Safety is of paramount importance when it comes to traveling with your baby and the safest way to travel with your baby in a car is in a car seat in the back.
That’s why most soon-to-be parents have “infant car seat” listed high on their priority list when expecting a child.
As with any other product aiming to ensure an appropriate level of safety for infants, buying a car seat should be a well thought out decision.
At HMHB, we present an in-depth look at all aspects of buying a car seat for your little one. So if you’ve already made your entire home child-proof even before the baby is born but have no idea which car seat to choose — we’re here to help.
In this article, we answer the following questions:
- What is an infant car seat?
- What are the features of a high-quality infant car seat?
- Is it better to buy a used infant car seat or a brand new one?
- What are the best infant car seats for 2019 according to Healthy Mom Healthy Baby?
The Top 7 Choices of Infant Car Seats:
- Chicco KeyFit 30 (Best Overall Infant Car Seat)
- Nuna Pipa Lite LX (Best Lightweight Infant Car Seat)
- Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 (Best Budget Friendly Infant Car Seat)
- UPPAbaby MESA (Most Stylish Infant Car Seat)
- Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 (Hassle-Free Cleaning)
- Britax B-Safe 35 (Compact & Convenient)
- Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 (European Stylish)
What is an Infant Car Seat?
Infant car seats are designed specifically for infants. These seats are always faced at the rear of the car and must be used from the moment your child is born until it exceeds the seat’s height or weight limit — which is usually somewhere between 22 and 35 pounds depending on the model.
Other Types of Car Seats for Babies
Infant car seats aren’t the only type of car seats for babies available for sale. Future parents can also choose between convertible car seats and booster seats — both of which have their own specific set of uses and benefits.
A. Convertible Car Seats
These seats are a 2-in-1 solution for parents who don’t want to spend extra money on another car seat once their infant outgrows the previous model.
A convertible car seat can either face the front or the back of the seat. It’s best if our newborn faces the rear, but soon the baby will outgrow that space. That’s when you flip the convertible seat around so you can use it for a little bit more time.
Convertible car seats are also designed to handle bigger toddlers, with the upper limit of around 65 pounds.
B. Booster Seats
These are often used as transition seats. When your child becomes too big for car seats but is definitely not big enough to be safely strapped in normal seat belts, this is when you buy a booster seat.
The booster option will elevate the baby enough so you can use the normal seat belts while ensuring the baby’s comfort during transport.
Top 7 Best Infant Car Seats for 2019
Our ranking of the best infant car seats for 2019 is based on hours of research and personal testing. We left no stone unturned searching for the safest and most functional models on the market, reading through hundreds of customer reviews to make our choices even more accurate.
Of course, we kept your budget in mind as well.
If you have absolutely no idea what to look for in an infant car seat, scroll down to our mini buying guide before going through the ranking.
Ready to start shopping?
1. Chicco KeyFit 30 (Best Overall Infant Car Seat)
- Great for smaller infants
- Convenient buckle
- Easy to use 5-point harness
- Adjustable LATCH strap
- Machine washable covers
- Can be paired with compatible strollers and work as a travel system
- EPS foam absorbs impact in case of an accident
- Recommended by many neonatal intensive care unit nurses
- The cushions aren’t breathable so the baby may sweat during long travels
- One of the heavier seats we’ve reviewed
- Difficult to install with a belt
What We Like About the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat:
From outstanding safety features to great functionality, the Keyfit 30 is our overall favorite. The base is easy to install and comes with only one tightener in the middle that secures the seat in place.
A built-in level tells you exactly when it’s been correctly positioned, which is indicated by the trusty “click” sound when the carrier gets properly attached to the base. The KeyFit adapter makes the seat compatible with most strollers, so you can easily take your baby from the car without disrupting your little one’s precious sleep.
What we love about this infant car seat is that it can handle heavier babies up to 35 pounds so it will last you for a long time.
When buying the KeyFit 30 model, it’s recommended to spend a bit more money and purchase the whole package with an extendable canopy and comfy footmuff. The canopy itself is small and doesn’t offer the same coverage from the sun as other extendable canopies.
2. Nuna Pipa Lite LX (Best Lightweight Infant Car Seat)
- The lightest infant car seat on the market
- Great fit for smaller babies
- Equipped with a two-pieces infant insert to support the head
- Memory foam in the headrest for greater comfort
- No dream drape on the canopy
- Made in China
- Not the most affordable infant car seat
What We Like About Nuna Pipa LX:
This smooth, lightweight infant seat has more to offer than just its stylish looks. The True Lock safety system operates on color-coded indicators to guide installation, making things as simple as possible for inexperienced parents.
In addition, the car seat comes with a fold-down stability leg extending from the seat’s base to the floor. This feature has been designed to absorb impact during an accident.
Top-notch safety features aside, parents praise the Nuna Pipa LX model for being made of high-quality materials despite being made in China. Plus, the seat is light as a feather, weighing 7.7 lbs, which makes it easy to carry around on your way to the car.
3. Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 (Best Budget-Friendly Infant Car Seat)
- Machine-washable cover
- Compatible with any Graco Click Connect stroller
- Easily fits into most compact cars
- The color-coded, 4-position recline feature on the base makes the seat easily adjustable to the base
- Works with small budgets
- The clip-style LATCH hook is troublesome to install
- The one-click attach sound isn’t always accurate when attaching carrier to base
- Tends to get stuck and may become hard to remove from the base
Available at around $115 – $150, the Graco Snugride Click Connect is one of the all-time best selling infant car seats on the market. The Graco brand has been selling the SnugRide line for over a decade, which tells pretty much about its quality and customer satisfaction.
While it’s not as safe or soft as the Chicco car seats, and maybe not as a designer or available in fancy patterns, it does its job pretty well and parents are saying many great things about it.
It’s also about $50 – $75 less expensive than the Chico so this might be the decisive factors for parents with smaller budgets. Like all our top-ranked infant car seats, this model holds babies between 4 and 35 pounds. It’s also quite high considering it has a 32” height limit.
4. UPPAbaby MESA (Most Stylish Infant Car Seat)
- Stylish design
- Available in four colors: blue, black, navy, and charcoal
- Easy to install without base
- Adjustable foot on the seat base
- Manufactured without chemical flame-retardants
- Good for urban/traveling families
- Retractable, self-ratcheting LATCH straps
- Not suitable for small budgets
- Some models are made with synthetic fabric
- Takes away some leg room from front passengers
- Can be difficult to get the right angle for baby’s headrest
What We Like About UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat:
This is a slightly more expensive model than most other infant car seats, but the price is justified with some great features and high safety standards.
It’s one of the easiest to install and use infant car seat we’ve ever tested. Here’s why:
First, the seat uses a sleek automatically tightening LATCH system with a handy indicator to signal you when the base is properly adjusted to the seat.
Second, it comes with a 4-position foot that helps you level the base in the car.
Third, the headrest and shoulder straps can be set in five height positions without the need of rethreading them.
All of these, combined with elegant design, makes the UPPAbaby MESA one of the best infant car seats for 2019. It would score higher in this ranking if it weren’t for the $300 price tag and not-so-comfortable fabric in some models.
5. Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat (Hassle-Free Cleaning)
- Removable and machine-washable cover
- Air Protect side infant protection
- Deep side wings
- Exceptional stroller compatibility
- Four harness heights
- A bit expensive for a plain seat
- Canopy doesn’t stay up
- Only usable for a short time in an infant’s life
What We Like About Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat:
Maxi Cosi is constantly incorporating technological advancements in their car seats, and this model is no exception. This is a great seat for early infants, with some really plush and smooth fabric. Not only does Maxi-Cosi look amazing, but it’s actually one of the coziest models in our ranking.
Maxi-Cosi is a living proof that what happens in the car seat doesn’t have to stay in the car seat, from diaper explosions to spit-up situations. Should anything like this happen, you can easily remove the seat pad and machine wash it to get it sparkling clean again.
Another great specification with this infant car seat is that it’s very light-weight, coming in at about 9.6 pounds without the base. But the most noteworthy feature is the inflated air side protection cushions, which our readers consider a great addition to the already high safety standards.
The product has two major downsides, though – the price and longevity. For some people, spending about $300 for an infant seat that is usable only for a short period of the infant’s life may sound like throwing money down the drain.
6. Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat (Compact & Convenient)
- Steel construction
- Impact-absorbing foam
- Fits preemies and small newborns
- Has a side layer for extra protection
- One of the most compact and easy-to-use seats out there
- Uncomfortable for bigger children
- The crotch strap can dig into the baby’s thighs
What We Like About Britax B Safe 35:
The Britax B Safe 35 model comes with an amazing side layer for extra protection during an accident. It’s also made steel and has an impact absorbing base that only rises the already great safety standards.
The car seat is simple and easy to install with is Safe Center LATCH. The built-in seat belt lock-offs help parents hold their baby’s car seat in the right position, which is even easier thanks to the indicators that signal you when the product is appropriately leveled.
The Britax B-Safe is compatible with the Britax Single Strollers. In addition, it has adaptors that match well with BOB Single and Dual Lite strollers. Unfortunately, you’ll have to buy the adaptors separately.
7. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat (European Stylish)
- Equipped with a dual stage cushion system
- Cushions support head and neck for optimum safety
- Color-coded belt paths
- Works with Peg Perego strollers
- Perfect for small newborns
- The leather on the seat tends to overheat in the sunshine
- Uncomfortable to carry when the canopy is fully extended
- A bit difficult to clean
What We Like About Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat:
This rear-facing infant car seat can hold babies between 4 and 35 pounds who measure up to 32 inches in height. It comes with a base that has the built-in anti-rebound safety bar to keep your baby’s position safe in the event of a car crash. The rebound bar blocks the seat rotation should an accident occur.
The car seat’s unique dual-stage cushion system makes the product wonderfully comfortable for a four-pound baby. The second stage support system holds your infant’s head correctly as the baby grows.
There is no risk of overheating your little one, as the fabric is breathable and remains cool even at higher temperatures.
If you’re looking for a good stroller for this infant car seat, we suggest that you go with Peg Perego strollers.
Things to Ask Yourself Before Buying an Infant Car Seat
Parenting has become a lucrative business for many companies, hence the abundance of different infant car seats on the market. There are so many things that can go wrong during a drive that it’s no wonder each brand is trying to offer easy and functional solutions.
These questions will help you choose the right model for your baby.
1. Does the Seat Fit in Your Car?
Infant Car seats come in different shapes and sizes. You don’t want to buy a seat that will either loosely bump inside the car or be too large to even fit in the vehicle.
Before buying an infant car seat, take all the necessary measurements from the car and compare them with the model of your choice. If it fits, see how it turns out in comparison with competitor brands.
2. Is it Easy to Install and Use?
This is hands down the most important factor to consider when buying a new infant car seat.
The seat should be as easy to install as possible, and it’s all the better if using it doesn’t involve rocket science.
You don’t want to deal with annoying seat belt mechanisms or a clumsy carrying handle several times during the day.
That’s the reason why you should always choose functionality over design because, at the end of the day, you won’t care if you’ve bought the most stylish car seat in the world if it drives you mad every time you have to use it.
Let’s not forget about the ease of installation. Many infant car seats can be installed with the regular seat belt or the LATCH system, which is a convenient method of securing the seat using built-in cords and fasteners.
3. Do You Think the Price is Justified With Extra Value?
Some infant car seats can be bought for under $100, whereas others are priced upwards of $300. Most of the time, the price is the indicator of the seat’s quality.
More expensive car seats tend to be more comfy, softer to the touch, more intuitive in use, and use higher quality parts.
Does it mean you need to spend $300 to get a safe infant car seats?
Not at all.
In fact, all car seats are safe as long as they meet the requirements of the NHTSA and are used correctly. However, some of the more expensive brands may go beyond those standards.
For example, some car seats are equipped with an anti-rebound bar to minimize rotational forces during an accident. Others come with a built-in double and triple side-impact protection. These are solid arguments in favor of paying the higher price.
But if you’re looking for a high-quality and safe car seat that will meet the minimum safety requirements and provide decent user experience, you can easily find one under $150.
4. Does it Meet Safety Standards?
Car seats made in the USA must comply with federal (NHTSA) safety standards and requirements, so whichever model you choose, you can sleep safe knowing it has been extensively tested for babies and toddlers.
However, as mentioned in the previous section, some brands like to go beyond the federal safety standards.
Here are some extra safety features you might want to consider when choosing an infant car seat:
- Larger cushioned side impact protection near the shoulders and head.
- The anti-rebound bar for reduced rotational forces during an accident.
- A load leg to reduce the rotational forces by extra 50%.
Above all, remember not to use any car seat accessory that isn’t manufactured by the company that made the car seat. These include detachable cup holders, car seat covers, or harness tie-backs.
If you’re concerned about a correct installation, you can head to your local police or fire department and ask their CPST technician to get the job done for you. The technician will harness heights, seat belt paths, seat-and-base compatibility, travel system integration, and check belt adjustments to avoid any technical oversight.
5. What Stroller Will Be the Most Appropriate for the Seat?
Choosing a stroller for your infant car seat boils down to what you’re going to do with the seat once it’s out of the vehicle.
If your child is sleeping, you probably want to transport it as easily as possible so you don’t wake the baby up. In this case, buying a dedicated travel system is a good option to consider.
You can purchase one of the relatively universal snap-in strollers that will work with most infant car seats, but when doing so, always make sure you check compatibility. The best solution, though, is to buy a snap-in stroller that’s the same brand as your car seat.
Buying a Used Infant Car Seat: Is It Worth the Hassle?
While you might be tempted to save some money on an infant car seat by purchasing a used model instead of the new one, we don’t recommend used car seats. They might be damaged and may not meet federal safety standards.
However, if you really insist on buying a used seat, make sure you get it from someone you trust.
Also, make sure to check the seat expiration date and look around the web to see if the model of your choice has ever been recalled.
Summarizing the Best Infant Car Seats for 2019
Being a parent is not an easy job. There are so many things you can screw up on the way to ensuring your baby’s safety that many young parents freak out in the maze of different solutions.
When it comes to choosing the best infant car seat, safety shouldn’t be your concern. Any US-made new seat you choose will be safe because it has to comply with NHTSA safety standards. What matters most is that the seat makes going on road trips and commuting around town easy for you and your family.
We hope our guide to infant car seats will help you make a well-informed decision.
Please note that once you get the car seat, it should be tested right away in your car before removing the tags or throwing away the box. You’ll want the seat to be a good fit, and if it’s not, it will be easier to return the product.
Have you tried any of these car seats? Which one is your favorite?