Updated at: 30-03-2023 - By: Helen Skeates

A baby car seat is one of the key purchases you’ll make on your journey to parenthood. It can seem like a simple one until you realize just how many options you have and all the various features listed in the product description. You may find yourself thinking, “Well that all sounds great, but what does it mean?”

One of the most important purchases you’ll make as a new parent is a car seat for your child. It may seem like an easy choice at first, but then you discover all the features and customization possibilities available to you. The question “Well, it all sounds fantastic, but what does it mean?” is a common one to have.

When do you need an infant car seat?

An infant car seat is a rear-facing seat that’s designed to provide the safest car ride possible for your precious cargo.

To ensure the most secure journey possible for your precious cargo, use a rear-facing infant car seat.

Even if your child’s feet are able to reach the floor, it is best to keep them rear-facing for as long as feasible.

Most children are ready to switch to a front-facing car seat between 2 and 4 yearsTrusted Source — but again, for safety purposes, the later, the better.

How long baby in infant car seat?

Most children can go to a front-facing car seat between the ages of two and four, according to a reliable source; however, the later the changeover is made, the safer it is.

They are at high risk for serious injury when riding rear-facing, even if they otherwise qualify for forward-facing car seats. Dr. Ben Hoffman claims that rear-facing car seats are five times safer for children than forward-facing ones.

Infant Car Seat Guide: 9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying

Researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reviewed the research on car seat safety in 2008 and concluded that “all currently available evidence suggests a significant increase in the risk of serious injury or death” for babies who ride face forward before age two, and that the best practice is to keep them rear-facing until they are at least two years old or reach less than the limits of their convertible seat.

To this day, Swedish kids as young as four are still taught to sit with their backs to the wall. Although the legislation in France mandates that children be turned forward by the age of 12 months, most French parents wait until their children are 18 months old.

Can my 7-year-old use a backless booster seat?

As long as they are over 40 pounds and between 38 and 57 inches tall, then it is okay.

All children under 13 years of age should utilize a booster seat, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines. Without one, children over this height are at high danger for injury in the event of an accident or sudden stop. The back of the front seat in a car can be a dangerous place for a child’s head to contact during an accident, and booster seats can mitigate this risk.

It’s important to pay extra attention in school zones if you have kids in the car. As a general guideline, you should think about upgrading to a seat belt if your child is still using a booster seat but has reached the shoulder belt buckle in your vehicle.

What is the weight requirement for a backless booster seat?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests using a backless booster seat for children who weigh 40 pounds or more. In some cases, children under 40 pounds can use a belt-positioning booster seat (with harness straps) or a convertible car seat with a higher weight limit before they are ready to utilize the vehicle seat belt properly.

When a child’s shoulders reach the top of an adult’s shoulder when standing with their feet together, they should continue to use the restraint they are now using.

At this point, your child has surpassed the federal and manufacturer-imposed height restriction for the booster seat, albeit a youngster weighing more than 100 pounds may be too big for a smaller booster seat.

Backless booster seats are not legal for use in all states. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children remain rear-facing as long as possible, up to the height or weight limit of their convertible car seat.

The usage of booster chairs without a back is illegal in several jurisdictions. Up until the child reaches the maximum height or weight allowed by their convertible car seat, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping your child in the rear-facing position.

There is concern that backless boosters of a certain vintage may be harmful since they do not properly put the child’s shoulder belt over his or her pelvic area, but rather across his or her tummy.

While more safety features are being included into newer versions, it will take more study to determine how they stack up against conventional booster seats.

Is it safe for a 10-year-old to ride in the front seat?

According to the results of a three-year NHTSA research, children between the ages of 12 and 15 are the most vulnerable to traffic accidents.

When traveling by car, children under the age of 13 are advised by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to always use rear-facing child safety seats.

Does an 8-year-old need a booster seat?

There is not enough bone density in a child’s body for the seatbelt alone to provide adequate protection before the age of eight. Having them droop forward or to the side in an accident is much riskier than having them sit up straight in a booster seat.

Booster seats shield their heads and necks from collision damage by moving them away from harmful car parts.

Children who weigh 40 pounds or more and are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall are just as safe using lap-shoulder belts with high back boosters as they would be using only harnesses, according to recent studies. If your child is under 40 pounds, keep them in the rear-facing position until they reach the appropriate weight to switch to the front-facing position.

Infant car seat vs. convertible car seat

Infant car seats are specially designed to face backwards so that the child may see out of the back of the automobile. They detach easily from a base that stays in your car, and many of them may be attached to strollers.

Convertible car seats are designed to be used rear-facing until your child reaches the maximum weight or height limitations, at which point they can be turned around and used in the forward-facing position. A convertible car seat is designed to grow with your child from the time they are a newborn and fit in a rear-facing seat until they are big enough for a forward-facing seat.

Children should use a front-facing car seat until they are at least 5 years old, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Reliable Source.

Convertible car seats can often be used for multiple stages of your child’s car seat development because of its ability to transform into booster seats. If your youngster is under 4 feet 9 inches tall (about between the ages of 9 and 12), they should utilize a booster seat.

What to look for in an infant car seat

There are a lot of baby car seat alternatives available nowadays, so it’s useful to limit down your choices. There are a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting an infant car seat, such as:

  • the dimensions and contours of your vehicle
  • dimensions and mass of the seat
  • Can you tell me how many car seats you’ll need?
  • what the frequency of use will be
  • Wheelchair and stroller compatibility
  • Efficiency in set-up
  • convenience when cleaning
  • Security measures
  • price

Safety notes

The AAP stresses the importance of keeping infants and young children in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, from birth until they outgrow the seat’s height and weight limits. It varies by seat, but generally speaking, the older the better.

This data sheet was compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to aid in the decision of how long a kid should ride in a rear-facing car seat.

Remember that your child’s safety depends on the car seat that fits them the best, so don’t rush them through these stages.

Always refer to the manual that came with the car seat or base to ensure a proper installation.

The LATCH system (lower anchors and tethers for children) and seatbelts are used with some car seats for children. Providing your car’s seatbelt locks, the AAP considers all approaches to be equally safe.

You should be aware that the LATCH system has weight limits, especially as your child becomes older. The maximum weight for both the child and the seat is 65 pounds.

How we chose the best infant car seats

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer variety of infant car seats on the market. We’ve chosen the top models of infant car seats in a number of different categories. So that you can spend more time exploring the world and less time poring over possibilities, our analysis is grounded in product reviews, ratings, and user feedback.

Know that all certified car seats, regardless of price, have been put through extensive testing to assure their safety. So don’t worry that you’re putting your loved one in danger by opting for the less expensive model.

Here are some of the features Healthline looks for in baby car seats:

  • Safety regulations mandated by the federal government. All child safety seats are approved by the government (all car seats sold in the United States have to meet these requirements). This ensures the restraint system is secure, that the product is well-documented with basic directions for use, and that the manufacturer’s name and contact information are there, along with the date the product was made.
  • Fabricated using robust materials. We went for chairs that were both composed of sturdy materials and provided extra protection in the event of an accident.
  • Suitable for plane travel and authorized by the TSA. The Federal Aviation Administration has deemed all automobile seats to be safe for air travel.
  • Price. To accommodate a wide range of budgets, we offer several different pricing tiers.
  • Simple set up. Incorrect installation is a leading cause of car seat failure. For this reason, it is quite advantageous to have a car seat that can be installed properly with no effort.
  • Facilitated use. Parents who have used our car seats have praised how simple and practical they are.
  • Comfort. We made sure to pick car seats that are not only secure, but also cozy for your baby.

Price guide

  • $ = under $150
  • $$ = $150–$300
  • $$$ = above $300

Healthline Parenthood’s picks for the best infant car seats

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat

  • Price: $$
  • Allowed weight is 30 pounds.
  • The maximum allowable height is 30 inches.
  • 9.6 pounds (without base) is how much this seat weighs.
  • The Chicco line of strollers is supported.
  • Car seats that may be reclined and provide additional head support are a plus.
  • Heavy, according to some consumers, seating system

Chicco nailed it with their high-quality, low-priced booster seat. The design incorporates a spring-loaded leveling foot that allows you to adjust the chair’s recline to the ideal angle, and the seat is both comfortable and supportive, with extra padding for the head. If you need more airflow when strolling with your little one, simply unzip the canopy. It is compatible with the vast majority of Chicco strollers.

Several buyers have mentioned that the seat is quite cumbersome. Yet, it is undeniably a favorite among parents when it comes to selecting a car seat.

Infant Car Seat Guide: 9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying

Britax B-Safe Gen2 Infant Car Seat

  • Price: $$
  • Maximum 35 pound weight.
  • Maximum height restriction of 32 inches
  • Without the base, the weight of the seat is 10.9 pounds.
  • Stroller compatibility: compatible with Britax single strollers without an adaptor and other leading brands with an adaptor
  • Stroller compatibility: compatible with Britax single strollers without an adaptor and other leading brands with an adaptor
  • The stroller is compatible with both Britax and other major manufacturers with the use of an adaptor.

This car seat is great for parents with smaller vehicles due to its thin profile and user-friendliness. The mesh construction is breathable, keeping your infant comfortable, and it can be easily wiped clean. It has two layers of side-impact protection foam, a steel frame, and a foundation that absorbs impacts, earning it a superior safety rating.

This seat can be used without the base, though some parents have found that the installation process is more complicated. People have noted that this seat, while extremely durable, is quite heavy.

UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat

  • Price: $$$
  • Maximum 35 pound weight.
  • Maximum height restriction of 32 inches
  • 9 9 ounces without the base is how much the seat weighs.
  • Stroller adaptable to UPPAbaby’s Vista and Cruz without an adaptor and to the Minu with an adaptor; reversible so baby can sit facing you or away from you
  • Simple assembly; LED indicator shows when car seat is properly fastened.
  • Negatives: Some reviewers found the seat to be too hefty

This seat is one of the safest solutions because it was made with high-quality materials and no flame-retardant chemicals (!). You can use the LATCH system or just the base’s light to know that the child is safely fastened in place.

You can set it up quickly and easily with or without the base, making it ideal for those who commute through public transportation.

Even while this seat generally receives high marks, some parents have voiced displeasure over the fact that it bears a prominent label directly behind the child’s back. Several buyers have also commented on the seat’s heaviness.

Doona Car Seat and Stroller

  • Price: $$$
  • Maximum 35 pound weight.
  • Maximum height restriction of 32 inches
  • Chair mass: 16.5 lbs.
  • The gadget can be easily converted into a stroller.
  • Flip-top design; FAA approval; can be used for air travel are all pluses.
  • Disadvantages: bulky; inadequate stowage

This car seat is the only one of its kind that turns into a stroller, making it a great investment if you travel frequently with your child. The wheels may be folded in, the seat can be set on the ground, and the chair can be used as a rocking chair.

The compact design of the stroller makes it simple to steer, even with limited dexterity, making it an excellent choice for parents who frequently find themselves navigating crowded public spaces. It’s simple to collapse and fasten to the car seat base, which can remain in the vehicle.

Since it has aviation certification, you can bring it on board with you instead of having to check it at the gate. The fact that the cloth can be removed for washing is a nice benefit.

The reviews are mixed, however some parents report that their child struggled to stay put in the seat. Others have commented that their youngster rapidly outgrew it. Some reviewers complained about the seat’s heaviness.

Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat

  • Price: $$
  • Allowed weight is 30 pounds.
  • Maximum height restriction of 32 inches
  • Chair weight, without its base: 8.11 pounds
  • You can use it with your Maxi-Cosi Quinny stroller or any other model that offers an adaptor.
  • Easy-to-clean, stain-resistant, lightweight fabric are all pluses.
  • Some critics have noted that the straps are hard to adjust, while others have noted that the sun visor is cheaply made.

Since spills and stains are par for the course when traveling with a baby, it’s important to have a car seat that can be cleaned quickly and easily. The seat pad of this alternative can be easily cleaned by wiping it down with a damp towel or by tossing it in the washing machine and dryer.

Parents have praised the convenience of this choice, saying it is simple to transport from place to place. The child’s head will be protected from side impacts thanks to the proprietary technology used in this safety feature. To further safeguard the head and neck, it incorporates a stability leg that blocks rotation.

Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat

  • Price: $
  • Maximum 35 pound weight.
  • Maximum height restriction of 32 inches
  • Chair mass: 10 pounds.
  • In terms of stroller compatibility, Evenflo strollers can be used with this product.
  • Pluses: easy portability and detachable padding
  • Con: the canopy isn’t movable for different sized passengers.

If you’re on a budget but yet want maximum protection for your child while traveling, this lightweight, easily installed, and unloaded car seat is a great choice. The seat’s pads are easily removable for washing in the washer, and it reclines to four different positions and includes a pillow to prevent your baby’s head from moving around too much.

Several reviewers have complained that the seat canopy is not adjustable. A user complained that the handle’s construction made it awkward to hold the seat with one arm.

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat

  • Price: $
  • Maximum 35 pound weight.
  • Maximum height restriction of 32 inches
  • Weight (without base): 8.5 lbs.
  • Only works with Graco strollers that include Click Connect Technology (the company’s proprietary one-click attachment mechanism).
  • Pros: portable and simple to set up.
  • Negative: It’s not a relaxing experience.

This car seat, weighing only about 8.5 pounds without the base, is ideal if you need to transport your child over long distances, are transporting many infants, or just prefer convenience. In addition, it may be quickly attached to any Graco stroller.

It’s easy to set up and can be positioned in four different ways to provide optimal support for your kid. Parents report that the harness is safe and simple to adjust, but the seat itself is not particularly comfortable. There’s also the fact that just the carrier part, and not the base, may be taken on an airplane.

Nuna PIPA Infant Car Seat & Base

  • Price: $$$
  • Weight restriction: 32 lbs.
  • Maximum height restriction of 32 inches
  • There are eight pounds of seat weight without the foundation.
  • Stroller compatibility: compatible with all Nuna strollers and select strollers
  • Compatible with all Nuna strollers and other leading brands.

The Nuna PIPA has a built-in safety mechanism that confirms proper installation. It’s a great alternative for parents who rely on ride-sharing programs or taxis because it can be installed either with or without the base.

The high-quality micro-knit fabric is flame-resistant without the use of chemical flame retardants. It also has the Greenguard Gold certification. You may attach it to a variety of strollers if you get a Nuna or Maxi-Cosi converter. If you’re looking to save some weight for easier transport, the Nuna PIPA lightweight lx is a more expensive (and lighter) option.

Baby Trend EZ Flex Loc Infant Car Seat

  • Price: $
  • Allowed weight is 30 pounds.
  • The maximum allowable height is 30 inches.
  • Seat weight, without base: 7.7 pounds
  • Details on their website indicate that they are stroller-friendly.
  • Advantages: the specially crafted carry handle
  • Weight and durability are two complaints from customers.

This is the car seat to get if you need to transport multiple children at once. It’s inexpensive enough that you can afford to double up on it, yet it’s light and small enough to provide adequate protection without sacrificing strength.

The EZ Flex Loc may be used with either hand thanks to its ergonomically designed triangle grip. One reviewer was dissatisfied with the lack of reclining choices.

Frequently asked questions about infant car seats

What infant car seat is the safest?

Although all car seats on the market in the United States must pass a series of safety tests before being certified for sale, not all of them perform equally well. When it comes to government-sponsored and independent crash tests, the Chicco KeyFit 30 comes out on top.

Many injuries are caused by faulty installation rather than the design of the car seat itself, so it’s crucial to consider ease-of-use ratings when searching for an infant car seat.

Should a baby car seat go behind the passenger or driver?

Place the seat in the middle of the back row if at all possible. Of course, not all cars have this option, and having multiple children in your car at the same time also makes this impossible. Because of the higher frequency of left (driver’s) side impact car incidents compared to right (passenger’s side) crashes, the rear passenger side is the safer option.

Can you use an all-in-one car seat for a newborn?

If at all possible, put the seat in the middle of the back row. Having more than one youngster in the car at once makes this impractical even if your vehicle has this feature. Left (driver’s) side impact car crashes are more prevalent than right (passenger’s) side crashes, hence in those situations, the rear passenger side is favored.

Always consult the manual or information provided by the car seat’s manufacturer to determine the maximum allowable height and weight for use. Car Seats for the Littles, a nonprofit dedicated to child passenger safety, agrees that all-in-one car seats are convenient because they may be used for the child at different stages of development.

When to Switch Car Seats | Wirecutter

Is it OK for my child’s feet to touch the back of the seat?

It is still secure to do so. Even if your child’s feet touch the back of the seat or their legs are bent, keep them in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 2 years old. When feasible, keep them facing backwards for as long as possible.