First, Our Favorite Infant Seats
Parents are required to have an infant safety seat when they leave the hospital after their baby's birth. You can find our favorite infant options below (our top convertible seat picks
and booster seat picks
are further down). These impressive products for infants earned more points in our Infant Seat Test
than the competitors. These options excel in metrics like ease-of-installation and crash test analysis. The winners offer something a little different than the competition, providing excellent choices for different needs and budgets.
Related: Best Infant Car Seats with Crash Tests of 2020
Best Overall Infant Seat
Chicco KeyFit 30
Easy to install LATCH
Better crash test results
Hard to install w/out the base
The Chicco KeyFit 30 is one of our favorite infant safety seats, and the one we feel is an excellent choice for almost any family. The Keyfit 30 impresses with better crash test results and easy installation using the LATCH, thanks in large part to a cinch-assisted strap that makes it easy to get the seat tightly and properly secured. The Chicco is easy to use and stylish at an affordable price, and it is compatible with the largest range of strollers, making it a good choice for parents who want a travel system and want a variety of strollers from which to choose. This seat works with almost every stroller, including some of our favorites for carrier combination like the UPPAbaby Cruz, the Chicco Keyfit Caddy, and the Bugaboo Bee3.
While the Keyfit 30 is an excellent choice, it isn't ideal for city dwellers because it is somewhat challenging compared to the competition to install without the base and is relatively heavy for carrying. However, if you don't plan to carry it very often or far, and installation will primarily include the base, then it is tough to beat the Chicco Keyfit 30.
Read review: Chicco KeyFit 30
Best High-quality Infant Seat
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35
Easy to install w/out the base
Above-average crash test results
High quality & comfortable
Harder to install with LATCH
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 is a high-quality seat with impressive crash test results, indicating an additional margin of safety when correctly installed and used according to directions. We believe this stylish seat is super easy to install without the base, making it a potential option for those who frequent public transportation, and it is almost as easy to install using the vehicle belt with the base. This Peg Perego features an anti-rebound bar, has thicker padding and soft fabric for a comfortable experience, and is easy to use.
Unfortunately, the Primo Viaggio 4-35 is more expensive than much of the competition, and it isn't compatible with many strollers other than the Peg Perego brand. However, if your budget is bigger and you don't mind the limited stroller potential, or you don't plan to attach it a stroller (many parents don't), then this Peg Perego may be a great option for you.
Read review: Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35
Easiest Infant LATCH Installation
Super easy LATCH
Easy to use
Good quality & comfort
Heavy to carry
Limited stroller choices
The Chicco Fit 2 is a high-end Chicco option with an impressive score for LATCH installation (a perfect 10!), which makes it a good choice for anyone concerned about proper installation. This plush competitor is easier to use than most and comes with thicker padding and additional features for comfort.
While we recommend this Chicco, it isn't a good choice for a tighter budget or if you plan to carry it over long distances. This Chicco carrier has a higher than average weight, and we don't think parents will want to lug it for long, even if it is easy to install without the base. The Fit 2 is a reasonably new seat, so it isn't compatible with very many strollers yet. If you hope to combine an infant seat with a stroller, the Fit 2 isn't a great choice. However, if you won't need to carry it and stroller compatibility isn't a concern, then the Fit 2 can help many parents feel better about their installation abilities.
Read review: Chicco Fit2
If you aren't interested in attaching your infant carrier to a stroller, or you don't want to lug it very far, then you might consider baby wearing
as an alternative. Wearing your baby close (in a carrier designed for this purpose) is a lovely way to bond and normally keeps little ones calm and soothed, which reduces crying or emotional upsets. Many modern carriers can keep your hands-free, so you can get things done with your baby on board and nary a bulky stroller in sight!
We contracted with the same crash test facility used by NHTSA to test the seats in this review. Here is the Clek Foonf getting ready for its crash test, complete with crash test dummy.
Our Favorite Convertible Car Seats
The winners below include the products that earned high marks and awards in our Convertible Seat test
. This type of seat is appropriate for older infants (around nine months) and can last until your little one is around 5-7 years old, depending on the model and your child's size.
Related: Best Convertible Car Seats with Crash Tests
Best Overall Convertible Car Seat
High crash test score
Easy to install in both methods
Easy to use
Hard to access belt pathway for the vehicle belt
The Britax Emblem has impressive scores for almost every metric, with results that show an all-around impressive performance during testing that is virtually unmatched. While some competitors earned higher scores in some metrics or overall, the Emblem is the only option with above-average scores in every metric. Because it earned one of the top crash test results and it is easy to install with a lower price tag, we think it is a seat that should be on every parent's shortlist. This seat features an easy to use non-rethread harness adjustment; it is comfortable and well-made and is relatively light compared to other high scoring seats.
The Emblem is arguably not as easy to install as the Britax ClickTight options, and it has less padding than the seats with a Britax label. However, with its reasonable price, it is an excellent option for every family, no matter how big or small their budget.
Read review: Britax Emblem
Best Convertible for Crash Tests
Best crash test results
Challenging belt installation
The Graco Extend2Fit earned the best score in our analysis of crash test results. The Graco had the best-combined head and chest sensor results in the competition, indicating an additional margin of protection over the competition with average results. This convertible seat has great results for LATCH installation. Because installation errors have been implicated in injuries and death, being able to install a car seat properly is essential. The big plus is the Extend2Fit can stay rear-facing up to 50 lbs, creating an even safer environment for baby.
The Extend2Fit has below average quality, and it isn't as comfortable as seats with similar prices. Despite this, this option is the right one for anyone looking for the very best crash tests or who value the potential safety aspects of remaining rear-facing for longer.
Read review: Graco Extend2Fit
Best Convertible Seat on a Tight Budget
Evenflo Tribute LX
Above-average crash test results
Easier to use
Poor score for comfort/quality
The Evenflo Tribute LX didn't score exceptionally well in our test of convertible competitors, but what it manages to do is impress with its crash test results. This result puts the Evenflo in the unique position of being the cheapest seat in the test and having some of the top crash results we analyzed. This seat won our Best Value award because it offers a higher margin of potential safety to families on even the tightest of budgets. The Evenflo is easy to use and the lightest option in our comparison, making it a good choice for parents on-the-go for travel or using public transportation.
Unfortunately, the tribute's low weight and low price come at the cost of comfort and quality, making the Evenflo uncomfortable on long road trips or for babies that need more cushioning or support. However, despite its shortcomings, the Evenflo would make a good second seat, or budget-friendly primary seat that you can feel confident is as safe as they come.
Read review: Evenflo Tribute LX
Best for Ease of Installation
Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB
Easiest to install
Easy to use
Average crash test performance
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight is the perfect seat for parents who are worried about installing the seat correctly (arguably all of us), which is why we recommend this seat. This convertible option earned perfect 10 of 10 scores for installation using both the LATCH system and the vehicle belt, making it a standout option and a seat we feel is practically foolproof. This seat is easy to use with impressive comfort and quality construction. We think parents will love the look, feel, and features of this quality seat.
The ClickTight has a slightly above average score for crash test results, but we remind parents that this means it exceeded the Federal requirements. Given that poor installation often translates to more injuries, we think the installation performance of this seat makes up for the average crash test results.
Read review: Britax Boulevard ClickTight
The Clek Oobr is a versatile booster with the best combined crash test results in the booster seat group.
Our Favorite Booster Seats
Once your little one has outgrown their convertible seat, they are ready for the big kid booster seat
. This transition will depend on the manufacturer's guidelines for each seat and how big your child is. Pay special attention to both weight and height restrictions as your child is likely to outgrow one before the other. Your child is likely to need a booster sometime around 5-7 years old, depending on the seat. Just as you wanted to stay rear-facing as long as possible for safety, we think it is wise to stay in a convertible seat as long as the seat allows. Below are our favorite booster options.
Related: Best Booster Seats with Crash Tests
Best Booster Seat for Most People
Easy to Use
The Evenflo Spectrum is a high-back booster that has an impressive crash test result for the head sensor and is so budget-friendly it is great for almost every family. This booster is the most comfortable option we tested, winning the thumbs up from our tiny testers thanks to the wide seating area, sleep worthy headrest, and soft to the touch fabric. This seat has one of the highest backs, and our kid testers were able to buckle themselves in without assistance every time. As your child grows, the back is removable once they reach the height limit to extend the life of the seat. You can also go backless to make the seat lightweight and easy to transport for carpooling or traveling.
This seat is wider than most we considered, so it may not be a good choice for families who need to install three safety seats in the same row. However, given the benefits for safety and the insanely small price, we think this Evenflo is a great booster solution for any family.
Read review: Evenflo Spectrum
Top Quality Booster Seat
Great crash test results
The Clek Oobr is a steel frame high-backed booster that can go backless for older children or kids on the go. This booster earned the highest combined crash test results in our booster test, and it is easy to install with a rigid LATCH system. This booster is similar to your vehicle seat with an adjustable headrest, armrests, and quality fabric that is easy to clean.
This seat is stupidly heavy and awkward to lift and carry, so you aren't going to want to travel with it or carry it very far. However, if you need to, the back is removable for occasional travel needs. Also, we think the impressive crash test results and quality construction more than make up for the heft of the Oobr. We also like that you can quickly secure the booster in the vehicle, so it doesn't move in the car when your kids aren't using it. If you have safety on the brain and you won't be moving the seat from car to car very often, then the Oobr is a great seat for you.
Read review: Clek Oobr
We have tested over three dozen infant car seats for this review since its first version, including crash tests for each one. This picture includes the original lineup, several of which have been replaced as some seats have been discontinued and others replaced with new and exciting potential options.
Why You Should Trust Us
With over 100 car seats under our testing belt, it is easy to say you're in good hands with an expert crew when it comes to car seats and crash testing. As usual, this team is lead by our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, who uses her experience as a board-certified pediatrician to select products with safety and installation in mind as these are the key factors in creating a safe car environment for little passengers. Bob Wofford, father of 7, Senior Review Analyst and Certified Passenger Safety Technician, leads the in-house testing team with extensive side-by-side testing for ease of installation and more. Given our test process of every seat being installed in at least three different vehicles, and Bob's seven years of car seat testing prowess, you can rest assured that Bob has more experience installing and using car seats than just about anyone on the planet. Wendy Schmitz, mom of two boys and Senior Review Editor, takes part in score analysis as well as hands-on testing and installation with over six years of experience testing car seats of every kind. Abriah Wofford, Senior Review Analyst, rounds out the team and provides another set of hands and alternate experiences to give more insight on installation and ease of use. Abbriah has been testing car seats since 2016.
Each seat in our car seat reviews go through a variety of in-house testing procedures so that we can compare the product apples-to-apples. With this methodology, you can get all the nitty-gritty details you need to make the best decision for your family's car seat safety needs. As part of this process, we purchase two seats of every brand and model so we can send one to a crash test facility for crash testing. This facility is the same one used by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) for their testing, and we use the same guidelines and tests so that we can compare and combine our results with those from NHTSA before analysis and scoring. All of this means you can feel confident in our test results and analysis to help you find the best car seat for your family and budget.
Seating Central: Narrow Your Options
With so many options to choose from, how do you decide which product is right for your baby? Asking yourself some key questions can help you narrow the options by type, installation, and performance so you can determine which model is right for your family. When you are ready to make your purchase, you can simplify the process by breaking it down into easy questions.
First, do you need an infant, convertible, or booster option?
Chicco KeyFit 30
Infant seats — refer to our Infant Seat test for all the info on seats for newborns and younger babies. These seats have two parts, a base that installs in your car and a carrier that the baby sits in that can be attached to the base, a stroller, or carrier. This seat type is ideal for an infant's body size and simplified errands because you do not need to remove your baby from the carrier to take them with you.
The Allegiance is a convertible car seat with better than average comfort and quality.
Convertible seats — ideal for older babies (9-12 months) who've outgrown their infant seat. Our Convertible test includes the details you need to understand convertible seats better and when to use them. Convertible options install in your car relatively permanently and can sit rear-facing or forward-facing depending on the baby's size or age. When a baby is large/old enough, the seat "converts" to a forward-facing position. Some of these seats can also be used as a booster seat when your child outgrows the 5-point harness (read each seat's manual).
Booster seats — this style of seat is designed for little ones who've outgrown their convertible seat (around 5-7 years). Our booster seat test includes all the deatils you'll need to determine if it is time to buy and which options meet your needs. These seats position little ones correctly to use the vehicle belt. They come in backless and high-backed varieties, and some attach to the car via the LATCH, and others are free-floating.
Ten of the eleven top rated seats tested in our convertible car seat review (the Britax Boulevard ClickTight was absent on picture day).
Can one product do it all?
While many convertible style seats claim to work for babies from 5 up to 50 lbs and beyond, we don't think it is a good idea to make a one and done purchase when it comes to car safety.
Infant style seats are designed with smaller newborn bodies in mind. These seats are sized and configured for the baby's anatomy and provide proper posture positioning for optimal breathing and protection in the event of an accident. The harness design is narrower and more appropriate for an infant than a convertible seat, which is designed for older and larger babies and then somewhat modified for infants. Many convertible seats offer an infant insert to create more appropriate seating for smaller passengers. We think it is smart to get gear specifically designed for each age/size instead of opting for one product that can accommodate a baby, but isn't explicitly designed to do so. If you want to save money on baby gear (wouldn't we all?), we do not think car seats is the category to do so, given the potential safety implications.
The UPPAbaby Vista can be used with 2 infant car seats for easy transportation of up up to 2 infants. This photo shows the Vista with two UPPAbaby Mesa infant car seats.
The other advantage of infant style seats is they are handy. Infant seats have a carrier portion that holds the baby with a handle for easy carrying from one location to another.
Unlike a convertible car seat, an infant car seat is detachable from the base. As a result, you can transition a sleeping baby in or out of the vehicle without waking them up, keeping them safely harnessed in the carrier as you do.
This design means you can move a sleeping infant from a car to a stroller or car to carry with ease and without disruption. This may seem like a small thing before your baby is born, but trust us, you will be doing this more than once and grateful for the carrier so you can get some quick errands in without waking a sleeping child.
We contracted with the same national testing facility used by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for crash tests, and also obtained NHTSA's crash test data for analysis. Above you see the Phil and Teds Alpha seat on the test sled with a 12 month old crash test dummy strapped in.
What is more important, ease of installation or crash test results?
While many parents are concerned with crash test safety (as you should be), few parents know that improperly installing a seat, or not using it as indicated, is a significant cause of injury in car accidents involving infants. In our research for seat safety testing, safety engineers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) emphasized that improper use is a more significant safety concern than the differences in crash test performance results. In fact, a NHTSA study showed that 84% of infant seats exhibited a critical misuse related to either installation of the seat or incorrect restraint of the infant, or both. Another study by Portland's top Children's Hospital followed 267 families as they left the hospital with their infants after birth. The study showed that "93% made at least one critical error ¡ª a mistake that put their infant at increased risk for injury in a crash ¡ª when positioning their infant in a car safety seat or when installing the safety seat in their vehicle."
Ninety-three percent is a considerable number. This high percentage is why we feel that ease of use and installation are critical components of seat safety, potentially more so than the crash test results themselves. So while crash test analysis is important, it should not overshadow how difficult a seat is to use or install. Many of the award-winning seats are easy to install, using at least one installation method. Some even have perfect scores and were practically foolproof, or at least as infallible as a seat can be.
The Clek Oobr has the best crash test score based on the best-combined sensor data from our crash test dummy.
Infant seat, Chicco Keyfit 30 earned a 9 of 10 for ease of installation using the LATCH method. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 received 10 of 10 for ease of install without the base. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight earned 10 of 10 in both methods of installation for convertible seats. The Britax Emblem and Britax Allegiance each earned 8s for installation using LATCH and 7s for installation with the vehicle belt. The Essentials seats both earned an 8 of 10 for crash safety tests and impressive ease of installation performance. The Clek Oobr booster attaches using a rigid LATCH connection and is easy to do.
All of the Products Provide a Safe, Basic Level of Protection
All of the seats for sale in the United States and our reviews have passed Federal safety standards for crash testing. As a result, the products we tested can be considered safe, and provide a basic level of protection as required by US Federal law. With this in mind, our focus for crash test scoring is to identify safety seats with crash test results that go beyond the Federal requirements and exceeds the crash test performance of the competition. As a result, these seats can be considered as providing an extra margin of protection based on their crash test performance.
Parents who frequently ride in taxi cabs or use services like Uber, will want to look for a car seat that offers easy installation without the base, just using the seat belt.
Does lifestyle matter?
Your lifestyle might be a serious consideration in your safety seat selection process. Suburban parents typically have a personal car and a location to install their seats in a semi-permanent way with limited alterations. Others might live in a larger city where they frequent Uber and taxis, requiring their choice to be relatively mobile and with repeated installations in a variety of vehicles. Choosing a lightweight, easy to install option is more critical to urbanites than it is to others. If you aren't carrying your seat from place to place, then you have more potential options because weight is less of a factor. If you plan to carry the seat frequently, then some of the heavier products could be non-starters.
The Evenflo Spectrum is easy to use and buckle even when using it without the back.
The weight of your booster seat could play a role in your decision-making process if you carpool or travel regularly. The Clek Oobr is a beast and isn't something you want to move very often. Even without the back, it is a poor choice for carrying or trying to stuff in a backpack. The Evenflo Spectrum is significantly lighter and can go backless for easier carpooling.
The Evenflo is the lightest seat in the group and one of the most narrow at just over 9 pounds and 17 inches
Convertible seat weight is less of a consideration for most people because it typically spends most of its life installed in a single location. However, if you need to catch a taxi carrying your seat and your baby, you'd probably prefer the scant 9 lbs of the Evenflo Tribute LX. Don't mind carrying extra weight if it comes with more features or higher performance scores? The Britax Essentials seats are around 18.5 lbs and sell for a reasonable price.
For infant seats, the weight of the carrier can play a role for similar reasons. Carriers can be heavy, and when combined with the baby's weight, could be ridiculously heavy. If you plan to attach your carrier to a stroller, then weight may be less important, but if you plan to hold your carrier or travel, then its weight could be a factor.
The Peg Perego Primo uses the European belt path method for installation without the base
Are you an urban dweller looking for an infant carrier? Then you should consider the ease of installation without the base when making a selection, as you are more likely to be installing the seat in an Uber without the base than you are to carry the base with you. This is a safe practice, and the seats are designed for this occurrence. However, some are significantly easier to install without the base than others, so choosing the easiest, high-ranking option will make your life simpler. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 scored well for installation without the base, but it is compatible with few strollers. Alternatively, the Doona Combo is easy enough to install without the base and includes an attached stroller that takes the weight off you and puts it on wheels.
Is a broader weight range better?
Infant seats make claims of being appropriate for a baby up to a defined weight allowance, convertible seats have limits as well, only higher. Infant safety seats usually range between 4 lbs and a maximum of 30-45 lbs, while convertible seats are 5 to 55 lbs (or higher depending on the seat). Should this range be a consideration when making your purchase? No, probably not.
Well, most babies will outgrow the height limits before they reach the weight limit for the majority of infant seats, and the same can often be said of the convertible seats.
According to the CDC's infant boy age vs. weight growth chart (pdf), a 95th percentile baby boy (which means a baby growing faster than 94 babies out of 100, that's one big boy!) will still weigh under 28 lbs and be close to 32 inches on their 1 year birthday. Most infants will transition out of their infant seat and into a convertible seat between 9-12 months based on height. You can see from the data, that even the fastest-growing boy will fail to exceed the maximum weight of the majority of seats in our tests, but he might grow too tall for the seat, which will prompt a transition to the next safety seat before his weight impacts a change. So while having a general lifespan idea of how long your baby can use a seat is helpful, it is only a vague estimate. In the end, the restrictions have more to do with height than weight. For this reason, we wouldn't make the weight range a deciding factor in your buying decision unless it is below 30 lbs for an infant seat (very rare). Even if your little one is exceptionally tall, you will simply move to a convertible seat sooner than other babies of the same age, which isn't a big deal, is safe, and has to occur eventually anyway.
Your little one should stay rear-facing as long as possible. This position will be determined by your baby's weight/height and the manufacturer's recommendations, as not all safety seats allow for extended rear-facing time. The laws in most areas require that babies stay rear-facing until 2 years old, but it is ideal for children to sit rear-facing as long as the seat allows. Even if your toddler's legs are scrunched, the rear-facing position is still the safest installation within the seat's limitations.
All of the top-scoring infant products in our tests have height limits of at least 30 inches, and weight ranges from 4 to at least 30 lbs. Convertible seats have a height range of 46 to 49 inches, or the top of the baby's ears must sit below the top of the shell and weight ranges of 5 to 40 lbs rear-facing and 20 to 55 lbs forward-facing (some top-ranked options work up to 65 lbs). The Evenflo Tribute LX is the exception with a forward-facing limit of 40 lbs, which will require a new purchase earlier than the competition.
There are many varieties of combinations when it comes to strollers and their car seat counterparts, and many strollers will work with a variety of seat options with the purchase of the appropriate adapters.
What about travel systems?
Travel systems combine an infant carrier with a compatible stroller. These systems often come as a predetermined set, or you can purchase a seat and compatible stroller separately (which often requires adapters). Because safety is so important, we think you should choose your car seat before picking your stroller. Also, pre-arranged sets often have slightly less impressive products than you get if you create your own combination and buy them separately. We think it is smart to decide on the right infant seat before determining which stroller will work with the seat. With a few exceptions, most infant safety seats are compatible with at least a couple of strollers (with an adapter purchase). The Chicco Keyfit 30 infant seat is compatible with the majority of the full-size strollers we've tested. Choosing this affordable, high-scoring safety seat will give you the highest stroller compatibility to create a travel system of your choosing.
The car seat recommendation from the NHTSA website
Narrowing your potential purchase options based on how you plan to use your safety seat and the ease of installation, should create a few top contenders. From this shortlist, you can further narrow your choices on crash test results or budget limitations. The award winners here are exceptional seats with a variety of useful features and impressive functionality for almost any need or lifestyle. They also represent a range of budgets giving a choice for practically any budget. Parents should concentrate on the proper style for their baby's age (infant, convertible, or booster) to initially decrease their potential contenders. We encourage you to resist the temptation of buying a convertible seat for your infant. Perhaps most importantly, we encourage everyone to contact an expert for assistance with installing your chosen seat properly no matter which seat you choose. Appointments are free, help is fast, and you can feel confident that your chosen safety seat is correctly installed to ensure maximum safety for your baby! Crash test performance has little meaning if you don't install your seat correctly.