Our focus groups with moms revealed five highly recommended infant car seat brands, and these are made by Britax, Chicco, Graco, Peg Perego, and the newcomer Ingenuity. Before we begin the ratings, let’s list a few things you should be thinking about when purchasing an infant car seat. Here’s what to consider when buying an infant car seat:
Ease of Use: This is probably the most important factor to consider when purchasing a new car seat. You do not want to deal with a frustrating latch, annoying seat belt mechanism, clumsy chest buckle, two-hands required handle folding, or an uncomfortable handle multiple times a day. Our advice is to go to the store. Be the strange person in the aisle with a baby doll testing out the seat belts, folding mechanisms, and handles. You won’t care if you have the most stylish car seat in the new mom’s group if you pinch your finger every time you fold down the handle, or find yourself cursing at the chest buckle while your baby is screaming. So we took the time to visit the local Babies R Us and tried out a ton of options. The options listed below have the best ease of use that we could find. In general, the pricier car seat options will be the ones that are more user friendly.
Price: Infant car seats vary widely in price, quality, and style. You will notice that some car seats sell for under $100, whereas others are upwards of $300! In general, the more expensive car seats tend to be plusher, softer to the touch, more user friendly, use higher quality parts (snaps, handles, hinges), lighter parts, and come in a more stylish array of color and pattern options. Are more expensive car seats safer? No, when used correctly all car seats are safe and must meet requirements of the NHTSA. However, some of the less expensive brands may meet NHTSA minimum requirements whereas others go beyond those standards. A good example of going beyond NHTSA requirements to increase safety is using an anti-rebound bar to reduce rotational forces due to accident impact..
Baby Weight and Height: Babies come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe you had a 4 pound baby, maybe a 12 pound one (sorry!). Every car seat has its own unique minimum and maximum infant weights and heights. These guidelines are very important and can influence your baby’s safety and comfort. Most infant car seats have a minimum baby weight of 4 pounds (8.8 kg), and maximum of either 30 pounds (66 kg) or 35 pounds (77 kg). But be sure to check the box or label because even within a single brand, different models have different specifications. Also, some models will include an insert for particularly small babies (4-11 pounds) to help support their body, these can also give them a snug fit and help them not feel like they’re swimming in the seat. Looking for the best booster car seats for bigger kids, check out our reviews here.
Car Size: If you have more than one child, or you’re still clinging to your youth and driving a convertible or sports coupe, you definitely must consider the size and fit of the car seat. Mainstream car seats are bulkier than ever, with more padding, more safety features and foam, and thicker plastic. Gone are the days when your car seat is only slightly larger than the baby itself. This can lead to issues fitting multiple car seats into the back seat, particularly more than 2 at once. Most cars will NOT fit 3 regular size car seats into the back seat, so unless you drive an Escalade make sure you take some measurements before you go buying something.
Stroller Type: What do you intend to do with the car seat once it’s out of the car? If your baby is sleeping, do you want to be able to pop the seat out and stick it into a stroller? If so, be careful to make sure that the seat will fit your existing stroller, or if you want to be able to use one of the relatively universal snap-in strollers (which can be a pain!), test it out at the store first. Though we definitely recommend buying the folding snap-in stroller that’s the same brand as your car seat, here is an example of a snap-in stroller that can accomodate several brands of car seats: Baby Trend Snap N Go EX Universal Infant Car Seat Carrier
Here are the Reviews for 2015!
About $115. There’s a reason that the Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat is already the #1 best-selling car seat on the market in 2015, because moms and dads LOVE it. The Britax B-Safe comes with the base that attaches into your car using either the Latch system or the conventional seat belt. Moms love the form and fit of this seat, and report that it does a really nice job supporting even very small (4+ lbs) infants with use of the included infant padding insert. As the baby grows, you can remove the additional body and head padding to give your baby a bit more room to grow. This particular seat has a 30-pound weight limit, two crotch strap positions (a rarity!), multiple shoulder strap positions to fit a growing baby, and parents say it is very easy to snap the seat into and pull it out of the base using the hand lever. All that in a car seat that weighs only 16 pounds (seat + base). Relative to the Chicco KeyFit (see #2, below), the Britax has slightly plusher fabric and parents report that the fabric is easier to clean, and is has a maximum baby height of 32″ as opposed to the Chicco KeyFit’s 30″. Also, the Britax canopy is much larger and truly covers a baby during bright sun, rain, snow, or simply for privacy and during a nap. The Britax B-Safe typically sells for between $115-150.
Here is the Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat, with different color options: Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat
baby from sun, rain, or the outside world. So, the Britax B-Safe and Chicco KeyFit are:
About $199. There’s a reason that the Chicco KeyFit 30 is the #1 car seat in America! OK, so you’ve probably now realized that both companies market themselves as somehow #1, according to some obscure statistics they were able to calculate. Let’s be clear that realistically you will likely be very happy with either seat and for us choosing a #1 for this list was very difficult. The Chicco KeyFit comes with a base that attaches into your car using either the Latch system or the conventional seat belt; moms report that buckling this base into the car is a bit easier than with the Britax B-Safe, and it only weighs 15 pounds (seat + base; 1 lb lighter than the Britax). The form and fit of this seat are very similar to the Britax B-Fit, and both are soft and comfortable, and provide an infant insert to support very small infants (4+ lbs). Note that while the Chicco KeyFit has multiple shoulder strap positions, it only has one crotch buckle position (the Britax has 2). Moms report being happier with the Chicco KeyFit’s shoulder straps, which are a bit wider and therefore aren’t as prone to twisting as the Britax straps. However, the canopy is much smaller than the one on the Britax and makes it harder to fully cover thevery similar to one another, and equally demand your attention. In reality, the choice likely will come down to price, style, and your personal opinion of the systems when you see them in the store. The Chicco KeyFit 30 is a bit more expensive than the Britax B-Safe.
Here is the Chicco KeyFit 30, with several different colors: Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base
About $100-120. The Graco is one of the most popular and all-time best selling car seats on the market. For over a decade, Graco has been offering the SnugRide line, and people report being perfectly happy with it, but it’s certainly without frills. Not as soft or plush as the Britax or Chicco, 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 $80 cheaper than the Chicco, so that’s something to keep in mind. Like the top 2 ranked car seats, this holds babies from 4 to 30 pounds, and has a 30″ height limit for babies. The 35 model weighs about 15lbs (seat + base), and the 30 model only slightly less. Many parents complain that it isn’t really big or wide enough to fit a 25-30 pound baby, and don’t recommend using it for that long; the SnugRide 35 is intended to help this issue, claiming to fit babies up to 35 pounds. Overall, this is a relatively basic car seat that will function quite well, and last just as long as the others. The SnugRide is the least expensive of the group, coming in at around $100 for the Connect 30 version.
Here is the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30, with different color options: Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 Car Seat
Here is the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 35, with different color options: Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat
About $299, but sometimes a bit less for other color options (it comes in 17 different colors!). Sorry that the picture is of one of the less inspiring colors, but if you click on the picture, you’ll see several other styles. Peg Perego was founded over 60 years ago in Italy, when founder Giuseppe Perego was motivated to make the finest baby carriage of the time, made of rubberized materials instead of wicker and sheet metal. Well, he succeeded, and the company was a bit hit in Europe for many decades. Fast forward to modern times, and Peg Perego has become a respected brand around the world for creating safe, durable, reliable, and comfortable baby products. There are several unique features for the Peg Perego, including adjustable side impact padding (6 positions up/down) to accomodate your growing baby, a comfortable handle, plenty of padding for even little babies (down to 4 pounds using an included dual-stage insert, up to 35 pounds), a soft and plush fresco jersey breathable cloth, a 5-point harness, canopy, and it’s made in Italy (not China)! It is also one of the rare car seats to include the anti-rebound safety bar on the front, which is now standard in Europe but not yet required in the US. A bit beyond some other car seats on this list, this one has a 32″ height limit for babies. The seat itself is relatively lightweight, coming in at only about 10 pounds. But together with the base it’s quite a bit heavier (not that you’d be carrying it around with the base). It’s not really the most comfortable to carry – especially given that the canopy opens up against the handle, so the only reasonable option is to carry it with the canopy retracted. Many parents also report 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 complain that many of the nice and affordable car seat covers (such as the JJ Cole) won’t fit around the large side impact cushions. We also found a few things annoying in our own testing and evaluations: first, the handle releases require using both hands (one on each side), and second the canopy doesn’t really cover more than the baby’s head so everything from the diaper down will be soaked if you get caught in the rain. Overall, this is a great car seat with some limitations relative to the others. But really, it’s on our best car seat list, so you can’t go wrong, especially since it comes in over a dozen styles! But for the same price, we’d go with the Britax.
Here is the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Car Seat, with 17 different color options: Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35
About $170. This is Ingenuity’s first entry into the infant car seat market. For better or worse. On the one hand, it seems like this is a fantastic first car seat, and the company might become a real competitor with some of the major brands. On the other hand, we cannot speak to the seat’s long-term reliability, durability, and manufacturing quality. What we can say is this seat would deserve a higher ranking on our list if it weren’t so new. This car seat accommodates infants from 4 pounds up to 35 pounds, and includes adjustable side impact headrest and harnesses, an easy to use LATCH system for the base, a good sized canopy, and a great passive air ventilation system. This last feature is really great, with highly breathable fabric that vents all the way through the frame to keep baby comfortable on those hotter car rides. This particular seat has a 32″ height limit which is a bit higher than the other options, and the seat itself (without base) comes in at only about 10 pounds (about 18 pounds with base). It has a 6 year expiration date, and comes with a 1 year warranty. We liked that it had a large peek-a-boo window for viewing your baby through the canopy, the cover was easily removed for washing, and the cushioning was soft and comfortable without going over-board. When removed from the base, we tested this car seat in the Graco SnugRider Elite and Baby Trend Snap N Go universal strollers, and it fit nicely. After a few hours of testing in and out of the car, we were very impressed with this car seat. Overall, it is a fantastic addition to the infant car seat market and we believe this company is really going to make a splash. The only downfall is we have no long-term data to support its reliability over the course of several years of use. Judging by what we could tell about its build quality, we think it will last quite well. Overall, this is a great car seat that’s worthy of our Top 5 list, with only a few limitations relative to the others. Give it some time and we think it’s going to creep up our list year-over-year!
Here is the Ingenuity InTrust 35 Pro Infant Car Seat, with different color options: Ingenuity InTrust 35.