Best Car Seats: Safety 1st vs Evenflo vs Graco vs Chicco vs Diono vs Britax

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Baby sleeping in car seat: Best Car SeatsSafety, ease of use, budget — there’s a lot to consider when purchasing a car seat. We’ve done the legwork for you to give you our car seat reviews, which feature some of the best car seats for your precious cargo. We’ve even broken it down by type of car seat, so you get just what you need most.

Article Overview

Do Car Seat State Laws Differ?

Yes! All 50 states and the District of Columbia strictly uphold mandatory car seat laws, but they differ by state based on what age and size children need to be in different types of car seats (rear or forward facing and booster). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a comprehensive list of each state’s laws.

Review Criteria

How did we choose the winners of our best car seat reviews from hundreds of different manufacturers and models? Safety is always our top priority, but there are also many other factors we considered, including ease of installation, ease of use, comfort, cost, expert and consumer reviews and more.

Best Infant Car Seats

These are for newborns up until your baby reaches the seat’s weight or height limit. These limits vary by product — the average is 30 pounds or 30 inches. All infants must be in a rear-facing car seat. Once your baby outgrows her infant car seat, it’s time to purchase a convertible car seat.

While many convertible seats can accommodate infants, infant car seats give you the ability to detach the seat with carrying handle from the base of the car without waking your baby. We can’t stress the importance of this feature enough!

All of the following rear-facing car seats were rigorously crash tested and adhere to current Federal Safety regulations. Many experts also include these infant car seats in their lists of top rated car seats.

Chicco KeyFit 30 Review

Chicco Keyfit 30#1

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The hugely popular Chicco KeyFit 30 is consistently among the top-rated car seats year after year for its high quality and safety features.

A great value compared to similar premium infant car seats, KeyFit is one of the easiest infant seats to install and even accommodates preemies, making it the best infant car seat for newborns as small as 4 pounds.

No Latch in your car? No problem with the Chicco KeyFit, which has a built-in, belt routing, lock-off system.

Pros

Cons

  • Car seat interior lined with energy-absorbing foam for added impact protection
  • 5-point harness is easier to adjust than many others
  • Car seat clicks easily into the base (better than most)
  • Best car seat for newborns (includes an infant insert for newborns 4-11 pounds)
  • Lightweight car seat
  • Excellent value
  • Cushions are machine washable
  • Base is slightly wider than some car seats, so it may be too bulky for a very compact car
  • Only fits babies up to 30 inches or 30 pounds
  • Fabric is on the rough side

Price

Britax B-Safe 35 Review

Britax B-Safe 35#2

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The Britax B-Safe 35 wins our number two pick as the best car seat for infants for its excellent safety features. Britax is known for manufacturing the safest car seats on the market. Like the Chicco KeyFit, this car seat is easier to install than most. And it’s compatible with more strollers than our top pick.

With the B-Safe 35, however, you may run into some potential drawbacks in exchange for top-of-the-line safety features. Many parents of larger infants complain that this car seat is way too narrow and their child quickly outgrows this car seat, which could require you to transition to a convertible car seat sooner than you initially intended. But it’s hard to beat Britax’s safety features.

Pros

Cons

  • Among the best safety features, including impact absorbing base, impact stabilizing steel frame and complete side impact protection
  • Comfy interior fits babies from 4 pounds (includes removable newborn insert)
  • 5 point harness has easy-to-adjust straps
  • Reasonable mid-level price for high quality
  • Fits well into compact cars
  • Cushions are simple to remove and wash
  • Complaints that the car seat is too heavy

Price

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX Review

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX#3

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Graco is one of the most popular best sellers of car seats for all ages, and the infant SnugRide line has been a parent favorite for years. Graco is known for their mix of affordable pricing and high quality, and the SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX fits that bill.

While the Graco SnugRide isn’t rated as highly as our top two picks, it’s certainly worth consideration for its ease of use, lighter weight and value.

Pros

Cons

  • Includes EPS (expanded polystyrene) energy-absorbing foam to protect against impact
  • Fits infants up to from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches
  • Among the lightest weight infant car seat we’ve reviewed
  • 5-point, front-adjust harness is easy to maneuver
  • 4 base recline positions
  • Budget-friendly
  • Works with all Graco click-connect strollers
  • All cushions are machine washable
  • Safety ratings aren’t as high as our top 3 picks
  • Difficult to remove the LATCH system hook, so it’s hard to move the base between cars

Price

Best Convertible Car Seats

This type of car seat is popular because they adapt as your child grows. A convertible car seat transforms from a rear-facing seat to a front-facing seat once your child is big enough.

Tip: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing seats until at least the age of two.

All of the following convertible car seats endured rigorous crash testing and adhere to Federal Safety regulations. They also get top marks from parents and experts alike.

Britax Boulevard ClickTight Review

Britax Boulevard ClickTight#1

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Our top winner, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight, is nearly impossible to beat thanks to its world-class safety features, easy installation, comfort and more. We love that you can use it as a rear-facing seat for babies as little as 5 pounds.

And its 14-position harness allows for taller kids to stay in the seat longer (up to 65 pounds). The Boulevard even has a harness indicator that clicks to let you know your child is within the tightness safety range.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent safety features, including two layers of side protection, steel frame, and impact absorbing base and harness pads
  • ClickTight technology makes installation a breeze
  • Harness indicator tells you with a click when your child’s within proper tightness range
  • 14-position harness grows easily with your child (up to 65 pounds)
  • Bulky, so not ideal for smaller cars
  • Customers complain that the crotch buckle is too short
  • Doesn’t convert to booster seat
  • Cup holder is an additional $24.99

Price

Chicco Nextfit Zip Review

Chicco Nextfit Zip#2

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The Chicco Nextfit Zip is our number two pick for the best convertible car seat for its high safety ratings, ease of use and parent-friendly features. The Nextfit is one of the easiest convertible car seats to install and switch from rear facing to front facing (without having to re-thread the Latch straps).

Another nice feature is the 5-point harness system, which includes flex-out technology to hold both sides of the belt up and out of the way during loading/unloading. We also love the new zip off-on, machine-washable seat pad — although the zip model is pricey.

Pros

Cons

  • Experts report excellent crash test performance
  • Among the easiest convertible seats to install with 9-position leveling technology
  • Easy to adjust 5-point harness system
  • 2-position chest clip and 6-position headrest adjusts as your child grows (up to 65 pounds)
  • Removable infant insert accommodates newborns 5 pounds and up
  • Zip model — can simply unzip the seat pad for easy washing
  • Comes with insulated cup holder
  • Expensive
  • Some parents report that it’s difficult to tighten the Latch straps
  • Bulky seat may not work well in compact cars
  • The seat pad is tough to remove and attach to the regular model

Price

  • $299.99
  • 1-year warranty
  • 4 color options offered

Diono Radian 3RXT Review

Diono Radian 3RXT#3

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The Diono Radian 3RXT wins our third spot as the best toddler car seat for its excellent safety features, car seat design and versatility. A huge selling point? You can use this car seat from the time your baby is five pounds (as rear facing) to 120 pounds as a booster!

In addition to its many safety features, the Diono Radian has a narrow, space-saver design that’s expandable as your child grows, and it’s well-cushioned for comfort and support. You can even fold it flat for storage and travel.

Pros

Cons

  • Full steel frame, EPS foam cushioning and energy-absorbing harness system
  • 3-in-1 car seat (rear facing, front facing, booster)
  • Narrow design allows for 3 car seats to fit on back seat
  • Head support has 12 adjustable positions
  • Forward facing with 5-point harness accommodates kids up to 80 pounds
  • Folds flat and has carrying straps (sold separately)
  • Comes with one cup holder (can attach as many as four)
  • Customers report a complicated installation process
  • Harness belts are harder to adjust than our top two picks
  • High seat height and longer seat bottom may not fit well in some cars
  • Tough to remove and reattach pads for washing
  • Cup holder is an additional $7.99

Price

Honorable Mention: Evenflo Tribute LX Review

Evenflo Tribute LXView on Amazon

We have to give a shout out to the Evenflo Tribute LX convertible car seat as one of the best values on the market. At only $64.99 , the Evenflo Tribute makes an excellent backup car seat for any family. While the Tribute doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of premium car seats, it meets all federal safety standards and it’s fairly easy to install considering the lower price point.

Another plus? The Tribute only weighs nine pounds, making it perfect for a grandparent or babysitter spare seat — and a good airplane seat choice for those parents that love to travel with their toddlers.

Pros

Cons

  • Seat has side safety protection and lined with energy absorbent foam
  • Unbeatable price for safety ratings
  • Simple to install compared to similar basic car seats
  • Extremely lightweight for a convertible seat
  • Easily removable and machine washable seat pad
  • Not nearly as sturdy as our top three picks
  • Doesn’t convert to booster seat
  • Customers report the seat is way too roomy for newborns (although it’s advertised as suitable for 5-pound infants)
  • Forward facing only up to 40 pounds
  • Not as padded for comfort as many other car seats
  • Warranty is only 90 days

Price

  • $64.99
  • 90-day warranty
  • Available in 7 different colors

Best Booster Seats

Evenflo Big Kid AMPThese are for older toddlers and young children who’ve outgrown a convertible seat but still need help sitting up higher, so your car’s shoulder and lap belts protect her at the most effective position. Boosters are meant for kids at least 4 years of age and at a minimum of 40 pounds until they’re large enough to use your car’s seatbelts normally.

Booster seats are pretty simple and don’t involve all the safety measures, expense and potential portability problems involved with infant and toddler car seats.

Why? These front facing car seats use the car’s existing shoulder and lap belt system — the booster’s main function is to raise your child high enough, so the belts fit properly and safely. Here are our recommendations.

  • Safety 1st Store n’ Go Sport Booster Seat; converts to a backless seat; up to 110 pounds; $44.49
  • Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster; converts to backless booster seat; up to 110 pounds;  $44.99
  • Graco Backless Turbobooster; up to 100 pounds;  $24.99

How Can You Ensure A Safe Fit Of A Car Seat?

Check out the video below to get some wise advice on basic best car seat practices.

Safety First

And be sure to read our accompanying article highlighting car seat safety tips with our expert guest. Of course, the type of car seat you purchase is of utmost importance for safety. That’s why we’ve done our research on the best car seats on the market. But as a parent, you need to be equally aware of how to adjust your car seat and its harness and belt system to achieve the highest level of safety possible. Your child’s life could depend on it!

What infant or toddler car seats or brands would you recommend and why?

About The Author:

While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school for journalism and public relations, Sally began a long career researching and writing about hard-to-understand topics, such as insurance and finance.

Her additional experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and financial planning at various foundations and nonprofit organizations over the years has given her the practical tools to inform consumers about making the smartest business and personal financial decisions.

Speaking of smart living — growing up in the (at-the-time) per-capita murder capital of the U.S. (Richmond, VA) taught her a thing or two about the need for personal and home safety. Sally stays on top of all the latest gadgets and services to protect her and her teenage daughters from potential predators and thieves. And she brings this knowledge to every article she writes.

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My sister is pregnant so I’ve been shopping around looking for a car seat for her (since she’s the first in our family and we don’t have any hand me downs). I’m sure she’ll appreciate knowing that safety is a factor you considered for this review, I know I will as the baby’s aunt.