9 Best Infant Car Seats 2021 — Baby Car Seats for Newborns

amazon If you give birth in a hospital, one of the first things you’ll do as a parent upon leaving is transport your baby home. While there are myths — just myths! — about hospitals not allowing parents to leave with their newborns without first showing that they have a […]

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If you give birth in a hospital, one of the first things you’ll do as a parent upon leaving is transport your baby home. While there are myths — just myths! — about hospitals not allowing parents to leave with their newborns without first showing that they have a hyper-specific type of rear-facing infant car seat, there are critical bits of information to know before buckling your baby into your vehicle for the first time. Although car seat laws vary by state, all states in the U.S. require that children use a car seat. For your earliest rides with your newborn, an infant car seat might be the best option for you.

The parenting and product experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Little Lab test all of the must-haves for babies, toddlers and children, from baby strollers to play houses, and everything in between. To find the best infant car seats, we evaluate safety, company customer service and ease of use, including installation, angle and harness adjustments, removal of the carrier from the base and then conduct our tests in vehicles of various sizes in every configuration detailed in the instruction manuals. Here are the best infant car seats to buy:

What to look for when shopping for an infant car seat

Many convertible car seats are safe for newborns, but infant car seats are designed specifically around the needs of an infant, offering additional targeted support for their neck, head and spinal cord. (Booster car seats, on the other hand, are designed for bigger kids who no longer need the support infant and convertible car seats offer.) Typically, infant car seats are also smaller than convertible options, offering easier access to your baby when getting in and out of the car. Here are some aspects to consider when selecting an infant car seat:

  • Height and weight limits: Every infant car seat will specify height and weight limits. As soon as your child hits the maximum of either, typically up to 32 inches or 35 pounds, it will be time to move on to a bigger car seat.
  • Carrier weight: Many infant car seats have the option to install with a base secured to your vehicle, allowing you to keep your baby undisturbed inside the carrier as you tote them outside of your vehicle and easily clip the carrier back into the base on your next drive. Make sure the carrier is light enough that you’re comfortable lifting it from the base with your baby inside.
  • Stroller compatibility: Carriers are typically compatible with a range of strollers, extending the use of some strollers that can’t be used at birth — making it much easier to get from point A to B with a newborn.
  • Ease of installation: Our experts found the most difficult aspect in tests was securing the car seat to the vehicle. Many seats required a lot of strength, and some seats fit better in certain vehicles. Before purchasing, take note of the size of the car seat and the size of your vehicle’s back seat. Hire a professional if you need help with installation.
  • Expiration: All car seats are marked with an expiration date, generally between 6 and 10 years from the date of manufacture. If you are hoping to use your seat for multiple children, take note of the expiration and never use a car seat that has previously been in an accident.

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1

Best Overall Infant Car Seat

KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat

Chicco
amazon.com

$199.99

This infant car seat stood out to our Lab experts for its ease of installation, which is crucial to ensuring the safety of your child. The carrier also clicks from the car seat base directly into a range of compatible strollers, making the entire transportation process a breeze. Plus, it’s approved for infants as little as 4 pounds with removable head and body support. However, it is worth noting that at 9.5 pounds, this carrier is on the heavier side when compared with similar options. 

  • Weight range: 4-30 pounds
  • Height range: Up to 30 inches
  • Carrier weight: 9.5 pounds
  • Heavier than some other similar options

2

Best Value Infant Car Seat

SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat

In road tests, our pros found this car seat easy to install and loved the expanded weight range it can accommodate — all the way from 4 pounds with a newborn insert to 35 pounds. It also offers a multiple position recline and can be installed with or without a base using a European belt path. Best of all, this seat offers a great value at under $150, but it is on the heavier side for infant car seats, weighing in at just under 8 pounds. 

  • Weight range: 4-35 pounds
  • Carrier weight: 7.8 pounds
  • Heavier than some comparable car seats

3

Best Infant Car Seat for Small Cars

Liing Infant Car Seat

Clek
buybuybaby.com

$399.99

For smaller vehicles or to fit multiple car seats across a row, a narrow car seat might work best. Clek’s Liing stood out in tests for its narrow frame, measuring at just under 17 inches wide. Its base also offers seven recline positions, or the seat can be installed without the base through the European belt path. A large canopy keeps baby shielded from the sun, and the carrier is compatible with a range of strollers. This seat is, however, on the pricier side, starting around $400. 

  • Weight range: 4-35 pounds
  • Height range: Up to 32 inches
  • Carrier weight: 9 pounds

4

Best Infant Car Seat Stroller Combo

Infant Car Seat & Stroller

Our experts love this unique 2-in-1 design that offers an easy transition from car seat to stroller without requiring additional parts. You can also install the car seat with or without a base, making this a great option for travel or city living. The carrier is heavier than standalone car seats, however the only necessary lifting will typically be when going into and out of the car. Though it’s great for those with limited space, in tests we found the stroller to be a bit short for tall parents. 

  • Weight range: 4-35 pounds
  • Height range: Up to 32 inches
  • Carrier weight: 16.5 pounds
  • Heavier than other car seats
  • Not ideal for tall parents in stroller mode

5

Best Lightweight Infant Car Seat

Pipa Rx Infant Car Seat with Relx Base

Nuna
bloomingdales.com

$319.95

At just 7.6 pounds, this lightweight car seat is as easy to carry as it is to install into your vehicle. The adjustable Relx base includes a fold-down stability leg, meant to absorb a bit more impact from the bumps of the road and give your baby a smoother ride, but the car seat can also be installed using just a seat belt when traveling in other vehicles. The sleek design is functional with a magnetic UPF 50+ canopy and stroller compatibility. However, in tests, our experts found this pricey car seat to be a bit harder to clean than other options. 

  • Weight range: 4-32 pounds
  • Carrier weight: 7.6 pounds
  • Can install with or without base
  • Can be difficult to clean

6

Easiest to Clean Infant Car Seat

Mico Max Plus Infant Car Seat

Maxi-Cosi
amazon.com

$299.99

$229.99 (23% off)

Compatible with a wide range of stroller systems and with side-impact protection for baby and a contoured carrier handle for parent, the Mico Max Plus is designed to get to your destination as smoothly as possible. But motion sickness, spit-up and even the occasional blowout can come at the worst time. Luckily, our pros found that messes are no match for this car seat, with its removable car seat pad that cleans easily in the washer and dryer

  • Height range: Up to 32 inches
  • Carrier weight: 9.6 pounds

7

Easiest to Install Infant Car Seat

Mesa Infant Car Seat

UPPAbaby
amazon.com

$299.99

The stylish Mesa car seat takes the guesswork out of installation with its SmartSecure System. It uses a tightness indicator that changes from red to green when the base has been installed correctly, along with self-retracting LATCH connectors for a secure fit. The car seat also has a no-rethread harness that adjusts with the headrest for your growing babe, minimizing the chance for faulty installation. At $300 and up, this pick is on the pricier side, however if paired with the Vista or Cruz stroller, it offers lots of configurations for a complete travel system. 

  • Weight range: 4-35 pounds
  • Height range: Up to 32 inches
  • Carrier weight: 9.9 pounds

8

Best Infant Car Seat for Small Babies

B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat

While this car seat is on the bulkier side with its steel frame and foam-lined shell down the sides, online reviewers love that it offers baby a nice, snug fit. A removable head pad gives even more support to smaller newborns, and in tests, we found this model to be relatively easy to install with or without the base. 

  • Weight range: 4-35 pounds
  • Height range: Up to 32 inches
  • Carrier weight: 10 pounds
  • Bulkier than comparable car seats

9

Best Infant Car Seat with Built-in Sensor

Aton 2 Infant Car Seat

Cybex
buybuybaby.com

$279.99

This car seat has high crash test ratings and is equipped with SensorSafe technology that sends an alert in certain unsafe situations, like if your child unclips their seat belt or if the car temperature gets too hot. Our experts found it easy to install this seat with the base — which has a load-bearing leg for added stability — but was a bit trickier to install using the European belt path. And just under $280, it is on the expensive side. 

  • Weight range: 4-35 pounds
  • Height range: 17-30 inches
  • Carrier weight: 9.5 pounds
  • Tricky to install using European belt path

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Kitty Gochal

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