There are popular car seats out there, but are they really the best car seat? It’s tempting to rely on word-of-mouth advice when deciding on the right products for your precious baby, but after looking into the specs of different car seat models, you might form your own opinion.
When choosing the best car seat for your family, first consider safety. Then, when you’ve narrowed it down to the safest options in each category, you can then have fun with other details, like the ease of use, style, price, and the ability to clean and keep the car seat fresh — especially if you’re opting for anything other than an infant car seat because you’ll be getting years of use out of it. Luckily, we’ve done the work for you.
The ClickTight feature on this car seat model ensures a safe and secure installation every single time, which is incredibly important because so many parents unknowingly install car seats incorrectly. Rest assured knowing that everyone from Dad to Grandma can nail a rock-solid installation, even when you’re not around. We love that the car seat features SafeCell Impact Protection, which is a hex-shaped technology designed to absorb extra energy and protect baby beyond federal standards in the case of a serious crash. This car seat also features something that’s rare to find in the United States: an anti-rebound bar, which offers extra padded protection in the case of a crash. It’s the best car seat for babies from 5 to 65 pounds.
This is the car seat my kids used, and I can tell you we were hard on them. My kids are active, snacky, car-sicky, and they’re close enough in age that we bought two of these. They’re heavy, sturdy, are easy to install, and my kids made washing this beast routinely a very important endeavor.
Suitable in rear-facing mode from birth to 40 pounds and forward-facing from 20 to 65 pounds.
Best Infant Car Seat
The Mesa car seat features a no-rethread harness, which means you won’t have to take apart the harness system as your baby grows. What a breeze! This beautiful black car seat is so light and lean that you won’t have to worry about lugging a heavy baby and car seat around. If you want to make things even easier on yourself, you can grab the Vista2 stroller by UPPAbaby to complete a travel system. Plus, there’s also the first-ever smart auto-retracting mini latch, combined with a red-to-green tension indicator, which makes handling the seat a lot easier, and, in turn, safer for baby.
My nephew used this car seat as a baby, and my sister-in-law could not sing its praises loudly enough. She was into how easy the latch was, saying, “You don’t get mad at it,” she loves that it’s easy to clean, and she loves that the whole thing feels, as she puts it, “planted.”
This seat will safely seat babies from 4 to 35 pounds.
Best Toddler Car Seat
Thanks to easy clean-up, your toddler can have multiple snacks and drinks in this car seat, and you’ll never have to worry about spills. It’s easy to install and remove, and overall, it’s just a great seat.
The patented Snuglock design makes securing the Graco Nautilus toddler seat to your latch a cinch. The chest lock is completely intuitive, and its threadless adjustable harness allows your child to grow with the seat without needing to constantly remove it from the car.
It has a steel-reinforced frame and strong foam lining and headrest, making this one of the safest car seats on the market, according to Consumer Reports.
Don’t worry about cleaning it, either. The seat pad is — get this — machine-washable. It also has multiple areas for storage, four reclining positions, five harness placements, and six headrest positions.
There’s a lot that parents love about this seat, but one standout that makes it the best car seat for many parents is the lock. Car seats have notoriously difficult seatbelt locks, but this one? Easy to operate and easy to clean. One big fan said, “It’s the easiest lock of any car seat I’ve used, and I have six kids.”
Suitable in forward-facing mode from 22-65 pounds to highback booster between 40-100 pounds, to backless booster from 40-120 pounds.
Convertible Car Seat Runner-Up
This stunner of a car seat by Maxi-Cosi is a favorite of the Best Products team. Our executive editor, Christine Anderson, uses the Magellan with her son, saying, “The Maxi Cosi Pria was recommended to us by a friend — and once we started comparing the features of the Pria to the Magellan XP model, it was an easy decision to upgrade her recommendation and go for the Magellan. With the Magellan, you’re purchasing a 5-in-1 convertible car seat (no extra infant seat or booster seat required). They’re all in there. Plus, the Magellan is complete with Maxi Cosi’s patented Air Protect in the headrest (for side-impact protection) AND torso side impact protection.”
It’s ridiculously straightforward to install, though it does take a minute. But thanks to very explicit guides that show you how to do it, it’s not challenging. Plus, it’s just a really good-looking seat.
Suitable from birth to 120 pounds.
Infant Car Seat Runner-Up
This highly rated infant car seat is easy to install, and it fits securely in the back seat of anything from compact cars to bulky SUVs. The flip-out visor offers great sun protection, and a removable insert for newborns makes this a great choice for bringing a preemie home. We’re impressed with the lengths Chicco goes to when it comes to ensuring proper installation: This car seat features ReclineSure (which helps the car seat achieve an accurate fit in any car model), RideRight (a bubble level indicator for angle accuracy), and SuperCinch (a one-pull tightener to achieve a secure fit with a fraction of the effort). Your newborn can safely ride in this seat until she reaches 30 pounds. The cover is also machine-washable and zips right off!
The ease of the car seat is what parents love best. It’s easy to install, easy to clean, easy to take apart, and easier on the wallet than a lot of its counterparts. Parents also love how breathable it is. One user said, “The thing never gets too hot. Yes, you’ll still get sweaty babies out of them, but it doesn’t overheat.”
Suitable from birth to 32 inches tall and 30 pounds.
Best Smart Car Seat
This car seat is new on the market and has a smart function that connects to an app on your phone. Rather impressively, it’s capable of spinning 180º to make getting your baby in and out of the car as easy as possible.
This app that works with this car seat is quite literally a lifesaver. Why, you ask? Every year, dozens of children die because tired, overworked parents forget them in the car when it’s too hot or too cold. Cybex not only alerts you if you’ve left your child in the car, but it also tells you if it is too hot or too cold when your baby is clicked-in. Although our tester did find that the app glitches sometimes, telling you that your baby is “in the car” when you’re clearly still in there with them, it’s overall still a pretty amazing car seat.
It’s suitable from birth to 40 pounds when it’s rear-facing, and forward-facing from 22 to 65 pounds. You will really get your use out of this one.
How to Clean a Car Seat
Cleaning a car seat can feel like a chore, but it doesn’t have to — if you know how to do it right. Make sure to reference your seat’s instructions because each one is slightly different. One universal truth is that straps cannot be machine washed, so you just need to use a damp cloth and wipe those off.
- Get rid of the little things first. First, use a handheld vacuum to remove dirt, crumbs, and anything else icky from the car seat.
- Spot clean spills. Even perfect tots have spills. Use a carpet cleaning solution to spot clean any stains. For tougher spots, use an inexpensive degreaser and simply pour it on the stain to watch it magically erase it. Then, use a washcloth with water to dab up the degreaser so the chemicals don’t sit.
- Freshen it up. Dip a cotton towel into a solution of water and baby-safe laundry detergent and wash the car seat down. Let it air dry outside. Voilà! (And let’s not lie, you’re definitely going to Febreeze it more than once.)
- Machine wash: Some of the seats have covers that are machine-washable. Just follow your manufacturer’s instructions and get that bad boy cleaned right up.