Finding the Best Infant Car Seat

Find the best infant car seat.

When it comes to baby car seats, it might feel like you’ve got a million and one choices to make. So I’ve put together a little list with some help from the folks at Bandalou to get you started.

 

Start with the Basics:

You basically have three styles to choose from for your newborn: infant car seats, rear-facing convertible car seats or all-in-ones. All are considered safe, but let’s break down the differences between these three types of seats.

 

Infant Car Seats

These seats are the traditional ‘bucket’-style seats that only face the rear of your car. They’re the ones you see new moms everywhere lugging to and from coffee shops – and they generally fit babies well for the first year (especially wee newborns). They’ve got the added handy feature of easily clicking into and out of a base in your car and your stroller.

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Britax B-Safe 35 Elite 

Convertible Car Seats

These ones stay in your car and will last from newborn up to about 35 or 50 pounds and 32 to 35 inches tall (your child’s head should be 1” below the top of the seat). Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ride in rear-facing seats as long as possible, this style of car seat can save you from having to purchase another one as your baby grows.

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Britax Marathon Click Tight 

All-in-1 Car Seats

These are another type of seat that can change from rear-facing with a harness to forward-facing with a harness and then into a booster seat with the seatbelt. It’s important to make sure you check it out carefully when buying though, because some All-in-1 car seats are forward-facing only and that’s no bueno for babies.

Graco 4Ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
Graco 4Ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Personally, I got an infant seat then moved to a rear facing convertible when my baby got too big to lug around. On the surface, the convertible seems like a great idea from the start because you skip the infant seat, but trying to move a sleeping infant in and out of the car seat tends to be a real pain in the butt. There’s something to be said for snapping a sleeping baby into a stroller system without disturbing them – especially in those early walking dead days. (Just try not to use your car seat as a sleeping place for your baby when you’re at home – it’s not recommended).

 

 

Extras

So this is where it can get overwhelming. As a new parent, the tendency may be to look for the fully-loaded Rolls Royce version of the baby car seat. But here are a few of the extra bells and whistles that may be worth springing for if you have couple of bucks to work with:

  • Extra side-impact protection. It’s nice to have a little extra cush in case you get jackknifed.
  • A height-adjustable headrest with an integrated harness guide. It’s nice to be able to adjust the headrest and harness together with one hand –rethreading a harness is a shitty job.
  • An anti-rebound bar at the foot of the seat. It helps to limit the amount of movement during a crash.
  • Load Leg. It improves stability and helps absorb some of the force from a crash.
  • A larger canopy. This one is a nice bonus for both in and out of the car to protect your kiddo from the elements and dirty stranger hands.
  • Belt Lock-Off. This is when you simply use your vehicle’s seat belt with the base and it snaps down to lock it down gorilla tight.

Find the best infant car seat with features like anti-rebound bars and load legs.

Safety & Usage Info

  • All new car seats on the market have to be tested and approved for the current safety standards (you’ll find the safety mark or stamp on the box) so don’t let slick salespeople tell you that you have to drop a fortune on a car seat if you really don’t have the budget – any car seat you buy new is safe.
  • When it comes to secondhand car seats, make sure you know the history. You don’t want any baggage here! So you’ll want to ensure they haven’t been involved in any accidents and aren’t a model that’s been recalled in the past. I wouldn’t recommend buying these out of the trunk of someone’s car – if you’re going to get it used, get it from someone you trust.
  • Car seats have varying expiration dates. They can range from 4-10 years depending on make and model. They have an expiration date because plastic weakens and becomes brittle over time – not a great quality to have in something that is supposed to keep your kid alive in a crash.
  • Brush up on common car seat no-nos. They can be more common than you’d think – so don’t beat yourself up for not knowing some of these seemingly intuitive things (car seats can be so damn confusing).
  • The ideal place to install an infant car seat is in the center so there is more space around that kiddo on all sides. However, it is a colossal pain to lift a seat out of that spot, and a car tech once told me that most crashes are front and rear, so next best spot is the rear passenger side. That way if you ever have to get out on the street you are lifting your kid onto the sidewalk not into traffic. End of the day, as long as the seat is correctly installed, rear facing and in the back seat, you are good to go.
  • Don’t use LATCH and a seat belt together. Use one or the other. You can read more about it here.

 

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge even screwed up the car seat rules the first time around so don't feel bad about feeling confused. Photo credit CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge even screwed up the car seat rules the first time around so don’t feel bad about feeling confused. Photo credit CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

 

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They nailed it the second time. (I like to think they read my car seat tips.) For the record, that’s a Britax B-Safe.

Handy Tips

  • Try to get this piece of baby gear before your due date – this is not something you want to be installing in the hospital parking lot. (A handy guideline is to aim to have it, install it and know how to use it by about 6 weeks before your due date).
  • Test it out in your car before you cut the tags off to see if it fits. If it ends up rendering the passenger seat useless, it isn’t working in your ride. Fit with your car is one of the most important things to consider when choosing your car seat.
  • Fill out and return the Registration Card that comes with your seat so that the manufacturer can inform you of any safety notices or recalls. It’s not a scam.
  • A larger weight limit doesn’t mean a better seat – most kids outgrow the height limit before the weight limit anyway.
  • Find a car seat tech in your area at safekids.org, csftl.org or car-seat.org (I paid to have my seat installed, and it was the best money I ever spent.)

Clear as mud?? I hear ya. I know about this stuff and I’m still overwhelmed. So I put together a quick little quiz for you to help get you started. It’s not the mother of all quizzes (I nearly had all the results point to “just walk”) but it will at least narrow down some options. Let me know what you think though.

 

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Check out the quiz to find out how to choose the perfect Infant car seat for your baby. On a budget? Small car? Matching a stroller?


bandalou

Once you’re done digesting all this info and have a car seat in mind, you may want to hop onto Bandalou for a deal. (You can also find my review here.) They’re a new crowdsourcing site that uses the power of social buying groups for baby products. So let’s say you’re interested in a $300 car seat. You would pay $300 on Amazon or Bandalou, except Bandalou rewards you with their loyalty program by giving you back $30 Bandalou Bucks with your purchase (it’s like getting $30 in store credit), which you can use immediately on a second purchase without any restrictions. But there’s only a 2-day buying window. That’s because they’re holding all the orders and then placing them all at the same time.

Every time you crowdsource & buy, Bandalou rewards you with savings. The more you shop and socialize, the more you can save because the more people that want it, the better the deal is. Ah, the power of a community shopping together!  It’s that simple.

It’s great because you can decide if you want to take them up on the offer, or pass. And the other great thing is that Bandalou is 100% curated by parents. So you can see what other parents are digging – especially if you’re just browsing and not sure of what you want.

Deals on high-end baby stuff with no commitment to buy – and without even leaving your house. Not too shabby!


The folks at Bandalou were kind enough to sponsor this post so I could lose my damn mind spending endless hours setting up the car seat quiz. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted saying “how hard can it be?” more. All the opinions and advice are my own. A special thanks to the amazing car seat techs that helped me with this post too – thank you, Obi Wans!

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20 Comments

  • I need a quiz for the next step! My twins will be 8 months old in less than a week (and were 27″ at their 6-month checkup) so I need to get thinking about what we’re going to use next!

  • I took the quiz, and the result was the carseat we have already purchased! I even chose the “Not sure what stroller we want yet” option to keep my answers unbiased in that regard. Good job on the quiz!

    We’re currently using the Chicco Keyfit 30 with a Neuvo stroller, and we’re very happy with the combo, especially the carseat. When our little has grown out of the infant seat, we’re going to splurge on a Britax Marathon.

  • Good things to think about in your article. Definitely some things this FTM didn’t know and found helpful. I took the quiz and it suggested one of the car seats we were looking at already so I was happy to see our search led to a good car seat. Thanks for the quiz!

  • I am a mother of a soon to be year old. I researched the heck out of ALL the gear I purchase for my baby. Particularly, the car seat. I took your quiz just out of curiosity and the results displayed the infant car seat we chose for our baby! Next, I decided to change my last answer, (the one about not caring whether we get an adapter) since I wasn’t sure how I felt about that when I was shopping. Coincidently, the result was my second choice!
    Great job on the quiz! One thing…I which this was around while I was actually on the market for an infant car seat!

  • I have a 14 month old now put took the Quiz out of curiosity. It showed the exact infant set that we had…I wish there was a quiz for the convertible ones of next step up…it was yes a pain to have to purchase the infant and the next but it was so easy to take him in and out in the seat and not have to wake him for shopping if he was out.
    Loved the article and the quiz.

  • I took the quiz for funsies since you worked so hard on it. My babe is 3 months and we already have her seat. But your quiz resulted in the car seat we have!! Yay for the quiz and yay for us picking the right seat! 😂

  • I have a one year old and originally used the infant carrier car seat. I recently moved him up to the rear facing convertible car seat now that he is almost 30 pounds. Both car seats have been graco brand and I’ve loved them both! I took the quiz just to see what results I’d get and it was suggested that I buy the graco snugfit infant car seat. Which is funny because it’s exactly the one I had!

    Love your blog!

  • Great points. I know the first time through buying carseats we’re so overwhelmed most people may not be thinking this far ahead, but here goes:

    the rear-facing infant seat in the middle of the bench backseat means that no-one, including your or other people’s older kids you may be transporting, can get past to get out the sidewalk-side door.

    it’s worth considering if your infant seat is going to fit next to a carseat and/or booster seat in the rear of your car. We had 3 in the back of a sedan at once: rear-facing infant seat, toddler carseat with LATCH, and a removable booster. They just BARELY all fit back there, and the kids were fighting over elbow room a lot.

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