Guide to Infant Car Seats

car seat

With the many options on the market, buying an infant car seat can seem overwhelming for parents. Knowing which features are important and how to choose the best seat for your new baby can help make the process easier.

Five Best Infant Car Seats on the Market

Certain infant car seats stand out for their popularity and their great reviews. These seats are popular with parents for a number of reasons. If you're not sure which seat is right for you, one of these is a surefire great pick.

Britax B-Safe

Britax B-Safe infant car seat
  • 4- to 30-pound weight capacity
  • Weighs 9.8 pounds without the base
  • Suggested retail price of about $180

The Britax B-Safe is the best-selling infant car seat on Diapers.com. It has a number of extra features including an ergonomic carrying handle, one-hand strap adjustment, two different harness heights, positioning pads for your baby, side-impact protection, compatibility with all Britax strollers, installation level in the base, and the ability to install the seat without the base. Parent reviews on Diapers.com praise the Britax B-Safe for its ease of use, quality materials, and simple connection with the base.

The Britax B-Safe comes in five different colors and includes one base. You can purchase an additional base separately.

Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30

Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 infant car seat
  • 4- to 30-pound weight capacity
  • Weighs 7.5 pounds without base
  • Suggested retail price of about $100

The Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 rates 4.3 out of 5 stars from customers at Amazon.com. It has a harness you can adjust from the front, is compatible with most Graco strollers that have the Classic Connect technology, has an installation level on the base, multiple harness positions, and has infant positioning pads and side-impact protection. Reviews of this seat on Amazon praise the quality construction, low price, and the fact that this seat has a narrower base than many other options on the market.

The Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 comes in nine different colors, and it comes with one base. You can buy a second base separately.

Chicco KeyFit 30

  • 4- to 30-pound weight capacity
  • Weighs nine pounds without base
  • Suggested retail price of about $190

The manufacturer claims that the Chicco KeyFit 30 is the easiest infant car seat for parents to install, and simple installation is one of the many positive features that have earned this seat a loyal following and four and a half stars on Amazon. Reviewers also praised the quality design, easy uncoupling from the base, and performance of the seat in accidents. Other features of this seat include very easy installation of the base, removable infant positioning pads, side-impact protection, compatibility with many different Chicco strollers, and multiple harness heights. It also has a narrow base for installation in small cars.

The Chicco KeyFit 30 comes in 19 different fabric combinations. It comes with one base, and you can purchase an additional base separately.

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 infant car seat
  • 4- to 35-pound weight capacity
  • Weighs 7.5 pounds without base
  • Suggested retail price of about $170

The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 is the second best-selling infant seat at Babies R Us. Popular features include a higher weight limit than many other seats, easy-adjust base, side-impact protection, removable boot to protect baby's body from the cold or rain, easy-adjust harness, multiple harness settings, compatibility with many Graco strollers, and removable infant positioning cushions. Reviewers at Babies R Us praise the seat for being easy to clean and install and for being very light weight.

The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 comes in four different color combinations. It also comes with a base, and additional bases are available for purchase.

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 30/30

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 30/30
  • Four- to 30-pound weight capacity
  • Weighs 11 pounds without base
  • Suggested retail price of about $270

The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 30/30 is another top-selling car seat on Amazon.com. It features side-impact protection, removable positioning pads for infants, an adjustable carrying handle, easy-to-adjust harness with multiple settings, and compatibility with many Peg Perego strollers. This seat can also be used without the base. Reviewers on Amazon give this seat four and a half stars and praise the user-friendly features, adjustable handle, sturdy design, quality fabrics, and pretty color options.

The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 30/30 comes in 13 different bright colors and fabrics and includes the base. You can purchase a separate base if you need a second one.

Buyer's Guide to Infant Car Seats

In most cases, your baby will use his rear-facing infant seat for up to one year. Most infant seats are designed to snap into a base that stays installed in your vehicle. You can snap the seat out, and carry the sleeping baby into the house without enduring the hassle of unfastening the straps and waking up your little one. Infant car seats typically retail between $60 and $400, and there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when making this investment.

Installation Methods

One of the first things to think about when buying a car seat is how you plan to install it in your vehicle. According to Carseat.org, cars have been required to have lower anchors and tethers (LATCH), or bars specially-designed for car seat installation, since 2002. Many cars made prior to that time also have LATCH, but not all of them do. If your vehicle has LATCH, you'll be able to use these bars to securely install the car seat or its base. If not, you'll need to be sure the car seat is compatible with a standard seatbelt.

The vast majority of infant seats come with the base. Many companies also sell bases separately, and you can purchase a second base to go in another car. Alternatively, some car seats work both with and without the base. As you shop, you'll want to consider whether you'll need to use the seat in more than one vehicle and if you want to invest in a second base for it.

Safety Features and Ease of Use

In order to be sold to US consumers, infant seats must meet federal safety standards. Beyond that, there are optional safety features that may make specific seats more attractive to parents. These include additional points where the seat is secured to the vehicle, integrated side impact and head protection for your baby, an integrated level in the base to ensure proper installation, and more.

There are no publicly available crash test ratings for car seats, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does test car seats for ease of use. This is important because proper installation of your seat is essential for it to do its job in protecting your baby.

Size

Most cars can comfortably accommodate any infant car seat, but all seats are designed slightly differently. Before purchasing a seat, it's a good idea to measure the available space where you plan to install it. Then you can compare the dimensions of the seat, which will vary for each model, with the space in your vehicle.

Cost

There's a great deal of variability in the pricing of infant car seats. Although a $60 seat meets all safety standards, it may not have the additional safety features and convenience amenities that you need. At the same time, more expensive seats are not necessarily better. Take your time evaluating the features of an infant seat and your budget before deciding on the right model for you.

Convenience Features

Convenience features are often what set a budget seat apart from more expensive models. These can include the following:

  • Easy, one-hand adjustment of straps
  • Multiple harness heights to extend the use of the seat as your child grows
  • Compatibility with strollers and travel systems
  • Lightweight for carrying when not in the car
  • Well-designed carrying handle that is comfortable for parents
  • Ability to use for travel on an airplane

Buying a Used Seat

It is never a good idea to purchase a used infant car seat. Car seats come with expiration dates, usually around six years. Seats are also recalled from time to time, and a used seat may be affected by one of these events. In addition, if the seat has been in a crash, it may not be able to adequately protect your baby.

An Important Decision

Choosing a car seat for your infant is an important decision, but keep in mind that every new car seat on the market meets or exceeds the government safety standards. Ultimately, as long as your baby is in a properly-installed infant car seat and meets the height and weight requirements for that seat, he is very well protected in the event of an accident.

Guide to Infant Car Seats