The top performers in our review are Chicco KeyFit, the Gold Award winner; Britax B-Safe, the Silver Award winner; and Combi Shuttle the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a car seat to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Baby car seats are one of those rare products that are a necessity, not an option, for their specialized demographic. As a result, a significant competitive market has taken shape around them, with manufacturers setting out to make the safest, most comfortable and easy to use car seat for your child. Most manufactures conduct extensive crash testing and other safety testing to confirm the durability and reliability of the product. More important than the legal requirement of having a car seat is that without it, your child isn’t protected in the event of an accident. In our baby car seat reviews, we set out to help you make an informed decision about which seat is best for you.
The best infant car seats have a stay-in-car base and will have multiple stroller options that you can easily connect to the car seat. Almost all car seats have an adjustable handle you can use for carrying your child when you aren’t in the car, which can be easily adjusted to a resting position when the seat is in the car. If you still need help, we also offer helpful articles about baby car seats.
While we didn’t conduct crash testing on these devices directly, we selected products for our car seat reviews where the manufactures did their part in thoroughly testing each device for safety, going beyond the standards required by regulatory agencies. We also chose seats that have convenience features that make them easy to install and adjust to the changing needs of your growing child.
These were our primary areas of focus when considering the best baby car seats:
Safety: Safety is the most important consideration by far when it comes to baby car seats. All car seats we reviewed are thoroughly crash tested and certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), although neither the NHTSA nor the manufacturer are required to publish the crash test results. A rear-facing car seat is safest for your baby, so you'll want to keep your child in this position for as long as possible. Look for a rear-facing car seat with a high weight and height limit to account for your growing child. Convertible car seats switch to front-facing car seats when your child is grown enough, so you can get a few more years out of these seats.
Adjustability: Look for a reclining seat that you can adjust for your child's weight. Also, a center-pull adjustment gives you a strap you can tighten with one hand. Adjustable head support allows the car seat to grow with your baby. Infant car seats usually have a canopy to shield your baby from the elements. Baby car seat features are fairly consistent across the different models.
Durability: Baby car seats are designed to be secured in a car or a stroller for maximum safety. The only time its durability will be significantly tested in the real world is in the event of an accident, which is why crash testing and NHTSA certification is so important. But you also want a seat that is sturdy and versatile so you can keep your baby in the seat if you go shopping or secure the seat to a stroller for physical activity. The more the stroller is used in its various roles, the more its durability will be tested. The seats in our lineup are built to last through all types of use.
Ease of Use & Convenience: Along with its adjustability we assessed the car seat’s overall ease of use. A car seat should be easy to install and allow you use it without a hassle. Look for a model that will quickly snap in and out of its base. Most car seats have a stay-in-car base that make it considerably more convenient and multipurpose than the few models without a base. Maintenance is another consideration with regards to ease of use. Removable cushions that are machine washable will make it easy to keep the seat clean.
What Else Is Important With Baby Car Seats?
Other considerations when choosing a baby car seat include price point and the amount of time your baby can use the seat. Also consider warranty information and the quality of customer support you can expect.
In our review, we looked for the best seats we could find within a price range that most families can afford. Some of the seats are specifically designed for infants, but others can be converted to accommodate toddlers who weigh up to 65 pounds and are 50 inches tall. Such devices start as backward-facing seats and convert to forward-facing when the child gets older.
The warranties for the car seats in our lineup vary from 90 days to two years, though the majority of the seats we reviewed are covered for one year. As with any warranty, longer is better. We liked to see manufactures stand behind their products with generous warranties. We also gave scores to each manufacturer based on how responsive they were to our questions. Attentive service will be important if you have questions or concerns when buying your seat.
Baby Car Seats: Our Verdict and Recommendations
We identified the best baby car seats out there. The best options we found are the Chicco KeyFit 30, the Britax BOB B-Safe and the Combi Shuttle. Not only are these seats reasonably priced, but they offer all the safety and convenience features we looked for.
The Chicco KeyFit edged out the other seats because it came highly recommended by NICU nurses for premature infants. It has an excellent insert that offers extra support for such babies. All three have been through extensive crash testing and offer excellent safety features, like energy absorbent foam that offers extra protection in the event of an accident. The Combi Shuttle is an especially sturdy seat that you can install with or without the base without losing any of its safety features. The Britax BOB B-Safe also has a sturdy design and is extremely easy to use. This seat accommodates larger babies than the other two do, with its weight limit of 35 pounds.
Choosing the right seat is going to vary depending on your needs and that of your baby. We set out to find standout features so you can determine which seat works best for you.