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Best Car Seats for Your Child’s Safety

Your child means the world to you, and keeping him or her safe is one of your top priorities. While commuting between home, your parents’ place, the grocery store and more, ensure that your child is protected while in tow with a reliable car seat.
Updated Feb 12, 2021
Written By
Jalesa Campbell | Safety and Security Reporter
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The 5 Best Car Seats

Child car safety statistics to keep in mind

  • According to the CDC, one of the leading causes of child injury are motor vehicle crashes.
  • The good news: The NHTSA reports that 325 children under the age of 5 were helped kept safe with the use of car seats
  • The bad news: The NHTSA also reports that there are 59% of “cases in which children’s car seats are used incorrectly”
  • “Appropriate child safety seats provide significantly more protection in a crash than seat belts alone” (The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and The Highway Loss Data Institute, Dec. 2019)

Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Car Seat

  • Types of Car Seats Available

    There are a number of different types of car seats on the market today, but the best one for your child will depend on his or her age, weight and the type of vehicle you’re driving. To learn more of what consumers are saying about different car seats, websites like BabyGearLab.com and Consumer Reports share reviews about car seats’ ease of use, installation, comfort, quality and more.

  • Car Seat Meets Federal Standards

    Check to see if the car seat has been crash tested to hit or go beyond federal standards for enhanced safety. Also review how it is engineered and the materials used, like steel and energy-absorbing foam to protect your child in case of an accident.

  • Never Buy a Used Car Seat

    No matter the discount, do not buy used car seats because you do not know their history. Accidents and even sun-exposure can alter a car seat’s safety. If the seat has been in an accident previously, it may shows signs of damage and may not offer the best protection to your child. It’s also a bad idea to buy used because you might not know if there has been a recall on the product. It’s better to buy new for your child’s safety.

10 Best Car Seats of 2019

  • Best Car Seat for Growth With Your Child

    1. Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Infant to Toddler Car Seat

    Our rating

    Our take

    Created to grow with your child, the Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Infant to Toddler Car Seat can be adjusted for use a rear-facing harness, forward-facing harness, high-back booster, and a backless booster. This car seat supports 4 lbs up to 120 lbs, allowing your child to ride safely. Additional features include a RapidRemove seat cover and the inRight LATCH system for easier transport.

    Stand-out features include

    • Made to protect your child in front, rear, side, and rollover accidents
    • Can adjust the harness system up to 10 positions
    • Removable seat cover for cleaning
  • Best Infant Car Seat

    2. Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat

    Our rating

    Our take

    Help your child ride safely and comfortably with the Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat. This car seat has a click & go system for easy installation and removal. The SafeCell Impact protection works to keep your baby safe in the event of accidents. For “whoopsies”, the cover is designed for removal and can be cleaned.

    Stand-out features include

    • Has a sturdy steel frame
    • Made with 2 layers of protection for side impacts
    • Soft fabrics and padding for baby's comfort
  • Best Car Seat for Smaller Vehicles

    3. Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

    Our rating

    Our take

    The Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat can be converted to a rear-facing harness, forward-facing harness, and a high-back booster seat. It is built with a steel frame for durability and a features shock-absorbing foam for protection from impact. Soft seating makes riding more comfortable for your baby, while the InRight LATCH System makes it easy to secure.

    Stand-out features include

    • Crash tested to meet safety or exceed safety standards
    • Adjustable harness system
    • Cup holders for your baby’s beverages
  • Best Car Seat for Easy Installation

    4. Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 XT Infant Car Seat

    Our rating

    Our take

    Keep your baby secure in the Graco SnugRide SnugLock Infant Car Seat. It features SnugLock technology for easy installation with either a seat belt or using the LATCH system. With a lightweight design, this car seat is easy to transport.

    Stand-out features include

    • Built with SnugLock technology for securing
    • 4 reclining positions
    • Lightweight for easy transport
  • Best Convertible Car Seat

    5. Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

    Our rating

    Our take

    Extendable for your growing child, the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat features the Simply Safe Adjust™ Harness System for a secure fit. The InRight™ LATCH system allows for quick and easy installation before hitting the road.

    Stand-out features include

    • Designed with the Simply Safe Adjust™ Harness System
    • Crash tested to meet or go beyond U.S. safety standards
    • Easy installation with the InRight™ LATCH system
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The Appropriate Car Seat Based on Your Child’s Age

  • Infant to Toddler: A rear-facing car seat or a convertible, rear-facing car seat
  • Toddler to Kindergartener: Convertible, rear/forward-facing car seat
  • Grade-School Children: Booster seat
  • Pre-Teens and Older: Seat belt

Infant car seats are designed for newborns and babies. Most infant car seats are made to support babies between 4 lbs. and 35 lbs. Typically, this type of car seat is installed with a base and can be removed as a carrier. It’s important to keep newborns and babies rear-facing since their bodies are still developing, and the car seat will help to absorb impact in the event of an accident. Once your baby reaches the weight limit or their head is less than an inch from the top of the car seat, then it’s time to graduate baby to an appropriate car seat.

Convertible car seats are designed to grow with your child. If you have a little one that’s outgrown an infant car seat, this can be your next option. Typically, convertible car seats support babies and small children from around 22 lbs. up to 35 lbs. These car seats tend to be heavier and bulkier, making them suitable for commuting but not carrying around. Generally, once your child is at least two years old or outgrows a convertible car seat, then they can be placed forward-facing. Two years of age is not the age limit for convertible car seats, but just a suggestion. Once your child outgrows a convertible or forward-facing car seat, then you can consider a booster seat.

Booster seats are designed to help children sit more properly with an adult seat belt. You’ll find high-back booster seats and backless boosters. These are to be used once a child has exceeded the weight and height limits of their forward-facing car seat and are able to sit still properly on their own. Make sure your child can sit up properly and ride calmly without bending over and playing around. Most children aren’t ready to sit in a booster seat by the age of two, and it’s safer to keep your child in a well-fitting car seat. Booster seats are generally suitable for children who have reached 4 ft. and 9 in. or are 8 to 12 years old. Once a child has outgrown their booster seat, they can transition to riding with an adult seat belt.

Car Seat Installation Tips

  • Most car seats can use the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system or a seat belt for securing
  • Using the LATCH system has weight limits – if your child has grown beyond the car seat’s weight limits for LATCH, then you should use a seat belt for securing
  • It’s safer to place the car seat in the of your middle back seat for safety, keeping them away from air bags
  • Remember to test your car seat for proper installation with the 1-inch test. Make sure the seat does not move to the left, right, front, or back more than an inch, and if so, then you’ll need to secure it tighter
  • Ensure that your child’s car seat is placed at the proper reclining angle while rear-facing
  • If you need help with making sure your child’s car seat is properly installed, you can contact a Child Passenger Safety Technician or get in touch with a local fire or police station for assistance

Choose the best car seat for your child’s safety

With so much of our time being spent on the road it’s crucial to ensure that your child is secure in the best car seat. Choose a car seat designed to meet or exceed safety standards and follow the directions for a proper install. Now that you’ve learned about several factors to consider before you purchase a car seat, different types of car seats, and some of the top recommendations, we are confident you’ll make a better choice in protecting your little one.

Car Seat FAQs

Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.

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