Nothing comes close to the excitement of preparing for a new baby’s arrival. But once that little munchkin arrives in this world, they need constant attention and protection to keep them safe and out from trouble. And so you’ll invest in the obvious strollers, cribs, those adorable onesies, and of course some quality disinfectant wipes. While thinking about the best gear for kids, many people tend to forget about one very useful component – the car seat!
You see, holding your little one while on the road might seem practical, but that is putting your baby in danger. Just as you buckle up before hitting the ignition, you need a proper car seat to keep your little bundle of joy protected while on the road.
The best car seats are those that focus on features that make your parenting experience simpler. In the modern-day, we now have convertible seats which, unlike your traditional car seat, you won’t have to replace every 2 years. These seats are made to adapt to your child as they grow. Simply install it in a rear-facing position when your child is newly born all through the age of two, then it can be turned to a front-facing position once your child reaches a certain weight and height.
Of course, since we are dealing with precious cargo here, not just any car seat will do. Lucky for you, we’ve gone ahead and compiled the finest selection of car seats, convertible car seats and booster seats in the market that fulfill all the safety features. All that’s left is for you to choose the best car seat for your little one.
Top 10 Car Seats of 2020 Reviewed
1. UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car SeatCar Seat for Airplane
This is a high-end infant car seat that is well worth the money. Not only does the car seat have a beautiful design, but it will also ensure that your vehicle’s seats remain beautiful as well due to its finished bottom that keeps your car’s upholstery from getting damaged. Beauty aside, there are other things that make this a great choice for keeping your baby safe. The car seat features an adjustable no-rethread headrest with integrated Side Impact Protection.
The cushions are machine washable so maintenance is never going to be a problem. And just like the Chicco, this infant car seat is compatible with the CRUZ stroller. When attached, you’ll get a very versatile travel system in your hands that can accommodate more than two kids. The slimness of the travel system will ensure navigating narrow aisles and crowded streets easy. But that’s not all there is to love about this car seat.
The LATCH connectors are retractable and easy to use. The fabric is naturally flame resistant (no chemicals added) and comfortable for your baby in both cool and warm weather. The drawbacks to owning this infant car seat is the price and the fact that it’s really quite heavy.
- Naturally flame-resistant fabric
- Beautiful design
- Easy to install
- Some buyers received damaged car seats
2. Britax USA Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car SeatCar Seat Convertible
This convertible car seat is sure to keep your child safe from newborn to elementary as long as he or she doesn’t exceed the maximum front-facing weight of 65 pounds. Britax is one of the leading brands in car seats because it offers incredible safety features such as the SafeCell Impact Protection system.
This safety system consists of a steel frame, and energy-absorbing base, a V-shaped tether to reduce the chances of seat rotation, and staged-release stitches to reduce the child’s forward movement in the event of a crash. The car seat also includes 2 layers of side impact protection. The Click & Safe Snug Harness Indicator lets you know if your child is properly secured.
The 14-position harness allows you to use this car seat as your child continues to grow, letting you easily adjust the height by pushing a button. The five-point harness is sturdy and tangle-free. The base has 7 recline positions. And the cover is easy to remove. What’s really great about this car seat is that it will allow you to place your child in the rear-facing position up until he or she is 40 pounds.
- Lots of safety features
- 10-year life span
- High weight and height limits for rear-facing and forward-facing
- Very expensive
3. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio ConvertibleCar Seat All In One
This car seat’s price definitely raises a few eyebrows. Based on what we’ve seen and reviews, however, it seems to be worth the price. It features superior quality fabric, a wide padded seat, and a quick-release 5-point harness that is made out of cobblestone extra-strong polyester thread. The harness has a chest clip as well as shoulder pads.
The car seat also features a steel backplate that reduces the seat’s forward movement should there be an accident. The seat can be adjusted in 10 different positions while the child is seating in it. What we really like about this Italian-made car seat is the fact that it has one of the highest weight limits for a rear-facing position – 45 pounds which allows you to place your toddler in the safest position for longer than most other car seats. Aside from a generous amount of EPS foam for side protection, the bottom of the car seat features Shock Absorbing Foam Element.
The deep headrest makes it easy for your child to comfortably fall asleep. One of the best things about this seat is that it sits tall so your child will be able to entertain himself with what’s happening outside. However, if your car is small, you may have slight difficulty getting your child in and out of the seat without hitting the door frame. Also, the shoulder pads are a tad too long which makes tightening the harness a bit difficult.
- Easy to install
- Extended rear-facing position
- Deep headrest
- Very expensive
- Shoulder pads/covers too long
- No cup holder
4. Chicco Keyfit Infant Car SeatCar Seat for Infants
The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat is the best infant car seat we’ve ever had the pleasure to review. It’s easy to install, features a 5-point harness that you can adjust with just one hand, and comes with full body inserts for newborns. The seat interior is lined with EPS energy-absorbing foam for better impact protection. The carrier can be removed from the base with one hand as well. The carry handle fits comfortably in your hand.
And then there’s the ReclineSure feature that enables you to accurately fit the car seat in various types of vehicles. The RideRight feature located on both sides of the base lets you know if the seat angle is correct. Parents as well as industry experts (and us, of course!) rate this baby seat at the top because of its ease of use and numerous safety features. The fact that it’s also compatible with several Chicco stroller models to create a travel system is just icing on the cake.
- Super-plush full body inserts for newborns
- Easy to install
- Easy to use
- The canopy doesn’t function properly; doesn’t fully cover the baby
- Too big for a small car
- Very heavy
5. Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Convertible Car SeatCar Seat Extended Rear Facing
The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Convertible Car Seat comes to you with lots of extra padding intended to keep your child as comfortable as possible. It features its premium textured fabrics from Maxi-Cosi’s Ribble Knit Special Edition, which is perfectly tailored to the last detail. When it comes to weight support, the Pria 85 has an extended weight range of 14-40 pounds when rear-facing and a whopping 22-85 pounds when forward-facing. That makes this the only convertible car seat that handles 85 pounds.
The Pria 85 is made with the consumer’s interest in mind. It features a removable seat pad and harness covers for easier cleaning when your little one makes a mess. These parts are both machines washable and dryer safe. And in the event of a crash, it has the advanced air cushion system from Pria to provide protection from the impact.
Another handy feature is how the harness height adjustment can be done with one hand. This coupled with all the other micro-adjustments works together to give better safety and a more customized fit.
- Strong; Can support up to 85 pounds
- Premium easy to clean fabric
- Advanced air cushion system for impact protection
- Moving it around and re-installing it is tedious
- Is a bit heavy
- No bar clips
6. Graco my ride 65 convertible car seatCar Seat for Travel
The Graco Contender 65 is one of the smaller convertible car seats on our list. It is especially recommended for toddlers ranging from small babies to elementary level. Despite its cute looking appearance, the Graco proves its worth with its holding capabilities of up to 65 pounds in the forward-facing position and 40 pounds in the rear-facing (the recommended baby car seat mode).
Since safety is basically the main concern when it comes to car seats, this unit from Graco does well to reassure your concerns. Both engineered and crash tested; it is only brought to market after going through rigorous tests to ensure it meets the U.S safety standards FMVSS 213. It is also side-impact tested to ensure that the harness system is able to adequately retain its occupant.
For a Graco product, the ride 65 is relatively inexpensive, making it one of the most decent car seats you can find on a budget. It can also act as a backup seat that won’t put a dent in your wallet.
- Relatively cheap, yet quality
- Removable cover for washing
- Has seat compensating feet on its base for more vehicle seat options
- Must remove from vehicle to adjust its strap heights
- The strap release button is hidden thus less convenient
- Some claim that the added insert feels a bit cheap
7. Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car SeatBest Car Seat with Sip-Off Padding
The Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat is considered by many as one of the best convertible car seats you’ll find out there today. Everything – from installation to use – is made to be as efficient as possible. The seat features specially tweaked specs like its SuperCinch lightener, which makes installing the car seat with latch extremely easy. It simply requires less effort. It also has a belt-tightening system (LockSure) for smoother belt fastening.
The Chicco has 9 recline positions that allow it to fit it inside most vehicles. There are two RIdeRight bubble levels meaning the seat can be correctly positioned in either the rear-facing or forward-facing position. And for a growing child, the one-hand 9-position is in place for better adjusting. It has a ComfortFlex Harness that keeps the belts on its side. With this, you can place your child on the seat without having to dig around for the straps.
The frame of the Chicco is reinforced with steel. It also features EPS energy-absorbing foam for increased protection. It’s Zip and Wash seat pad is arguably one of the best zip-off paddings out there. Being both easy to remove and machine washable. The downside is that it is heavy and not really ideal for small vehicles, so you should keep that in mind. It also has a huge price tag, which, as most users will tell you, is worth every penny.
- 9 recline positions
- Durable (steel-reinforced frame, EPS foam, side-impact protection)
- Easy to clean(machine-washable fabric)
- Not suitable for small vehicles
8. Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3 In 1 Harness Booster Car SeatBest Car Seat for Toddlers and Big Kids
For the parents who want a car seat that will last from birth to grade school, the Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3 In 1 Harness Booster Car Seat is the most recommendable option. With its unique 3-in-1 harness booster, this unit will easily adjust with your child as they grow. The rear-facing weight limits in the Nautilus 65 is 40 pounds with the child’s height limit at no less than 1 inch from the adjuster handle. The high back booster, on the other hand, limits at 30- 100 pounds with the backless booster from 40-100 pounds.
The ‘forever’ car seat features a no-rethread harness with 3-position recline intended to keep your child as comfortable as possible through their growth. The crotch buckle has two positions, while the frame is reinforced with steel and energy-absorbing EPS foam. All basic features aside, the Nautilus 65 is one of our favorites because it is easy to install with color-coded and labeled belt paths, so you don’t get things wrong. Even the manual is color-coded. Its LATCH straps are easy to loosen and tighten. Note that there is only one latch strap for both rear-facing and forward-facing belt paths.
The entire seat pad is machine washable, and it air dries quickly. Afterward, you can put it back on its frame as easily as it came out. Made for longevity, this chair will easily carry your child through as much as 10years of their life.
- Easy to remove and clean the entire cover
- Extended rear-facing seats for tall kids weighing up to 40 pounds
- 10-year lifespan
- Straps can get twisted/tangled
- Does not snap into a stroller(for infants)
- No canopy to block out sunlight when the baby is sleeping
9. Evenflo SureRide DLX Convertible Car SeatCar Seat On A Budget
This is a no-frills car seat that gives your child the protection he or she needs while in a vehicle. At less than $100, this is the perfect choice for parents who are on a tight budget. The convertible car seat can be set in a rear-facing mode with a maximum weight of 40 pounds and a forward-facing harness mode with a maximum weight of 65 pounds. Since this is a tall seat, you can definitely use it for your growing baby. However, it also takes up a lot of space and will need to be in full recline when rear-facing.
The car seat has two positions for the crotch strap and 6 positions for the harness slot (2 of which are for the forward-facing mode). Harness adjustment can be done upfront, making it easy to use. The car seat pad is removable and machine washable so keeping this clean isn’t going to be a pain. The car seat is FAA-approved and lightweight (only 9 pounds!) so bringing it with you to the airport and back isn’t a burden. And installation isn’t hard either. Just take note that the LATCH connectors are placed in the forward facing belt paths so you need to move it to the rear-facing belt path if your child is less than 40 pounds. And that can be a frustrating endeavor.
- Easy to clean
- Takes up a lot of room when in rear-facing mode
- Hard to tighten
- A large gap between the 3rd and 4th harness slots makes it awkward to harness a child who fits right between them
10. Graco Backless TurboBooster Car SeatCar Seat Booster
Your baby is now a big kid and ready to switch to a backless booster seat. Congratulations! This is a big milestone and not an easy step to make. This Graco booster car seat is for kids ages 4 to 10 who weigh 40 to 100 pounds. The height limit for this seat is 57 inches. Now, this seat is padded with height-adjustable armrests so you can make sure your child is always comfortable on it. It features smart hide-away cup holders which can also double as storage for small toys they want to play with while in the car.
The cover is easily removed and cleaned. It’s easy enough to install in the car and light enough that you can switch it between your car and that of your partner’s/parents’/relative’s. As a “big kid” seat, it no longer features a tether or LATCH straps to secure it in place. It’s the seatbelt that will be keeping your kid and the seat in place. Keep in mind that your big kid should already be mature enough to sit properly throughout the car ride before you switch him or her to a backless booster. Also, the padding isn’t all that thick so some kids may find this uncomfortable for long trips in the car. The good news is you can just buy extra foam for a couple of dollars and add it under the cover.
- Really affordable
- Easily cleaned
- Needs more padding
- No LATCH straps or tether
- Seat fabric wears out easily
Choosing The Best Car Seat – The Ultimate Buying Guide
You’re about to carry precious cargo, a.k.a. your child, in your vehicle. What are you going to do to make sure he or she will remain safe while riding in the car? Yeah, you got that right. Car seats. Now, whether you’re a newbie parent or an old hat at this game, you know how hard it is to choose baby gear/child gear.
For one, the market is inundated with choices. How can you possibly look at all of them? And two, you’re limited by the amount of money you can spend. Fortunately, price and quality do not always go hand in hand when it comes to car seats. You just gotta know what to look for to get the best in the market for your child. Before we look at the different safety features that you’ll need to have in the car seat of your choosing, let’s first get to know the different types.
Types of Car Seats
Infant Car Seats
As the name already implies, this car seat is limited to babies up to 2 years old, weighing between 4 to 40 pounds. The seat is rear-facing only which is the safest way for your child to ride in a vehicle. Not only is this a great option for newborns, it makes it easy to transport them from car to wherever because you can detach it from the base. The Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat is one example of this type of car seat.
Convertible Car Seats
These are car seats that can be rear-facing for children weighing 5 to 45 pounds as well as forward-facing for children weighing 20 to 70 pounds who are at least 2 years of age. This type of car seat is perfect if you want to make one purchase and use it for a longer timeframe. However, these tend to be bulkier than your typical infant car seats. The Britax USA Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat is a good example of a convertible car seat.
Booster Car Seats
This type of car seat is specifically designed to raise your child on the seat so that he/she may be able to use the seat belt correctly. This is ideally for children who weigh 30 to 120 pounds and who have outgrown the forward-facing harnessed car seat. One example of this car seat is the Graco Backless TurboBooster Car Seat.
All-in-One Car Seat
This type of car seat is specifically designed to seat children from newborn to booster seat age. The seat has several modes: rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster mode. The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is one of the best all-in-one car seats in the market today.
Do You want Extended Rear-Facing?
Rear facing is the safest way for your child to travel. This is because when a vehicle encounters a frontal impact, the stress on the neck and spine is diffused along with the seat which protects your child from serious injury. Now, the recommended minimum age for forward-facing is two. And this is because, according to a study published by BMJ Injury Prevention, children under the age of 2 were more likely to get injured (5.32 times more likely) when seated in a forward-facing position.
However, based on the findings of a study published in the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, there is only a 50% chance that the C3 vertebra of a child has completed ossification at age 2. It will take time for your child’s vertebra to strengthen and complete ossification so the safest option is to let your child remain in a rear-facing position until he or she reaches the maximum weight or height of the car seat.
Are You More into Extended Front-Facing?
Just like ERF (Extended Rear-Facing), it is best that your child has reached the maximum weight and height of a front-facing car seat before transitioning to a booster. Why is this important? A child in a booster seat has more freedom to move around than one that is still harnessed. If your child has not gained the maturity to sit in the booster seat properly, he or she can easily wiggle out of position and become vulnerable to injury.
All car seats come with an expiration date which indicates how long they can be used. Many car seats come with a 6-year expiration date though there are some that offer longer. This means that some car seats are likely to expire before your child is able to fully outgrow them. If you plan on using a convertible car seat or an all-in-one car seat, it’s best if you get one that has a longer shelf life.
Features to look for
- 5-Point Harness: secures your child at the shoulders, hips, and the crotch and lessens the chances of him or her slipping or falling out of the seat.
- Twist-Free Straps: prevents the straps from getting tangled and causing discomfort or harm to your child. These ensure that your child remains restrained yet comfortable.
- Impact Protection: EPS foam that provides extra cushioning on the side of your child’s head to prevent accidental death due to a side collision.
- LATCH Connectors: LATCH stands for Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children. These connectors are either push-button, rigid connectors, or hook-style connectors. They attach the car seat securely to the vehicle without having to use the seat belts, ensuring better stability.
- Recline Indicator: rear-facing car seats have a recline indicator that lets you know if the seat is installed at the right angle.
When buying a car seat, you’ll have to consider whether it will be for everyday use or for occasional use only. Car seats that are intended to be used in a relative’s car can be of the less expensive variety. All products sold in the US have passed federal safety tests so your child’s safety isn’t going to be an issue. Car seats that will be used heavily needs to be very comfortable and feature more protection from side collisions. If you plan on getting only one car seat that will be used in various vehicles, you might need to get something that’s easy to install and pretty lightweight.
You’ll also need to consider space. Smaller vehicles will only be able to fit narrow car seats. The same goes for installing two or three car seats in a large vehicle.
Speaking of multiple car seats, are you planning to use the same seat for another child? As we’ve mentioned earlier, car seats come with expiration dates. If you plan on using the same car seat for a younger child down the road, you will need to consider a car seat that has a longer life span.
Last but not least, how easy is it to clean? Children are notoriously messy. You’ll need to find a car seat that has a cover that’s easy to remove and preferably machine washable.
The car seat you choose can be crucial in ensuring the overall safety of your child. Since you’ll be focusing your attention on driving, you are literally putting your child’s welfare in its hands. That said, you should choose a car seat that meets all the safety standards.
You should keep in mind that each seat has different features that make them ideal for certain age groups. With our top recommendations, we are confident you’ll find a car seat that meets all the requirements when protecting your little bundle of joy. For the best protection, you are advised to follow all the installation instructions.