In the United States, most hospitals will not allow you to take your baby home until someone checks and double checks your baby car seat. However, no one at the hospital will go with you to help you actually buy a car seat, so you're mostly alone in this important family decision. Where do you start?
All car seats sold in the U.S. are crash tested and go through a safety certification process, so while your baby's safety and well-being may be your primary concern, it hardly narrows the list of car seats. Instead, most parents look for car seats that will fit their lifestyle. The best infant car seats come with a stay-in-car base and easily connect to many strollers, but your baby will grow out of these seats sooner. Meanwhile, convertible car seats start as rear-facing seats and allow you to convert them to front-facing seats as your baby grows, but they are heavy and require you to buy a separate travel system.
You may feel overwhelmed by the many choices, but our convertible and infant car seat reviews will help you narrow your decision based on your needs. While we found the Chicco KeyFit 30, Britax BOB B-Safe and the Combi Shuttle to be the best car seats, we offer side-by-side comparisons of all major car seats. That way, you can find the best infant car seat for your needs. If you still need help, we also offer helpful articles about baby car seats.
At first glance, all baby car seats seem the same, so you may think that you're just picking a name brand. However, each car seat has something special to offer, including different weight and height limits, compatibility with strollers and a one-handed tightening strap. We found a great balance between safety and convenience and listed what we looked for below.
All car seats 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 car seats.
You'll use your car seat regularly, maybe multiple times per day, so it's important that the seat fits your lifestyle and your needs. Infant car seats usually fit in a wide range of car seats, and the stay-in-car base allows for easy installation and release. Convertible car seats will stay with your child for a few years, but it can be tricky getting your child in and out of the car. You should also pick a seat that is easy to adjust and clean.
There aren't many extra features to choose from in a car seat. You should look for a reclining seat to help you adjust the seat for your child's weight. Also, a center-pull adjustment gives you a one-handed tightening strap. 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. Some convertible car seats include a cup holder for your child to store drinks, snacks or toys.
Help & Support
Once you have your baby car seat, it's important that the manufacturer continues to support you after your purchase. We prefer companies that offer a year or more for the warranty. Also, if you lose your owner's manual, you should be able to download a new one from the manufacturer's website. Finally, if you need to contact customer support, we prefer companies that offer at least email addresses and phone numbers.
Right now, all baby car seats may look the same to you, but with our reviews, you'll be able to navigate the sea of choices and find the best infant car seat for you. Naturally, you'll want the safest car seat available, but you should also find a seat that fits your lifestyle.