Infant car seats are one of the first, and most important, purchases you’ll make for your baby. You can’t drive home from the hospital without one, and you entrust it to keep your child safe in case of a car accident. These seats are installed rear-facing for baby’s safety. They come with a base that attaches to the car, which makes life a lot easier: If baby dozes off in the car, you can remove the car seat from the base and let baby sleep. The car seat also attaches right onto your stroller so baby can cruise comfortably before they’re old enough to sit in the stroller.
5 Pro Tips When Choosing an Infant Car Seat
1. Try out your car seat in your car to make sure it fits well.
2. Select an infant car seat and stroller that are compatible with one another, or check if there’s an adapter that allows you to use them together.
3. If baby will commonly travel in more than one car, consider buying a second base so you don’t have to reinstall the base each time baby is traveling in a different car.
4. Read your manual to find out the height and weight maximums for your car seat so you know when to purchase a convertible car seat.
5. If your car seat comes with an infant insert, find out when to take out that extra padding to keep baby comfortable.
Read on for our top picks for 2019, which have received high ratings from parents and Consumer Reports.
Chicco KeyFit and KeyFit30 Infant Car Seats
A safety leader
You can’t go wrong with the Chicco KeyFit or Chicco KeyFit 30. These car seats are a longtime fave of parents and Consumer Reports because they're easy to use and offer key features for baby’s safety and comfort, including: a removable newborn head and body support, a removable shade canopy, a carrier shell with EPS energy-absorbing foam for crash protection, and a two-position carry handle. The KeyFit and KeyFit 30 have the same features and use the same base. The primary difference is the weight limit: The KeyFit is suitable for babies up to 22 pounds, while the KeyFit 30 goes up to 30 pounds. As a result, the KeyFit 30 costs a bit more.
Available at chiccousa.com, $159.99 (KeyFit) and $199.99 (KeyFit 30).
Smart features & extras
This stylish car seat is equally focused on safety: The base contains a visual indicator that changes from red to green when it has been installed correctly. The car seat has an adjustable headrest with side impact protection to minimize head trauma in the event of a collision. Other clever touches include small pockets on either side to hold the open belt buckle; this both simplifies getting baby into the seat and keeps the metal buckles cool on hot days. For an additional cost, you can purchase a travel bag to protect your car seat on flights and a handy cabana to keep out rain, wind and bugs.
Available at uppababy.com, $239.99-$349.99.
Cybex Aton 2
Compact & lightweight
The Aton 2 weighs less than 9 pounds, which makes it easier to carry and install than some of its peers. Although it’s lightweight, it has packed in a lot of safety and design features. This seat comes with an infant inlay for comfort, side impact protection and boasts a straightforward installation to help you install it quickly and properly. There’s a sleek foldable canopy, and the instruction manual stores underneath the seat so you always know where to find it when you need it.
Available at cybex-online.com, $299.
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35
There’s great attention to detail in this car seat, from the Italian textiles and tailoring to the compact carry handle that makes it easier to insert and remove from your car. The EPS-lined shell enhances safety protection and is perforated for air circulation to increase baby’s comfort. The seat offers infinite recline with an indicator to help you find the right seat angle as your child grows. Extras include a seat cover that increases warmth on chilly days and cools baby down in the heat, a travel bag and an igloo that fits over the car seat on the coldest days.
Available at buybuybaby.com, $299.99.
We love the dream drape that pulls out from the canopy and shades baby from light to help them fall (and stay) asleep, as well as the mesh peekaboo window on the canopy to help you keep an eye on baby. The removable UPF 50+ canopy also features a flip-out eyeshade and can be set in two positions. This sleek car seat also features side impact protection, and it can be easily installed either with the base or without if needed for taxis and travel. Extras include a rain cover and wheeled travel bag.
Available at nuna.eu, $299.95.
Car seat & stroller in one
Integrated wheels turn the Doona car seat into a stroller in seconds, making this the perfect purchase for city dwellers and families on the go. The wheels then tuck up under the car seat for easy placement into your car. The unique construction adds a level of safety in the car, with the stroller handle absorbing impact in case of a collision. Like the other car seats on this list, the Doona provides side impact protection and comes with an infant insert, and it’s made in nine stylish colors. Extras include a padded travel bag, protective cover, vehicle seat protector, insect net, sunshade extension, rain cover and snap-on storage bag. While the car seat is pricier than others on this list, the addition of a stroller adds cost savings and tons of convenience until baby sizes out to a convertible car seat.
Available at shopdoona.com, $499.
Britax B-Safe 35
Safety & simplicity
An impact-absorbing base, impact-stabilizing steel frame and side impact protection are just some of the valuable safety features on this Britax car seat. Additional features simplify the process of installing the car seat, attaching and removing the seat from the base, adjusting the straps and reclining the seat to your desired angle.
Available at amazon.com, $199.99.
Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30
Easy to clean
Car seats are notoriously messy spots, and Mico Max 30 has that covered: The seat pad is machine-washable and dryer safe, easy to remove and replace (without rethreading the harness, a big plus), and the fabric is self-wicking, drawing away liquid from the skin to keep baby dry and comfortable. This car seat is also lightweight at only 8.2 pounds and comes with side impact protection, an extended canopy with flip-out visor, and an ergonomic handle for carrying comfort, an infant insert and a foot muff to keep baby warm in cold weather.
Available on amazon.com, $179-$249.
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35
Secure, easy installation
Graco's car seat boasts a secure install in just three easy steps, thanks to its SnugLock technology. The car-seat base is adjustable with four recline positions to help you get a good fit in your car, and it features a level indicator to ensure a correct angle. There's removable support for an infant's head and body, and a rotating canopy for shade and sun protection. It attaches securely to Graco’s Click Connect strollers in one easy step.
Available at gracobaby.com, $159.99.
Evenflo LiteMax 35
Comfort & convenience
From the machine-washable seat pad and removable head and seat pillows to the four recline options and buckle pockets for baby’s comfort, this lightweight car seat ticks a lot of boxes for baby's comfort and parents' convenience. It doesn’t skimp on safety either, as Evenflo reports it meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards, as well as side impact and rollover test standards. It’s budget-friendly and comes in six color combinations.
Available at evenflo.com, $99.
—Eva Ingvarson Cerise