Written By Lisa Conant
Published Aug. 5, 2021

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 eight 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 Seats

If you are looking for a car seat for a toddler to be assured of the safety of your child while on the road, then the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat is a product to consider. Manufactured by Graco, a company acknowledged around the globe for its top-notch and quality products, you are assured of innovation, safety, and durability.

The Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seats by Graco come with a harness compartment that helps parents to easily get their babies and toddlers in and out of the seats with minimum fuss thanks to the secure buckle. For rear-facing infants, the Graco Extend2Fit can take from 4 to 50 pounds of weight as well as a weight range of 22 to 65 pounds for forward-facing toddlers.

Key Features
  • Harness compartment
  • Ultra-strong frame
  • Easy installation
  • Comes with cup holder
Specification
  • Brand Graco
  • Model 1963212
  • Weight 5 pounds
PROS

Provides an additional 5 inches for legroom.

Has a 10-position headrest

Has a six-position recline

CONS

The 'Extend to Fit' features works optimally in large vehicles.

The cover is not easy to remove

The cup holder is placed out of the toddler’s reach

If you’re looking for an easy-to-install option that won’t cause you to break a sweat and mutter a bunch of expletives under your breath, check out the Baby Trend EZ Flex-Loc Infant Car Seat. This cleverly designed infant car seat features a simple, one-hand, no-rethread, five-point safety harness. It offers quick and easy adjustments.

This model also features a solid EPS energy-absorbing foam that cushions and protects your baby’s head and neck. The push-button height-adjustable seat back allows for four different positions that are quick and easy to set up. There’s even a level indicator so that your precious cargo isn’t leaning off to one side while driving.

Key Features
  • Easy installation
  • Simple, one-hand, no-rethread 5-point harness
  • Push-button adjustable height
  • LATCH connectors for secure installation
  • Handy level indicator
Specification
  • Brand Baby Trend
  • Model CS33773A
  • Weight 16 pounds
PROS

Super easy to adjust as baby grows

Includes a warm boot to keep baby extra protected

Very secure and stable latching

CONS

Can be difficult to unlatch and move to another vehicle

For all the Disney fans out there, there’s the Disney Baby Light ‘n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat. Available in a variety of whimsical patterns and color schemes, this fun car seat will give you and your baby a little character. It’s rated for four to 22 pounds, so it’s an excellent option for preemies and newborns. This rear-facing model will help to provide the ultimate protection for even the tiniest of children and can accommodate babies up to 29 inches tall.

This seat offers decent side impact protection. It also has a convenient infant insert, although it’s not the most padding we’ve seen, in keeping with the Disney theme, it is in the fun shape of Mickey Mouse ears. With its five-point harness, this car seat meets or exceeds all federal and ASTM safety standards, so you can rest assured that your baby will be safe and secure.

Key Features
  • Rear-facing infant car seat
  • Can accommodate babies between four and 22 pounds
  • Includes additional infant insert for tiny infants
  • Push-button LATCH release
Specification
  • Brand Disney Baby
  • Model IC233BZE
  • Weight 14.66 pounds
PROS

Lightweight

Fun Disney-themed patterns

Great for premature or tiny infants

CONS

Can’t accommodate larger babies

Sometimes, all you need is simple, secure and affordable infant gear. The Evenflo Nurture infant car seat promises to protect your baby while keeping it comfortable and stylish, without breaking your budget. In fact, this is one of the most affordable infant car seats you can 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.

Key Features
  • Lightweight
  • Has five-point harness system
  • Comes with a separate base
  • Secure
Specification
  • Brand Evenflo
  • Model 36212069
  • Weight 10 pounds
PROS

Affordable

Easy to transport

CONS

The canopy is a bit short

Doesn’t have any additional features

The Graco SnugRide 35 Lite Infant Car Seat gets major points for being one of the lightest and easiest to carry car seats on our list. It’s also one that will last a while, since it’s able to accommodate infants from four to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches in height. It’s easy to install with its four-position adjustable base and the handy level indicator. You can use your vehicle’s seat belt or the LATCH system to safely secure the car seat’s base.

As with many others on our list, the soft padded head and body supports cradle and protect little infants. The rotating canopy is a nice touch that ensures you can always keep your baby in the shade and out of the hot sunlight. This model is Graco ProtectPlus engineered to protect in front, side, or rear impacts, as well as roll-over crashes. It’s one of the safest on the market.

Key Features
  • Rear-facing infant car seat
  • Accommodates infants between 4 and 35 pounds and up to 32 inches long
  • Features a four-position adjustable base with level indicator
  • Rotating canopy
Specification
  • Brand Graco
  • Model sr35
  • Weight 7.2 pounds
PROS

Easy to install

Extremely lightweight

Compatible with all Graco Click Connect strollers

CONS

Seat padding is too thin

Stitching is scratchy

Material feels cheap

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 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.

Key Features
  • Can be used for babies, growing toddlers and kids
  • Quick Fit Harness
  • Secure
  • Seat pad is machine washable
  • Has two cup holders
Specification
  • Brand Safety 1st
  • Model CC138DWL
  • Weight 18.7 pounds
PROS

Extended use

Affordable

Easy to use

CONS

A bit difficult to install

Another reliable and affordable option that deserves some consideration is the Baby Trend Secure Snap Tech Infant Car Seat. It’s comparable to some other higher-priced models in function and safety. It’s also equipped with patented side impact protection and EPS energy-absorbing foam to provide peace of mind protection when it matters most. The generous three-panel canopy is larger and provides more coverage than many other models on the market.

The Delta multi-grip carrying handle makes transporting your infant from car to stroller or home easier and more ergonomic than with some other models. The strong five-point safety harness allows for single-handed adjustment and quick push-button release. We really like the substantial padding and feel of the removable four-piece infant insert, especially considering the price of this seat. One-handed easy seat release and a fast and simple install are added selling points.

Key Features
  • Large 3-panel canopy
  • Thick 4-piece removable infant insert
  • Patented side impact protection
  • Four recline positions
Specification
  • Brand Baby Trend
  • Model CS66C50B
  • Weight 23.13 lbs
PROS

Easy to install

Large canopy provide optimal protection from sun and rain

Generous padding keeps baby comfortable and secure

CONS

Material could be a little higher-end

Padding is not machine washable

The Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat is one of the most highly rated car seats on the market. It’s able to accommodate infants weighing 4-22 pounds and up to 30 inches in length. This model features some cool innovations that you just won’t find on other car seats. It’s equipped with a ReclineSure leveling foot and not one, but two, RideRight bubble level indicators so that you can get precise and balanced leveling.

It also features the SuperCinch tightener and superior LATCH connectors for the ultimate in safe and secure anchoring with very little effort. When you need to use the vehicle’s seat belt to anchor the car seat, the clear belt routing and integrated lock-offs are very intuitive and allow for quick installation. Unlike some of the competition, this car seat features a smooth underside that helps to prevent permanent indents or damage to your car’s upholstery.

Key Features
  • #1-rated infant car seat in America
  • Two bubble level indicators for level installation
  • SuperCinch LATCH tightener
  • Smooth underside protects vehicle seats
Specification
  • Brand Chicco
  • Model 05079578160070
  • Weight 16 pounds
PROS

Very easy to install

Super safe and secure

Removable canopy

CONS

Bulkier than some models

Canopy material could be more substantial

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 belt lock-off feature that ensures easy and accurate installation 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.

Key Features
  • Easy installation
  • Secure
  • Belt lock-off feature
  • Reclining Base Level Indicator
  • Pads are machine washable
Specification
  • Brand Evenflo
  • Model 30512042
  • Weight 16 pounds
PROS

Comfortable

Easy to transport

Simple to use

CONS

Canopy is a bit short

If you’re looking for a child car seat that can go the distance, the Evenflo EveryFit High Back Convertible Car Seat might be right up your alley. This convertible four-in-one car seat can accommodate all the growing stages of your child, lasting you up to 10 years. It even allows for your child to continue to ride rear-facing beyond two years of age should you so choose.

The SureSafe installation system uses connectors as well as a LATCH system to provide an ultra-safe and confident installation. This smartly-designed car seat can accommodate children between four and 120 pounds, making it the most versatile car seat on our list. Even better, its advanced side impact protection system can reduce crash forces up to 30 percent.

Key Features
  • 4-in-1 convertible car seat
  • Can accommodate children between 4 and 120 pounds
  • Dual installation system
  • Machine-washable cushions and fabric
Specification
  • Brand Evenflo
  • Model 39312379
  • Weight 19 lbs
PROS

Can last up to 10 years

Fabric is a breathable mesh designed to keep children comfortable and cool

Can stay rear-facing beyond two years of age

CONS

Doesn’t easily switch between car, home, or stroller

Heavy

Best Infant Car Seat Buying Guide & FAQ

Now that you’ve read  the 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.

What Is An Infant Car Seat?

An infant car seat is a lightweight, portable car seat specifically for use when your baby is in the infant stages. It’s meant to be used in the rear-facing position only and can usually accommodate children between 4 and 35 pounds, or 2 years of age. They are a convenient form of car seat because they can double as a carrier, easily transporting between your car, stroller, home, or shopping without having to remove your child from the seat. 

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, three-wheel models, four-wheel models and others.

Why You Might Want an Infant Car Seat Vs. a Convertible Car Seat

The biggest reason you would choose an infant car seat over a convertible car seat is convenience and portability. No one ever wants to wake a sleeping baby, and having an infant car seat allows you to easily transport your child anywhere you want to go while leaving them comfortably and securely strapped into their seat.

While a convertible car seat will certainly last longer and get more use than an infant car seat, every time you use it, you have to strap and unstrap your child and physically remove them from the vehicle. Infant car seats are also great if your baby will frequently be riding in more than one vehicle. Having a base installed in each vehicle means you don’t have to go through the time-consuming and annoying process of removing and fully installing your car seat every time you want to switch vehicles. 

Finally, most infant car seats feature adjustable canopies that can be moved in order to keep sun or bright light out of your baby’s eyes. This isn’t usually the case with convertible car seats.

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.

Convenience

  • 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.

Price

  • 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.

Safety

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 Long Can Babies Use an Infant Car Seat?

Babies can usually use an infant car seat from birth until about two years old. Most infant car seats are designed to accommodate babies weighing between four and 35 pounds and up to 30 to 32 inches long.

Parents’ Top Pick

The Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat has received multiple awards and accolades for being one of the best loved infant car seats available. It gets high praise for being super easy to install in under a minute. It’s easy to see if the seat is balanced thanks to the built-in level. Unlike with other infant car seats on the market, this one features a smooth underside that won’t dent or damage your vehicle’s upholstery. It’s an excellent all-around choice for your infant.

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

Sources:

  1. Car Seats: Information for Families – HealthyChildren
  2. New Help for Parents to Protect Kids on the Move: The Ultimate Car Seat Guide – HuffPost
  3. Types of Car Seats for Your Baby – Verywell Family
  4. Where Should You Put Your Car Seat? – Safe Ride 4 Kids

MORE TO READ

Load more...