, Graco is a popular manufacturer of all kinds of baby products from strollers to car seats. In 1953, it developed the first automatic baby swing, which became a phenomenon with millions of units sold. Graco is also responsible for the first travel system (one-click integration of infant car seats to strollers), the first 4-in-1 car seat, and the first 4-in-1 highchair for infants and big kids.

Chicco

Founded by pharmaceutical device developer Pietro Catelli in 1958 and named after his first son, Italy-based Chicco sells car seats in more than 100 countries. Owned by Artsana S.P.A., it now manufactures all types of baby accessories including sleepwear and play housing. It also manages sister brands Boppy, Prénatal, and Pic Solutions.

Safety 1st

Safety 1st is a budget-conscious brand of all types of baby accessories from car seats and strollers to baby monitors and plug protectors. It is also the inventor of the legendary yellow and black "Baby on Board" sign that has forced drivers to slow down everywhere.

Peg Perego (Primo Viaggio)

Founded in 1949 by Giuseppe Pérego, Italy-based Peg Perego is a manufacturer of baby carriages, high chairs, strollers, car seats, and other accessories. The company began off a simple baby carriage concept Giuseppe Pérego made for his son, which caught on so well, a new company was formed.

Clek

Canadian brand Clek is a manufacturer of infant, convertible, and booster seats with an intense focus on anti-rebound and rigid-UAS systems features. It has curiously-named car seats like the Foonf convertible seat and the Ozzi booster seat.

Cybex

Germany-based Cybex is a manufacturer of car seats, strollers, and furniture. It is very different in that it is the only manufacturer on our list to own its own smartphone app, working off of a harness sensor to warn/alert parents of unattended children left in their car seat, unbuckled clips, or exposure to excessive heat or cold.

Evenflo

Headquartered in Westchester, Ohio, Evenflo has been in business for more than 100 years. It is a leading producer of all types of baby and toddler accessories from strollers to high chairs and activity centers, now mainly sold in the U.S. and Canada.

Car Seat Pricing Considerations

As with almost all products, you get what you pay for. Expect car seats priced under $150 to have minimal features, such as plastic shells over steel frames and limited headrest/recline positions. Car seats priced at $150 or higher often see higher height and weight limits, padded headrests, improved side-impact protection, bubble indicators to ensure a proper installation angle, and performance-grade fabrics over simple foam. Regardless of pricing, it is important to note that all car seats sold in the United States pass the same safety standards, so a lot of pricing boils down to the level of comfort and ease of use.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and car seats. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Make sure that the seat’s shoulder straps are at or just below the child’s shoulders. They should fit snugly without any slack so your child is safe and secure.
  • Consider a car seat that comes with a built-in carrying handle. It should be adjustable, so you can lower it while in the car and raise it up in place when you need to cart away the car seat.
  • If you have multiple cars and don’t want to uninstall and install the car seat each time you switch vehicles, you should consider buying several bases. Car seats each come with a base that can detach from the chair, so having several can make it easier on you and your back.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: How do I know what car seat is best for my child?

A: All car seats come with guidelines to show you a weight and age limit for the specific model. Experts suggest infants and toddlers ride in rear-facing car seats until they are two years old or outgrow the weight and height limits of the seat.

Q: Do car seats have an expiration date?

A: Most, if not all, car seats have an expiration date listed somewhere on the car seat. In general, car seats can last up to six years before they expire. This can mean, for example, that the material has lost its durability and is deemed too dangerous for use.

Q: Is it safe to use pre-owned car seats?

A: Parents should always buy brand-new car seats if possible. They are in the best possible condition and offer the most up-to-date safety features. , Plus every single U.S.-compliant car seat comes with a manufacturer's sticker that includes several key pieces of information: the manufacturer's name, contact information, and the seat's expiration date, which is generally 7-10 years from the date of manufacture.

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