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

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Baby sleeping in car seat: Best Car SeatsAre you searching for the best infant car seat before your bundle of joy arrives? Or has time flown by and you’re ready for a toddler car seat? With seemingly endless car seat options on the market, how do you know you’re making the safest and smartest choice? Safety, ease of use, budget — there’s a lot to consider. We’ve done the legwork for you to give you our car seat reviews, which feature some of the best car seats on the market. Read on to see our top picks, pros and cons, and more! We’ve even broken it down by type of car seat so you get just what you need most.

What Type of Car Seat Do You Need?

Infant Car Seats 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!

Convertible Car Seats are 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 the age of two.

Booster Car Seats 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 four years of age and at a minimum of 40 pounds until they’re large enough to use your car’s seatbelts normally.

Best Car Seats

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. Click a link below to jump to the type of car seat you need.

Infant Car Seats | Convertible Car Seats | Booster Seats

Best Infant Car Seats

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 comes in first place as our best infant car seat choice. The Chicco Keyfit 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 four 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

Pricing

  • $199.99 (all prices at time of writing)
  • 1-year warranty
  • Car seat weight: 9 lbs
  • 5 colors
  • Additional car seat base: $84.99
  • Chicco Caddy Stroller Frame: $99.99
  • Chicco Cortina CX Travel System (includes Keyfit car seat and deluxe stroller): $299.99

Britax B-Safe 35 Elite Review

Britax B-Safe 35 Elite#2

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The Britax B-Safe 35 Elite 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 Elite, 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 end up costing you in the long run by having to purchase another rear-facing infant car seat. 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
  • Deep and narrow seat makes getting your baby in and out more difficult than many other infant seats
  • Car seat is heavier than most
  • Many customer complaints that babies outgrow this car seat long before advertised weight and height limits (35 pounds and 32 inches)

Pricing

  • $199.99 (prices at time of writing)
  • 1-year warranty
  • Car seat weight: 11.5 lbs
  • 7 colors
  • Car seat adapter for strollers: $56
  • Additional base: $80

Evenflo Embrace LX Review

Evenflo Embrace LX#3

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The Evenflo Embrace LX rounds out our top three best infant car seats. What stands out with this model? The price is nearly impossible to beat for the quality and safety features you get with the Embrace. Unlike the Britax B-Safe, this infant seat fits larger babies well (and even preemies at four pounds), customers report. Another standout is the car seat’s weight, which is among the lowest we’ve seen. Score for parents having to carry around a sleeping baby!

Pros

Cons

  • Energy absorbing foam and side impact protection
  • Endorsed by safety advocates for newborns starting at 4 pounds
  • 5-point harness with easily adjustable straps
  • Very lightweight car seat
  • Exceptional price for quality
  • Fits larger babies up to 35 pounds and 32″
  • Canopy is too small
  • Fabric isn’t very breathable, so babies get sweaty
  • May not fit well in very compact cars — base is wider than our top two picks
  • Warranty only 90 days (compared to one year with our other car seats reviewed)

Pricing

  • $88.58 (prices are at time of writing)
  • 90-day warranty
  • Car seat weight: 7.5 lbs
  • 12 colors
  • Additional base: $54.71
  • Evenflo Vive Travel System (includes Embrace LX car seat and deluxe stroller): $149.97

Honorable Mention: Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Review

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35View on Amazon

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 Click Connect 35 fits that bill. While the Graco Snugride isn’t rated as highly as our top three picks by experts, it’s certainly worth consideration for its ease of use, lighter weight and value.

Pros

Cons

  • Includes ESP 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
  • 6 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
  • Harder to remove from the base than other infant car seats
  • Difficult to remove the LATCH system hook, so it’s hard to move the base between cars
  • Several consumer complaints that the car seat overheats and doesn’t have enough padding

Pricing

  • $124.39 (prices are at time of writing)
  • 1-year warranty
  • Car seat weight: 7.5 lbs
  • 5 colors
  • Additional base: $42.99

Best Convertible Car Seats

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 it 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 five pounds. And its 14-point 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-point 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 $14.99

Pricing

  • $304.00 (prices are at time of writing)
  • 1-year warranty
  • Sold in 5 colors
  • Britax Child Cup Holder (fits on the side of the seat): $14.99

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

Pricing

  • $349.99 Chicco Nextfit Zip car seat (Prices are at time of writing)
  • $299.99 Chicco Nextfit car seat (same seat without Zip feature)
  • 1-year warranty
  • 4 color options offered

Diono Radian RXT Review

Diono Radian RXT #3

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The Diono Radian RXT wins our second 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) all the way 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

Pricing

  • $287.99 (prices are at time of writing)
  • 1-year warranty
  • 10 colors available
  • Diono Radian Angle Adjuster (improves padding and angle under car seat): $9.99
  • Diono Carrying Straps: $5.29

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 $55, 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

Pricing

  • $45.89 (price at time of writing)
  • 90-day warranty
  • Available in 4 different colors

Best Booster Seats

Safety 1st Backed Store n' Go Booster SeatBooster 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 Backed Store n’ Go Booster Seat (View on Amazon); converts to a backless seat; up to 100 pounds; $52.99 (price at time of writing)

Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster (View on Amazon); converts to backless booster seat; up to 110 pounds; $27.99 (price at time of writing)

Graco Backless Turbobooster (View on Amazon); up to 100 pounds; $26.97 (price at time of writing)

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.

How Can You Ensure a Safe Fit?

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

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?

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Sally is a passionate writer but her interests do not stop there. She spends a lot of time daydreaming about the beach, however, she spends most of her time taking advantage of all the activities her town has to offer in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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1 Comment on "Best Car Seats: Safety 1st vs Evenflo vs Graco vs Chicco vs Diono"

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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.

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