An infant car seat is a rear-facing seat that’s designed to provide the safest car ride possible for your precious cargo.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you should use a rear-facing infant car seat from birth until your child exceeds the maximum height or weight — usually, these limits are around 32 inches or 30 to 35 pounds.

However, it’s ideal to keep your little one rear-facing as long as possible, even if their feet hit the seat.

Most children are ready to switch to a front-facing car seat between 2 and 4 years.

Designed specifically for infants and young babies, infant car seats face the rear of the vehicle. They click in and out of a base that stays in your car, and can also attach to compatible strollers.

Convertible car seats are made to be rear-facing to begin, then can convert to a forward-facing seat. You should be able to use a convertible car seat from the time your child is a newborn until they outgrow a front-facing car seat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says children should stay in a front-facing car seat until at least 5 years of age.

Sometimes convertible car seats also convert into a booster seat, which is the next phase in your child’s car seat progression. Booster seats should be used until your child can safely wear a seatbelt (when they’re around 4 feet 9 inches tall, around 9 to 12 years).

With loads of infant car seat options on the market today, it’s helpful to narrow down your search. When deciding which type of infant car seat is best for you, there are a few things to think about:

  • size and shape of your vehicle
  • size and weight of the seat
  • how many car seats you’ll have
  • how often you’ll use it
  • stroller compatibility
  • ease of installation
  • ease of cleaning
  • safety features
  • price

Again, the AAP recommends that children use a rear-facing car seat from birth until they exceed the maximum height or weight of that particular seat — that’s up to age 2 to 4 years.

It’s important to not rush the progression of these stages, as your little one is safest in the car seat that fits them the most securely.

It’s crucial that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing your car seat and car seat base. Some seats use the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system, while others rely on a seatbelt. The AAP has deemed both methods as equally safe, so long as your car’s seatbelt locks.

The various models and special features of infant car seats can be mind-boggling. We’ve selected the best infant car seats in a variety of categories. Our research is based on product reviews, ratings, and customer feedback — that way you can hit the road instead of poring over endless options.

Keep in mind that certified car seats of all prices have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they are safe. So don’t think that by buying a cheaper model you’re compromising the safety of your precious one.

Price guide

  • $ = under $150
  • $$ = $150–$300
  • $$$ = over $300

Best overall infant car seat

Chicco KeyFit 30

Price: $$
Weight limit: 30 lbs.

This seat from Chicco hits the mark in terms of ease of use, affordability, and quality. The design includes a spring-loaded leveling foot so you can recline it at the correct angle, and the seat is well cushioned and provides extra head support. You can unzip the canopy to provide extra ventilation and it connects to most Chicco strollers.

Several customers note that this seat is on the heavy side. However, it’s without a doubt a parent-favorite in the car seat department.

Best infant car seat for small cars

Britax B-Safe 35

Price: $$
Weight limit: 35 lbs.

Easy to use and install, this car seat is especially ideal if you have a compact car as it’s on the narrow side. The mesh fabric allows for air ventilation so your baby stays cool, plus it’s easy to clean. It has an excellent safety rating and includes two layers of side-impact protective foam, a steel frame, and a base that absorbs impacts.

You can use this seat without the base, although parents say this is a little trickier installation-wise. Folks also say this seat is super sturdy but also considerably heavy.

Best infant car seat with extra safety features

UPPAbaby MESA

Price: $$$
Weight limit: 35 lbs.

Created using high-quality materials without flame-retardant chemicals (!!), this seat is one of the safest options available. The base includes a light that provides visual confirmation that you’ve successfully locked in the seat, both with or without the LATCH system.

It’s also easy to install with or without the base, which makes it convenient if you use public transportation.

This seat has great reviews, but a few folks complain that there’s a large label right on the seat where baby’s back rests. And several customers mentioned that the seat is quite heavy.

Best infant car seat for travel

Doona Car Seat & Stroller

Price: $$$
Weight limit: 35 lbs.

If you’re a frequent traveler, consider investing in this car seat — it easily converts into a stroller (the only one of its kind!). You can also retract the wheels, place it on the floor, and use it as a rocking chair.

The stroller is small and easy to maneuver even if you only have one hand free, which is convenient when you’re navigating crowds or have your hands full. It also folds down easily and attaches to the car seat base, which you can leave in the car.

Since it’s certified for air travel, you’ll have the option of bringing the seat onboard a plane instead of checking it at the gate. As an added bonus, the removable fabric makes it a cinch to wash.

Easiest infant car seat to clean

Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat

Price: $$
Weight limit: 30 lbs.

With messes and accidents an inevitable part of the baby journey, an easy-to-clean car seat is key. This option features self-wicking, stain-resistant fabric on the seat pad, which you can either clean using a damp towel or put in the washing machine and dryer.

Parents say this lightweight option is easy to carry or to move in and out of vehicles. Safety features included a patented technology that includes side-impact protection to keep your child’s head safe. It also has a stability leg that prevents rotation to protect the head and neck from excess movement.

Best budget-friendly infant car seat

Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat

Price: $
Weight limit: 35 lbs.

A smart option if you’re looking for an affordable car seat with excellent safety ratings, this lightweight seat is easy to install, load, and unload. The pads are simple to remove for easy machine washing and the seat has four reclining options and a pillow that protects your baby’s head from excess movement.

On the negative end, several reviewers mentioned that it’s not possible to adjust the seat canopy. And one person found that the design of the handle made it difficult to carry the seat on their arm.

Best lightweight infant car seat

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 30 Infant Car Seat

Price: $
Weight limit: 30 lbs.

Coming in at around 7 pounds (without the base), this car seat is a great option if you plan on carrying the seat long distances, have multiple babies to carry, or simply want the ease of a lightweight carrier. It also easily connects to any Graco stroller.

It’s simple to install and adjusts to four different positions to suit your baby’s size and comfort level. Parents say the harness is secure and easy to adjust, but it’s not the comfiest seat in terms of materials or cushion.

Easiest infant car seat to install

Nuna PIPA Infant Car Seat & Base

Price: $$
Weight limit: 32 lbs.

The Nuna PIPA seat features a safety system that lets you know the installation is correct. You can install it with or without the base, making it a city-friendly option for parents who primarily use ride-sharing services or taxis.

It features quality microknit fabric that’s flame resistant, yet free of fire retardant chemicals. With a Nuna or Maxi-Cosi adaptor, you can connect it to several stroller options. And if you want to shave off a few extra pounds, check out the lighter (and, of course, more expensive) Nuna PIPA lite lx.

Best infant car seat for twins

Baby Trend EZ Flex-Loc Infant Car Seat

Price: $
Weight limit: 30 lbs.

If you plan on carrying more than one kiddo at a time, this is the car seat for you. It’s lightweight and narrow while still being sturdy enough to offer proper protection, and the price is right for doubling up.

Easy to install, the EZ Flex-Loc features a triangle-shaped handle so you can easily switch between hands or hold it at different angles. On the negative side, one reviewer was unsatisfied with the lack of recline options.