Your mission: to find the best infant car seat for baby. Finding the best infant car seat is like searching for the best car for your family. Some new parents may get overwhelmed with all the different models of infant car seats—convertible car seats, lightweight car seats, car seats for small cars—the list goes on and on. Aren’t all car seats created equally? The simple answer is no. And knowing the best from the rest will help you on your quest for the best infant car seat.
What Is an Infant Car Seat?
An infant car seat is used for babies who weigh up to 35 or 40 pounds and who are up to 32 or 35 inches tall. Infant car seats only face the rear of the car.
As you try to sift through all the car seats out there you may start asking yourself, why do I need an infant car seat in the first place? The answer is simple. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all infants and toddlers remain rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old, or until they reach the height and weight requirements for their specific car seat.
These days, though, you can choose to buy an infant car seat that’s only rear-facing, or buy a convertible car seat that allows extended rear-facing capacity and can grow with baby. Decisions, decisions!
Convertible Car Seat vs. Infant Car Seat
- Convertible Car Seats. In this corner, with an average weight limit of 50 pounds or more and the ability to be rear-facing or front-facing is the convertible car seat. These all-in-one seats can be used rear-facing when baby is small, then front-facing when baby outgrows the rear-facing height and weight limits.
- Infant Car Seats. And in this corner, with an average weight limit of no more than 40 pounds, is the infant car seat. This newborn car seat can only be used rear-facing and often comes with a handle for easy carrying and transporting into and out of the car—perfect for when you’d rather not wake a sleeping baby.
Considerations When Buying Infant Car Seats
Whether you choose a convertible car seat or a straight-up infant car seat, there are several things you’ll want to consider. Remember, it’s like buying a car—you want to make sure you look at the whole picture when you’re shopping for the best infant car seat.
- How big is your car? Choose an infant car seat that fits properly in your car. If you have a smaller car, you need to take this into consideration, as baby always has to be in a car seat.
- Will you be moving the seat in and out of the car? As you’re shopping around for the best infant car seat, take into consideration whether you’re going to need to take the seat in and out of your car frequently. Portability could be an important issue if this is the case.
- What brands and models have been recalled? Safety comes first with baby. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a great resource for checking on recalls when you’re looking for the best infant car seat.
- Is the car seat easy to clean? Let’s face it, babies are messy. When you’re shopping for the best newborn car seat, check to see if the cover comes off so you can wash it easily.
- Is it comfy? A screaming infant plus a long car ride equals an extra-large headache for mom. See if the infant car seat is padded and has enough head support for any ride, no matter how long or short.
Now that you know what to look for, let’s check out the best infant car seats by category.
Best Infant Car Seat Overall
Chicco KeyFit 30 Magic, $210, Target.com
Drum roll, please! When it comes to safety and reliability, the best infant car seat overall is the Chicco KeyFit & KeyFit 30 Magic. Lightweight and portable, the KeyFit is easy to put into and pull out of the car, which is a big deal for mom (and baby!) on the go. Plus, it quickly and easily connects to most Chicco strollers, and many other brands too. And the infant insert for smaller babies makes this preemie-compatible.
Best Infant Car Seat Stroller Combo
Graco Comfy Cruiser Click Connect Travel System, $152, Amazon.com
If you’re an on-the-go mom, the marriage between your infant car seat and your stroller has to be one that’s going to stand the test of time—or at least until baby doesn’t want to ride in the stroller anymore. This relationship is often referred to as a “travel system” by all the cool moms. Graco has a winner here with its Comfy Cruiser Click Connect Travel System. Both the car and stroller seats have extra cushioning, making this a luxurious ride for baby. Moving the car seat to the stroller is easy-peasy, with just one click.
Best Infant Car Seat for Small Cars
Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, $250, BabiesRUs.com
Size does matter when you’re talking about infant car seats and small cars. When you’re looking for the best infant car seat for small cars, the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat is a good choice. Slim and stylish, this seat is also narrow and compact, which makes it perfect for smaller cars. It also comes with excellent side impact protection.
Best Infant Car Seat for Twins
Britax Chaperone Infant Car Seat, $230, BabiesRUs.com
There are two of them and one of you. So when you’re shopping for the best infant car seat for twins, you need to look for something that’s simple and lightweight while still being safe. The Britax Chaperone Infant Car Seat fits the bill. It’s super-padded and has a long list of safety features, like a patented anti-rebound bar to provide extra protection during a crash. This model ranks as a best infant car seat for twins because it is also compatible with several full-featured strollers, as well as click-and-go strollers.
Best Lightweight Infant Car Seat
Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat, $200, Target
Lifting baby in and out of the car can seem like a workout within itself. If you’re looking to lighten the load, check out the Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat. Weighing just 8 pounds, this model is a favorite for parents looking for the best lightweight infant car seat. The ergonomic handle and removable seat pad also score major mommy points. Plus, its slim and stylish design make it perfect for more compact cars.
Best Safety Infant Car Seat
Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat, $168, Amazon.com
Safety comes first for infants. If you want to “B-Safe,” take a look at Britax for the best safety infant car seat. The B-Safe 35 model ranks high with the mommy safety patrol for its deeper, steel-framed seats and energy absorbing foam for side-impact protection. Plus, it comes in seven colors and easily connects to most Britax strollers.
Best Infant Convertible Car Seat
Chicco Nextfit Convertible Car Seat, $300, BabiesRUs.com
Buying a convertible had an entirely different meaning before you had kids, right? Now convertible refers to an infant convertible car seat. This seat faces the back of your car for the rear-facing infant stage. When baby reaches the height and weight requirements, the seat converts to front-facing for toddler time. The Chicco Nextfit is the best infant convertible car seat because of how well it performed in crash tests, as well as its easy-install LATCH connectors. This seat is good from 5 pounds in the rear-facing position all the way up to 65 pounds in the front-facing position. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!
Best Affordable Infant Car Seat
Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat, $79, Amazon.com
Let’s face it, all the baby gear can get expensive. When you’re looking for the best infant car seat, you don’t need to go for the Rolls-Royce. You can look for something that’s affordable without compromising safety. For under $100, the Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat is a winner when it comes to not breaking your baby budget. Rear-facing for infants up to 35 pounds, it has three shoulder harness positions to help grow with baby. You won’t break the bank or your back, as this infant car seat is also lightweight.