Please Be Seated

The 7 Best Infant Car Seats In 2016

Congratulations, you now have extremely precious cargo to tote in your sensible family sedan (sweet new car, by the way). That means you’re about to learn more about automobile safety than a NASCAR spotter at a seatbelt factory tour, starting with infant car seats. These novel baby buckets are part carrier, part back seat bassinet, and they might snap into a stroller or stroller frame (depending on what you buy) for seamless baby-to-grocery-store-to-crib transfers. These 7 highly-rated, beyond-safe, and occasionally innovative car seats are guaranteed to work until they’re big enough to ask for more leg room. But first, a few things to note:

Fit

As in: your lifestyle, budget, car, kid, and stroller. It’s a lot to consider, which is why this process takes lots of research and is, frankly, extra complicated. Sorry. Regarding size, height capacity is more important than weight, because where their noggin rests on the thing determines when it’s officially too small. Look for a seat that fits infants up to at least 28 inches tall and 25 pounds, and has a low, comfortable weight while empty, because it only gets heavier and you’re no Kelly Starrett … yet.

Base

Any infant car seat can be strapped in using seat belts, but most also have a base that — after a Herculean effort and lots of swearing — sits snugly in the back seat of your car.

Almost all of these bases now install using the LATCH system, which are metal anchors that every modern car (2002 and later) now comes with. Ideally, your new family truckster has these anchors in all 3 seating positions across the back seat, because the center seat is 43-percent safer than behind the driver or front passenger.

Once the base is in, you can click and unclick the car seat and transfer it to a stroller, or just hold it in the crook of your arm like a picnic basket full of delicious baby.

Compatibility

You didn’t spend all that time choosing the perfect stroller (or jogger) to have your car seat not fit into it. Sadly, not every seat fits every stroller because the makers of these things got the memo that parenting should be the hardest thing ever. If you want to get your stroll on from the jump, make sure the seat fits, or at least has an adapter (sold separately, of course). Your pals at The NightLight created this handy chart to help.

best infant car seats cybex aton q

Best At Any Cost: Cybex Aton Q

 

Pros: Beyond the efficient German design that’s “as deluxe as they come” according to Gear Patrol — what with its giant sunshade and Maybach-esque interior padding — the Aton Q was also named one of Consumer Reports’ top 5. It has “telescoping linear side-impact protection arms” that jut out to keep the side of your car from coming in contact with the car seat during a collision. What GP liked best was “the easy-adjust harness that not only raises and lowers the shoulder straps but automatically adjusts the seat so newborns and sleeping infants are more reclined and less likely to slump forward.”
Cons: The NightLight was similarly impressed, but for those front-seat passengers (ie., you), “Keep in mind that this seat will not work in many center seating positions, due to the load leg, and will instead have to be placed in an outboard position.” That means one of you is twisting to attend to the kid. Also, one Amazon reviewer notes, “The way you press the buttons for removing it from a stroller are not very intuitive (I’m still the only one in my family that knows how to do it and my parents have tried at least 20 times).”

Height: Up to 30”
Weight: 4-35 lbs

Cybex Aton Q ($350)

best infant car seats chicco keyfit 30

Best Bang For Your Buck: Chicco Keyfit 30

 

Pros: The NightLight crowned the Keyfit their best choice, saying it was easiest to install. “It was the narrowest seat we tested, at only 16.5 inches wide, and it took up the least amount of room lengthwise in both back seats.” BabyGearLab praised its advance LATCH system, noting, “The Chicco earned a high score of 9 out of 10 for ease of installation.” Gear Patrol raved about a convertible you can move around, saying, “The ability to install and remove a car seat base quickly and safely is extremely helpful if you’re chauffeuring your child in more than one car.”
Cons: BabyGearLab wasn’t high on the Chicco without using the base, saying, “If you plan to use the seat frequently with taxi cabs, Uber, or shuttle services, you’ll want to consider installation without the base as a key metric. The Chicco earned its lowest score for ease of install without the base, with a 4 out of 10.” Yikes. Also, one mom on Amazon called for the resignation of man who invented a handle that requires you to push buttons on both sides instead of a 1-sided release.

Height: Up to 30″
Weight: 4-30 lbs

Chicco Keyfit 30 ($200)

Best Infant Car Seats UPPAbaby Mesa

Best For Travelers: UPPAbaby Mesa

 

Pros: BabyGearLab loved the Mesa in general, but especially so for urban families and travelers, giving it a perfect 10 for ease of installation without the base. Perfect for baby’s first Uber! Multiple outlets called it one of the easiest-to-install seats that use LATCH connectors; it features automatically retracting connectors, one-button release, and red-to-green tension and safe-install indicators.
Cons: The thing weighs almost 12 pounds — more than your kid will for 3 months — and offers slim pickings for compatible strollers if you’re not also pushing an UPPAbaby. The company’s trademark durability comes at the cost of relatively rougher fabric for your kid to try and sleep on. Exceeds federal safety standards but only earned a “basic” score for crash test results from BabyGearLab.

Height: Up to 32”
Weight: 4-35 lbs

UPPAbaby Mesa ($300)

Best Infant Car Seats Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35

Best Combo Of Form And Function: Peg Perego Viaggio 4-35

 

Pros: The #1 overall selection from BabyGearLab combines comfort, compatibility, and protection with Italian design and craftsmanship (read: “Not made in China”). Safety features include side impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, non-rethread adjustable harness with 6 height positions, and a built-in anti-rebound bar in the base. It fits almost all Peg Perego strollers and several other brands with adapters.
Cons: A color-coded belt routing system makes the 4-35 easy to use without the base, but with the base there’s no comforting “click” to let you know it’s definitely locked in. There are 2 different handle positions for installation with and without the base, respectively, which means you’ll have to read the manual to make sure you get it right, which requires time you do not have.

Height: Up to 32”
Weight: 4-35 lbs

Peg Perego Viaggio 4-35 ($300)

Best Infant Car Seats Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40

Best Leg Room: Graco SnugRide 40 Click Connect

 

Pros: Is there really any difference among Graco’s seemingly endless car seat offering? Yes … sort of. While many are great (the Snugride 30 Classic Connect was The NighLight’s best budget choice), the SnugRide 40 Click Connect is the latest and greatest. Of the seat base’s 8 recline positions, CarSeatBlog notes, “As you move up in base recline positions … the carrier moves away from the vehicle seat bight and creates more leg room for the older baby. It’s quite ingenious!” (Bight is a fancypants word for “crack,” by the way.) The max height is also on the higher end compared with the rest of the list.
Cons: While larger and more feature-laden than the 30 Classic Connect, the 40 Click Connect is only compatible with strollers in the Click Connect line; Classic Connect seats work with any Graco stroller. Still makes for a solid snap-n-go setup, just somewhat limits your options.

Height: Up to 35”
Weight: 4-40 lbs

Graco SnugRide 40 Click Connect ($200)

Best Infant Car Seats Britax B-Safe 35

Best Upgrade: Britax B-Safe 35

 

Pros: GP tapped the Britax BOB B-Safe as its ‘Best On A Budget’ choice, but its modern upgrade, the B-Safe 35, offers even more features in a similar, sub-$200 price range. Britax added their signature SafeCell Impact Protection — compressible cells that absorb crash energy — to the steel-frame base and shell to provide complete Side Impact Protection; energy-absorbing EPP foam from previous models remains. Has LATCH connectors as well as a simple seatbelt installation option. It’ll fit any Britax stroller including those that worked with the original BOB seat, and even comes as a travel system with the B-Agile stroller.
Cons: LATCH connector installation only works in the center seat when designated as a LATCH location by the vehicle manufacturer. Not compatible with certain seatbelts in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and some airplanes. And if you do bring it on the plane, you’ll have to leave the base behind (or check it for use in your destination rental car). No anti-rebound bar. All those added safety features mean you better start lifting — thing weighs 24 punds!

Height: Up to 32”
Weight: 4-35 lbs

Britax B-Safe 35 ($168)

Best Infant Car Seats Safety 1st Onboard 35 Air

Best For Teeny Tiny Ones: Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air

 

Pros: You’d expect the inventors of the “Baby On Board” sign to be here and, indeed, CarSeatBlog believes the onBoard 35 Air to be the best car seat for preemies and smaller infants. At the same time, it offers 17 percent more legroom than the competition for when those babies grow (and they grow fast).
Cons: There are multiple versions of this seat available, but only the ones designated “Air” include Dorel’s signature Air Protect cushions, premium base with lock-off mechanism, and more than one recline position. It can get confusing, so make sure you order the right one.

Height: Up to 32”
Weight: 4-35 lbs

Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air ($140)

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