The Best Infant Car Seat for Every Budget and Vehicle

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best infant car seat

My daughter’s safety is my number one priority, so I don’t make compromises, especially when it comes to car seats. However, because the baby market is developing so fast, new parents can struggle to choose the best baby equipment.

Additionally, baby gear is expensive, and there are numerous features to analyze when looking for the best infant car seat.

You can refer to my infant car seat reviews to find the one that matches your preferences and budget. My top pick is UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat, but I have come up with several more excellent infant car seats for you.

Best Infant Car Seat

How to differentiate infant car seats from other car Seats?

Unlike other children’s car seats, infant car seats offer only a rear-facing position. The infant car seat is designed for babies up to 35 pounds. Most babies overgrow these seats at the age of two.

Usually, you can strap the infant car seat into the car, or the base. In that case, the base is strapped into the car seat.

A rear-facing position is safer for newborns than forward-facing. Source: CNN.com

What is the safest place to install an infant car seat?

The safest place to install an infant car seat is in the middle spot of the back seat, away from the passenger airbag. The alternative is behind the passenger side.

Never install the car seat on the front seat. If you put the infant seat on the front seat, even a minor accident can open the airbag and injure the baby. Moreover, driving children under the age of 13 on the front seat is against the law.

You can find more driving laws related to driving children here.

Do I need an infant car seat for my baby?

Infant car seat ensures that your baby will be safe during rides. Moreover, I suggest getting the baby car seat even before because you will need to drive from the hospital to your home.

How to choose an infant car seat?

You need to check basic elements, such as size, and weight limits and check additional aspects such as ease of cleaning and installation type. The more you understand about car seats, the easier it gets to find the best baby car seat.

Car seat dimensions

Infant car seats aren’t universal, and they don’t match all vehicles. If you choose the wrong size, not only will you struggle to install the seat properly, but you will also compromise the safety of your baby.

Check the size of your backseat, height, width, and depth, and compare it to the car seat. One way to see if the seat fits in your car is to go to the store and test the car seat on-site – in your car.

Car seat condition

Always get the new car seat for your baby. Used car seats might look as if they are safe, but you cannot be completely sure how the seat will hold up during a bumpy ride. Moreover, some older car seats have been recalled due to safety issues.

Car seat base compatibility

If your newborn will be a frequent traveler, getting an extra-base is much more practical and cost-effective than getting two car seats. However, you need to pay attention to compatibility.

Usually, a base is compatible with all car seats from the same manufacturer, but you can get a universal base. These are compatible with most of the top-rated car seats on the market.

Stroller compatibility

First of all, remember that only infant car seats are compatible with strollers.

The easiest way to make sure your best infant car seat will be compatible with the stroller is to buy the car seat and stroller from the same manufacturer. The company usually advertises these packs as a travel system. You can buy the stroller and car seat separately and get an adapter to make them compatible.

Seat height & weight limit

Infant car seats are created to accommodate babies from birth to 22 to 35 pounds. Moreover, there is a height limit from 28 to 35 inches.

The higher the limits are, the bigger the seat is. In general, if you have a smaller vehicle, you can get a compact infant car seat and move on to the next type of car seat once the baby overgrows it.

Graco's Car Seat Safety Standards | Graco
You want to make sure your infant car seat has passed all the safety and crash test ratings. Source: Gracobaby.com

Seat safety

The ultimate thing to look for when buying an infant car seat is safety features and high crash test ratings, before going about putting your baby in the car seat safely.

Moreover, all child seats need to comply with the national Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 related to side impact on the car seats for children weighing under 40 pounds. The seat should also meet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Association of Pediatrics standards related to rear-facing positions and harness system.

Seat Installation

There are two ways you can install the car seat. One is using Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) or the seat belt.

It is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the installation type. In general, as the kid gets heavier, manufacturers recommend using the seat belt, because it is stronger than the LATCH system.

However, both methods are completely safe for installing the car seat in the rear-facing position. Once the baby gets older, you will have to use tethers and lower anchors or the seat belt.

Ease of cleaning

Babies get messy and if you want to help yourself, pick the car seat with a removable, washing-machine safe cover. However, if the harness gets dirty, you can spot clean it using mild soap and water, but never put it in the washing machine.

Consider choosing the nylon cover as it is the easiest to clean and durable fabric for the car seats.

Additional Features

Once you have narrowed your choice to several car seats, let’s check what other features you might find useful.

  • 5-point harness system: The 5-point harness system consists of two straps over the shoulders, two straps across the waist, and a strap between the baby’s legs. All five straps connect in the middle and work as an additional safety feature and keep your baby secure during bumpy rides.
  • Recline indicator: The recline indicator is an important feature that tells you whether you have installed the seat in the rear-facing position under the correct angle.
  • Weight of the car seat: If possible, pick a lightweight car seat for infants. Lightweightness is especially important if you are planning to use the car seat with a stroller.
Fitting a baby's car seat | NCT
The lighter the car seat is, the easier it is to transport the baby from one place to another. Source: nct.org.uk

12 Top Infant Car Seats

Now is the time to have a look at some of the best safest car seats for your baby. As this is a review on the best infant car seats, all are rear-facing seats.

#1 UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat – Best Overall

UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat -Jordan (Charcoal Melange)Merino Wool Version/Naturally Fire Retardant

The UPPAbaby seat is my favorite of all top-rated car seats on my list for several reasons. It has side-impact protection on the adjustable headrest, and it complies with all federal safety standards.

Moreover, the UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat is made from wool, which serves as a natural fire retardant. It is great because you get a fire-retardant car seat without the use of excessive chemicals. The weight limit is 35 pounds.

This best infant car seat is compatible with Vista and Cruz strollers. Overall, the UPPAbaby car seat features quality materials and exceptional safety features.

Pros:

  • No use of harsh chemicals
  • Easy installation
  • Adjustable headrest
  • A low-profile base won’t damage the vehicle seats
  • Installation indicator turns green to notify when the car seat is ready for use
  • Reversible on the stroller

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • After washing, the seat cover can be challenging to put on
UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat -Jordan (Charcoal Melange)Merino Wool Version/Naturally Fire Retardant
  • NEW! MESA Infant Car Seat. The infant car seat dimensions are 25.8 x 17 x 23 inches
  • FIRST AND ONLY car seat to pass federal safety standards without the use of fire retardant chemicals.
  • SMART Secure system installs in seconds

#2 Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30

Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat with Base, Nomad Sand, One Size (IC302EMRA)

The Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 is a well-built car seat and supports both LATCH and seat belt installation types. It is available in several color combinations and has a canopy with high UV protection.

But, the Mico Max 30 car seat is one of the best small infant car seats, as it has a weight limit of 30 pounds and comes with a small baby insert.

I also like the contoured handle. Apart from that, the seat is lightweight and features side-impact protection.

Pros:

  • Soft and comfortable for the baby
  • Lightweight
  • Canopy is easy to roll forward and backward
  • Straps are easily adjustable
  • The base includes an additional support leg
  • Comfortable handle design
  • Quick installation

Cons:

  • The material is a bit itchy
  • The car seats attach to the base in two places, instead of four
Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat with Base, Nomad Sand, One Size (IC302EMRA)
  • Rear-facing infant car seat 4-30 pounds and up to 32 inches with an adjustable, stay-in-car base with anti-rebound protection, and stroller compatibility
  • Air Protect Superior Side Impact Protection and reversible Cozi-Dozi infant insert support for smaller babies
  • Extended canopy with flip-out visor for maximum UV protection

#3 Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 – Best for Tall Babies

Primo Viaggio 4/35, Atmosphere

If your baby is a bit taller than expected, the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio might be a good choice for you. It can accommodate babies of 32 inches and 35 pounds.

What I like about this infant car seat especially, is the adjustable SIP (Side impact protection). It is an excellent feature that allows you to move the headrest up and down to match your baby’s height as it grows.

The Peg Perego allows you to set it in six different height positions. Additionally, the fabric is soft and comfortable. Another cool feature is the shell handlebar, which serves as a rebound bar for extra safety protection.

Pros:

  • Color-coded seat belt path
  • Simple installation with the base or without it
  • Soft fabric
  • Comfortable for baby and gentle on car seats
  • Adjustable SIP

Cons:

  • Not compatible with all Peg Perego strollers
  • The strap system is a bit time-consuming
Primo Viaggio 4/35, Atmosphere
  • Made In Italy. Rear facing infant car seat for babies 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches tall; Includes a base with an integrated anti-rebound bar
  • Dual stage cushion system-first stage for 4 pound and up offers extra support on baby's neck and bottom, second stage correctly supports growing baby, both help to keep baby's head properly positioned and are made of our fresco jersey breathable fabric
  • Car seat dimensions: 25.9 x 17.0 x 23.9 inches and base dimensions: 21.6 x 14.6x 11.5 inches . Side impact protection adjusts to six different positions with no rethreading required, protecting baby's head and shoulders at any growth stage

#4 Evenflo LiteMax 35 – Most Affordable

Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat, Easy to Install, Versatile & Convenient, Meets or Exceeds All Federal Safety Standards, Machine-Washable Pads, Full-Coverage Canopy, Bamboo Leaf Green

Take a closer look at this Evenflo LiteMax 35, as it is one of the safest infant car seats that comes with a budget-friendly price tag.

Importantly, the Evenflo car seat complies with all federal safety standards and is easy to clean.

The cover pad is removable and machine-washing safe. You can use it for babies from four to 35 pounds and 17 to 32 inches tall.

It even offers four recline positions, which you wouldn’t normally find in affordable infant car seats.

Overall, the Evenflo has an up-front harness adjustment system and a two-step locking to the base system. Therefore, it is easy to use and install.

Pros:

  • Easy to read recline indicator
  • Quick installation
  • Multiple recline positions
  • The head pillow is removable
  • It has buckle pockets

Cons:

  • Padding is a bit thinner
  • The chest buckle is challenging to snap
Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat, Easy to Install, Versatile & Convenient, Meets or Exceeds All Federal Safety Standards, Machine-Washable Pads, Full-Coverage Canopy, Bamboo Leaf Green
  • Versatile and convenient: This Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat fitting newborns and babies from 4-35 pounds includes a stay-in-car convenience base that minimizes overall parent effort
  • Meeting or exceeding all applicable federal safety standards, this car seat also passes Evenflo’s comprehensive Side Impact and industry leading Rollover Test Standards
  • Easy to Install: The LiteMax 35 comes with an easy to install base equipped with a two-step vehicle belt lock-off for a quick and secure installation and provides 4 recline options top optimize your child's comfort

#5 BRITAX B-Safe 35

BRITAX B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat - Rear Facing | 4 to 35 Pounds - Reclinable Base, 1 Layer Impact Protection, Raven (E1A728Y)

If your baby gets lulled during the rides, you might want to find the most comfortable seat you can. The Britax B-Safe 35 car seat is nap-friendly and very comfortable, and it could be worth your attention.

The Britax car seat has a sturdy steel base that is both durable and impacts absorbing. That way, it ensures a smoother ride and better comfort.

Moreover, it has a large and padded seat area, which makes it suitable for long rides. It has built-in adapters that make the Britax car seat compatible with single Britax strollers. If you own a Duallie stroller, you will have to buy the adapter separately.

The Britax infant car seat features a 5-point harness system for extra security.

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Sturdy base
  • 5-point harness system
  • The cover is easy to remove for cleaning
  • Ergonomic handle makes it easier to carry around

Cons:

  • Thick padding can make the baby feel too hot
  • Somewhat narrow
BRITAX B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat - Rear Facing | 4 to 35 Pounds - Reclinable Base, 1 Layer Impact Protection, Raven (E1A728Y)
  • Surrounded in safety: a layer of side impact protection, steel frame, and impact absorbing base
  • Easy installation: use safe center latch or built in seat belt lock offs to secure the infant car seat
  • Relax & recline: spring assisted recline and indicators ensure the best vehicle installation angle

#6 Doona Infant Car Seat – Best for Travel

Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base – Car Seat to Stroller – Nitro Black – US Version

Going on a trip with an infant requires carrying plenty of stuff with you. But the Doona Infant Car Seat saves you from carrying a stroller. It is a convenient unit – a car seat that transforms into a stroller within several seconds.

The Doona seat features a 5-point harness and adjustable handlebar. The bar can further serve as an anti-rebound bar.

The material is breathable, so your baby won’t get too hot even during long rides on a hot summer day. It accommodates babies from four to 35 pounds and has comfortable paddings. The car seat has a sturdy aluminum frame and a durable handle.

Pros:

  • Space-saving option for travel
  • Easy to transform in the stroller
  • Breathable material
  • Sturdy frame
  • Comes with seat protectors to prevent dirt from the wheels coming in touch with the seat

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Challenging to lock to the base
Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base – Car Seat to Stroller – Nitro Black – US Version
  • PRODUCT FEATURES & BENEFITS: One simple motion operation – From car seat to stroller in seconds, 5-point harness, adjustable handlebar - also acts as an anti-rebound bar inside the car, 3 Layer Side Impact Protection, removable and washable fabric, highest safety & quality standards, TUV and FAA Aircraft Approved for travel, baby Safe materials & breathable textiles, 2 years manufacturer's warranty.
  • COLOR: All Black Patterned Textile Fabric, New Stretch Material Canopy in Flame Red, New Stretch Material Shoulder Pads in Flame Red, New and Improved Breathable Inner Foams, Charcoal Aluminum Handle, Dark Grey Bamboo Infant Insert, Dark Gray Bamboo Head Support with Memory Foam.
  • USAGE: Suitable from 4 lbs. to 35 lbs, Max. 32 Inches Height, Rear facing only, Car Seat weighs 16.5 lbs, Base weighs 10.3 lbs.

#7 Baby Trend EZ FlexLoc Infant Car Seat – Best for Small Cars

EZ Flex Loc Plus Infant Car Seat,

The Baby Trend EZ FlexLoc is another affordable option for all those parents who want safety as their priority and own a smaller car. A car with a smaller interior can make it challenging to almost impossible to install a car seat but not with this Baby Trend car seat. This infant car seat for small cars can accommodate babies up to 30 pounds and 30 inches in height.

Not only does this car seat feature a 5-point harness system, but you can also adjust the harness with one hand. Mothers of two will appreciate this feature!

Furthermore, it has comfortable, impact-absorbing foam. The seat is 29.5 x 16.8 x 16 inches in size, which means that your back seat will have plenty of room left for other children or groceries.

Pros:

  • Compact
  • 5-point harness system
  • Easy to adjust harness with one hand
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • The carrying handle is bulky for the seat of its side
  • Narrow
EZ Flex Loc Plus Infant Car Seat,
  • 5-point safety harness; easy one-hand harness adjustment; push-button release
  • Height-adjustable seat back; no harness rethreading
  • EPS energy-absorbing foam for superior side impact head protection

#8 Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat | Baby Car Seat, Oakley

If you want something that connects within seconds, the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat might satisfy your needs. It features a specific 3-step installation. I especially like the indicator to find out if you have installed the seat properly.

This light infant car seat accommodates a max weight of 35 pounds and babies up to 32 inches tall. The adjustable base allows you to adjust the seat to up to four positions. The seat, cushions, and canopy are easy to clean in the washing machine.

Parents will appreciate the fact that the Graco seat has gone through extensive collision and extreme temperature tests, proving itself to be one of the sturdiest car seats for infants. The seat also comes with the head support and attachment for newborns.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Rotating canopy
  • You can remove head and body support as the baby grows
  • Quick installation
  • Bubble installation indicator
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • The canopy seems a bit flimsy
  • Moderate padding
  • The fabric seems itchy
Sale
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat | Baby Car Seat, Oakley
  • Snug Lock Technology features a hassle Free 3 step installation rear facing car seat helps protect infants from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 Inches quick and Easy clean up with the Rapid Remove cover; Head must be more than 1 inch from the Top of the headrest Infant car seats Made 2011 or after
  • Simply Safe Adjust Harness System adjusts headrest and harness together to prevent rethreading Safety Core absorbs frontal crash forces
  • Adjustable base with 4 recline positions and Easy to read bubble level indicator In Right Latch system for a one second Latch attachment

#9 Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat

Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat and Base with Car Seat, Lilla

The Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat looks cute and is easy to install. Like some other models from my list, the Chicco car seat is easy to install using the LATCH system. It also has a 5-point harness system and comes with a newborn insert. That way, it fits even babies of four pounds!

I like how pulling the LATCH tightener ensures a snug fit. Moreover, it is easier to find the right position due to a spring-leveled foot on the base.

The seat cover is removable, and you can wash it in the machine on a gentle cycle and air dry or spot clean stains.

The seat without the baby weighs almost 18 pounds.

Pros:

  • 5-point harness system
  • Fit small babies, good for preemies
  • Easy to tighten the harness
  • Simple installation
  • Durable

Cons:

  • The canopy sometimes won’t stay in place
  • Heavy
Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat and Base with Car Seat, Lilla
  • The easiest infant car seat to install
  • No.1 rated infant car seat in America
  • 5-point harness adjusts with one hand. Booster mode backless feature is not present

#10 Cybex Cloud Q SensorSafe

Cybex Cloud Q SensorSafe available in 5 different colors and safety features. Source: pishposhbaby.com

If you are bored with dull-colored infant car seats, maybe the Cybex unit will be great for you. It is available in bright colors and it has excellent safety features.

The Cybex Cloud Q SensorSafe Infant Car Seat has a load leg that improves the stability and keeps the base secured on the car seat.

Moreover, the seat reclines to the lie-flat position, which is great if your baby falls asleep outside the car. You can use it as a temporary bassinet.

The Cybex seat has chest sensors connected to your smartphone app to send alerts if the baby is in the seat unattended; when he or she accidentally unbuckles itself, or the seat becomes too warm or cold.

The seat has an extra-large canopy with SPF 50 and a 5-point harness system. It is also compatible with Cybex strollers and other brand strollers via an adapter.

Pros:

  • Fully reclining position enabled
  • Headrest is adjustable
  • You don’t have to take the baby out of the seat to find the proper angle
  • Load leg improves stability and provides extra support in the crash
  • Extended footrest

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Complex instructions
  • Pricey

#11 Nuna Pipa Infant Car Seat

Nuna Pipa Infant Car Seat is fire-retardant car seat. Source: Pishposhbaby.com

Having a fire-retardant car seat is an important safety feature. The majority of car seat manufacturers use chemicals to achieve that, but the Nuna Pipa Infant Car Seat is flame resistant without added chemicals.

The 5-point harness system keeps the baby secured, and the three-part adjustable newborn insert ensures a customized fit.

The Nuna Pipa car seat uses only high-quality organic cotton material that provides a soft feeling to the touch and enough breathability. The car seat also has an extra stability leg that absorbs the impact and keeps the seat secured.

Pros:

  • Color-coded installation indicators simplify the process
  • No added chemicals
  • 5-point harness
  • Certified for use in airplanes
  • You can install it without a base
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Somewhat bulky for smaller seats
  • The paddings are too thick

#12 Britax B-Safe Endeavours Infant Car Seat

Britax B-Safe Endeavours Infant Car Seat, Cool N Dry - Cool Flow Moisture Wicking Fabric - 3 Layer Impact Protection - No Rethread Harness - Anti Rebound Bar - European Belt Guide for No Base Install

The Britax B-Safe Endeavours Infant Car Seat is another Britax car seat on my list that features exceptional quality and several convenient features. First of all, the base is made from a sturdy and durable steel frame and has a crumple zone with impact protection layers.

Secondly, the fabric has been reinforced with bamboo charcoal that wicks the moisture away. Moreover, a mesh attachment improves the airflow and ensures the optimal temperature.

You can install the Britax B-Safe Endeavours without the base, using a European seat belt, or secure it with the LATCH system when using it with the base. The infant car seat is available in numerous colors and patterns. The weight limit is 35 pounds, but the car seat is on the heavier side.

Pros:

  • Breathable
  • Ensures optimal temperature
  • Two ways to install it
  • Sturdy construction
  • The base is easy to install

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • The seat is narrow
Britax B-Safe Endeavours Infant Car Seat, Cool N Dry - Cool Flow Moisture Wicking Fabric - 3 Layer Impact Protection - No Rethread Harness - Anti Rebound Bar - European Belt Guide for No Base Install
  • Britax USA USA safety: high-strength steel frame and Crumple zone help keep your baby safe; 2 layers of side impact protection
  • Anti-rebound Bar: steel, padded bar helps reduce movement during a crash
  • Cool n dry mesh fabric: improves air flow for a cooler ride; wicks away moisture to help keep your child dry

Using car seat safely

Did you know that infant car seats come with an expiration date? Source: Parents.com

Whichever model you decide to get from my list, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for installation and comply with the weight and height limits.

If your car has been in an accident, it is best to replace the car seat immediately. However, if the accident was small and you cannot find the visible signs of car seat damage, you can go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Kindly ask licensed technicians to inspect the car seat for safety. You can find more information about NHTSA stations and assistance here. Sometimes the seat gets recalled for safety issues, and if that happens, you need to replace it.

Next, as the baby grows, it will pass the height and weight limit set by manufacturers. When the baby outgrows the infant car seat, you can move to the next type of baby car seat – a convertible car seat that can be placed rear and forward-facing.

Besides, keep in mind that infant car seats have an expiration date and keep track of it. The majority of car seats expire between six and ten years of manufacturing date.

The Best Infant Car Seat Goes To…

The UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat is the winner of today’s quest for the best car seats for infants. It doesn’t use harsh chemicals, it complies with federal safety standards, is easy to install, and is compatible with strollers of the same brand.

Moreover, it features an adjustable headrest with a 5-point harness system, so this infant car seat can grow with your baby!

The UPPAbaby unit is slightly more expensive than some other models I reviewed, but the quality and safety are top-notch.

How did you like my best infant car seat list? Feel free to add your favorite infant car seats and buck them up with great arguments!

best infant car seat

Last update on 2021-01-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Author

Schianne

Hi, my name is Schianne, wife to my high school sweetheart and mother of a beautiful and clever little girl. Click here to learn more about us.

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