Keeping your infant, toddler or kid safe is the top-most priority for any parent or guardian. Thus, when you go out to shop, make hospital visits or even short or long haul trips to family and friends, a car seat is a must-have travel gear.
Out of all the baby’s essentials, shopping for a car seat is often a daunting task full of technicalities. But hey, we have made that easier for you, providing an in-depth review of the best car seats available in the US market.
While there are lots of car seat brands in the market, interestingly, what they only share is the set minimum federal safety standards. When it comes to specific features, each of the car seat presents distinct innovative features that make it stand out. For instance, one can be more comfortable, easy to install, super safe compared to the other.
We have put into perspective all of these features in our review to help you in choosing the best car seat that suits your needs.
Types of car seats
1) Infant car seats
Infant car seat refers to car seats with a rear-facing position only, which arguably is the safest position for your baby when riding. This car seat is the perfect choice for newborns (right from the hospital) up to 2 years old babies who weigh between 4 to 40 pounds.
Typically, infant car seats comprise of head positioning pillows and ideal for your little munchkin’s body size.
Infant car seats comprise a detachable base and a carrier. The latter is where your baby sits in, while you install the base into your car. What I love most about infant car seats is its flexibility; you can attach the carrier to the base, stroller or carry along with your baby in there. Perfect, right!
My top pick for infant car seats is Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat.
2) Convertible Car Seats.
Once your baby outgrows the infant car seat, it is time to introduce convertible car seats. This car seat consists of two modes of positioning: rear-facing and forward facing. You start off your baby in a rear-facing (safest position) until they outgrow the height and weight limits after which they make use of the forward facing position.
For most convertible seats, the rear-facing position supports children weighing 5-45 pounds while the forward facing mode takes up babies weighing at least 20 up to 70 pounds.
What I love most about this type of car seat is its lengthy time frame hence perfect for a one-time purchase. Interestingly, some of the convertible car seats also function as a booster car seat.
However, note that convertible car seats tend to be bulky as opposed to infant seats
My top choice for a convertible car seat is Britax USA Boulevard CT Car Seat.
3) Booster car seats
Booster car seats are purposely designed to help raise your kid up so as to safely fasten the seat belt correctly. There are various types of booster car seats: convertible, backless and those with high backs.
This car seat is suitable for toddlers weighing 30-120 pounds who no longer fit the forward-facing harnessed convertible car seat.
Remember booster car seat is a must-have accessory when riding with your kid in 48 states in the USA as well as its territories except for Florida and South Dakota.
I recommend the Graco Backless TurboBooster Car Seat.
4) All-in-one Car Seats
As its name suggests, All-in-one car seat is designed as a do-it-all car seat functioning as a rear-facing, forward-facing and booster car seat. As a result, it ‘grows’ with your baby right from newborn, toddler, up to the kid's stage.
In this regard, all-in-one car seats are costly compared to other types of car seats.
Our top pick for the best all-in-one car seat is the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 convertible car seat
Features to look out for in a baby car seat
i) Weight limits
You would want to check the car seat’s height and weight limits to ensure that it fits your baby’s size. In most cases, the highest weight limit for a rear-facing mode stands at 50 pounds.
The highest weight limit for a forward facing harnessed position is about 85 pounds. However, it is very rare to find car seats that reach these maximum limits.
The general rule is the highest the rear-facing weight limit or the highest forward-facing harnessed position a car seat provides, the better for your baby.
This is the most important aspect to consider when shopping for a car seat. The state has set minimum safety standards that any car seat should meet before going out into the market for sale.
Interestingly, some car seat brands go beyond these standards ensuring that their car seats offer additional safety features to guarantee your baby’s security in case of a collision.
Some of the extra features include side impact protection (can range from one layer up to 3 layers), sturdy steel frame, 5 point harness, impact absorbing base and EPS foam among other features.
Also, you should consider a car seat that will allow your child to use a rear-facing mode for an extended period as it is the safest position.
Once you get convinced about its safety feature, you would want to consider the comfort it will offer your little passenger. Is the car seat padded enough on the head area? Does it have additional inserts for the head, shoulders, and the rest of the body?
A car seat that is padded enough and with extra inserts ensures that your baby enjoys every bit of the ride.
Comfort also comes in when your baby can enjoy being adjusted to several recline angle positions whether in a rear facing or forward facing positions.
iv) Convenience and ease of use.
A first-time parent or not, you would want to have a baby’s car seat that you can easily operate it. For instance, it should have a hassle-free installation system preferably uses the latch system. Also, it should come along with a simple, straightforward manual.
Since you might use the car seat frequently, you need to consider additional features that add to its convenience. Some of the features include machine-washable seat, dry safe covers, adjustable harnesses, removable cup holders, no-rethread harness etc.
Not all car seats have the same fitting size to every car. Some do fit well in small cars while others fit perfectly in a large car. Before purchasing your favorite car seat, ensure that it is measurements are compatible to your car interior or multiple cars.
Since the base of the car seats wear off easily whenever it is installed and re-installed quite often, you might consider purchasing several bases for your primary caregivers. Not only does it expands its longevity but it’s also convenient.
Depending on your lifestyle, you can choose a car seat that perfectly fits your needs and those of your baby.
Best Car Seats Reviews 2019: Top Picks
1. Chicco Keyfit infant car seat- Best Infant Car Seat
Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant car seat is the most popular car seat in the USA Market owing to its innovative features.
Most parents love this car seat due to its simple installation and easy-to-read instructional manual. The base features a latch adjustment at the middle that pulls and securely locks it in place, for an easy and fast installation.
It also features a built-in, easy-to-read level indicator that indicates if the car seat in installed well or not. When installing the carrier, listen for a click sound that confirms secure installation to the base.
Chicco Keyfit 30 is the no. 1 choice for most neonatal nurses since its small size accommodates even premature babies. Its compact size, however, does not compromise its high safety standards and enhanced comfort for your little tot.
Speaking of safety, the car seat meets all federal safety standards and enjoys FAA Approval for use in an aircraft. Also, the car seat features an EPS energy absorbing foam that protects your baby against any impact and a 5-point safety harness.
Chicco Keyfit 30 fits perfectly in smaller cars. What’s more, you can make with it a travel system with all Chicco strollers. The car seat is designed for infants weighing between 4-30 pounds and you get to choose from five different colors.
Pros of Chicco Keyfit 30
- Ease of installation.
- Guarantees your baby’s safety.
- Enhanced comfort.
- Compatible with all Chicco strollers.
- Recommended for premature babies
- Made of non-breathable fabric.
2. UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat - Best Car Set Travel System
When it comes to installation, you will enjoy a hassle- free installation process with or without the base, for the UPPAbaby Mesa infant car seat. It features a SMART secure system in which you only need to clip the latch connectors and press the base for secure installation. Look out for a green indicator once it’s leveled and tight enough.
The designers of the MESA car seat had the infants in mind. The car seat features crotch straps and harness that adjust well, offering babies as little as 4-8 pounds a secure fit. What’s more, UPPAbaby MESA features an infant insert, a wedge pillow that positions your baby’s body at a secure riding angle and a head pillow for head and neck support.
As your munchkin grow you will appreciate the easy adjust straps and no-rethread harness. What’s more, the no-rethread harness adjusts as well with the adjustable headrest as your baby grows. It also features a side impact protection.
With the MESA infant car seat, you can create a travel system without adaptors for instance using UPPAbaby Vista or Cruz stroller. The car seat covers can be easily removed and feature washable fabric.
This car seat is suitable for babies weighing 4-35 pounds with a maximum height of up to 32 inches. However, MESA is a bit heavy, weighing 25.6 pounds but most clients outlook this for its great quality.
Pros of UPPAbaby Mesa Infant Car Seat
- Sleek, modern design.
- Simple and secure installation.
- Enhanced protection for your baby.
- Compatible with Cruz and Vista strollers without using adaptors.
- Suitable for infants as little as 4 pounds.
- Heavy but most parents outlook its weight for its superior features.
- A bit pricey.
- Some parents reported some issue with its quality.
3. Britax USA ClickTight Car Seat- Best Safety Features.
Britax USA ClickTight (CT) does not skimp on its safety offering your baby optimum protection while on the road. The convertible car seat features a SafeCell impact protection system that comprises of an energy absorbing base, impact absorbing tether, steel frame and staged-release stitches that minimize forward movement in case of a crash.
Its safety features do not stop at that, Boulevard CT car seat is also packed with two (2) layers of side impact protection, a great improvement from the usual one layer. One of the layers is a deep foam-lined shell while the other is the quick-adjust head protection both of which work to absorb impact crash whenever an accident occurs.
Your baby will also enjoy a comfortable ride with this car seat thanks to its innovative features. For instance, it has a no-rethread 14 position harness that you can easily adjust to fit your child’s height. In addition, it features a 7-recline position that offers premium comfort. Comfort also comes in with the plush foam padding and fabric.
What stands out most with this car seat is the patented ClickTight installation system that simplifies its installation process. With this system, all you have to do is to lift the front part of the car seat, buckle the seat belt across and close it and you good to go.
Rear-facing mode is recommended for babies weighing at least 5-40 pounds, once they get to 20 pounds they can switch to a forward facing position until 65 pounds. Your child should use the rear-facing position up to 2 years of age or until they reach the height and weight limits recommended by the manufacturer.
Remember, you can easily remove the car seat covers. Britax Boulevard CT can only be hand washed.
Pros of Britax Boulevard CT
- Offers superior safety.
- Guarantees your baby a comfortable ride.
- Super easy to install thanks to ClickTight installation system.
- Removable seat covers.
- High-quality car seat.
- A bit bulky. However, most parents outlook its heavy weight for its superior performance.
- Slightly pricey but worth every coin.
4. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible Car Seat
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio is an old but high-quality car seat in the American market. Despite being old, this car seat has proven time and over again that it is one of the safest car seat having withstood some of the real- world crashes by having the baby 100% secured.
Speaking of safety, the car seat features side impact protection (SID) on the head and shell panel shielding your baby’s head, neck, and spine from external forces. Interestingly, SID can be easily adjusted to ten different positions while the baby is in the seat.
In addition, Primo Viaggio features energy-absorbing EPS foam that not only maximizes baby’s protection but also allows for air circulation. What’s more, it features a 5-point safety harness. Peg Perego also allows for extended rear-facing position up to 45 pounds, a safe and highly recommended position by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
You can use the car seat in a rear-facing mode for children weighing 5-45 pounds and as your baby grows you can easily switch to forward facing position recommended for children weighing 22-65 pounds.
This baby car seat offers utmost comfort for your newborn courtesy of its well-padded seat and specially shaped removable cushions. In addition, the seat reclines in a rear-facing position to provide your baby the much-needed comfort and allows room for growth.
What I love most about this car seat is the innovative time-tested technology that puts focus on the head, neck, and spine, very crucial parts during an unfortunate crash.
Featuring high-quality fabric, Primo Viaggio seat covers are easily removable and machine-washable.
Pros of Peg Perego Primo Viaggio
- Super safe - has withstood some of the real-world crashes keeping babies completely safe.
- Offers utmost comfort.
- Time tested technology.
- Machine washable seat covers.
- Allows for an extended rear-facing position.
- Slightly expensive.
- Shorter lifespan-7 years.
- A bit difficult to install especially for first-time users.
5. Chicco NextFit iX Zip Convertible Car Seat- Best Convertible Car Seat.
When it comes to your child’s safety while on the ride, you wouldn’t want to take any chances. Chicco is a high-quality convertible car seat that secures your child, grows with your baby and so easy to operate.
Chicco NextFit features a side impact protection comprising of a steel-reinforced frame and a lining of EPS energy absorbing foam.
Sporting a number of innovative features, your little tot will fit perfectly in this car seat and the seat itself will fit any vehicle type hassle-free. Some of these innovative functionalities include the ReclineSure 9-position leveling system and special Super-Cinch LATCH tightener.
What’s more, Chicco NextFit grows with your baby right from infancy up to pre-schooling or better still elementary age. This is made possible by the removable infant insert, six-position headrest, 2-position chest clip, and 5-point automatic harness adjustment.
The removable infant insert accommodates little babies weighing between 5-11 pounds.
Lest you forget that this car seat is super easy to install thanks to the SuperCinch latch tightener. The system works by a force-multiplying technology to achieve accurate, tight and secure fit.
Also, you can monitor if your baby is in the right angle whether on a rear-facing or forward facing mode with the dual ride right level indicators.
The NextFit convertible car seat is easy to clean since the seat covers are machine-washable.
Pros of Chicco NextFit iX Zip
- Innovative safety features.
- Easy to clean. Machine washable seat covers.
- Hassle-free installation thanks to the SuperCinch latch tightener.
- High-quality car seat- made of sturdy material.
- Durable. You can pass on to your baby’s siblings.
- Quite heavy (25 pounds). Convenient for those with large cars and those who rarely switch cars.
- High-end price but worth investing in.
- Some parents reported difficulty in adjusting and fitting straps when in a rear-facing position.
6. Evenflo SureRide DLX Convertible Car Seat
The safety feature of Evenflo SureRide DLX car seat can’t be overrated. This car seat has met or even surpass the federal safety requirements. For instance, it offers 2 times the federal safety standard for side impact protection.
What’s more, the car seat features 3 layers of energy absorbing foam that not only provides comfort to your little tot but absorbs any impact crash up to 50%.
SureRide ensures that your child makes good use of the car seat thanks to the 6-position harness. You will find it quite easy to adjust the harness to accommodate your growing baby owing to its Up-Front Harness Adjust feature.
Since it is a convertible car seat, you can use the seat both in a rear-facing mode for babies between 5-40 lbs. You can then switch to a forward facing mode recommended for babies weighing 22-65 lbs.
It is the perfect car seat for traveling owing to its light weight. You can even use it on air travel though it can be challenging installing it in a rear-facing mode on a plane owing to its bulky nature.
Unlike other car seats that don’t allow for machine-washing, SureRide DLX is simple to clean as you can easily remove its durable fabrics that are machine-washable.
What I like most is the fact that you can keep your baby hydrated throughout the ride by keeping his/her favorite drinks in a fold-down cup holder. The cup holder not only ensures ease of access to drinks but is also removable to create enough room for other passengers.
Unlike other car seats such as Britax Boulevard CT whose installation process is quite simple, many users find it difficult to install Evenflo SureRide DLX. Also, the car seat is a bit bulky and does not have strap pads.
Pros of Evenflo SureRide DLX
- Secures your baby while on the ride.
- Lightweight hence suitable for travel.
- 'Grows’ with your baby.
- Machine washable.
- Quite bulky.
- Not easy to install.
- Inadequate padding.
- Lacks the handle to carry your infant around in.
7. Safety 1st Grow and Go Car Seat
If you are looking for a suitable car seat that will keep you and baby on the move for as long as you would want, then consider Safety 1st Grow and Go car seat. This car seat offers you a 3-in-1 functionality meaning you can use it as an infant car seat (5-40) pounds, convertible car seat (22-65) pounds or a high back booster car seat (40-100) pounds.
Safety 1st Grow car seat will keep your little passenger safe owing to its great features. For instance, the car seat has extended rear-facing limits (5-40 pounds) which experts believe is the safest position in a car seat. In addition, it comprises of side impact protection.
In addition, the car seat features infant padding insert that comes in handy in ensuring a perfect harness fit for your infant. Consequently, as a booster seat, it features high back and shoulder belt positioner to help adjust the seat belt to a secure angle. Also, it comprises of a 3-position recline that ensures your baby gets a perfect fit in the car.
When it comes to comfort, the car seat features two removable grow-with-baby pillows that especially offer your infant utmost comfort.
You will also enjoy the ease of cleaning the seat as you can easily remove the seat covers. The fabric used is machine-washable and dryer safe.
Other incredible features include QuickFit Harness for easy adjustment of the harness and headrest, harness holders that allows you to put and remove your munchkin from the car seat, without much hassle.
Pros of Safety 1st Grow and Go Car Seat.
- 3-in-1 car seat (Infant, convertible and booster car seat).
- Simple to clean (easily removable, machine-washable and dryer safe).
- Grows with your baby (QuickFit 5-position harness).
- Provides more front leg space when placed in a rear-facing mode, unlike other convertible car seats.
- Features harness holders.
- Rethread newborn straps pose a challenge for lots of parents.
- Non-removable cup holders.
- Some parents reported difficulties in getting the right incline angle for their babies.
8. Graco 4ever 4-in-one car seat - Best Car Seat for your Growing Child.
Graco offers your little passenger 10 years of comfortable and safe ride thanks to its 4ever 4-in-1 convertible car seat. The car seat exhibit four functionalities namely: rear-facing infant car seat (4-40 lb), forward-facing 5-point harness seat (22-65 lb), high-back belt-positioning booster (30-100 lb), then backless belt-positioning booster (40-120 lb).
Its safety feature is above par having undergone and exceeded side impact test and crash tested for US standards FVMSS 213. It also features a steel frame wrapped by an impact absorbing padding.
The Graco 4ever’s In Right Latch System makes for a hassle-free installation and an easy to read level indicator ensures that you install it correctly. The Simply Safe Adjust Harness System enhances the adjustment of 5-point safety harness and 10-point headrest position in seconds without the need of rethreading.
Your little munchkin will also enjoy every bit of the ride thanks to the 6- point recline and removable head cushion that comes in handy especially for newborns.
What I love most about this car seat are its two cup holders that allow your baby to have his/her snacks and drinks comfortably while on the car seat.
4ever’s makes for easy cleaning thanks to the 3-part easily removable and machine-washable seat covers. You can also clean its metal and plastic parts with water and mild soap.
Other great features include 10-year expiration, a variety of colors to choose from and is FAA approved for air travel.
Pros of Graco 4ever 4-in-One Car Seat
- Ease of installation.
- Super safe.
- Machine-washable fabric.
- 4-in-1 mode enhances its durability.
- Offers utmost comfort for your baby.
- Bulky especially in a rare facing mode.
- Some parents complained of rattling sound emanating from the headrest.
- Other users complained that tightening the safety harness for a rear-facing mode proved challenging.
9. Graco Slimfit - Best Car Seat for Small Cars.
Graco Slimfit car seat does what it is meant to do, saving backseat space while securing your little passenger. It features distinctive rotating cup holders that save lots of space and is a perfect fit for smaller cars.
The 3-in-1 car seat is long lasting and you can use straight away after delivery as you travel back home. It starts off as a rear facing seat (5-40 lb), swiftly transitions to a forward facing mode (22-65 lb) and lastly to a belt-positioning booster (30-100 lb).
Just like other Graco car seats such GRACO CONTENDER, this car seat features Simply Safe Adjust Harness System that enhances the adjustment of the headrest and 5-point safety harness in seconds. In addition, an InRight Latch System makes for an easy installation process.
Graco SlimFit does not skimp in providing unmatched safety. The Car seat features side impact protection with an EPS foam that absorbs any impact crash away from your baby. Having said that, this car seat has undergone Engineered & Crash test and also side impact test. Thus, it has met and/or even exceeded the US standard FMVSS 213.
With 4 recline positions and removable plush supports, rest assured that your baby will be comfortable enough to enjoy the ride whether long or short.
Just like many convertible car seats, you can easily remove this car seat’s covers without interfering with the harness and have it washed. Other innovative features include a steel frame for strong and long-lasting car seat.
Pros of Graco Slimfit.
- Saves lots of backseat space - perfect for smaller cars.
- Grows with your baby; 3-in-1 car seat.
- Offers enhanced safety.
- Ease of installation and adjustment of headrest and harness.
- Some users had issues with the positioning of the belt in the booster mode. They felt that it should be lower.
- Some customers faced difficulties in removing the seat cover for washing.
- Other users felt that there should be improvements on its buckle.
10. Diono Radian 3RXT All-in-One Convertible Car Seat - Best Compact Car Seat.
Are you looking for a stylish car seat that will not only offer outstanding safety but also fits your growing children comfortably in your vehicle? You need to consider Diono Radian 3RXT car seat.
Packed with awesome features, this car seat is versatile and ‘grows’ with your baby. Starting off at an extended rear-facing position (5-45 lbs) to a forward-facing position (20-65 lbs) then transitioning to a booster mode (50-120 lbs).
Diono offers your baby ultimate protection owing to its safety features. For instance, it is made of a steel alloy frame, aluminum reinforced sides and side impact protection lined up with EPS energy absorbing foam. In addition, this car seat has an extended rear-facing limit (the safest mode) and 12-point adjustable headrest, 5-point adjustable harness coupled with 5-shoulder and 3 buckle positions for reinforced safety.
Featuring a memory foam and body support cushions for infants, you wouldn’t have to worry about your child’s comfort. In addition, Diono 3RXT features adjustable headrest for utmost comfort.
What’s more, Diono’s superLATCH system featuring an audible click, allows for its super-easy installation.
Other innovative features include flat folding for easy storage, removable and machine washable fabric, non-slip rubber base and expandable leg rests. The car seat enjoys FAA approval for air travel.
What I love most about this stylish car seat is the slim design that allows you to sit 3 passengers in a row and this applies to most of the vehicles.
Pros of Diono Radian 3RXT
- Grows with your baby.
- Offers optimum safety and comfort.
- Compact. Allows for 3 passengers in a row except in smaller vehicles.
- Cannot fit well for 3 passengers in a row for smaller vehicles.
- Some users complain of difficulty in tightening the car seat.
AAP General Recommendations.
1. Babies should use a rear-facing position for as long as possible as it is the safest position. The recommended age is at least two years.
2. Once babies outgrow the rear-facing position, they should use the forward facing position for as long as possible.
3. You should keep your kid in a booster car seat position until the age of 8-12 years or preferably until they are in a position to securely use the vehicle belt just like adults.
4. Let your child remain in the back seat position up to at least 13 years.
5. Damaged car seats or one involved in a crash should be replaced immediately.
6. Undamaged car seat or one that has not been involved in a car crash can be reused as long as it has not outgrown its expiration date. Basically, most car seats enjoy a lifespan of 7-10 years from the production date. You can check the expiration date on the car seat or its manual.
7. Recalled car seats should not be put into use.
The safety and comfort of your little passenger is paramount whenever you are taking a short or long ride. Thus the need to invest in a high quality car seat that not only offers innovative features but also versatile enough to meet your needs and that of the baby.
Most importantly, know the type of car seat you want, top features to look out for in a car seat and the AAP recommendations. Our round up of the best car seats ensure that you make informed decision while going for only the best in the market.