Editorial Note: This content was researched and produced by Motor1.com‘s expert review team. Links in this article may result in us earning a commission but do not impact our advice or recommendations. Learn More

Best Infant Car Seats

We go ga-ga over the best infant car seats.
Written and Tested By:
Will Moore
Written and Tested By: Will Moore Senior Writer – Motor1 Review Team

Will has written for several major auto sites including Motor1 since 2020, logging hundreds of hours researching and testing products ranging from child car seats to torque wrenches. Will is also Certified by Safe Kids Worldwide as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (#T836339).

Last Updated 07/22/2024

Motor1 Reviews Team Take:

  • The best infant car seats in 2024 are the Bugaboo Turtle Air, UPPAbaby Mesa, Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35, Chicco KeyFit 30, and Baby Trend EZ Ride.
  • Infant car seats range in price from around $200 to $300, though some brands cost closer to $500.
  • Aside from safety, we suggest you look for infant car seats that are adjustable with soft, removable, machine-washable padding.
Best
Infant Car Seat
Bugaboo Turtle Air

A premium infant car seat made of soft materials.

Easiest
To Use
UPPAbaby Mesa

A comfortable infant car seat that’s easy to install and use.

Most Comfortable
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35

An easy-to-install, mid-priced infant car seat.

Most Adjustable
Chicco KeyFit

Several configurations for comfort and safety.

Best Value
Baby Trend EZ Ride

A value-priced car seat and stroller travel system.

Finding the best infant car seat isn’t just a matter of seeking out the best deal – your child’s safety is on the line. While car seats sold in the United States must meet federal safety standards, these haven’t always been the most robust. Only recently has side-impact testing been made a requirement. Additionally, companies are able to self-test and some brands do this more rigorously than others.

On top of this, even a quality car seat is unsafe if you install it improperly or choose the wrong type of seat for your child. This is why it’s essential to do your own research and consult online guides such as this one.


Infant Car Seat Reviews

infant car seats angled and posed on studio table.

In this review, we recommend several safe infant car seats suitable for children up to three years old. We suggest car seats at different price points and from different brands.

What Is The Best Infant Car Seat?

We named the Bugaboo Turtle Air, UPPAbaby Mesa, Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35, Chicco KeyFit 30, and Baby Trend EZ Ride as the best-rated infant car seats on the market in 2024.


Brand/Model
CostOverall RatingAward

Bugaboo Turtle Air

$480

4.5

Best Infant Car Seat

UPPAbaby Mesa

$320

4.5

Easiest to Use

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35

$225

4.5

Most Comfortable

Chicco KeyFit

$210

4.3

Most Adjustable

Baby Trend EZ Ride

$190

3.5

Best Value

*Because cost data fluctuates, the prices in the table above are approximate values that our team regularly updates.

Infant Car Seat Ratings: Our Testing Process

We’ve chosen companies with long track records of car seat safety and base our recommendations on in-person testing. Our review team has tested each of these car seats for ease of use, quality of materials, and adjustability. Each infant car seat was given a rating out of 5.0 stars based on these criteria.

Learn more about how we tested infant car seats here:

1. Bugaboo Turtle Air: Best Infant Car Seat

Bugaboo Turtle Air Infant Car Seat
Bugaboo Turtle Air Best Infant Car Seat
car seat infant bugaboo turtle air in studio, frontal shot.
  • Cost: $479.00
  • Amazon review score: 4.7 out of 5.0 based on more than 45 ratings
  • Weight range: 4.0 to 32.0 pounds
  • Height range: 32.0 inches or less
  • Car seat weight (excluding base): 8.6 lbs.

The Bugaboo Turtle Air is a luxurious infant car seat lined with high-quality merino wool. The detachable infant carrier has a shade canopy and is compatible with the Bugaboo stroller. It meets FAA requirements, meaning you can use it on commercial aircraft. In the event of an accident, the car seat’s anti-rebound bar will ensure your child is safe.

As a Bugaboo product, the Turtle Air is compatible with a number of baby gear accessories, such as a detachable changing bag, parasol, seat liner, and a footmuff (a baby sleeping bag). Most of these accessories are designed for use with the stroller and not while the Turtle Air is in your vehicle.

You can see how the Bugaboo Turtle Air performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 4.5
Adjustability 4.0
Quality of Materials 5.0
Overall Rating 4.5

Below are the pros and cons of the Bugaboo Turtle Air:

Pros
  • FAA-approved
  • Wool lining for comfort and warmth
  • Optional attachment to a compatible stroller
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Bulky visor

The quality of the materials stood out the most when testing the Bugaboo Turtle Air. Not only are all the belts and buckles easily adjustable, but the lining material is the softest of any car seat we tested.

The base of the Turtle Air has an extendable load leg that adds extra stability. We were unable to attach the base to our vehicle’s anchor hooks and needed to install the Turtle Air using the car’s seat belt. This method worked well, and the seatbelt easily tucked into its required spot.

Once installed, the basket easily clicks into and detaches from the base. We found this to be among the easiest infant car seats to use.

car seat infant bugaboo turtle air installed in back of car, side profile.

Amazon has only a few customer reviews for the Bugaboo Turtle Air, but they are mostly positive. Google also rates this seat highly, awarding it an average score of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars from more than 120 reviews.

Users are happy this seat is easy to install, includes useful safety features, and is made from quality materials. Among the most common praises users heap on the Turtle Air is that it’s exceptionally light.

“The polyester fabric looks and feels amazing, and it seems like it can withstand some wear and tear. The cushions around the handle feel sturdy yet comfortable, and I love the option to customize with accessories.”

– Julian via Amazon

One of the few common complaints we found pertains to the attached sun visor. Some people believe it’s bulky and difficult to tuck away when not in use. We didn’t have any issues with the visor during our testing.

2. UPPAbaby Mesa: Easiest To Use

UPPAbaby Mesa Infant Car Seat
UPPAbaby Mesa Easiest To Use
car seat infant uppababy mesa in studio, frontal shot.
  • Cost: $319.99
  • Amazon review score: 4.9 out of 5.0 based on more than 2,800 ratings
  • Weight range: 4.0 to 35.0 lbs.
  • Height range: 32.0 in. or less
  • Car seat weight (excluding base): 9.9 lbs.

The UPPAbaby Mesa is an infant car carrier designed for quick and easy installation. Suitable for infants up to 35.0 lbs., the Mesa features an adjustable headrest, no-rethread harness, and side-impact protection. The infant insert is a soft wool blend.

The UPPAbaby Mesa is compatible with Vista and Cruz strollers and is available in three colors.

You can see how the UPPAbaby Mesa performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 5.0
Adjustability 4.0
Quality of Materials 4.5
Overall Rating 4.5

Below are the pros and cons of the UPPAbaby Mesa:

Pros
  • Easy to install and adjust
  • Durable construction
  • Soft lining materials
  • Can be attached to a compatible stroller
Cons
  • Seat angle too steep for some babies
  • Expensive

The SmartSecure® latch system makes the Mesa one of the easiest infant car seats to install. Holding a button loosens the straps, which automatically tighten once released. A handy indicator window shows you when the base is installed correctly.

The Mesa features soft materials and quality stitching. The attachment mechanism works well, and the base is simple to install and remove from the car seat base. Everything feels like it clicks firmly into place.

car seat infant uppababy mesa installed in back of car, side profile.

Satisfied customers say the Mesa is easy to install. Parents have peace of mind that the seat is properly secured, and the durable materials seem to last for many years.

“Very easy to install. Feels extremely safe and secure. Straps are easy to adjust, even with a small preemie.”

– SW via Amazon

A few reviewers say the angle of the seat is too steep. Their babies are uncomfortable in a seat unable to recline further. And not every child finds the lining comfortable.

“I was super excited to get this car seat, paid the extra $50 to get the merino wool. No chemicals used to make it fire retardant. However, the material is scratchy.”

– David Jewell via Amazon

3. Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35: Most Comfortable

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Most Comfortable
car seat infant graco in studio, frontal shot.
  • Cost: $224.99
  • Amazon review score: 4.8 out of 5.0 based on more than 3,400 ratings
  • Weight range: 4.0 to 35.0 lbs.
  • Height range: 32.0 in. or less
  • Car seat weight (excluding base): 7.5 lbs.
  • Machine-washable padding

The Graco SnugRide®SnugLock®35 is a mid-priced infant car seat that installs easily and securely. The adjustable base offers four incline positions for optimal safety and comfort. Like many of the best infant car seats on this list, the Graco SnugRide is attachable to a stroller without any adapters.

This infant car seat has undergone rigorous testing and includes a five-point harness system that has been side-impact tested for baby retention. It also features a quick-remove seat cover for easy cleaning.

You can see how the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 4.5
Adjustability 4.5
Quality of Materials 4.5
Overall Rating 4.5

Below are the pros and cons of the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35:

Pros
  • Easy to install and adjust
  • Can be attached to a compatible stroller
  • Removable head and body support cushions
Cons
  • Large, bulky canopy

Despite its lower price tag, the SnugRide is comparable to any top-tier infant car seat. It features soft, energy-absorbing foam padding and removable inserts that ensure your child is snugly secured.

We had no problems installing the SnugRide, and the entire process took around a minute. The seat anchors clip into place and are easy to adjust. The straps and buckles secure easily, and the Click Connect™ system works well.

car seat infant graco installed in back of car, side profile.

Some reports from parents say this car seat saved their infant’s life after a crash. Many positive reviews also mention the comfortable lining and excellent head support the SnugRide offers.

“This car seat saved my 9-month-old daughter’s life. A few days ago we were in a car accident […] When we opened the back door to check and make sure our baby was okay, she looked at us smiling […] Completely unharmed.”

– William Justice via Amazon

A few parents don’t care for the canopy attachment, which some say is bulky and cumbersome and gets in the way of the carrying handle.

“The canopy seems like a giant pain in the butt considering it is the same size as the handle making it nearly impossible to put up and down without a struggle.”

– April Brescher via Amazon

4. Chicco KeyFit: Most Adjustable

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
Chicco KeyFit Most Adjustable
car seat infant chicco keyfit in studio, frontal shot.
  • Cost: $209.99
  • Amazon review score: 4.9 out of 5.0 based on more than 340 ratings
  • Weight range: 4.0 to 30.0 lbs.
  • Height range: 30.0 in. or less
  • Car seat weight (excluding base): 9.5 lbs.
  • Machine-washable padding

The Chicco KeyFit is a highly adjustable infant car seat that attaches securely to almost any back seat. The leveling system is spring-loaded for easy use, and the carrier base features a bubble level to help parents ensure they have the proper setup.

You can detach the infant carrier from the car seat base and insert it into a Chicco stroller. This lightweight infant car seat can accommodate infants up to 30.0 lbs. and includes a removable canopy and machine-washable lining.

You can see how the Chicco KeyFit performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 4.0
Adjustability 5.0
Quality of Materials 4.0
Overall Rating 4.3

Below are the pros and cons of the Chicco KeyFit:

Pros
  • Easy to install and adjust
  • Can be attached to a compatible stroller
  • High-quality, comfortable lining
  • Includes adjustable canopy
Cons
  • Lower maximum weight limit and height limit compared to other brands

Of the car seats we tested, the KeyFit was the simplest to install. The instructions were simple to follow, and the adjustment mechanisms worked well. It’s easy to properly tighten the straps because of the SuperCinch® force-multiplying tightener.

It’s also easy to adjust the angle of the KeyFit once attached, making it a solid choice if you want a high-quality car seat with a straightforward installation process. The padding is made from EPS foam covered with a soft lining.

car seat infant chicco keyfit installed in back of car, side profile.

Several reviewers like being able to adjust the carrying handle and unclip the seat from the base without waking a sleeping infant. Others praise the ease of installation.

“[I] didn’t have any experience with car seats prior to this, but I have heard a lot of people say they can be hard to install and so on… however, this one was extremely easy to install and use. It took me less than 5 minutes to install it for the first time.”

– Timothy C. via Amazon

One reviewer didn’t applaud the release handle’s location. If the KeyFit is installed so it’s jammed against the front seat, the release handle can be hard to reach. A few have also expressed frustration with the sunshade.

“May return because of the design flaw with the sun shade. It doesn’t easily slide out under the handle. It’s annoying because you have to use both hands to get it fully extended.”

– Elizziebetty via Amazon

5. Baby Trend EZ Ride: Best Value

Baby Trend EZ Ride Infant Car Seat
Baby Trend EZ Ride Best Value
car seat infant baby trend ez ride in studio, frontal shot.
  • Cost: $189.99
  • Amazon review score: 4.7 out of 5.0 based on more than 22,400 ratings
  • Weight range: 4.0 to 35.0 lbs.
  • Height range: 32.0 in. or less
  • Car seat weight (excluding base): 8.8 lbs.

You can attach each car seat on this list to a stroller made by the same company, but the Baby Trend EZ Ride sells as an all-in-one travel system that includes a stroller. This combo package is cheaper than other car seats.

Though it doesn’t feature wool lining or removable, machine-washable paddings, the Baby Trend EZ Ride is a safe infant car seat for children up to 35.0 lbs. It also has a comparable amount of recline positions.

You can see how the Baby Trend EZ Ride performed in each of our testing categories below:

Review Category Score (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use 3.5
Adjustability 3.5
Quality of Materials 3.5
Overall Rating 3.5

Below are the pros and cons of the Baby Trend EZ Ride:

Pros
  • Includes compatible stroller
  • Inexpensive
  • Special configuration for underweight newborns
Cons
  • Difficult to adjust straps
  • Less comfortable lining materials

We found the EZ Ride more difficult to install than the other infant car seats on this list. While we could attach the seat in under 10 minutes, the straps weren’t easily adjustable compared to other infant car seats. The anchor latch connectors are also hard to remove. But even so, the EZ Ride is a great option for its price.

While you only need to install the base once (and leave it in your car), you’ll likely end up regularly detaching the carrier from the base, especially if you plan to use the stroller. While not particularly difficult, the EZ Ride doesn’t easily detach from the base and requires some jiggling. We also found it tough to adjust the seat angle. For use outside the car, it may not be the best stroller for every child.

car seat infant baby trend ez ride installed in back of car, side profile.

As with many of the best infant car seats, at least one verified review is from a parent who experienced a wreck while using the product. Real-life crash tests show the EZ Ride is safe in the event of the worst.

“This seat saved my daughter’s life [after] my wife, our 2-day old daughter (at the time), and I were involved in a car accident.”

– Count Davido via Amazon

Other, less-extreme positive reviews mention the lightweight of the carrier and the utility of the included stroller. We thought the materials were of middling quality, but many reviewers say their children find the EZ Ride comfortable. While the padding isn’t removable and machine-washable, you can easily wipe it down for cleaning.

Some parents report the vehicle seat is uncomfortable for their little one, and others find it difficult to attach the belt path around a struggling infant.

“The car seat bottom clip is hard to use and my husband’s least favorite part of the whole product. You have to put the pieces together just right to get them to click into the buckle, which is hard to do if your newborn is screaming and kicking and crying.”

– Jessica A. via Amazon


Infant Car Seat Safety

Safety is the most important consideration when selecting an infant car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow parents to drive their newborns home unless they have an approved infant car seat.

Technically, every car seat sold in the United States must meet federal safety standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In practice, this is not always the case, so make sure that any car seat you purchase is approved by the NHTSA. This is typically indicated by a sticker that includes wording like, “This restraint is certified for use in all motor vehicles and aircraft.”

While NHTSA safety standards are rigorous, they are not perfect. For instance, the NHTSA does not have regulations that require testing for side impact crash tests, and companies are able to self-certify. Therefore, it is also good practice to research the manufacturer and model of any car seat before you buy it. Read reviews from other parents and child safety advocacy groups (like the American Academy of Pediatrics). It is also good practice to check if the car seat you’re considering has been subject to any recalls.

In addition to ensuring your seat meets federal safety guidelines, you need to buy the best infant car seat for your child, based on their height and weight. Infants typically require a rear-facing car seat. Consult this chart, developed by the NHTSA, to determine which type of car seat you need.

Lastly, a car seat is only safe if it is properly installed. To check your installation, a professional can inspect your car seat. The NHTSA website features a handy tool for locating the nearest child passenger safety technician.

Are Used Car Seats Safe?

While any car seat sold in the US is legally required to meet certain safety standards, you can find unsafe seats on the secondhand market. It is generally unadvisable to purchase car seats from secondhand sellers for a number of reasons.

  • Car seats expire and a used car seat may be past (or close to) the expiration date.
  • There are a number of counterfeit car seats on the secondhand market. You may also come across car seats that are missing components or are intended for display purposes only.
  • It is not possible to know the history of a secondhand car seat. You should not use a car seat that has been involved in a crash or been dropped or damaged as this can impact the integrity of the seat so that no parts are missing.

If you must use a secondhand car seat, it is best if you can get this seat from a friend or relative – someone who knows the history of the car seat and hopefully still has the user manual. If you must purchase a secondhand car seat, take the time to have it inspected by a car seat safety technician if possible.


Infant Car Seat Buying Guide

Infants should be placed in a rear-facing car seat from birth until they are big enough for a forward-facing seat (typically between the ages of two and four, according to the CDC). Any infant car seat you purchase will have minimum and maximum weight and height limits to help ensure you use the right seat for your child.

The most important car seat feature is safety. A number of brands offer thoroughly crash-tested car seats, including those we recommend in this article. In addition to safety, parents should consider ease of use and comfort when shopping for infant car seats.

Compare Infant Car Seat

Brand/ModelWeight RangeHeight RangeCar Seat Weight (excluding base)
Bugaboo Turtle Air4.0 to 32.0 lbs.32.0 in. or less8.6 lbs.
UPPAbaby Mesa4.0 to 35.0 lbs.32.0 in. or less9.9 lbs.
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 354.0 to 35.0 lbs.32.0 in. or less7.5 lbs.
Chicco KeyFit 304.0 to 30.0 lbs.30.0 in. or less9.5 lbs.
Baby Trend EZ Ride4.0 to 35.0 lbs.32.0 in. or less8.8 lbs.

Ease Of Use

Ease of use is an important consideration for any product, but especially with safety devices such as infant car seats. No car seat is safe if improperly installed. Additionally, easy-to-use car seats can save significant time, especially if you frequently move your car seat between vehicles.

One thing to look for is a no-rethread harness. This type of harness makes adjusting the neck and shoulder straps much easier. Car seats without a no-rethread harness must be removed from the vehicle to adjust.

Comfort

Comfort is subjective and some children may prefer certain brands to others. You can’t know for sure which type of car seat your child will prefer until they try it out, but there are some things you can look for such as thick padding and plush materials.

Also consider the weather and temperature where you live. A merino-wool car seat may be warming in the cold but for some children, much too hot in the summer. Reading customer reviews is a good way to learn how comfortable other children find the seat, but be sure to take into account your own child’s needs and preferences.

Car Seat Terminology

  • No-rethread harness: As your child grows, you will need to reposition the shoulder straps in your car seat. With a rethread harness, straps must be removed and rerouted through different slots in the car seat. A no-rethread harness only has one slot for shoulder straps, and strap height is adjusted by raising and lowering the headrest.
  • EPS Foam: Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam is essentially Styrofoam™. EPS foam is excellent at dissipating the force of high-speed impacts and so is a standard material for crash safety devices like helmets and car seats.
  • Five-point harness: A five-point harness is a seatbelt design that is secured at five points (over both shoulders, at each hip, and between the legs). This strap system provides increased safety over a three-point strap system typical in passenger automobiles.
  • SuperCinch® (Chicco): The SuperCinch system is a specialized pulley that Chicco attaches to the anchor straps that connect the car seat to your vehicle. This pulley makes it easier to tighten the anchor straps by requiring less force on the user’s part.
  • Click Connect (Graco): Click Connect is the name of the connection system Graco uses for its detachable car seats. Graco car seats that feature Click Connect can be detached from the car seat base and connected to a compatible stroller. When a Click Connect carrier is attached, it produces an audible clicking noise so that the user can be certain it is properly connected.
  • SmartSecure® (UppaBaby): The SmartSecure system is designed to ensure proper car seat installation. It consists of a set of lights that change from red to green to indicate that certain parts of the car seat are properly adjusted, such as the anchor latches, stabilizing leg, and incline position.

Helpful Resources:

How Long Does An Infant Car Seat Last?

Newborns can safely use infant car seats until they meet the height and weight limit designated by the manufacturer. New parents should know that the best infant car seats can last at least until your child reaches 30.0 pounds or 32.0 inches. A convertible seat can serve as a forward-facing or rear-facing car seat and last for many years.

We spoke with Petra Stanton, the Safe Kids Supervisor at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, who told us it is important to keep your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible.

“When you look at infants, they are born with the head being very large in proportion to their body. And the rear-facing car seat will protect the head and the neck. The minute you turn them forward-facing [there is the risk of whiplash]. I always feel like keeping [children] rear-facing as long as possible [is] the best thing we can tell any parent.

Depending on the child, the transition to a convertible car seat usually happens around age two. If you’re in an accident with a car seat, you should replace it. Keep in mind that car seats (even convertible car seats) have an expiration date. Many infant car seats expire around six years after the manufacture date.

If your child has reached the age where they’re transitioning out of an infant car seat, we recommend checking out our reviews on the best convertible car seats and the best high back booster seats in 2024.


Best Infant Car Seat: Bottom Line

  1. Best Infant Car Seat: Bugaboo Turtle Air
  2. Easiest to Use: UPPAbaby Mesa
  3. Most Comfortable: Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35
  4. Most Adjustable: Chicco KeyFit 30
  5. Best Value: Baby Trend EZ Ride

Infant Car Seats: FAQ

Below are some common frequently asked questions about infant car seats:

What is the safest baby car seat?

The safest car seat for your baby depends on your child’s weight and height. You should place a newborn baby in a rear-facing, infant car seat such as the Bugaboo Turtle Air, UPPAbaby Mesa, Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35, Baby Trend EZ Ride, or Chicco KeyFit 30. Each of these car seats meets U.S. federal safety standards. Doona, EvenFlo, and Maxi-Cosi are also considered to be safe baby car seats, though not on this list.

To make your car seat as safe as possible, you must install it properly. Refer to the instructions in the owner’s manual for your car seat, and you can also have a professional inspect your seat. All car seats currently sold in the United States must meet requirements set by the NHTSA, but you can also consult a pediatrician if your child has specific needs.

What car seat should a newborn be in?

New parents should invest in a rear-facing car seat that adequately protects the baby’s head in the event of a crash. For the best infant car seats, extra materials like anti-rebound bars and flame-retardant materials are also baked into the manufacturing process.

What is the top-rated infant car seat?

Our top-rated infant car seat – after testing several infant car seats – is the Bugaboo Turtle Air. This car seat features soft, comfortable materials, and it’s easy to install and adjust.

What type of car seat do babies need?

Babies need a rear-facing car seat. Don’t place an infant in a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat.

Is there a difference between a newborn car seat and infant car seat?

When it comes to car seat installation, newborn car seats and infant car seats are essentially the same.

Are car seat stroller combos safe?

All car seats must pass federal safety regulations in order to be sold, so comfort and price should be more of a concern over safety. On one hand, a stroller car seat combo is more functional than other car seats, but small car owners may find storage capacity limited.


Full Infant Car Seat Testing Methodology

To test each infant car seat, our review team installed each product into a sedan. In addition to inspecting the materials of each seat in person, we noted the ease or difficulty of the installation process. We also tested each adjustment mechanism to ensure it worked smoothly.

We could attach each of the car seats using the car’s built-in infant seat anchors or the seatbelt. For our testing, we installed each seat using the built-in lower anchors when possible.

Every car seat we recommend complies with U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. To determine our rankings, we compared adjustability, material quality, and ease of use. We also considered customer opinions represented by reviews on websites such as Walmart.com, Target.com, and Amazon.com. Additionally, we referred to safety ratings published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Ease of Use

Even a car seat that meets federal guidelines is unsafe if installed incorrectly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 46 percent of car seats and booster seats are used incorrectly. When a car seat is simple to install and includes easy-to-follow directions, the chance of user error is lower.

A car seat’s lower anchor clips can make a big difference with ease of installation. While testing car seats, we encountered two types of anchor clips: a simple metal anchor and a buckle anchor (both displayed below). The buckle LATCH is much easier to attach and release. Seats with this type of lower anchor scored higher in the ease-of-use category.

Metal LATCH

Close-up of car seats hooks

Buckle LATCH

Close up of car seats hooks

Adjustability

You’ll want to adjust your car seat so it’s properly aligned in relation to your car. Features such as a built-in level can help you perfectly set up your infant car seat. Car seats with more harness positions and incline positions scored best in this category. Being able to adjust items like rethread harnesses also resulted in a higher score.

Quality of Materials

Each of our best infant car seats uses strong and secure straps for safety. However, not all safe car seat pads are equally comfortable. Infant car seats with ultra-soft materials, extra padding, and quality stitchwork scored best in this category. We also evaluated how easily the material can be cleaned after messes and whether the material is flame retardant.

How We Score Products

Every infant car seat we test is given a score between 1.0 and 5.0 stars in each category. Here’s what those star ratings mean in concrete terms:

  • 5.0 Stars: A 5.0-star rating means an infant car seat is among the best in a category.
    • Ease of use: The infant car seat has clearly labeled installation guides, the seat is relatively lightweight, and the car seat includes built-in bubble levels.
    • Adjustability: There are many adjustment mechanisms that operate perfectly and offer a wide degree of adjustability.
    • Quality of materials: The car seat features exceptionally durable materials that are machine-washable and have a reputation for comfort.
  • 4.0 Stars: A 4.0-star rating means a infant car seat performs better-than-average in a category.
    • Ease of use: The infant car seat can easily be installed by a single person, and the mechanism for detaching from the base works seamlessly.
    • Adjustability: There are many adjustment mechanisms that are easy to operate.
    • Quality of materials: The car seat has removable, machine-washable padding and features comfortable, breathable materials.
  • 3.0 Stars: A 3.0-star rating indicates what is average or typical for an infant car seat, based on our testing experience.
    • Ease of use: The infant car seat can be installed with a single person with some difficulty. It is easily detached from the base, though may be heavy.
    • Adjustability: The adjustment mechanisms are functional, though may not offer an especially wide range of adjustments.
    • Quality of materials: The infant car seat is safe and relatively comfortable, though may not feature the softest, most durable materials.
  • 2.0 Stars: A 2.0-star rating indicates the product performs poorer than the average infant car seat.
    • Ease of use: The infant car seat is difficult to install, especially heavy, or it is hard to remove the car seat from the base.
    • Adjustability: There are few adjustment mechanisms that are difficult to operate.
    • Quality of materials: The car seat is made with uncomfortable materials that wear down quickly.
  • 1.0 Star: A 1.0-star rating indicates that the infant car seat performs well below expectations in a category.
    • Ease of use: The infant car seat is impossible to install without the help of an expert.
    • Adjustability: There are no adjustment mechanisms.
    • Quality of materials: The infant car seat is unsafe and poorly constructed.

Why Trust Motor1.com

Each year, we test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab. Our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and puts our hands on each component, and tests the items on real vehicles before making recommendations to readers.

We publish hundreds of product and service reviews to bring car enthusiasts detailed guides on automotive tools, detailing kits, car seats, pet products, and much more. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.

*Data accurate at time of publication. Products subject to availability.