2020 Best Car Seats
Using a combination of customer reviews, expert reviews, and community feedback, we’ve compiled a list of the best car seats on the market, in each category. These reviews helped us identify highly-recommended car seats from brands such as Britax, Evenflo, Graco, Safety 1st., Baby Trend, and Disney Baby, as well as the top choices for infant car seats and convertible car seats.
Car Seats Buying Guide
Aside from being top-rated, these car seats are also reliable and stand the test of time. Though you may want a stylish car seat, you want something that will last as well.
Before we discuss these car seats, let’s go over some tips for purchasing an infant car seat:
- Ease of use – This is the most important factor in deciding on a car seat. Annoying latches, seat belt mechanisms, buckles, or handles that require two hands can really wear on you over time, and that’s really the last thing you’ll want to deal with every day. These car seats are tested to ensure they’re intuitive to use, buckle, unbuckle, and attach easily, as well as having a removable cover for washing. Generally, the more expensive car seats also happen to be the easiest to use, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some outliers in the lower price range.
- Price – There’s a lot of variety in style, quality, and price. That said, there are usually reasons for the price difference. More expensive car seats tend to offer softer materials, more comfort, user-friendly designs, higher quality parts, lighter parts, and offer more colors and patterns. When it comes to safety, however, price doesn’t matter. All car seats are safe and must meet the requirements of the NHTSA. There are minimum requirements though, and some of the brands well exceed those expectations. Car seats generally fall under $150 for a good quality option, between $150 and $250 for a higher quality seat, and over $250 for a wide range of options and styles.
- Baby weight and height – Like car seat options, babies also come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Most babies fall in the 7-9 pound range, but there are also tiny babies and babies who exceed 10 pounds. Every car seat is designed with its own minimum and maximum weight and height requirements, so it’s important to consider these when choosing your car seat. Most car seats have a minimum of 4 pounds and a maximum of 30 or 35 pounds, but be sure to check the label, even within a specific brand, because they have different specifications. Some models also offer an insert for small babies that provides additional support and a snug fit for more safety and comfort. It’s also important to remember that you’re unlikely to reach the weight limit before the height limit, so that’s a factor in deciding which car seat is right for you.
- Car size – If you have more than one child or a smaller vehicle that will impact the size and fit of the car seat. Modern car seats are bulky, with additional padding, side impact protection wings, thicker plastic, and more safety features. This is a good thing for safety and comfort, but it can crowd a backseat if you need multiple car seats. Because of this, you should always take measurements of your vehicle before you go shopping for car seats.
- Stroller type – Do you want a car seat that can pop out and go in a stroller? If so, be sure that the car seat you want will fit in your existing stroller, or check the compatibility of a universal snap-in stroller. In general, you want a stroller that’s the same brand as your car seat to make this easier, though many snap-in strollers can accommodate several brands of car seats.
Car Seat Reviews
Now that we’ve covered those tips, here are our picks for best infant car seats:
Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat
Britax B Safe 35 Infant Seat
Britax B-Safe Elite Infant Car Seat
Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat
Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Car Seat
Car Seat Prices
Before we begin with car seat pricing, let’s go over some key points about purchasing a car seat.
- Safety – All car seats sold in the U.S. must conform to NHTSA safety standards, regardless of price, so you never have to worry about compromising your child’s safety when you buy a less-expensive car seat. That said, some do offer extra safety features, such as anti-rebound bars or extra padding. Ultimately, it’s more important to ensure that you’re purchasing a new car seat that has never been in an accident and that it’s installed correctly in your car. As long as you take those precautions, any of these seats are perfectly safe.
- Ease of use – This becomes incredibly important when you’re dealing with a car seat for many times a day, over the course of years. Unfortunately, you will lose some of the convenience features with a lower-priced car seat. One-hand adjustable handlebars, 45-degree or 90-degree adjustable handlebar grip, and adjustable shoulder straps that don’t need rethreading are some of the features that are typically helpful but often aren’t included in lower-priced seats. Otherwise, you can look for buckles that attach and detach easily, shoulder straps that are solid and stay put, and a base attachment system that’s simple to use, all of which are available on the car seats on this list.
- Baby size – Most car seats have a weight range from 4 to 35 pounds. With the less-expensive car seats, however, they don’t typically go as low, and usually, have an upper limit of 30 pounds. Because of this, it’s important to read the specifications to be sure they’re appropriate for your needs. Most babies will fall in this range, but it’s still best to check.
- Comfort – You want a seat that’s soft and comfortable, with breathable fabric that won’t make your baby sweat. Even though many of these seats offer this, some use better materials than others.
Cheap Car Seats Under $100
Looking for inexpensive car seats without compromising safety and comfort? For your convenience, we’ve put together the top infant car seats under $100. Despite their low price tags, they still offer plenty of features, comfort, and durability for their price, as well as being remarkably safe and reliable.
Here are our picks for the top car seats under $100:
Car Seats $100-$200
High End Car Seats Over $200
Best Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats began as a rear-facing car seat for an infant that you could later convert to a front-facing car seat when your baby reached the size and weight requirements. This generally occurs around 2 years old, but a convertible car seat has the option of staying rear-facing with an upright tilt. Convertible car seats can also grow with your child, thanks to adjustable shoulder strap height, crotch buckle position, recline, and tilt, or headrest.
The only downside to a convertible car seat is that you lose the ability to carry your infant in the car seat with a folding handle. That said, convertible car seats save you time and money since you don’t have to buy two separate seats to accommodate your infant’s growth into a toddler, which frees up some money for nicer car seats or strollers.
Some tips for buying a convertible car seat:
- You’re buying a car seat to get more mileage out of it, so avoid shoulder straps that need to be rethreaded for adjustment. Many well-rated convertible car seats require rethreading.
- If you’re buying a convertible car seat for use as an infant seat, make sure it’s capable of reclining far enough for rear-facing infant positions. If not, the baby’s head may fall forward when they sleep.
- Check the weight range. You’re buying a convertible car seat to last many years, so it’s important to be sure it will be able to accommodate their weights. A good range is generally between 4 and 100 pounds.
- Go with a reputable brand. Again, the point is longevity, so you want to know that the seat is safe and will stand the test of time. Because of this, it’s best to avoid lower-quality brands or used seats, since they are less likely to last.
Here are our picks for the best convertible car seat.