2018 Best Car Seat Buyers Guide
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.
Top 10 Car Seats
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.
- Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat | Read Review
- Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat | Read Review
- Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat | Read Review
- Britax Marathon G4.1 Convertible Car Seat | Read Review
- Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat | Read Review
- Britax Frontier Clicktight Car Seat | Read Review
- Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster | Read Review
- Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster | Read Review
- Disney Store and Go Backless Booster Car Seat | Read Review
- Doona Infant Car Seat Stroller | Read Review
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.
- 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.
- Higher Price Tag
It’s a shame this pricey car seat will last you only twelve to fifteen months.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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).
- 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.
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.
Bloggers and Amazon customers give this car seat great reviews.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Best Booster Seat Reviews
- 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.
- 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.
- 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″.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- For babies 4–35 lbs. and up to 32″
- Rear-facing only
- Aircraft certified
- 9 fashion colors
- Integrated wheels
- Matching bags for baby and parent
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.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, “AAP Updates Recommendation on Car Seats”
- Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, “Factors Leading to Crash Fatalities to Children in Child Restraints”
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) Restraint System”