The Best Car Seats

By Amanda Lasater

You know that to get your little one around in this world – even home from the hospital – you’re going to need a car seat. For this reason, car seats are one of the most essential items for parenthood. And, not only do car seats ensure that you can take your baby anywhere, they also protect your infant, so it is crucial that you don’t cut any corners when shopping for one. 

We get it – it’s a lot of pressure. You’re a parent, which means you will do anything to ensure that you pick the safest ride possible for your baby. Then, you combine that pressure with the high number of car seats out on the market today, and you’ve got yourself quite the headache! To help you pick the best and safest car seat for your little one, we’ve compiled a list of the top car seats money can buy. 

The 4 Best Car Seats

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Graco extend to fit car seat

Best in Safety

Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

Graco has long been a recognized and trusted name in child safety. From car seats, to strollers, to swings, Graco has been perfecting the safety of childhood accessories for over 60 years, so it is no surprise that their car seats are all over this list of the best car seats! The Extend2Fit car seat will protect rear-facing infants weighing 4 to 50 lbs and forward-facing toddlers weighing 22 to 65 pounds. Thanks to Graco’s Simply Safe Adjust, the height and harness of the headrest can be adjusted together as your child grows. In addition, the InRight latch system offers a quick one-second latch attachment, while the Fuss Free Harness Storages holds the buckle out of your way to easily get your baby in and out of the seat.

Obviously, the Extend2Fit convertible car seat has numerous reasons why it makes the cut for the best of the best, but the main selling point is the 4-position extension panel that provides an addition 5-inches of extra leg room. This means that your child will be able to safely ride rear-facing for up to 50 lbs – something that most car seats cannot offer. The seat also has two cup holders for your child’s drinks and a cushioned, machine-washable seat pad that is easy to clean. Finally, according to Graco, this seat has been rigorously crash tested to exceed U.S. safety standards and is built with a durable steel reinforced frame.  

Safety 1st coral car seat

Best Budget

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

The name of this company really says it all – Safety 1st prides themselves on leading the way in child safety, and their Grow and Go 3-in-1 convertible car seat was built to keep children safe even as they outgrow everything else. The car seat supports three stages of your child’s growth: (1) the rear-facing mode, for children 5 to 40 lbs, (2) the forward-facing mode, for children 22 to 65 lbs, and (3) the booster mode, for children 40 to 100 lbs. At each stage, the seat can be extended and manipulated to grow with your child and last through all their first – from their first ride home from the hospital to their first swim practice.

Due to the design of this seat, front seat passengers can enjoy up to 7-inches more leg room with the rear-facing mode’s reduced footprint. The height of the headrest and harness is easily adjusted in a single step, even in booster mode, ensuring your child will remain comfortable and secure. The Grow and Go car seat also has an adjustable, three position recline so that the seat will fit perfectly in your car. It features an easy-to-clean, washer and dryer safe seat pad that can be easily removed when a spill happens. Finally, the seat meets or exceeds federal, ASTM, and JPMA safety standards and even includes a 1-year limited warranty through Safety 1st.

Britax car seat

Easiest Installation

Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

Another great name in child safety, Britax and their ClickTight convertible car seat ensure your little one is highly protected while traveling around. This car seat features the ClickTight Installation System, which offers a safe and simple way to install the car seat without the weight, seat, or belt limits of LATCH. It was designed with seven recline positions and highly-visible level indicators, therefore making it incredibly easy to find the proper angle for your vehicle during installation.

Britax focused a lot of attention on making sure that their Marathon ClickTight convertible car seat will protect your child from an impact. To surround your child with safety, they used a deep-energy absorbing shell to shield, impact absorbing base, and steel frame to protect them from the most severe types of collision and side impacts. In addition, the patented v-shaped tether minimizes seat rotation during a crash and diverts the energy away from your baby. The quick-adjust harness offers 14 positions, so you’ll never have to re-thread as your child grows. As for the modes, this convertible car seat offers a rear-facing mode for children 5 to 40 lbs and a forward-facing mode for children 20 to 65 lbs.

Graco 4ever car seat

Longest Use

Graco 4Ever 4 in 1 Convertible Car Seat 

Graco’s 4Ever 4-in-1 convertible car seat was designed to give parents a whopping 10 years of use, lasting with your child from 4 to 120 lbs. This convertible car seat is the only car seat you are going to find that goes from baby to booster! The four modes offered include (1) the rear-facing mode, for children 4 to 40 lbs, (2) the forward-facing 5-point harness mode, for children 22 to 65 lbs, (3) the highback booster mode, for children 30 to 100 lbs, and (4) the backless booster mode, for children 40 to 120 lbs.

The 10-point headrest and Simply Safe Adjust harness system lets you adjust the harness and headrest together, eliminating the need for re-threading. The seat features a 6-position recline system to help keep your little one as comfortable as possible. Plus, the InRight LATCH system makes installation a breeze, taking only one second to install the seat. 


What to Look for in a Car Seat

When you are shopping for car seats, you should consider: 

  • Installation
  • Fit
  • Convertibility
  • Safety features
  • The type

Installation and Fit

Car seats can be installed by either the seat belt or through the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system (LATCH). Read your car’s owner manual to decide which one is best for your car. Also, measure your back seat to decide how much room you have for a car seat. If your back seat is smaller, you will need a car seat with a narrower base. 

Convertible or 3-in-1

Children are safer riding in a rear-facing car seat, therefore, they should ride rear-facing for as long as possible. Eventually, they will reach the maximum height or weight rating for a rear-facing car seat, which means it is time for them to start riding front-facing. To avoid having to purchase a whole new car seat when this happens, you can simply purchase a convertible car seat.

Convertible car seats give you the ability to switch from rear-facing to forward-facing, saving you money in the long run. They also make 3-in-1 car seats, which provide you with a rear-facing seat, forward-facing seat, and a booster seat so that the car seat will grow with your child. 

Safety Features

There are a few safety features you want to check out prior to purchasing a car seat. For example, the harness used in a car seat is important. When your child reaches the forward-facing stage, you will want to make sure the seat has a 5-point harness. This type of harness will keep your child safe and ensure maximum protection from collision.

You also want to look at the side-impact protection offered by a car seat. Does it have extra pads surrounding your baby’s head for added protection? Is the base sturdy? Does it shield your child from impact energy?

Plus, here are a few basic tips for buying a safe car seat:

  • Don’t buy a used seat. You don’t know if the seat has been in a crash, if it is missing parts, or whether the manufacturer issued a safety recall and the previous owner ignored it. Overall, you just cannot know if a used car seat is safe. 
  • Always read the label on the car seat. There is a label on the seat which tells you important safety information about the car seat, such as the height, weight, and age limit. Make sure you read this information before you purchase the seat. 
  • Complete the registration of your new car seat. All car seats come with a registration card and if you choose to register the seat the manufacturer can notify you if there is a recall. 

Different types of car seats

The various types of car seats available include:

  • Rear-facing car seats
  • Convertible car seats
  • 3-in-1 car seats
  • Booster seats

Learn more about each type below.

Rear-Facing Car Seats

These are also known as infant car seats as they are made to protect the smallest children, starting with newborns. Rear-facing seats are the safest and your child should be kept in a rear-facing position for as long as possible. They typically have a base that stays locked in the vehicle while the seat snaps in and out and can be used as a carrier.

Convertible Car Seats

These allow for rear-facing seating until the child reaches a certain height or weight, then the seat can be converted into a front-facing seat. To decide when your child should be switched from the front-facing position, read the manual that comes along with your convertible car seat. Most people recommend using a convertible car seat for as long as possible. 

3-in-1 Car Seats

These seats can be used as a rear-facing seat, a forward-facing seat with a harness, and then a booster seat. 

Booster Seats

Booster seats are forward-facing seats used once your child outgrows a car seat with a harness, usually between 40 and 120 pounds. It is important to use a booster as most kids will not fit properly into an average seat belt until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall.


Conclusion

We know that shopping for a car seat can be an intimidating endeavor. The important role in your child’s safety that a car seat plays means that you are going to want to take your time and make an educated choice to find the best car seat out there. Thankfully, all car seats are required to pass stringent tests and meet numerous safety standards before they hit the market, which means that you can sleep well at night knowing that your little one is safe every time you take them for a ride. 


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