The Best Car Seats for Infants

The Best Car Seats for Infants

So, you have decorated the nursery, bought cute clothes, a crib, and a million toys, but a baby car seat is an important necessity you need to buy to keep your new bundle of joy safe.

It is a federal offence and a violation of the child restraint law to not adequately seat your child safely in a vehicle. The law states that every child under the age of four years old must be seated in a child restraint system while traveling in a motor vehicle. Young infants are at particular risk of head injuries when involved in motoring accidents and, of course, you want to protect your child. You risk a fine and you are putting your child in danger if you do not have the correct seat for your child.

With so many baby car seats on the market, such as forward-facing car seats and rear-facing car seats, it can be a baffling choice, especially for first-time parents. We have put together a guide to give you all the information you need to know about this all-important purchase. Included in our guide are tried and tested car seats that parents trust to keep your baby safe.

The Law

Many hospitals in America and certainly those that comply with The American Academy Of Pediatric guidelines will not allow a baby to leave the hospital until a member of staff has actually checked themselves that the car the baby will be taken home in, has a baby seat that is correctly installed. The law regarding car seats for infants varies from state to state. Most states, however, require that babies up to the age of one year and weighing under 20 pounds should be placed in a rear-facing seat.

It is also preferable, but not enforceable, that they travel in the rear of the vehicle. That being said the law is only a guide. Research has proven that your child is best to stay in a rear-facing seat until they are two years old as they are five times safer.

What to Look for When Buying a Car Seat for a Newborn

Type

When you are deciding to buy a car seat for newborn infants, you have two basic choices: You can opt for an infant carrier or a convertible car seat.

Infant carriers are a good choice for a host of reasons. They work as a travel system either in your vehicle or out and about. The carrier will only be used for around a year, but the advantage is that you snap the carrier into the base in your car and then unsnap it to fix to a stroller or to carry your baby in the carrier. Some moms would not be without an infant carrier for the simple reason that you can (if you are careful), move a sleeping baby far more easily than having to unbuckle the baby more often.

Convertible seats stay in your car and are fixed there. You will, of course, have to fasten in your baby each time and unfasten when you get out and place your baby in a stroller or a carrier. The advantage to investing in this type of seat is that with the right seat, you could still be using it for years to come.

Harness

Having decided on whether a carrier or a convertible seat is the right option the next thing you should consider when choosing a child seating restraint is the harness. It is important that the harness is a 5-point harness. You should try out the harness and the buckle and ensure that it is easy to fasten and unfasten. The straps of the harness should be easy to adjust as your baby grows and when you are setting up the harness ensure that it is in line with your baby’s shoulders. It is also important that the straps fit well.

Head Support

It is best to choose a seat or carrier that has a special insert that will support a newborn baby’s head. You can use an attachment which is designed to go with that car seat but if you do not fit the attachment correctly the seat can be unsafe. If in doubt choose a carrier with pre-fitted support for your baby’s head.

Protection

Look out for a seat that has deep sides that will protect your baby’s head and spine in the event of a bump. You should also look for seats that are made of energy-absorbing foam that will take the brunt of the impact following a crash.

Comfort

Check out seats before you buy. In order for your baby to be most comfortable and happy choose a soft seat made with cozy fabric.

Expiration Date & Registration

Unlike prams that can be refurbished from second-hand if you take it back to a good store, do not use car seats for years. A second-hand car seat is not a bargain as over time the materials in the seat will become fragile and unsafe. When purchasing a car seat you should always check the make, model, date of manufacture, and how long the seat can safely be used for.

Most seats can be safely used for approximately six years but check out the individual seat for details. When you make your purchase ensure that you register the seat so that in the event of any problems or defects you will be notified immediately.

Installation

It is best to have the car seat installed in your vehicle by an expert. If you are buying from a specialist store they should have an expert there that will fit the seat for you. It is important that the seat is installed correctly and fits tightly. If you have bought your seat online then make a few inquiries.

Many police and fire departments will also have a car safety seat expert on hand to install a child safety seat correctly. It is also likely that there is a car safety seat expert at the hospital. All of these experts will happily check out the car seat installation for you as accident prevention is far preferable to dealing with an injured infant. If you are installing the seat yourself ensure that you read the instructions thoroughly.

Position

Babies should stay in a rear-facing seat and in the rear of the vehicle if at all possible. If you have a vehicle that only has front seats and your child safety seat is on the passenger seat then it is important that the airbag is disarmed. Check your vehicle instruction manual or take your vehicle to a local garage to have the airbag switched safely off.

Safety Outside the Car

Believe it or not, most injuries that happen to babies in terms of infant carriers happen outside of the vehicle. Accidents happen when the baby is placed on a table or a bed or any other raised surface. Maybe you come home from shopping and place your sleeping baby on a raised surface. If the carrier is not sturdy and can tip over easily, your baby is at risk of tipping over the carrier and sustaining injuries.

Therefore, when checking out an infant carrier, give it a good jostle to see if you think it would be likely to topple over. To avoid these kinds of accidents it is obviously best to not place your baby on a raised surface. Place them in a safe place at ground level.

OUR REVIEW

Having considered all these factors that are essential for a good, safe child restraint system, we researched the many car seats on the market. We took information from parent reviews and safety test information. There are no newcomers on this list as until they have been tested adequately we do not recommend them. We have included prices, where you can purchase the seats and carriers and their individual features. By the time you have read this guide, we are confident that you will be able to find the best and safest car seat for your baby according to your specific needs and budget!

OUR TOP PICK INFANT CARRIER

Chicco KeyFit 30

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, Orion
List Price: $199.99
Price: $199.99
Price Disclaimer

For sizes: newborn, 4 to 30 lbs, or 30 inches

Warranty: 1 year

Seat expiration: 6 years

Weight: carrier 9.75 lbs, base 7.4 lbs

Features and Advantages

It is no surprise that the Chicco KeyFit 30 is the number one selling infant carrier in the US and it makes the top of our list, too. In terms of safety, it outperforms its competitors, which is no doubt the key reason that parents trust the KeyFit 30. In tests carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Chicco KeyFit 30 came out as best in terms of head impact scores (HIC). When it comes chest impact scores which are referred to as G-clip scores the Chicco KeyFit30 was only outperformed by the Britax B-Safe 35. The KeyFit 30 is widely available in high street retailers as well as online in a variety of colors.

Perhaps what parents love the most about KeyFit 30, notwithstanding its excellent safety scores is the ease of use. The instructions that come with the seat are super clear and should you need to refer to them at anytime then you can pop the manual in a drawer contained in the seat itself. The installation of the base is quick and easy and to uninstall just hit the “lift to release” button. In some car seats, you may find yourself grappling to find hooks buried behind cushions but the KeyFit 30 has an easily accessible button located outside of seat cushions.

You can use the Chicco KeyFit 30 even in cars that were manufactured before 1996 that do not have locking seat belts. You simply use the shoulder belt installation instead. In tests, the Chicco KeyFit 30 really does excel in terms of ease of installation and breakdown. The Chicco KeyFit 30 also has a handy little bubble indicator which allows you to get the perfect seat angle. Other features that make the Chicco KeyFit 30 a great choice are the easily adjustable straps and handle. It also is sturdy and not prone to tipping over. To remove your baby from the seat simply press the chest clip marked “PUSH.”

The Chicco KeyFit 30 is one of the lightest seats on the market making it a great choice for smaller mums. We found that the seat was easy to wipe clean and we also liked the canopy which is over the seat that you can pull up to block sunlight from your baby. For the complete travel system, you can purchase the Chicco stroller for $99.99

Disadvantages

While the Chicco KeyFit 30 is a great choice if you are expecting a larger than average baby, then this may not be the most economical choice. The upper limits of the Chicco KeyFit 30 as the name suggests is 30 lbs or 30 inches. This is 5 pounds lighter and 2 inches less than a lot of other good carriers on the market. If your budget demands that your seat lasts for the longest time, then you may want to check out the Britax B-Safe 35 or the Keyfit 2.

The Chicco KeyFit 30 uses the “American Belt Pass” to install the seat without a base. This means that, unlike the safer “European Belt Pass,” the seatbelt will only go across the top of the carrier as opposed to across the top and the back of the seat. If you are regularly out and about using taxis and other modes of transport without the base then you may also wish to consider a carrier, which uses the “European Belt Pass.”

Upgrade the KeyFit 30

For a few dollars more, you can buy either the KeyFit 30 Zip, the KeyFit 30 Zip Air, or the KeyFit 30 Magic. The first of these—the KeyFit 30 Zip—as the name suggests, has a zip off canopy, which makes for easy removal and cleaning. The KeyFit 30 Zip Air is made with a more breathable fabric.  Finally the KeyFit 30 Magic has a boot to keep your baby warm. It’s up to you if you think the features would be advantageous for a few dollars more.

Chicco Fit2

Chicco Fit2 Infant & Toddler Car Seat, Tempo
List Price: $279.99
Price: $279.99
Price Disclaimer

For sizes: newborn, 4 to 35 lbs, or 35 inches

Warranty: 1 year (2- and 3-year warranties available for an additional cost)

Seat expiration: 6 years

Weight carrier: 11 lbs, base 11.8 lbs

Features and Advantages

The Chicco Fit 2 solves the problem of your baby outgrowing your car seat before your wallet has had chance to recover! It really is a great choice and is designed to allow babies to grow up to 2 years of age. Obviously, you must make sure your child does not outgrow the seat either in height or weight but most children should be fine with this seat up to 2 years when you may want to consider a convertible car seat. It has all the great features of the Chicco KeyFit 30 and will cost an additional $80 only.

You can add a compatible stroller for just a few dollars more than a stroller for the KeyFit 30. It has a super easy installation just like the KeyFit 30 and is available in three colors. The color featured is Arrieta (purple), but you could also choose from Tullio (blue) or Tempo (black). It’s an all-round great choice and regularly receives rave reviews from parents as well as excellent independent reviews.

Disadvantages

At 11 pounds, the carrier is heavier than others but it is a larger seat. It can also be a little difficult to remove and replace the covers; however, there are instructional videos available to talk you through the process.

BUDGET CHOICE-INFANT CARRIER

Graco SnugRide LX Click Connect 35

Warranty: 1 year (2- and 3-year warranties available for an additional cost)

Seat expiration: 6 years

For sizes: newborn, 4 to 35 lbs, or 32 inches

Weight: carrier 8.7 lbs, base 11.8 lbs

Features and Advantages

If you’re on a budget, then the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 is a great option—the base, seat, and a stroller will cost less than $215 in total! Just like the Chicco KeyFit 2, it’s designed to still be suitable for infants up to two years of age making it superb value. It is also one of the most lightweight of the carriers we tested at just 8.7 lbs.

It has been tested rigorously to comply with US regulations. For less than $20, you can add a 3-year warranty to this seat meaning that if you want to use the seat for additional children you will still be fully covered and it does, of course, have a 6-year expiration date. It’s a great choice for the smaller budget.

Disadvantages

It is rated as being easy to install but it does not have the push button latches of its more expensive competitors and instead relies on hooks. To ensure that the seat is safe you must pull the straps and make sure they fit tightly around your baby.

Britax B-Safe 35

Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat, Black
List Price: $169.99
Price: $169.99
Price Disclaimer

Warranty: 1 year (2- and 3-year warranties available for an additional cost)

Seat expiration: 6 years

For sizes: newborn, 4 to 35 lbs, or 32 inches

Weight: carrier 10 lbs, base 9 lbs

Features and Advantages

The Britax B-Safe is a good value travel system and beats the Chicco KeyFit 30 when it comes to G-clip scores. It features easy installation that has been awarded five out of five stars by the NHTSA which is one star higher than they rated the Chicco KeyFit 30. It is super easy to click the seat in to the base and out of it. Just like the KeyFit 30, the Britax B-safe 35 has an indicator that will allow you to install the seat at the correct angle.

The Britax B-safe is more budget-friendly than the KeyFit 30 and will be suitable for your child up to 35 lbs and 32 inches in height. You can choose from six attractive colors, including red, green, blue, black, sandstone, and steel. You can extend the warranty of your travel system inexpensively should you have further use for it.

However, while the seat is deeper, it is also not as wide meaning some children may outgrow it before they reach two years of age. For smaller moms, the seat is a little heavier at ten pounds in weight, too.

Upgrade the Britax B-Safe 35

You can upgrade to the Britax B Safe Elite for approximately $30 more. The Britax B Safe Elite has a harness that you do not need to re-thread, there is additional padding, and the materials are of a higher quality.

Uppababy Mesa

A selection of compatible strollers available

Warranty: 2 years

Seat expiration: 7 years

For sizes: newborn, 4 to 35 lbs, or 32 inches

Features and Advantages

For parents with a larger budget, then the Uppababy Mesa makes a stylish choice. It has a five-star NHTSA rating for ease of installation. It also scores well for ease of installation without the base too, which is great for city dwellers and taxi users. Features include a side-impact headrest, which Uppababy say provides better protection. Another useful feature is the indicator which provides an almost foolproof way to correct installation. The indicator will turn green for good installation and you are ready to go. If the seat is not installed correctly, the indicator shows red.

The seat comes in three colors: gray, black, and indigo. Alternatively, you can upgrade to the Henry, which is made from blue merino wool. This is a natural material and is flame-retardant. While all seats must contain flame retardants, the Henry is the only seat on the market that uses natural materials rather than chemical flame retardants. The Uppababy Mesa also features a harness that you do not need to thread making it even more easy to use.

What you will find with the Mesa, though, as opposed to most of our other choices, is that a 2-year warranty comes as standard. The seat expiration is also longer. This quality seat has a 7-year expiration date, so if you are starting a family, this is a seat that can be used over and over again, justifying the increase in price. For Uppababy fans, this seat is a welcome addition to their range.

Disadvantages

The Uppababy Mesa is going to be well out of the budget for some and adding a stroller is not a cheap option from Uppababy as they specialize in top of the range strollers. A downside to the Mesa is it is almost ten pounds so not the lightest choice. It does not score as well as the Chicco KeyFit 30 in safety scores but still scores well. However, the new Mesa seats do use the American belt method, which while easier is not considered the safest method, as opposed to the European method.

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio

Warranty: 2 years

Seat expiration: 7 years

For sizes: newborn, 4 to 35 lbs, or 32 inches

Weight: carrier 9.5 lbs, base 7.4 lbs

Features and Advantages

The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio is an attractive baby seat with vintage style stitching produced by an Italian company known for their beautiful, yet practical products. This seat features an additional safety feature not offered by other manufacturers. With this seat, there is an anti-rebound bar on the base, which in the event of either a front or rear accident, it will offer your baby better protection. However, it is best to check the seat out with your vehicle prior to purchase, as the anti-rebound bar will not fit all vehicles. It also features head support in the event of side collision and is manufactured with energy-absorbent foam. It is also suitable for airplane travel and the seat is easy to install with LATCH connectors.

The attractive seat is available in 14 colors, although prices may vary on some color ranges. What you will also get with this high-quality chair is a 2-year warranty as standard and the seat expiration is seven years.

Disadvantages

On the downside, while the seat is stylish, it lacks functionality as the cover is not machine-washable—and we all know spills and accidents do happen frequently! We also found that it is impractical to carry the seat when the canopy is extended. The seat is fully compatible with a range of strollers but, as with the Uppababy Mesa, a stroller is not a cheap option. You can buy a travel system which includes the base, seat, and stroller altogether for around $599.

OUR TOP PICK-CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT

Graco 4Ever All-In-One

Graco 4ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Basin
List Price: $299.99
Price: $239.99
You Save: $60.00
Price Disclaimer

Warranty: 1 year

Seat expiration: 10 years

For sizes: newborn to 120 pounds

Features and Advantages

If you decide to opt for a convertible car seat as opposed to an infant carrier, then by far our top recommendation is the Graco 4Ever All-In-One. It comes in at just a few more dollars than our top pick for an infant carrier the Chicco KeyFit 30. As we stated earlier in the article, a car seat means you will have to remove your baby from the car seat each time you leave the vehicle but this car seat will last the whole time your child needs a car seat, up to the age of ten! In terms of value, it is simply an outstanding choice.

The Graco 4Ever is loved and trusted by parents for this reason and for its high safety standards. For newborns weighing from 4 to 40 pounds then you configure this seat into its’ rear-facing position. Keep using this configuration until the age of two years. For toddlers over the age of two years, you can change the position of the seat to front-facing. As your child grows and reaches the age of four and a minimum height of 40 inches, you can change the seat once again to a backed booster. The final position is a backless booster suitable for children with a minimum height of 43 inches.

The Graco 4Ever is a trusted product and has been rigorously tested; it includes safety features such as a 5-point harness, protection from side impact and energy-absorbent foam.

With the seat being designed for prolonged use over the years, it is no surprise that Graco has taken these things into consideration. The seat is easily removable to be changed as you change your vehicle. The covers are easily removable and are machine-washable. It features a bubble indicator to ensure that the seat is always installed at the correct angle as well as two cup holders for hungry and thirsty passengers.

Changing the seat configurations should be easy and features different colored belts to make this process easy. If in doubt there are guides on the website to help. If you find your covers are getting a little worn over time, you can order replacements cheaply from the website.

Disadvantages

The Graco 4Ever All-In-One does have few disadvantages, but not so many. Some parents find that the straps can become twisted and tangled quite easily. If you live in a particularly hot climate the fabric can make babies and children sweat. If you take long journeys, it may not be the most comfortable seat on the market leading to grumpy children.

BUDGET CHOICE-CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT

Eddie Bauer 3-in-1 Booster Seat

Warranty: 1 year

Seat expiration: 10 years

For sizes: 5 to 100 pounds

Features and Advantages

Our final pick in our selection is the Eddie Bauer’s 3-in-1 car seat. If you have decided that your budget simply won’t stretch to an infant carrier and you need a budget car seat for the duration of your child’s car seat requirements, then look no further than this seat. This value seat can be purchased for around $109.99 and will last ten years!

It begins as a rear-facing seat for newborns and toddlers up to the age of two years. You can then configure it to a front-facing seat for toddlers over the age of two. Later, you can change the seat to a booster seat with belt-positioning. It has a handy cup holder so that children can stay hydrated during car journeys.

Disadvantages

There are a few disadvantages to this budget option. The covers can be tricky to remove and they need to be either wiped down or washed by hand. There is no button indicator and to position the seat correctly you will need to match up a line featured on the seat. We also found that the harness can be a little fiddly.

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