Car safety is a huge concern for parents, but choosing the best car seat can be an overwhelming endeavor. A good seat should protect your child, but also keep them comfortable, and be easy to use for parents. With so many choices out there, we thought we'd help make your life easier by providing you with a list of our top picks for child seats in three different categories.
Also, always make sure to register any seat you buy so manufacturers can keep you updated on possible recalls.
Infant car seats
When you first bring your wee one home, this will likely be the style you'll be using. These rear-facing seats often attach to a base, making them easy to swap between cars or click into a stroller. Being able to take the entire seat with you is helpful in the first year, though we don't recommend letting a baby nap in a car seat when it's not in the car.
This infant seat gets outstanding reviews and safety ratings, and is quite popular as a result. It's easy to install and uninstall across multiple vehicles, and clicks into any Chicco stroller. It's on the big side, which is a drawback for smaller cars. $200.
The Mico 30 is the seat Autoblog test kid Wolfgang used as an infant. It was quite comfortable for him, and he had no trouble falling and staying asleep on long, hot rides. We liked that it clipped right in to our UppaBaby stroller with the help of a couple adapter clips. It's also easy to clean, a feature we found useful more often than we'd have liked. A couple years on, and the $300 Mico Max Plus gets better ratings than the $200 Mico 30.
This is an attractive, lightweight car seat. It's easy to install, and even has a green light to let you know it's installed correctly. Like the Maxi-Cosi Mico 30, it has a little visor that flips down to keep the sun or rain off your little one's sleeping face. It's a little more costly than the other choices, though. $300.
Convertible car seats
As your child grows, they'll need something larger. Convertible car seats allow you to use the same seat as your kid transitions from rear- to forward-facing positions. Some even convert into booster seats, making them useful all the way up until your child is ready to ditch the car seat altogether. Convertible seats are bigger, heavier and harder to install than an infant seat, which means it'll likely become more or less a permanent fixture in the back seat of your car.
Safety is big selling point for Britax seats. A steel frame and extra layers of side impact protection provide peace of mind. It also clicks when adjusting the straps to let you know it's the right tightness. It's costly and bulky, but you can't put a price on safety. $325.
This seat will last until your child no longer needs any sort of car seat at all. It fits children from 4 to 120 pounds, and up to 57 inches tall. An older 4Ever model is what Autoblog test kid Wolfgang has been using as his Chair Force One for well over two years now, and he still loves stashing snacks in one cupholder and his favorite toy cars in the other. Leveling bubbles and six reclining positions help to make sure you've installed it well. The LATCH handles are solid, and easy to shove between seat cushions to find the anchors. These days, it's offered as the 4Ever DLX ($240), or the even more crashworthy 4Ever with TrueShield Technology ($313).
Looking for something similar, but smaller and cheaper? Take a look at the Graco SlimFit ($158) to save space in your back seat.
Another seat that converts to a booster as your child gets older, the Diono Radian 3RXT has two big advantages over other seats. First, it's narrow, which makes it a candidate for fitting three across on a rear bench seat. Second, it folds up, and you can carry it like a backpack. That's an excellent feature if you travel a lot with your child. It's even FAA approved. $300.
For larger children who have outgrown their car seats, a booster seat is the next step before going seat-less. They're generally pretty easy to use, even when switching from car to car. For this list, we've picked ones that convert to backless boosters.
This one converts from a front-facing child seat into a booster. It's on the expensive side, but, again, this is one where safety is the key feature. This one has a harness, plenty of impact absorption and multiple reclining positions. It gets bonus points for durability and ease of installation. If you switch from car to car a lot, this is a great choice. It's currently our go-to front-facer for swapping between press cars. $260.
This is the budget pick of this list, but it still has six height settings and converts to a backless version. It has two cupholders, which are really just molded indentations with elastic bands on the sides of the seat. $45.
With easy installation to LATCH connectors, the TurboBooster is a slim and secure booster. It's meant to be easy for kids to self-buckle, which is a time-saver, especially as your little one grows more willfully independent. It makes good use of storage space, too, with a cupholder and a hideaway compartment for toys. $90.