Top Most Recommended Baby Car SeatsPublished on 07/28/2022 · 12 min readBaby and Toddler Expert Robbie M. lists the top baby car seats on the market to keep your little one safe and comfortable while on the road!
Photo courtesy of North Dakota Department of Transportation
Every parent wants the best for their child. Finding the right car seat for your new baby can be very time-consuming and stressful with the various options available on the market. With several types of car seats, many different features, and a wide range of prices, finding the best fit for you and your family can be a challenge. This article will highlight the top most recommended baby car seats available on the market, highlighting the pros and cons of each to help you narrow down your selection.
Types of Car Seats
There are two main types of car seats: infant car seats and convertible car seats.
Infant car seats, also known as rear-facing car seats, are designed for newborn babies up to a certain height or weight limit (differing per each manufacturer’s design specifications). These car seats typically have a five-point harness, handle, sun canopy, and also act as a baby carrier. Many infant car seats come in a package with a travel system stroller or standalone with a car seat base. The base gets installed into your vehicle with either the vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) and remains there. In contrast, the actual car seat is able to be easily inserted and removed from the base. One thing to note about infant car seats is, at some point, your child will outgrow them and require a convertible car seat.
Convertible car seats cover a wide range of car seats which are larger and heavier than infant car seats. These car seats are typically made for more than one use. Depending on the convertible seat, some are rated for rear-facing newborns all the way to a booster car seat for kids still requiring a car seat per the guidelines set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Convertible car seats are attached to your vehicle using the seat belt or LATCH connectors just like infant car seats. However, they have more extended longevity due to much larger use parameters, for many up to a booster seat.
Car Seat Installation
One quick note on car seat installation; the safest car seat is one that is installed correctly. Most manufacturers come with an instruction booklet and stickers on the car seat showing how to install the car seat. When in doubt, always reach out to a certified child passenger safety technician (CPS) who will be able to ensure your car seat is installed as intended by the manufacturer.
What to Consider When Buying a Car Seat
At the end of the day, a car seat’s job is to ensure your little one is safe in the unlikely event of a car crash. All car seat manufacturers must follow the same safety standards and pass specific impact testing by the NHTSA to be able to sell their products. Some car seats are built with extra padding, side-impact protection, and other unique safety features such as anti-rebound bars or load legs. Car seats featuring these features tend to cost more; however, for that extra peace of mind that your infant will be safe, they can be worth the upcharge.
Other items to consider when buying a car seat are ease of installation, the weight of the car seat, and stroller compatibility (in the case of infant car seats). In some instances, buying a travel system stroller, which includes a car seat and base, may save you money and give you maximum convenience while transferring your baby from car to stroller. Lastly, consider the weight and height limits of the car seat. In general, the larger the limits, the longer your child can use that seat.
Top Most Recommended Infant Car Seats
Chicco Keyfit 30
The Chicco Keyfit 30 is a tried and true budget-friendly infant car seat. Featuring a sun canopy, newborn seat insert, and easy install base using your car’s seat belt or LATCH system, the Keyfit 30 gives you plenty for its low price. Combined with the Chicco Bravo stroller as a travel system, it’s a great low-cost option for those looking to save. The Keyfit 30 is also compatible with many strollers using adapters either included with or purchased for the specific stroller. One negative about the Keyfit is its relatively low height and weight limits. At 30 pounds or 30 inches (smaller than most competitors), your child will have outgrown the seat and need a new one.
Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX
Another cost-effective option full of features, the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX has many similar features as the higher-end infant car seats. An anti-rebound bar, no-rethread head and strap adjustment, and side-impact protection, all at an affordable price, make this infant car seat a favorite for many parents. The Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX is also compatible with many strollers using adapters. Unlike the KeyFit 30, the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX is rated for kids up to 35 inches tall or weighing 32 pounds, making it a longer-lasting option.
Britax B-Safe Gen2
If you’re in the market for a narrower option, the Britax B-Safe Gen2 is a great choice. Featuring a convenient center-tightening LATCH belt (as opposed to a side-tightening belt, which is a little tougher to cinch down), the base is also constructed with a significant amount of steel and a specialized crumple zone. These features make this car seat incredibly beefy, making it one of the heavier models on this list. The B-Safe Gen2 is aircraft certified and compatible with Britax and BOB strollers (the latter being one of the more popular brands of jogging strollers) along with other brands using adapters.
Although a slightly more expensive infant car seat, the Clek Liing makes up for the extra price with added features. A metal load leg attached to the base significantly boosts the safety of the seat through reducing rotational forces in a crash. Rigid LATCH connectors on the base make for simple installation. At the same time, the infant seat itself has a European belt path option, allowing the lap belt to thread over your child and the shoulder belt to loop around the back of the car seat, creating a more secure install than a traditional lap belt-only install. Lastly, the large sun canopy also features a mesh peek-a-boo window for venting and the occasional check-in on your little one throughout the day. The Liing is aircraft certified and also works with Cybex or Maxi-Cosi adapters for most strollers. For more compatibility information, chat with a Baby & Toddler Expert.
The UPPAbaby MESA provides one of the easiest base installs of all the car seats on this list. Auto-retracting LATCH connectors and color-changing indicators, which turn green when the base is installed, make installation a breeze. The car seat itself features premium wicking fabric, side-impact protection, a no-rethread harness, and an adjustable headrest, maximizing comfort and ease of use. The MESA is also compatible with UPPAbaby strollers without the need for adapters and comes included in several UPPABaby travel systems that are certified for aircraft use. Besides the larger price, the MESA is also on the heavier side. But when considering the premium fabric, UPPAbaby stroller compatibility, and easy-to-install base, this is an excellent car seat.
Nuna Pipa Lite RX
So, there are quite some things to unpack here with this item (but its load isn’t one of them). One of the best lightweight infant car seats on the market, the Nuna Pipa Lite RX weighs just over seven pounds. Like the UPPAbaby MESA, the Nuna Pipa’s RELX base is incredibly easy to install, thanks to rigid LATCH connectors. And with a European belt path, it smoothly installs without the base. Like the Clek Liing, the Nuna RELX base features a load leg to further increase car seat safety. The infant seat is made of premium fabrics and features a magnetic “Sky-Drape” that completely covers the seat in a breathable mesh fabric. Lastly, the Pipa RX is compatible with Nuna strollers and is approved for use in aircraft. All of these features don’t come cheap, making the Pipa RX one of the most expensive infant car seats on the list.
For more on Nuna car seats, check out an Expert Guide to Nuna Car Seats.
A unique option, the Doona is both an infant car seat and a stroller. The stroller wheels fold up along the back of the seat when not in use, allowing the car seat to be strapped either to a vehicle belt or clicked into the included base. Because of its added stroller ability, the Doona does weigh more than most other car seats in this category. One should also note that the Doona is an infant car seat, meaning once your child outgrows it (up to 35 pounds or 32 inches), the car seat/stroller can no longer be used. However, if you’re short on storage or travel a lot, either around town in rideshares, taxis, or planes, the seat is aircraft certified, so the Doona is an awesome pick for you.
Top Most Recommended Convertible Car Seats
Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
The Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 car seat comes in handy for bringing your newborn home from the hospital to taking your almost teenager to a sporting event. This car seat can convert from being rear-facing with an infant insert to a forward-facing car seat to a highback booster and finally to a backless booster, making it one of the car seats with the most extended usage. With simple headrest adjustment, which also adjusts the harness heights, machine washable cover, two cup holders, side-impact protection, and latch installation, the Graco 4Ever DLX includes all the essential features you and your kids will want and need. Weighing over 27 pounds, it is a heavy convertible car seat; however, its long-lasting nature and lower price make it a great option.
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-In-One Convertible Car Seat
A medium-priced convertible seat, the Britax One4Life ClickTight features a steel-reinforced seat, built-in crumple zones for energy absorption in a crash, a nine-position recline, and a 15-position headrest. Like the Graco 4Ever DLX, you can use the Britax One4Life from your newborn through to your older kids weighing up to 120 pounds and requiring a high-backed booster seat, giving it longevity of use. A 10-year expiration date also gives you peace of mind that the car seat is built to last. To install, simply lift off the seat, insert the vehicle seat belt, and close the seat. Finally, two cup holders and a machine-washable cover ensure easy clean-up for inevitable messes. One thing to note is this seat weighs in at 30 pounds, making it one of the heaviest on this list.
For those looking for a “next-generation” car seat, the CYBEX Sirona S is for you. One of the main unique features of the Sirona is its ability to spin from rear-facing to forward-facing without having to reinstall. The car seat itself is mounted on a spinning base, an extremely useful feature for getting your child in and out of the car seat. Along with a load leg, the Sirona also features a sensor in the chest clip called SensorSafe, which, when paired with your smartphone, can send notifications when your child is too hot or cold, unbuckled, or left unattended in the car. One thing to note with this seat is it maxes out at 65 pounds, meaning you’ll need a booster for your child when they exceed that weight.
A more premium option when compared with the Graco or Britax, the Diono Radian 3RXT is most famously known for its ability to be used three across. For families with multiple children, this seat is one of the few convertible car seats to allow three to be used next to one another in the car. Usable from newborns up to children weighing 120 pounds, this steel-framed seat will give you peace of mind that your child will be protected for up to 10 years. Another neat feature of this seat is its folding seat for more space efficiency when traveling. The Diono Radian 3RXT is also FAA certified (Federal Aviation Administration), meaning you can use it when flying with your child. Other features include side impact protection, an adjustable headrest, non-slip strap pads, and expandable seat width.
Nuna RAVA Convertible Car Seat
The Nuna RAVA is one of the more expensive convertible car seat options on the list. However, being an upscale option with premium materials and rear-facing for those up to 50 pounds makes it a very popular option. Two cup holders, an adjustable no-rethread headrest, and simple installation make this upscale car seat one to desire for folks willing to spend a little more on their convertible car seat. One piece to note: this car seat is only good front-facing up to 65 pounds, making it not the best solution if you’re hoping only to buy one car seat to last for the time your child needs a car seat. If you’re looking for a top-end convertible car seat that will work from newborn to 120 pounds from Nuna, check out the Nuna Exec, a more expensive but longer-lasting option from the brand.
Car seats are a critical part of your and your child’s lives and can provide peace of mind when selected and installed correctly. Know that there is no one perfect car seat out there, but there are many excellent choices for you and your family to fit your specific needs.
If you have more questions on car seats and which may be right for you, feel free to reach out to our Baby & Toddler Experts at Curated. Like myself, these folks are real people with real baby experience and can help you navigate the many aspects of car seats as well as other baby gear.