By law, you are required to install a car seat for your children for their safety and wellbeing until they are 135cm tall or 12 years of age, whichever comes first. After this, they must wear a seatbelt.

Of all things parents buy for their child, a good car seat is one of the most important. This is because you will need it the minute you take the newborn home from the hospital until she grows up enough to fit into adult seats.

Unfortunately, not many parents are able to pick out the right car seat for their children, which leave the little folks vulnerable in case of both a minor or major accident.

If you are expectant parents, take some time out to learn about buying the right car seat and also installing it correctly to ensure a safe and happy ride home from the hospital. This article will introduce you to the many types of car seats and guide you into buying the right one that will best fit the needs of your baby.

How to Choose the Best Car Seat?

All child seats are required to meet certain federal safety standards in a 30-mph car test. And of course, the only car seat that can pass this test is one that is installed correctly and fits your child properly.

Spending thousands of dollars on a car seat does not guarantee that you will get the high-quality seat. A lot of mid-priced models work just as well or even better than the more expensive ones. Regardless of the cost, a particular seat may simply not work with your car.

It is therefore important that you plan for this ahead. With the following guide, you will easily be able to figure out the right car seat for your car and child, and also determine when you will need to move your kid to the next one.

Select the Right Model

Throughout your child’s growth and development, you will need to shift from one car seat to the next, which is why it is important to know what type will be best suited to the child and at what age. 

Infant

This car seat is for new parents and infants, and can only be installed in a rear-facing position. It comes with a removable and feasible carrier that attaches to the base of the car seats. If your baby weighs anywhere from 4 pounds to 40 pounds, this car seat is for you.

It is important to keep in mind that most kids will likely get too tall for these seats before they become too heavy. A kid becomes too tall for the seat if his head is less than an inch from the carrier shell’s top, or if he passes the height limits as provided by the manufacturer.

Convertible

This seat comes next after your child has outgrown an infant car seat, and should be bought no later than his first birthday. It can be installed forward or rear-facing.

The harness system is pretty similar to one in infant seats, but these come with a higher rear-facing weight limit. What this means is that the kid can ride rear-facing for a longer period of time, and is deemed the safest option by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and Consumer Reports.

For children aged less than 1 and weighing less than 20 pounds, the seat must be installed in a rear-facing position. You can also install it in a forward-facing way for children under 1, but Consumer Reports suggests waiting until the child is at least 2 years old.

Many of these seats can hold children as heavy as 65 pounds and also accommodate newborns. However, the fit provided may not be the best, so keep that in mind.

Booster

Once your child is past the height and weight limit of a forward-facing car seat’s harness, it is time to go for a booster seat that makes use of a car’s seatbelt.

Booster seats basically lift the child in the car so that the seat belt can fit perfectly – center of the collarbones, above the sternum and below the upper thighs. You can find these seats in two key styles: backless and highback.

Backless versions are pretty easy to install and can be carried around conveniently. However, high-back models are the ones that offer better shoulder belt position and also some protection against side impact.

A number of states have their own booster seat laws, some of which require kids to weigh 80 pounds and be 9 years of age to be able to use the booster.

All-In-One

This seat offers great value since it accommodates a child from the stage of birth to booster. The rear-facing seat type is best for children weighing 5 to 45 pounds while the forward-facing is ideal for kids weighing 20 to 65 pounds.

Finally, the booster mode is perfect for children, who weigh from 30 to 120 pounds. All-in-one car seats are typically heavy and bulky, may not be the best fit for babies, and also lack the convenience of a detachable carrier. However, they make a good backup seat or can be a good option for a babysitter who transports a child infrequently.

12 Best Car Seats of 2018 (Reviews and compare)

Whether you are a car-seat buying novice or a seasoned shopper, the following list of best car seats will help you make your next purchase. For your ease, we have broken down the top products into different categories of car style depending on your child’s age, weight, and height requirements.

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Best Infant Car Seats

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, Lilla

Target Users: Infants, weighing 4 to 30 pounds up to 30 inches tall

As per Consumer Reports, Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat was voted the best overall option for balancing crash protection, good vehicle fit for infants weighing more than 22 pounds, ease of transport and ease of use.

Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat and Base with Car Seat, Lilla

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 17W x 27.5L x 24H
  • Assembled weight: 17.15 pounds
  • Weight (minus the base): 9.6 pounds
  • Color description: bright orange with slate gray

It was also rated as “top pick” by various websites, such as baby list. If you plan on shuffling one car seat between different vehicles, then Chicco Keyfit 30 is for you due to its easy installation. The seat also features a built-in level that shows whether the base is positioned correctly or not.

Furthermore, because it is so popular, you will not have any trouble looking for and choosing a stroller that can adapt to Keyfit.  One thing you should definitely keep in mind though is that Chicco Keyfit comes with a larger base as compared to other car seats, which is why it may be difficult for you to fit it in smaller vehicles.

 

Pros

  • Rated no#1 infant car seat in all of America
  • Easy to install and carry around
  • Comes with seat interior that features EPS energy-absorbing foam for better impact protection
  • Can be used from birth up to 30 pounds
  • Features a 5-point harness along with one-pull tightener
  • Accommodates vehicles without a LATCH system with the help of a built-in, lock-off system.
  • Compatible with Chicco Bravo, TRE, Cortina, Cortina Together, KeyFit Caddy strollers, and Liteway Plus
  • Full body inserts for infants weighing 4 to 11 lbs. to protect small babies
  • Smooth base underside prevents the vehicle seats from getting damaged
  • Comes with an adjustable, multi-position canopy

Cons

  • Not suitable for smaller cars
  • The material can be a little scratchy on bare skin

 

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat, Pierce

Target Users: Infants, 4 to 35 pounds, up to 32” tall

In addition to its fairly reasonable price, the Graco SungRide is super lightweight, which means your arms will ache less when carrying around the car seat with your infant inside. (trust us, that will be happening more than you imagine)

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat, Pierce

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 18.7 x 27.8 x 15.6
  • Assembled weight: 7 pounds

Like Chicco Keyfit, SnugRide also installs seamlessly and very securely, a feature that is cardinal for your child’s safety.

Incorrect installation of infant car seats is one of the reasons that lead to infant deaths in car accidents. So it should be extremely imperative that the car designers and manufacturers make installation as perfect and easy as possible.

One of the ways Graco made the installation easy is by introducing the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system in their car seats. These seats also feature machine washable cushions, which can be a great time and energy saver.

We all know that babies can be messy, and leaving around dirty cushions on your child’s car seat is a big no-no when it comes to caring for them.

The germs and dirt will continue to accumulate and grow on the cushions, and you surely don’t want your baby sitting in it and putting its mouth on it. Of course, your baby will get sick. With Graco SnugRide, all you have to do is take off the cushions and throw them in the washing machine to clean.

Besides the cushions, the rest of the metal and plastic parts can also be cleaned pretty easily with water and mild soap, while the buckle can be cleaned with a wet cloth.

 

Pros

  • Easy to install and carry around
  • Comes with seat interior that features EPS energy-absorbing foam for better impact protection
  • Removable infant head support provides soft padding and support for the baby’s head
  • Convenient LATCH system allows a hassle-free installation
  • Rotating canopy offers protection from the sun, so your baby can ride in comfort and style
  • 5-point, front-adjust harness that will make getting your baby in and out of the seat a piece of cake
  • Features a removable boot for the child’s comfort

Cons

  • Even though SnugRide is compatible with other Graco strollers, it might not work well with another stroller brand.

Evenflo Nurture Infant Car Seat, Jungle Safari

Target Users: Infants, weighing 5 to 22 pounds

Evenflo Nurture Infant Car Seat, Jungle Safari

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 30 x 18 x 17.2 inches
  • Assembled weight: 12.3 pounds

The Evenflo Nurture Infant Car Seat offers comfort and exclusive convenience for you and your child. The car seat comes with an ergonomically designed handle for a more easy transfer and a rotating canopy, and to provide shade for your baby. This seat can only be used rear-facing, with or without a base.

Evenflo is well-known for taking security seriously, and the Nurture Infant car seat, along with their other products, has been verified for structural reliability at energy levels around 2X the state crash test standard.

The energy-absorbing foam liner offers added comfort, while the 5-point harness with 2 crotch buckle and 3 shoulders harness allows a better fit and longer use.

If you are worried about your own convenience, then you will be happy to know that the separate stay-in-the-car base makes the transfer of the car seat from home to the vehicle much easier.

 

Pros

  • Tested for side impact
  • Meets or exceeds all the standards imposed by the Federal Safety Standards
  • Auto belt guides for use even without a base
  • A mom-friendly, ergonomic handle for easy carrying
  • Canopy protects the baby from the sun and other disturbance-causing elements
  • Easy-to-remove pad for machine washing

Cons

  • The canopy can become “jiggly” after a few weeks of use

Best Booster Car Seats

Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster, Matrix

Target Users: Toddlers and up, aged 3 to 10 years and weighing 22 to 120 pounds

Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster, Matrix

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 28 x 20 x 18 inches
  • Assembled weight: 11 pounds

The Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster has the capacity to work as a front-facing car seat, backless booster and high back booster for children weighing 22 to 120 pounds. That is one of the broadest weight ranges you can find in the industry, and this car seat will take your kid from their toddler-age up to pre-teen.

If you are planning to seat children closer together, then this booster car seat with a 9-year lifespan is your best bet. The integrated steel bars make it a very safe choice, and the 5-position headrest allows for a more comfortable ride.

For conventional cars, installation is pretty straightforward. It is also tested for side-impact and offers your toddler a personal storage area for treasures and snacks.

The contoured armrests, with an integrated cup holder, will prevent them from getting thirsty throughout their ride. Furthermore, additional comforts such as harness, seat pad, buckle covers and a three-position recline keep your kid snug during all kinds of travel. The body support can also be removed to allow your growing child.

 

Pros

  • Longer lifespan
  • 3-in-1 features – front-facing (22 to 65 pounds), backless booster (40 to 120 pounds) and backed booster (30 to 100 pounds)
  • Large weight range of 22 to 120 pounds, which will accommodate your child (or children) for a long period of time
  • At around $170, the price is quite reasonable as compared to other more expensive brands
  • Simply Safe Adjust Harness System perfectly adjusts the height of the car seat headrest and harness, in just a single motion, to make sure that your child is comfortable and properly secured.
  • 3 recline positions to choose from
  • Tested for impact protection

Cons

  • No rear-facing ability – you will need to invest in a separate car seat for that

Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster Car Seat, Sprocket

Target Users: older kids, weighing 40 to 110 pounds

Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster Car Seat, Sprocket

 

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 33 x 19 x 16.5 inches
  • Assembled weight: 8.2 pounds

Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster Car Seat is a high-back booster that can be converted into a backless style for an easy transition. With a 6-position height adjustment, the car seat is designed to accommodate your growing child for a long period of time.

The energy absorbing foam liner offers additional comfort and safety, and the machine washable pad keeps the car seat looking clean and fresh. Elastic cup holders are also a perfect addition for a quick snack and will keep your kid entertained throughout the trip.

 

Pros

  • A very affordable option, costing around $31
  • Converts to backless
  • Does not require vehicle head support
  • Six height settings to accommodate a growing child
  • Two elastic cup holders
  • Sufficient padding around the body and the head to keep your child comfy throughout the ride

Cons

  • The cup holders are seen as a little flimsy, and their angle is rather odd.

Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat Thunder

Target Users: children and older kids, weighing 22 to 110 pounds

Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat Thunder

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 27.7 x 19 x 20 inches
  • Assembled weight: 11 pounds

The Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat Thunder is a front-facing harnessed seat designed to hold children weighing 22 to 50 pounds and has the ability to convert into a belt-positioning booster for kids (40 to 110 pounds).

Additionally, it features a four shoulder harness and two crotch straps, which will adjust to your child’s needs as he grows. You can rest easy knowing that wherever you go, your kid is in safe hands. This is because the car seat is designed and tested for structural integrity at energy levels around 2 times the regular Federal Safety Standards.

Furthermore, it also surpasses Evenflo’s own arduous side-impact testing standards. A great feature of the Maestro’s headrest is that the special shape guides the seat belt around your kid’s shoulders and neck for an ideal fit. Besides, your kid will also appreciate that the car seat comes with two cup holders that have flexible bands to keep the drinks and snacks secure.

The material of the pads is soft, machine washable and generally easy to clean after any mess. The design is lightweight and also equipped with a LATCH safety system, which includes a tether, for seamless installation and movement from one vehicle to another.

 

Pros

  • Durable
  • Features a removable head pillow that optimizes your child’s comfort level
  • Designed and tested for structural integrity
  • Tested for side-impact
  • Meets and exceeds all the Federal Safety standards
  • Comes with dual cup holders
  • Is very lightweight and also features a LATCH system for easy installation and movement between different vehicles
  • Budget-friendly

Cons

  • Low height limit
  • Harness straps are a little narrow, which may irritate the child’s neck

Best Convertible Car Seats

Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat, Saturn

Target Users: newborns and toddlers, weighing 5 to 40 pounds

Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat, Saturn

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 25.5 x 22 x 18.5 inches
  • Assembled weight: 9.1 pounds

The Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat is an option that is extremely safe for almost all positions. You can say it is one of the safest convertible car seats you can find for both front and rear-facing positions. The forward-facing position has the capacity to support children up to 65 pounds while the rear position will keep your child comfortable and secure up to 40 pounds.

Evenflo has focused on the safety factor for the Tribute LX, adding in a secure harness and energy-absorbing foam liner. In addition, it also comes with a guide that explains various special tips to maximize safety during the ride.

Also, the car seat is very compact, making it easier to fit it in smaller places, move between different vehicles and carry around through air travel. Moreover, these features combined with the LATCH system, making installation a breeze.

Harness covers, a plush head pillow, and buckle covers are also impressive features that will keep your little ones nice and snug during long car trips. The seat pad can be easily removed and machine washed, and the metal and plastic parts can be cleaned with a simple soapy solution.

For almost a hundred years, Evenflo has continued to be a leader in innovation, education, and safety. The Tribute LX stands by that mission in delivering the best convertible car seat that combines comfort, ease, and safety.

 

Pros

  • 100% polyester
  • Meets or exceeds all the Federal Safety Standards
  • Multiple shoulder harness offers a better fit and increase durability
  • Very lightweight
  • Affordable price
  • Integrated body cushion offers extra comfort and convenience

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a stroller option, which may be problematic for some people.
  • Might not be as durable as other options that come with a booster

Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat, Glacier

Target Users: newborns to grade school children, weighing 5 to 65 pounds

Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat, Glacier

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 23.5 x 22 x 18.5 inches
  • Assembled weight: 15.2 pounds

The Graco Contender 65 Convertible is a car seat designed to support a child from birth to grade school. It features a removable body and head support to keep the child cozy during trips together, from quick errands to long road trips.

Starting as a rear-facing position, the car seat accommodates a child in his very first year of life. Then, after the child is 40 lbs, you can convert the seat to its forward-facing position to secure him until he weighs 65 pounds.

The car seat also features energy absorbing foam, a cup holder, as well as a thread-less strap harness adjustment. The LATCH system makes the installation process easier and may be done either with the integrated LATCH system or with the vehicle’s seat belt.

 

Pros

  • Simply Safe Adjust Harness System is simple and safe, with a one-hand and thread-free harness that adjusts automatically
  • Side-impact tested
  • Crash tested and designed to meet the US Safety Standard
  • 8-position flexible headrest quickly adapts to your growing child’s needs, allowing you to keep him secure during his travels

Cons

  • The buckles and straps are a little difficult to unlatch or tighten

Diono Radian RXT All-In-One Convertible Car Seat, Black Mist

Target Users: Infants to bigger kids, weighing 5 to 120 pounds

Diono Radian RXT All-In-One Convertible Car Seat, Black Mist

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 28.5 x 16 x 17 inches
  • Assembled weight: 23 pounds

The Diono Radian RXT All-In-One is a high quality, durable, safe, comfortable and reliable Convertible Car Seat that can accommodate a variety of baby shapes and sizes. It grows along with your child by offering three different positions: front-facing (20 to 80 pounds), rear-facing (5 to 45 pounds) and booster mode (5 to 120 pounds).

The car seat uses a 100% steel alloy frame with aluminum sides for unparalleled rigidity and strength, along with EPS foam for protection against side-impact, a tether for rear-facing positions and a Safe Stop energy-absorption harness for big kids.

The special Superlatch system makes the process of installation easy, and a longer seat bottom offers extra comfort and room for your growing child.

Pros

  • Durable – can last over 10 years
  • Perfect for growing families since it fits well in most mid-sized cars
  • Memory foam and body support cushions make the journey very comfortable for the baby
  • European-inspired cover designs, with premium fabric to guarantee comfort

Cons

  • A little pricey

Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat, Matrix

Target Users: infants to kids weighing 4 to 120 pounds

Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat, Matrix

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 24 x 20 x 21.5 inches
  • Assembled weight: 23 pounds

The Graco 4ever All-in-One has been the favorite Convertible Car Seat 2017 for so many reasons. For starters, it can transition from front-facing (20 to 65 pounds) to rear-facing (4 to 40 pounds) to a booster seat (40 to 120 pounds).

The booster seat can be divided into two positions: back belt-position mode that allows 30 to 100 pounds and backless belt-position mode, which can accommodate 40 to 120 pounds. Given the broad weight range (4 to 120 pounds), the Graco 4ever can be a great option for both premature babies as well as small kids.

The reason why this car seat is widely loved is due to the fact that it is so versatile and also very long-lasting (rated for over 10 years of use!) Besides its commendable flexibility, there are numerous other noteworthy features.

First The headrest and shoulder straps are easily adjusted with a handle mounted on the top.

SecondThe reclining handle is placed right in the front and can be adjusted to a broad range (6 positions) of backseat slopes, which allows you to get the right recline when using the rear-facing position.

Third The built-in InRight LATCH system makes life so much easier when you decide to pull it out/in from different vehicles.

The fabric is soft and breathable and can be machine-washed. Finally, there are also two cup holders installed that can be used to store sippy cups when traveling long distances.

 

Pros

  • 4-in-1 car seat that a last you for over 10 years and accommodate 4 to 120 pounds
  • InRight LATCH system for a seamless attachment
  • Crash and side-impact tested
  • Energy-absorbing foam for effective impact management

Cons

  • A little on the heavier side

Best All-in-one Car seats  

Diono Rainier All-In-One Convertible Car Seat, Black Mist

Target Users: infants to kids, weighing 5 to 120 pounds

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 28.5 x 16 x 18 inches
  • Assembled weight: 23 pounds

The Diono Rainier All-In-One Convertible is the holy grail of Car Seat Safety. Thanks to their 100% steel frame with aluminum-fortified sides and EPS foam, head support, and deep side walls offering enhanced protection against side-impacts; the Rainier takes Diono seats to a whole new level.

The car seat features energy absorbing harness for additional protection, along with Europe-inspired fabric for maximum comfort.

A longer seat bottom and expandable sides offer a more laid-back rear-facing trip and allow them to maintain a custom fit – which is quite helpful throughout the baby’s growth. Furthermore, body cushions for infants ensure they are snug, safe, and positioned correctly.

The Diono Rainier grows along with your child by offering three different positions: front-facing (20 to 90 pounds), rear-facing (5 to 50 pounds) and booster mode (up to 120 pounds).

 

Pros

  • One of the safest all-in-one car seats available on the market
  • Crash and side-impact tested.
  • Meets all the applicable Federal Safety Rules
  • Durable – can last over 10 years
  • Features high-quality, Europe-inspired interior fabric for added comfort

Cons

  • A little expensive as compared to other cheaper options available ($315)

Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One Convertible Car Seat, Paramount

Target Users: infants to kids, weighing 5 to 110 pounds

Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One Convertible Car Seat, Paramount

Features

  • Dimensions assembled: 27.5 x 21 x 20.8 inches
  • Assembled weight: 24 pounds

The Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One Convertible Car Seat features three positions: front-facing (22 to 40 pounds), rear-facing (5 to 40 pounds) and booster mode (40 to 120 pounds). This high-quality car seat surpasses all relevant safety standards and also ensures optimum protection against car crashes and side-impact.

With the special Sure LATCH, you will only need to fiddle around for a minute to install the car seat. This all-in-one car seat is designed to eliminate wiggling, comfortably fixing the baby’s position so that he doesn’t move around so much.

Other features include a one-hand adjustable headrest, EPS foam liner, removable body and head pillow for extra comfort, upfront multi-position recline, built-in cup holder, and machine-washable seat pad.

 

Pros

  • A 3-in-1 car seat that can accommodate 5 to 110 pounds
  • Sure LATCH system for a seamless attachment with no pulling
  • Crash and side-impact tested
  • Energy-absorbing foam for effective impact management – reduces up to 50% of the impact force through 3 layers of expanded zone protection

Cons

  • A little on the heavy side

Conclusion

Car seats are a critical safety requirement for infants and young children. And with so many options available in the market today, the process of choosing the right car seat can be a little challenging. For a newborn, it is best to buy a baby car seat where the design is convertible or rear-facing one.

On the other hand, if your baby is 40 pounds or higher use a booster seat until he or she is old enough to wear a seatbelt. If you are planning to shop for a car seat soon, make sure to go through the aforementioned options and see which of those best fit your child’s needs, his weight, age, and height.

When buying a car seat, never compromise on the safety of your child just so you can save a few bucks. Make sure you do your research and then pick one that is the safest, comfortable, and reliable.