We did hands-on testing and focus groups with over two dozen moms, getting down to the nitty-gritty on over a dozen of the best infant car seats on the market. Their reviews and ratings helped us identify seven seven highly recommended infant car seats for 2017, made by brands such as Britax, Graco, Baby Trend, Peg Perego, and Chicco. All of the car seats on this list are not only well-rated, but also pass the test of time: reliability is very important for baby products, and sometimes the best-looking and functioning car seats can lead to disappointment after a few months. As always, our reviews are impartial and honest, and we did not accept any freebie or discounted car seats for this review. Our top car seats range in price from about $80 to $300; if you're looking for something a bit cheaper, we suggest checking out our list of the best infant car seats for under $100, here. Before we begin the ratings, let's list a few things you should be thinking about when purchasing an infant car seat. Here are some of the most important things to consider:
Ease of Use: This is probably the most important factor to consider when purchasing a new car seat. You do not want to deal with a frustrating latch, annoying seat belt mechanism, clumsy chest buckle, two-hands required handle folding, or an uncomfortable handle multiple times a day. You won't care if you have the most stylish car seat on the market if you pinch your finger every time you fold down the handle, or find yourself cursing at the chest buckle while your baby is screaming. To put together our list, we tried out over a dozen options, putting them to the test with both calm and wiggly babies, with summer and winter outfits, and made sure they were not only intuitive to use, but also easy to buckle, unbuckle, attach to and detach from the base, adjust incline, rotate the handle, adjust the sun visor, and remove the cover for washing. In general, we found the pricier car seat options were the ones that are more user friendly, but that doesn't mean you need to break the bank. There are some really great options for under $150.
Price: Infant car seats vary widely in quality, style, and (importantly) price. You will notice that some car seats sell for under $100, whereas others are upwards of $300. There are usually very good reasons for the price differences. In general, the more expensive car seats tend to be plusher, softer to the touch, more user friendly, use higher quality parts (snaps, handles, hinges), lighter parts, and come in a more stylish array of color and pattern options. Are more expensive car seats safer? No, when used correctly all car seats are safe and must meet requirements of the NHTSA. However, some of the less expensive brands may meet NHTSA minimum requirements whereas others go beyond those standards. A good example of going beyond NHTSA requirements to increase safety is using an anti-rebound bar to reduce rotational forces due to accident impact. Overall, expect to spend under $150 for a good quality car seat, between $150-250 for a high quality car seat, and over $250 for a fancy seat with all the bells and whistles (like the Peg Perego or Orbit).
Baby Weight and Height: Babies come in all shapes and sizes. If you're lucky you will have a 7-9 pound baby, but many moms deliver a bit early, or deliver a baby bigger than they expected. So you might be on the lower end of the spectrum with a cute little 4 pound baby, or on the higher end with a chunky-monkey 12 pound baby (like me!). It's important to realize that every car seat has its own unique minimum and maximum infant weights and heights. These guidelines are very important and can influence your baby's safety and comfort. Most infant car seats have a minimum baby weight of 4 pounds (1.8 kg), and maximum of either 30 pounds (13.6 kg) or 35 pounds (15.9 kg). But be sure to check the box or label because even within a single brand, different models have different specifications. Also, some models will include an insert for particularly small babies (4-11 pounds) to help support their body, these can also give them a snug fit and help them not feel like they're swimming in the seat. We also want to point out that it's unlikely you'll reach the weight limit before reaching the height limit on many of these seats. In other words, your baby will end up too tall before they end up too heavy. That's expected, but keep that in mind when you're considering whether weight limit or height limit is the more important factor (we suggest focusing on height limit more than weight limit). If you want something that can support infants (rear-facing) as well as toddlers (front-facing), check out our list of best convertible car seats, some of which can support babies as small as 4 pounds and bigger kids all the way up to 100-120 pounds. In our opinion, you will be best served by an infant car seat, then transitioning to a convertible later in development. The primary reason for this advice: infant car seats detach from the base and have a handle for carrying a sleeping baby, convertible car seats do not.
Car Size: If you have more than one child, or a smaller vehicle like a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, you definitely must consider the size and fit of the car seat. Mainstream car seats are bulkier than ever, with more padding, big side impact protection wings, more safety features and foam, and thicker plastic. Gone are the days when your car seat is only slightly larger than the baby itself. The increasing size of infant car seats is a good thing, given the increased comfort and safety. However, it can also lead to issues when trying to fit multiple car seats into the back seat, particularly more than 2 at once. Most cars will NOT fit 3 infant car seats into the back seat, so unless you drive an Escalade make sure you take some measurements before you go buying something. To see our article about narrow car seats for fitting 3 in a row, click here.
Stroller Type: What do you intend to do with the car seat once it's out of the car? If your baby is sleeping, do you want to be able to pop the seat out and stick it into a stroller? If so, be careful to make sure that the seat will fit your existing stroller, or if you want to be able to use one of the relatively universal snap-in strollers, be sure to check compatibility. Though we definitely recommend buying the folding snap-in stroller that's the same brand as your car seat (for Graco car seats: Graco Snugrider Elite Stroller and Car Seat Carrier; for Chicco car seats Chicco Keyfit Caddy Stroller Frame), here is an example of a snap-in stroller that can accomodate several brands of car seats: Baby Trend Snap N Go EX Universal Infant Car Seat Carrier.
Here are the Best Infant Car Seats of 2017!
About $170-200 depending on whether you go for the regular (usually around $170) or Elite (usually around $200) version, and pattern choice. There's a reason that the Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat is the #1 best-selling car seat on the market this year, because moms and dads love it, and you can't beat the Britax safety reputation. The B-Safe and B-Safe Elite come with a base that easily attaches into (and detaches from) your car using either the Latch system or the conventional seat belt. Moms love the form and fit of this seat, and we found that it does a really nice job supporting even very small (4+ lbs) infants with use of the included infant padding insert. As the baby grows, you can remove the additional body and head padding to give your baby a bit more room. The car seat also has simple to adjust head protection pads, a 35-pound weight limit (which is at the higher end of the range), two crotch strap positions (a rarity!), multiple shoulder strap positions to fit a growing baby, and we found it very easy with the Elite version to make on-the-fly adjustments to suit different size babies. The B-Safe 35 and B-Safe 35 Elite have three primary differences that we could see: the elite adds quick-adjust head protection, adjustable shoulder straps without rethreading (this is truly worth the cost), and a bit more padding and higher quality fabric. Overall, we believe the extra $40 is worth the advantages of the Elite version. All those features in a car seat that weighs about 19 pounds (seat is 10lb + base is 9lb), which we understand may be quite heavy for some parents. But we think the Britax reputation for safety makes this extra bulk worthwhile. Both versions use the Britax SafeCell technology, which combines side impact protection, a strong steel frame, and an energy absorbing base; in the event of an accident, these are great features to have, and Britax has an excellent reputation for safety. Relative to the Chicco KeyFit (see #2, below), the B-Safe Elite has slightly plusher and premium-feel fabric, and we found the fabric much easier to clean with wipes, and to remove for machine washing. The B-Safe also has a higher weight capacity (35 pounds), and a maximum baby height of 32" as opposed to the Chicco KeyFit's 30". Also, the canopy is much larger and truly covers a baby during bright sun, rain, snow, or simply for privacy and during a nap. The B-Safe is made in the USA and comes in a variety of colors/patterns. Yes, it's expensive, but we believe the quality, features, and safety reputation are well worth the cost. Here is the Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat, and here is the Elite version.
About $200, depending on color and pattern options. Though we've placed the Chicco at #2 on our list for 2017, let's be clear that realistically you will likely be very happy with either seat and choosing a #1 for this list was very difficult. The Chicco KeyFit comes with a base that attaches into your car using either the Latch system or the conventional seat belt. We actually found that attaching and detaching this seat from the base was a bit easier than with the Britax B-Safe, and it only weighs 15 pounds (seat + base; 5 lbs lighter than the Britax). But of course, realize that the SafeCell technology included with the Britax is one of the reasons it's a bit heavier than the Chicco; also, it only supports up to 30 pounds, while the Britax supports up to a 35 pound baby. Other than these differences, the form and fit of this seat are very similar to the B-Safe, and both are reliable, soft and comfortable, and provide an infant insert to support very small infants (4+ lbs). Note that while the Chicco KeyFit has multiple shoulder strap positions, it only has one crotch buckle position (the B-Safe has 2). The shoulder straps are adjustable without rethreading, a feature you only get with the Britax if you upgrade to the Elite version. Moms reported being happier with the Chicco KeyFit's shoulder straps, which are a bit wider and therefore aren't as prone to twisting as the B-Safe straps. However, the canopy is much smaller than the one on the B-Safe and makes it harder to fully cover the baby. This was one of the bigger drawbacks of the Chicco, as we tend to use the canopy quite a bit: for sunny days, for napping, and for rain or snow. In reality, the choice likely will come down to style and how much you value the safety features and reputation of the Britax. The Chicco KeyFit 30 is about the same price as the B-Safe Elite. Here is the Chicco KeyFit 30, with several different colors: Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base
About $115-150. The Graco is one of the most popular and all-time best selling car seats on the market. For over a decade, Graco has been offering the SnugRide line, and people are perfectly happy with it, but it's certainly without frills. Not as soft or plush as the B-Safe or Chicco, and maybe not as stylish or available in funky patterns (like the Britax Elite Cowmooflauge, which is killer), but works pretty nicely and parents tend to like it. It's also about $50-75 cheaper than the Chicco or Britax, so that's something to keep in mind. Like our top-ranked car seats, this holds babies as small as 4 pounds (with the infant insert) and goes up to 35 pounds, and has a 32" height limit (which is quite high). It attaches with the traditional "hook" style LATCH system, or with the car's safety belt. Like the Britax (non Elite) and Chicco, the shoulder straps do require rethreading from the back as your baby grows. The seat itself is surprisingly lightweight, coming in at about 7 pounds, and we personally liked how easily it snapped into and out of the base. With the base, the combo weighs only about 15lbs (seat + base). In our testing, one of our chief complaints about this seat is that it didn't seem big or wide enough to fit babies over 25 pounds baby, especially if the baby has broader shoulders. We also thought the fabric wasn't quite as breathable as it could have been. Overall, this is a relatively basic car seat that will function quite well, is safe and reliable, but may not last your baby's growth for quite as long as the others. The SnugRide is the least expensive of the group, coming in at around $115-150. Here is the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 35, with several different color options: Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat
About $300, with some color and pattern options being more expensive than others. Peg Perego was founded over 60 years ago in Italy, when founder Giuseppe Perego was motivated to make the finest baby carriage of the time, made of rubberized materials instead of wicker and sheet metal. Well, he succeeded, and the company was a bit hit in Europe for many decades. Fast forward to modern times, and Peg Perego has become a respected brand around the world for creating safe, durable, reliable, and comfortable baby products. There are several unique features for the Peg Perego, including adjustable side impact padding (6 positions up/down) to accomodate your growing baby, a comfortable handle, plenty of padding for even little babies (down to 4 pounds using an included dual-stage insert, up to 35 pounds), a soft and plush fresco jersey breathable cloth, an adjustable-height 5-point harness (no rethreading necessary), canopy, and it's made in Italy (not China)! It is also one of the rare car seats to include the anti-rebound safety bar on the front, which is now standard in Europe but not yet required in the US. A bit beyond some other car seats on this list, this one has a 32" height limit for babies. And it's beautiful. When you get your hands on it and see its smooth lines, modern patterns, quality stitching work around the edges, and feel its quality fabric and padding, you will realize why people are willing to pay a premium for this seat. Some of the seat honestly looked like it was hand-tailored by an Italian designer. Nice touch. The seat itself is among the heavier on the list, coming in at about 10 pounds. Together with the base it's quite a bit heavier (not that you'd be carrying it around with the base). We have two primary negatives with this car seat: first, it's not really the most comfortable to carry - especially given that the canopy opens up against the handle, so the only reasonable option is to carry it with the canopy retracted. We found that in addition to it being a bit cumbersome to carry around, the harness straps tend to spin around and tangle a lot, and some of our moms complained that many of the nice and affordable car seat covers (such as the JJ Cole) won't fit around the large side impact cushions. We also found a few little annoying things in our own testing and evaluations: first, the handle releases require using both hands (one on each side), and second the canopy doesn't really cover more than the baby's head so everything from the diaper down will be soaked if you get caught in the rain. Overall, this is a great car seat with some limitations relative to the others. It's on our best car seat list, so you can't go wrong, especially given the overall high quality, great style, and versatility. But for quite a bit less money, we'd go with the B-Safe Elite. Here is the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Car Seat, with tons of different color options: Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35
About $250. This is truly an adorable car seat, with some really plush and soft fabric. Definitely the coziest and most comfy car seat on our list. It is, indeed, Maxi-Cosi! The soft fabrics are not just comfy for the baby, but also for you, and they are easy on the eyes as well. This infant car seat supports from 4 to 30 pound babies. The infant insert can be used with babies from 4 to about 11 pounds. A great specification with this car seat is that the height range is up to 32" tall, without having the higher weight limit (which in our opinion isn't usually as important as the higher height limit). It's also a very light-weight car seat, and features a detachable canopy. The Maxi Cosi Mico Max 30 uses the inflated air side protection cushions, which our reviewers thought were big and made them feel more secure. We thought the fabric was very easy to wipe clean, and easy to remove for machine washing. The canopy covered a good area over the baby, but was a bit flimsy and didn't do a great job blocking the wind or rain. We have a few more gripes. First, the base was really large and will definitely be an issue if you're trying to squeeze three seats in a row. Second, to attach or detach from the base, there are two buttons that must be pushed, which we found very frustrating and difficult. The one-handed detach of the better options on this list was far easier to use. Third, when you adjust the handle, it makes a loud clicking noise, which our test reviewers thought was loud enough to wake a light napper. Finally, the tightening streap tends to flop down under the seat and get trapped when attaching to the base. That means you need to take the seat back out of the base to tighten the shoulder straps. Overall, this is a super comfortable and safe infant car seat with a great height limit, good styling, and reasonable functionality. There are several limitations that have bumped it down on this list, and we're not 100% certain it's worth the high price tag (usually around $250).
The Evenflo Embrace LX Infant car seat is the least expensive option on our list, at less than $100! If you're interested in seeing some of our best infant car seats under $100, check out our reviews here. This car seat accommodates infants from 4 pounds up to 35 pounds. The car seat itself weighs about 13 pounds and most moms commented on how lightweight it feels compared to some other car seats. This seat includes an easy to use LATCH system for the base and the seat is easy to snap into and out of the base. The fabric is easy to clean though some complained that the fabric can get warm and is not very breathable. This car seat also comes with 3 shoulder harness positions so that you can adjust the seatbelt straps to their appropriate positions as your baby grows. It's important to note that this car seat can only be used rear-facing. One of the biggest complaints that parents had about this car seat is that the canopy is not very large. Parents were also disappointed that there weren't many color options to choose from. Overall, though, this is a great car seat for the price! Here is the Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat, with different color options: Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat
Baby Trend makes a great line of baby products that tend to be a bit less expensive than the major brands, but we also find that their products are not quite up to par with craftsmanship. This Baby Trend Flex Loc is no exception. All the major features are here: a nice 5 to 30 pound weight range, adjustable leveling base, no-rethread shoulder strap height adjustment, EPS energy absorbing side impact foam, a reasonably large canopy, and the ability to snap easily into several Baby Trend strollers like the Expedition Jogger and the Snap N Go EX. There are also some other great features. We really liked the soft multi-grip handle that allows you to carry it with your hand at a 45-degree angle or aligned with your body. This made it much easier for longer hauls, allowing us to switch hand positions to relieve some hand and arm pain! Not that it's particularly heavy: the car seat itself is only about 9 pounds, and the base is 6 pounds. It also has the typical removable infant insert for the little ones around 5-15 pounds. So with all these great features, why is it toward the bottom of our top 6 list? Well, we had a few gripes. First, the handle was a bit finicky to use, and we had repeated troubles getting it to go back easily. The mechanism isn't very easy to use, requiring you to push two finicky buttons (one on each side) to adjust. We looked around at other reviews and turns out this is a pretty common problem. Second, Baby Trend uses a somewhat unique crotch buckle design that is a little harder to buckly relative to others on this list. Finally, we also do not like the positioning of the lever to release the seat from the base, which is positioned at the front of the seat near the baby's feet. The problem is when rear-facing that side of the seat is jammed up against the seat of the car, making it difficult to use. So this unit has a lot of great features, but also some more design decisions that had us scratching our heads. Low cost, but also a bit lower on the ease of use! Here are several color options: Baby Trend Flex Loc.