Updated May 2017

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 read 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 car (a sedan) may not fit in your husband’s pickup 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 in the spending department on an infant car seat. 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.

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.

The European seats are typically more expensive because they *usually* (not always) have additional safety features, such as an anti-rebound feature. An anti-rebound device prevents the head of the seat from flipping up toward the seat back — and back down again — (or “rebounding”) in the event of a front or rear impact collision.

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, below).

antirebound

An anti-rebound bar (in her left hand)

“Euro seats,” as I affectionately call them, usually have a European-style belt path (shocking, I know), which 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 (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 (city dwellers, please check out the Chicco Fit2, below). The rest of you will be just fine using an American-style car seat.

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 the ones we like the best —

$ — Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 ~ $80
$$ — Britax B-Safe 35 ~ $157 — or Chicco KeyFit 30 or Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 ~ $199 (both)
$$$ —  Nuna PipaUPPAbaby Mesa or Cybex Aton 2 ~ $299 (all) — or Chicco Fit2 ~ $279
$$$$  gb I
dan ~ $359

*Have 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 car seat department:

 $ – Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 ~ $80 (on sale) – 7 lbs – ECONOMY PICK

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The Graco SnugRide is one of the all-time most popular infant car seats – and one of our favorites as well. In the past few years, they have been offering two versions of this seat: the “Classic Connect” and the “Click Connect.” I’d tell you all about the Classic Connect, but it’s a moot point because it’s been discontinued [snort]. Thus, all SnugRides going forward (unless you find one on clearance) are “Click Connect” versions.

So what? Well, the thing is that many stroller manufacturers don’t make adapters for the 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 Click Connect 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 Click Connect 30 is a great value, and our Economy Pick.

New for 2017: all Graco SnugRide bases will come with the new “SnugLock” self-tightening mechanism. This is an easy way for you to install the base with a seatbelt without having to wrestle it in place. It’s also great for grandparents! Check out our video review here.

There are still a zillion different Graco SnugRide models, but three that we like. For the entry model ($99), the best prices can be found at TargetWalmart and Amazon (3 colors to choose from). Please steer clear of the ones that don’t have a “front adjuster,” which is the strap hanging down the front of the seat. Those models that adjust in the rear are a HUGE pain to tighten!

Next up from there is the SnugRide 35 ($149), which adds an adjustable base.

Lastly, there is the SnugRide 35 LX ($189), which adds a “no rethread harness,” which makes the height of the harnesses much easier to adjust as your baby grows. I’ll admit the no rethread harness is a really nice feature – and hard to come by in seats under $300. The 35 LX also has a seatbelt lockoff in the base, which is handy for seatbelt installations. There is also a SnugRide 40, which is…. just, no. You’ll never have a 3 or 4 year old (40 lb’er) riding in an infant bucket – not to mention the added weight — no thanks!

Bottom line: The Graco SnugRide Click Connect is affordable, reliable, and fairly easy to install. It has a nice canopy for keeping the sun out of baby’s eyes (although not as good as on previous models) and best of all, it weighs in at a mere 7 lbs, so it’s very lightweight (except for the “40” model).

My big complaint of the SnugRides is that ALL of them (except for the 40, the one good thing…) 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 Click Connect version of the SnugRide car seat will click firmly into place with any Graco Click Connect stroller.

Their basic car seat “frame stroller” is the SnugRider Elite ($80, 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 17.75 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.

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

New at Target is the Graco Pace, which I joke is the poor man’s City Mini. It’s 19 lbs vs. 17 lbs for the City Mini, so not much 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 Click Connect car seat. As previously stated, not many other stroller manufacturers make car seat adapters for the 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 ~ $157 (on sale) – 10 lbs – EDITOR’S CHOICE #1

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Britax makes a damn fine seat and this one is no exception. In 2015, they replaced the 30lb version with two newer models, the B-Safe 35 and the B-Safe 35 Elite ($187 on sale), so it’s now a meatier, slightly more expensive seat.

Now, with a 35 lb weight limit and 32″ height limit (my 3-year-old isn’t even 35 lbs yet, have we gone a little overboard?), the B-Safe 35 has integrated steel bars and SafeCells in the base. It also has deeper sidewalls with side impact protection and a steel frame. The canopy is awesome and the seat is as easy to install as ever, complete with built-in lock-offs.

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.

Bottom line: The Britax B-Safe 35 is an awesome seat with extremely high user satisfaction. 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. My only beef is the weight of this seat, as it is heavier than the previous model (and others in this review).

PS. I’m very glad they started discounting them (down from $209). Another note is that many small merchants are not carrying Britax anymore due to their inability to make a decent margin on sales, so you may have to go to a big box store to check it out.

*The Britax B-Safe is an American-style seat.

Stroller Compatibility:

The true beauty of the B-Safe is his compatibility with Britax and BOB strollers (Britax owns BOB). Unfortunately, Britax doesn’t make a lightweight car seat stroller frame, like the Chicco Caddy and Graco SnugRider. AND it doesn’t go well with the “universal” car seat stroller, the Baby Trend Snap N Go, so your options for a lightweight stroller frame are just about nil.

That said, the Britax B-Safe 35 car seat + B-Agile 3 stroller is an awesome combination (my top pick, perhaps?). You can also use the B-Safe with the ever-popular Britax B-Ready stroller, 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 new 2016 Bob B-Safe 35 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 ~ $199 – 9.6 lbs – EDITOR’S CHOICE (#2)

Alice in her KeyFit infant car seat on a plane

Alice in her KeyFit on a plane

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“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

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.

*The KeyFit is an American-style seat.

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 every stroller under the sun, and comes in super cute patterns.

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.

For a lightweight frame stroller (to use with your car seat only), stick with the KeyFit Caddy ($99). But wait – the Chicco Liteway Plus ($179) is also a great option; it offers a lightweight base for your car seat, then later becomes a regular umbrella stroller. You may not appreciate this now, but once your baby turns nine months or so, you’ll want/need an umbrella stroller anyway. Like the Graco Breaze, with the Liteway Plus you can also kill 2 birds with 1 stone. ChiccoLitewayPlus Chicco also introduced the Bravo stroller ($379, travel system), which 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 23 lbs, I’d expect a reversible stroller, but whatevs).

There’s also the new-ish Chicco Urban, which is a reversible stroller. It’s meh.

Chicco also came out with a pretty awesome jogging stroller called the Activ3 ($299).

I don’t recommend the Cortina because it’s bulky and heavy — thank goodness it’s being discontinued. Onward. Bottom line: outside of the Caddy, strollers are not Chicco’s strong suit…


$$ – Maxi-Cosi Mico 30, Mico “Max” 30 and Mico Nxt ~ $149 – $249

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 word) and compatible with many luxury strollers.

The newer seats, the Mico 30 (now at Target — scandalous!!) and Mico “Max” 30, both have higher height and weight limits, so you’ll be able to use it for longer than the old Mico “22”. If you’re looking for something more reminiscent of the older, smaller version, check out the Mico Nxt – $179 (because, let’s face it, many people switch to a convertible seat well before 29″ or 22 lbs).

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 still 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 ($249).

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.

On the downside, the canopy is a little flimsier than on others, although they were improved last year (2016).

Another 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.

Back to the colors: If you are really into color and cool design, check out the “Max Custom” ($269+) version of this seat, which allows you to truly customize your canopy color, seat color, and even headrest color. Seriously, you can get all kinds of crazy with color if you so desire (below).

maxicosi_micomax_2015_customized_930x1050_us

Maxi-Cosi Max 30 Custom

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.


 $$$ – UPPAbaby Mesa 2017 ~ $299 – 9.9 lbs

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

UPPABaby Mesa infant car seats

UPPAbaby Mesa

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They made their foray into the world of car seats with the Mesa about 4 years ago. The schtick with the Mesa is ease of installation; with a self-ratcheting base. Simply push the base down with your body weight (using LATCH) 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.”

New this year (2017), they’ll have two fashions (Henry and Blue Marl) which are completely fire-retardant free. Yes, it’s the first and only car seat on the market with no fire retardant chemicals whatsoever. These seats are made of wool and are nothing short of phenomenal. If I were pregnant right now, 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. People have complained that the handle and shade conflict with each other, which makes it hard to hold with the shade down.

*Note that the newer version of 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 no longer has it — sorry!

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.

Stroller Compatibility:

Again, if you are in the market for the UPPAbaby Cruz stroller or the 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 (except for some Baby Jogger strollers and others), although it’s getting better each year.


$$$ – Nuna Pipa ~ $299 – 7.9 lbs

Nuna made a splash when it entered the US market a few years 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 2 (below), but with a nicer/larger sun canopy that includes the “dream drape” for total darkness (I LOVE the dream drape!!).

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

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

Stroller Compatibility:

Nuna makes a few strollers that may interest you, including the Tavo, the Mixx2, the Pepp and the Ivvi.

The Pepp is a lightweight, compact stroller that folds nicely and has an easy, one-hand push. This is your travel stroller. For $249, I would expect something much more lightweight, but there I go being judgey again.

The Ivvi is a full-sized, all-terrain stroller, much like the UPPAbaby Vista, while the Tavo ($349) is a bit more compact.

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.


$$$ – Cybex Aton 2 ~ $299 – 9 lbs – LUXURY PICK

If your budget is a bit more generous (or you have a really wealthy Aunt, for example), the German-engineered Cybex Aton and Aton 2 (and Aton Q!) are, in my opinion, the best infant seats on the market. Here’s why:

  • safety features galore
  • easy to install without a base
  • small footprint
  • freakin’ beautiful!

Safety features: The European-style Aton 2 (and Aton Q) boast two safety features that most other seats lack (the regular “Aton” lacks these as well) ~

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
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The Aton 2’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 infant seat 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 smaller seat depth-wise of all the seats in this review. Thus, if you have a small back seat or a sports car perhaps, this may be your only option.

Next up the food chain is the fancy-pants Aton Q ($349) and Cloud Q ($399), which reclines into a bassinet while not being used in the car. Ugggh – so many varieties!

The main difference in the Aton 2 and Aton Q is that the Linear Side-Impact Protection (LSP) system in Q has moved to the rear of the seat — and it has a better sun canopy that disappears into the shell. Seriously, it’s almost space-agey. The Q is also a bit heavier at 11.6 lbs, so — there’s that. Is the Q really worth it? Not in my opinion, but I’m not a big spender. I think the Aton 2 gives you an awful lot for your money.

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. This one is also very heavy (13.9 lbs).

Stroller Compatibility:

The Aton(s) can be used (with an adapter) with any of Cybex’s strollers (excuse me, “push chairs”). The new Priam is really sweet (it has SKIS!). There’s also the Balios M, the Callisto, Topaz, Iris, Agis or the Onyx — 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 was like the old Sprockets skit on SNL.

With a Cybex OR Maxi-Cosi car seat adapter, the Aton 2/Q can also be used on the vast majority of strollers in the strollersphere, especially the luxury strollers.


$$$ – Chicco Fit2 ~ $279 – 11 lbs

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

Chicco Fit2


$$$ – gb Idan ~ $359

The Idan is a beautiful, futuristic seat with awesome safety features. Check out our quick review of this car seat here. Full review pending.

gb-idan-infant-car-seat_idan_with_base_us-3000

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 has 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* 6 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 6 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 the stroller base 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 sakes, don’t bring the base when you travel. 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 sakes, 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. For tips on installing your infant seat, click here.

Next: Best Strollers →

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Infant Car Seats
Author Rating
5