You probably already know that you need an infant car seat to drive your baby anywhere. With so many types and models of infant car seats to choose from, it can be quite confusing to choose one, especially when your baby’s safety is the top priority. To help steer you through the vast amount of information available on car seat specifications and features, here is a list of our top 5 infant car seats:
Top 5 Safest Infant Car Seats
The Italian, family-owned Peg Perego company has been making baby products for over 60 years. They have a trusted reputation for developing innovative and stylish baby gear, such as their Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Infant Car Seat. This rear-facing, infant car seat is a prime example of their excellent safety and design standards.
Its Features Include:
- Exclusive Dual Stage Cushion System, where the First Stage cushion provides extra support for baby’s neck and bottom and is recommended for infants 4 pounds and up, and the Second Stage cushion properly cradles your growing baby. Both cushions correctly position baby’s head within the side wings, and forms a cozy, secure environment no matter how small your infant is.
- Adjustable side impact protection (SIP) easily adjusts to six different vertical positions with no re-threading needed, even with baby in the seat, to shield baby’s head and shoulders
- Innovative base is engineered with their Right Tight System, which uses either the LATCH strap or the car’s seat belt to secure the base into position, and an integrated anti-rebound bar for additional protection during a collision. The base also has helpful, color-coded seat belt paths to guide you when threading the belt.
- 5-point harness and large, adustable canopy
- Weighs 9.5 pounds, and accommodates a baby from 4 to 35 pounds
- An EPS-lined, perforated shell for effective energy-absorbing protection and maximum ventilation
- Travel-system-compatible with most Peg Perego strollers without needing an adapter, and can be used with some other strollers with an adapter
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Infant and Newborn Car Seat is a high-end, high-quality car seat that showcases the best of Italian design and truly prioritizes baby’s safety and comfort. We give it high marks for the two-stage padding system, perfect for preemies, the anti-rebound bar, and the seat’s sturdy, well-engineered construction. Also important to note is its superior crash test results. Many parents, though not fans of the high price and the heavy carrying weight, do still love the thick straps that don’t twist, the easy-to-clean neoprene interior, and the overall excellent quality and styling.
Graco, the creators of the infant swing, the Pack ‘N Play, and Travel Systems, also brings us the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat. This rear-facing car seat is lightweight, economical, and very popular, thanks to the following features:
- Graco’s Click Connect technology, which lets you know, with one click, that the seat is securely attached to either the included car seat base or to any Graco Click Connect stroller
- Simple installation of LATCH-equipped base, which includes an easy-to-read level indicator to confirm correct positioning
- Additional infant head support which can be removed as baby grows
- Adjustable five-point harness and comfortable seat
- Accommodates a 4-pound infant up to a 35-pound child
- At only 7 pounds, its ultra-lightweight design makes carrying the car seat a breeze
- Comfort features, such as a rotating canopy for extra sun protection, and a foot cover for additional warmth
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam
- Extensively crash-tested to meet or exceed U.S. safety standards
The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat is our budget-friendly pick of the bunch, but its affordable price is not its only desirable feature. We really like its lightweight, slimmed-down design, its easy one-latch release, and the fact that it has substantial room for growth. Possible downsides may be how close the open canopy sits to the handle, often getting in the way while carrying, and the low availability of adapters for it to fit with non-Graco strollers. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why this infant car seat is a top choice for many consumer publications and parents.
With their excellent safety record and reputation for high quality, you can trust that Britax baby products will ensure your baby’s safety and comfort on the road. Their Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat is a sturdy, rear-facing seat with a lot of desirable safety features. Its offerings include:
- Britax’s patented SafeCell Impact Protection system, which combines a steel frame for added strength and an impact-absorbing base
- Comprehensive side impact protection that envelops baby in a deep, secure shell to shield him or her during an impact
- Quick and simple installation, with convenient center-pull straps and push-button lower LATCH attachments
- Easy-release harness button for effortless strap adjustment, ergonomic design that minimizes lateral movement, and a large canopy
- Accommodates a 4-pound infant up to a 35-pound child
- Integrated Click and Go System lets you know with a simple click that the car seat is securely connected to the base or the stroller
- Awarded by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in November 2015
Well-designed and easy to install, the Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat has an extremely high rating in user satisfaction. Parents appreciate the oversized canopy, and how easy it is to loosen or tighten the straps and buckles. Though some may find it heavy to carry and somewhat narrow in design, this is still a highly-recommended infant car seat that will keep your baby safe and comfortable on the road.
Over the past 30 years, Safety 1st has come to be known as one of the leading companies in child safety. Their Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat is designed for extended use during each stage of your infant’s and toddler’s growth. This car seat comes with:
- Two detachable cushions to ensure a snug fit for your infant in the rear-facing position, suitable for 5-40 pounds
- Removable and easily-adjustable QuickFit Harness and headrest for children 22-65 pounds In forward-facing position
- Belt-positioning booster mode for 40-100 pounds
- Side impact protection
- Harness holders that keep the harness in an open position to facilitate the removal of your child from the car seat
- Compact design takes up less room in rear-facing mode, giving parents 7 inches more leg room up front
- Machine-washable and dryer-safe car seat pad
- 2 integrated cupholders
This is an overall good-quality infant and newborn car seat at an affordable price. The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat pleases parents with its comfort, ease of use, and compact design. Some reviewers have experienced difficulty when loosening the harness, but overall, this affordable car seat offers quality construction and great value.
One of the largest baby product companies in Europe, Chicco has been growing their reputation for innovation and excellence for more than 50 years. The Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base is their answer for infant safety and comfort. This model, known as the easiest infant car seat to install, offers:
- Removable full-body insert, used for infants from 4 to 11 pounds to ensure a secure fit; without insert, can be used for children up to 30 pounds
- KeyFit Base allows for easy seat attachment with an audible click, one-handed car seat removal, and compatibility with cars without LATCH thanks to their built-in, belt-routing, lock-off system. The base’s smooth underside will not harm car seat.
- SuperCinch technology, which provides easy, one-pull latch tightening for a tight and secure fit
- ReclineSure feature, a spring-loaded leveling system that ensures the perfect installation in a wider range of vehicles, while the RideRight component, consisting of bubble level-indicators on either side of the base, indicates the ideal seat angle
- 5-point harness with one-pull harness adjustment
- Compatible with Chicco’s many KeyFit strollers for easy click-in travel
- EPS energy-absorbing foam liner for enhanced impact protection
- Comfortable carrying handle and adjustible canopy
- Conforms to FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) 213
The Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base gets top marks for its easy and accurate installation. Other things we love are its overall ease of use, high quality, good crash test results, and affordable price. Parents admire how lightweight it is and how easy it is to adjust the straps. This car seat is so popular in the U.S., it’s not hard to find stroller adapters for many different stroller makes and models. Though some noted that the fabric felt rough and heavy, this infant car seat is a top-rated option that will give you and your baby all the safety, comfort and convenience that you’re looking for.
Choosing the Best Infant Car Seat
What is an Infant Car Seat?
An infant car seat is a rear-facing seat used specifically for newborns until they attain the seat’s height or weight limit (typically 25 to 35 pounds). Rear-facing seats better support the head, neck and spine in infants and younger babies, and are engineered to distribute the force of impact across the car seat shell.
Once outgrown, the infant car seat will have to be replaced with a front-facing car seat (such as a convertible seat) made for toddlers. Many parents start using a convertible car seat when their baby is around 12 months old, so you probably would find an infant seat with a weight limit of 30 pounds to be more than adequate.
Why buy an Infant Car Seat?
For newborns, an infant car seat is preferable to a convertible seat because you can easily remove your sleeping baby from the car without waking him or her up, by simply detaching the car seat from its base and clicking it into a stroller or just using the car seat as a napping pod. With a convertible car seat, you would have to unbuckle the harness and lift baby out of the car, most likely disturbing their peacefuly slumber.
Infant Car Seat Features to Look For
You’ve probably noticed that there is a wide variety of brands, models, and prices available when it comes to infant car seats. Budget might be a significant motivating factor for many parents, so rest assured that every new car seat on the market must meet or exceed government safety regulations, even the lower-cost ones. Higher-priced models may not be safer than their less-expensive counterparts, but they might offer you extra features, such as easier use or larger canopies.
When looking for the best infant car seat, there are some other things you might want to consider:
- Compatibility with your car. What fits nicely in one vehicle may not do so in another. The best way to confirm that an infant car seat and base has a compatible fit with your car is to install it immediately after purchasing it (keep the tags and packaging intact, just in case). If the car seat doesn’t fit properly (for example, forcing you to position the front passenger seat all the way forward), you should exchange it for another model.
- Installation with the LATCH system. The easiest and most secure way to install your car seat is by using your car’s LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. All cars made since September 2002 must be equipped with the LATCH system, making car seat installation easier and at a lower risk of error. Some car seats are easier to use with LATCH than others, however. Those that have click-in connectors are generally easier to install than the ones that use clips to connect to the anchors. So make sure that the infant car seat you choose has an installation setup that is user-friendly for you.
- Installation with a seat belt. Some parents prefer to position the car seat in the center of the back seat (often regarded as the safest location), in which case you will need to anchor the seat with the car’s seat belt. Car seat bases that come equipped with the seat belt lock-off feature make this much easier and safer to do, by preventing lateral sliding of the base along the seat belt. Without the lock-off component, the base doesn’t sit securely and can move and tilt the car
- Installation without a base. There are times when you need to use the infant car seat without its base, such as when traveling by taxi, bus, or airplane. In these cases, you would use the vehicle seat belt to secure it in one of two ways, depending on the car seat’s belt path: American or European. For American car seats, the seat belt runs directly across the lower part of the seat through the threading pathway. With European car seats, the bottom portion is the same as the American style, but it has the addition of the shoulder belt being threaded through a clip on the seat. The American belt path is easier to set up, but the European method results in a more secure installation.
- Strap adjustment. You might want to consider buying an infant car seat with a mechanism that facilitates the tightening and loosening of straps. (The Chicco Keyfit 30, one of our top 5 infant car seats, is one such model.) Struggling and having to use your own body weight to adjust the straps makes it difficult (and frustrating) to achieve an accurate installation.
- Overall ease of use. It’s important to look at all the functions and features of an infant car seat when assessing how easy it is to use. This includes harness adjustment, buckles, clips, buttons, carrying handle, and canopy. As an example, the buckle release button can be difficult to fully press in some models, making it hard to release the buckle without using both hands.
- Securing to the base. Look for car seats that can easily click into the base without having to fiddle around to find the correct position.
- Carrying handle. Most handles on infant car seats work the same way: simultaneously pressing buttons at the pivot points on both sides of the carrier unlocks the handle so it can rotate forwards or backwards. One thing to check is whether the canopy in the open position sits too close to the handle, interfering with a firm grip on the handle.
- Comfort and quality. Examine the seat padding, fabric, and canopy for comfort and durability. Factors such as energy-absorbing foam and hard plastic for the shell are fairly similar across the different models, but elements such as thicker padding and softer fabric do vary and can significantly influence baby’s comfort.
- The weight of the base isn’t as much an issue as the weight of the carrier, since that is the portion that parents will have to hoist and carry around. Moms with a petite stature might find this one of the more important considerations.
- Stroller compatibility. Infant car seats are more likely to be compatible with strollers of the same brand. But if you choose a car seat of a different make than your stroller, make sure there is a separate adapter available to purchase that will make them compatible.
Infant car seats are essential for keeping your baby safe and comfortable on the road. Knowing which car seat to choose, based on your vehicle size and on your particular needs, can be difficult. Keep in mind that all rear-facing infant seats, from the least expensive to the high-ticket models, meet federal safety standards, so don’t be pressured to deplete your bank account for this item.