As an adult, your faith is in your seatbelt and airbag, that in the uneventful situation of a crash, they should keep you safe. You know, however, that just these would not help your child as much. You would put your money on a car seat, and rightly so. Among many things, it has been proven that car seats offer the best protection for your child in your car. The law also demands that you make this provision for them.
The onus falls on you, however, as a good parent, to find the best car seats that ensure that your child comes to no harm in whatever situation. Buying top rated safest infant car seats is just the first step. Proper installation, maintenance, and application all count in the quest to protect your child.
This article offers you just that and more. Enjoy.
1. Best Choice: Britax B-Safe Ultra Infant Car Seat with Recilinable Base
- 4-position recline adjust
- Latch storage
- Installs in just 3 steps
- Seat release button from the base easily malfunctions
A sure safety nut with a steel frame, side-impact protection, an impact-absorbing base. Mesh cushion keeps your baby well ventilated and a quick-adjust headrest ensures good posture.
2. Wallet Saver For Parents: Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
- Easy to install
- One-hand harness adjust
- Noiseless handle adjust
- Limited stroller compatibility
Excellent infant car seat with latch tightener that secures your seat with less effort. A spring-loaded leveler and two conspicuous bubble indicators allow for correctly positioning your car seat.
3. Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air 360 Infant Car Seat
- GCell HX patented race car foam Latch holder
- Air Protect cushioning system
- Comfort grip on the handle
- Hood is difficult to adjust
- Bottom Line
Ensures your baby is deep-seated in a soft foam padding that is spread throughout the seat. Take it from the company that has crash-tested your car seat from all angles, your baby will be truly safe.
4. Cybex Aton M Infant Standard Car Seat with SensorSafe
- Load Leg for extra stability
- European belt path
- Allows almost flat recline
- Load Leg may dent weak seats
- Bottom Line
A posh car seat with an integrated Linear Side Impact Protection System. It uses a sensor in the chest clip to alert problem situations. Compatible with Cybex strollers and others with a car seat adapter.
5. Graco SnugRide Platinum XT Infant Car Seat
o Load Leg for extra stability
o European belt path
o Allows almost flat recline
o Load Leg may dent weak seats
A car seat that is rigorously tested and shown to provide maximum protection for your child in case of frontal, rear, side, and rollover impact. Easy to install with an easily readable recline indicator.
How we conduct our review
We purchase the infant car seat products and test it with our product team. We will also consult the market users and evaluate the users preference. No free sample will be accepted from vendors or re-seller – Guaranteed.
46 Models Considered
5 Models Tested
79 Hours Researched
4 Experts Consulted
251 Consumers Consulted
Not all the users like all features in the same way. And there are some extra features to any products you may avoid. There are some things that may differ in every product that is accepted by diverse types of users. We are evaluating several things to help you choose the infant car seat as per your choice and necessity.
Types of Infant Car Seats
According to Federal Motor Safety regulations and tons of recommendations from expert organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, your child should have some form of car seat support until about age 12. Your child’s body does not remain the same throughout these years. It keeps changing, and rapidly so. As such, car seats have been designated for the different stages of your child’s development. This is so to best suit your baby’s needs at the various stages. Let us walk through the various car seats below.
Rear-facing only seats
These seats are called rear-facing only because they fix such that the back of the car seat faces the dashboard, and your baby, the back of the backseat. These seats are for babies in the category designated as 0 and 0+. That is from birth to about 15 months or until 29 pounds. Because of the benefits of rear-facing seats, these seats have increased their maximum weight capacity in recent times, to accommodate your child until about 35 pounds or well over 2 years.
It must be noted that these seats fix in the rear position only. As such, they are always in recline. Every such car seat, then, has an indicator to tell if the seat is in the proper recline position. Most seats use the bubble system or color code to verify the angle.
Many rear-facing seats or infant car seats as they are also called, afford you the convenience of carrying your baby along with you while they are in the seat. Only the bases of these seats are fixed in the car, while the seat can be clicked on or off. That way, you do not have to pull your infant out of the car seat unless you want to. Many even attach your baby stroller to what we call a travel system. In this case, the same seat that clicks onto the base inside your car clicks onto the stroller and off you go.
These seats are called convertible because they start as rear-facing and converts to forward-facing as your baby grows. Many parents prefer to use these seats after about 9 months of rear-facing seats. The main reason is to enjoy the convenience of the travel system or just carrying the seats up and about. However, convertible seats can be used for your newborn. They are for children in the categories of 0, 0+, 1, and 2. That means they are for children from 0 to 6 years or newborns to about 60 pounds.
Most convertible seats will come with manuals that tell when to change from rear-facing to forward-facing. Because of the benefits of rear-facing your child, many of these seats do well to extend rear-facing until about 40 pounds or 4 years of age. These seats also have recline indicators for both rear-facing and forward-facing positions. You should also check the manual to know how to install it in both configurations correctly.
Both infant and convertible car seats use the 5-point harness, which is considered safest for your child. It is this same harness that will hold your baby through the years. To do so safely, these seats come with inserts for your baby. The inserts are to both cushion your baby, and reduce the space inside the seat so that they can be tightly secured inside the car seat. It is important to check the weight limits from the car seat manual to know when such inserts must be used or taken out.
These seats, unfortunately, are permanently fixed in your car and do not afford the luxury of a travel system.
Combination seats are a step-up from the forward-facing convertible seat. Most convertible seats profess to hold your child until 65 pounds. That is about 9 years old. However, most children become uncomfortable in them by age 6 or so. Combination seats are for toddlers who outgrow convertible seats early but do not have the maturity to use booster seats. As the name suggests, they combine a high-back booster seat with a 5-point harness.
These seats normally have a wider flat base and taller straight-back support to accommodate your child. Normally, the back support will be extensible, and the 5-point harness can be removed when your child is mature enough. Then you can use the seat as a high-back booster. Your child can use this kind of combination seat from 45 pounds until 100 pounds or even 120 pounds in some cases. Again, be sure to confirm from your manual, when to switch from the 5-point harness to the car seatbelt.
Booster seats differ from combination seats in that they do not have a 5-point harness. Therefore, your child uses the car seatbelt when on a booster seat. Booster seats convert between a high-back and backless seat. The back support is just a safety extra that can be removed if inconvenient or when traveling.
Note that the booster seat is used only to prop up your child so that the seatbelt can correctly secure them from the shoulder and across the hips or lap. So make sure of this before you take your child out of a seat with a 5-point harness. The weight limits to use a booster is from about 50 pounds to 100 or 120 pounds. But it is also more about maturity. Make sure your child is mature enough (behaviourally) before they can use the booster.
All-in-one / 3-in-1 seats
These seats combine the features of all the seats and can hold your baby from birth until they do not need a car seat or booster anymore. In other words, they may be the only seats in your car until your child becomes an adolescent. As such, they will have all the features for rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster applications. You would need to consult your manual to be sure when to use what feature. They are also permanently fixed in your car, and cannot be used with your infant’s stroller.
DID YOU KNOW?
- When securing a convertible car seat with a seatbelt or latch, pulling the strap inwards of the car seat will ensure that your seat is held tighter.
- In many counties in the US, a visual inspection and confirmation of an installed car seat in the conveying vehicle are required before a mother and her newborn can be discharged from the hospital.
How to install your car seat properly
Finding top-rated safest infant car seats is only the first step to ensuring your child’s safety during your car rides. The more important steps are the correct installation and application of the car seats. Year after year, relevant institutions conduct research, and year after year, they found that parents are not installing car seats appropriately, one way or the other. Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University in 2015, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2016, confirm with worry that over 90% of parents put their children in danger of injury or even death, with the way they install their car seats. Let us learn the proper way to do it.
Infant Car Seat – Rearward facing
It is relatively easier to install these seats. That is not to say that they must be taken for granted. Remember that the honorable occupants of these seats are the most fragile. The convenience is that the seats are detachable from their bases. Therefore, all you need to do is properly install the base, and the seat will just click on it.
All modern car seats have the option to be installed with either the seatbelt or tethers. All cars come with seatbelts, and all of those made after September 2002 come with anchors (referred to as LATCH – lower anchors and tethers for children).
To install an infant car seat base with a seatbelt;
- Place the base of the seat at the spot you want it installed. You can choose either side of the seat or in the middle. The safest spot in the middle. However, if you have a small car and are concerned with space, you should move it to the side.
- Pull out the full length of the seatbelt.
- Walk the seatbelt through the belt path of the car seat base and click it into the seatbelt socket. Every base has a belt path. It is usually a groove or opening on either side towards the back of the base.
- Secure the base by pushing on the base into the seat, and simultaneously pulling the belt up from where it exits the socket. This should make the belt hold the seat across the belt path very tightly. You have done it well enough if the back end of the base cannot move an inch up and down or side-to-side.
- Make sure that your car seat base is properly reclined. Every car seat has an indicator for that. Check with the indicator for confirmation.
- With the base safely secured, you can click on the infant car seat and are ready to go.
Note that these seats are rear-facing only; their design does not allow for any other configuration.
To install an infant car seat with tethers or latch;
- Locate the lower anchors on the backseat. Your car is supposed to have, at least, two if it was made after 2002. Near the base of the seat, you will find buttons with a child seat sign embossed on them. Below them is where you locate the anchors.
- Pull out the tethers from the base of the car seat. They are metal clips attached to short belts at the back of the car seat base.
- Hook the tethers to the anchors. Pull tightly on the belt backward.
- Check to see that the base cannot move an inch up-and-down or side-to-side.
- Check the indicator to see that the base is properly reclined.
Sometimes, you may have to secure your infant car seat without its base. On the rare occasion when a random colleague gives you a ride or you use a taxi, or if you do not own a car, you can still ensure that your baby is safer.
To install an infant car seat without its base;
- Sit your car seat on the preferred spot in the backseat.
- Pull the seat belt, walk it through the guides and across the car seat, and click it in its socket. The guides should be located at the lower mid-section of the car seat.
- Pull out the shoulder belt until it stops and then gently let it back in. You should be hearing a mild ratcheting sound as the belt feeds back in. If you cannot hear it, pull it forward gently to verify that it locks.
- Make sure that the car seat is properly reclined. There should be a line indicator beside or behind the seat; use it to verify.
- Get behind the car seat, and with your knees straight, push the car seat into the backseat while pulling the belt up from where it exits the socket. Feed the slack gently into the mouth of the shoulder belt. Keep pushing and wiggling the seat, while pulling up the seat belt to feed to the mouth of the shoulder belt.
- Check for tightness. Your seat should not move more than an inch up-and-down or side-to-side.
Convertible car seat
Convertible car seats can be a little tricky in the rearward position because some of them are very heavy. The weight and recline might get you wondering if the latch or seatbelt secure at the base can hold it firm. Again, they come without a detachable base so most of the time, you would have to lift the seat cover to access the belt path.
To install a convertible car seat rearward facing:
- First, recline your seat properly. Many of the premium car seats will have some sort of drop-down base to help the seat recline, while others a button to press for recline. If your seat has neither of these, you would have to recline it with rolled-up towels.
- Securing the seat with the latch or seatbelt will be done in the same manner as described for the Infant Car Seat above.
- Some convertible car seats have a top tether, which can be fastened for extra protection.
Some have a short connector strap that winds around the slide bar at the base of the front seat. With this, wind the connector around the bar, and let the metal ring pass through the loop of the connector. Then, simply draw the top tether down to lock in the ring of the connector and tighten it to secure.
The other option is to secure it on the anchor at the back of the backseat. Lose the belt at the back of the car seat and pull through the buckle to its maximum length. Open the loop of the belt for it to pass on either side of the car seat and secure the tether to the anchor at the back. Tighten the belt at the buckle. Note that you would have to loosen the belt at the buckle when you want to get your baby in or out of the seat.
To install a convertible car seat forward-facing:
- Place your car seat facing forward and check proper recline from the indicator as instructed by the manual.
- For forward-facing, it is more advisable to secure your convertible car seat with the seatbelt and not the latch. This is because there is a weight limit for using the latch. For most manufacturers, it is 65 pounds of car seat + baby. That is 40 pounds of child weight for the average 25-pound car seat. Therefore, to avoid overlooking this limit, secure your car seat with the seat belt as described above.
- Secure the top tethers to the anchor at the back of the car seat. You may have to remove the headrest for this.
TESTING INFANT CAR SEAT PRODUCTS
After researching many modules of infant car seats over 48 hours, we chose the best five options, reviewed them in detail, and compare all the metrics in our lab.
How to Place Your Baby in an Infant Car Seat
Buying one of the top-rated safest infant car seats and placing your baby wrongly in it is like buying Starbucks coffee to wash your hands; a total waste and counterproductive. In the end, car seats are as safe as how you use them.
Before placing your baby in the car seat, make sure of the following:
- Dress it properly. Make sure they are in thin clothes that keep their legs apart. Puffy or bulky clothes will only prevent them from being properly secured by the harness; avoid them.
- Make sure the shoulder strap, if adjustable (and normally is), comes from a point below or at par with the shoulders.
- Too much extra padding may cause the head to nod, which is a terrible posture for their breathing. Remove it if possible.
- Loosen up the straps. You would find that at the crotch, there is a tab to lift or push down. Do that and pull up the shoulder strap at the same time to loosen it.
You are now ready to put your baby in the car seat.
- First up, put your child into the seat with their bottom back. Holding their hips, with their thighs slightly up, wiggle them in to make sure of that.
- Next, put their arms into the shoulder straps, and buckle at their crotch each time. Then buckle across the chest.
- Take the chest buckle down to their belly. With each hand on each shoulder strap, pull up the slack from their crotch to their shoulder. Then holding the tab, pull down the strap at the crotch.
- Repeat the above step until your baby is tightly held in place by the straps. Good confirmation is not being able to fit two fingers under the strap with one on top of the other.
- Pull up the shoulder buckle to their chest, such that it is in line with the pits.
This way, your child is in a fortress; and it is still not licensed to drive carelessly.
What to Consider when Buying Car Seat
One would think car seats are all cushions and harnesses, and so acquiring one should only be based on your budget and taste. This may not be entirely true. Below are a few things to consider when buying a car seat for your child.
- It is generally advised to avoid used car seats. If however, that is what your budget can reach, make sure that it is not expired or more than 6 years old, does not come with any missing parts, and has the label intact.
- Your mode of use is very important too. Many parents enjoy the ease of clicking an infant car seat to the base and off to hand-carry or move it to a stroller. If you want to acquire it, make sure it is stroller-compatible. Spoiler alert; your baby becomes too heavy to hand-carry after about a year and then your stroller option is all you are left with.
- Many car seat manufacturers make their seats conform to or pass stringent NHTSA safety standards, which is a good thing. However, as mentioned several already, your car seat is only as safe as you install and use it. It is important to consider car seats that are easy to install, with both the seatbelt and the latch. If it is convertible, both configurations should be just as simple.
- Babies grow up faster than your noodles get done (no, do not boil one to verify). Therefore, look out for seats with reasonably high weight and high limits. For convertible car seats, it is advisable to get ones that keep your child rear-facing for longer.
- The size of your car only matters when your car is small and you see how small it is when you intend to fit a convertible or 3-in-1 car seat. The latter may pose you the biggest problem so for very small cars, try to avoid them. Forcing a big or tall car seat into a small car will only compromise its perfect installation and in turn, your child’s safety.
Again and again, no matter what car seat you acquire, your baby is as safe as how correctly your car seat is installed and you’re well your baby is secured in it.
In the early stages, many parents enjoy the convenience of moving their infants between the car and the stroller easily. However, they will also fit and be well safe in many convertible seats if you so choose. Most of your children will not get to the 35-pound weight limit of the infant car seat before they are too tall for it.
Convertible or 3-in-1 seats should carry on from where the infant car seats left off if you did not begin with them already. The most crucial thing with these seats is checking the weight and height limits for the appropriate configuration, recline position, inserts, and seatbelt or latch use from the manual or label.
When you place your infant in the car seat, make sure the harnesses hold them snug. Bulky clothes and other things should not get in your baby’s way to safety. Find car seats that install easily and have enough capacity to hold your child for longer. If it is used, make sure it is not expired or older than 6 years, and all parts including the label are intact.