Best Baby Car Seats of 2018

Rebecca Spear ·
Digital Photo Editing & Small Appliance Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We have evaluated baby car seats for the past six years. In our most recent evaluation, we spent more than 40 hours comparing 10 products looking for the best safety and convenience features. The Chicco KeyFit 30 edged out the other car seats because of its excellent safety features for smaller babies. In fact, NICU nurses highly recommend this car seat for premature infants. It has been crash tested, uses energy-absorbent foam and gives extra head support to keep your little one safe in case of a crash. It also offers several convenience features such as an adjustable handle and machine-washable cushions.      

Best Overall
Chicco KeyFit 30
The Chicco KeyFit 30 provides several safety features to give you peace of mind. It's also compatible with six different strollers, has an adjustable handle and features machine-washable cushions.
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Best Budget
Safety 1st onBoard
The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air car seat is built with energy-absorbing foam and side-impact protection. Plus it costs under $200 making it a good value for reliable protection.
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Best For Large Babies
Combi Shuttle
The Combi Shuttle is built to provide protection for larger babies. It can handle up to 35 pounds and has a maximum height limit of 33 inches. Additionally, it is safe and convenient to use.
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Product
Price
Overall Rating
Safety
Convenience
Additional Features
Help & Support
Depth (inches)
Weight Without Base (pounds)
Width (inches)
Weight With Base (pounds)
Height (inches)
Adjustable Harness
Installation Instructions
Install Without Base
Number of Compatible Strollers
Adjustable Carry Handle
Machine-Washable Cushions
Convertible
Stay-in-Car Base
Airplane Compliant
LATCH Connectors
Maximum Weight Limit
Energy-Absorbent Foam
Level Indicators
Minimum Weight Limit
Crash Tested
Side-Impact Protection
Five-Point Harness
Maximum Height Limit
Cup Holder
Canopy
Adjustable Head Support
Reclining Seat/Base
Center-Pull Adjustment
Warranty
Responsiveness
Local Retailer Search
User Manual
Email & Phone
$209.99 Amazon
9.5 8.8 10 10 9.4
22
9.6
17
16.4
24
6
N/A
30 lbs
4 lbs
30 inches
N/A
1 Year
50%
$109.88 Amazon
9.3 9.4 8.8 10 9.4
19
11
15
20.2
25
5
N/A
35 lbs
4 lbs
33 inches
N/A
1 Year
100%
N/A
$299.00 Amazon
9.2 9.4 8.5 10 10
25.8
9.5
17.3
16.9
25.8
9
N/A
N/A
35 lbs
4 lbs
32 inches
N/A
2 Years
100%
$299.99 Amazon
9.1 9.4 8.1 10 10
28
11.1
17
20.4
25
2
N/A
35 lbs
4 lbs
32 inches
N/A
2 Years
100%
$143.57 Viglink
8.5 9.4 8.1 7.5 8.8
29
9.5
17
16.5
22.5
7
N/A
N/A
35 lbs
4 lbs
32 inches
N/A
N/A
1 Year
50%
N/A
$349.99 Amazon
8.1 10 5 9.4 9
20.9
30.8
19.3
N/A
26.8
N/A
None
N/A
N/A
65 lbs
5 lbs
49 inches
N/A
1 Year
25%
Best Overall
The Chicco KeyFit 30 is a compact car seat that works especially well in small and two-door cars. NICU nurses recommend it for premature infants due to its infant cushion insert, which offers extra support and keeps your baby more secure. When your child grows, you can easily remove the insert. It can hold up to 30 pounds and has a height limit of 30 inches.
You can use this car seat on a flight, as it is airplane compliant. It works with six strollers so you can choose the one that works best for you. The base is easy to install and comes with a storage compartment to keep your baby's necessities nearby but out of the way. While the cushions can be difficult to take off, they are machine washable, which will help you save time. You can install the seat with or without the base, which makes it convenient when you need to place the baby seat in someone else's car. You can adjust the harness and base to fit your growing child. The head support is also adjustable so you can make sure that your little one is getting the help they need. This car seat comes with a one-year warranty, and you can get answers to questions by contacting Chicco's customer support.
Pros
  • It provides a long list of safety features.
  • It is compatible with six strollers.
  • The cushions are machine washable.
Cons
  • It cannot switch to a front-facing car seat.
  • The cushion material could make your child hot.
  • The canopy is difficult to use with the carrying handle.
$209.99Amazon
Read the full review
Best Budget
The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air is a reliable and safe infant car seat that meets all federal crash-testing requirements and uses both energy-absorbing foam and side-impact protection to keep your child safe if you are in an accident.
It’s budget friendly, costing under $200, comes with a one-year warranty and is compatible with most Safety 1st infant strollers. It supports babies and young children as small 4 pounds and as heavy as 35 pounds. And it comfortably accommodates kids that are 32 inches tall, which is the average height of a 2-year-old. However, this car seat doesn’t extend as other seats do to accommodate longer legs, which makes it hard if your child is extra tall but not old or heavy enough to ride forward facing. The Safety 1st onBoard baby car seat is easy to install with a base that is secured with your seatbelt. The user manual does not suggest securing this infant car seat without the base, though. But the base has level indicators and installation instructions to make it easier to properly install in you car. There is a video tutorial available on the Safety 1st website if you need to watch a demonstration. Another perk of this baby car seat is the handle set in several different positions, and there is a lot of room between the handle of the canopy so you can have both up and use them together without getting your fingers bumped or squished.
Pros
  • Costs under $200
  • Compatible with most Safety 1st strollers
  • Meets all federal crash-requirements
Cons
  • Doesn’t extend for longer legs
  • Can’t install without the base
  • Cushions are not machine washable
-
Read the full review
Best For Large Babies
The Combi Shuttle has met safety certifications and comes with additional safety and convenience features to keep your baby safe and make your life a little easier. It has a higher weight and height limit than other infant carriers, which makes it a good fit for larger babies. The maximum height is 33 inches, and the maximum weight is 35 pounds.
You can choose between five different compatible strollers to find the one that fits your budget and lifestyle best. The cushions are machine washable so you can focus your time on more important things. The canopy is a little noisy, so there is the possibility that moving it could wake a sleeping baby. Unlike some other products, this car seat cannot be used without its base. As for safety features, it uses energy-compliant foam, LATCH connectors and level indicators to keep your child safe and help you install it correctly. If you lose the instruction manual, you can easily find it online. Combi's customer support is easy to reach and gives you answers quickly, so you shouldn't hesitate to contact them if you have questions. This infant car seat comes with a one-year warranty, which is pretty standard for this kind of product.
Pros
  • It is compatible with five different strollers.
  • It can be safely installed without the base.
  • It has a relatively high weight and height limit.
Cons
  • The groin buckle cannot be adjusted to fit a growing child.
  • The canopy can make loud noises when moved.
  • It cannot be converted to face forward when your child grows.
$199.99Amazon
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Best Design
The UPPAbaby Mesa has a unique SMARTSecure system that provides visual confirmation that you have the seat installed correctly.
There’s an indicator window that changes from red to green to let you know the base is correctly installed and an auto-retracting LATCH system that makes it easy to tighten. The reclining base has a finished bottom that helps protect your car’s upholstery. The fabric in the car seat is made from Merino wool that is both comfortable and it’s the only car seat we evaluated that doesn’t use fire retardant chemicals to pass federal safety standards. The Mesa supports children as large as 35 pounds or 32 inches tall. For infants: add an infant cushion insert to fit newborns as light as 4 pounds. It is also compatible with the UPPAbaby Vista and Cruz strollers, and comes with the stay-in-car base.
Pros
  • Innovative and safe installation
Cons
  • Expensive
Amazon
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Best for Strollers
The Primo Viaggio is compatible with nine different Peg Perego strollers with the G-Matic system.
The base is equipped with a side impact protection system and an anti-rebound bar to offer better protection in the event of front and rear collisions. The dual stage cushion accommodates a 4 pound infant, a 35 pound baby and every size child in between. The unique handle is short and compact, making it easy to move in and out of your vehicle. The base has color-coded belt paths that help guide you through the process of attaching it to a seat belt. The Italian-made upholstery is soft and durable, but you can’t remove the cushions to wash them. The Primo Viaggio has a large hood to protect your baby from the elements with a UPF 50+ rating. The hood is easily adjustable and removeable to make it easier to load the seat onto the stay-in-car base.
Pros
  • Wide selection of compatible strollers
Cons
  • The cushion isn’t machine washable
Amazon
Read the full review

Why Trust Us?

We have been reviewing baby car seats since 2011. In that time, we have evaluated dozens of baby car seats. While we were aren’t equipped to test baby car seats for safety, we used a number of the car seats in our reviews over a period of weeks and carefully evaluated their convenience features. We only reviewed car seats that have been through rigorous safety tests. We read dozens of online reviews and consulted with professionals and experts to narrow our focus to the most important features. Our findings are detailed in our baby car seat reviews.

How We Evaluated

While we didn't conduct crash testing ourselves, we chose to only evaluate products whose manufacturers had thoroughly tested each device for safety. Since being a parent is a full-time job, we wanted to find products with convenience features to make your life a little easier. We looked at user reviews, safety certifications and convenience features to compare the products in adjustability, durability, ease of use and overall safety.

We also evaluated products based on price. Less expensive car seats scored extra points, but to rank among the best they must have all the safety features combined with essential convenience features. Products with longer warranties also scored higher.

Safety
We chose to evaluate only car seats that had undergone thorough crash testing and were certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Keep in mind that the NHTSA does not require manufacturers to publish crash test results. We looked for rear-facing car seats that had high weight and height limits to accommodate growing children. Car seats that could account for larger babies scored higher. We also awarded more points to car seats that could convert to face forward when your child is old enough.

Adjustability
We looked for center-pull adjustments, since you can typically tighten these safety restraints with one hand. We gave more points to car seats with adjustable handles and moveable canopy shields, as these allow you to use the car seat and move your baby around easier.

Durability
We wanted to make sure that the car seats in our comparison would stand the test of time. The only time your car seat will be fully put to the test is if there is a crash, but there are certain features that can add to its durability. We only chose car seats that offered side-impact protection, LATCH connectors and energy-absorbent foam, as these features raised the durability of a carrier. The length of a car seat's warranty can often portray the confidence the manufacturer places in the product. For that reason, we gave more points to car seats with longer warranties.

Ease of Use & Convenience
In our assessment, we considered how easy it was to install and remove the device. We gave more points to car seats that included stay-in-car bases as these helped save time. For these same reasons, we scored a device higher if it had an adjustable carrying handle, could be used on a variety of strollers, came with machine-washable cushions and could be installed without the base.

How Much Should I Spend on a Baby Car Seat? 

Price is an important factor, but when it comes to baby car seats, safety is always first. The more expensive car seats in our comparison are between $200 and $350, but they have innovative and safe design features that make it easy to properly install in your car. The more cost-effective models in our guide range from $100 to $200 and are certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but are missing some convenience features like a stay-in-car base and machine washable cushions and canopy.

Other Things to Consider with Baby Car Seats

The most important part of any car seat is its safety features. While all baby car seats in the United States must pass federal crash tests, the companies are not required to publish the results. Adjustable five-point harnesses are the most secure restraints on the market. They help secure shoulders, chests, hips and groin from dangerous movement and can be tightened or loosened to fit your baby. A car seat made of energy-absorbent foam and engineered with side-impact protection will keep your baby safer in case of an accident.

Look for a car seat that will fit you and your child's needs. Weight and height limits vary from product to product, so you should find one that best fits your baby. Many car seats are compatible with a few different stroller types, so choose a carrier that attaches to a stroller that fits your needs and budget. If you travel a lot, look for a baby car seat that is airplane compliant.

To make your life easier, consider finding a car seat that has removable and machine washable cushions – because, let's face it, babies can be pretty messy. Having a stay-in-car base can make it easier for you to insert and remove the carrier whenever you use your car. Additionally, some carriers can be installed without the base, which makes it easier for you to transfer the car seat between cars.

Look for a carrier that comes with a canopy to shield your baby from bright lights and the elements. Infants have weak neck muscles and will need plenty of support to keep them safe and comfortable; look for adjustable head supports to accommodate them. A typical car seat warranty lasts about one year and covers replacements and repairs for defective seats within the warranty time. This is a good reason to consider the car seat that has the longest warranty within your budget.


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