Naturally, we all want the best for our children and car seats are definitely no exception. Safety, comfort and ease of installation all have to be there. After all, you can’t take your baby anywhere with you (including home from the hospital!) without a proper car seat, so it makes sense to try to find the best infant car seat possible- without spending a ton of money.
The only problem? There are thousands of infant seats currently on the market, all promising the best features, ultimate comfort and safest car rides, so figuring out which one to choose can be a little overwhelming. The truth is, before picking the right infant car seat, you’ll need to do a bit of investigating of your own – but don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve reviewed 8 popular car seats and highlighted their pros and cons, so you can find the best infant car seat for your baby today.
The Best Infant Car Seat
If you’re looking for an affordable and super-secure infant car seat, you can’t go wrong with Graco. This infant car seat is incredibly lightweight, easy to transport from home to car to stroller, which, any parent would agree, makes life just a little bit easier. With a Click Connect technology, it’s easy to attach the infant seat to all Graco Click Connect strollers and car seats – you just ‘click it’ and you and your kid are ready to go.
Of course, the Graco SungRide is also super-secure – the manufacturer states the infant car seat’s been rigorously tested to either meet or exceed U.S. safety standards, so there’s no reason to worry about safety at all. If you’re wondering about specific safety features, there are three of them: it’s SafeSeat engineered, it meets the U.S. FMVSS 213 standard, and it has EPS, which is an energy-absorbing foam that ensures effective energy management.
As for the comfort level, this rear-facing seat has a rotating canopy that provides sun protection and shade when necessary, as well as a foot cover for a cozy ride. There is also a newborn head support, which is great news for your baby’s head as it will not only be comfy but supported properly during a ride. And if your baby is a fast grower who needs more room? No worries, the head support is fully removable.
Click Connect tech
Car crash tested
Seat cushion is machine-washable
- Weight7.5 lbs
Easy to use and transport
The canopy is a bit small
Lacks additional features
One of the best-rated infant car seats on the market, the Chicco KeyFit ticks all the right boxes – it meets all safety standards, it’s comfortable, easy to install and highly customizable. Now let’s get into the details, shall we?
The Chicco KeyFit 30 is seriously simple to use – with KeyFit tech and a one-hand removal base, the infant seat is easy to put on the car seat (‘click!’ is the key) as well as to remove and transport it to home or a stroller. And if your car seat is wider than average? No problem, the spring-loaded system is supposed to provide a perfect fit in a wide range of vehicles. With a one-pull Latch tightener and harness adjustment, you can easily achieve a tight and secure fit for your baby. To make things even easier, there are bubble level indicators on both sides of the base to let you know whether you’ve accurately set the seat angle.
What about safety and comfort? The seat interior has an EPS energy-absorbing foam that protects against sudden impacts, and the whole infant car seat itself conforms to FMVSS 213 safety standard. There is also a handy canopy to provide shade and sun cover for your child, and the infant insert is thickly padded to give extra support and comfort even for smaller babies. It’s also worth noting that the seat is airplane compatible, and that a carry handle is ergonomically designed with a comfortable grip.
One-pull Latch tightener and harness adjustment
Fits a wide range of vehicles
- Weight17.5 lbs
Very comfortable for the baby
Has additional useful features
It’s a bit heavy
Sometimes, all you need is a simple, secure and affordable infant gear. The Evenflo Nurture infant car seat promises to protect your baby while keeping it comfortable and stylish and without breaking your budget. In fact, this is one of the most affordable infant car seats you could find that is also lightweight and highly convenient.
This seat has a separate base (that comes with the product) which allows easy transport from home to car and anywhere in-between. The handle, which is ergonomically designed, is also available separately so you can modify the seat as you see fit. As for the baby’s comfort, the seat has an energy-absorbing foam liner that not only makes the seat comfy but safe too. And if it rains or the sun’s too bright? The canopy provides shade and protects from the elements.
The system has a standard 5-point harness with 3 shoulder harness and 2 crotch buckle positions, so you can rest assured your kid is safely tucked and settled. Of course, the seat itself can be used rear-facing only, but it’s your choice whether or not you’ll use it with a base. It should be said that this infant seat can only be used for children between 5-22 pounds and no more.
Has 5-point harness system
Comes with a separate base
- Weight10 lbs
Easy to transport
The canopy is a bit short
Doesn’t have any additional features
If you’re looking for an infant car seat that will protect your child for years, check out the Safety 1st Grow and Go seat. This system is built to grow for extended use – there are three stages you can and should use this infant car eat through: 5-40 pounds and rear-facing, 22-65 pounds and forward-facing and 40-100 pounds with a belt-positioning booster. Basically, the Safety 1st Grow and Go can be used from the first ride coming home from the hospital to soccer day carpools.
To keep the child safe, the seat has a side impact protection, as well as built-in harness holders in both rear-facing and forward-facing mode. This not only helps make the little one securely tucked in, but helps you get the child in and out of the car seat easier. And to give your kid the best possible fit, the Quick Fit Harness offers additional convenience by letting you adjust the height of harness and headset in one step.
Thankfully, the seat pad is easy to clean and wash, as the seat is machine wash and dryer safe. Also, it’s designed to come off the seat easily, so you don’t have to bother with removing the harness.
Can be used for babies, growing toddlers and kids
Quick Fit Harness
Seat pad is machine washable
Has 2 cup holders
- BrandSafety 1st
- Weight18.7 lbs
Easy to use
A bit difficult to install
Britax, one of the most well-known brands in baby gear, usually has reliable and good-quality products, and this infant car seat is no exception. Super-secure, comfortable, convenient and lightweight, the B Safe 35 car seat includes the seat itself, a base and a newborn body pad that you can easily remove once your baby outgrows it.
With an impact-stabilizing steel frame that ensures strength, and an energy-absorbing base, this rear-facing infant car seat is patented with SafeCell Impact protection for maximum safety. According to the manufacturer, this system of safety not only meets all the federal safety standards, but exceeds them. Importantly, the entire seat is lightweight and the carrier handle is comfortable to hold, so you’ll have no problem transporting it with your kid inside from home to car and vice-versa.
The Britax B Safe 35 has a smart design – a contoured shell that takes up little space in the vehicle that at the same time minimizes baby’s side-to-side movement to ensure protection. As for the installation, it’s made easy with SafeCenter Latch: center-pull straps, a push button and lower Latch connectors. Likewise, the carrier has a deep cradle, which adds not only to safety but to the comfort as well. There is also the always useful canopy that is rather large, and great at protecting against the elements and harsh sunlight.
Patented with SafeCell Impact protection
Has a SafeCenter Latch
- Weight10 lbs
Easy to transport
Simple to use
May not be big enough for fast-growing babies
Another infant car seat by Evenflo, this one with a few more useful features. Like the previous system, this one too is affordable, comfortable and perfectly safe.
The LiteMax 35 is comfy for the kid and the parent too – with removable head and body pillows, a handy canopy and tightly fitting harnesses, your baby will be securely and comfortably tucked in. And with an ergonomic and padded carry handle, the entire seat that is relatively lightweight, and machine washable pads, you’ll have no problem transporting this seat from place to place, or keeping it clean and fresh.
What about security? The Evenflo LiteMax 35 is tried and tested, meeting or exceeding all applicable federal safety standards. There is a Bel Lock-off feature that ensures easy and accurate install every time, as well as up-front harness adjustment or easy access. Conveniently, there are also buckle pockets that you can use to tuck the buckle tongues away and easily get your baby in and out of the seat. And to help you achieve proper positioning, the Reclining Base Level Indicator adjusts the infant car seat to the car seat level.
Bell Lock-off feature
Reclining Base Level Indicator
Pads are machine washable
- Weight16 lbs
Easy to transport
Simple to use
The canopy is a bit short
Similar to the first infant car seat we’ve reviewed in this article – the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 – this model, the 30 model, is just as good, but with fewer bells and whistles. Sometimes, that’s actually a great thing – some parents don’t want to bother with a bunch of additional features as controlling them can take away precious time. Lightweight, simple to use, secure and comfortable – what more do you need, really?
The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 is safe as safe gets – SafeSeat Engineering means this seat has been through a series of testing protocols, including crash testing. In fact, the manufacturer clearly states that the infant car seat meets or exceeds U.S. standard FMVSS 213. To tuck in your little one, you use a Graco 5-point harness that can be adjusted in the front for convenience.
As for installation, it’s simple and easy – with a Click Connect technology, you can secure attachment of the infant car seat to the base or stroller with one step. You’ll hear a loud ‘click!’ when everything’s in place, so there’s no need to double-check anything here. In addition, the Graco SungRide Click Connect 30 is lightweight, and therefore easy to carry from home to car to stroller and anywhere in-between. It should be mentioned that this model has no body pillow that is so handy for newborns -only a head piece.
Click Connect tech
5-point harness system
Seat cushion is machine-washable
- Weight11 lbs
Simple to use
Easy to transport
There is no body pillow
The canopy can be a bit inflexible
And last, but most definitely not the least, one of the best infant car seats money can buy: the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio. This made-in-Italy product combines supreme comfort with next-level safety and luxury in a way no other infant car seat seems to be able to do.
As the name suggests, the Primo Viaggio fits babies from 4 to 35 pounds, so it’s perfect for newborns as well as growing babies. And the safety is not compromised at any growth stage, as the seat’s Side Impact Protection can be adjusted to six different positions to protect child’s head and shoulders. The shell is lined with an energy-absorbing EPS and is perforated to ensure air circulation, while the Dual Stage Cushion System helps to properly adjust the little one’s head and shoulders. Of course, there is also a handy canopy that offers shade and protection. The entire seat itself is lightweight, weighing 9.5 pounds, so it’s easy to transport it from home to car to stroller and anywhere you like.
As for installation, it’s easy with or without a base as the seat has a Right Tight System that securely locks the base in place with either Latch strap or the vehicle seat belt. To make everything even easier, the base has color coded belt paths, which act as handy guides for the vehicle seat belt routing. Finally, there is also a built-in anti-rebound bar that ensures maximum protection in case of an accident.
Adjustable Side Impact Protection
Dual Stage Cushions
Right Tight System
- BrandPeg Perego
- Weight20.4 lbs
Easy to install and use
Easy to transport
The canopy is a bit difficult to adjustPeg Perego
Best Infant Car Seat Buying Guide & FAQ
Now that you’ve read 8 reviews of the best infant car seats, it’s time to choose the right system for you and your child. Of course, picking a thing that is supposed to protect your precious cargo and keep it comfortable and calm is no easy task. Some infant car seats come with all the bells and whistles, while others seem stripped to their bare essentials – which one is better at doing its job? And what about the price? Does it really reflect the quality of the product?
To help you with these and many other questions you may have, we’ve prepared this handy guide. Here, you can read all about the features you should be looking for in an infant car seat, different types of seats, and finally how to choose the right one. We also cover the installation process, as well as what to avoid when looking to purchase a new infant car seat, so make sure you read it all before making your decision.
Types of Infant Car Seats
There are a few different infant car seats available on the market today, but let’s start with the fact that all infant car seats must be rear-facing. This is because rear-facing car seats support baby’s body much better than any other type of seat. Here is how: when car accidents happen, the force of the crash can seriously hurt everyone in the car, including the child tucked in the car seat (especially their head, neck and spinal cord). But when the seat is rear-facing, it’s able to distribute crash force over the child’s entire body, thereby reducing the risk of serious injury. Because of this, you absolutely have to start with a rear-facing seat. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that all children should be in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 2 years old. As your child grows, you can switch to forward-facing seats with harnesses, booster seats, and finally, when they’re old enough – to regular seat belts.
With that out of the way, let's get into the types of infant car seats.
- Standard infant car seats
As mentioned, rear-facing car seats must be used until the child is at least 2 years of age. Because of this, the rear-facing seats are also called infant car seats. These systems are designed for children weighing between 4 and up to 35 pounds, depending on the brand and model. The point is, the infant car seats can and should be used from the day you bring your baby home from the hospital, to the day he or she becomes heavier/larger than the seat can take.
Typically, infant car seats consist of the ‘crib’ and a base that can be left in the car. Most systems use a 5-point harness to secure the baby and some may have extra safety features. Also, most seats are semi-reclined, which means you can adjust them for baby’s comfort as you see fit. Speaking of comfort, infant car seats usually have body and head pillows and pads, which makes the ride not only safe but also cozy for the kid. Still, these car seats should not be used as traditional cribs – no matter how comfortable they are, infant car seats can never measure up to real baby cribs.
To make the transport of a sleepy baby easier, all infant car seats have a carry handle.
- Convertible car seats
As their name suggests, these car seats are convertible. This means that they can go from rear-facing to forward-facing, and sometimes they can even convert into a booster seat. Naturally, convertible car seats are heavier and larger than regular infant seats, and as a result, can also fit in larger children.
The convertible car seats are usually more expensive than infant car seats, as well as a bit more complicated to use. This is because of the recline and harnesses that need to be adjusted in each different mode. Still, convertible car seats do have more functions and modes, so many parents prefer them over regular infant car seats.
- Car seat and stroller combos
Car seat and stroller combos, or travel systems are basically car seats that can be attached to strollers (besides car seats, of course). Because infant car seats come with a carrier, all you have to do is attach the seat to the base of the stroller to go from riding in the car to walking in the park. Obviously, these combos are very convenient and usually safer than separate parts, as strollers, along with the seats, need to go through extra testing.
There are several different models of car seat and stroller combos, including jogger combos, hiking combos, 3-wheel models, 4-wheel models and others.
How to Choose a Car Seat - Convertible vs. Infant
When you look at the features of infant car seats and convertible seats, you may think that the only difference between the two is the fact that the convertible has more options: it has more modes, often more useful features, and it can hold larger babies. Seems logical to go for the convertible car seat, right?
Not so fast – the differences between a regular infant seat and a convertible seat are actually more numerous than you may think.
- The convertible car seat: there’s no doubt a convertible seat is super-convenient. Who doesn’t love a system that seems to have it all? It can go from rear-facing to forward-facing to even a booster seat, depending on the model. However, it doesn’t have a carry handle – to expectant parents, this may seem like a minor thing, but trust us when we say this – you do not want to wake a baby if not absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, with a convertible car seat, you will have to wake your sleeping child in order to get her or him out of the car, as you have to unbuckle them and lift them out of the seat.
- The infant car seat: regular infant seats are safe, simple to use and comfortable for the baby and the parent. Besides padding and pillows inside the ‘crib’, these seats also have carry handles that are usually ergonomically made (but not always), which makes the transport from home to the car and anywhere in-between super easy and convenient. If your baby has fallen asleep during the car ride, you don’t have to wake him or her – just lift the seat itself from the base and carry the baby with you to the house, or attach it to the stroller.
- The convertible car seat: because they have more modes and features than infant car seats, convertible seats are more expensive. If it fits your budget, great, but if the model you like costs more than you’d like to pay at the moment, there’s no reason to insist on a convertible car seat. However, it should be noted that in the long run, a convertible seat will actually save you money as your child will be able to use it for a long time.
- The infant car seat: there are so many different infant car seats on the market today, from really cheap to highly expensive, that it’s easy to find one that fits your budget. If all you need is a simple, safe, no-fluff infant car seat, you can find affordable options everywhere (Evenflo Nurture Infant Car Seat comes to mind). But if you want extra features, a unique design and ultra-comfort for your baby and yourself, you’ll need to pay more (Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Infant Car Seat is a great option).
Ease of Use
- The convertible car seat: although they’re highly convenient, convertible car seats are more difficult to use than standard infant car seats. Because they have multiple modes, every time you use a different one, you’ll need to adjust the recline, as well as the harnesses in order for everything to fit and work properly. Basically, with a convertible seat, you need to check the settings regularly and that takes more time and effort.
- The infant car seat: with a carry handle and carrier that can be moved around without disrupting a child’s sleep, the infant car seat is easy to install and use. You just click the seat into the base when you need to put your little one in, and click it out when you want to take her or him out of the car. It’s as simple as that.
What To Look For In The Best Infant Car Seat
Hopefully, by now, you’ve decided on whether to buy an infant car seat or a convertible seat. In case it’s the former, and you’d like to know what to pay attention to before purchasing one, read on.
- Right Size
First and foremost, the infant car seat you’re buying needs to be able to fit in your car. If your car is on the smaller side, or is particularly large, make sure to take that into account, as the seat needs to fit properly to be able to protect your baby. Likewise, if you’re planning on using multiple cars but one infant car seat, make sure the seat fits well on every car seat.
You’ll be pleased to know that in order to become available on the market, every new car seat needs to meet government safety regulations. What this means is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to protect your child – cheap or expensive, all infant car seats (especially those we’ve reviewed here) are safe. Of course, more expensive seats do come with additional safety features, but these are currently not required by law.
- Simple to Install
When buying a new infant car seat, make sure it’s as simple to install as possible. Some car seats have additional features, which although are useful for other uses, unnecessarily complicate the installation. The instructions should be user-friendly and easy to follow and the carrier should snap in and out of the base quickly and efficiently.
- Easy to Transport
Ideally, all infant car seats should be simple to carry around, from home to car to store to park (stroller), so it makes sense to choose one that is easy to transport. The only problem is, some car seats are just not transport-convenient. For one, those that are heavy can be difficult to carry around, especially if you’re on the tiny side yourself, and two, some carry handles can be uncomfortable to grab and hold. For this reason, go for relatively lightweight car seats with ergonomic carry handles.
Related Post: 25 Tips For Travelling with Kids
How to Install An Infant Car Seat
As mentioned, the installation of the infant car seat should not be complicated, but simple and easy. Saying that, there is no one way to install a seat – although most infant car seats work similarly, they do have their differences, so each one must be dealt with in its own way.
- Read the manual
You may have already installed a couple of infant car seats in the past, but you’re not above reading a manual. Seriously, just sit down, read the manual and follow the instructions. If you still find the installation difficult, turn to the internet – there are countless videos and resources available that can help.
- Place the seat in the middle
The safest place to put the infant car seat in the car is in the middle of the back seat. This will not only protect your child if the car is hit on the side, but will also make it easier for you to check on the baby from time to time. In fact, one study showed that the center car seat is 43% safer than the side in the back.
- Install it on time
The best time to install an infant car seat is before the baby is born. You will have to bring your child home from the hospital, and the only way to do that with your own car is to tuck her or him in the infant car seat. So, install the seat, drive around with it a few times to check if the base is attached securely, and then and only then, put your baby in the seat.
Related Post: Best Car Vacuums
What To Avoid In An Infant Car Seat
Finally, to purchase the best infant car seat possible, it’s good to know what to avoid.
- Very heavy carrier
Frequently carrying a baby on its own can be tiring, not to mention carrying one in an already heavy carrier. Avoid super-heavy infant car seats, particularly the carrier, as you’ll be taking your baby in it anywhere you go.
- Nonwashable materials
Babies are messy, period. For this reason, it’s crucial to choose carriers that have removable, washable pads and pillows. It’s a plus when the material is washing machine-safe, but not absolutely necessary.
- A bunch of additional parts
Some extra features are nice, convenient and add to safety, but there is such a thing as too many features and parts. If you constantly need to check on the features, clean them and keep parts out of your child’s hands, it’s a sign your car seat has way too many gadgets.
Related Post: 5 Essential Tips to Stop Car Seat Crying
- Car Seats: Information for Families, HealthyChildren
- New Help for Parents to Protect Kids on the Move: The Ultimate Car Seat Guide, HuffPost
- Types of Car Seats for Your Baby, Verywell Family
- Where Should You Put Your Car Seat?, Safe Ride 4 Kids