In Depth Baby Product Reviews Led by a Pediatrician

The 10 Best Car Seats 2024 | Crash Tested

Let our extensive crash testing data help you find the best and safest car seat for your baby
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The 10 Best Car Seats 2024 | Crash Tested
Credit: Natalie Kafader

Our Top Picks

By Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz & the BabyGearLab Testing Team
Tuesday April 16, 2024

Searching for the best car seat for your little one? After spending tens of thousands of dollars on crash testing car seats in a certified testing lab, we discovered that not all car seats are created equal, despite their ability to pass basic federal crash test requirements. Since 2014, we've tested over 80 seats, including crash testing, to help you determine which car seat is the best for your baby, toddler, or child. We purchase each seat and conduct intensive side-by-side testing, including crash tests at the exact location used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). We combine crash test results with our extensive hands-on testing to analyze which competitors are the top performers. Choosing a safety seat can be challenging, but you can buy with confidence using our detailed test results and analysis to help you. Below is the list of our favorite award-winning seats across all categories.

Over time, you will need three different kinds of car seats based on your baby's age and size (height and weight). If you know the kind you need, you can check out our comparison test ratings on the best infant car seat, best convertible car seat, and the top-ranking booster seat. These reviews include more products in each category than in this comprehensive review.

Editor's Note: We updated this car seat review on January 26, 2024, including booster seat testing and all new convertible car seat testing, analysis, and award winners. A further update occurred on April 16, 2024, with more information on how we test.

Best Overall Infant Car Seat

Chicco KeyFit 35

Better than average crash tests
Easiest LATCH
Good price
Canopy & handle collide
Minimum Weight 4 lbs
Aircraft Certified Yes
Maximum Weight 35 lbs
Maximum Height 32 in
Belt Routing Style  European
The Chicco Keyfit 35 is a higher quality infant car seat with an easy LATCH installation with the SuperCinch center pull strap. This option has a polished look with a rubbery grip handle and a headrest with a non-rethread harness adjustment. The Keyfit 35 earned better crash-test analysis than most infant competitors and works well with various award-winning strollers.

The Keyfit 35 is somewhat heavier, which could be a deal-breaker if you plan to carry your baby in it. Overall, we believe this top-ranking infant seat is ideal for most families regardless of their infant seat goals, and it is compatible with various strollers from multiple manufacturers. If your goal is the top-scoring crash test analysis car seat, then the Clek Liing should make your shortlist of considerations.

Read more: Chicco Keyfit 35 review

The Chicco Keyfit 35 is better than much of the competition, with an attractive price, better than average crash test performance, easy LATCH installation and high compatibility with award-winning strollers.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Baby Wearing
If you don't plan to use your infant car seat carrier with a stroller or won't carry it often or far, you might want to consider a top-ranked baby carrier. Wearing your little one close (in a baby carrier) is a wonderful way to facilitate bonding and often keeps babies calm and soothed. This practice often reduces crying or emotional moments. Many modern carriers keep your hands free to get things done with your baby on board without needing a bulky or expensive stroller!

Best Infant Car Seat Crash Test Analysis

Clek Liing

Best crash test analysis
Easy Peasy LATCH install
Simple belt installation
Rethread harness adjustment
Minimum Weight 4 lbs
Aircraft Certified Yes
Maximum Weight 35 lbs
Maximum Height 32 in
Belt Routing Style  European
The Clek Liing is a well-designed infant car seat with a load leg. The Liing offers impressive crash test sensor results, with some of the lowest in the group (lower is better) and one of the highest analysis scores. It is also the easiest to install using LATCH with color change indication of connection on rigid LATCH connectors that are unbelievably easy to use. This seat is easy to install no matter what method, and it offers above-average quality and features for comfort.

The Liing is expensive. Unless your budget can stretch, it might be a deal-breaker to spend this much on a product you only use for 9 months. It also isn't the easiest seat to use, and it doesn't pair with many strollers, unlike the Chicco Keyfit 35. We would love to see a non-rethread harness adjustment on a seat in this price range, but we can accept its absence, given the ease of installation. Overall, there is no better infant seat if your goal is the crash test best, and the installation will keep you smiling.

Read more: Clek Liing review

The Clek Liing had the best crash test performance in our tests. And, if you are anxious about installing your car seat properly, the Clek Liing rigid LATCH with color indicators makes it a breeze.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best High-quality Infant Car Seat

UPPAbaby Mesa Max

Ample padding
Soft fabric
Compatible with award-winning strollers
Little pricey
Only average crash test analysis
Minimum Weight 4 lbs
Aircraft Certified Yes
Maximum Weight 35 lbs
Maximum Height 32 in
Belt Routing Style  European
The UPPAbaby Mesa Max is a looker of a seat with quality and comfort you can see before you touch it. The headrest has lots of cushion and support for napping, and the material is skin-friendly for sensitive newborns. We love the self-retracting tightening strap for LATCH installation and the anti-rebound bar and load leg. This seat has one of the best harness adjustment systems with a simple push/pull of the headrest assembly, and the canopy is large enough for most sun protection.

This seat is a little more expensive than the average option but offers more consideration for comfort and quality, somewhat justifying the added expense. It also only has an average crash test analysis score, which means it isn't the one for you if the best crash test score is the goal. You'll have to look at the Clek Liing for the best or the Chicco Keyfit 35 for better-than-average results. Overall, we love this UPPAbaby offering more than the UPPAbaby Mesa V2 and think it provides more than most seats for comfort, quality, and ease of use.

Read more: UPPAbaby Mesa Max review

The harness height adjustment on the UPPAbaby Mesa Max consists of moving the entire headrest assembly up or down. You can see the assembly has significantly more padding than much of the infant seat competition.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Overall Convertible Car Seat

Graco 4Ever DLX

Some of the best crash analysis
Easy LATCH installation
Easy-to-use features
Could use more padding
Min/Max Forward Facing Passenger Weight 22-65 lb
Min/Max Rear Facing Passenger Weight 4-40 lb
Rear Facing Maximum Height Top of head must be at least 1 in below handle
Forward Facing Maximum Height 49 in
Weight  21.8 lb
The Graco 4Ever DLX is one of those rare products that seems like nothing can go wrong. This reasonably priced convertible seat has the group's best crash test analysis and performed well in the remaining metrics. The 4Ever is easy to install using LATCH, significantly easier than the average seat for belt installation, and has super easy-to-use features like a non-rethread harness height adjustment. It is hard to go wrong with the 4Ever.

This Graco is not the most comfortable or budget-friendly. The Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 is less expensive and offers more padding for comfort while maintaining a similar crash test profile. If you want the best for comfort and budget isn't a concern, then the Nuna Rava is a high-quality option with ample comfort padding and soft fabric, but the entry price is steep. Overall, we think the 4Ever DLX is the perfect choice for most.

Read more: Graco 4Ever DLX review

The Graco 4Ever earned impressive crash test results in this group of convertible car seats.
Credit: GearLab & MGA Research

Inexpensive High-ranking Convertible

Graco Extend2Fit 3 in 1

Great crash test analysis score
Increased legroom
Potential rear-facing longer
No belt lock-off
Easy remove cupholders
Min/Max Forward Facing Passenger Weight 22-65 lb
Min/Max Rear Facing Passenger Weight 4-50 lb
Rear Facing Maximum Height Top of head must be at least 1 in below handle
Forward Facing Maximum Height 49 in
Weight  20.5 lb
The Graco Extend2Fit 3 in 1 is one of our favorite convertible car seats with a very reasonable price tag (that is often on sale) and one of the highest crash test analysis results in the convertible lineup. This Graco is comfortable with supportive padding that decreases pressure points and a headrest suitable for road trip napping.

This option isn't as easy to install using either method as the Graco 4Ever DLX, but it isn't challenging compared to lower-ranking contenders. It also isn't as easy to use as those with slightly more thoughtful designs like the Nuna RAVA. However, overall, we think it is a great all-around choice for many families, offering enough to keep both parents and toddlers pleased.

Read more: Graco Extend2Fit 3 in 1 review

The Graco Extend2Fit offers a leg extension component that could potentially make rear-facing more comfortable or allow staying rear-facing longer (follow the user manual).
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Budget-Friendly Convertible Seat

Graco SlimFit 3-in-1

Good crash analysis
Wallet-friendly price
Straightforward LATCH installation
No lock-off
Not as narrow as we hoped
Min/Max Forward Facing Passenger Weight 22-65 lb
Min/Max Rear Facing Passenger Weight 5-40 lb
Rear Facing Maximum Height Top of head must be at least 1 in below handle
Forward Facing Maximum Height 49 in
Weight  18.5 lb
The Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 is a budget choice that excels at the most important metrics like crash testing and installation. The SlimFit is a lightweight option with more comfortable padding than some of the other Gracos we tested, and it has features that are easy to use.

This seat has great crash test results, but if you want the absolute best, the Graco 4Ever DLX is the better bet. Also, if you want to try a rotating seat, the SlimFit isn't going to fit the bill, and the Cybex Sirona S might be better. However, this is a great option for most families with performance results and a price combination that can't be matched.

Read more: Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 review

The Graco SlimFit offers more for comfort and quality than some of the other Gracos we tested. Paired with better crash test results and easy installation its a win for most families.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Easiest Convertible Car Seat


Higher-ranking crash analysis
Uber easy to use
Super expensive
Takes up a lot of space
Min/Max Forward Facing Passenger Weight 25-65 lb
Min/Max Rear Facing Passenger Weight 5-50 lb
Rear Facing Maximum Height 49 in
Forward Facing Maximum Height 49 in
Weight  26.4 lb
The high-quality Nuna RAVA is an ultra-comfortable convertible seat. This seat is one of the easiest to use, with a thoughtful design that works well and has daily functioning in mind. It has easy-to-use harness adjustments, and either installation method is a no-brainer. With one of the highest crash test analysis scores, there isn't much stopping families from looking closer at the Rava.

The downside to this seat is largely the price. With a list price double the competition, this could be a deal-breaker for many. If your budget is average or even tight, the Graco 4Ever DLX, Graco Extend2Fit 3 in 1, and the Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 also performed well and have significantly lower prices. If you want the easiest-to-use seat or one with obvious quality and comfort compared to the competition, and budget is less of a concern, then the Rava is the seat for your kiddo.

Read more: Nuna RAVA review

The Nuna RAVA is one of the easiest convertible car seats to use.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Revolving Convertible Car Seat

Cybex Sirona S

360 revolution
One-and-done installation
Great padding
Heavy and cumbersome
Min/Max Forward Facing Passenger Weight 22-65 lb
Min/Max Rear Facing Passenger Weight 4-50 lb
Rear Facing Maximum Height 49 in
Forward Facing Maximum Height 49 in
Weight  31.2 lb
The Cybex Sirona S is our favorite revolving convertible seat. The Sirona has ample comfort features, non-rethread harness adjustment, one-way installation, and a fully rotating chair for rear or forward-facing configurations. This quality option also has a smart chest clip that can send alerts to your phone when paired with an app.

This seat doesn't have the best crash test analysis results and is expensive, which could be a deal-breaker. If you want a rotating seat with better crash test results, the Baby Jogger City Turn should garner a look. The Turn doesn't rotate in the forward-facing position but has a higher crash test result. If you are willing to forgo rotation for safety, then we'd point to the Graco 4Ever DLX that earned top crash test scores in our review. Outside of crash testing and price, the Sirona is a quality option with excellent rotation that is fun to use and quickly became a tester favorite.

Read more: Cybex Sirona S review

The Cybex Sirona offers full 360 rotation and a potential one-time installation that works for rear and forward-facing configurations.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Overall Booster

Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus 2-in-1

Better crash analysis
Easy installation
Lounge-style padding
Quick remove cover
Lumpy and rough headrest
High Back Booster Weight Range 40-110 lb
Modes High Back Booster, Backless Booster
High Back Booster Height Range 38-57 in
Width 18.2 in
Weight 11.8 lb
The Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus 2-in-1 is the one booster that does it all well and does it for a below-average price. With higher crash test analysis results and an easy-to-use design, this higher-quality option is a shoo-in for your shortlist. The Air Plus has a zip-off cover and a padded leg lounger feature and installs using LATCH.

This option is not the best for travel, and parents might consider a backless option like the BubbleBum instead. Alternatively, if you want the highest crash test results or the easiest option to use, and your budget is bigger, then the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 is one to consider. Because the KidFit Zip Air Plus ranks so high and has a buyer-friendly price, it is hard not to recommend it as the right choice for most families.

Read more: Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus 2-in-1 review

The Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus is a bigger seat thanks to a wide base and leg lounger feature, but we love the unique feature of this option.
Credit: Natalie Nealan

Best Crash Test Booster

Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120

Better crash test results
Super adjustable
High quality
Easy for kids
High Back Booster Weight Range 40-120 lb
Modes High Back Booster
High Back Booster Height Range 39-63 in
Width 16.3 in
Weight 15.7 lb
The Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 is an impressive high-backed booster that offers exceptional adjustability, the best crash testing analysis for booster seats, and is of higher quality than other competitors. We love the expanding wing sides, the two-point height adjustment, and the tapered seat for easy buckling. There isn't much to dislike about this booster.

The Peg is expensive, with a price almost twice that of the next highest scoring seat, the Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus 2-in-1. It also doesn't have armrests, which some kids might think is a deal breaker. However, our tester felt it was one of the most comfortable in the group, and parents and kids thought the loss wasn't a problem. Overall, the Peg might not be for everyone because of the higher price, but it performed so well in all metrics that we believe it is a top contender for anyone whose budget allows.

Read more: Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 review

The Peg Perego has multiple adjustment points to help ensure a comfortable and safe riding experience for children of every size.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Budget Booster

Diono Cambria 2

Better crash testing
Ultra-cozy headrest
Not too heavy
Wider, hard-to-find the buckle
Lacks adequate padding
Uncomfortable belt positioner
High Back Booster Weight Range 40-120 lb
Modes High Back Booster, Backless Booster
High Back Booster Height Range 38-63 in
Width 19.9 in
Weight 12.0 lb
The Diono Cambria 2 is our budget-friendly, high-backed option in our booster review. This seat has a lower price paired with a higher crash analysis result. We love the idea of an economical booster that also provides an additional margin of protection over lower-scoring seats.

The Cambria 2 did not score well overall or in key metrics like ease of use or quality. The Chicco KidFit Zip Air Plus 2-in-1 offers more in every metric and could be one you try to stretch your budget to if you hope for more beyond crash scoring. However, if your budget is tight and you can't find a good sale, or you need a second seat for occasional use, the Cambri is one parents can feel good about.

Read more: Diono Cambria 2 review

The Cambria 2 struggled in some metrics like comfort and quality, but it excelled in our crash testing with an analysis result that is higher than most.
Credit: GearLab & MGA Research

Best Travel Booster


Easy to carry and pack
Straightforward for kids
Lacks quality
High Back Booster Weight Range N/A
Modes Backless Booster
High Back Booster Height Range N/A
Width 11.3 in
Weight 0.9 lb
The BubbleBum is a unique booster that inflates for use and rolls up in its own carry bag for transport. This compact and lightweight booster is the perfect option for any situation where you or your child must frequently carry a booster. Be it travel, carpooling, or the summer camp van, the BubbleBum can provide a useful boost without the cumbersome hassle of a high-backed option.

The BubbleBum didn't perform as well as competitors for crash test analysis, but it did manage better results than other backless contenders. While its results aren't as impressive as the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120, it almost managed an average score. It also isn't the best quality, with some errant stitching and a flimsy feel. However, the price is low, and if it is a secondary seat instead of your everyday option, this shouldn't be a concern. Overall, this innovative option is our pick for travel.

Read more: BubbleBum review

The BubbleBum is excellent for carpooling and travel as it is lightweight and compact.
Credit: Natalie Nealan

car seats - for crash testing, we work with mga research, the same certified...
For crash testing, we work with MGA Research, the same certified testing lab the US Government relies on for their safety certification tests.
Credit: MGA Research

How We Test Car Seats

Our testing protocol for car seats is intense and highly detailed. We've conducted more than 6,000 individual tests to evaluate the more than 200 safety seats we've tested since 2014. Our tests show that car seats vary significantly in their performance. To help you determine which option is the best for you, we purchase two seats of every brand and model ourselves for testing. We do NOT accept free products from manufacturers to assure our readers that our opinions are independent and unbiased.

We commissioned professional lab crash testing in the certified crash test facility of MGA Research so that BabyGearLab could evaluate the performance of each seat in our review in an objective manner.
Credit: GearLab & MGA Research

We send one car seat to the same professional crash test facility the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) uses for testing. The seats undergo professional crash testing using the appropriate size crash test dummies and sensors. We run a slightly hotter (faster) test than the federal standard and use a more modern-style crash sled to better mimic late-model vehicles. We believe this kind of testing provides critical information that helps differentiate the options. We use the sensor data to conduct a side-by-side analysis of the G forces recorded in the sensors during testing.

We keep the other seat in-house for over 45 detailed scientific tests on each seat. In-house, we use and assess all features and functionality, from the stiffness of the buckle and how challenging it is to change shoulder strap height to the difficulty of installation for every method possible. Our extensive, months-long testing process means you can feel confident in our test results and analysis to help you find the best car seat for your family and budget.

Installing the Graco Extend2Fit using LATCH is pretty straightforward, and you can tighten it by pulling two sides instead of one. We installed each seat in multiple vehicles using multiple testers to get an average assessment of the process.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Car seat testing is divided into five test metrics (with some variation based on car seat type):

  • Crash Test Analysis (based on professional, 3rd party tests by MGA Research)
  • Ease of Installation (every configuration in multiple vehicles)
  • Ease of Use
  • Comfort/Quality
  • Weight & Size

Over time, we've tested hundreds of different car seats across categories, including the infant car seats seen here.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Our exhaustive testing and rating process provides the information you need to make your family's best car seat purchase. Each metric's weighted contribution to the overall score is based on how important we believe it is to the purchasing decision. Weighting varies somewhat for each car seat category, as some features or functionality could be more critical from one product type than another.

car seats - a collection of some of the convertible options we've tested recently.
A collection of some of the convertible options we've tested recently.
Credit: Natalie Kafader

Why You Should Trust Us

With over 100 car seats under our testing belt, it is easy to say you're in good hands with an expert crew for safety seats and crash testing. This team is led by our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier uses her experience as a board-certified pediatrician to select products with safety and installation in mind, as these are the key factors in creating a safe car environment for little passengers. Bob Wofford, father of 7, Senior Review Analyst and Certified Passenger Safety Technician, leads the in-house testing team with extensive side-by-side testing for ease of installation and more. Given our test process of installing every seat in at least three different vehicles and Bob's seven years of seat testing prowess, you can rest assured that Bob has more installation and car seat experience than probably anyone on the planet. Wendy Schmitz, mom of two boys and Senior Review Editor, takes part in score analysis as well as hands-on testing and installation with over six years of experience testing seats of every kind. Abriah Wofford, Senior Review Analyst, rounds out the team and provides another set of hands and alternate experiences to give more insight on installation and ease of use. Abriah has been testing car seats since 2016.

We've tested a variety of safety seats over the years, including options from the infant, convertible, and booster seat categories.
Credit: Natalie Kafader

How to Choose a Car Seat

If you are a new parent, the world of car seats could be brand new and somewhat daunting. We remember all too well wondering what to choose, when to switch to a new seat, and why installing them was so darn complicated. Luckily, we have the information you need to decide which safety seat is right for your little one.

Infant car seats allow you to remove the carrier portion holding your baby from the base which remains in the car.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Infant Car Seats

Parents must have a safe car seat when leaving the hospital with their new baby. Infant safety seats are designed with consideration for tiny baby bodies and developing systems. From proper positioning to avoid positional asphyxiation to narrower shoulder harness straps, serious engineering goes into a safe infant car seat. Infant safety seats combine a carrier and a base to create a system that allows you to install the base in your car once, carry your infant in the carrier to and from the car base, or attach it to a compatible stroller. Unlike "all-in-one" seats or convertible seats that claim suitability for infants, infant car seats are only for infants and babies typically up to about nine months or 30-35 lbs. We believe they are uniquely qualified to potentially better protect your little than a seat designed for children from 4-80 lbs. Most parents feel infant carriers are valuable tools and are grateful for the ability to leave a child to sleep while running errands using a stroller or the carrier handle.

Below is a chart with the overall performance scores of all the infant car seats in our current review of the best infant car seats available today.

Convertible car seats are perfect for older babies and toddlers with a more upright posture and useful features.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Convertible Car Seats

Convertible seats are for older babies (around nine months) and can last until your little one is about 3-7 years old, depending on the model and your child's size. The seat starts facing the vehicle seat or backward (the safest position for little ones). Depending on the manufacturer's recommendations, you turn the seat to face forward when your child reaches a certain weight or height range. The moniker "convertible" is related to the seat facing backward and then "converting" to a forward-facing seat.

Below are the scores from our comprehensive review of the best convertible car seats you can buy today.

Booster safety seats come in all shapes and sizes with options for just about every goal and budget.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Booster Car Seats

Once your baby outgrows their convertible seat, they're ready for the big kid favorite booster seat. This transition will depend on the manufacturer's guidelines and your child's size. Pay special attention to weight and height restrictions, as most children outgrow one before the other. Depending on the seat, your child will likely need a booster around 5-7 years old, but child size is more of a factor than age. Just as you wanted to stay rear-facing as long as possible, we think keeping your child in a convertible seat as long as the seat user manual allows before swapping it for a booster is wise. We believe the 5-point harness and side shell of the convertible seats potentially offer more protection.

Below is a summary chart from our review of the best booster car seats.

car seats - we don't care for a one-and-done style car seat and believe an...
We don't care for a one-and-done style car seat and believe an infant car seat should be your child's first car seat from birth until they meet the limit of the manufacturer's guidelines.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Can One Product Do it All?

While convertible seats can work for babies from 5 - 50 lbs and beyond, we don't believe it is good to choose a one-and-done seat regarding safety.


Infant seats are designed for smaller newborn bodies. These seats are configured for a baby's anatomy and provide posture positioning for optimal breathing and protection in a crash. The harness design is narrower and more appropriate for an infant than that on a convertible seat, designed for older babies and modified for infants.

Tiny infants deserve to have a car seat designed specifically for...
Tiny infants deserve to have a car seat designed specifically for their body size and needs for better potential protection in a crash or to help avoid positional asphyxiation.
Older babies and toddlers are best suited to a convertible car seat...
Older babies and toddlers are best suited to a convertible car seat with its more upright posture and useful additional features for comfort and functionality.

Many convertible car seats have an infant insert to make the car seat more suitable for smaller passengers. We believe it is smart to purchase car seats specifically for each age/size instead of opting for one product that can accommodate a baby but isn't explicitly designed for infants. If you want to save money on baby gear (don't we all?), we do not think car seat purchasing is the time to do it, given the potential safety implications.

car seats - the uppababy vista can be used with 2 infant car seats for easy...
The UPPAbaby Vista can be used with 2 infant car seats for easy transportation of up up to 2 infants. This photo shows the Vista with two UPPAbaby Mesa infant car seats.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

The other advantage of infant seats is they are handy. Infant seats have a carrier with a handle for easy carrying from one location to another.

Infant car seats allow you to carry your baby in the seat so you can transition sleeping little ones to a compatible stroller without waking them.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

This design allows you to move a sleeping infant from a car to a stroller or car without disruption. This functionality may seem insignificant before your baby is born, but trust us, you'll be grateful for the carrier.

Crash test results are important, so we invest tens of thousands of dollars to crash test every seat. But crash testing isn't the whole story. It also is important how easy a seat is to install since installation mistakes can create an unsafe riding environment.
Credit: GearLab & MGA Research

Is Ease of Installation or Crash Test Results More Important?

While many parents are concerned with crash test safety (as you should be), few know that improperly installing a seat or not using it as indicated is a significant cause of infant injury in car accidents. In our research on car seat safety testing, safety engineers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) emphasized that improper use is a more significant safety concern than the differences in crash test performance results.

Learn How to Install Your Seat Safely
We encourage parents to read our How to Avoid Infant Car Seat Installation Mistakes article and contact a certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians in their area to ensure proper installation.

In fact, an NHTSA study showed that 79% of infant seats exhibited a critical misuse related to either installation of the seat or incorrect restraint of the infant, or both. Another study by Portland's top Children's Hospital followed 267 families as they left the hospital with their infants after birth. The study showed that "93% made at least one critical error — a mistake that put their infant at increased risk for injury in a crash — when positioning their infant in a car safety seat or installing the safety seat in their vehicle."

The "linear side-impact protection" on the Cybex is a nice to see...
The "linear side-impact protection" on the Cybex is a nice to see feature but its true efficacy is difficult to determine without more information on the testing of this feature and how the 25% claim was assessed.
Installing the Advocate is very easy using LATCH and it earned a...
Installing the Advocate is very easy using LATCH and it earned a perfect score during testing.

Ninety-three percent is a significant number. That is why we feel that ease of use and installation are critical components of seat safety, potentially more so than the crash test results. So, while crash test analysis is important, it should not overshadow how challenging a seat is to use or install. Many award-winning seats are easy to install, with at least one installation method. Some even have perfect scores and are practically foolproof or as infallible as possible.

In our commissioned crash tests, the Graco 4Ever had some of the lowest recorded sensor results in the group (lower is better). The sensor data was used to determine the crash test analysis result.
Credit: GearLab & MGA Research

All of the Safety Seats Offer a Basic Level of Protection
All seats for sale in the United States and our reviews should have passed federal safety standards for crash testing. As a result, the products we tested can be considered safe and provide a basic protection level required by US Federal law. With this in mind, our focus for crash test scoring is to identify safety seats with crash test results that go beyond the federal requirements and exceed the crash test performance of the competition. As a result, these seats can be considered as providing an extra margin of protection based on their crash test performance.

car seats - parents who frequently ride in taxi cabs or use services like uber...
Parents who frequently ride in taxi cabs or use services like Uber, will want to look for a car seat that offers easy installation without the base, just using the seat belt.
Credit: stocksnapper ©

Does Lifestyle Matter?

Your lifestyle might be a consideration in your selection process for a new car seat. Suburban parents typically have a personal car and a semi-permanent location to install their seats with limited alterations. Other parents might live in a larger city where they frequently use Uber and taxis, requiring a relatively mobile option with frequent installations in multiple vehicles. Therefore, a lightweight, easy-to-install car seat is more critical to urbanites than others. If you aren't carrying your seat frequently, you have more options because weight is less of a determining factor. Some heavier products are likely non-starters if you need to carry the seat frequently.

We weighed every seat across categories to help parents determine which might be good for different goals.
Credit: Natalie Nealan

The weight of your booster seat could play a role in your decision-making if you carpool or travel. Your child may need a booster seat in some locations to participate in camp vanpooling or sharing rides with friends from school activities. A heavy steel frame seat like the Clek Oobr is a beast and isn't something you want to move very often. It is a poor choice for carrying or stuffing in a backpack without the back. The Evenflo Spectrum is significantly lighter and can go backless for even easier carpooling.

car seats - the evenflo tribute is one of the lighter seats in the convertible...
The Evenflo Tribute is one of the lighter seats in the convertible car seat group.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

A convertible seat's weight is less of a consideration for most people because it typically spends most of its life installed in a single location. However, if you need to catch a taxi with your seat and your baby, you will likely prefer the lightest seat possible.

For infant seats, the weight of the carrier can play a role for similar reasons. Carriers can be cumbersome when combined with the baby's weight. If you plan to attach your carrier to a stroller, the weight is less critical, but if you plan to hold your carrier or travel frequently, its weight plays more of a role.

car seats - the keyfit 35 is easy enough to install without the base and uses...
The Keyfit 35 is easy enough to install without the base and uses the European belt pathway. Plus, it is compatible with many strollers (including frame strollers), making it good for urban living.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Are you an urban dweller looking for an infant carrier? Then, you should consider the ease of installation without the base, as you are more likely to install the seat in an Uber without the base than you are to carry the base. This installation style is a safe practice, and the seats have a method for this practice. However, some seats are significantly more straightforward to install without the base than others, so choosing the easiest, high-ranking option could make your life easier. Alternatively, the Doona is easy enough to install without the base and includes an attached stroller that takes the weight off you and puts it on wheels.

What About Weight Range?

Infant seats claim to be appropriate for a baby from 4 lbs to typically up to 30-45 lbs; convertible seats also have limits, usually between 5 to 55 lbs (or higher, depending on the seat). Manufacturers advertise these ranges and make them seem very important. Should this weight range be a consideration when making your purchase? No, probably not.

Why no?

Despite the manufacturer's focus on weight, most babies will outgrow the height limits before reaching the weight limit for most infant seats. The same is typically true of convertible seats.

According to the CDC's infant boy age vs. weight growth chart (pdf), a 95th percentile baby boy (which means a baby growing faster than 94 babies out of 100) will still weigh under 28 lbs and be close to 32 inches on their one year birthday. Based on height, most infants will transition out of their infant seat and into a convertible seat between 9-12 months. You can see from the data that even the fastest-growing boy will fail to exceed the maximum weight of the majority of seats in our tests, but he might grow too tall, which means a transition to the following safety seat style before his weight impacts a change. So, while having a general idea of how long your baby can use a seat is helpful, it is only an estimate.

Ultimately, the restrictions have more to do with height than weight. For this reason, we wouldn't necessarily make the weight range a deciding factor in your buying decision unless it is below 30 lbs for an infant seat (very rare). Even if your little one is exceptionally tall, you will simply move to a convertible seat sooner than other babies of the same age, which isn't a big deal, is safe, and will occur eventually, no matter what.

Rear-Facing Installation
Your baby should stay rear-facing as long as possible. This position will be determined by your baby's weight/height and the manufacturer's recommendations, as not all safety seats allow for extended rear-facing time. The laws in most areas require that babies sit rear-facing until two years old, but it is ideal for children to sit in a rear-facing seat as long as the manufacturer says it can. Even if your toddler's legs are longer, rear-facing is still the safest installation within the seat's limitations.

car seats - there are many varieties of combinations when it comes to strollers...
There are many varieties of combinations when it comes to strollers and their car seat counterparts, and many strollers will work with a variety of seat options with the purchase of the appropriate adapters.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

What About Travel Systems?

A travel system is a package deal that includes an infant car seat and a compatible stroller. These combinations are traditionally a predetermined set from the same manufacturer. Pre-arranged sets (in our experience) often include less impressive choices than you get if you create your own combination, so we prefer to create our own. Alternatively, you can skip the pre-packages to create your own mix where you purchase a seat and compatible stroller separately (which may require buying adapters). Manufacturer sets, however, may be less expensive.

Because safety is paramount, we believe you should choose your car seat before a stroller. We think choosing the right infant seat before selecting a must-have compatible stroller is wise. Most infant safety seats are compatible with at least a couple of strollers; if they aren't, you can still wear your baby in a carrier.

car seats - the car seat recommendation from the nhtsa website
The car seat recommendation from the NHTSA website
Credit: NHTSA Website

How to Choose

You can narrow your options to a handful of top contenders by considering how you plan to use your seat and how easy it is to install. First, you should choose a seat corresponding to your child's age and size. We strongly encourage you to resist the temptation to buy an "all-in-one" or "lifetime" product for your infant. You can narrow your search by the crash test analysis results from there. Last, while we understand budget can be a concern, and some new parents have the tightest of budgets, we believe that car seats are not the right product type to try to save a few bucks. Our tests reveal that there are affordable seats that are easy to install with impressive crash test analysis results in every category. However, they could still be slightly more expensive than the cheapest options.

car seats - finding the right car seat for the right life stage doesn't have to...
Finding the right car seat for the right life stage doesn't have to be a chore when you have all the information you need to make the best choice for your little one.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


The award-winning car seats in this lineup are exceptional options with impressive features and functionality appropriate for various lifestyles and car seat goals. Because every family and lifestyle is different, there is no perfect seat for everyone. The seats in this round-up encompass a wide range of prices, providing products for almost every budget in each safety seat category. We believe the details in this review can help you choose the perfect car seat for your needs, your baby's age/size, and your wallet.

Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz & the BabyGearLab Testing Team