A car seat for your precious little one is a ‘must have’. Even if you don’t drive, your baby will need to go in a car at some stage – the first trip being the one home from the hospital. Here’s what you need to know about choosing a car seat and the top rated and reviewed car seats – by the end of this post, you should know which one is best for you and be able to cross the car seat off your list of things to buy for baby. Yay!
Safety is number one
The car seats number one function is to keep your little one safe in the car – it’s a requirement under law to use one, and there are also laws that cover the safety requirements of all new car seats. So you have the peace of mind that whichever car seat you purchase brand new meets the Government’s strict crash and fire safety standards. Many car seats also offer extra safety features to provide more protection to your little one in the event of an accident (more on these models in our recommendations).
Aside from the car seat meeting the Government’s compulsory standards, to be safe it also needs to be right for the size of your baby and installed correctly. Check out safercar.gov for more on correct installation and use of car seats.
Are used car seats safe?
Yes they can be safe to use, but not always. You’ll need to do a bit of due diligence to check that a used car seat is safe to use – for a list of things to check, see here.
Infant or convertible car seat?
There’s two options you have when choosing a car seat for your baby – infant car seats (also known as a bucket seat) and convertible car seats.
An infant car seat is designed just for infants. They’re generally used up until around at least 12 months age, at which point you can change to a convertible car seat. The infant seat can also be taken in and out of the car fairly easily so you can carry baby in it. Many parents snap it onto a stroller or stroller frame when they’re out and about. You can do this by either purchasing a travel system which is a package of a stroller and car seat that go together, or you can purchase a stroller and car seat separately (depending on what you choose, you may need to buy a separate car seat adapter, but some models of stroller may not have an adapter that goes with the car seat you want, read about all of this on our stroller buying guide).
- Good, supportive, comfortable fit for newborns
- Harness position designed just for babies
- Fairly easy to transfer from one car to another
- Can take baby out of the car in the car seat, carry them with you or attach to a stroller/stroller frame
- Baby will outgrow the seat (usually in length before weight) by around 12 months age
- Can get heavy to carry with baby in it once they get bigger
A convertible car seat can be used for both infants and toddlers – for infants it is used as a rear facing seat, then when your little one is big enough, you use it as a forward facing seat up until at least age 4.
- Rear facing convertible car seat can take up less room than an infant car seat
- The one car seat can be used from birth, instead of starting with an infant car seat and then also buying a convertible once baby outgrows the infant seat
- Not easy to transfer from one car to another
- Harness on some models is not always suitable for newborns (usually too high)*
- Not always a good, comfortable fit for newborns*
- Can’t carry baby out of the car in a convertible
*Although a number of convertible car seats aren’t a great fit for newborns and younger babies, there ARE quite a few which are suitable. See our recommendations below.
The choice is yours…
Choosing between an infant car seat and a convertible car seat to use for the first year of a baby’s life is a bit of a hotly debated topic – some parents have a strong preference for one, while others are just as supportive of the other option. That said, infant car seats do tend to be the more popular choice.
The 4 best infant car seats reviewed
The Chicco Keyfit is a super popular car seat among parents as well as authorities in the car seat space. It’s one of the easiest to install, buckling it up and adjusting straps is easy, it has energy absorbing foam for added side impact protection and has a removable newborn insert.
If you’re after an excellent car seat at a good price for what you get, you can’t go past the Chicco Keyfit.
Car seat weight (without base): 9lbs
Child weight: 4-30 lbs
Child height: 30″
The original Chicco Keyfit is the Keyfit 22 – the only difference between the actual seats is that the Keyfit 30 has a maximum weight limit of 30 lbs while the Keyfit 22 has a maximum weight limit of 22 lbs. The seats are both the same size and are suitable for babies up to 30″ height. The original Keyfit is slightly cheaper in price and is often found in the more affordable Chicco travel systems.
This is quite similar to the Chicco Keyfit. While the Keyfit is a little easier to install and the seat and base are smaller, the Britax height limit for the child is 2″ bigger which means you could get a little more use out of it and the canopy is better too.
The B-Safe is also compatible with all Britax B-Series strollers – all of which are excellent strollers. The Britax 2014 B-Agile and B-Safe Travel System is a really good deal. Unlike some travel system strollers, this is one you will WANT to use for many years. While you can also use the Chicco with Britax strollers, you need to buy a separate adapter to use them together.
Car seat weight (without base): 9.8lbs
Child weight: 4-30 lbs
Child height: 32″
The UPPAbaby Mesa scores really well on ease of installation – featuring the ‘smart secure’ system, you can install the seat correctly in 10 seconds and get visual confirmation from the seat that it is installed correctly. With improper installation of a car seat being one of the biggest mis-uses, this is a great way to reduce the potential for that to happen.
There’s added safety for your baby with the adjustable headrest that is re-inforced with EPS foam for extra side impact protection.
The Mesa is compatible with the highly rated UPPAbaby Vista and Cruz strollers – pair the Mesa with one of these and you have a travel system that is great for your newborn and stroller that you’ll be happy with well into the toddler years.
Car seat weight (without base): 11 lbs
Child weight: 4-35 lbs
Child height: 32″
4. Cybex Aton Q
The Cybex Aton Q is hands down one of the best car seats on the market. It takes up less space than most (great for small cars!), is easy to install with or without the base and the most important of all – it has some advanced safety features which other car seats don’t have.
The stand out safety feature of the Aton Q is the Linear Side-impact Protection. It features a telescopic arm which extends out from the car seat. In the event of a crash, this allows the very first forces of the impact to be distributed to the seats shell. The car seat then absorbs the forces of the impact, channeling them away from baby.
Another great feature is the height-adjustable headrest and automatic height adjustment of the seat. This essentially means the seat ‘grows’ with your baby, providing the most comfortable and safest position for them in the seat at each stage of their development. For newborns and preemies, this allows the flattest lying position which reduces the chance of breathing difficulties that can be experienced if baby is positioned on an incorrect angle.
You’ll also love the extra large sun canopy which provides the right protection from the sun and elements when you need it, but can also be folded away when it’s not needed.
Read more about the features of this awesome infant car seat on the Cybex website here.
Yes they are more expensive than the others on this list, but if you can, they’re definitely worth the price.
Car seat weight (without base): 10.1 lbs
Child weight: 4-35 lbs
Child height: 30″
The best convertible car seats suitable for newborns reviewed
This is a really versatile seat that is truly designed to be used right from newborn or preemie (from 4 lbs) right through to elementary school with a max weight of 70 lbs. The TinyFit system is used from 4 to 22 lbs to provide a safe and comfortable position for your little one.
It also features advanced side impact protection with ‘Air Protect’ around the head and torso and is beautifully padded and ‘cosy’ for your little one as you’d expect from the name.
Good for small cars.
Child max weight Rear facing: 4-40 lbs Forward facing: 22-70 lbs
The Combi Cocorro could be THE most suitable convertible car seat for newborns and preemies – it can be used from as small as 3lbs. This is a narrow and compact seat, which makes it great for small cars, and you can fit 3 of them across a seat in most cars. Given the smaller size of the seat, it does have a lower maximum weight limit than the other convertible car seats recommended here. The maximum of the Combi Cocorro is 40 lbs which is about the average weight of 4 year olds – so you’ll still get alot of years out of this seat.
This also has advanced safety features with Combi’s Tru-Safe® Side Impact Protection which offers deep side walls and a layer of energy-absorbing foam to distribute crash energy away from your child’s head, neck and spine.
Child max weight Rear facing: 3-33 lbs Forward facing: 20-40 lbs
As with other Chicco car seats, the NextFit is also one of the easiest in it’s class to install and adjust. It offers multiple recline positions making it easy to achieve the right one for your little one, as well as an infant insert for extra protection and comfort for babies up to 11 lbs. Extra safety with energy absorbing EPS foam.
This also doesn’t take up too much space when rear facing which is a must for small cars.
Child max weight Rear facing: 5-40 lbs Forward facing: 22-65 lbs
The Britax Boulevard G4 offers some really great extra safety features which puts it in our top picks – there’s too many to list here, go check them out here though It’s also fairly easy to install and adjust.
Unlike some of the older Britax convertible car seat models, the Boulevard G4 comes with an infant positioning pillow to provide a proper harness fit and extra comfort for your little one. As with the other 3 seats recommended here, this is also a fairly compact seat which is good for small cars.
Child max weight Rear facing: 5-40 lbs Forward facing: 20-65 lbs