Updated June 2018

On this page: The best infant car seats in each price category (Graco, Britax, Chicco, Cybex, and more), which strollers they play nicely with, and how to install a basic infant car seat. For a higher-level intro to car seats for first-time parents, please start with the intro.

There is no one “best infant car seat” out there (but we do have our favorites).

Why? Mainly because everyone drives a different car, and what fits properly and safely in a Honda Accord may not do the trick in an Audi A3, for example. And sometimes, to complicate matters, what fits in your sedan may not fit in your partner’s pick-up truck. Ack!

Everyone’s situation is different.

prince william

The young prince prefers the Britax B-Safe

The only way to know if a seat will fit – FOR SURE – is to try it out right after you buy it (keep the tags on!!). If installing the car seat requires you to push the passenger seat all the way forward (rendering the passenger seat useless), take the darn thing back and get a smaller one.

I’m serious.

This is a very common problem, so don’t get stuck in this situation, lest the only thing riding shotgun will be your diaper bag…

Take comfort in knowing that even the cheapest of infant car seats (rear-facing seats in general, that is) are extremely safe. Thus, you don’t have to go crazy spending money on an infant car seat (unless you really want to). Also? You’ll only use it for 9-12 months or so, so we recommend saving your money for a nicer stroller, for example, or a nicer crib that you’ll get more miles out of. Capiche?

You see, rear-facing seats inherently cradle the neck and head, which are fully supported in the direction of impact. According to Kristy Arbogast, PhD, engineering director at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Our investigations of real-world crashes over the past ten years found infants in rear-facing car seats had an extremely low risk of injury in a crash. Of the crashes studied, very few infants in rear-facing seats were injured.”

Yet another reason to keep your baby rear-facing for as long as possible.

How to Install your Infant Car Seat <– Subscribe to the newsletter to get the good stuff right when you need it.

Types of Infant Car Seats

Essentially, there are American-style infant car seats and European-style infant car seats, even though few people use this nomenclature.

Stay with me.

The European seats are typically more expensive because they *usually* (not always) have additional safety features, such as an anti-rebound feature.

What’s an anti-rebound feature, you say? It’s a device that prevents the head of the seat from flipping up into the seat-back (or “rebounding”) after a front or rear impact collision.

An infant seat “rebounding”

An anti-rebound feature can take the form of a load leg (as seen in Cybex and Nuna seats) or an anti-rebound “bar” that’s built into the base (as seen in the Maxi-Cosi Mico Max, below). The Britax Endeavours also has this.

antirebound

An anti-rebound bar (in her left hand)

“Euro seats,” as I affectionately call them, usually also have a “European-style” belt path (shocking, I know), which simply means that the shoulder portion of the lap/shoulder belt is routed behind the seat (below), which makes for a more secure “baseless” seat belt installation. To see what I mean, watch this video and cue to 1:44.

eurostyle belt path

A European belt path

Don’t let any of this make your head explode; the takeaway here is that if you are a city dweller who plans on taking taxis, Ubers and other cars you don’t own, I’d definitely recommend a Euro-style infant car seat so you can install it quickly and securely without a base (with the caveat that Euro-seats are often more expensive and have better safety features to boot).

The rest of you will be just fine using an American-style (regular ol’) car seat — unless you want a specific safety feature(s) (more on that below).

Yes, it’s true: we are a bit behind our European counterparts when it comes to car seat safety standards, but that doesn’t mean American seats are necessarily inferior. In fact, the vast majority of Americans use American seats and it’s just fine – so there 😛

Best Infant Car Seats

There are loads of infant seats to choose from, but here are our favorites in each budget category —

$ — Graco SnugRide SnugLock 30 ~ $111 – Economy Pick;
the Graco SnugRide SnugLock Elite ~ $219 – Also a fantastic value, pls read narrative

$$ — Britax B-Safe 35 ~ $209 – Good safety features for the price (steel reinforced), but must use Britax/BOB stroller

$$ — Chicco KeyFit 30 ~ $199 – Great mainstream value, compatible with most strollers

$$ — Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 ~ $199 – An “economy” Euro seat, but not our fave

$$$ — Chicco Fit2 ~ $279 – Specialty seat; best for urban dwellers who don’t own a car (benefit: can use with a stroller for up to 2 years vs. 1 year for most other infant seats)

$$$ — UPPAbaby Mesa ~ $299 – Top notch “American” luxury seat, pairs with UPPAbaby strollers, which are fab; also very easy to install and can go in center seat

$$$ — Nuna Pipa ~ $299 – Lightweight luxury seat, great safety features, pairs with Nuna strollers; uses rigid LATCH connectors, so best for installing in a window seat

$$$ — Cybex Aton Q ~ $349 – Super stylish (German, modern) and safety-features galore; also great for taxis or Uber

$$$$ — UPPAbaby Mesa Merino Wool Car Seat ~ $349 – “The seat I would buy if money were no object”- this wool version of the Mesa that has NO fire retardants added. Exquisite.

*Got twins? Check out our recommended car seats for twins & preemies list.

See these on Pinterest.

Stroller and Car Seat Compatibility

Ideally, you should select an infant seat that’s compatible with your stroller of choice. It will save you $40+ for a special “car seat adapter” alone. Yes, this is tricky because it’s a chicken and egg problem (the seat you choose kinda depends on your stroller; the stroller you get kinda depends on your seat). I recommend you read the Stroller Intro to get a basic idea of what to look for.

Here’s the lay of the land in the best infant car seat department:

 $ — Graco SnugRide SnugLock 30 – ECONOMY PICK

Price: MSRP $139 / On sale $111
Weight: 13 lbs

buy-now

The Graco SnugRide is one of the all-time most popular infant car seats — and one of our favorites as well.

For the past handful of years, they have been offering two versions of this seat: the “Classic Connect” and the “Click Connect.” I’d tell you all about both, but it’s a moot point because they’ve been discontinued. Thus, all SnugRides going forward (unless you find one on clearance) are “SnugLock” versions.

So what? Well, the thing is that many stroller manufacturers don’t make adapters for the SnugLock because it’s so new or Click Connect because it’s too wide. Did Graco do this on purpose to force you to buy a Graco stroller? Maybe. I daresay that many stroller manufacturers will likely start making adapters for the SnugLock in the future, but for now, they’re still playing catch-up.

That said, if it’s compatible with your desired stroller, the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 30 is a great value, and our Economy Pick. 

Please note that there are still a zillion different Graco SnugRide models (just kidding, there are only 11) — I picked the “SnugRide 30” (above) because… as discussed, maybe you don’t want to spend a ton of money on this item because you’ll use it for less that a year, hmmm?

But they have fancier ones, oh yes. I sort of feel like buying a fancy Graco is like buying a Kia and putting expensive rims on it, but… to each its own.

SnugLock

“SnugLock” is a self-tightening mechanism — an easy way for you to install the base with a seatbelt without having to wrestle it in place to tighten it. It’s basically a giant clasp for the seatbelt. It’s user-friendly — especially if you don’t want to mess with LATCH — and also great for grandparents! Check out our video review here (or click below)

SnugLock 35 Elite ($185 on sale) — this model is actually a really great value — you get the SnugLock feature, the higher-end LATCH connectors that won’t break your nails (they’re called “InRight Connectors”); basically, no matter if you install with a seatbelt or with LATCH, it will be easy. You also get a no-rethread harness. So essentially, you’re getting some really great usability features that you don’t get in, say, the Chicco KeyFit. This particular model is a great value, especially if you can get it for less than $200.

Bottom line: The Graco SnugRide is affordable, reliable, and fairly easy to install.

My big complaint of the SnugRides is that the non-Elite models have basic “hook-style” LATCH connectors, which I detest. This is that moment when you’re reminded you’re buying an economy seat. You’re guaranteed to break a nail every time with those terrible LATCH connectors. Oh well, I guess you can’t have it all!

*The Graco SnugRide is an American-style seat.

Stroller Compatibility:

Graco is an economy brand, and you get what you pay for. Their strollers are okay, but generally heavier, bulkier, and more “plasticky” than others. On the plus side, the SnugRide SnugLock car seat will click firmly into place with any Graco Click Connect stroller.

Your lightweight stroller options: Their basic car seat “frame stroller” is the SnugRider Elite ($99) for use JUST with a car seat, below. It has a huge storage basket, is super lightweight and very easy to fold and heave into your car. It’s very popular for the first year of life — and one we highly recommend.

snug ride Elite

Graco SnugRider Elite

For a stroller that can take a car seat and also be used as an umbrella stroller down the line, check out the Graco Breaze ($149). At almost 18 lbs, it’s not super lightweight, but you’re getting more use out of it (vs. just the SnugRider frame stroller). Those are your two lightweight stroller options.

Your travel system options: Other favorite Graco strollers include the Graco Modes and the Graco Modes 3 Lite. Read more about these in “Favorite Strollers.”

At Target is the Graco Pace ($99), which I joke is the poor man’s City Mini. It’s 20 lbs vs. 17 lbs for the City Mini, so a little heavier, and a really solid value. It has a quick, one-hand fold and comes with some fab little conveniences, like a parent tray and child’s tray.

Again, the benefit is that these strollers are all guaranteed to work well with the SnugRide SnugLock car seat. As previously stated, not many other stroller manufacturers make car seat adapters for the SnugLock or Click Connect (although more than did in 2015/16), so if you’ve got your eye on the UPPAbaby stroller, for example, you won’t be able to use it with this car seat. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya. 😉 *Always check with the stroller manufacturer for compatibility before you buy because they change quite often.


$$ — Britax B-Safe 35

Price: $199
Weight: 10 lbs

buy-now

Britax went through a difficult period and is back on track. I trust the engineering of the seats from a safety perspective, but they are missing the mark with comfort and fit for babies, as you’ll read a lot of people complaining that the seat is too narrow and is outgrown rather quickly. I actually think it’s the depth that babies don’t like because they can’t see out very easily. 

Yes, it’s a very deep, narrow seat due to the sidewalls that offer good side impact protection. Britax seats are also made with a steel frame, so it’s really in a different class than the Gracos, Evenflos and BabyTrends of the world. Because of the steel reinforcement, it’s also a heavier seat.

Thus it’s not an economy seat, but it’s not a luxury seat either. *It’s somewhere in the middle*. The canopy is awesome, IMO, and the seat is easy to install, complete with built-in lock-offs. The LATCH connectors are awesome, especially when you compare them to nail-breakers, like Graco’s. It’s little things like this I like about Britax.

Outside of the “too deep/narrow” problem, another practical problem is stroller compatibility. If you get this infant seat, you’re pretty much married to a Britax or BOB stroller; it’s nearly impossible to find adapters for this seat with other stroller brands.

They currently offer the B-Safe 35 , B-Safe 35 Elite ($229) and the B-Safe Ultra ($239). The Elite model has an easy-to-remove cover (for the inevitable puke, blowout, or spit up) and a no-rethread harness, which makes it much easier to adjust the height of the straps without having to perform surgery (similar to the Graco SnugRide 35 LX). Those two features make the Elite well worth the extra $30, IMO. The Ultra is the Elite model but with cool mesh fabric to keep your little one cooler for a more comfortable ride.

Britax Endeavours

Last year, Britax released the fancy-pants Britax Endeavours (review pending). For $279, they are competing with the Nunas and Cybexes of the world in the luxury space. The Endeavours is basically the B-Safe 35 Elite, plus an anti-rebound bar and a European belt path. I’ll note it’s way heavier than its European counterparts, at over 11 lbs.

Bottom line: The Britax B-Safe 35 is a well-built seat for a middle of the road price. Thus, if you’re looking for a great seat with some really solid safety features (yet no anti-rebound feature), you won’t be disappointed. It makes extra sense if you’re planning on a Britax or BOB stroller anyway.

*The Britax B-Safe is an American-style seat; the Endeavours is Euro-style. 

Stroller Compatibility:

A pro (and a con) of the B-Safe is his compatibility with Britax and BOB strollers (Britax owns BOB).

Your lightweight stroller option: Just like the Graco Breaze, Britax makes the B-Mobile stroller ($159) which accepts Britax car seats and later becomes an umbrella stroller. At 16 lbs, it’s also not that lightweight but again, you’re getting more use out of it.

Your travel system option: the Britax B-Safe 35 car seat + B-Lively ($399) – or Ultra version ($429) – stroller is an awesome combination (my top pick, perhaps, value-wise). THAT is a legit value, guys.

You can also use the B-Safe with the ever-popular Britax B-Ready G3 stroller ($499), which upgrades to a double when you have another kiddo (see best convertible strollers here).

Both of these strollers utilize the Britax Click & Go connection systems, so you don’t have to buy a car seat adapter for your Britax infant seat.

In the jogging stroller department, if you are already sold on a BOB, the BOB B-Safe 35 ($199) car seat goes with any of the BOB jogging strollers (with an adapter). Britax is really good at bundling nice products together for a crazy-good price, so take advantage!

Are you a runner? Read about our favorite jogging strollers.


$$ — Chicco KeyFit 30 – EDITOR’S CHOICE

Price: $199
Weight: 9.6 lbs

Alice in her KeyFit infant car seat on a plane

Alice in her KeyFit on a plane

buy-now

“Old Faithful” — the Chicco KeyFit is rated #1 by consumers on multiple 3rd party sites, including Consumer Reports. And I agree! The KeyFit is a high-quality, beautifully designed car seat that won’t break the bank.

This seat is best known for ease of installation, safety, and fit (trust me, after doing many car seat checks for my CPST certification, I totally concur). I love how easy it is to tighten and loosen the straps on this seat. It has a flip-out visor for extra sun protection and a removable newborn insert. It’s also a favorite for transporting preemies (babies 4+ lbs) home from the NICU.

But wait, I’m about to blow your mind…. We are loving (even more!) the KeyFit 30 “Zip.” For 30 extra bucks ($229), you get a super easy-to-remove seat pad (you’ll understand how key this is when your kid yacks all over it), sunshade, all-season “boot” (great for cold winters), and best of all, the “SuperCinch” Latch Connectors, which believe you me, are the most amazing thing in the world (same as found on the NextFit). Worth the extra $30? In this case, yessss.

chiccokeyfitzip

Chicco KeyFit 30 Zip

Because the KeyFit is such a popular seat in the U.S., you will (almost) never have trouble finding a stroller adapter for this seat. It’s ALWAYS on the list.

Bottom line: If you want a great seat and don’t want to think too much about it, this is your guy. It’s lightweight, it’s compatible with almost every stroller under the sun, and it comes in super cute patterns.

*The KeyFit is an American-style seat.

Stroller Compatibility:

Chicco strollers are better quality than Graco, as reflected in the price tag, although they aren’t particularly lightweight. Again, these are all strollers that are designed to go with the KeyFit, but they aren’t necessarily our top favorites. It’s very possible you’ll have to mix and match brands to get your ideal combination.

Your lightweight stroller option: The KeyFit Caddy ($99).

Your travel system option: The Bravo stroller ($229 stroller only or $379 travel system) is a high-quality, all-purpose stroller — and VERY well-liked. At 23 lbs, it’s not at all lightweight, so it’s not one I would personally choose, but it’s very well built and people seem to like it for whatever reason (for 23 lbs, I’d expect a reversible stroller, but whatevs). You can also use the Bravo as a stroller frame by removing the seat, so I guess it’s pretty versatile (but 23 lbs? I think you can do better…).

Can you tell I don’t like heavy strollers? Just checking…

There’s also the Chicco Urban ($399), which is a reversible stroller. It’s meh and heavy (surprise!!).

Chicco also has a pretty awesome jogging stroller called the Activ3 ($299).

Bottom line: outside of the Caddy, strollers are not Chicco’s strong suit… (that sounds harsh, but it’s true…).

Who’s next?


$$ — Maxi-Cosi Mico 30, Mico Max 30 and Mico Nxt

Price: MSRP $179-$249/$139-$212 on sale
Weight: 8.5 lbs

Maxi-Cosi, a popular car seat brand in Europe, is well-liked in the states as well — especially in urban areas. Boiling it down, people generally buy the Mico because they want a lightweight seat that’s fashion-forward (I hate that phrase – gag) and compatible with many luxury strollers.

The Mico 30 (also available at Target — scandalous!!) and Mico Max 30 have a high height (32″) and weight limit (30 lbs), so you’ll be able to use it longer. If you’re looking for something more reminiscent of their older, smaller version, check out the Mico Nxt — $109 (because, let’s face it, many people switch to a convertible seat well before 29″ or 22 lbs), though the reviews for the Nxt are not as stellar; I think it’s rather cheaply made…

maxi-cosi-mico-ap-infant-car-seat-bright-rose-2

I am OBSESSED with the pink one…

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The Mico Max 30 has the air protect “AP” side impact protection feature, while the regular Mico 30 does not. Furthermore, the Max 30 has an anti-rebound bar, while the regular Mico 30 does not. For these two features in the Max, you’ll pay an additional $50 or so.

The premium fabrics on these seats are self-wicking, which is supposed to draw liquids away from the skin to help sweaty (or pee-soaked) babies stay dry, so people in warmer climates tend to like this seat. You can also remove the seat pad very easily without having to mess with removing the harness and straps, which is usually a huge pain. The seat fabrics are machine washable and dryer safe, so it’s much easier to clean the pad on this seat than on others.

A potential downside: while this seat may seem petite, it’s actually quite long when installed in the back seat, so I don’t recommend it for compact cars, especially for the Max 30 version, which is even longer due to the anti-rebound bar.

Note also that you may have difficulty finding stroller adapters for some of the popular American strollers. For example, you won’t be able to use this car seat with a BOB or a Graco stroller. If you’re sold on a European stroller, however, you’ll probably be in good shape.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a lightweight seat in the middle price range (with great color selections!) check out the Mico 30 or Mico Max 30 — especially if you live in a warmer climate and are sold on a Euro stroller. While the canopy isn’t the greatest, we love other features of the seat, like the easy to wash cover and the sweet colors. The Max 30 gives you an anti-rebound bar and the AP side impact protection feature, but also adds to the length of the seat.

*All of these seats have an American belt path, so maybe #not-so-urban.


$$$ — Chicco Fit2

Price: MSRP $279
Weight: 11 lbs

Specialty seat (from 0-2 years) for urban families who don’t own a car.

*Full review pending

Chicco Fit2


 $$$ — 2018 UPPAbaby Mesa

Price: MSRP $299-$349
Weight: 9.9 lbs

Warning, Warning: we are now entering the $300+ realm.

For an infant car seat.

This was a public service announcement.

… as you were.

UPPAbaby is a US-based luxury brand that’s worth the money; their gear is always sleek, attractive, well-designed, and their US-based customer service is top-notch. I like pretty much everything they make.

buy-now

The Mesa is an incredible car seat. Next to a Graco, for example, it’s apples and oranges. The schtick with the Mesa is ease of installation with a self-ratcheting base. Just clip the LATCH connectors into your car, push the base down with your body weight and BAM! He’s done. Finito.

Most other seats require lots of pulling, tugging, etc.

This is one of the reasons they earned a 5-star rating from NHTSA for “ease of use.” I LOVE the self-ratcheting base, you guys. A big thing that most people don’t realize: you can install this seat in any position, including the center seat. You can’t do this with the Nuna Pipa (in most cars, unless you drive a minivan, large truck or the like) because of the rigid LATCH connectors.

And if you’re using a seatbelt to install the seat, it has a built-in lockoff, so you’re covered either way.

Henry or Jordan (merino wool) ~ $349 — is THA SHIZZY

UPPAbaby Mesa “Henry”

This seat is an extra $50, but completely fire-retardant free. Yes, it’s the first car seat on the market with no fire retardant chemicals whatsoever (I get really excited about this, can you tell?). You see, wool is naturally fire resistant.

People think of wool and they think of something that’s rough or scratchy (wool gets a bad rap), but higher-end wools are soft, cozy, and extremely breathable — it works great in any climate, even hot ones. Check out the reviews, they are phenomenal. If I were pregnant right now — and had the money — it would be hard not to get this seat, just saying.

The Mesa also has a no-rethread harness (very hard to find on infant seats! — also found on the Cybex Atons) and a huge sunshade.

Bottom line: The Mesa is a great seat. If you’re buying an UPPAbaby stroller, you’ll be very happy with it (plus, it’s all matchey-matchey). The self-ratcheting installation is amazing.

*This seat has a traditional American belt path, whereas previous versions had the Euro belt path. If you are looking for a seat with a European belt path, this one no longer has it — sorry!

Stroller Compatibility:

Again, if you are in the market for the UPPAbaby Cruz or the UPPAbaby Vista stroller (see Stroller Section), both of which I LOVE love, you are best off with this seat. Your problem is going to be finding a simple, lightweight stroller base for this guy… it can work being strapped into the BabyTrend Snap N Go, though it’s not a very elegant solution. Infant car seat adapters for the Mesa aren’t widely available, although it’s getting better each year.


$$$ — Nuna Pipa

Price: MSRP $299
Weight: 7.9 lbs

Nuna made a splash when it entered the US market not long ago. Here is a demo of the fabulous Pipa infant seat from the ABC Baby Show:

The Nuna Pipa infant seat is VERY similar to the Cybex Aton Q (below), but with a nicer/larger sun canopy that includes the “dream drape” for total darkness (I LOVE the dream drape!!).

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The Pipa also has what’s called “rigid LATCH connectors,” which click right into your LATCH hooks without needing any force to jam them into place. Note that the rigid LATCH connectors don’t usually work with smaller and medium-sized cars that don’t have LATCH connectors in the middle seat. Hence, you’ll have to use the seat belt if you want to install it in the middle seat (don’t say I didn’t warn ya’).

Like the Cybex Aton’s load leg, the Pipa has an anti-rebound stability leg, which serves the same purpose.

The colors are dark and mysterious (so Dutch of them!).

Nuna Pipa Lite ~ $349

The Pipa Lite is their newest seat that weighs only 5.3 lbs stripped down (with no canopy or anything, nice try). More like 6 lbs all-in. ANYWHO. Warning — this seat MUST be installed with a base; you cannot install it without a base. Yes, it is the lightest-weight car seat on the market — by far — so if having a lightweight seat is of the utmost importance to you — and you don’t want to take it on an airplane or in taxis, Ubers and such (can’t install it without a base, remember?), this is a great seat. Note also there is no dream drape on the Pipa Lite.

*The Nuna Pipa has a European-style belt path, so it’s very easy and stable with baseless installations.

Stroller Compatibility:

Nuna makes a few strollers that may interest you, including the Pepp Next, the Tavo, the Mixx2, the Demi Grow.

  • The Pepp Next ($299) is their lightweight (21 lbs, not exactly “lightweight”), compact stroller that folds nicely and has an easy, one-hand push. This is your travel stroller. For the price though, I would expect something much more lightweight, but there I go being judgey again.
  • The Tavo ($349) offers more room, both for your little one as they grow and for your stuff as you’re out and about.
  • The Mixx2 ($599) is their all-around versatile stroller. It’s reversible and offers great storage, luxury finishes and suspension for a smooth ride. You can even fold with the seat facing either direction.
  • The Demi Grow ($799) is their convertible stroller offering featuring twin seats. It can even take two car seats or two bassinets at the same time, perfect for twins.

For compatibility with other strollers, it seems anecdotally that the Nuna Pipa and the Cybex Aton(s) all fit well with the Maxi-Cosi car seat adapter for any given stroller. Nuna also makes their own adapters for UPPAbaby Vista and Cruz and the Bugaboo Cameleon 3.


$$$ — Cybex Aton Q

Price: $299
Weight: 10 lbs

The German-engineered Cybex Aton Q and Cloud Q ($399-$499) are very cool infant seats, not to mention great-looking. And super pricey!

Safety features: These seats boast two safety features that most other seats lack ~

1. The Linear Side-Impact Protection (LSP) System

This is a “wing,” of sorts, that pops out from the handle of the seat, which transfers side-impact crash energy to the seat’s shell. If you’re installing your baby’s seat in an outboard (side) position, take special note of this. *Only use on the side facing the door, or else a passenger sitting next to this seat could become impaled — that would be very bad.

2. The Load Leg

Cybex Infant car seat - load leg
buy-now

The Aton Q’s load leg is a “leg” that pops down (shown left) from the car seat base, which minimizes “rebound” and transfers crash energy to the floor of the vehicle and away from your baby. The Nuna PIPA has this feature as well.

Want more? Attention, people in cities who don’t own a car: this seat is super easy to install WITHOUT the base because of its European belt path, which routes the shoulder strap behind the seat. You can do this with other seats as well, but this installation is particularly easy and sturdy (cue to 1:40).

Furthermore, this seat takes up much less space than other popular seats. In fact, it is the smallest seat depth-wise of all the seats in this review. Thus, if you have a small backseat or a sports car, perhaps, this may be your only option.

 

cloud q-reclined

The Cloud Q reclined flat

The Cloud Q is truly different in that it can fully recline ALL THE WAY (while not in the car, of course), which gives you the functionality of a car seat AND a bassinet. That’s cool, I’ll admit. One less piece of gear (or adapter) to buy. Note the Cloud Q is quite heavy (12.5 lbs).

*The Cybex Aton Q and Cloud Q have a European-style belt path.

Stroller Compatibility:

The Aton(s) can be used (with an adapter) with any of Cybex’s strollers (excuse me, “push chairs”). The Priam is really sweet (it has SKIS!). There’s also the Balios, Iris, Agis and EEZY — all of their weird, awesome, expensive German strollers. Seriously, you should see their booth at the Baby Show — all of their reps are wearing black leather, have German accents, and have no time for you. It is like the old Sprockets skit on SNL.

With a Cybex OR Maxi-Cosi car seat adapter, the Aton/Cloud Q can also be used on the vast majority of strollers in the strollersphere, especially the luxury strollers.

JUMP TO: Best Strollers →


Infant Car Seat Notes

Infant Seat Weight Limits

You don’t need a 35 or 40-lb weight limit infant seat. Most people upgrade to a convertible car seat around 12 months of age anyway, so 90% of you will be just fine with a 22 lb weight capacity seat… and 100% of you will be just fine with a 30 lb seat. 35 and 40-lb infant seats are ludicrous. Again, there’s NO WAY a 2, 3 or 4-year-old is going to sit in an infant bucket (3 year olds weigh between 30 and 35 lbs). Also remember: car seats (of all types) are outgrown height-wise BEFORE your kiddo reaches the max weight. Promise.

Can you use a USED car seat?

Technically, yes. Provided that a) it hasn’t expired (see below), and b) it has never been in a crash or been otherwise compromised. If you have a reliable friend or family member who wants to give you their old seat that meets these requirements, then by golly, do it!

Expiration

Car seats expire *roughly* six years after the date of manufacturing, unless otherwise noted. The date can always be found on a sticker on the bottom or side of the seat. Check the base as well (they should have the same manufacturing date, unless they weren’t purchased together). Is this a gimmick? No. In fact, the plastic degrades over time, especially when exposed to cold, heat… puke, apple juice. It doesn’t magically implode into dark matter right at six years, but experts agree that it’s about time to be replaced at that point.

Yes, but where are the crash tests?

While all car seats rated by the NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards and strict crash performance standards, the NHTSA does not quantitatively rate or rank them in any way. The only thing the NHTSA rates car seats for is Ease of Use, which most of us car seat technicians agree is a bit of a joke, because many of our favorite seats score poorly according to them.

However, Consumer Reports (membership required) published a fairly extensive review in 2014. While I generally feel that Consumer Reports misses the mark on juvenile products (they overlook important usability features and give too much weight to features that nobody cares about), I admit that this report is fairly sound.

Car Seat Bases

Many people don’t know this, but car seat bases are simply for convenience. You install the base very snug and secure in your back seat and leave it in place. The car seat simply snaps in and out of it. This is good if you doubt your ability to properly install and remove the seat every time, especially if you are always in a hurry (like me!). However, you don’t *have to* use the base.

car seat base

In fact, if you are caught across town in the rain with your car seat/stroller, you can hail a cab, install the car seat (only), throw your frame-stroller in the trunk, and be on your merry way. The same goes for renting a car, flying on a plane, etc.

Bottom line: Just buy a base for the vehicles you use most frequently (the seat itself should come with ONE base). You don’t need a base for every member of the extended fam-damily. And for God’s sake, don’t bring the base when you fly. What a pain {learn more about airline travel in mah book, Flying with Baby!}.

I know a lot of moms who don’t really know how to remove and re-install the car seat or base, or are afraid to. They’ve been scared by propaganda that ensures them they will screw it up and their baby will die a hideous accidental death. May I suggest you and your partner take a couple of hours one day in your third trimester to learn how to put it in and take it out. You can even drive to an inspection station near you for some additional instruction and peace of mind. AAA offices offer this service, as do many (but not all) local police and fire stations.

Practice a few times, and for God’s sake, don’t wait and do this on your car ride home from the hospital after you deliver! By then your brain will have lost the ability to learn or deal with anything new. Click here for tips on installing your infant seat.

Next: Best Strollers →

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Infant Car Seats
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