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2018 Best Car Seat Buyers Guide

Written by: Rebecca Edwards  |   Updated: May 24, 2018

Your kids are your most precious cargo, and you need a car seat that keeps them safe through infancy to toddlerhood and beyond. We’ve found the best infant car seats, convertible car seats, and booster seats on the market. Before you buckle your little one up, put safety first with one of the best car seats of 2018.

Best Infant Rear-Facing Car Seat

Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat

Easy set up

Best Convertible Car Seat

Britax Convertible Car Seat

Excellent impact protection

Graco Booster Seat

Long-lasting durability

Top 10 Car Seats

Car seats are designed based on age and height. Here are the main types of car seats available and who they best protect.

Rear-Facing Car Seat (For newborn to two years old)

These car safety seats are buckled into the back seat of your car and face backwards. They’re meant for newborn to two-year-old children. While some professionals say rear-facing car seats can be upgraded to front-facing seats when a child turns one, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping your child in a rear-facing seat until they are two.1

Front-Facing Car Seats (Two years old and up)

Once your child turns two, it’ll be time to change them over to a front-facing car seat (unless they’re small for their age and under forty pounds). By this stage, your child will be very alert, talking, and wanting to view the world around them. You’ll also be able to better check on your child.

All-in-One Car Seats

These models can do it all—transitioning from a rear-facing car seat for infants to a front-facing seat for toddlers to booster seats for young kids. They’re also more expensive as a result.

Convertible Car Seats

Convertible car seats are multi-functioning, but they don’t normally include functions for children of every age like all-in-ones do. One may work as a front and rear-facing car seat, and another may transform from a front-facing car seat to a booster seat.

Booster Car Seats

Booster seats are designed to raise your child up to safe seat belt height. You can purchase booster seats that are backless, convertible, or have high backs for more support. You can choose what’s right for your child, but you’ll most likely need to pick something because booster seats are mandatory in 48 states and all US territories except South Dakota and Florida.

Seat Belts

These obviously come standard with your car and aren’t something you need to purchase. However, once your child is at least 4 feet 9 inches and between eight and ten years old (some kids are smaller or larger for their age, so this can vary slightly), they should be ready to graduate to a seat belt.

When you get to this stage, ask yourself some important questions before letting your child advance to a seat belt:

  • Does my child’s back rest against the back of the seat?
  • Do my kid’s knees bend at the seat edge?
  • Does the seat belt rest comfortably across their lap?
  • Does the shoulder strap rest on their chest?
  • Can my child stay seated while buckled for an entire car ride?

If your answers are “yes” to all of these questions, then your child is probably ready for a seat belt.

Overall Top 10 Car Seats

  1. Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat | Read Review
  2. Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat | Read Review
  3. Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat | Read Review
  4. Britax Marathon G4.1 Convertible Car Seat | Read Review
  5. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat | Read Review
  6. Britax Frontier Clicktight Car Seat | Read Review
  7. Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster | Read Review
  8. Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster | Read Review
  9. Disney Store and Go Backless Booster Car Seat | Read Review
  10. Doona Infant Car Seat Stroller | Read Review
safewise 2018 best car seats

Compare the Top 3 Infant Rear-Facing Car Seats of 2018

All the infant car seats on this list are rear-facing only and meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for Child Restraint Systems, Federal Crash Test Standards, and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for Flammability of Interior Materials. They have also been certified for use in aircrafts and side-impact tested.

 

Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat

Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat Check Price on Amazon

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat Check Price on Amazon

Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat

Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat Check Price on Amazon
Standout Feature

Easy to use

Most comfortable

Budget friendly

Downside

Higher expense

Difficult canopy

Uncomfortable handle

Weight Guidelines

4–30 lbs.

4–35 lbs.

4–35 lbs.

Height Guidelines

Up to 30"

Up to 32"

17-30"

Age Range

Less than 18 months

Less than 18 months

Less than 18 months

Car Seat Weight

9.6 lbs.

7.5 lbs.

8 lbs.

Car Base Included

Yes

No

No

Recline

Yes

Yes

Yes

Canopy

Yes

Yes

Yes

Infant Insert

Yes

Yes

No

Machine Washable

Yes

Yes

Yes

Best Infant Rear-Facing Car Seat Reviews

Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat

Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat

Best for easy use

This is the top-rated infant car seat on the market thanks to its rigorous safety standards and how easy it is to transport a baby from home to car to stroller.

Pros
  • Quick, Easy Installation
    Chicco makes it easy to properly install and adjust the car seat every time. A spring-loaded leveling system ensures a secure fit in almost any vehicle, and level indicators let you know you’ve got the correct seat angle.
  • Top Ratings from Experts and Parents
    This infant car seat tops nearly every list, from safety and consumer experts to mommy bloggers. It also boasts a 4.5-star rating on Amazon.
  • One-Hand Operation
    All it takes is one hand to safely buckle up your baby in the Chicco Keyfit, thanks to its one-pull harness adjustment. We know that you’ve got your hands full with a newborn, and the easy operation makes this infant car seat worth every penny.
Cons
  • Higher Price Tag
    It’s a shame this pricey car seat will last you only twelve to fifteen months.
Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat

Best for keeping baby comfy

The Graco SnugRide lives up to its name with lots of extras that keep baby comfy when you’re on the road.

Pros
  • Lightweight
    At 7.5 pounds, this rear-facing car seat is the lightest on our list.
  • Part of Graco Click Connect Travel System
    All it takes is one click to transfer this car seat from the base in the car to any Graco Click Connect Stroller. For on-the-go families, it doesn’t get much easier than this savvy travel system.
  • Comfy for Baby
    Your baby will enjoy every ride thanks to the cushioned newborn head support and removable leg cover that keeps baby’s toes warm and toasty.
Cons
  • Canopy Is Difficult
    The adjustable canopy is stubborn and clumsy to move. That means you might wake baby up from the jerky movement when trying to close it or bright sunlight if you can’t.
  • Base Is Not Included
    The Click Connect car seat base is sold separately, which is inconvenient and costly.
Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat

Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat

Best for your budget

You don’t have to skimp on safety to mind your budget with this highly-tested, affordable car seat.

Pros
  • Exceeds Federal Crash Test Standards
    Evenflo goes beyond government standards to ensure that every car seat they make can withstand energy levels two times greater than the federal crash test standard.
  • Features Lots of Adjustable Options
    You can adjust almost everything on this car seat: the handle has five settings, there are three harness positions, and the base reclines for proper positioning every time.
  • Affordable
    Coming in under $100, the Evenflo Embrace is the least expensive infant car seat in our top three. But the in-car base is sold separately, which can bring your total up to around $125 (which is still a deal).
Cons
  • Uncomfortable Handle
    Even though the handle is adjustable, we found it difficult to find any comfortable position. If you need to carry the seat for any length of time, it’s probably going to be awkward and possibly painful.
  • Flimsy Infant Headrest
    This is parents’ number-one complaint—the head support is made of cheap material and doesn’t offer enough support for wobbly, newborn necks.

Compare the Top 3 Convertible Car Seats of 2018

All the convertible car seats on our list meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for Child Restraint Systems, and Federal Crash Test Standards. They have also been certified for use in aircrafts and side-impact tested.

 

Britax Marathon G4.1 Convertible Car Seat

Britax Marathon G4.1 Convertible Car Seat Check Price on Amazon

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat Check Price on Amazon

Britax Frontier Clicktight Car Seat

Britax Frontier Clicktight Car Seat Check Price on Amazon
Standout Feature

Excellent impact protection

Easy mobility

Long lifespan

Downside

No booster seat

Snug fit in smaller cars

No rear-facing capability

Child Weight Guidelines

5–65 lbs.

5–100 lbs.

25–120 lbs.

Child Height Guidelines

Up to 49″

Up to 52″

30–62″

Car Seat Weight

19.5 lbs.

18.6 lbs.

25 lbs.

Stroller Compatible

No

No

No

Side Impact Protection

Yes

Yes

Yes

Recline

No

No

Yes

Adjustable Headrest

Yes

Yes

No

Cup Holder

Yes

Yes

Yes

Machine Washable

Yes

Yes

Yes

Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews

Britax Marathon G4.1 Convertible Car Seat

Britax Marathon G4.1 Convertible Car Seat

Excellent impact protection

The Britax Marathon is a bestseller that functions as a rear-facing car seat with babies 5–40 pounds and as a front-facing seat for children who are 20–60 pounds. With its unique cushioning system, Safe Cell Impact Protection, this is one of the best car seats out there for infants and young children.

Pros
  • Adjustable
    Change this convertible car seat from rear-facing to front-facing so you can use it longer. It even has a ten-position harness and two-position buckle so it can grow with your baby.
  • Popular
    Bloggers and Amazon customers give this car seat great reviews.
  • Unique
    Britax uses its own patented impact construction: Safe Cell Impact Protection. It includes a steel frame, energy-absorbing base, and impact-absorbing tether that decrease frontward motion during a crash.
Cons
  • Expensive
    This is an expensive seat that retails for more than $200.
  • Not Equipped with Booster Seat
    Unlike the other convertible car seats on our list, the Britax Marathon can’t convert into a booster seat, so you’ll have to buy a new seat when your child is over 60 pounds.
Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Easy in-and-out

The Grow and Go 3-in-1 car seat takes the hassle out of transporting your child as they grow. You won’t have to fish for buckles and clips thanks to a smart harness that eliminates those day-to-day pains.

Pros
  • Built-In Harness Holders
    Harness holders keep the harness open and ready for action, making it easy to get your little one in and out of the car.
  • Extra Leg Room
    You don’t have to give up driver or passenger comfort with this convertible car seat. It takes up less room so parents can have up to seven more inches of leg room in the front seat.
  • Good Lumbar and Head Support
    The Grow and Go 3-in-1 includes built-in lumbar and headrest support, plus two grow-with-baby pillows that keep baby snug and safe from day one.
Cons
  • Difficult to Tighten
    The open harness system is convenient, but many parents say it takes extreme force to get the belt tightened once baby is in place.
  • Snug Fit in Smaller Cars
    If you have a smaller car, this car seat might be too bulky for a comfortable fit. If possible, test it in your car before making a purchase.
Britax Frontier Clicktight Car Seat

Britax Frontier Clicktight Car Seat

Long lifespan

This car seat is expensive, but it will last you a while because it converts from a front-facing car seat to a booster seat for kids who are 24–120 pounds.

Pros
  • Good Ratings
    Parents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) all rave about this convertible car seat.
  • Easy Installation
    This car seat comes with a click-in system that makes it easy to install.
  • SafeCell Impact Protection
    This unique construction protects your child better during collisions.
Cons
  • Expensive
    The list price for the Britax Frontier is over $300, but we recommend checking Amazon for the latest price, which can save you up to $100.
  • No Rear-Facing Capability
    You’ll need a different seat for children under 22 pounds.

Compare the Top 3 Booster Seats of 2018

All the booster seats on our list meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for Child Restraint Systems and Federal Crash Test Standards.

 

Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster

Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Check Price on Amazon

Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster

Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster Check Price on Amazon

Disney Store and Go Backless Booster Car Seat

Disney Store and Go Backless Booster Car Seat Check Price on Amazon
Standout Feature

Lasts for years

Adjusts to child’s height

Very affordable

Downside

No rear-facing ability

Fewer harness positions

Not a major safety company

Child Weight Guidelines

22–120 lbs.

20–110 lbs.

40–100 lbs.

Child Height Guidelines

27–57″

28–57″

43–57″

Car Seat Weight

24.6 lbs.

11 lbs.

6.2 lbs.

Side Impact Protection

Yes

Yes

No

Recline

Yes

No

Yes

Adjustable Headrest

Yes

No

No

Cup Holder

Yes

Yes

Yes

Machine Washable

Yes

Yes

Yes

Best Booster Seat Reviews

Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster

Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster

Lasts for years

For toddlers and up, this is a great car seat. It works as a front-facing car seat, high back booster, and backless booster seat for children 22 to 120 pounds. That’s one of the largest weight ranges in the industry and will take your child from toddlerhood to around ten years old (depending on your child’s growth rate).

Pros
  • Long Lifespan
    The Graco Nautilus takes your kid from approximately two to ten years old. You’ll save money in the long run because you can use this as a front-facing, backed booster or backless booster car seat.
  • Recline Option
    Your child will stay comfortable and safe as they grow, thanks to three reclined positions to choose from.
  • Impact Protection
    Graco put this seat through its paces. It’s been crash tested and exceeds safety standards.
Cons
  • No Rear-Facing Ability
    You can’t use the Graco Nautilus as a rear-facing car seat for an infant—you’ll need a separate car seat for that.
Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster

Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster

Adjusts to child’s height

With four buckle positions, this harnessed booster seat provides more comfort to your child as they grow. It even comes with a removable pillow for added comfort and cleanliness.

Pros
  • Adjustable to Child’s Height
    Your kid won’t outgrow this booster. It has an adjustable booster base to accommodate your child’s height up to 57″.
  • Affordable
    This costs about $70 on Amazon. It’s one of the cheapest car seats available.
  • Good Reviews
    Users on Amazon have rated this particular booster seat very well. It has 4.3 stars from more than 1,700 customer reviews.
Cons
  • No Rear-Facing Capability
    You’ll need to buy a different car seat for newborns and children weighing under 22 pounds.
  • Fewer Harness Positions
    Some brands offer up to ten harness positions. Evenflo has only four. The more adjustable your harness, the better your odds of keeping kids both safe and comfortable.
Disney Store and Go Backless Booster Car Seat

Disney Store and Go Backless Booster Car Seat

Very affordable

Disney is known for their magical products that delight children. Now, you can bring a booster seat home featuring your child’s favorite characters. It’s an affordable and stylish option that works for children who are 40 to 100 pounds.

Pros
  • Design Options
    Kids can feel special by riding in a seat featuring a design they love.
  • Affordable Price
    This belt-positioning booster seat is a cheap alternative to a whole convertible system. It costs about $25 on Amazon.
  • Lots of Storage
    Disney’s booster seat has a cup holder and built-in storage for snacks and toys.
Cons
  • Not a Major Safety Company
    Disney is not a known manufacturer of child safety devices. Although this booster seat does meet federal safety standards, it doesn’t come with the expertise of a company dedicated to safety first.
  • More Limited Weight Range
    Because this booster works with your car’s seat belts, it’s meant for children who are between 40 and 100 pounds, unlike others that accommodate 22 to 120 pounds.

Best Car Seat Splurge of 2018

If you want to transport your little one in luxury, then we’ve got a treat for you. This car seat not only provides the ultimate in safety protection but also style that will make it the star of every playdate.

Product
Specs
We Like
Downsides
Where to Find It
Doona Car Seat Stroller Doona Car Seat Stroller Read Review
  • For babies 4–35 lbs. and up to 32″
  • Rear-facing only
  • Aircraft certified
  • Pros
  • 9 fashion colors
  • Integrated wheels
  • Matching bags for baby and parent
  • Cons
  • Expensive
  • Bulky
Doona Car Seat

Doona Car Seat Stroller

Functions with superstar style

You’ll never have to worry about waking your baby when you transition from stroller to car with the Doona Car Seat Stroller. Plus, you’ll look like a celebrity parent when you sport this high-tech, high-style stroller and car seat combo.

The Doona features integrated wheels so it flips from car seat to stroller to on-ground rocker in no time. It beats safety standards for both car seats and strollers, and it’s certified for air travel. If you’ve been looking for a dream-come-true in the form of a magical all-in-one travel system for your little star, then you need look no further than the Doona.

Car Seat and Booster Seat Features

Not every car seat is the same. With most every model, you’ll find different features that will impact your convenience, budget, and child’s safety. Here are some features to look for in a car seat—whether you’ve found your match on our list or are still looking.

5-Point Harness

Front-facing car seats normally come with a 5-point harness system. They clip in at both shoulders, hips, and the crotch. This system reduces the risk of your child slipping out of their seat.

Twist-Free Straps

Wide straps are best for keeping your child restrained and comfortable. Twist-free straps guarantee that they won’t get tangled and cause harm or discomfort to your child.

Multiclip Chest Straps

Most car seats come with a chest clip, but they’re not something that’s mandated by law in America. Chest clips help secure your child in their car seat and keep straps from moving around.

Built-In Lock Clips

Lock clips keep your kid’s car seat from tipping over. Instead of selling a separate piece of metal, now most car seats include these locks within the seat itself so they’re easier to install.

LATCH System

This stands for “lower anchors and tethers for children.” Almost all cars since 2002 have been mandated by federal law to include these systems in addition to regular seat belts.3 For cars that don’t have it, car seat companies offer LATCH System kits. They’re designed to better secure front and rear-facing car seats. They eliminate the need to use a car’s seat belts to anchor a car seat and give greater stability to a car seat.

Impact Protection

About 40% of all car accident deaths of children under eight are caused by side collisions.2 Impact protection uses EPS foam (the type used in helmets) to add extra cushion around your child’s head.

Wings

While wings help keep your kid’s head upright, they also provide cushion in case of a collision.

Recline Options

This feature is mostly used in rear-facing models because it can be dangerous in front-facing car seats. It gives your child more comfort for sleeping.

Car Seat and Booster Seat Tips

Have your car seat installed professionally.

Many police and fire departments now have officers/firefighters who are certified child passenger technicians. You can contact your local police force to ask. Otherwise, you can search for local car seat inspection centers and professional installers near you. The technicians will be able to verify if your car seat is safely installed and help you do it the right way.

Buy the right size seat.

As your kids grow, so will the need to keep up with car seat safety. For instance, when you bring a newborn home, they need to be in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat until they turn two. After that, they can move into a forward-facing seat and a booster seat down the line. Since car seats are all based on weight and length, you should plot your child growth. Even if your child is two, they might be smaller or larger than the average toddler. You can to your child's progress to make a smarter car seat selection.

Register your car seat so you get recall notices.

When you purchase a new car seat, be sure to send the manufacturer's owner information card provided with the seat. This makes it possible for the manufacturer to notify you if your model is recalled. Manufacturers are required to fix the problem free of charge. Before you buy a new or used car seat, check the federal recall list by going to www.safercar.gov.

Recall Notice: Diono Radian

In November 2017, more than 500,000 car seats made by Diono were recalled, including the popular Diono Radian R100, Radian 120, Radian RXT, Olympia, Pacifica, and Ranier models. The NHTSA stated that when select Diono car seats are secured with a lap belt only, children over 65 pounds are at greater risk for injury in a crash. Diono sent owners of recalled Diono Radian and other models a free kit to reinforce the car seats. You can get more details about the Diono Radian car seat recall on the company’s website.

Our Approach

adorable baby

To determine the best car seats of 2018, we combed through industry research and scrutinized product features, safety ratings, performance, and specs. We consulted the NHTSA, CDC, and American Academy of Pediatrics for safety regulations and guidance. Finally, we scoured hundreds of expert ratings and parent reviews. Our top ten car seats were selected from more than twenty-three products that were compared for function, price, comfort, and customer satisfaction.

18 Hours Researched
8 Mommy Blogs Consulted
23+ Products Considered
800+ Customer Reviews
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics, “AAP Updates Recommendation on Car Seats
  2. Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, “Factors Leading to Crash Fatalities to Children in Child Restraints
  3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) Restraint System

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