With a baby on the way, there is an endless amount of prepping—and nesting!—to do before the big arrival day.
And if you’ve decided to wait on the convertible car seat until your baby is a bit older, finding the perfect infant car seat is surely high up on your to-do list.
Before beginning to shop, it’s important to consider what car seat factors are important to you and your family. Convertible car seats are a great option for parents or guardians who want a car seat that grows alongside their child. However, many parents still prefer using infant car seats because they are designed specifically to carry infants safely and comfortably before moving them into a convertible car seat.
What is an infant car seat?
Infant car seats are designed specifically to carry infants generally between 4-30 pounds. They are always rear-facing, as experts agree that children should ride in cars rear-facing for as long as possible. Infant car seats are generally attached to a snap-in base that stays in the car, and have handles for easy carrying. Most models come with plenty of shock absorbing padding for side impact protection, and adjustable and removable seat and neck pads to accommodate your quickly growing baby.
Do you need an infant car seat?
Technically, no. You do, however, need a car seat that accommodates an infant before leaving a hospital after giving birth (they’ll do what’s called a “car seat check”). An infant car seat is not necessarily a must-have and the decision between an infant car seat and a convertible car seat is entirely up to you. Convertible car seats are designed to be perfectly safe from infancy to toddler years—and all-in-one models can last even longer. Some parents swear by infant car seats, however, finding comfort and peace of mind in features tailor-made specifically for infants. Infants typically outgrow an infant car seat at around 35 pounds or 32 inches tall, whichever comes first.
Parents and guardians also lean towards infant car seats because they can be removed from the car base and carried with their handles. Infant car seats are especially loved because many are compatible with a variety of strollers, and parents can customize their own travel system.
Imagine your baby falls into a much needed slumber during a drive to the grocery store. Would you rather risk waking them by taking them out of their seat when you get to the store, or would it be easier to just pop a carrier out and click it into a stroller or cart? Our guess is an infant car seat is sounding pretty great right about now.
In our research we’ve only chosen the infant car seats we feel are the safest options for your new tot, but there are other factors to consider before buying:
- Newborn size: The minimum weight for an infant car seat is 4 pounds, so most babies will fit just fine. However, if your baby is heavier and taller at birth, then the infant car seat may not last as long and starting with a convertible car seat may be the way to go.
- Car size: No matter the car seat, you should calculate the space in your car to be sure that it can accommodate the seat in the rear-facing position.
- Price: Buying an infant car seat means you’ll eventually need another car seat once baby outgrows this one. You should be conscious of the cost of both seats before beginning to shop.
- Weight and Portability: Infant car seats are intended to move in and out of the car. Factor in baby’s weight and that can be a lot to carry, especially without a compatible stroller.
Best Infant Car Seats: Score Sheet
|Infant Car Seat||Amazon Score||Consumer Reports||Blueprint Score||Overall Score|
|Chicco® KeyFit® 30 Infant Car Seat||4.5||84 / 100||4.4||4.37|
|Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat||4.0||63 / 100||4.2||3.68|
|Maxi-Cosi Mico AP Infant Car Seat||4.5||73 / 100||4.3||4.14|
|Graco® SnugRide® Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat||4.5||63 / 100||4.4||3.95|
|UPPAbaby® MESA 2017 Infant Car Seat||4.5||72 / 100||4.4||4.13|
|CYBEX Aton 2 Infant Car Seat||4.5||73 / 100||4.3||4.14|
|Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat||4.5||68 / 100||4.3||4.04|
Chicco® KeyFit® 30 Infant Car Seat
“Loved our first Chicco Keyfit so much, when I found out we were having twins the second time around, I purchased another one! Easy to install, simple to put a tiny newborn in, and easy to adjust when that baby starts growing.” -Liz, Amazon Reviewer
- Infant weight range is between 4-30 pounds
- The seat and base weight is 17 pounds, while the carrier weight is 9 pounds
- Includes infant padding insert to cradle babies on the smaller side, between 4 and 11 pounds
- KeyFit 30 uses a one-tab harness tightening system to keep baby secure
- Side impact support uses energy-absorbing foam
- All fabrics in the seat are removable and machine-washable
- Easy push-on LATCH connectors
- Base includes secure belt tethering for older vehicles without LATCH capabilities and simple one-hand seat removal
- Comes with adjustable canopy and ergonomically designed handle
- Compatible with a number of Chicco strollers
- For the most secure installation, it’s important to use the base
- Carrier plus base together can be heavy, especially if baby is inside
- Reviewers have noted the adjustable canopy retracts back when the car seat is in a stroller
Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat
“We are loving this carseat It’s really light (my #1 feature), easy to carry and I’ve had great luck taking the fabric off to wash it.” -Amazon Reviewer
- Rear-facing seat weight range is from 4-30 pounds, or for baby up to 32 inches long
- The seat carrier is very lightweight, at only 9 pounds. Base weighs 16 pounds
- Made with self-wicking fabrics to absorb moisture and keep baby cool
- Includes removable, reversible, and machine-washable head/neck and bottom cushion for smaller babies, adjustable crotch strap, and the handle is lockable in any position
- Seat pad is removable without having to rethread the harness
- Compatible with over 50 strollers
- Impact absorbing foam sides for solid side impact protection
- Recline level indicator can be difficult to read
- Reviewers have noted the canopy retracts and can get a little loose after a lot of use
- The car seat base is quite large and heavy
Maxi-Cosi Mico AP Infant Car Seat
“My baby LOVES this car seat. He falls asleep almost instantly and all the safety features such as the padded upper straps and the head cushion keep him sturdy in place.” -Amazon Reviewer
- Infant weight range is between 5-22 pounds
- Like the Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30, the carrier weight light at 9 pounds, and the base weighs 15 pounds
- Uses push-on LATCH connectors for easy installation
- Mico AP uses Air Protect side impact technology, which provides side air cushions to support baby’s head and protect in the event of an accident
- Includes head support insert, adjustable canopy, multi-position locking handle, and adjustable crotch strap
- Compatible with over 50 on and off-brand strollers
- Reviewers noted that the infant insert could be a softer fabric
- Like the Mico Max 30, the canopy can get flimsy over time
- Maximum weight is only 22 pounds
Graco® SnugRide® Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat
“The car seat is super light which is makes it easier to carry with baby in it. Adjusting the belts when baby gets bigger, is very simple as well.” -Megan, Amazon Reviewer
- Comfortably holds babies between 4-35 pounds, and up to 32 inches long
- Carrier weighs 9 pounds, and base weighs 14 pounds
- Uses hook LATCH connectors and Graco’s Click Connect technology making it compatible with many other Graco strollers to create your own custom travel system
- Click Connect technology makes installation with other Graco products a breeze with an audible one-step click
- Made with energy absorbing foam for side impact and head protection
- Includes removable infant head support pillow, removable foot cover for extra warmth and coziness, adjustable canopy and handle, and a pendulum-style level indicator
- Consumer Reports testing concluded the seat can still be installed too upright for a newborn despite the pendulum level indicator, so users should be aware
- Seat belt locking clip may still be needed to keep seat from tilting
- The canopy can interfere with the handle in certain positions
UPPAbaby® MESA 2017 Infant Car Seat
“Leveling indicator lets you know that you placed it in correctly so you can’t go wrong or worry that you put it in wrong. Makes you feel confident.” -Consumer Reports Reviewer
- Hold infants from 4-35 pounds
- Carrier weighs 11 pounds, and adjustable base weighs 21 pounds
- Uses auto-retracting push-on LATCH connectors with visual indicators for simple installation
- Side impact protected headrest and harness are adjustable for the size of your baby with no need to re-thread
- Includes adjustable handle and SPF canopy to protect baby from the sun when using the carrier
- Compatible with the UPPABaby Vista and Cruz strollers, with no adapters and one-handed release capabilities, making a great travel system
- Seat base is quite heavy, but sturdy
- Reviewers have noted the canopy can get flimsy after prolonged use
CYBEX Aton 2 Infant Car Seat
“We bought this car seat because of its good safety performance in different car seat tests. It’s very easy to handle and we like that it can be used without a base, which makes traveling and using a second car easy.” -PD, Amazon Reviewer
- Comfortably seats infants between 4 and 35 pounds
- Carrier weighs 9 pounds, and base weighs 22 pounds
- Easy base installation with push-on LATCH connectors and seat belt threading capabilities
- Great crash and side impact protection with energy-absorbing shell
- Uses European Belt Routing, making the seat as safe when used with the base or without it, so base purchase is not necessary
- Base can also be installed with belt tensioning plate
- Includes adjustable canopy, harness, crotch strap, and base
- Extra crash protection with Load Leg, which prevents the seat from rotating forward upon impact
- Consumer Reports testing showed that the tension belt can be difficult to close if there is too much belt tension
- Amazon reviewers have noted that the chest straps can be a bit wide, and finding a comfortable fit for an infant can take time
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat
“It’s super secure for our son who turned 1-month today & comes with 2 different stages of inserts. The base is really nice and does a great job leveling the seat, too.” -Ethan, Amazon Reviewer
- Seats infants between 4 and 35 pounds, or up to 32 inches
- Carrier weighs 9 pounds, and base with anti-rebound bar weighs 17 pounds
- Includes dual stage cushioning system to accommodate infants of various sizes as they grow
- Easy push-on LATCH connectors for easy installation, but carrier can also be used without the base with traditional seat belt threading
- Harness is adjustable with a front pull-tab
- Carrier, base, canopy, and handle are all adjustable and lock into place
- Carrier can be installed in the car without the base with color-coded belt paths, making transfers between cars simple
- Side impact protection is also adjustable to six different positions
- Unique, patented shell shape keeps baby safe and comfortable, and is made with breathable jersey fabric
- Compatible with all Peg Perego strollers with no need for additional adapters
- Does not include adjustable crotch strap
- Some Amazon reviewers noted a slight learning curve for base installation
- May be a tighter fit in smaller vehicles
Whether you decide an infant car seat is the way to go or not, a safe, comfortable car seat for your new baby is a must. And if the thought of waking a peacefully napping baby to move them to and from the car makes you nervous, then it’s probably a good idea to consider an infant car seat.
Start your research with our guide, and take the guesswork out of finding the perfect infant car seat. Thinking about creating a baby registry? Get started now to add any of these models to your list!