Best Infant Car Seats of 2021
To help you make the best decision possible, we put infant car seats through hands-on tests to find the best and safest options of the year. Below are the top 5 options we found, followed by reviews of over a dozen models.
|Model and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. Chicco KeyFit 35|
|#2. Britax B-Safe 35 Ultra|
|#3. UPPAbaby Mesa|
|#4. Nuna Pipa Infant Car Seat|
|#5. Doona Infant Car Seat|
In our testing, we consider Ease of Use, Flexibility, Baby Weight and Height Ranges, Safety, Car Size, and Stroller Compatibility. We test all of the features, install the car seats in multiple vehicle types, read all the manuals, and pull together opinions from dozens of parents involved in our testing program. This year we came away with over a dozen of the best infant car seats. For more details about what we considered in our hands-on tests of rear-facing infant car seats, scroll down to the bottom of this article.
- Top 5 Infant Car Seats Comparison Table
- 1. Best Overall: Chicco KeyFit 35
- 2. Britax B-Safe 35 Ultra
- 3. UPPAbaby Mesa
- 4. Nuna Pipa
- 5. Doona Car Seat Stroller Combo
- 6. Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35XT
- 7. Maxi-Cosi Mico Max
- 8. Chicco Fit2 35
- 9. Clek Liing
- 10. Cybex Aton 2
- 11. Nuna Bugaboo Turtle
- 12. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio
- 13. Baby Jogger City Go 2
- 14. Safety 1st Onboard Air
- 15. Evenflo LiteMax 35
- Picking the Perfect Car Seat
- Car Seat Ease of Use
- Car Seat Price
- Baby Weight and Height
- Car Seat Safety
- Vehicle Size
- Stroller Compatibility
Here are the Best Infant Car Seats of 2021!
About $150-200. Chicco's flagship KeyFit 30 has a solid reputation for safety, quality, comfort, convenience, and reasonable pricing. It's definitely one of the most popular infant car seats on the market, and has held that position for nearly 10 years. Enter the KeyFit 35, which took the core design of the KeyFit 30 and improved on it in four primary ways: a higher weight and height capacity, no-rethread adjustable harness height, European belt routing, and an anti-rebound bar. The core features for the KeyFit 30 versus 35 are very similar, including premium SuperCinch LATCH connectors, EPS energy-absorbing foam and side-impact protection, preemie support (4 pounds) with the included infant insert, machine washable fabrics, RideRight bubble levels to help installation, and 6 year expiration. We love both KeyFit models because they have a beautiful design, easy installation, high quality and comfortable fabrics, broad stroller compatibility, and a lightweight construction that makes them relatively easy to carry around. As parents and the owners of this site, we have hundreds of hours worth of experience using the KeyFit car seats, and as scientists we are impressed with their excellent NHTSA ease of installation and crash test ratings. With the AAP's recommendation to keep your child rear-racing for as long as possible, we welcome the KeyFit 35's higher weight (35 pounds) and height (32") capacity, and its extra couple inches of leg room. With the KeyFit 30, you'll likely be upgrading to a convertible car seat around 14-18 months old (most babies reach 30" height by this age), whereas the KeyFit 35 should last to your child's second birthday. We also love the added peace of mind of the anti-rebound bar on the KeyFit 35, and its larger canopy.
When it was first released, the KeyFit 35 was usually about $250, but its price has slowly fallen over the past year, putting it in a very competitive position: with its amazing features, safety, comfort, and convenience, it's a clear winner at this price point! We definitely prefer the KeyFit 35, but also realize that many parents are looking to use an infant car seat for the first year and then transition to a rear-facing convertible car seat, which makes a strong case for the KeyFit 30. This makes sense especially if your baby is below the 80th percentile for height and weight; if they're relatively big or tall, they might grow out of the KeyFit 30 at a surprisingly young age (especially in height). No major cons to speak of with the KeyFit 35. It does only have one crotch buckle position, which is limiting, and it's lightweight (9.6 pounds for KeyFit 30, 10 pounds for KeyFit 35) but not as light as some competitors like the Nuna Pipa or Graco Snugride. Highly recommended, and we'll let you figure out whether the 30 or 35 is best for your situation! Who else thinks the KeyFit is a top pick? Our friends at BabyList, Babygearlab, WhatToExpect, and Wirecutter. You can check out the KeyFit 30 and KeyFit 35 here!
About $200-230 depending on whether you go for the B-Safe 35 (usually around $200) or the B-Safe Ultra (usually up to $250 depending on pattern choice). The one pictured is the B-Safe 35 Ultra with Cool Flow fabric. There's a reason that the Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat is the #1 best-selling model on the market for several years, because moms and dads love it, and you can't beat the Britax reputation for safety and quality. The B-Safe 35 and B-Safe Ultra infant car seats come with a seat base that easily attaches into (and detaches from) your car using either the premium LATCH system or your vehicle's seat belt. Made right here in the USA, moms love the form and fit of these seats, and we found that any of these models do a really nice job supporting even very small (4+ lbs) infants with use of the included infant insert. As the baby grows, you can remove the additional body padding (once your baby is about 11 pounds) to give your baby a bit more room. The car seat also has simple to adjust head protection pads, a 35-pound weight limit and 32" height limit (which are at the higher end of the range), two crotch strap positions (in the Ultra), multiple shoulder harness strap positions to fit a growing baby, and we found it very easy with the Ultra version to make on-the-fly adjustments to suit different size babies.
The B-Safe 35 and B-Safe Ultra have a few differences: the B-Safe Ultra adds quick-adjust head protection, adjustable shoulder straps without rethreading (this alone is worth the cost!), a European belt path, softer and higher quality fabrics, and the popular Cool Flow fabric option. The European style belt guide allows the seat to be installed without the base using the vehicle's seat belts; this is great for people who don't want to spend the extra cash for another base, have multiple cars, or want to be able to travel (and use a ride-sharing or a taxi) without bringing the base along. The Cool Flow fabric is amazing and provides extra ventilation for the warmer months to avoid a sweaty back and discomfort. All those features mean a car seat that weighs over 20 pounds (seat is 11.5lb + base is 9lb), which we understand may be quite heavy for some parents. All B-Safe versions use the Britax SafeCell technology, which combines side impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, and EPS energy-absorbing foam. The Ultra uses two layers of impact protection, versus one in the regular model. Relative to the Chicco KeyFit 30 or 35, the B-Safe Ultra has slightly plusher and more premium-feeling fabric, and we found the fabric much easier to clean with wipes, and to remove for machine washing. The B-Safe also has the same weight capacity (35 pounds) and height limit (32") as the Chicco KeyFit 35. Related to sizing, in our testing we did find that the B-Safe can be a bit tight in the shoulder area for bigger babies, especially after they are about 10-12 months old. There's also no anti-rebound bar, which only comes if you upgrade to the Britax Endeavours for an extra $50 or so. Those are the only real limitations of this Britax car seat. A final point is that the B-Safe canopy is larger than most others and truly covers a baby during bright sun, rain, snow, or simply for privacy and during a nap. As a bonus, the Britax B-Safe models come in a variety of colors and patterns. Yes, it's expensive and heavy, but we believe the quality, features, and safety reputation are well worth the cost. Who else thinks the B-Safe is a top pick? Our friends at BabyList, Babygearlab, TheBump, and Wirecutter. Interested in the B-Safe Ultra? You can check it out here: Britax B-Safe 35 Ultra.
Usually about $350. This is a more expensive option than most other infant car seats, but there are some great features and safety reputation that might make it worth the cost. It's one of the easiest to install and use infant car seat we've ever tested. This is for three primary reasons. First, it uses a great automatically tightening LATCH system with a convenient indicator to tell you when the base is fully secured to the seat. If you're using the vehicle's belts, it does also have lock-offs which make it much easier to achieve a stable, secure installation. Second, also helpful during installation, it has a 4-position foot that helps you level the base correctly in the car (there is also a level indicator on the side). Third, the headrest and shoulder straps adjust easily between five height positions without any rethreading (the crotch buckle adjusts between 2 positions, but with rethreading from the bottom), making for an easy install and perfect fit. For safety, the UPPAbaby Mesa has nice plush dual-layer side impact protection, that according to UppaBaby performs up to 4-times better than on side impact crash tests than any other premium infant car seat on the market. To absorb impact in the event of an accident, the seat also uses energy-absorbing EPS foam. For basic specifications, an infant insert is included to accommodate babies (and preemies) as small as 4 pounds, and the seat goes up to a 35-pound weight capacity (32" height), which is great range but also expected for this price point. Coming in just under 10 pounds, there's a lot of convenience and safety features given a relatively low overall weight (the base adds another 9 pounds), making the seat's weight not a big issue at all. It's also not so wide either, with a 15.5" wide base, and adding another 2 inches to that due to the handlebar levers sticking out on the sides. It is a good option for fitting three car seats in a row, because the bottom of the base is very narrow, allowing LATCH and buckles on adjacent car seats to fit close together. Additional things we liked were how easy the chest buckle was to use, and how easy the shoulder strap adjustment was using the front button and strap.
Downfalls? Well, the canopy isn't as big as we'd like and it does get a bit too close to the handlebar when both are up. We also want to note that the fabric wasn't quite as breathable as others on this list, and some of our test babies had sweaty backs when testing this seat. Speaking of fabric, the new Henry version does add chemical-free fire-resistant fabric by using merino wool. A great concept because wool is highly breathable, so it should help with the sweaty-back issues we sometimes see with this seat. Also, no steel-reinforced frame, anti-rebound bar, or load leg with the UPPAbaby Mesa. The former saves with weight, but we would expect at least an anti-rebound bar at this price. Overall, this is one of the best infant car seats on the market and we love the style, ease of installation and use, and premium quality. Who else thinks the Mesa is a top pick? Our friends at BabyList, WhatToExpect, and TheBump. Interested? You can check out the UPPAbaby Mesa here.
Usually about $300. This is a stylish, simple, sophisticated infant car seat made by Nuna International, a boutique baby gear company based in Amsterdam. They have European styling and simplicity, and some safety features that are very common in the EU but relatively rare in the USA. The Nuna Pipa seat itself is made in China, like most on this list, and can be pretty hard to find at typical big-box stores. It's generally available at PishPosh Baby and a few other high-end department stores. In our testing, we really loved this infant car seat. It has super soft and high-quality materials, with micro knit fabrics, soft and thick padding where it's needed most (like on the crotch buckle!), and a truly amazing canopy that has a nifty "dream drape" extension that basically covers the entire baby to protect from the elements (UPF 50+). It supports babies as little as 4 pounds with the included infant insert, making it an ideal infant car seat for premature babies. And it supports up to 32 pounds or 32 inches long. All that weight and height range while weighting under 8 pounds! The base is about 14 pounds, but nobody walks around with the seat attached to the base. This is one of the safest infant car seats we've ever tested, for a few reasons. First, it has the basic 5-point harness, crumple zones in the base and load leg, and deep and thick side-impact protection and EPS energy-absorbing foam. Second, it includes a stability leg, which is very common in the EU: the stability leg attaches to the bottom of the car seat's base and extends down to your car's floor. Like an anti-rebound bar, the load leg limits rotational forces by absorbing impact in the event of a crash. Installation was a breeze using the easy LATCH connectors. Note that the LATCH connectors on this seat are rigid, which helps a ton to achieve a secure installation but might limit which seating positions you can use. For example, the center back seat of many vehicles does not use the standard 11" LATCH spacing, so you'll need to install using the vehicle's seat belt. It's worth pointing out that most infant car seat manuals dictate the same, but the Nuna enforces this point with the rigid LATCH connector spacing. In our testing, we were really impressed with this infant car seat, and thought that it was quite luxurious with its fabrics and overall fit and finish. Speaking of fabrics, the Pipa uses certified GOTS organic cotton without any chemical fire retardants, and they source not only fabrics but also their foams and dyes to ensure they are free of harsh chemicals and VOCs. The Nuna Pipa is compatible with some of the most popular strollers (using an adapter): the Baby Jogger, UppaBaby, Stokke, Bugaboo, Mamas & Papas, and Maxi-Cosi. Of course, it's also directly compatible with Nuna strollers without using an adapter. Downfalls? It doesn't have a quick-adjust harness, unlike others at this price point; this means you need to re-thread the harness from the rear every time you need to adjust its height. Fortunately that is rare, but definitely a hassle. That issue, combined with the high price (about $300), are the primary limiting factors. Is it one of the best infant car seats available on the market? Yes, especially if you value the style and lightweight build quality, but you'll need to shell out some extra bucks and possibly be annoyed by having to manually rethread the harness straps. But those are compromises you make when you want an amazing car seat to weigh only 8 pounds! Note that if you're interested in other super compact and lightweight infant car seats, be sure to check out the Cybex Aton and others in our reviews of narrow car seats. Who else thinks the Pipa is a top pick? Our friends at BabyList, WhatToExpect, and TheBump. Interested? You can check out the Nuna Pipa here.
Usually about $500 (phew!). This is the only infant car seat that includes an integrated stroller, making it a super unique addition to our list (and to the baby gear market in general)! Sick and tired of worrying about car seat and stroller compatibility, lugging around a stroller in your trunk, and annoyed by all the separate folding and storage? The Doona might be the solution for you! This slick design transitions from a plush infant car seat to a stroller in about 5 seconds, with stroller legs and wheels that fold down from the underside of the car seat. It's the perfect travel companion, a great alternative to a big travel system, and is perfect for city dwellers with limited storage space. We got our hands on the Doona for testing last year (thanks, Doona!) and were super impressed by its versatility and ease of use. Let's talk about the car seat first. The car seat supports babies as little as 4 pounds and as heavy as 35 pounds, or up to 32" tall (whichever comes first), making it a great option for preemies with its included infant insert and super cozy memory foam head support. For safety, it has 3 layers of side-impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, and when placed in car seat mode the handlebar acts as an anti-rebound bar. No steel-reinforced frame, though it is really quite heavy as-is (about 16 pounds) and that would basically render it impossible to carry with a baby inside. Of course, carrying your baby in the car seat is not something you'll typically do with the Doona, given the integrated stroller! For features, it has a 5-point harness, LATCH equipped base, a removable washable cover, and it is FAA approved for air travel. Our impression of the car seat was really positive, we found it to be high quality, comfortable and soft, and well featured. The only things we could have hoped for were an adjustable harness without rethreading (it requires rethreading from the back), a bigger canopy that would extend farther down, and a bit wider seating space for chunky monkies. Second, let's talk about the stroller. This is the cool part! You simply put the handle into carrying mode (straight up), pick up the car seat, and pull on a lever on the back and the legs and wheels drop down underneath in a nice smooth manner. Super simple and fast to do, and it's a really impressive design. It worked perfectly with repeated use and after taking it over bumpy surfaces and throwing it into and out of our vehicles. The stroller itself is very functional, easy to steer and maneuver through tight spaces, and reasonably stable. Some down-falls of the stroller itself are that the wheels are somewhat hard and cause vibration and bumpiness on uneven sidewalks, it's not stable or sturdy enough to allow you to hang even the best diaper bag on the handlebar, and there are none of the conveniences of a true stroller (like a storage basket, cup holders, phone/key tray, etc). Another minor annoyance we found was that when folding it up and putting it into your car, if the wheels are dirty or wet that means your pants and the car's seat will also get dirty and wet. Unlike a regular stroller that you'd likely throw into your trunk. Outside of that, the car seat and stroller combination was easy to fold up and snap into the base (or belt into the vehicle without the base), though it is definitely pretty bulky and wide. But once we had used it a few times, we started to wonder why we would ever lug around a separate car seat and stroller! So overall, we were impressed with the idea and innovation, and think it's definitely worthy of a top spot on our list! There are some drawbacks, of course, not the least of which is the hefty price tag (about $500!). But when you combine a high-end infant car seat and stroller, you'll likely be close to that total price anyway. Who else thinks the Doona is a top pick? Our friends at BabyList, WhatToExpect, and Babygearlab. Perfect for the jet-setting parents who demand innovation and style, you can check out the Doona Infant Car Seat and LATCH Base here.
Usually under $150. The Graco Click Connect system is one of the most popular and all-time best selling infant car seat and stroller combination systems on the market. For over a decade, Graco has been offering the SnugRide line, and people are very happy with it, but it's certainly without frills. Not as soft or plush as the B-Safe or Chicco car seats, and maybe not as stylish or available in funky patterns (like the Britax 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 the Graco InRight LATCH system, or with the car's safety belt. It's side-impact tested, and uses EPS energy-absorbing foam for safety, as part of its TrueShield side impact protection technology that protects not just the head but all the way down to the hips. Like the Britax (non Elite), the shoulder straps do require rethreading from the back as your baby grows. The seat itself is reasonably lightweight, coming in at about 9.5 pounds, and we personally liked how easily it snapped into and out of the base. Speaking of which, the SnugLock is compatible with any Click Connect stroller, so you can snap this car seat into any stroller or base that also uses the Click Connect feature. So that makes understanding compatibility with strollers and travel systems much easier, especially when nearly every stroller on the market makes an adapter to fit the Snugride car seats. With the base, the combo weighs only about 17lbs (seat + base). In our testing, one of our chief grievances about this car seat is that it didn't seem big or wide enough to fit babies over about 25 pounds, especially if they have broad shoulders. We also thought the fabric wasn't quite as breathable or comfortable as it could have been, and no steel-reinforced frame or anti-rebound bar. Overall, this is a relatively basic car seat that will function quite well, is safe and reliable, and reasonably lightweight. The SnugRide Snuglock LX is one of the least expensive of the group, coming in at about $150. It's a solid best-bet infant car seat for parents who are looking to save some cash while maintaining confidence in Graco's solid reputation for car seat quality and safety. If you're confused about the giant range of Graco Snugride car seats, check out our SnugRide comparison tables here.
About $300. Maxi-Cosi is constantly improving their car seats, and this Maxi-Cosi Mico Max Plus infant car seat is no exception. This is a truly adorable infant car seat, with some really plush and soft fabric. The Maxi-Cosi infant car seats not only look amazing, they are definitely one of the coziest and comfiest infant car seat on our list. It is, indeed, Maxi-Cosi! This infant car seat supports from 4 to 30-pound babies, with a maximum height of 32". The lower infant insert must be used for babies weighing from 4-5 pounds, and can be used with babies for as long as you'd like (according to the owner's manual). 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). Note that your baby's head must always be at least 1" below the top of the car seat. It's also a very lightweight car seat, coming in at about 9.6 pounds without the base (the base is 7 pounds), and features a detachable canopy. The Maxi-Cosi Mico Max Plus 30 uses the inflated air side protection cushions, which our reviewers thought was a big deal and made them feel more secure. Couple those with the EPP energy-absorbing foam and the awesome load leg, and you've got yourself a very safe car seat. 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, and one of the differences between the Mico Max and the Mico Max Plus is the addition of the zippered "MaxShade" canopy extension that adds about 6" of extension with mesh sides for improved ventilation. There are a few other advantages of the Max Plus: First, the Plus uses a high quality denim-like fabric that is self-wicking and provides nice breathability to prevent sweaty backs. Second, the Plus uses a load leg rather than anti-rebound bar; the load leg extends down from the bottom of the base and pushes down onto the floor of the vehicle. This is in contrast to the anti-rebound bar, which pushes up against the rear seat back. This means that the Max Plus maintains the increased safety in the event of an accident, but you end up with a narrower (only 13" wide versus 15.5" wide for the Max) and shorter (only 23.5" long versus 24.5" long for the Max) base. In our testing (thank you for sending us a sample, Maxi-Cosi!), we thought there were some awesome features and functionality with this seat. We loved the soft padding on the harness and crotch buckle, and the fact that the crotch buckle flips forward when unbuckled so it's out of the way when you're putting the baby into the seat. We also liked that the car seat can be installed with or without the base, that the base itself uses seat belt lock-offs for a secure install (or premium LATCH connectors), the load leg is super easy to use, and the base has three recline settings that will help compatibility with most rear seat slopes. The super big canopy is great, and the cover removes and re-installs easily for washing. Most things feel very solid and well constructed, with some exceptions that became minor annoyances during use. First, the canopy and carry handle interfere with each other a bit when the handle is upright and canopy is open. When you're placing the car seat onto the base and rotating the canopy and carry handle back out of the way, the handle pushes up against the canopy and doesn't easily lock all the way back into place. It gets a bit frustrating. Second, there are giant warning labels on the upper cushion that are right where your baby's head and face will be resting during naps. This means that instead of your baby's face being up against the cozy fabric, it might be up against the plastic labels. That was a strange design choice. Finally, the harness height adjustment requires rethreading. Outside of those concerns, this car seat has a lot of excellent things going for it, and it is definitely deserving of this spot on our list! Interested? You can check out the Maxi-Cosi Mico Max Plus here.
About $280, and available in several color options. This is a newly released Chicco infant car seat that passed our hands-on testing with flying colors. We're excited to have it on our list, and think it's a great example of a high-quality, safe, durable, and versatile car seat. But it's also quite expensive, about the same price as the most premium B-Safe Ultra or Endeavors, so keep that in mind when comparing them. It has everything you've come to expect from a high-quality infant car seat: lower infant insert (for babies as little as 4 pounds), adjustable shoulder harness and headrest without rethreading, two crotch buckle positions, EPS energy-absorbing foam, side-impact protection, lock-offs on base, large and removable canopy, bubble level indicators, premium LATCH connectors, European belt routing, removable and washable seat cover, and one-handed adjustments. The Chicco Fit2 expands on the already-great KeyFit 30 and KeyFit 35, with several key differences. First, the Fit2 has two unique rear-facing positions, one relatively reclined for infants up to about 10-12 months of age (basically until they are able to crawl and walk), and a second one relatively upright with a bit more leg room. The second position is designed for toddlers up to about 35 pounds and 35" height (or 24 months old), whereas the Keyfit 30 only fits up to 30 pounds or 30" tall, and the KeyFit 35 is limited to 32" tall. Second, the Fit2 has an anti-rebound bar built into the base similarly to the KeyFit 35 but not KeyFit 30, to reduce rotational forces in the event of an accident. Third, the Fit2 has more shoulder harness and crotch buckle adjustments to fit growing babies, and the shoulder strap height is adjustable without rethreading (like the KeyFit 35). Fourth, we found the fabric to be generally plusher and feels higher quality, and the canopy a bit larger and higher quality, especially relative to the KeyFit 30. Finally, it's made in Italy rather than China, and because it supports up to a higher weight, it's also a bit heavier coming in at 11 pounds without the base. That's about it on the differences. With either the KeyFit or Fit2, you're getting a truly excellent car seat, though the Fit2 is better suited for parents willing to spend a bit more for a more expansive height limit, and higher quality fabrics and padding. Limitations? Well, it is difficult for us to justify added cost over the KeyFit 35, unless you have a super tall baby. Second, upper shoulder and head space are a bit narrow, though removing the upper infant insert helped that situation, and it's worth mentioning that it's not as narrow in the shoulders and hips as the B-Safe 35. Overall, this is a fantastic new addition to our list, and we're excited about it! Interested? You can check out the Chicco Fit2 here.
Usually close to $400, which is really the only reason this car seat isn't in the top 5. We got our hands on this car seat earlier this year and we're incredibly impressed with its style, shape and size, comfort, safety, and versatility. The Clek Liing is one of the only infant car seats actually made in North America, up north in Canada, and one of the only ones with a load leg. And we probaby don't need to tell you, but Clek has an amazing reputation for making extremely high quality and stylish products, but you'll pay for it! Out of the box, the first thing we noticed is that the Clek Liing only weighs about 9 pounds without the base, making it super easy to carry around. The base is a bit more substantial at 17 pounds, especially with the load leg and rigid LATCH connectors, but that will be left in your vehicle so it doesn't really count. Even with the lightweight car seat build, the materials - plastics and fabrics - all feel really high quality and plush (we loved the C-Zero+ fabric, which is anti-microbial and stain, moisture and odor resistant - not to mention free of chlorinated and brominated flame retardants). For basics, the Liing supports babies as small as 4 pounds (with infant insert) up to 35 pounds, and up to 32" tall (or at least 1" clearance between top of head and top of shell). It has a 7-position recline, European belt path for installing without the base, and a huge canopy with giant peekaboo window. For safety, it has a beefy metal load leg to increase stability during a crash (with 13 length settings, from 10" to about 21"), EPP energy-absorbing foam, and a two-piece shell with side-impact protection. To help with installation, it has a seatbelt tensioner lock-off in the base, rigid lower LATCH anchors, three harness heights (with manual rethreading), and a very small profile that is great for fitting three in a row (it's only 17" wide). Installation is awesome if you're using the rigid LATCH anchors, because they basically ratchet into place in a truly confidence-inspiring manner. The belt-tensioning system, if you're using the vehicle's seat belt with the base, is also a pretty great belt lock-off system. A little note is that the Clek should be used with the handlebar facing straight up while in the vehicle, which is rare but also convenient if you're using it to carry your baby around anyway. The load leg was easy to extend and adjust; it's mandatory in Canada for infants over 22 pounds, but in the US is optional. If you're not going to use the load leg in the US, then Clek suggests installing with the vehicle's seatbelt instead of LATCH system. If you're installing the Liing without the base, you can use the American or European belt paths, both of which have bright blue routing guides (the US belt path guides are on the sides). We tried out the Liing with a 5-week old, 3 month old, and 8 month old. Comfort was top-notch in all cases, though we needed to do some adjusting with the biggest infant - the removable upper and lower infant inserts help quite a bit in perfecting the fit. The handle is amazing and doesn't interfere with the canopy, and we can't emphasize enough how nice it is to have such a lightweight and compact car seat! Everything on this car seat seems thoughtfully designed and placed, and that made us feel really good about using it. Overall, we think this new addition to our best infant car seat list is top-notch! Cons? Price is the obvious issue for most parents, coming in typically between $350-400, which is a big "ouch" in the pocketbook! Also, we were surprised to find that the harness height requires rethreading, which was unexpected in this price range. Another little con is that the Clek Liing has limited stroller compatibility; it will work with most strollers compatible with Maxi-Cosi, Cybex, and Nuna car seats (and the car seat adapters for those models should work as well). This is a truly awesome new addition to our list and we're proud to feature it. Not for all parents, but definitely a front-runner for those with a bigger car seat budget and a desire for style, substance, and quality. Interested? You can check out the Clek Liing here.
Usually close to $300, making it one of the more expensive car seats on this list. We tested the Cybex Aton 2 at the same time we tested the Clek Liing, which ended up slightly edging out the Aton, but by a thin margin. They are both excellent seats, and the primary reason they are lower down on the list is the high price and relatively low stroller compatibility. Out of the box, the Cybex Aton 2 felt very lightweight (about 9 pounds without the base!) and compact (17.3" wide), with superb build quality. Everything felt high quality, from the plastics to the fabrics, and all of the connectors and adjustments. The base adds over 15 pounds, but that's largely due to the awesome load leg, premium LATCH connectors, and built-in belt lock-off tensioning system. For basic specifications, the Cybex Aton 2 supports infants as small as 4 pounds and up to 32 pounds or 30" tall. That's overall somewhat limited, especially for height, so if you have a bigger baby this might not be a great option. For safety, the Cybex Aton 2 base has a load leg to reduce rotational forces in a crash, energy-absorbing foam, side-impact protection, and a unique flip-out side-impact absorbing arm that sticks out of the side (a bit like on the Cybex Sirona). Not to mention superb crash test ratings that are the envy of basically all other car seats; Babygearlab commissioned independent crash tests of this car seat and were nice enough to share their results - and they were excellent! Installation can be done using the base with either seat belts (with a tensioner and lockoff), or included push-button LATCH anchors. It can also be done without the base, using the American or European belt paths. Getting everything adjusted and installed properly was finicky with the Aton, and a proper installation is one of the most important aspects of car seat safety. You can get it right, but it will take a while, and you might shout some expletives along the way! In terms of comfort, this seat has an awesome shape and size, and the jersey-knit fabrics are soft and durable. The padding could be a little thicker in the seat area, but nothing uncomfortable. The canopy is a little odd, with a large plastic front edge, and the fully extended canopy leaves a little to be desired. The harness has three height settings, but requires rethreading. Some other challenges we ran into: the harness tightness adjustment was hard to use at times, the chest buckle tended to slide down the harness sometimes, changing the handlebar position requires two hands, and it's a tight fit for your hand between the handlebar and canopy. The seat is compatible with UppaBaby strollers, like the Cruz, which is great, but you'll likely need adapters for any other stroller you're looking to attach to (though it should work with strollers compatible with Maxi-Cosi and Nuna car seats). So there are a lot of little challenges with this seat, making it hard to justify the price if it weren't for the superior crash test ratings. And those ratings are what keep this car seat higher up on our list, even with the little quirks and high price. Overall, it's not a perfect car seat, but it does look great and the safety ratings are truly second to none. Not for all parents, but definitely a front-runner for those with a bigger car seat budget. Interested? You can check out the Cybex Aton 2 here.
One of the more luxurious car seats on the list, this comfort-packed and stylish car seat comes in at about $350. We tried out this car seat at a baby expo and were amazed by its comfort (it has memory foam!), quality, ease of use, light weight, and safety features. If the NUNA Pipa or UPPABaby MESA aren't enough for you, the Bugaboo Turtle might be a great choice! This car seat supports babies as little as 4 pounds and as heavy as 32 pounds, or as tall as 32" (or 1" below the top of the car seat's shell), whichever comes first. That's the same height limit as most others on this list, but a slightly lower weight limit than some front-runners like the B-Safe 35 or KeyFit 35. The base is easy to install with integrated LATCH attachments, seat belt lock-off, a bubble incline indicator, recline adjustment, and an awesome stability leg for safety. It attaches and adjusts easily in the vehicle. The car seat is super soft and cushioned, and includes an infant insert and pillow for smaller babies, which should both be removed at about 11 pounds. The shoulder and crotch buckles were easy to fasten and release, and there are 3 crotch belt slots for finding a good fit. Note that you can install this car seat without the base as well, using the American or European belt paths, providing some nice versatility for ride-sharing families or those with multiple vehicles. The carrying handle was comfortable and easy to adjust, requiring you to press both side buttons to release. We really loved the canopy. Rather than using a zip-out extension, it uses a mesh panel that you can pull down and attach (with magnets) near the baby's feet. It provides really excellent coverage, and is super easy to use. Overall, we were really impressed with the quality and comfort of this car seat, and thought it was really easy to use. Combine that with its relatively low weight (under 9 pounds for the seat itself) and safety features including the load leg, EPS energy-absorbing foam, and thick side-impact protection, and you've got a really great car seat! Cons? Well, first the price is pretty outrageous. Second, the harness height requires rethreading from the back of the car seat when it's time to adjust. Third, it's only compatible with the Bugaboo Fox stroller, which is a great stroller but also quite expensive. Finally, the merino wool feels nice and is machine washable, but it also seems to attract fuzz and lint which doesn't end up looking very nice after a few days. So overall there was a lot to love about this car seat - enough to land it in a good spot on our annual list, but also some serious cons to consider. Interested? You can check out the Nuna Bugaboo Turtle here.
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 big 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 this Peg Perego that make it one of the best infant car seats of the year, including adjustable side impact padding (6 positions up/down) to accommodate your growing baby, a comfortable handle, plenty of padding for even little babies (down to 4 pounds using an included dual-stage insert, and up to 35 pounds), a soft and plush fresco jersey breathable cloth, an adjustable-height 5-point harness (no rethreading necessary), good-sized canopy, EPS energy-absorbing foam, color-coded European belt routing, 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 (along with the Chicco Fit2, KeyFit 35, and Britax Endeavours), 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's trim 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 a few primary negatives with this car seat: first, it's not really the most comfortable to carry 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 won't fit around the large side impact cushions. The canopy is not very large and the cover is a total pain to remove for cleaning. Finally, it does not have a steel-reinforced frame like the B-Safe Ultra, but that's the case with most car seats on this list. Overall, this is a great car seat with some only minor cons relative to the others. Given the overall high quality, great style, and versatility, we're proud to feature it on our list! Interested? You can check out the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio here. There is a newer model of the Primo Viaggio, called the Nido infant car seat, which includes the load bar for extra safety, and a bigger "cocoon" type canopy (but it's also about $50 more expensive).
Usually under $300. If you know anything about Baby Jogger, you know that they make some of the best high-end strollers on the market, and their car seats are very similar - offering high-end quality, styling, and features that make many other infant car seats look and feel a little inferior! The City GO 2 is Baby Jogger's newest addition, and we got our hands on it for testing last year (thanks, Baby Jogger!). Out of the box, it feels heavy and high quality, most similar overall to the UppaBaby Mesa in its build quality, fabrics, and style. The only real thing you need to do for assembly is to attach the canopy, including attachments on the sides and back. We did say it's heavy, but to be more specific the entire thing (seat and base) is just over 20 pounds, but the base itself is responsible for half that weight, and for good reasons: it uses an awesome "Rapidlock" system that locks the base down onto the vehicle's seat belts. Basically, you swing the anti-rebound bar open, route the vehicle's seat belt through the blue base slots, and then swing the anti-rebound bar shut until it clicks. This belt lock-off secures the base really nicely into the vehicle when you're not using the LATCH system (premium LATCH connectors are also included, by the way). The base also has an awesome set of bubble levels to help you get the incline correct (there are 4 incline settings), and installing the base literally took us about 3 minutes from start to finish. The car seat itself is relatively lightweight and packs some great features. First, for basic specifications, it has a minimum weight of 4 pounds and maximum of 35 pounds, and maximum height of 32" (or at least 1" from top of head to top of the car seat). That 4 pound minimum makes this a great car seat for premature babies, and the support of the lower infant insert is really great (for kids under 12 pounds). Second, attaching the car seat to the base is quick and easy, and has a nice click sound to let you know when it's securely in the base. Once installed, the handlebar is super easy to adjust while using only one hand to press the release button. An added bonus is that you can use the included base, but you can also install the car seat without the base using the European belt path - making this is a great car seat for taxi or ride-sharing because it can be installed without the base (for quick swaps in and out of vehicles). Third, adjustments were extensive, including about 15 different headrest and shoulder belt heights (no rethreading), easily adjustable shoulder strap tightness, and two crotch buckle positions. Note that the headrest height adjustment is on the back of the car seat, making it a little awkward to access. Fourth, the canopy is huge and provides UV50+ protection from the sun, but it's not super quiet when being adjusted. Finally, all of the fabrics and padding are luxurious and soft, and machine washable. the canopy also be detached for washing. For safety, the City GO 2 uses EPP energy-absorbing foam, an anti-rebound bar integrated into the base, and is side-impact and rollover tested. Cons? The seating area is a little tight, making it a good option for smaller babies but not great for chunky monkeys and super tall kiddos. Also, it does attach to tons of strollers, but you'll need to buy an adapter, even for the Baby Jogger strollers themselves (which was surprising). Another little thing is that the car seat has large warning labels next to the baby's head and face, which is poor positioning (just like with the Maxi-Cosi). Finally, we did find that the shoulder straps had a tendency to twist around when not in use, making it a bit of a pain to fix when putting on your baby. Otherwise, we were really impressed with the quality, style, features, and ease of use of this car seat, and it's very deserving of this spot on our list! Interested? You can check out the Baby Jogger City GO 2 here.
Usually under $150. This is a great bang-for-the-buck infant car seat, with a lot of great features and attributes. The price is most similar to the Snugride, which definitely wins out, but there are some great features with the Safety 1st Onboard. The Safety 1st line of "Air" car seats uses the Air Protect side impact protection system, which basically looks like puffy airbags along the sides of the head and shoulders. These highly salient, comfy, and safe looking pillows surrounding the baby likely increased sales considerably for Safety 1st since they were first introduced. We get a lot of messages from parents mentioning how these seats really stand out against the others. And there are some good reasons for that, though we want to mention that all of the car seats on this list have exceptional safety features and records. Another safety feature is the GCell honeycomb HX energy-absorbing foam along the sides of the torso. This rear-facing baby car seat supports babies from 4 to 35 pounds, with an included infant insert, and for very little babies it also includes a preemie insert and super low harness setting. Of course, it has a 5-point harness, and uses the LATCH system; the test unit we purchased came with the old-style hook LATCH connectors (not the type that you can simply push-on and click off). We really appreciated the overall support this seat provides, especially for smaller babies, and we thought the fabric was soft and nicely padded while still being durable enough for easy wiping to clean. The cover can be completely removed and machine washed as well, if necessary. There are also some cons to this seat that are worth mentioning. First, while it does have 4 harness heights, they require rethreading from the rear of the seat, and 3 crotch buckle positions that also require rethreading. The frame is not steel-reinforced, the canopy doesn't provide much coverage, and to move the carrying handle you need to use both hands to push the release buttons on each side. The base itself does have multiple height adjustments, and there is a small level on the seat to help you get things correctly installed. It can be installed with the LATCH or vehicle's seat belts, though note that there is no lock-off if you're using the vehicle's seat belts. The plastics feel a bit thin and flimy relative to others, which isn't entirely surprising at this price. So overall this is a decent addition to our best infant car seat list, but with some definite drawbacks relative to some of the front-runners. Interested? You can check out the Safety 1st Onboard Air 360 here.
The Evenflo LiteMax 35 Platinum is the best and most expensive ($99-160 or so) infant car seat option in the LiteMax lineup, which also includes the basic LiteMax 35 for about $50 cheaper. For reference, our comparison of the two LiteMax seats revealed that the Platinum is definitely worth the extra cash. It has an easy to use sure-safe LATCH system, a full-body infant insert, super soft padded straps, a much larger canopy, and a soft and breathable fabric. So, there's a lot to like about the Platinum version. The seat accommodates infants from 4 to 35 pounds, using the provided infant insert. We appreciated the soft and ergonomically shaped carrying handle, and the leveling indicator on the side was very helpful during installation. If you use the LATCH system, installation is super easy, and if you use the vehicle's belt, there is a belt lock-off to help keep the belt at a consistent length and tension. Our reviewers loved how lightweight this seat was. Off the base, you're looking at about 8 pounds, which is on par with the Chicco and SnugRide. They also thought the fabric was soft and breathable, and easy to spot-clean with a cloth or wet wipe (it's also machine-washable). Finally, they loved the buckle storage slots on the sides, which are great for keeping the buckles out of the way when putting a baby in or out of the seat. Many seats use velcro for this, which wears out with time and crumbs, so this was a nice touch. So there are a lot of great things going for this seat. What are the cons? First, we found the seat excessively narrow in its seating area. The overall size of the seat is not particularly narrow (about 17.5" wide), but the seat area itself was too narrow for any of our babies over about 20-25 pounds. Second, while the base functioned quite well, the plastic was a bit more flimsy than other options. Third, the chest buckle worked fine but did not have an audible "click" when closing it (which is usually comforting to hear), and the lower buckle kind of hurt our fingers a bit to release. And no EPS energy-absorbing foam or steel-reinforcing on the frame. So overall, this seat has a lot of great features going for it, including a great handle, canopy, infant insert, LATCH system, padded harness, and soft fabrics. The downfalls are its narrow seating area overall cheaper-feeling build quality. Maybe not surprising given the excellent price-point on this seat; definitely a good choice if you're looking to save some cash! Note that Evenflo also makes the Evenflo Safemax infant car seat, which includes an anti-rebound bar and might be worth checking out (you can see it here).
How to Pick the Perfect Infant Car Seat
To learn more about what to look for in a car seat, check out our full car seat buying guide here. Our hands-on testing and focus groups with over two dozen parents got down to the nitty-gritty on about 15 of the best infant car seats on the market. Every year we're impressed by the new models hitting the market, and we love getting our hands on awesome new baby gear! A big thanks to the brands that sent us demo car seats for testing this year!
Along with input from very vocal parents, our annual hands-on reviews and ratings help us identify several of the best and safest infant car seats of the year, made not only by the big brands like Britax, Graco, and Chicco, but also by newer, growing, and niche brands like Maxi-Cosi, Peg Perego, Cybex, and Clek. Whether you're going to buy one yourself or put it on your baby registry, doing the research is critical for finding the perfect car seat for your newborn baby at a reasonable price!
All of the car seats on our list are not only well-rated, safe, and comfortable, but they 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. For example, malfunctioning chest buckles, finicky harness adjusters, and rips from poor fabric stitching.
As always, our reviews are as impartial as possible, and we are always honest about which car seats were given to us for testing. We do not let this bias our reviews - in fact, some of those are pretty far down on our list!
The infant car seats included in our reviews are all restricted to use as rear-facing seats, of course, so they will not function as front-facing car seats, all-in-one car seats, highback booster car seats, or as youth boosters. Those can be seen in our other articles: best convertible car seats and the best booster car seats.
The best infant car seats typically range in price from about $150 to $350; if you're looking for something a bit cheaper, we suggest checking out our list of the best budget-friendly infant car seats. Finally, we also suggest you check out our reviews of the narrowest car seats if you're trying to fit three car seats in a row.
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 clips, finicky handle adjustments, or an uncomfortable carrying 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 twisted harness straps while your baby is screaming!
Over the past 10+ years that we've been writing reviews, we have tested over 80 different infant car seats, putting them to the test with both calm and wiggly babies, with summer and winter outfits, with and without the base, 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 canopy, and remove the cover for washing. In general, we found the pricier car seat options also tend to be more user-friendly, but that doesn't mean you need to break the bank. There are some really great options for about $150. Because proper car seat installations are the most important factor in car seat safety, we do focus disproportionately on the ease of seat installation.
Speaking of 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 $350 or more. 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, clips, fabric, stitching), lighter parts, and come in a more stylish array of color and pattern options. They may also use organic fabrics, highly breathable fabrics, and/or fabrics without chemical flame retardants. Because these fabrics tend to be more expensive, many of the car seats using advanced fabrics tend to compromise a bit on other features.
Are more expensive car seats safer? No, when used correctly all car seats are safe and must meet the 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 or load leg to reduce rotational forces during an accident, or double and triple side-impact protection. Overall, expect to spend about $150 for a good quality car seat, between $150-250 for a high-quality car seat, and over $300-350 for a fancy seat with all the extra safety and convenience features. If you see some real standout features, it might be worth the extra cash. It's nice to know, however, that you can get one of the best infant car seats on the market for only about $150 and rest assured that it is a safe option for your baby.
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. 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.
Car seat height and weight guidelines are very important and directly influence your baby's safety and comfort. Most infant car seats have a minimum baby weight of 4 pounds (1.8 kg), typically by using an infant insert, and a maximum of either 30 pounds (13.6 kg) or 35 pounds (15.9 kg). Be sure to check the box, label, or manual because even within a single brand or model (such as Chicco KeyFit), different versions have different specifications. Some models include an infant insert (upper insert, lower insert, or both) for particularly small babies (e.g., 4-11 pounds) to help support their body, which can also give a snug fit and increase safety. Always read your car seat's manual to check the manufacturer's recommendations for when to use and remove the lower insert. You can see our list of car seat expiration dates and owner's manuals here!
We also want to point out that it's unlikely you'll reach a car seat's weight limit before reaching the height limit. In other words, your baby will probably end up too tall for their car seat 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 and then transitioning to a convertible seat 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, and convertible car seats do not. Infant and convertible car seats are not the only types of car seats on the market. There are also combination seats that start as a booster with a harness and then convert to a full booster seat, and also the booster seats themselves that use the vehicle's shoulder belt (and some use the LATCH system). In terms of height, most infant car seats support toddlers up to 30, 32 or 35 inches tall (or until the top of their head is about 1" below the top of the car seat, but check the manual for specifics). Most children will hit 30" tall by about their first birthday, so if you want to extend the use of your infant car seat, you might consider some of the options that support toddlers up to 35 inches tall (like the Chicco Fit2).
Car seats sold in the USA must meet federal (NHTSA) safety standards and requirements, so no matter which car seat you choose, you can rest assured that it has been thoroughly safety tested for babies and toddlers. It is important to note, however, that some seats go far beyond the federal safety standards, taking child passenger safety very seriously. There are a few good examples of that. First, some car seats have more substantial (thicker and/or additional layers) side impact protection near the shoulders, head, and/or torso. At a minimum, these will provide greater comfort for your child's sleepy head during naps; at the most, it might provide some extra security during a side-impact crash. Second, anti-rebound bars and load legs are becoming more popular, such as the one seen on the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio, the Chicco Fit2, and the Evenflo SafeMax infant car seats; the idea here is that the anti-rebound bar can reduce rotational forces in the event of a crash. This means that, for instance, in the event of a front-end crash, the infant seat will not have such an extreme rebound toward the back seat.
It's hard to justify spending more money for a luxury seat (like the UppaBaby Mesa) that don't have this modern safety feature. Similarly, some modern infant car seats are using a load leg that extends down from the back of the car seat down onto the floor of your vehicle. A good example of this is the new Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Nido infant car seat, which is an upgrade from the regular Primo Viaggio. The load leg is also designed to reduce rotational forces, and together with the rebound bar can reduce rotational forces by up to about 50%. Worth the cost over a traditional car seat design? That's for you to decide. Even if some extra peace of mind is important, it may or may not be worth the extra $100+.
Also, regarding safety, we do not recommend using any car seat accessory that is not manufactured by the company that made the car seat, and designed specifically for the car seat. Examples include harness tie-backs, detachable cup holders, or car seat covers. If you are at all concerned about a proper installation, most local police or fire departments have a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) who can help make sure infant seats are properly installed; they will check belt adjustments, harness heights (shoulder belt height), recline, seat belt paths, LATCH use, car seat and base compatibility, travel system integration, and make sure your infant car seat base is installed properly in your vehicle.
Note that most of the seats on this list are very easy to install, featuring a no-rethread harness, bubble recline indicators, and comprehensive owner's manuals to make sure you're doing things correctly. Definitely read the manual and watch some videos online to reduce the risk of doing something wrong like installing a top tether when rear-facing (about 99% of the time, top tethers are only for forward-facing car seats), not appropriately reclining the seat, or having a loose fit. Note that all of the seats on this list are approved for car seat travel on airplanes by the FAA. Finally, always check car seat expiration dates to make sure you're in the clear.
If you have more than one child, or a smaller vehicle like a Honda Civic or Toyota Prius, you definitely must consider the size and fit of the car seat. Mainstream infant 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 two fitment issues. First, 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. Be sure to check out our article about narrow car seats for fitting 3 in a row. Second, the larger infant car seats can be problematic when rear-facing. This is especially true with taller drivers and passengers. With the vehicle's seat slid back for a taller driver, it will likely press against the top of the infant car seat. Always check both your car seat's manual and vehicle's manual to ensure that it is OK for the top of the car seat to be touching the back of the vehicle's front seat; some vehicles do not allow this because it interferes with the vehicle's safety systems (including the airbags), and some car seat manufacturers also do not allow this contact. Keep that in mind if you have a smaller vehicle or taller driver or passenger because these newer infant car seats are getting huge! Pro-tip: always install a rear-facing car seat behind the shorter adult!
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, you will want to purchase a travel system or 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.
Graco has made compatibility questions easy with their Click Connect system, which ensures that your car seat will fit any stroller or infant car seat base that is also labeled as Click Connect. Though we definitely recommend buying a stroller that's the same brand as your car seat, universal adapters are making things much more versatile than they used to be. Be sure to check out our lists of the best strollers, and our reviews of the best lightweight strollers.