Which infant car seats are best?
When you’re traveling with your little one, safety is always the top priority. So choosing the right infant car seat is extremely important.
An infant car seat should have all the essential safety features to keep your baby safe, but it should also be comfortable, so your child doesn’t fuss. You also want a model that’s easy to get in and out of the car, so you won’t disturb your baby. If you’re looking for a high-quality infant car seat that can grow with your little one, the Diono Radian 3QXT All-in-One Car Seat is the top choice.
What to know before you buy an infant car seat
Infant car-seat essentials
Infant seats are different from other car seats. Infant car seats have a rear-facing design, which greatly reduces the risk for children under age 2 if there’s a crash. They usually come with a base that anchors in your car, so you only need an additional base, not a second car seat, if your child regularly travels in two cars.
An infant car seat has a carrying handle, too, so you can easily take your baby in and out of the car without disturbing them. It should also have adequate padding to protect your baby from injury in a crash.
Infant car seats feature the “Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren” (LATCH) system to secure the seat in your car. Most models rely on anchors found in the seam where your car-seat cushions come together, present in nearly all cars manufactured after Sept. 1, 2002. These anchors connect to lower anchors on the car seat’s sides or base to securely hold the seat in place.
You should still check your car seat’s owner’s manual to determine how it fits in your car, though. If your car is LATCH system-compatible, you won’t need to use a seatbelt to attach it to a car. However, you can still use an infant car seat in older car models by anchoring it with a seatbelt.
What to look for in a quality infant car seat
Most infant car seats weigh 5-15 pounds. A seat’s weight is a key detail because you should be able to carry it easily. You also have to account for the weight of your baby, so even a model that doesn’t feel too heavy on its own can get cumbersome with your little one inside.
You can find some infant car seats that are stroller-compatible, so you don’t have to carry a heavy seat if you plan to walk awhile.
Infant car seats usually have an adjustable harness that lets you keep your child safe as they grow. Most allow you to choose from three shoulder and between-the-leg positions, so your child can comfortably use the seat from infancy until they reach the maximum height.
Car seats with effective padding not only increase your baby’s comfort but also protect against injury during a crash. Choose a model with breathable padding that keeps your little one from getting too hot.
Infant seats typically include an additional padded insert ideal for newborns and infants. It’s removable, so you can take it out as your child gets bigger. Models that feature removable padding or removable padding covers are also easier to clean.
Infants can’t support their own heads, so choosing a car seat that can recline to the proper angle is essential to keep them in a safe position. Many models feature a recline indicator on the side that makes it easy to adjust the recline and prevent your baby’s head from falling forward, causing possible airway obstruction.
How much you can expect to spend on an infant car seat
Infant car seats generally cost between $60 and $200. No-frills models that aren’t as easy to move or carry typically range from $60 to $90, but you can find user-friendly seats with more convenient features for $90 to $150. For a top-of-the-line infant car seat with premium protection, you’ll usually pay $150-$200.
Infant car seat FAQ
What ages is an infant car seat appropriate for?
A. Infant car seats aren’t actually just for newborns and young babies. Rear-facing seats are recommended for children up to age 2 for greater protection in a crash. The weight limit varies, but most can support up to 35 pounds.
In addition to your child’s weight, pay attention to their height. If the crown of your child’s head is more than an inch above the top of the seat, it’s time for a larger car seat.
Can I reuse an infant car seat for future children?
A. Car seats actually have an expiration date printed on their label or molded into the plastic shell. In most cases, it’s six years out from the date of manufacture. Another child can use the seat if it hasn’t expired.
What are the best infant car seats to buy?
Top infant car seat
What you need to know: This car seat offers the most comprehensive protection for infants and can continue to keep your child safe as they grow.
What you’ll love: It can secure infants who weigh as little as 4 pounds. It features eight layers of padding for side impact protection. The newborn harness pad increases comfort and security. Its headrest is adjustable, too.
What you should consider: It’s more expensive than many other car seats and can be a tight fight in some cars.
Where to buy: Sold by Diono
Top infant car seat for the money
What you need to know: This infant car seat is a solid basic model that offers some convenient features.
What you’ll love: Its rear-facing design can support children up to 40 pounds. The lining is made of energy-absorbing foam to provide protection during impact. It can recline in four positions. The harness is secure but still comfortable for little ones.
What you should consider: It’s heavier and bulkier than other car seats because of its higher weight limit.
Where to buy: Sold by Buy Buy Baby
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This easy-to-install infant car seat features a design that prioritizes safety.
What you’ll love: It has earned top safety marks and includes all the safety features you could want. It offers energy-absorbing foam padding and a high-end LATCH tightener. It can hold up to 30 pounds. It’s extremely easy to install, too.
What you should consider: The lining isn’t very breathable, so children can get hot inside.
Where to buy: Sold by Buy Buy Baby
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.