The 6 Best Car Seats of 2021

Make sure your little one is protected when driving around town

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Clek Liing at Amazon

"Its crash test ratings outperform every other infant seat with a base in the U.S. and it's European belt path is a safer option."

Best Convertible Car Seat for Tall Drivers: Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat at Amazon

"The foot extension panel adds up to five extra inches of legroom for your rear-facing kid without taking up the driver's legroom."

Best Convertible Car Seat: Clek Foonf at Amazon

"A convertible car seat with unique features, easy installation, comfort, quality, and safety components parents can see and feel."

Best Harness to Booster for Tall Kids: Chicco MyFit at Amazon

"The 5-point harness accommodates even the tallest kids until at least age 6."

Best High Back Booster: Maxi Cosi Rodifix at Amazon

"It stands the best chance of fitting in your car with other car seats installed and is comfortable enough for kids to doze off."

Best Backless Booster: Graco RightGuide at Walmart

"Compact and easy to take along for playdates, travel, or life on-the-go, this is the perfect option for big kids."

A car seat is essential when you have children but it's even more important that you are using the right car seat for your kids. This means choosing an option that meets safety standards, fits your sweetie, and doesn't break your budget.

From newborn options to boosters for big kids, we've rounded up the best car seats for your tot.

Best Overall: Clek Liing

Clek Liing

 Courtesy of Clek

Recommended by both safety experts and parents, when this car seat is installed with the rigid LATCH and load leg features, its crash test ratings outperform every other infant seat with a base in the U.S. Clek’s Liing is the only infant seat in the U.S. with true rigid LATCH which you'll love for the ultimate in safety. Features on the seat include harness straps that don’t twist, a seat belt tensioning and locking device on the base, indicators to show when the belt is tensioned properly and that the carrier is locked into the base, a great fit for preemies, and a load leg on the base. The European belt path on the carrier is safer than the American belt path found on many other infant seats. With the European belt path, the vehicle’s shoulder belt wraps around the back of the carrier for added protection. 

Clek’s Liing takes up less space front to back than other seats, which allows the seat to safely be placed behind the driver or passenger seats (even with tall parents) or fit in smaller cars. Liing is narrow on the outside and roomy on the inside, making it a great option when trying to fit multiple car seats in the back seat. Weighing in at 9 pounds (without the base), the Liing is compatible with many major stroller brands and the only infant seat that offers a one-hand release from the Maxi Cosi stroller adapters, making it easy to move from the car to the stroller (and back again).

Best Convertible Car Seat for Tall Drivers: Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

Parents can get many years of use with this workhorse of a car seat, so it’s a great option to pass on to younger siblings. A key feature of this seat is the foot extension panel that adds up to five extra inches of legroom for your rear-facing kid, giving them more room to stretch out and make it easier to get them in and out. In the rear-facing position, parents appreciate how it takes up little room into the front seat, so it’s a good choice for tall parents or smaller cars.

Not only does this seat have a deep recline that is perfect for kids who can't sit upright unsupported, but uniquely it allows the older rear-facing child to sit almost fully upright if they want to. The seat has excellent crash test ratings, is budget-friendly, and easy to install with LATCH (for kids up to 45 pounds). Beyond the versatility, this seat is loaded with comfort features so children will travel in style for a long time.

Best Convertible Car Seat: Clek Foonf

The Clek Foonf is a convertible car seat with unique features, easy installation, comfort, quality, and safety components parents can see and feel. Foonf makes safety even safer by featuring the most motion limiting devices of any convertible car seat: an anti-rebound bar and Q-tether for rear-facing kids and rigid LATCH for forward-facing kids. Because it’s narrow on the outside and roomy on the inside, this seat is perfect for 3-across (or other adults in the backseat) and the high rear-facing capacity will keep nearly all kids rear-facing until at least 4 years old. Parents will appreciate that the straps pull very smoothly and don’t twist.

While expensive, it’s a long term investment since most kids will fit until at least age 6. Weighing in at 36 pounds, it’s built like a tank whose mission is to make your kid's safety a top priority. Foonf is engineered with a steel and magnesium sub-structure and features rigid LATCH (for forward-facing) and unique crumple-zone technology to reduce the crash forces on the child’s body. Like most convertible seats, it’s meant to remain in the car once installed. A separately sold "Infant Thingy" from Clek allows the Foonf to be used for babies starting at five pounds and is used at least until the baby sits upright unsupported.

Many of the fabrics are Crypton, which are stain-resistant and non-porous, so spills practically bounce off of them. Foonf is usually best on one of the side seats. In the center it, like other car seats, can be a driver visibility issue as the headrest is raised to accommodate a taller child.

Best Harness to Booster for Tall Kids: Chicco MyFit

A harness-to-booster seat is a forward-facing only seat that starts as a 5-point harness car seat and then turns into a booster for older kids who wear the vehicle's shoulder and lap belt. The seat is praised for its high capacity 5-point harness, accommodating even the tallest kids until at least age 6, and a built-in locking device for the seatbelt makes installation easier and more secure. Nine headrest positions, four recline positions (adjustable only before installation), and two collapsible cup holders all help keep your kid comfortable.

Parents appreciate the narrow exterior so it’s one of the few harness-to-boosters that often work in a 3-across back seat. Parents should be aware that MyFit is great in harness mode, but is often problematic in booster mode in that when kids lean forward the seat belt gets longer, but as the child leans back the shoulder belt often gets stuck in the MyFit’s guide and the seat belt stays loose.

Best High Back Booster: Maxi Cosi Rodifix

This narrow on the outside but roomy on the inside seat is great for both wider kids or a crowded back seat. Known to fit where no other high-back booster can, it’s a favorite because it stands the best chance of fitting in your car with other car seats installed. The absence of armrests makes it safer for kids by designing out a common misuse where the lap belt is accidentally routed over an armrest, dangerously moving the lap belt off the child’s strong hip bones and onto the child’s soft belly.

This booster can be secured via a rigid LATCH to keep it from flying around when the child is not in it. Rodifix’s headrest is exceptionally well designed for sleeping and most parents agree that the best car rides are the ones where your kid sleeps!

Best Backless Booster: Graco RightGuide

Graco RightGuide

 Courtesy of Graco

For kids to use a backless booster, the vehicle seat back or head restraint must come to at least the top of the child’s ears. Head restraints are safety features made to reduce the chance of whiplash, so being at the right height is essential. The Graco RightGuide is a backless booster that is very narrow on the outside, and very roomy on the inside, perfect for larger kids or a full back seat. Seat belt guides magically fold flat with the bottom of the booster only when carried to make it compact and easy to take along for playdates, travel, or life on-the-go. Weighing just 1.8 pounds, this booster is very easy to tote and travel with.

What to Know About Car Seats

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.

Safety Standard Requirements: No car seat is perfect, so find one that fits your car, your child, your budget, and one that you will use properly every time. All seats must meet the same U.S. federal safety standards and include the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system which is a way to install a car seat without using the vehicle’s seat belt. 

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. 

Final Verdict

If you're in the market for a car seat that will exceed safety guidelines, offer supreme crash protection, and last throughout the years, the Clek Foonf is the best option. The incredible safety features are hard to pass up and the ability to keep your child rear-facing up to 4 years old will keep your mind at ease when riding around town.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Maya Polton is a former marketing manager and current freelance writer who covers food, home, and parenting. She’s also the mom of a 10-year-old son, 7-year-old son, and 3-year old daughter. She’s gone through my fair share of car seats and right now, all three kids sit in different types of seats. 

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