The 11 Best Car Seats to Buy in 2018

Make sure your little one is protected when driving around town

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An age- and size-appropriate car seat is one of the most important purchases a parent will ever make. In fact, parents may even find themselves purchasing more than one car seat for their child because they aren’t just required for infants and toddlers riding in automobiles, but also older children as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), your child should be strapped into a car or booster seat from birth to age 12.

Car seats fall into three broad categories according to NHTSA: Rear facing car seats from birth to age three, forward facing car seats for ages one to seven and booster car seats for ages 4 to 12. Which type of car seat is right for your child? First, input your kid’s age, weight and height into NHTSA’s handy “Find a Car Seat” calculator to figure out what type of car seat is best for your child. Once you have that figured out, check out our review of the best car seats on the market to figure out which you should buy.

Our Top Picks

Best Infant Car Seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base

This is the No. 1 rated rear-facing infant car seat in America, and it’s easy to see why parents flock to Chicco’s flagship KeyFit 30. Its popularity starts with an easy-to-install base with a center pull latch adjustment for fast, easy and secure installation. Plus, Chicco’s ReclineSure Leveling Foot ensures the seat fits your vehicle seat angle. With the removable newborn insert, the KeyFit 30 will protect babies weighing four to 11 pounds; remove the liner and the car seat accommodates children weighing up to 30 pounds. The seat locks your child down in a five-point safety harness and is lined with EPS energy-absorbing foam for improved impact protection. The Chicco KeyFit 30 conforms to all federal safety standards and it is also FAA approved for use on an aircraft.

Best Budget-Friendly Infant Car Seat: Safety 1st Onboard 35 Air Infant Car Seat

Protecting your infant while they’re passengers in your car doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. And the Safety 1st Onboard 35 Air Infant Car Seat is a top choice for budget-conscious families. This rear-facing car seat sits on an easy-install latch base that offers five different angles to dial in the right fit for your ride. The five-point harness is designed to fit babies as small as 4 pounds, but with four harness heights and three buckle locations this seat will grow with your child until they are 35 pounds or 32 inches tall. Safety 1st’s Air Protect technology provides your child with advanced side impact protection, and the car seat meets all federal standards.

Best Anti-Rebound Bar Infant Car Seat: Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Infant Car Seat

Anti-rebound bars are common for infant car seats sold in Europe and Canada, but they’re not yet required in the U.S. That hasn’t stopped a number of top brands from including the safety technology in their rear-facing infant car seats. Among the best of the anti-rebound bar car seats on the American market is the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35. The rear-facing car seat’s anti-rebound bar extends up toward the back of the vehicle seat and limits the amount of motion possible in case of an accident therefore decreasing the amount of motion for the baby's head and body. The car seat’s Side Impact Protection adjusts to six different positions to protect the baby’s head and shoulders, and the energy absorbing EPS lined shell maximizes protection while still allowing air circulation. The base features the “Right Tight System,” which easily and securely locks the base via the latch strap or the vehicle seat belt. This Italian-designed car seat conforms to all U.S. federal standards and fits babies three to 35 pounds or up to 32 inches tall.

Best Travel System Car Seat: UPPABaby Mesa Infant Car Seat

The UPPABaby Mesa Infant Car Seat checks off all the boxes for a top-of-the-line rear-facing infant car seat: easy and secure latch installation, EPS foam shell, and Side Impact Protection via EPP foam head support. Beyond being one of the safest infant car seats on the market, the Mesa is part of a top travel system on the market, with its seamless incorporation with UPPABaby’s lauded Vista and Cruz strollers (each sold separately). The Mesa’s one-handed release from either stroller lets you go from stroller to car in a snap, and the Mesa can be positioned to face you while strolling or reversed to pull up to a table without the handle in the way. The Mesa conforms to all federal standards and its adjustable harness and crotch strap allow it to fit infants from four to 35 pounds.

Best Convertible Car Seat: Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Can one car seat really fit your child from birth to booster? The Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat gives parents a decade of safety in one car seat, transitioning from a rear-facing infant car seat (four to 40 pounds) to forward-facing five-point harness seat (20 to 65 pounds) to high-back booster (30 to 100 pounds). Graco’s InRight latch system makes for an easy, one-second install, and there’s a level indicator to make sure you’ve dialed in the right angle. This car seat is side-impact tested, and EPS energy absorbing foam wraps a steel-reinforced frame for safety in case of an accident. The seat’s Simply Safe Adjust Harness System and 10-position headrest lets parents adjust the harness and headrest together, and the six-position recline keeps junior comfy no matter where your travels take you. Graco has engineered and crash tested the seat to meet federal standards.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best convertible car seats

Best Easy-Install Car Seat: Britax USA Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

According to Britax up to 75 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly, a problem they seek to eliminate with the Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat’s installation system. Whether you’re installing this car seat for rear- or front-facing use, all you need to do to install it correctly is open the front of the car seat, connect the latch or buckle the seat belt across, and click the seat shut. This convertible car seat also features Britax’s SafeCell Impact Protection, a set of features including a steel frame, energy-absorbing base, V-shaped tether to minimize seat rotation and staged-release stitches that slow and reduce forward movement during a crash. The seat has a deep foam-lined shell, quick-adjust head protection and side cushions, which form three layers of side protection. This convertible seat conforms to all federal standards and is designed to protect your child from birth to pre-school; rear-facing it accommodates children five to 40 pounds and forward facing it fits children 20 to 65 pounds.

Best Booster Car Seat: Graco Affix Youth Booster Seat with Latch System

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) and National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that children 4 feet 9 inches tall or under should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Keep your big kid weighing 30 to 100 pounds safe in the car with the Graco Affix Youth Booster Seat. It locks into your vehicle safely with a one-hand front-adjust latch system and then you secure your child in the seat with your vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt. This booster seat meets all federal standards, is made of EPS energy-absorbing foam and is side impact-tested for maximum safety in case of an accident. An integrated cup holder keeps your child's drink and snacks close, and a hideaway storage compartment keeps toys and teddy bears close for comfort on the road.

Best Eco Convertible Car Seat: Clek Foonf 2016 Convertible Car Seat

TClek Foonf Convertible Car Seat packs serious safety features in an eco-friendly package. Clek’s React Safety System protects your child much like the crumple zones in new cars – if an accident occurs, the impact is dispersed over a longer period of time through a crumpling aluminum honeycomb shell that absorbs energy. The Foonf adds side impact protection in an energy-absorbing, foam-lined headrest connected to the frame via steel rods, and in rear-facing mode there’s a steel anti-rebound bar that limits rotation of the seat. Best of all, this is the most eco-minded car seat on the market. Its GREENGUARD fabrics are free of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, and when you're done with it the entire car seat can be recycled. Rear-facing this car seat fits infants 14 to 50 pounds and in front-facing mode it accommodates children 22 to 65 pounds; it’s manufactured in Canada, conforms to all U.S. federal standards and is approved for use on airplanes.

Best Comfy Convertible Car Seat: Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat

When it comes to your child’s health and safety, nothing but the absolute best will suffice—and the Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat is one of the best car seat models on the market today. Many convertible car seats tend to be heavy and unwieldy, but this isn’t the case with the NextFit. In fact, users rave about how easy and painless it is to install this seat, regardless of vehicle type, thanks to its lightweight design and sleek accompanying features.

The NextFit helps to minimize risk with its nine-position leveling system and special Super-Cinch LATCH tightener, both of which ensure a more secure fit. Because of this model’s six-position adjustable headrest, five-point harness and two-position chest clip, infants through preschoolers are able to comfortably use the NextFit in both rear-facing and forward-facing modes.

Best Car Seat for Air Travel: Cosco Scenera NEXT Car Seat OTTO

When traveling by air you want to keep your child as safe as you do on land, but not all car seats are made for airlines. Fortunately, this one from Cosco is certified for use when you’re flying the friendly skies. Once you land, you can use it in a car too. It’s designed to be rear-facing for kids 5-40 pounds and 19-40 inches, and forward-facing once kids are at least 2 years old, weigh 22-40 pounds and are 29-43 inches tall. It has a removable cup holder to hold juice, milk and other beverages, and the removable seat pad is washable for those times when those drinks get spilled.

Customers say it's relatively lightweight, easy-to-install and inexpensive compared to other car seats. While some say the seat could be cushier, most report their kids are comfortable riding in this car seat for travel and everyday trips. “Perfect for flying with my twins,” one reviewer wrote on Amazon. “Cheap enough that I don't mind risking them getting damaged on flights and light enough that they are a breeze to travel with.”  

Best Car Seat for Urban Travel: BubbleBum Backless Inflatable Booster Seat

When you’re hopping in and out of taxis and navigating city streets, lugging around a full-size, heavy car seat can be a drag. That’s why parents love this inflatable model from BubbleBum. Designed for kids ages 4-11 and 40-100 pounds, this award-winning booster seat is lightweight, and when it’s deflated small enough to stow in a backpack or diaper bag. To use, just pull it out and inflate with a few breaths when you need it.

The seats come in a variety of fun prints and patterns, and they exceed the U.S. Federal Motor Safety Standard. A shoulder belt positioning clip is also included to keep a standard three-point adult seat belt correctly positioned.

Parents say these seats come in handy for a variety of uses including travel and those times when you’re trying to get three car seats across one seat. They say they’re easy to use, comfortable and make traveling a whole lot easier with no need to rent a booster seat. Some say they keep a spare one in their car for times when they have an extra kid riding with them.

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