BEST CAR SEATS | DECEMBER 2017

All car seats have to meet certain safety standards, but they are not all created equal. To identify the best of the best, our team did extensive research on models across four popular categories – infant car seats, toddler car seats, convertible car seats and car seats for travel – evaluating features, such as safety, comfort and ease of use. To help you make a more informed – and more efficient – purchase decision, we selected top picks for each of the categories. Check out the detailed product reviews for each selection below, along with our car seat buying guide that covers some of the key considerations that come with choosing a car seat. Read more about our methodology.

Best Overall

91

For consumers who want it all, the Chicco Keyfit 30 is a perfect choice. The Keyfit is a great option for parents on-the-go as it quickly snaps into the base and Chicco brand strollers.  Most importantly, it can help protect your child from serious injury with energy-absorbing foam and side impact protection. 

Read full review.

Best Value

87

The Evenflo Nurture may not have all the bells and whistles, but it will keep your child safe and comfortable.  The Nurture is among the cheapest alternatives on the market, however, consumers will still benefit from its ergonomic and easily transportable design.

Read full review.

Best by Category

Best Infant Car Seat

85

The number one objective of a car seat is to protect your fragile child from harm.  The Britax B-Safe 35 is best in class when it comes to safety, thanks to its patented SafeCell technology.  Furthermore, the B-Safe is comfortable, easy to use, and has a great canopy to shield your baby from the elements.

Read full review.

Best Toddler Car Seat

86

Graduate to the Safety 1st Summit Deluxe and never purchase another car seat again! The Summit Deluxe accommodates toddlers 22-100 pounds, but retains the footprint and convenience of an infant car seat.

Read full review.

Best Convertible Car Seat

90

Get more bang for the buck by investing in the Britax Marathon G4.1, a convertible car seat that is suitable for children up to 65 lbs.  In addition to its practicality, the Marathon G4.1 provides added safety features including a steel frame and energy-absorbing shell.

Read full review.

Best Travel Car Seat

88

Parents who are constantly on the go will love the Graco SnugRide 30 LX’s one-second LATCH system.  Getting this lightweight car seat in and out of the car is literally a snap.  The SnugRide is also compatible with Graco’s Click Connect strollers, making it a great option for traveling parents.

Read full review.

Car Seats BUYING GUIDE

  • KEY CONSIDERATIONS

    Safety

    While all car seats sold in the marketplace meet minimum federal safety standards, the first consideration for parents should be safety.  After all, the primary purpose of a car seat is to promote child safety, and what could possibly be more important than your child’s life? Depending on price considerations, consumers should prioritize safety features such as side impact protection, energy-absorbing foam, steel frames, bases with built-in levels, etc.

    Portability

    From a convenience standpoint, consumers should target car seats that are portable, especially with infants.  Whether it is inclement weather or a quick trip to the store, you will often remove the car seat from the base and take it on the go.  Therefore, it is important to identify a car seat that is ergonomic, lightweight, and compatible with your stroller.

    Ease of Installation

    This is especially important for parents who need to constantly move the car seat between different vehicles.  Car seat packages should also include a base that is easy to install, remove, and has indicators to ensure it is level.

    Extras

    One of the most underrated car seat accessories is the canopy.  A common complaint from car seat users is that the canopy is flimsy, unsecured, or fails to adequately shield the baby from sun or inclement weather.  Protecting your baby from the elements is certainly worth the additional investment.  Other popular add-ons or design features include cup holders, reading lights, and pivoting armrests.

  • PRICE BREAKDOWN

    Car seat prices generally range from $50 to $250.  The lower cost threshold will give parents the bare minimum in terms of comfort, quality, safety, and convenience.  Fortunately, the federal government sets minimum safety standards that car seat manufacturers must meet.  Parents can rest assured that purchasing a cheaper car seat will not be putting a child at risk.  Nonetheless, comfort and quality are the most obvious sacrifices.  Car seat users at the lower end of the cost scale report straps and buckles that lock up and get twisted.  Furthermore, the cushions inside the car seat are firmer and less comfortable for the baby.

    As the price grows, consumers gain access to features such as stroller compatibility, excess safety measures, weather-resistant canopies, and modular systems that accommodate toddlers and grade-school children.  A more expensive car seat will typically include a more comfortable shell and features that offer convenience, such as cup holders, reading lights, or pivoting armrests.

FULL product reviews

We research hundreds of products in order to bring you a final, unbiased list of the very best. We also use a proprietary algorithm to score each product in terms of quality, value, and brand reputation. These subscores are then weighted to calculate our overall scores. Read more about how we calculate our scores.

976 products
considered
132K RATINGS
ANALYZED
28 research
hours

Best Overall

TOP PICK

Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat

The Chicco Keyfit 30 is a perfect selection for consumers who want it all.  While the price is slightly above average, the Keyfit includes added safety features like EPS energy-absorbing foam to keep your baby safe.  Weighing just 9.5 pounds, the Keyfit is also compatible with Chicco’s stroller line, meaning it is a great option for parents on the move.  Furthermore, it is easy to install and can be removed from its base with just one-hand.

  • 91overall
  • 95quality
  • 61value
  • 90brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Safety.  The Keyfit exceeds federal safety regulations and features EPS energy-absorbing foam to provide your baby with increased side impact protection.
  • Lightweight and portable.  The Keyfit weighs in at 9.5 pounds, which is great for parents that transfer their child between different vehicles, or like to keep the baby in the car seat for a quick shopping trip.  The Keyfit is also compatible with at least 8 different Chicco brand strollers, so parents can keep their infant in the car seat for a walk.
  • Canopy selection.  The Keyfit is unique in the sense that it is compatible with four different canopies that range in sunshade/weather protection from minimal (sporty) to complete coverage (zip-up or 3-panel).

Other Considerations

  • Cushion fabric.  Some users report that the cushion’s fabric is not breathable, which causes babies to excessively sweat and become uncomfortable.
  • Chest Latch.  Other users report that the chest latch wears out quickly, in some cases, as little as 3 months.

Best Value

TOP PICK

Evenflo Nurture Infant Car Seat

The Evenflo Nurture car seat is a surprisingly great option given its cheap price tag.  The Nurture is among the lightest car seats on the market, weighing in at just 6.5 lbs.  It also has a tiny footprint, meaning that it is portable and fits easily in smaller vehicles.  The price tag should not be a cause for caution or uncertainty, as the Nurture includes added safety features and a nice canopy.

  • 87overall
  • 87quality
  • 85value
  • 90brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Lightweight.  The Nurture weighs just 6.5 pounds, which was the lightest car seat evaluated by ReviewLab.  The importance of this cannot be understated.  Parents who are constantly on the move will find the Nurture light to hand carry, as well as easy to get in and out of the vehicle.
  • Small Footprint.  The product dimensions for the Nurture are 18 x 17.2 x 30 inches, which is significantly smaller than all of the other car seats surveyed.  This is great news for parents prioritizing portability or need a car seat that can fit into a smaller vehicle. 
  • Safety.  Any caution over the cheap price tag is unwarranted as the Nurture meets or exceeds federal safety standards.  Surprisingly, the Nurture includes an energy absorbing foam liner for added impact protection.  Some users noted that the car seat saved their child from harm in major car accidents.

Other Considerations

  • Maximum allowable weight.  The Nurture only accommodates children up to 22 pounds, so consumers will need to purchase another car seat sooner than many other options on the marketplace. 
  • Quality.  Some users consider the fabric to be too firm and uncomfortable, which can lead to a crying baby on a long car ride.

BEST BY CATEGORY

Best Infant Car Seat

why buy?

Car seats in this category are designed specifically for infants that weigh 35 pounds or less.  At this stage in a baby’s development, the primary considerations are safety and comfort.  While safety is always of the utmost importance, it is at this age that the infant’s neck is not fully developed and needs added protection.  Furthermore, parents desire comfort so that the baby can rest in the car.

Top Pick

Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat

The Britax B-Safe 35 is best in class with regards to infant safety; an evaluation factor that is far and away the most important for this age group.  While many car seats provide added safety in just one area, such as energy-absorbing foam, the B-Safe serves as an integrated safety system.  Britax utilizes its patented SafeCell technology, which provides buyers with an impact absorbing base and a stabilizing steel frame in addition to standard safety features.  When it comes to safety, the Britax B-Safe is head and shoulders above other options on the market.

  • 85overall
  • 89quality
  • 52value
  • 89brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Safety.  The B-Safe employs patented SafeCell technology that gives it a clear edge over the competition in terms of safety.  In addition to energy-absorbing foam, a common industry feature, the B-Safe provides a stabilizing steel frame to provide even more strength in case of a car accident.  The B-Safe’s impact absorbing base further reduces crash energy.  To reiterate, these are safety features that are unique to the B-Safe.
  • Ease of installation.  Users of the B-Safe report that it is easy to install and get in and out of the base.  It features center-pull straps and a quick push-button for lower LATCH connectors.
  • Oversized canopy.  The B-Safe offers buyers a large canopy that shields your baby from sunlight and inclement weather.

Other Considerations

  • Heavier than most.  Weighing 10 pounds, the B-Safe is heavier than most infant car seats.  This is absolutely a trade-off with the added safety features.  The steel frame is certainly a contributing factor to the higher product weight.
  • Narrow shell.  Users report that their infant appeared squished by the sides of the car seat, causing some discomfort.  This is likely another safety-related trade-off, as the car seat is designed to minimize side impact. 
RUNNER-UP

Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat

Priced at less than $100, the Evenflo Embrace LX is a great car seat at the cheaper end of the price scale.  The Embrace is a lightweight option for parents on the go.  It weighs just 7.5 pounds and is 25 percent lighter than comparable infant car seats on the market.  Unlike some other lightweight options, the Embrace LX accommodates infants up to 35 pounds, meaning that buyers can get even more bang for the buck.  

  • 87overall
  • 88quality
  • 76value
  • 90brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Lightweight.  The Embrace LX is 25 percent lighter than other infant car seats on the market.  Weighing just 7.5 pounds, it is extremely portable and easy to lift in and out of the car seat base.
  • Maximum allowable child weight.  While the Embrace LX is significantly lighter than the industry average, it retains its practicality by seating infants up to 35 pounds.  This is a very important characteristic for prudent shoppers as the Embrace LX can be used longer and delay the need to purchase a larger car seat.
  • Safe choice for premature babies.  The harness system is nationally recognized for protecting premature babies.  The Embrace LX is suitable for newborns as light as 4 pounds.

Other Considerations

  • Unstable base.  Many users report that the base can become unstable and tip over during transit.  This could certainly be the result of improper installation, but that indicates a secondary problem; the Embrace LX may not be as easy to install as other car seats.
  • Ineffective canopy.  The canopy is short and does not shield the baby from sunlight and inclement weather as much as some buyers would like.

Best Toddler Car Seat

why buy?

Toddler car seats cannot be used in the rear facing configuration and, therefore, are not suitable for newborns and small infants.  Instead, toddler car seats are designed to accommodate children who are tall or heavy enough to transition to forward facing.  At this stage, buyers are less concerned with portability as toddlers are too big to carry around in a car seat or snap into a stroller.  Top considerations are safety and convenience. 

Top Pick

Safety 1st Summit Deluxe

Buyers who select the Safety 1st Summit Deluxe may never have to purchase another car seat again.  The Summit Deluxe is suitable for children 22 to 100 lbs., meaning your child will be ready for a traditional seat belt when they graduate from this car seat.  The Summit Deluxe offers buyers great value as it includes side impact protection and several convenience features to make your life easier.

  • 86overall
  • 89quality
  • 56value
  • 87brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Weight allowance.  The Summit Deluxe has two configurations.  The forward facing configuration with supporting harness secures children 22 to 40 lbs.  At the second stage, the car seat converts to a belt positioning booster, holding children 30 to 100 lbs.    
  • Safety.  The Summit Deluxe meets or exceeds federal safety standards.  In addition, it includes side impact protection to further protect your child. 
  • Small footprint.  Buyers love the size of the Summit Deluxe.  With dimensions of 19.5 x 20 x 28 inches, this car seat has a smaller footprint than many of the infant car seats evaluated.  Many users raved that the car seat did not take up a lot of vehicle space and was narrow enough that other riders could slide by and get to their seats. 
  • Added convenience features.  Two add-ons are really enjoyed by buyers of the Summit Deluxe; the slide out cup holder and the pivoting arm rests that make it super easy to get your child out of the seat.

Other Considerations

  • No portability.  This car seat should be not be confused with an infant car seat.  At 18.5 lbs., it is heavy and not easy to switch between different vehicles.
  • Twisted straps.  Many users take exception to the straps design, remarking that the straps constantly get twisted and need to be re-threaded in order to fix it.

Best Convertible Car Seat

why buy?

Convertible units are geared towards practical buyers who do not want to purchase a second car seat when their newborn grows out of an infant seat.  Most infant car seats have maximum weight allowances between 30-35 pounds.  On the other hand, convertible car seats are designed to be rear facing for the infant stage, while converting to a forward facing toddler seat at a certain weight threshold.  While convertible car seats may require a larger investment upfront, it may save money over the long-term.

Top Pick

Britax Marathon G4.1 Car Seat

While this is the most expensive car seat recommended by ReviewLab, buyers will certainly get bang for the buck as the Britax Marathon G4.1 is suitable for children up to 65 pounds.  This size allowance is roughly double that of the standard infant car seat.  In addition to its long-term practicality, the Marathon G4.1 also includes Britax’s patented SafeCell safety technology, giving your child unparalleled protection from a car accident.

  • 90overall
  • 95quality
  • 54value
  • 89brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Weight allowance.  Unlike infant car seats that are typically suitable for children weighing between 30-35 pounds, the Britax Marathon G4.1 is designed to accommodate children up to 65 pounds in its forward facing configuration.  This means buyers will not need to purchase a second car seat at the 30-35 pound milestone.
  • Added security features.  The Marathon G4.1 prioritizes your child’s safety thanks to Britax’s patented SafeCell technology.  This includes a steel frame, energy-absorbing base, energy-absorbing shell, and a V-shaped tether.  Britax truly goes above and beyond with respects to child safety.
  • Easy to install.  The Marathon G4.1 is designed for a quick and painless installation.  Its lower anchors click into place and can be released by simply pushing a button.  It also has a quick-adjust 10-position harness which is great for unpredictable weather patterns when your child may or may not wear a thick coat or sweatshirt to the car.

Other Considerations

  • Heavy.  This car seat is not designed to be portable; it is heavy and bulky.  This is expected given the 65 lb. weight allowance.
  • Fabric may not be durable.  Several users report that the fabric broke down quickly after a few wash cycles. 

Best Travel Car Seat

why buy?

In this category, buyers are looking for multi-functional car seats that are portable and great for travel.  Buyers who seek a travel-friendly car seat are very active, do a lot of shopping, and take long walks.    Consumers will need car seats that are relatively light and compatible with stroller systems. 

Top Pick

Graco SnugRide 30 LX

The Graco SnugRide 30 LX is a perfect selection for buyers seeking a travel-friendly car seat.  The SnugRide is compatible with Graco’s complete line of strollers; you simply remove the car seat from its base and snap it into place on the stroller.  Additionally, the SnugRide weighs just 7.5 pounds and is one of the lighter car seats available to shoppers. 

  • 88overall
  • 90quality
  • 65value
  • 92brand

Why We Recommend It

  • Portability.  The SnugRide LX is light enough to hand carry at 7.5 pounds.  Since it is compatible with so many Graco stroller products, it is the perfect choice for mobile buyers, both on wheels and foot.
  • One-hand, no rethread harness.  The SnugRide LX features the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System which allows users to quickly and easily adjust the chest harness and straps.  This is a convenient feature, as opposed to car seats where the straps need to be rethreaded to make a size adjustment.
  • LATCH system and base.  The SnugRide LX is easy to get in and out of the car seat base, with a one-second LATCH attachment.  The base includes a 6-position dial adjustment to help find the most comfortable resting position for your baby.

Other Considerations

  • Fabric is not breathable.  The fabric may not be conducive to warmer temperatures, leaving babies overheated and uncomfortable.
  • Appearance.  Many consumers were displeased with large, yellow warning stickers on the inside of the car seat.  Graco’s marketing pictures conveniently edit these stickers out, leaving some buyers disappointed with the appearance.