The 9 Best Infant Car Seats, Based on Parent Testing

Shopping for a car seat can be daunting. Here’s what you need to know before you start your search—plus, our picks of the top-rated infant car seats, including this year's Best of The Bump winner.
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profile picture of Elizabeth Narins
Updated January 8, 2024
mother buckling baby into infant car seat
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In a nutshell:

Based on product testing, expert interviews and survey feedback from over 300 members of The Bump community, we chose the Chicco KeyFit 35 ClearTex Infant Car Seat as the overall best thanks to its impeccable safety features, LATCH system connectors and adjustable head rest.

Keeping baby safe is of course top priority, so naturally everyone wants to find the best infant car seat on the road. The question is, where to begin? Between latch hooks, load legs, belt paths and rethread harnesses, choosing the best baby car seat for your growing family can be daunting to say the least. Before setting off on this top-priority purchase, buckle up and keep reading, because we’ve got expert guidance from Joshua Dilts, lead car seat product manager at Chicco and a father of three on what you need to look for in a car seat for babies, as well as our top picks for the best baby car seats you can find—including this year’s Best of The Bump winner.

How We Tested the Infant Car Seats

Image: Nicasha M., Kimberly K., Kareene A.

We get it—parenting requires a lot of gear, and it can be hard to find the best fit for your family. To help identify the top infant car seats on the market, The Bump editors took a hard look at the most popular, best-reviewed options out there and assessed their safety and convenience features. We narrowed the options down to 14 top contenders and from there we took the following steps to identify the best infant car seats available today:

  • We interviewed an expert in car seat safety and asked for tips on what to look for and how to safely install an infant car seat in your vehicle.

  • We checked scientific research and recent law changes regarding car seat safety and followed advice from the AAP, NHTSA and other expert sources.

  • In May 2023 we surveyed 300 members of The Bump community. We asked this sample of new parents to rate the infant car seats they’ve used with their own kids and to comment on their overall experience. We evaluated this data and used it to inform our product choices.

  • We enlisted the parents of babies 5 months and younger to test our top picks to see how they held up in real-life scenarios. These parents installed the car seats in their own cars, strapped their babies in and out of the seats and took them on rides. After extensive hands-on use, they evaluated each product for ease of installation, ease of use, ease of carrying, features and design, value for money and, of course, safety.

Pairing this rigorous testing protocol with survey results along with our editors’ research insights and area expertise, we bestowed the prestigious Best of The Bump award to the overall best infant car seat and rounded up the best baby car seats for every particular need.

Editorial integrity is at the heart of everything we publish. Read about how The Bump develops and reviews all articles, including product reviews.

Best Infant Car Seats to Shop

Overall best infant car seat

KeyFit 35 Infant Car Seat
Image: Chicco
What We Love
  • Extendable headrest
  • No-rethread harness
  • Extendable UPF 50+ sun canopy
Things To Consider
  • Seat length may mean less legroom for driver or passenger

New parents often find out the hard way just how quickly newborns grow. (Spoiler: Those 0- to 3-month onesies won’t fit for long.) But the Chicco KeyFit 35 Infant Car seat’s easily adjustable height and generous legroom are designed to get ahead of growth spurts. Add on competitive safety features at a palatable price point, and it’s easy to see why the KeyFit 35 earned our Best of The Bump award for best infant car seat. (See all of this year’s Best of The Bump winners).

This top infant car seat’s features include an extendable, five-position headrest that grows with baby, with no need to laboriously rethread the harness with each adjustment. Additionally, its clip-in base has an anti-rebound bar that provides extra leg room and limits rear-facing seat movement on impact. These features earned it 5 out of 5 scores from our product tester for ease of use and ease of installation. “There wasn't any need to look for any additional information regarding how to install correctly,” she told us. “Getting baby in and out of the car seat is simple and straightforward, and the straps were smooth to loosen and tighten.” And it was a hit with survey respondents too, one of which mentioned that she liked it for the “safety features, ease of use and carrying.”

Also helpful for installation are premium LATCH connectors, a SuperCinch force-multiplying tightener, a spring-loaded leveling foot and a steel-reinforced belt system for installing without the base. In other words, you won’t need a degree in engineering to ensure baby is strapped in property—and you can start using this seat as soon as you drive home from the hospital, thanks to a removable, ergonomic newborn positioner that offers extra support for infants between 4 and 11 pounds.

Our product tester gave the KeyFit 35 a 5 out of 5 for ease of carrying, telling us it was “on the lighter side compared to other car seats, and the handle is comfortable to hold.” Plus, the UPF 50+ extendable canopy will provide important sun protection when you’re on the go. And if all that wasn’t enough, parents will be happy to know this car seat is GREENGUARD Gold Certified for low chemical emissions, meaning it contributes to healthier air quality around baby. With all these stellar features, it’s no wonder our tester gave the KeyFit 35 a 5 out of 5 score for value for money!

Dimensions: 28" (L) x 16.5" (W) x 24" (H) | Weight (seat): 10 lbs. | Weight (base): 8.5 lbs. | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“My baby falls asleep in this car seat so easily, and seems like he has a lot of room to grow.”

Buy Now

Best infant car seat and stroller combo

UPPAbaby Mesa Max Car Seat
Image: Pottery Barn Kids
What We Love
  • Anti-rebound bar and load leg
  • No rethread harness
  • Compatible with Vista V2
Things To Consider
  • High price point
  • Sun canopy offers limited protection
  • Tester described the buckle system as “clunky”

“This car seat is designed for convenience and the comfort of the child,” our product tester told us about the UPPAbaby Mesa Max, “which is perfect for me and my little one.” From the snug-fitting cushions on the adjustable headrest to the easy carry (which earned a 5 out of 5 score from our tester), the Mesa Max makes things easy for parent and baby alike. And best of all, it’s also compatible with a top-tier stroller—our product tester used this infant car seat in tandem with the UPPAbaby Vista V2 stroller, and together they create an adaptable travel system that’s both easy to use and safe for baby. (Check out our stroller roundup for our product tester’s full review of the Vista V2.)

Introduced in 2023, the UPPAbaby Mesa Max has two safety innovations not seen in the previous model, the Mesa V2: A base with an anti-rebound bar and a load leg. Our tester had no problems strapping the car seat in thanks to auto-retracting LATCH connectors, bubble level indicators and can’t-miss-’em red-to-green visual indicators. “The base doesn’t allow you to install it incorrectly,” she shared. But where it really shined for her was the ease with which the car seat operated once installed: “The harness was simple to assemble with just a matter of two clicks.” Our tester gave the Mesa Max 5 out of 5 for ease of use, and among the features she singled out for praise were the no-rethread harness, the easy-to-clean fabric and the adjustable handlebar.

A removable infant insert ensures a snug fit for babies as light as 4 lbs, but all babies benefit from the adjustable headrest with side impact protection. “It gives great neck support,” our tester observed, declaring the cushioning on the headrest to be her favorite feature. Whether in the car or connected to the stroller, baby enjoyed a safe and comfy ride. Our tester told us she even used it to carry him more easily around the house!

Dimensions: 28" (L) x 17" (W) x 25" (H) | Weight (seat): 9.9 lbs. | Weight (base): 12.6 lbs. | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“The convenience of this seat, the comfort and the safety measures make it a great candidate for any family.”

Our community says:

“Safety, design, fits with stroller.” - Meg, The Bump survey respondent and mom of two

Buy Now

Best infant car seat with advanced safety features

Cybex Cloud G Lux with SensorSafe Infant Car Seat
Image: Bloomingdale's
What We Love
  • Clip with safety sensor
  • Full recline in stroller
  • Load leg, side impact protection and anti-rebound base
Things To Consider
  • High price point
  • Lacks a non-slip handle grip
  • Heavier than alternatives

It’s no wonder our tester described the Cybex Cloud G Lux as “mind-blowing” and gave it a 5 out of 5 score for safety: The seat is equipped with a Bluetooth-enabled clip that pings your phone when it becomes unbuckled, whenever the seat gets too hot or cold or even, in a worst-case scenario, if you accidentally leave your child in the car. And for even greater peace of mind, you can count on this seat’s linear side-impact protection, plus an anti-rebound base and a load leg.

Luckily for littles, the seat’s not just safe—it’s comfortable. Our tester, awarding the Cloud G Lux another 5 out of 5 score for features and design, described the fabric as “really soft and cushion-y.” What’s more, the seat back is designed with air vents to promote temperature regulation.

The attention to safety doesn’t stop in the car, though: The seat tilts backward 45 percent more in strollers than comparable infant car seats—a feature our tester found “convenient when baby falls asleep during our walk.” An XXL UPF 50+ canopy helps ensure naps on the go are restful, since it really blocks the sun without compromising portability. “I like that the carry handle sits high when the canopy is extended so that I can easily slip my arm through to carry the car seat on my forearm,” our tester shared.

With eight color options, the seat aligns to any aesthetic. But what’s style without ease of use? Rest assured, it’s an area that earned the Cloud G Lux a perfect 5 out of 5 score. “Love that it has a no-rethread harness, and I appreciate how easily the harness glides to tighten it,” our tester shared, fully convinced this seat’s got it all—including a whopping 12 headrest positions to keep your child safe and secure as they grow.

Dimensions: 26.5" (L) x 17.6" (W) x 15.8" (H) | Weight (seat): 12 lbs. | Weight (base): 16 lbs. | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“The safety features that come with the car seat and base make it worth the price. It's beautifully designed.”

Buy Now

Best affordable infant car seat

Graco SnugRide 35 Lite LX Car Seat
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Affordable price point
  • Lightweight seat
  • Easy installation
Things To Consider
  • Basic safety features
  • Lacks cushioning around baby’s head

A high price tag on an item you can only use for a limited number of months can sometimes be hard to swallow. If you’re looking for a cheap infant car seat when it comes to cost but premium when it comes to function, the Graco SnugRide 35 LX might be the choice for you—it comes at the right price without compromising quality. Standard features of this affordable infant car seat include a five-point safety harness and an adjustable base with a pendulum level indicator that assists with proper installation and adjustments as baby grows. A rotating canopy can be positioned just right to block the sun at any angle—an especially nice feature for when you clip the seat into any Graco stroller and take baby for a walk.

The seat’s roominess earned it a 5 out of 5 rating for ease of use from our product tester, who told us, “Despite the name SnugRide, the car seat feels wide, which is great for my big baby!” Describing it as “well-designed” and “easy to use,” she added, “I had no issues getting him in and out of the seat, which is definitely not the case with other infant car seats.” Her son particularly liked the black and white pattern lining the interior of the sun canopy, a design feature in select colors: “He appreciated the black and white contrast and would stare at it a lot.”

Our tester told us the car seat was “very easy to install using LATCH. It took less than 10 minutes to install it properly and it felt very secure once it was in place.” Giving the SnugRide 35 Lite LX 5 out of 5 for ease of installation, she noted, “the seat itself was also easy to click and unclick into the base, and buckling my son in was a breeze.” Removing the base to switch cars didn’t take much muscle either. “The most difficult part was loosening the strap, but frankly I was glad because it meant it was very secure in the first place.” Our survey respondent also liked the SnugRide, scoring it a top score of 5 for “safety, size, appearance.”

Dimensions: 18.1" (L) x 15.5" (W) x 27.4" (H) | Weight (seat): 7.5 lbs. | Weight (base): 4.8 lbs. | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“Since it was so cheap, I was a bit worried it wouldn't be that safe, but I found it to be a really great car seat overall.”

Buy Now

Best lightweight infant car seat

Evenflo Litemax 35 Car Seat
Image: Target
What We Love
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable price point
  • Machine-washable materials
Things To Consider
  • Large base
  • Some parents say the lap buckle is hard to unfasten

It probably won’t surprise you that our pick for the best lightweight infant car seat, the Evenflo Litemax 35, earned a 5 out of 5 score from our product tester for ease of carrying. Not only does the carrier weigh just over 8 pounds, it also features an ergonomic handle designed to fit in the crook of your arm and make transporting your little one to and from the car extra comfortable. “It was very easy to adjust the handle, making the carrying process simple,” our tester shared.

What might be a little more noteworthy is that the Litemax 35 proved itself to be an all-around performer, earning 5 out of 5 scores across a variety of categories, including ease of installation, value for money, features and design and safety. “It felt very sturdy and safe,” our tester confirmed.

The Litemax 35 features a vehicle belt lock to make sure it stays in place, and is roll-over-, temperature- and structural-integrity-tested under circumstances that well surpass federal crash test standards. What’s more, the easy-to-install base took our tester’s partner less than 10 minutes to secure without the help of Evenflo’s free, live video support—a pretty cool perk. In fact, whether she was putting baby in safely, adjusting the harness or cleaning up stains, ease of use and quality of features were a consistent theme in the course of her testing. As she told us, “It has all the qualities you would look for in a good car seat, at a very reasonable price.”

Dimensions: 28.5" (L) x 19" (W) x 24" (H) | Weight (seat): 8.2 lbs. | Weight (base): N/A | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“It’s very easy and comfortable to carry my 6-month-old.”

Buy Now

Best narrow infant car seat

Clek Liing Infant Car Seat and Base
Image: Strolleria
What We Love
  • Narrow footprint
  • FAA certified
  • Extendable sun shade
Things To Consider
  • High price point
  • No rethread system

If you’re looking to fit three car seats across the back row, look no further. The Clek Liing is just under 17 inches wide, making it one of the narrowest offerings on the market. Our product tester reported that this seat fit easily into her car alongside her toddler’s rear-facing seat—with plenty of room to spare for a passenger in between.

Of course, the Liing’s compact size doesn’t mean it’s not packed with great features: The Liing offers up to seven recline positions, side-impact protection, a simple one-handed release and an energy-absorbing metal load leg that even works in the center seat. “I was admittedly skeptical about the stabilizing [leg], worried it would take up valuable floor space in front of the seat, but it didn’t obstruct the area and provided additional peace of mind,” she said, giving the Liing 5 out of 5 scores for safety and features and design.

“There are not many crevices that have been difficult to clean,” our tester reported. “A simple wet paper towel was all I needed to make the seat look brand new again after my daughter spit up in the car.”

She also raved about the seat’s retractable overhead shade, which “extends farther than I have seen with other car seats,” she said. “Rather than draping something over the seat to cover my daughter from the sun when going back and forth to the car, I’m able to pull the shade down and then zip it back up easily once we get to the car.” Conveniently, the shade also includes a flap that can be pulled back to check on baby, and it provides additional ventilation.

Overall, “the design of the seat itself is wonderful,” reported our tester. “The fabric and cushioning is very soft and makes for a very comfortable ride, and the headrest has just the right amount of support to allow for my daughter to safely sleep in the car as we drive.”

Dimensions: 27.7" (L) x 16.9" (W) x 26.8" (H) | Weight (seat): 9 lbs. | Weight (base): 17 lbs. | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“The seat seems incredibly safe.”

Buy Now

Best easy-to-install infant car seat

What We Love
  • Ease of installation
  • No rethread harness
  • Anti-rebound bar, metal load leg and adjustable side-impact protection
Things To Consider
  • Higher price point

For those of us who aren’t technically inclined, car seat installation can be a stressful pursuit. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Nido Car Seat made this oft-dreaded task simple: “With all other car bases that I’ve installed, it was always so hard to tighten the base enough to feel like it snug and safe, but the Peg Perego was so easy and felt so secure,” reported our product tester, who gave the Primo Viaggio 5 out of 5 scores not just for ease of installation, but also ease of use and safety. “Using the LATCH was smooth and easy to tighten.”

Thanks to a 10-position metal load leg and adjustable side-impact protection, baby will be kept nice and secure once installation is complete. Even without the base, the handle (which is “comfortable to carry” according to our product tester) can be flipped forward for use as an anti-rebound bar.

The seat is safe as well as super comfy for baby. “It’s so cushioned that I felt like I was putting my baby in a cloud,” our tester reported. On days when your final destination is dream land, the extendable hood creates a cocoon-like effect with UVP 50+ protection for napping safely and soundly. And with 13 color options, you can bet this seat works well and looks just as good.

Dimensions: 28.5" (L) x 17" (W) x 26.5" (H) | Weight (seat): 10 lbs. | Weight (base): 11 lbs. | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“This car seat looked complex, but it was actually one of the easiest car seats I’ve installed with my four kids.”

Buy Now

Best infant car seat for convenience

Doona Convertible Infant Car Seat/Compact Stroller System with Base
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Functions as a car seat and travel stroller
  • Can be installed with or without LATCH base
  • TUV and FAA aircraft approved
Things To Consider
  • Lacks storage space
  • High price point
  • Heavier than non-hybrid models

One of the main benefits of using an infant car seat is being able to lift it out of your vehicle without disturbing baby. Of course, nobody said it would be easy to carry a baby in a car seat any farther than the distance between your car and the curb. Enter: The Doona, an infant car seat equipped with wheels to transform from a car seat to a stroller (and back again). To switch to stroller mode, simply squeeze a lever at the back and watch in awe as wheels pop out. Our tester immediately appreciated this unique design: “I never have to carry it,” she beamed.

You might worry that this innovative style would be difficult to set up and use, but our tester found installation to be quite simple: “The instructions were very clear,” she shared. “It took around five minutes to install and it felt very secure once the base was in place.” Once it was set up, she says taking baby out and putting him back into the seat was extremely easy. “He felt so snug and secure in there. The harness is very easy to adjust and tighten—he looks and feels very comfortable.”

With no holds barred on style, this model comes in seven color options. But it was also designed with safety at the forefront: The hybrid stroller car seat has a five-point harness and three layers of side impact protection, plus a handle that doubles as an anti-rebound bar. Small surprise that our product tester gave the Doona 5 out of 5 for safety.

Perfect for parents on the go, this model is the ideal travel infant car seat, since it’s approved for use on airplanes, and—best of all!—it eliminates the hassle of packing both a car seat and a stroller. After using this stroller, our tester’s main concern was that her son would eventually have to grow out of it!

Dimensions (open): 17.4" (L) x 32.3" (W) x 39" (H) | Dimensions (folded): 17.4" (L) x 26" (W) x 22.4" (H) | Weight (seat): 17 lbs. | Weight (base): 10.4 lbs. | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“This seat is durable and well-made, and the price is fair for what you’re getting.”

Our community says:

“At a high price, this car seat was absolutely worth it as it also converts to a stroller. It’s comfortable for my baby and I never have to carry it since it can be in stroller mode. I appreciate the minimalistic design.” - Leah, The Bump survey respondent and mom of one

Buy Now

Best infant car seat for taxis

Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX Car Seat
Image: Target
What We Love
  • Anti-rebound bar
  • Easily-adjustable handle
  • Rigorous crash testing
Things To Consider
  • Tester found instructions difficult to follow

When you’re on the go and hopping into a taxi, you want to be able to set your car seat up both quickly and securely, without having to lug along a heavy car seat base. Luckily, the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX can be secured using the European belt path method for a base-free installation. When you’re using your own vehicle, this seat boasts a one-minute installation using LATCH as well as a seat belt-only option. “The level of security with the seat belt installation was exactly the same as the LATCH installation,” our product tester confirmed, giving the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX 5 out 5 for safety.

The single-button adjustment meant our tester had no trouble positioning the seat on the base or taking baby out of the car, and when a stranger is in the driver’s seat, you’re sure to appreciate the anti-rebound bar that limits seat rotation on impact.

The other area where this car seat shined was in its portability. At just under 10 pounds, the 35 DLX is one of the lighter car seats on our list, and the easy-to-use carrying handle had our product tester telling us, “I wish I had this when I was leaving the hospital with my twins after my c-section!!” The 5 out 5 score she gave the car seat for ease of carrying is sure to come in handy when you’re Ubering from errand to errand with baby in tow.

Dimensions: 27.5" (L) x 17.5" (W) x 25.5" (H) | Weight (seat): 9.8 lbs. | Weight (base): 7.4 | Weight capacity: 4 to 35 lbs. | Height limit: 32"

Our product tester says:
“The handle was comfortable. It wasn’t too thick in my hands, which I really loved, and adjusting it was much easier than with my previous seats.”

Our community says:

“Lightweight, easy to take in and out, feels secure.” - Sandra, The Bump survey respondent and mom of one

Buy Now

Infant Car Seats Comparison Chart

Overall best infant car seatBest infant car seat and stroller comboBest infant car seat with advanced safety featuresBest affordable infant car seatBest lightweight infant car seatBest narrow infant car seatBest easy-to-install infant car seatBest infant car seat for convenienceBest infant car seat for taxis
Overall Best
Chicco KeyFit 35 Infant Car Seat
UPPAbaby Mesa Max Car Seat
Cybex Cloud G Lux with SensorSafe Infant Car Seat
Graco SnugRide 35 Lite LX Car Seat
Evenflo Litemax 35 Car Seat
Clek Liing Infant Car Seat and Base
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Nido Car Seat
Doona Convertible Infant Car Seat/Compact Stroller System with Base
Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX Car Seat
Dimensions28" (L) x 16.5" (W) x 24" (H)28" (L) x 17" (W) x 25" (H)26.5" (L) x 17.6" (W) x 15.8" (H)18.1" (L) x 15.5" (W) x 27.4" (H)28.5" (L) x 19" (W) x 24" (H)27.7" (L) x 16.9" (W) x 26.8" (H)28.5" (L) x 17" (W) x 26.5" (H)17.4" (L) x 32.3" (W) x 39" (H)27.5" (L) x 17.5" (W) x 25.5" (H)
Seat weight10 lbs.9.9 lbs.12 lbs.7.5 lbs.8.2 lbs.9 lbs.10 lbs.17 lbs.9.8 lbs.
Weight capacity4 to 35 lbs.4 to 35 lbs.4 to 35 lbs.4 to 35 lbs.4 to 35 lbs.4 to 35 lbs.4 to 35 lbs.4 to 35 lbs.4 to 35 lbs.
No rethread
Use without base
FAA approved
Buy NowRead Full ReviewBuy NowRead Full ReviewBuy NowRead Full ReviewBuy NowRead Full ReviewBuy NowRead Full ReviewBuy NowRead Full ReviewBuy NowRead Full ReviewBuy NowRead Full ReviewBuy NowRead Full Review

What Is an Infant Car Seat?

All car seats are designed to protect children from injury during vehicle collisions, but an infant car seat is specifically designed for the youngest babies. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an infant car seat is a small, portable seat that can only be rear-facing. Babies can use an infant car seat from birth until they hit the seat’s height and weight requirements: Typically, infant car seat height restrictions are capped at around 32 inches with a maximum weight capacity about 35 pounds. While all children develop on their own schedule, the average baby will reach 32 inches when they’re around 12 to 18 months old, and most tots will outgrow their seat’s height limit before the weight limit.

Regardless of how quickly your child outgrows their first car seat, guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) specify that children should remain rear-facing until they’re at least 2 years old. To that end, you’ll need to decide whether to buy a rear-facing infant seat or opt for a convertible model that can be used in a rear- and forward-facing position. Decisions, decisions!

Infant car seat vs. convertible car seat

Infant car seats have a unique benefit: They can be separated from their base and carried with a handle, so you can move a sleeping baby in and out of the car without much disruption.If you have a travel system stroller, you can also click an infant car seat straight into the stroller without having to taking your little one out.

You can also use some infant car seats without their base; this means you can easily use them in multiple cars or strap them right into a taxi or rideshare as needed. Importantly, infant car seats are specifically designed for younger and smaller babies, often providing a more comfortable fit than convertible car seats.

All that said, some parents opt to skip the infant car seat and go straight to a more versatile convertible car seat. While the latter is heavier and less mobile, it can be used both rear- and forward-facing and has a higher height and weight limit (often 50 pounds and up), so you can use it for several years after installation.

Considerations When Looking for the Best Infant Car Seats

With a seemingly endless range of price points and features, infant car seat options can be dizzying. Here are the factors and features to take into consideration when shopping for the best infant car seat for your child.

  • Safety. The good news: “All car seats on the market must meet US federal safety standards,” says Dilts. Meaning? Any new model you buy will—by law—be sufficient to do its primary job of keeping baby safe.

  • Ease of installation. While most of the best baby car seats come with impressive safety features, “to perform as designed, they need to be installed properly,” Dilts warns. That means your primary goal should be to select a model you can confidently install correctly every time you use it. Features such as leveling indicators and LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) connection systems can help a novice achieve an A+ installation. For a deeper dive, check out the NHTSA’s car seat ratings. They evaluate infant car seats on their ease of use, taking into consideration the instructions, installation features, labels and child restraints.

  • Recalls. The NHTSA can also be a great resource here. Check the website for any recalls on defective parts or products before purchasing an infant car seat.

  • Premium features. Adjustable no-rethread harnesses and anti-rebound bars can improve infant car seat user experience, Dilts notes. And who doesn’t want a smoother ride on this whole parenting journey?

  • Load legs. A load leg is a feature found on the base of some infant car seats that serves as a brace between the seat’s base and the car floor. It offers extra stability and has been shown to reduce the risk of head injury in a crash by up to 43 percent, according to Consumer Reports.

  • Ability to use without a base. Some infant car seats can be safely installed using only a seatbelt (not a separate base), making them a great option for parents who take taxis. This feature is typically called a European belt path.

  • Stroller connectivity. The main draw of an infant car seat is its portability—quite a convenience when traveling with infants, who often nap through their days and don’t exactly love being hauled out of their seats mid-dream. As a result, an infant car seat often goes hand-in-hand with a stroller system that can carry it. Before making a purchase, check to see if your stroller and car seat are compatible, and if adapters are needed.

  • Width and weight. If you already have a carseat or two in the back of your car, don’t assume you can fit any old other: Infant car seats vary in width, with some specifically designed to be narrow and ride alongside siblings’ seats. What’s more, infant car seats vary in weight to the tune of several pounds, so you’ll save your biceps from doing extra work if you select an infant car seat that isn’t too large and hefty to lug around.

  • Height limits. Because even seasoned parents might not know how long an average baby will be at any given growth stage, it’s easy to let your eyes glaze over height restrictions. However, Dilts says it’s smart to pay attention to max length, specifically: “Most infant car seats are rated for use up to 30 to 35 pounds, but most children will outgrow their infant car seat in height long before they reach the weight limit,” he explains.

  • Cost. Like most accessories you’ll need for your infant, infant car seats run the gamut from affordable to astronomically expensive: It all depends on materials, styles, add-ons and more. Once you determine your budget, you can sort through options based on the features you deem most important.

Infant Car Seat Weight Limits and Expiration Dates

All good things must come to an end eventually. Not only will your little one size out of an infant car seat, but car seats come with expiration dates. Here’s what you need to know about infant car seat longevity.

When to switch from an infant car seat

The best way to make the most of your infant car seat is to use it until baby reaches its maximum height or weight limit, Dilts says.

Fast forward: Your next car seat will need to be a convertible car seat (i.e., one that offers both rear and forward facing options) or an all-in-one car seat (rear-facing, forward facing, and booster mode). “When using either of these seats, continue keeping your child in the rear-facing position as long as your seat allows before transitioning to the forward-facing position,” Dilts says—and don’t skip or shorten the booster stage: While parenting a decade-old kid may feel lightyears away at this point, children can benefit from riding in a booster seat up to age 10, depending on their size.

When do infant car seats expire?

A fact that surprises many first-time parents is that, like many shelf-stable items, they ultimately expire. Most infant car seats have an expiration date of six years from the date of manufacturing to ensure everything from the shell of the car seat to the harness that secures your child in the seat is fresh enough to function. Setting an expiration date also helps ensure that every car seat that hits the road adheres to the most recent federal safety standards, Dilts explains. After all, when it comes to keeping your most prized possession safe on the road, you can never be too cautious.

About the writer:

Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer who has previously held staff positions at Women’s Health and Cosmo. A mother of two, she delivered her first child in March 2020, when unexpected pandemic store closures and supply chain issues taught her the value of being prepared.

Interested in becoming a product tester for The Bump? Head here to apply.


Joshua Dilts is a passionate advocate for child passenger safety, serving as a certified child safety technician and a lead car seat product manager at Chicco. A father of three, his real-life experience provides continued inspiration and motivation for creating solutions that make it easier for families to travel safely with car seats.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Car Seats and Booster Seats

Consumer Reports, Load Legs Give Child Car Seats Improved Safety in a Crash, September 2023

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