The best baby and toddler car seats keep your little one safe and comfy so everyone’s happy. Whether you’re searching for an infant to toddler car seat, a convertible toddler booster seat, or a portable travel seat that can go from one car to another, we’ve got you covered. But first thing’s first: A safe car seat is one of — if not the — most important items you will add to your baby registry. (As difficult as it may be to resist, the trick to this major purchase is to not get too caught up in the Pinterest-perfect aesthetic like you might with a baby carrier or diaper bag.) At the end of the day, the number one purpose of a car seat is to protect your precious cargo, and you (typically) always get what you pay for. But while safety comes first, comfort comes at a close second (because if Baby isn’t comfortable, trust us, you won’t be either). Once those must-haves are met, it’s up to you to decide what features you feel are necessary for both your baby’s safety and your family’s lifestyle.
What is the safest car seat on the market?
“Car seats are regulated by the federal government. They all meet the same safety regulations,” says professional baby planner and baby gear expert, Abby Kalter. Kalter is the founder of Prepping for Peanut, a baby prep concierge that helps expectant families find the right baby products for them. She knows the ins and outs of all baby gear, including car seats.
“It’s worth paying attention to companies who publish their own crash testing results and incorporate extra safety features like load legs, anti-rebound bars, easier installs, and flame-retardant free,” Kalter explains. “60% of seats aren’t used or installed properly so ease of use features are important here.”
Kalter also recommends that parents have a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) inspect their car seat and review proper harnessing. “No, the nurses at the hospital and the fire department can’t do this for you,” she adds.
She also notes that the least important feature in a car seat is cup holders, so feel free to skip that feature and focus on the others.
Whether you’re looking for an infant car seat that’s stroller-compatible, a convertible car seat that transitions for toddlers and bigger kids, one with easy-wash car seat covers, or just a simple booster. Perhaps you’d rather stick to reputable brands like Britax, Graco, Evenflo, and Chicco. In any case, scroll on, because we’ve got you covered. It’s not an easy decision to make, but to help spare you some research, we’ve listed 12 of the best car seats on the market. Check out our top picks!
Best Infant To Toddler Car Seats
Chicco’s KeyFit 30 infant car seat has it all: A darling exterior, easy-to-follow installation instructions, removable supporters for maximum comfort and safety, among many other safety-meets-comfort features. It’s one of the top-rated car seats in America for infants — and your baby deserves the best. The “30” in the car seat name indicates that it can safely seat a little one weighing up to 30 pounds, and the RideRight bubble level indicators show if the car seat is installed correctly. The five-point harness keeps little ones so secure.
Says one reviewer, “I bought the KeyFit Stroller Frame along with the car seat. There are so many things that I’m happy about with both products. The handle for the carrier comes up and down quietly so that it does not wake the baby. The click-in feature to the base and the stroller is also quiet which makes it ideal if the baby is sleeping. The safety features impressed my husband and it was convenient to see the level markers on the seat so we knew we were putting it in right. It is very easy to use the lever in the back to remove the car seat from the base and stroller.”
Chicco KeyFit fans: For a green upgrade plus a higher weight limit, consider the brand-spankin’ new on the Chicco KeyFit 35 ClearTex (yes, that means it’s safe for BBs up to 35 pounds). In addition to being able to use it even longer than the OG model, the Chicco’s new ClearTex line is made with materials that have no added chemicals and are GREENGUARD Gold Certified for safety. Amazingly, these clean, green features come at no extra cost.
First-time mamas might want to consider the Britax B-Safe infant car seat because reviewers and parents have concluded it’s one of the most durable car seats on the market. With two layers of side protection to cushion and shield your baby with the brand’s exclusive SafeCell Impact Protection, Britax’s B-Safe car seat lives up to its name. BTW: Kate Middleton used a Britax infant car seat for her royal babes.
One reviewer says that they learned how safe this seat is, firsthand: “So we are the unlucky few that actually experienced a car accident with a newborn (3.5 weeks to be exact). We were rear ended at a pretty high speed (40-45mph) and my son was sleeping in his car seat in the back at the time. My baby was fine, thank God. I’m writing this review solely based on the fact that this car seat kept my son fully protected. And now anyone looking to protect their baby will know that this car seat does its job well.”
Graco’s SnugRide SnugLock Extended2Fit 35 is another infant car seat that’s rated among the best of the best (and a number one best seller on Amazon). From the moment you leave the hospital up until your little one weighs a whopping 35 pounds (about 2 years old), Graco has one of the best car seats to grow with Baby. While the brand is known for its top-notch safety features, moms especially love this model’s SnugLock — a single red button at the top of the handle that makes adjustment simple and silent. Reviewers rave that this one red button is a complete game-changer, as it eliminates the hassle of scrambling to find two free hands (seriously, what mom ever has two free hands?), and won’t disrupt your sleeping child.
Customers aren’t shy about shelling out 5 stars for this product. “I read many reviews and done tons of research and found that this was the best seat for a more modest budget,” one reviewer says. “It was easy to install, easy to get in and out of the car and has a nice clean look to it. Plus you can buy an additional base making it convenient for those busy working parents/caretakers!”
Babies are going to be both figuratively and literally attached to your hip (plus, various other parts of your body) in some capacity. So, for the first-time mama clinging to sources of comfort wherever she can get them, and second-, third-, or umpteenth-time mothers on the hunt for a car seat that won’t bruise their hip, meet the Maxi-Cosi Max 30 infant car seat. This brand uncovered that the secret to avoiding hip pains lies in the construction, which is why this car seat’s handle is designed to curve around your hip, rather than dig into it. Ain’t that something? This car seat also features special technology that limits back-and-forth movements in the event of a crash.
“This thing is a HUGE time and headache saver,” one customer says. “It’s a must-buy if you have a car and the Maxi-Cosi stroller. You can move between cars and stroller without waking or bothering your baby.”
Best Toddler Booster Car Seats
Car accessories for Baby can get expensive. Rather than switch up car seats every few years, why not splurge on an all-in-one model now? (Pro tip: certain colors and 2019 models are cheaper.) The Diono 2020 Radian 3RXT Convertible Car Seat grows with your child FOR 10 YEARS, from infancy to elementary school, or up to 120 pounds. And if you think that’s convenient, it’s also been FAA-approved for air travel — just keep in mind that it weighs about 30 pounds.
“I’m not sure why this car seat isn’t rated twice as safe as the next thing,” one reviewer says. “It’s basically bomb-proof. This fits a huge range of sizes and weights. It can be front or rear-facing. It is narrow enough that I can fit three across in the back of my wagon with only limited fussing. No problem with three across in my 3-row SUV.”
This Britax car seat is for every mama who’s ever spent more time installing a car seat than she did driving the damn car (“easy installation” my ass). The Boulevard ClickTight convertible car seat boasts “installation as easy as buckling a seatbelt,” and according to reviewers’ comments, it delivers. But not only will this car seat save you time, it’ll keep your little one safe and sound with a slew of SafeCell Impact Protection features.
“We have three kids and 11 car seats,” says one reviewer. “Clicktight is a GAME CHANGER. The seat is good for 10 years, as good a lifespan as anything on the market. It installs SO MUCH EASIER than any other seats we have. Installing with Clicktight took me under 10 minutes. My mother-in-law could do this with no instruction book and it would be a safe install. The recline indicator is very clear, too. If you change seats in and out often, especially with people installing who aren’t car seat nerds (grandparents, babysitters), this is the seat for you.”
A trusted name in baby gear, the Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 car seat is compatible for kids from 4 to 120 pounds. It transitions into four different positions, allowing for a full decade of use, plus a 6-position recline keeps riders comfortable as they grow. And if spills happen when you hit unexpected bumps, the machine-washable rapid remove seat cover comes off in a jiff while the seat stays put (yep, no re-installation required!).
This Amazon best seller has over 700 5-star reviewers from customers who say that it’s definitely a worthwhile purchase. “This is our third kid and we’ve been through a few car seats with the older two,” one customer says. “This one is hands-down the best one we have owned. It’s so easy to install, making it easy to transfer between cars. I absolutely love that the seat cover comes off without having to take the seat apart for easy cleaning. I’m so glad it has so many recline options and will grow with my baby, making it the only seat he will need. Seriously worth every penny spent.”
Oh Chicco, you never let us down. As if we didn’t love the safe, affordable brand enough, Chicco now has a ClearTex line that features GREENGUARD Gold Certified fabrics with no added chemicals, meaning safety for Baby all-around. One of the models in this greener line is the NextFit Max, a convertible car seat that’s suitable for passengers up to 65 pounds. It transitions from rear-facing to front-facing positions to grow with your child (it accommodates 9 positions in all) and features head and torso protection, energy-absorbing foam, and extra legroom (because comfort is not to be underrated). It’s also easy to install and can be adjusted with just one hand.
Though this product is newer to the Chicco family, it’s already amassed over 2,200 reviews and a near-perfect rating on Amazon. One dad says they initially bought a different brand car seat that had “cute colors” and was $100 cheaper, but it was difficult to use and left their toddler feeling cramped. So, they bought the Chicco NextFit Max ClearTex, and it was a worthy upgrade for their family. “I was amazed at how easy it was to install — it took literally seconds, no instructions required,” he explains. “With nine levels of adjustment, the seat has a bubble level to verify that it falls within recommended tolerances — no level line needed. My daughter sat comfortably rear-facing without having to fold her legs, and the straps were easy to tighten and loosen. […] The Chicco’s easy installation, multiple configurations, along with a moveable cup holder and three storage compartments, make it the winner by far, and worth the extra expense.”
Best Portable Baby & Toddler Car Seats
Talk about travel-friendly. Some car seats latch onto strollers, others don’t. But the Doona infant car seat is a stroller, covering two baby gear essentials in one. Unfortunately, once your baby is no longer, well, a baby, you will have to invest in a new car seat and stroller. But at the end of the day, if portable convenience is your top priority, this hybrid piece is a total lifesaver. Doona’s model is paving the way for strollers of the future, and until other brands get on board, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a car seat cooler and more convenient than this one.
“I hated taking my daughter anywhere because I didn’t want to lug around her car seat from place to place,” one buyer says. “The maneuverability of this car seat is also great, it maneuvers over uneven surfaces very well and is easily pushed through grass. Our daughter loves being in this car seat. It is also much easier to put her in and take her out compared to other car seats. If you are on the fence, just buy it! You will not regret it.”
Once your baby outgrows their car seat, it’s time to switch to a booster. Some convertible car seats can transform into a booster, but just in case you didn’t think that far ahead (tsk, tsk), Chicco has your back. Not only is The GoFit Backless Booster car seat the cutest bump for your child’s rump, it’s also super convenient for anyone who birthed a messy human. Both the seat pad and armrest covers are machine washable, and both cup holders (that’s right, two drinks for one child) are dishwasher safe. Super. The cup holders are removable in case you need to make room for an additional car seat. And if moving it from one car to another sounds like a drag, this booster is so affordable, you can pick one up for every vehicle your kid rides in.
“My granddaughters love the colors!” one reviewer says. “The cushion in this seat is the reason I bought it. It is VERY soft, not like others. It has a gel feel to it. It is a lot more comfortable than most seats of this kind. We bought two for our truck and then my daughter bought two for her truck.”
Supporting children weighing 22-110 pounds, this car seat is made for little ones who’ve outgrown their rear-facing seats. At under 10 pounds (!), it’s lightweight and features a slim build which, according to reviewers, makes air travel a breeze. (We’d keep that info on the DL from your MIL.) How many car seats can you say that about?
“This harness/booster seat has a latching system which I really love,” says a buyer. “These seats are very spacious and low to the seat so that its easy for my children to climb into. I replaced [another seat] because it was so bulky, heavy, and high up from the seat that my child had a hard time climbing into it, plus it allowed his feet to always be kicking my headrest.” Consider us sold!