The 8 Best Car Seats of 2021

Make sure your little one is protected when driving around town

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Your child’s car seat is one of the most important and most overwhelming purchases you’ll make as a new parent. There are so many different options to choose from and it’s hard to figure out what is essential and what isn’t. A lot of what you need depends on your child’s age, size, and where they fall in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ car seat guidelines, but beyond that, a lot of your decision has to do with preference.

To help you narrow down your list of options, here’s a list of the best car seat options on the market right now.

Our Top Picks
This convertible seat is safe for babies as little as 4 pounds all the way up to big kids weighing 120 pounds.
With nine recline positions and 15 headrest positions, your child will always be fully protected.
It includes two cup holders, a removable and machine washable cover, and padded adjustable armrests.
This infant carrier has a UPF 50+ adjustable canopy, a reinforced steel frame, and is designed to connect with all nuna strollers.
Designed for front-facing use only, this has two conversion options, with either a five-point harness or a seatbelt.
It features a 9-position headrest that adjusts with the harness attached so you don’t have to rethread it as your child grows.
Its slim design is perfect for families wanting to safely fit three kids across the back seat or for compact vehicles.
It has a four-position extension panel that helps create more leg space for your kiddo's comfort.

Best Overall: Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat

Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat
Pros
  • Grows with child for many years

  • Machine washable cover

Cons
  • Costly

What makes this seat so great is that it’s safe for babies as little as 4 pounds all the way up to big kids weighing 120 pounds (or who are 57 inches tall). This seat can be converted into a rear-facing seat with a five-point harness, a front-facing seat with a five-point harness, a high-back booster seat, and a backless booster seat.

As your child grows, you can easily lift the 10-position headrest to fit them, which is also attached to the harness so you don’t have to re-thread it. When it’s being used as a back-facing seat, it has six recline positions and can be used by children up to 40 pounds. Once your child is ready for a booster, you simply unthread the harness to convert it into a highback booster until they’re big enough to remove the back completely to use as a standard booster seat.

Product Weight: 27.93 pounds | Height Range: Up to 57 inches tall | Weight Range: 4- 120 pounds (weight ranges vary based on conversion) | Age Range: Not Listed | Convertible: Yes

Best Convertible: Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat

Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat
Pros
  • ClickTight Installation

  • 9-Position Recline

Cons
  • Costly

You can safely put your baby in this car seat when they’re as little as 5 pounds and it will last them through their 10th birthday. It can be used as a back-facing infant seat, a back-facing toddler seat, a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness, and a high-back booster.

It has nine recline positions and 15 headrest positions so that your child will always be fully protected. The seat also has an easy-remove cover, two dishwasher-safe cup holders, and click-tight technology for easy installation.

Product Weight: 30 pounds | Height Range: 63 inches (height limits vary depending on conversion) | Weight Range: 5-120 pounds (weight limits vary depending on the conversion | Age Range: Birth to 10 years | Convertible: Yes

Best Backless: Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster Car Seat

 Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster Car Seat
Pros
  • Budget-friendly

  • Lightweight

  • Easy to move

Cons
  • Arm covers easily slip off

  • Exclusively for older kids

For a straightforward backless booster seat, this has everything you need. It’s safe for kids between 43 inches and 57 inches tall and 40 to 100 pounds, elevating them so they can safely use a seatbelt.

The super lightweight seat can be moved from car to car with ease. The seat also has two cup holders, a removable and machine washable cover, and padded adjustable armrests so your child can still comfortably use them as they continue to grow taller.

Product Weight: 4.41 pounds | Height Range: 43-57 inches | Weight Range: 40-100 pounds | Age Range: Not Listed | Convertible: No

Best for Infants: Nuna PIPA Infant Car Seat + PIPA Series Base

Nuna PIPA Infant Car Seat & Base
Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Steel Frame

Cons
  • Costly

  • Not Convertible

Available in four neutral colors, this infant carrier has a reinforced steel frame and is designed to connect with all Nuna brand strollers. The car seat comes with a base for your vehicle but it can also be safely installed using a seatbelt, which makes it perfect for families in big cities who rely on taxi transportation.

Finally, it’s thoughtfully designed with stylish elements, quiet connectors so the baby isn’t disturbed when the seat is put in or taken out of the base. The soft leather handle makes carrying the seat a little easier on grown-ups while the UPF 50+ adjustable canopy keeps your little one protected from the sun.

Product Weight: 8 lbs (seat) and 13.4 pounds (base) | Height Range: Up to 32 inches | Weight Range: 4-32 pounds | Age Range: Not Listed | Convertible: No

Best 5-Point Harness Booster: Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat

Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat
Pros
  • Armrests

  • 9-position adjustable headrest

Cons
  • Heavy

This forward-facing only seat is ideal for kiddos who are old enough to transition out of a rear-facing seat but not quite ready for a backless booster. Designed to grow with your toddler, this seat has two conversion options, with either a five-point harness or a seatbelt. The seat has four reclining positions, a 9-position adjustable headrest, and two removable dishwasher-safe cup holders.

Grown-ups safely and easily install the seat using the LATCH system and won’t have to rethread the harness when they adjust the headrest to accommodate their child’s changing height. 

Product Weight: 25 pounds | Height Range: Up to 57 inches (height limits vary by conversion) | Weight Range: 25-100 pounds (weight limits vary by conversion) | Age Range: 4 years and up for booster mode | Convertible: Yes

Best for Toddlers: Britax Grow with You ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat

Britax Grow with You ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat
Pros
  • Easy to install

  • Five-point harness to highback booster transition

Cons
  • Cover is hand wash only

Once your child is at least 25 pounds and has grown out of their rear-facing seat, they transition into this forward-facing seat using the five-point harness. Then, after they’ve turned five years old and weigh at least 40 pounds (or before they reach 65 pounds) they can safely use this seat as a highback booster.

Once your child has reached the 25 pound minimum for rear-facing, this forward-facing seat from Britax will come in handy. Featuring ClickTight technology for super straightforward installation, you can feel secure every time you load up your little one. With nine different headrest positions that adjust with the harness, you won't have to rethread it as your child grows. Your kiddo will be able to ride in comfort thanks to the two recline positions and four cup and snack holders.

Product Weight: 25 pounds | Height Range: Up to 65 inches (height limits vary by conversion) | Weight Range: 25-120 pounds (weight limits vary by conversion) | Age Range: Not Listed | Convertible: Yes

Best Narrow: Diono Radian 3R 3-in-1 Convertible Rear & Forward Facing Convertible Car Seat

Diono Radian 3R 3-in-1 Car Seat
Pros
  • Slim design

  • Three conversion options

Cons
  • No cupholders

You can put your newborn baby in this car seat and it will last them until they are 120 pounds (or 57 inches tall) thanks to the three conversion options. It can be used as a back-facing infant and toddler seat, a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness, and a highback booster.

Since rear-facing is the safest way to ride for babies and toddlers, parents love that their little ones can safely sit rear-facing until they are 50 pounds (or around 4 years old). While the seat doesn’t feature cup holders, it has a slim design that’s perfect for families wanting to safely fit three kids across the back seat or for compact vehicles.

Product Weight: 26 pounds | Height Range: Up to 57 inches (height limits vary by conversion) | Weight Range: 5-120 pounds (weight limits vary by conversion) | Age Range: Not Listed | Convertible: Yes

Best for Tall Kids: Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 Car Seat

Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 Car Seat
Pros
  • 4-position extension panel

  • 10-position adjustable headrest

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • Wide

  • Difficult seatbelt installation

This seat is safe for babies as little as 4 pounds to big kids weighing up to 100 pounds (or 57 inches tall). It can be set up as a rear-facing seat, front-facing with a five-point harness, or as a highback booster seat so it will cover all of your child's needs as they grow up.

It has a four-position extension panel that helps create more leg space so you can keep your kiddo comfortably back-facing for longer and a 10-position adjustable headrest. The seat also features two cup holders, a removable and machine washable cover, and an easy-to-use latch so adults can simply and safely install the seat.

Product Weight: 21 pounds | Height Range: Up to 57 inches (height limits vary by conversion) | Weight Range: 4-100 pounds (weight limits vary by conversion) | Age Range: Not Listed | Convertible: Yes

Final Verdict

There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding which is the best car seat for you, but our favorite is the Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (view at Walmart) because it will grow with your child, it is quality made, and it’s easy to install/uninstall and convert.

What to Look for When Buying a Car Seat

Safety Features and Recalls

First, and foremost, make sure the car seat you choose hasn’t been recalled and that it meets safety standards. It should have features like a five-point harness (unless it’s a booster), a secure LATCH system to attach it to the back seat, and padding and protection that will keep your child safe without smothering them.

Right Age for Each Stage

There are three stages every child will go through until they are able to ride safely with just a seat belt like an adult—a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, and then a booster seat.

Dr. Alisa Baer, Pediatrician and Co-Founder of The Car Seat Lady, cautions parents not to rush to the next stage, and instead to keep kids rear-facing well beyond the 2-year minimum required by many state laws, and then in a forward-facing car seat until they are at least 5 years old, or at least 40 pounds—whichever comes first.

According to Dr. Baer, kids should only graduate from their car seats when they're mature enough to sit properly in a booster.

Proper Installation

Properly installing a car seat can be tricky; studies show that 9 out of 10 are not installed correctly. At home, fully reading the car seat manual and vehicle manual is a great source of help.

For outside assistance, get a local Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) to teach you how to safely install the car seat. Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website or other local resources to make an appointment for installation. You’ll leave with the knowledge of how to install your seat with the expertise of CPST guidance and oversight live in person.

If in-person appointments are not available, online installation videos can be quite helpful or even try a virtual installation appointment with an expert. 

FAQs

When do car seats expire?

Typically, a car seat will expire anywhere from six to 10 years after it was manufactured. You can find out when yours expires by looking for a small sticker on the side or bottom of the seat. Additionally, after a car accident, it is strongly recommended that you dispose of the seat that was in the accident. Even if your child wasn't in the seat and the damage isn't visible, your car seat should be replaced. Crashes can alter the seat's infrastructure, therefore compromising their overall safety.

When can a baby forward face in a car seat?

At a minimum, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children remain back-facing until they are two years old, but say keeping them back-facing until they reach the seat’s height/weight limit is ideal. They also note that back-facing only seats tend to have a lower height and weight limit, so investing in a seat that can be installed back-facing and converted to front-facing is ideal.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Ashley Ziegler is a full-time parenting writer, mom to a 1 and a 4-year-old, and she has personal experience in researching and using infant carriers, rear-facing, and forward-facing car seats. Key considerations she focused on when selecting these products include personal experience, safety features, longevity, and user reviews. 

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Car Seats: Information for Families. Updated February 8, 2021.

  2. Car seats: information for families. HealthyChildren.org.

  3. Hoffman BD, Gallardo AR, Carlson KF. Unsafe from the start: serious misuse of car safety seats at newborn dischargeThe Journal of Pediatrics. 2016;171:48-54.

  4. Do I need to replace my car seat after a crash or accident?. Saferide4kids.com.

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics News and Journals. New child passenger safety seat guidance advises kids to ride rear-facing as long as possible; drops age criterion. Updated August 30, 2018.