Your mission: to find the best infant car seat for baby. Easier said then done, right? Some parents-to-be find themselves overwhelmed with all the different models of infant car seats available—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 that children remain rear-facing until they're 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. With an average weight limit of 50 pounds or more, convertible car seats can be rear-facing when baby is small or front-facing when baby outgrows the rear-facing height and weight limits.
- Infant Car Seats. Infant car seats tend to have an average weight limit of no more than 40 pounds and can only be used rear-facing. The plus-side? They often come with a handle for easy carrying and transporting into and out of the car—perfect for when you’d rather not wake your 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, consider whether you’re going to need to take the seat in and out of your car frequently. If so, portability could be an important issue.
- 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
Drum roll, please! When it comes to safety and reliability, the best infant car seat overall is the Chicco KeyFit 30 Magic. It's super-easy to install, thanks to the spring-loaded leveling system, bubble level-indicator and one-pull Latch tightener. And because it comes with a carrying handle, the KeyFit is easy to get in and out of the car—a big deal for mom (and baby!) on the go. The Keyfit 30 quickly connects to most Chicco strollers and many other brands too, and keeps baby comfy year-round with a zip mesh panel and removeable all-weather boot. Bonus: The infant insert for smaller babies makes this preemie-compatible.
Buy it: $210, Amazon.com
Best Infant Car Seat Stroller Combo
Evenflo Pivot Travel System with SafeMax Infant Car Seat
If you’re an on-the-go mom, the marriage between your infant car seat and your stroller has to stand the test of time—or at least until baby doesn’t want to ride in the stroller anymore. When it comes to the best infant car seat-stroller combo—otherwise known as a travel system—The Evenflo Pivot and SensorSafe SafeMax infant car seat are a winning pair. (Which is why was named best travel system in The Bump Best of Baby 2018 awards.) The included car seat clips into the stroller frame in both forward-facing and outward facing positions, and sports impressive safety features, including a roll bar and a smart chest clip that reminds parents upon arrival that baby is in the backseat.
Buy it: $280, Evenflo.com
Best Infant Car Seat for Small Cars
Combi Coccoro Convertible Car Seat
Size does matter when you’re talking about infant car seats. When you’re looking for the best infant car seat to fit in a small car, the Combi Coccoro is a good choice. At just 15.5-inches wide, it's one of the narrowest car seats on the market—so slim, you can fit three of them side-by-side in the back seat. And at 15 pounds, you won't break your arm lugging it around. The Coccoro is a convertible car seat and can accomodate kids up to 40 pounds.
Buy it: $220, Amazon.com
Best Infant Car Seat for Twins
UppaBaby Mesa Infant Car Seat
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 super-safe but also lightweight. The UppaBaby Mesa fits the bill. It weighs under 10 pounds and has advanced side impact protection, self-retracting LATCH connectors for quick, accurate install and even a tightness indicator that let's you know if the base has been installed correctly. The Mesa also includes an infant insert and low harness position that's suitable for preemies and smaller newborns. If you happen to be using the UppaBaby Vista stroller—which has tons of seat configurations for twins—the Mesa clips in to create a travel system.
Buy it: $300, Amazon.com
Best Lightweight Infant Car Seat
Nuna Pipa Lite LX
Lifting baby's car seat in and out of the car can be a serious workout. If you’re looking to lighten the load, check out the Nuna Pipa Lite LX, which won a Best of Baby 2018 award for best infant car seat. Weighing in a a mere 5.7 pounds, it's the lightest infant car seat on the market today. It's also one of the most green: The Merino wool and Tencel fiber blend is environmentally friendly and doesn't have any added fire retardant chemicals. Other features moms love: The removable full coverage UPF 50+ canopy and unique "dream drape" that pulls down to block the elements while baby snoozes.
Buy it: $400, Nuna.eu
Best Safety Infant Car Seat
Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat
Safety comes first. 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.
Buy it: $168, Amazon.com
Best Affordable Infant Car Seat
Evenflo Nurture DLX Infant Car Seat
Let’s face it—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 Nurture DLX Car Seat will keep baby safe and won't break your budget. It's side impact tested and features an energy-absorbing foam liner for added safety. And with convenient features like adjustable harness positions, a full body pillow for comfort and a featherlight weight of 6.5 pounds, it offers a lot of bang for your buck.
Buy it: $65, Amazon.com
The Bump's Car Seat Types Infographic:
Updated June 2018
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