The second that your child is born, you will love him or her with all your heart. For the rest of your life, your children are going to be your most precious thing in life. Protecting them will be your number one goal. And in the car, protecting your child means having the best car seats possible.
When you buy a car seat, you want the best for them in terms of safety as well as comfort. There’s no mediocre when it comes to your little boys and girls. This guide to the best car seats will provide you with the most useful and beneficial information on purchasing the best car seat possible.
Whether you’re looking for a combination car seat, a rear facing convertible car seat, a newborn seat or any other type of car seat, I’m here to help by providing comprehensive overviews and an extensive list of detailed car seat reviews.
Our Recommended Best Car Seats
Types of Car Seats Available
If you are a new mother a father, you may be slightly confused about all of the different types of car seats that are available. To be sure, there are so many different types in various sizes, with different features and with lots of bells and whistles that can be extremely daunting to the new parent. To keep things easy, I have provided an outline of all of the different types of car seats available below.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
Rear facing car seats face the back of your car instead of facing forward like your driver’s seat and passengers’ seats. This is the best type of seat for infants. In a crash, this type of seat would help protect your child’s spinal cord and neck because when children are young; these parts of the body are extremely fragile.
Rear Facing Infant Car Seats
Newborns must use rear facing car seats, and it is recommended that they use an infant rear facing car seat up until eight or nine months of age. After this time, they should continue to use rear facing car seats, but they can switch to an all-in-one or convertible version.
Rear Facing Convertible Car Seats
Infants and small babies who use rear facing car seats will eventually transition to a front facing car seat. Instead of having to buy two completely different car seats, you can buy a convertible seat, which can be changed from rear facing to front facing. It can also be used with children who are various heights and weights.
All-in-One Rear Facing Car Seats
Finally, the all-in-one seat is the most cost-effective version of a car seat, and it can be used with growing children as well. You can use it with infants as a rear facing seat, and it can then be transitioned into a front facing seat and a booster seat.
Forward Facing Car Seats
Forward facing car seats naturally face forward just like your passengers’ seats and your driver’s seat. Forward facing seats have a tether and harness that must be strapped across the front of your child while they’re seated. This would help keep your child from flying forward if a crash were to occur. Forward facing seats are for older babies and children.
Forward Facing Convertible Car Seats
This type of seat is essentially the same as the rear facing convertible car seat. You can start out using this car seat as a rear facing seat, and as your child grows, you can transition it into a forward facing seat.
Forward Facing Combination Car Seats
The combination forward facing seat is the next step up from the convertible forward facing seat. This seat can be used both as a forward facing car seat for infants who are older than nine months and a booster seat for even older children.
All-in-One Forward Facing Car Seats
Again, many parents opt for the all-in-one forward facing car seat. This seat can be used for all three types of car seats. First, use it as a rear facing seat for infants. Next, use it as a forward facing seat for older kids. And finally, use it as a booster seat as your little one continues to grow.
Booster Car Seats
Read facing car seats, forward facing car seats, all-in-one seats, combination seats and convertible seats all use harnesses that originate within the seats themselves. Booster seats are different because they use the seatbelt that is attached to your car. Booster seats are for older children, and there are various types of them.
High Back Booster Car Seats
The problem with using the seatbelt in your car to harness your child in while driving is that children are not as tall as adults. The booster seat helps move them up in space so that the seatbelt in your car can strap across the strong part of their chest and hold them back in the event of a crash. High back booster car seats offer head and neck support as well. They’re great when your own car seats don’t have these supports.
Backless Booster Car Seats
When your vehicle already has head and neck support, you can simply use a backless booster car seat if you like. Some parents don’t like backless booster car seats because they feel that they don’t provide enough support and protection for their children, but they can be useful in some cars and are especially good for taller kids.
Combination Booster Car Seats
The combination booster seat allows your child to transition from a forward facing car seat with a harness to a forward facing booster seat. Most of these transition from forward facing seats to high back boosters.
All-in-One Booster Car Seats
All-in-one booster car seats start as rear or front facing car seats with tethers and harnesses. They can then transition into booster seats as your son or daughter begins to grow taller and weigh more.
Adult Car Seats
When an adult rides along in a car or drives a car, it is the law that they must wear a seatbelt across their chest and upper thighs so that they are protected in the event of a crash. Additionally, some adults require extra protection in the car.
Adults with disabilities and some elderly adults can benefit from adult car seats. There are a number of different types of adult car seats, and almost all of them face forward. Some of them have added restraint protection features while others simply provide a boost for those who would otherwise sit too low in their seats and not be able to be strapped into the car’s original seat belts properly.
Additionally, for those who must remain in a wheelchair at all times, there are special seating products that can be purchased, and these will keep these individuals safe in their wheelchairs the event of a car crash.
Recommendations for Choosing the Best Car Sea
Decide the right type of car seat based on your child’s age.
Of course, safety comes first when it comes to choosing the best car seat for your child. In this way, you should always base the type of car seat that you are in the market for on the age of your child.
As a rule, children that are newborn age to approximately two or three years of age should use rear facing car seats. You can start to think about changing to a forward facing car seat when your child is approximately one year old until six or seven years old.
If your child is exceptionally tall or heavy, a booster seat can be used at as young as four years of age. Use a booster seat up until the maximum age of 12. Again for taller and larger children, you can start to use seat belts as young as eight years old, but remember that children should not sit in the front seat until they fitd road regulation guielines.
Test car seat for fit in your car.
Once you have chosen the type of car seat that you want based on the age of your child, you should make sure that the car seat itself will actually fit in your specific car model. Many times, certain car seats will work great in one car, but they won’t fit at all in a different type of car. You can certainly read the reviews to get an idea of how a given seat will work in your car, but you might also just want to purchase the model that you like and try it out for yourself.
Check the instructions.
Installing your car seat can be difficult if you’ve never done it before, and even if you have, some models are super complicated. For myself, I have loved the website for learning the best ways to install various types of car seats in your car. Not only does it have the appropriate child weight and height for each type of car seat, but it also has an evaluation of the instructions, directions on how to secure your child in and special installation features that you may not know about.
Consider how easy it will be to take the car seat in and out of your car.
Some parents will only have one car seat, and in this case if they have multiple cars in the family, that car seat will need to come in and out all of the time. If it takes an extremely long time to install a given car seat and you do need to take it out often, you should avoid that model. Look for an easy in and out model to make the process simpler.
Consider how easy it will be to clean the seat.
Last but not least, remember that you will eventually have to clean your car seat. Most models have cloth parts that can come out, zip off or unbutton. You can throw these parts into your washing machine. But some models are difficult to clean, and these should be avoided as it can make the job much harder than it needs to be.
What Are the Best Car Seats?
The Best Infant Car Seat
The Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base is the absolute best infant car seat on the market right now. And by that, I mean that this is also the best rear facing car seat. I cannot stress enough that infants need to sit rear facing at all times when they’re in the car with you, and they need to stay rear facing up until they are at least 9 months of age.
This seat features an easy to use 5 point harness system as well as inserts for preemies and tiny little ones. Many babies are not premature, but they do tend to be extremely small and can weigh as little as 4 or 5 pounds. For premature babies and simply small babies like these, this seat is the perfect fit. In addition, I love the bubble levels and level foot with spring assist to make installation even easier than ever before. You naturally want your car seat to be even so that it doesn’t tip at all and especially not in the event of a crash. In this case, the bubbles and level foot with spring assist come in especially handy.
- Spring-assisted level foot
- Bubble levels help you make sure that the infant seat is level and safe for your baby
- Certified lead free
- Easy installation and adjustment of the 5 point harness can be done with just one hand
- If you have a premature baby or an especially small little one, you can add full body inserts that help protect them
- I have read many reviews for this model because it’s what I have, and the infant car seat reviews that were negative mostly focused on the fact that the sun shade can be a bit short depending on the height of your baby
When I get asked what is the safest car seat for infants, I always say the Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base. Baby car seat reviews mention this as the top product time and again, and I would have to agree. Also, I try to read seat reviews regularly, so I know what’s out there, and I know what’s good.
I feel that this model is the easiest infant seat to install, and I love that you can change the adjustments on the 5 point harness system with only one hand. When you’re a mom, you often feel like you need 3, 4 or more hands to do something for your child! But this infant car seat makes strapping your little one in a breeze. It even has a level food that is spring assisted, and you can use the bubble levels to make sure that it’s even and balanced for your baby.
The Best Toddler Car Seat
For toddlers, I recommend the Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Seat. It’s the best toddler car seat on the market for children from 22 pounds to 120 pounds. I love that because in the long run, this thing can truly save you money.
The best car seat for toddler children is generally also the best 3 in 1 car seat because naturally, all toddlers are different heights and weights. If there was just a car seat for toddlers, it wouldn’t work because toddlers vary widely depending on their exact age, gender and build.
- Converts from a front facing car seat to a high back or backless booster with ease
- Certified frustration-free
- 3 position recline makes children comfortable while still keeping them safe
- Features the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System, which helps ensure that your child is securely in place with ease
- A few reviewers mentioned that reclining was an issue for their little ones, but I do not recommend that kids recline too much in their seats or it can be unsafe
- Some of the toddler car seat reviews that I read mentioned that installing this model was a bit of a challenge, but other parents felt that the process was easy
When I read 3 in 1 car seat reviews, this is the model that always comes up. The Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Seat has the best reviews for toddlers because it’s ultimately multi-functional for different ages and weights of children. You can use it from the time that your kids are toddlers to older age when they sit in a booster seat.
The good news is that these seats also have the ability to protect your child excellently at absolutely any age. The Simply Safe Adjust Harness System ensures that. It changes based on the height of your child and whether or not your have adequately high headrests for your child’s head and neck.
The Best Convertible Car Seat
Because of their diverseness, convertible car seats need to be measured differently. The best convertible car seat is the Britax USA Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat. This is not only one of the top rated convertible car seats by other moms and dads, but it’s also the safest convertible car seat according to manufacturers and professional review sites.
- Features the Click & Safe Snug Harness that fits snugly but not uncomfortably and can be implemented easily as you strap your child in
- Features the patented ClickTight installation system as well as a bonus layer of protection on each side in case of side impact
- Steel frame offers peace of mind while traveling and durability in the case of an accident
- SafeCell Impact Protection means that your child will be safe no matter what type of fender bender or accident occurs, and this protection is featured on all sides of the seat
- A few of the convertible car seat reviews mentioned that this seat is better for smaller toddlers because the center bottom strap tends to be too short, but it’s important to remember that all of the straps may take some adjusting to get the perfect fit for your child as they grow
I get asked often what is the best convertible car seat, and I always tell people to purchase this seat. The Britax USA Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat is the best convertible car seat in general, but it’s also the best car seat for toddlers. The ClickTight feature is really what makes this seat special for me and for many moms and dads.
Most car seats have a threading belt system, and you need to pull as hard as you can to get the belts tight. But with the ClickTight feature, you just need to click it shut and the tension is there for you. It’s not too tight, but it’s also never too loose to allow your baby to be injured in the event of a crash.
The Best Booster Car Seat
The Britax Pinnacle G1.1 ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat is the best booster car seat that’s on the market right now. What I love about this seat is that the harness is so easy to use. It has ClickTight installation, so even if I give this car seat to my parents to use with my kids, they won’t have questions about how it functions.
- ClickTight installation system makes strapping your child in safely a cinch
- SafeCell impact protection with base that easily absorbs impacts
- Steel frame for durability and safety
- Side impact protection is provided as well with SafeCell complete side impact features
- Even the headrest is energy absorbing to protect your child’s head, neck and spine
- If you don’t feel comfortable using the seat belt in the car with this booster seat, you can still use the anchor system on the seat
- Some of the booster reviews said that they wished the seat would recline slightly because as it is, it sits rather upright at all times so that if your child falls asleep, they may fall forward slightly
- A few parents found that this seat was too big for their children, but this could be because they were trying to use a booster with their kids before it was actually necessary
The best car seats are not always car seats for infants! Many parents forget about booster seats, which should be just as important for the safety of your child. The Britax Pinnacle G1.1 ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat offers top level protection and is a wonderful product that I highly recommend to parents.
If you have a child who is on the taller side, this is definitely one of the best car seats that is a booster seat. Many children are still quite short and small despite technically being ready for a booster seat, and on the other hand, a lot of kids tend to be taller and bigger. If your child is the latter, choose this booster seat because it’s a bigger model that can accommodate taller and older kids.
The Best All-in-One Car Seat
Finally, my favorite all-in-one car seat and the best all-in-one car seat that I have been able to find is the Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat. It is guaranteed to last for 10 years for your child, so you can use it as a comfortable rear facing seat and transition it to a forward facing seat as well as a booster.
One of the things that I love best about this all-in-one is that you can use it as both types of booster seats. In other words, if you want to start your child in the high back booster seat, you can do that, and later, you can transition the seat to the backless booster seat. This can help prepare your older child for sitting in their own seat with a seat belt.
- 3 different reclining positions to keep children comfy
- Many reviews mentioned that the fabric is easy to take on and off
- Fabric is machine washable for ease of cleaning
- Cup holders on each side
- Converts to four different seat types so that you can use it for children who are as little as 4 pounds and as big as 120 pounds
- Booster seat can be used backless or as a high back seat
- InRight LATCH system makes attaching the latches a cinch
- Some of the all in one car seat reviews noted that the fabric was not breathable, and once it got wet from snow, rain or sweat, it was difficult to dry out
The overall price of this seat is not too extravagant, yet you’re going to get a decade of use from this seat, which makes it a best seller in my book. When parents are worried about finances, I tell them to purchase this seat. It works well, gets great car seat reviews all around and lasts a long time for just one child. If you have more than one child, it can be even more beneficial.
Must Have Car Seat Accessories We Recommend
The sun can often be a problem for children when in the car and especially when your car is parked and sitting in the sun.
Instead of always putting on the air and waiting to get in the car so that your child doesn’t get too hot, just use this cute and functional sun shade to keep the heat down. Car seat reviews have mentioned this accessory time and again!
The Add-on Cup Holder
Many parents give their children a cup of snacks or a drink like milk or water while they are in the back of the car. But where is the child supposed to put this cup when they’re not using it?
The best car seats have cup holders in them already, but some do not have them, and this convertible cupholder takes care of that problem.
Keeping a child occupied in the back of your car while you drive can be a struggle. If you don’t keep them occupied, they may begin to fuss, scream or cry.
For this reason, you should always have toys and books available for them to play with. But it can be hard for them to play with things when they don’t have a table or chair in front of them.
This lap tray is the perfect accessory for any active child who wants to draw, color or read while you drive.
Strap Cushions for Car Seats
When children are strapped into their car seat, the straps that go across their body to protect them while driving can be uncomfortable. These strap cushions are not only nice and soft to provide comfort over the straps, but they are also cute as a button with little bear faces on the ends. Kids love the feel of them, an they love to play with them as well.
If your child has a rear facing car seat, you will need to be able to monitor them even when you are driving. This is hard to do when they’re facing the opposite direction, and that’s why I recommend purchasing the backseat rearview mirror.
This mirror goes on the back of the seat that your child is facing. When you look into your rearview mirror in the front of the car, you will be able to see your child’s face in this mirror and keep an eye on them.
Car Seat FAQ
What the Heck Is a Car Seat Expiration Date, and Do You Have to Abide By It?
Yes, it’s true that car seats have expiration dates. They aren’t there as a joke, and they aren’t there to make consumers buy new car seats when what they have is perfectly fine.
In fact, expiration dates on car seats exist because first, technology standards change over time, and seat manufactures must abide by this. Second, materials that car seats are made out of can often wear down over time, and when a car seat is tested for safety, it’s only tested for a set amount of time.
Are Convertible or All-in-One Car Seats Better?
It can be tough to choose between a convertible and an all-in-one car seat. What I like about all-in-one car seats is that they can be used with children up to 100 pounds. But you have to remember that newborn babies cannot be seated in an all-in-one car seat. These face to the rear, but when they’re rear facing, they can only be used with older infants. Later, they can be turned forward facing. In the end, you can’t use them for tiny babies, newborns or preemies.
On the other hand, convertible car seats can be transitioned from rear facing for newborns and infants. But remember that these can’t be used for toddlers who need boosters. Ultimately, you’ll need to buy either one of these seats plus an additional seat. Whether that additional seat is an infant seat with the all-in-one or a booster with the convertible seat is up to you.
How Will You Know When It’s Time to Switch Car Seats?
When you will need to switch car seats depends on a lot of factors. First, always check the height and weight requirements on your specific car seat. Set this against the height and weight of your child.
Second, know the guidelines and requirements that are standard for car seats. Specifically, infants and toddlers should only be rear facing. They can be rear facing in a convertible car seat, but they should not turn forward until they are at least two years old. Toddlers and those in preschool can sit in a forward facing car seat with harnesses or convertible car seats. Children who are in school can typically sit in booster seats, and older children who are at least eight years old can sit in seats with seat belts.
How Does a Parent Handle Car Seats and Air Travel?
Generally speaking, if your baby is two or younger, you don’t need to buy a seat for them on a plane. But in this case, remember that you will need to hold your baby during the duration of the flight unless you get lucky and have a free seat next to you. If you are traveling with another adult, you may be able to take turns holding your baby who is under two years old as well.
Remember that you must wear your seatbelt while flying in an airplane during take off and landing and when there is turbulence. This is true for all children and adult passengers. Infants and babies who weigh less than 40 pounds can have specific restraints when they’re flying if the parents would like them, but they can usually sit on an adult’s lap even when the adult needs to have their seatbelt on.
Older children over the age of two must have their own seat on the plane. They also must wear a belt when the seat belt light is on just like adults. At this time, it is important to remember to tightly strap your child in even when they are extremely small. Turbulence and difficult takeoffs or landings can cause big bumps, which can seriously injure any passenger.
Are There Special Car Seats for Preemies?
There are not specifically made car seats for premature babies, but you can locate car seats that will be more appropriate for these tiny babies. The infant car seat that is mentioned in this article under the car seats reviews section is perfect for extremely tiny little ones and premature babies alike.
What usually happens when you have a premature baby or just a super little one is that you will put a preemie or small baby insert into your infant rear facing car seat. These add more bulk and cushion so the center cradle of the seat, which allows your little one to be more secure when they are strapped in.
As your little guy or girl begins to grow, you will see when that insert will be able to be removed from their seat. There are different sizes of these small baby inserts that you can buy as well so that you can perfectly fit your baby in their infant seat. Remember to always use rear facing seats with infants, newborns and preemies.
Where to Go From Here
What we have above in terms of information about top-quality car seats is only the beginning. You will definitely want to peruse the rest of the site to learn more about buying the perfect car seat for your infant, toddler or young child. Naturally, there is an abundance of information on every variation of car seat, including the top convertible car seats, the safest toddler car seat models, the best infant seats and other models.