Best car seats for your baby in 2018

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Eli Meir Kaplan for Home Front Communications National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Your kids are undoubtedly your most precious cargo. Are you confident that their car seats are keeping them safe? In 2013, 638 children under the age of 12 died in car crashes and more than 127,250 children were hurt. Of those who died, 38% weren’t buckled up in any way. We don’t mean to scare you, just to demonstrate the importance of properly restraining your child, toddler, or infant while they’re in the car. That’s why we’ve compiled important car seat safety information and the securest car seats on the market. Give this resource a read to ensure that your kids are the safest they can be while riding in the car.

At first, i-Size car seats (which are designed to keep children rear-facing until they’re over 15 months old, provide better side impact protection and make car seats easier to fit correctly) were mainly modular systems, which meant you needed one for your baby then another for your toddler. But as our round-up shows, many are now designed from birth to four years, and even beyond – which is far more practical for parents. To check the car seat you choose is i-Size, look out for the special logo (similar to the Isofix logo, but with an “i” on the side). Many of the car seats also have an “i” in their name or include the word i-Size.

For so-called “group 2/3 car seats” (designed for children around age four to 11 or 12 years old) i-Size isn’t applicable. But other new car seat legislation has come into force this year that affects these older children. This new law stops manufacturers from making any new models of backless booster car seats for children shorter than 125cm tall or weighing less than 22kg.

It doesn’t mean backless car seats will become illegal – it just means that from now on, they can only be aimed at children taller or heavier than that – whichever comes first. Likewise, there’s no need to panic if you aren’t using an i-Size compliant car seat, which can still be legally sold until at least 2018.

That said, the new regulations are designed to make your child safer – so using a high-backed booster seat for as long as possible is certainly in your interests, as is making sure that any baby set you buy is i-Size compliant. And that’s why we’ve only picked car seats in our round-up that comply with the new rules.

Legislation aside, when buying a seat, the first thing to check is that it’s the right one for your child’s age group. Next up, ensure the car seat actually fits your model of car as not all seats fit in all cars, while others might just about squeeze in, but leave very little legroom or room for another seat next to it.

Your next decision is whether to buy a seat with a special safety system, such as Isofix or Familyfix. These car seat bases literally plug into the car itself rather than using a seatbelt alone, after which you click in the actual car seat. Nearly all seats that use these bases (which may or may not be sold separately) are safer, although that’s not so in every case and remember not all cars have the fittings for these bases anyway (although more and more do – so always check this out whey buying a car).

Do as much homework as you can around other safety features (such as adjustable headrests) and crash test results (not just front and back impact, but side impact too) and ideally, look into comfort levels, particularly if you regularly complete long journeys.
ou want only the best for your baby. Selecting the right safety seat to protect them while traveling can be challenging, but it’s one of the most important items you will purchase. We are taking a risk each time we get into the car.

This page lists only the best baby car seats – they stand up to all of the important tests:

We have been testing car seats for a long time, and these are the seats that topped our lists multiple times, so you won’t see the newest products on the market on our site until we’re sure they pass our standards.

The retail market for infant and convertible safety seats is extremely competitive – marketing ploys and tactics have convinced parents can that one car seat is better than the other without having the facts to back them up. However, our reviews are completely unbiased and focus on what’s best for your child, not bottom lines or sales numbers.
Investigated
Every one of the infant and convertible seats listed below is extremely high ranking. They all received a score of 8.0 (out of 10) or above in our testing, and most have received the highest rankings.

When you read through the reviews, pay special attention to the things that matter to you as a parent. You have to weigh the pros and cons of each car seat for yourself, your lifestyle, and your baby.

For example, some parents won’t mind an infant car seat that is difficult to install because it will stay in the same car for a long time. Others, who have to transfer it from car to car, won’t like that the infant safety seat is too difficult to

How to buy the best car seats for your baby in 2018

What features should I look out for?

As car seats go, many of them share the same featureset. The real draw from one seat to the next is its grouping and any additional features like removable newborn seat or a carry handle to easily take your child from the house to the car or into a compatible buggy.

How much should I spend?

When it comes to looking after your little one, the sky’s the limit financially. Obviously, you’ll have the inate feeling that you have to spend megabucks to ensure your child’s safety, but in all honesty there’s an incredibly safe seat available to all budgets. The key takeaway isn’t “how much should I spend?” but more “what do I get for my money?”. If cost is a limiting factor, you’re best off looking at seats that can work for you all the way from newborn to when they no longer need to use a carseat or booster. These models may seem more expensive on initial purchase, but you won’t be replacing them every couple of years as your child grows older.

Is Familyfix better than Isofix?

Faimilyfix and Isofix are the two main fixture methods for carseats. Maxi-Cosi’s proprietary Familyfix method actually needs to use Isofix to connect to your car, but offers up more flexibility and safety features than a standard Isofix. Because its proprietary, there’s a toss up to be made between cost and safety concerns. Familyfix seats have more stable bases and allow for your seat to swivel so you can easily put your child in or out of the car. Is that worth more money and a more limited selection of car seats? You’ll have to be the judge of that yourselves.

What laws do I need to be aware of?

UK Law on car seats has changed recently to require your child to use a baby seat or booster seat until they’re 135cm (4ft 5in) tall or they turn 12. Failing to do so could result in a fine of up to $600.

The most recent addition to the law involves booster seat regulations, but in actuality it doesn’t actually affect you as a consumer. Instead, all newly released booster seats can only be made and sold to a child who is 4ft 1in or taller, or who weighs 22kg or more. Existing booster seats will still be valid in your car, so don’t worry about rushing out to buy brand new seats.

Types of car seats

First, let us reassure you. Every new car seat on the market right now must meet government safety regulations. So spending less money doesn’t mean your car seat will be less safe. However, more expensive car seats will get you extras like bigger canopies, easier installation and potentially some additional safety features not currently required by law.

There are three types of car seats that offer varying benefits and are appropriate for different stages of your child’s life. Although the car seat laws vary by state, infants across the country are required to be in rear-facing seats, while toddlers can be in either rear- or front-facing seats as long as they meet the height and weight requirements. And in most states, older children must ride in a booster seat. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Infant Car Seats

Used from newborn until your baby reaches the seat’s height or weight limit (usually 22 to 35 pounds), these seats always face the rear of the car. When your little one outgrows the infant car seat, you’ll have to purchase a convertible or other front-facing car seat designed to accommodate toddlers.

Convertible Car Seats

These seats transform from rear-facing seats for babies and toddlers to forward-facing seats for older children. Typically, the forward-facing position can hold children up to 65 pounds.

Booster Car Seats

These seats bridge the gap between the time your child needs a car seat to when they can start using the regular, adult-sized seat belt. They help children sit higher up so your car’s regular lap and shoulder belt cross your child’s body at the correct points and hold them securely. Boosters are geared for kids at least four years of age and at least 40 pounds.

How to Choose a Car Seat

Here are some things to consider as you’re selecting a car seat model:

Buying Used?

Used car seats might be damaged and may not be up to snuff when it comes to current safety regulations. If you do end of up selecting a used car seat, get it from someone you trust. Also be sure to look up the seat’s expiration date and research if that particular model has ever been recalled.

Fitting With Your Car

Make sure the car seat fits well in your car, or in multiple cars if you’ll be switching the seat in and out of different vehicles. Every car seat is different—and some just fit better in larger or in smaller cars. For convenience’s sake, you might also consider purchasing additional car seats bases for other primary caregivers, such as your partner, nanny or mother-in-law. Installing and reinstalling a car seat base gets old, real fast.

Convertible vs. Infant

While it seems that purchasing a convertible car seat would be the most efficient, there is a distinct advantage to also using an infant car seat. You let your sleeping baby—you know, the one that always dozes off in the car—stay asleep. Instead of having to unbuckle and lift them out of the seat to leave the car (and ruining that perfectly peaceful nap), you simply lift the infant car seat from its base and can either snap it onto a stroller or just use the car seat as cozy resting spot if you’re heading inside to visit friends or family.

If you have more questions, check out our guide on How to Choose a Car Seat.

If you do decide to purchase an infant car seat, then you’ll probably want to make sure your car seat and stroller are compatible.

You might select your stroller model first and then choose a car seat made by the same brand. (A stroller and car seat that come as a set is called a travel system. Take a look at our picks for the Best Travel Systems for more details on how to choose a travel system.)

But if there’s a car seat you absolutely love that differs from your stroller, check if a separate adapter is available to fit the items together.

Nuna PIPA Infant Car Seat

This sleek, lightweight infant seat is more than just good looks. The True Lock safety system uses color-coded indicators to signal proper installation, giving extra peace of mind to nervous new parents. Plus, a fold-down stability leg, which extends from the base of the seat to the floor, is designed to absorb impact in an accident. Aside from top-notch safety features, parents rave about the quality materials and extendable “dream drape” that provides full coverage for snoozing babies. For city dwellers, the Pipa is a breeze to install in any car without the base.

KEEP IN MIND

Some parents find the magnet closures on the dream drape tricky to maneuver.

WHAT BABYLIST PARENTS SAY

“It’s made of high-quality material, which is what drew us to it in the first place. The ease of installment for the base was a nice feature, especially for us as first-time parents. We also like how it is one of the lighter models on the market for toting around.” -Andrea C.

Click here to buy from Amazon

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35​

Peg Perego seats are well-known for combining safety, luxury, and stylish features that you can’t find in most car seats. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio is a superb seat you will love to use, although it is a big investment cost wise.

Advantages

The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio has a weight range of 4 – 35 pounds and is certainly worth considering if you frequently travel by car. The unique anti-rebound bar located on the base provides extra protection during a front or a rear collision. If you drive in stop-and-go traffic, the anti-rebound bar can steady the seat so the baby isn’t disturbed during sudden accelerating and braking.

Parents love that the seat is attractive with high safety ratings. Color-coded belt paths help assist with proper strap adjustment, and 6 adjustment levels protect your baby’s head and shoulders during side impacts, no matter how big they are.

Disadvantages

Some parents don’t like that the seat is awkward to carry with canopy fully extended. Several reported that the material can be difficult to clean, so if your child will be eating while on the road, this might not be the best option.

Compilation of customer opinions

For parents with a larger budget who want to invest in a quality seat, this one has satisfied most of them. If you drive a lot, the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio isn’t likely to leave you disappointed.

Click here to buy from Amazon

Evenflo Triumph LX

The Evenflo Triumph LX is a good-looking seat with a good height and weight range. The rear facing mode goes from 5-40 pounds, the forward facing mode from 22-65 pounds.The seat itself is about 19 pounds, 20” wide, and 23” high – making it a good fit for most cars, though smaller cars may have problems with the width of the seat.

Made in the USA, the seat has buckle pockets, 2 integrated cup holders, and is FAA approved.

Advantages

This seat is quite easy to install in most vehicles and is pretty lightweight. The LATCH system can be used up to 45 pounds, which is higher than some other seats. The easy-off machine washable padding and removable head & body pillow make this seat extremely comfortable.

It’s been extensively crash tested, most notably for Evenflo’s side impact standard for structural integrity, which is almost twice the federal crash test standards. Most newborns will fit into the seat from the start thanks to the easy to adjust harness, head and body pillow, and plenty of strap positions The multiple recline angles can be easily adjusted with a button on the front of the base.

The seat is FAA approved and has dual, expandable cup holders that fit any size cup. Of course, the seat is made in the United States, so it tends to have higher quality materials.

Disadvantages

There is no built-in lockoff system in place to help with seatbelt installation. It doesn’t have harness strap covers, and none sold separately. Some parents had issues with the straps irritating their baby’s skin. In fact, it seems that this seat lacks any accessories that you can buy for this model.

Finally, the seat is a bit wider than some seats, but usually leaves good legroom for the front passengers while in rear-facing mode. Some parents, however, found it difficult to turn the Tension Right adjusters (knobs located on the sides of the base) when installed in a smaller vehicle such as a Nissan Rogue.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, parents like this seat, but they weren’t happy with the lack of available accessories which seemed odd to us, because Evenflo has many products, and some of their other seats offer many accessories.

Click here to buy from Amazon

Graco My Ride 65 LX

One of the cheapest options on our list from one of the leaders in baby products, the Graco My Ride 65 LX is a good, lightweight convertible seat. It has options common to most of the seats on our list and comes in a variety of colors.

While this is a good seat that will do what it’s designed for, the Graco MyRide series has a history of recalls (the most recent in May 2017), so make sure to check for product recalls on this particular model before you buy. Usually the recalls are for models up until 2014, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and do your research.

Advantages

The Graco My Ride 65 LX has a good weight range (5-40 pounds rear-facing and 20-65 pounds forward-facing. It also provides good legroom for taller children. The top harness slot falls at 17 inches, making it one of the tallest available seats. This means that your child will be able to stay in this convertible seat longer.

The seat is well labelled, and the manual can be confusing at first, according to some parents, but they figured it out after a little more reading. You should be able to adjust and install it easily and without having to look at online videos. The seat leveler makes adjusting the angles easier. The seat cover can be machine washed in cold water with mild detergent, and must be hung to dry.

Of course, the biggest selling point is the price.

Disadvantages

In some vehicles, it may be more difficult to secure the seat tightly enough. Some parents had issues getting the straps tight enough on their child and had problems with the base sliding around, but slick upholstery could be the main problem. Putting a skid-proof seat pad under the base may help with this issue.

The seat is wider than many other seats due to the built-in cup holders. If you have a small vehicle or are trying to get two or more seats in the back of your car, you might want to look elsewhere.

Of course, the high number of recalls is what makes people question this seat and whether or not it is a good investment.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, most customers who purchased this seat had no issues and were happy with it. The price played a big factor in many who bought it, so if you’re on a really tight budget and can’t afford some of the pricier brands, this could be a good option for you. Just be sure to check for recalls and thoroughly inspect all parts before installing.

Click here to buy from Amazon

Britax Baby-Safe plus SHR II

As the seat of choice for the royal family, the Britax Baby-Safe plus SHR II is one of the best car seats you can get. Listed as “robust, super safe, well-made and affordable” by Made for Mums, this seat also comes equipped with Britax’s patented “D-SIP technology” to provide side-impact protection. It also has padded side wings to ensure your baby’s comfortable long journeys.

Unlike the Graco Milestone, the Britax will only fit your child from birth to 12-15 months. You can install it into your car with either Isofix or via standard three-point seatbelt. As Group 0+ seats go, there are few better.

Click here to buy from Amazon

Conclusion

Narrowing your options based on how you plan to use your seat and the ease of installation scores should provide you with a few top contenders. From there, you can make your purchasing decision based on crash test performance and/or budget-related concerns. The award winners listed here are all great seats with a wide variety of features and functionality to suit most parent and baby needs. They also encompass a wide range of price points providing a viable option for almost any budget. We think you should focus on the proper seat style for your baby’s age group (infant or convertible) when narrowing the field, and we encourage parents to resist the temptation to buy a convertible product advertised for infants. Most importantly, don’t forget to contact an expert for assistance with proper car seat installation no matter what style or model you choose. You can make a free appointment, get help fast, and feel confident your chosen seat is installed correctly to ensure maximum safety for baby! It doesn’t matter how well your chosen seat performed during crash testing if you install or use it incorrectly.

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