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CarseatBlog

Recommended Carseats

Our detailed reviews and ratings help you to find the safest infant, convertible, combination or booster carseat for your child!  We narrow down all the options to a smaller list to help you choose the best child safety seat for your vehicle.  

Updated May, 2016.

JUMP TOINFANT – CONVERTIBLE – COMBINATIONBOOSTERS – EDITORS’ PICKS

Rec Seats Banner 2015

Here’s an article with some background to these recommendations. Feel free to comment about our list or about your favorite child seats there! If you’ve found our data helpful, we’d appreciate it if you’d consider purchasing your carseat and other household items from one of our links to Amazon or use our updated DEALS page.  This supports CarseatBlog’s mission to deliver the most thorough carseat reviews, and parent perspective on life, kids, and carseats.

Recommended Carseats

Recommended-150pxThis award is a full listing of all of our recommendations for 2016 split into categories.  These are based on many factors, including our extensive hands-on experience with each seat as well as the competition in each category and price point.  We do not separate this list by price point.  Our top picks in each budget category can be found at the bottom in our Editors’ Picks.

Rear-Facing Only (Infant Seats)

Infant seats typically have a base that stays in the vehicle although most (but not all) models can also be installed without the base. This type of carseat is rear-facing only for infants up to 22 or 30-something lbs. and is highly portable. For infant seats rated higher than 30 lbs., almost all babies will outgrow the seat by height before reaching the weight limit. You can purchase extra bases to use in other vehicles, if that suits your needs.

Click here to see our separate list of Recommended Carseats for Preemies & Multiples

Britax B-Safe 35

Britax B-Safe 35 - Stock red

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; impact-absorbing base with SafeCell Technology; unique center-pull lower LATCH strap installation; premium push-on lower anchor connectors; built-in lockoffs for easy seatbelt installations; easy-to-read level indicators; extra large canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Interior space is narrow and better suited to thinner babies who don’t have broad shoulders. Proper installation without base is more difficult than usual and may require use of pool noodles to stabilize the recline angle.

Comments: Fits preemies and small newborns well. Easy to install in a variety of vehicles with either lower LATCH anchors or with seatbelt. See our full review of the B-Safe 35 here.

Chicco KeyFit 30

Chicco - KeyFit30_Midori

Features: 4-30 lbs.; up to 30″ tall; 3 sets of harness slots; 1 buckle position; adjustable base; unique center-pull lower LATCH anchor tightening adjustment; premium push-on lower anchor connectors; built-in lockoffs for easy seatbelt installations; small storage compartment in base; EPS foam; newborn insert (4-11 lbs. use only); adjustable canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Canopy not as generous as some other models.

Our comments: Fits preemies and small newborns well. Super easy to install in a variety of vehicles using either lower LATCH anchors or seatbelt. Super easy to attach and detach carrier from base. There’s also a Chicco KeyFit 22 version that has a maximum weight limit of 22 lbs. We have a full review of the KeyFit 30 here.

Cybex Aton Q

Cybex Aton Q - Autumn Gold

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 30″ tall; no re-thread harness with 8 height positions; single crotch strap/buckle position; adjustable base with load leg; base has tensioning plate for ease of installation with either lower LATCH connectors or seatbelt; premium push-on lower LATCH connectors; energy-absorbing EPS foam and telescoping Linear Side Impact protection feature; integrated UVP 50+ sun canopy; handle must be up during travel; allows European beltpath routing when installed without base

Drawbacks: Toddler-sized chest clip; carrier is on the heavy side at 11.3 lbs.; lacks built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations

Our comments: The Aton Q is part of the “Platinum” series lineup from Cybex and has some unique features not found on the other Aton models. The load leg vastly improves crash protection and telescoping L.S.P. enhances protection in side-impacts. The addition of a no re-thread harness and an improved, integrated canopy on this model are nice upgrades. This particular model will fit preemies and small newborns better than the other Cybex Aton models. Like all Aton models, the Aton Q has a compact shell which means it will fit well in small backseats but the drawback is that it will be outgrown by height more quickly than infant seats with a taller shell. Since the tensioning plate does not act as a built-in lockoff when installing with seatbelt, you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install this seat. See our full review of the Cybex Aton Q here.

Graco SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; no re-thread harness with 15 height positions; 2 buckle positions; adjustable base; LX model has built-in lockoff for easy seatbelt installations; EPS foam; full-sized canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Basic hook-style lower LATCH connectors. No-rethread harness design lacks splitter plate so it may not be possible to replace the harness straps down the road if you wanted or needed to do that.

Our comments: Don’t confuse this SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect model with any of the other current Graco SnugRide models available (there are now 8 different Graco SR models with various specs and features). The SR35 LX model has a lockoff on the base and a no re-thread harness. This model fits preemies and small newborns well. Has a tall shell so it also fits older babies and smaller toddlers well. See our full review of the SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect.

Graco SnugRide 40 Click Connect

 - Echo

Features: 4-40 lbs.; up to 35″ tall;  no re-thread harness with 15 height positions; 2 buckle positions; unique base with 8 positions that increases leg room as child grows taller; built-in lockoff for easy seatbelt installations; EPS foam; full-sized canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Basic hook-style lower LATCH connectors. Can take up a lot of real estate in the back seat – especially when extended for more child legroom. No-rethread harness design lacks splitter plate so it may not be possible to replace the harness straps down the road if you wanted or needed to do that.

Our comments: Don’t confuse this SnugRide 40 Click Connect model with any of the other current Graco SnugRide models available (there are now 8 different Graco SR models with various specs and features). Only the SR40 Click Connect model has the higher weight limit and the unique base with the cool leg-room extension feature. This model fits preemies and small newborns well. Has a tall shell so it also fits older babies and toddlers well. See our full review of the SnugRide 40 Click Connect.

Nuna PIPA

nuna-pipa-infant-car-seat-scarlet

Features: 4-32 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; 3 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle position; adjustable base with load leg; rigid lower LATCH connectors; built-in lockoff for easy seatbelt installations; EPS foam & memory foam; newborn insert and separate low birthweight pillow insert; best-in-class canopy with “Dream Drape”; handle can be in any locked position during travel; allows European beltpath routing when installed without base

Drawbacks: Most vehicles don’t have dedicated lower LATCH anchors for the center seating position (although there are some that do). Just be aware that if you plan to install this seat (or any other carseat that has rigid connectors) with LATCH, that you will most likely need to install in an outboard (near the door) seating position. You can still install Pipa in the center position, but most likely you will need to install the base with the center seatbelt. Not a big deal since the Pipa base has a nice lockoff but something consumers should be aware of.

Our comments: Load leg vastly improves crash protection. Super easy to install in a variety of vehicles using rigid lower LATCH connectors. Easy seatbelt installation too with built-in lockoff. Harness adjuster is smooth and very easy to tighten and loosen straps. Fits preemies and small newborns well. The only infant seat currently on the market in the U.S. to feature both rigid lower LATCH connectors and a load leg. The “Dream Drape” feature is amazing. We have a full review of the Nuna PIPA here.

Peg Perego Viaggio 4-35

-mentha

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; no re-thread harness with 6 height positions; single buckle position; adjustable base with tensioning feature and anti-rebound bar; push-on lower LATCH connectors; built-in lockoff for easy seatbelt installations; EPS foam; newborn insert; has unique anti-rebound handle and European beltpath routing when installed without base

Drawbacks: Handle must be down when in the vehicle. Tall seat so it isn’t going to fit in short or narrow spaces like some other models. Harness may be difficult to tighten on lower height setting. Double routing of shoulder belt in base can be awkward and easily forgotten.

Our comments: Fits preemies and small newborns well. Very easy to install in a variety of vehicles using either lower LATCH anchors or seatbelt. One of the few infant seats not made in China, this product is made in Italy. See our full review of the Peg Perego Viaggio 4-35 here.

Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air

 - flutter

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; 4 sets of harness slots; 3 buckle positions; “Air Protect” technology for enhanced side-impact protection; energy-absorbing EPP foam; adjustable base with premium push-on lower LATCH connectors; built-in lockoff for easy seatbelt installations; adjustable canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Since it’s a tall seat it may take up a lot of real estate in smaller backseats.

Our comments: Only the “Air” onBoard models have the premium base with lockoff and the carrier with Air Protect technology. Fits small babies and preemies exceptionally well. Also one of the tallest infant seats so it fits older babies and toddlers longer than many other infant seats. Made in USA! Read our review here.

UPPAbaby Mesa

 - Drew

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; no re-thread harness with 5 height positions; 2 buckle positions; adjustable base with tension indicator and auto-retracting lower LATCH connectors; built-in lockoff for easy seatbelt installations; EPS foam; integrated canopy made with SPF 50 material; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: No-rethread harness design lacks splitter plate so it may not be possible to replace the harness straps down the road if you wanted to do that. Other than that, there really aren’t any downsides to this seat.

Our comments: MESA is packed with safety and convenience features and is aesthetically pleasing. The base is a breeze to install with lower LATCH connectors. Seatbelt install is easy too thanks to lockoff on base. This model fits preemies and small newborns well. See our full UPPAbaby MESA review here.

Convertible and All-In-One Seats

Convertible seats can be used either rear-facing or forward-facing. They are generally the next step after the infant seat. However, many models will fit average-sized full term newborns well and many parents choose to skip the infant seat altogether and use a convertible right from the start. For optimal crash protection, use a convertible seat in the rear-facing position until the child reaches either the rear-facing weight or height limit. With a few exceptions for the smallest convertibles and/or the largest toddlers, most kids can remain safely rear-facing until they are 2 or 3 years old. Weight and height limits vary depending on the specific model. Convertible seats are more permanent in the vehicle, so you lose the convenience features of the infant seat.

Britax Boulevard ClickTight & Advocate ClickTight

Britax Advocate CT - limelight  britax-blvdCT-splash

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. forward-facing; Advocate model has “MAX” side-impact protection features including external energy-absorbing cushions. Both Boulevard CT and Advocate CT models have ClickTight installation system which also acts as a built-in lockoff device for the seatbelt; deep headwings with EPP foam and energy-absorbing headrest; no re-thread harness with 14 height positions; 2 buckle positions; non-twist harness straps; Click & Safe snug harness indicator; energy-absorbing HUGS harness pads; “rip stitch” energy management tether; anti-slip base with impact-absorbing technology and 7 recline positions; optional newborn insert and optional harness strap covers. Optional anti-rebound bar (sold separately).

Drawbacks: Very heavy; LATCH installations are very limited due to LATCH weight limits; if seat is attached with LATCH, the hook connectors can be very challenging to disconnect from the lower anchor bars in the vehicle; “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator may click too soon; HUGS pads can be bulky and annoying if you are using the seat for a newborn or small baby but they are optional for rear-facing so you can remove them if they get in the way more than anything else. Just remember to put them back on before using the seat forward-facing. HUGS pads are required for forward-facing. Models made after Jan 27, 2015 no longer allow rear-facing tethering.

Our comments: Consumers are encouraged to always use the seatbelt with the ClickTight system to install these seats. Very easy to install properly rear-facing or forward-facing with ClickTight. Very easy to use correctly but Click & Safe snug harness indicator feature may not work as well as intended so don’t rely on it completely. Excellent option for extended rear-facing for kids under 40 lbs. Fits newborns very well. If you don’t need the maximum recline angle (for a newborn or very young baby), then these seats do not take up a lot of space when rear-facing so they are a good option for smaller vehicles. Anti-rebound bar accessory is available for purchase directly from Britax if you want that additional feature. See our full review of the Britax Boulevard CT here.

Chicco NextFit & NextFit Zip

- Intrigue  Chicco NextFit Zip

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; no re-thread harness with 6 height positions; 2 buckle positions; 2-position chest clip; innovative SuperCinch LATCH tightening system; premium push-on LATCH connectors; 9 position base; energy-absorbing EPS foam; non-twist straps; built-in lockoffs for easy seatbelt installations; anti-slip base; ZIP model has zip-off cover for easy washing

Drawbacks: Heavy and bulky; must switch to a seatbelt installation once child weighs more than 35 lbs. (not a big deal since you have lockoffs for easy seatbelt install but not quite as easy as using SuperCinch).

Our comments: One of the easiest convertibles to install correctly with either LATCH or seatbelt. Installing with SuperCinch is so quick and easy that it’s downright revolutionary. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Fits newborns (even small newborns) very well. Doesn’t take up a lot of space when rear-facing so it’s a good option for smaller vehicles. Generous rear-facing height and weight limits. Almost all kids will be able to rear-face in the NextFit until they reach 40 lbs. Well-padded and very comfortable. See Kecia’s full review of the Chicco NextFit here.

Clek Foonf & Clek Fllo

 - Snowberry  fllo-ink

Features: 14-50 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. forward-facing; 5 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; dual-length crotch strap; REACT Safety System (Foonf); EACT Safety System (Fllo); steel and magnesium sub-structure; anti-rebound bar; rigid lower LATCH connectors on Foonf (for forward-facing installations only); lockoffs for RF and FF installations with seatbelt; Crypton super fabrics

Differences between Foonf & Fllo: Foonf has rigid lower LATCH connectors for forward-facing; sits up higher when rear-facing due to its unique base; has rear-facing LATCH weight limit of 25 lbs. and requires using the anti-rebound bar. Fllo has flexible (typical) deluxe LATCH connectors for both rear-facing and forward-facing, a different base that sits a little bit lower; rear-facing LATCH weight limit of 35 lbs. and the anti-rebound bar is optional.

Drawbacks: Both seats are very heavy and there is a learning curve involved with both Foonf and Fllo. Cannot be used for newborns or small babies unless you purchase the “Infant Thingy” insert (sold separately) which modifies the seat to fit smaller babies. For rear-facing installations you must switch to seatbelt installation once your child reaches the LATCH weight limit. When forward-facing there are weight limits for LATCH connectors too. It’s too complicated to cover in a brief summary so please see our full reviews of Foonf and Fllo for all the important details.

Our comments: The rear-facing set-up is complicated. These aren’t seats that you can pull from the box and install quickly. This may not be an issue for “seasoned”, savvy CPS Techs and advocates, but could be challenging for many parents. However, once you’ve read the directions, have the anti-rebound bar attached and you’ve had some practice installing the seat – you’re golden. The payoff for your time and effort is that you get one of the most advanced convertible carseats on the market, with unique, high-tech safety features and exceptional rear-facing weight and height limits. Just make sure you understand the LATCH weight limits for both rear-facing and forward-facing. See our full review of the Clek Foonf here and our full review of the Clek Fllo here.

Cosco Scenera NEXT

Cosco Scenera Next - stock

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing; 22-40 lbs. forward-facing and at least 2 years old; 4 sets of harness slots; 3 crotch strap positions; fits small newborns well; narrow; generally easy to install; lightweight; budget-friendly.

Drawbacks: No EPS or EPP foam; very low top harness slots; short crotch strap on models made before August 2015; sparse padding; basic hook-style LATCH connectors; no lockoff for seatbelt installations but you can use LATCH up to the maximum weight limit of 40 lbs.

Our comments: The Scenera NEXT is a good budget-friendly seat for babies and small toddlers. Just don’t expect it to fit many kids over age 2 or 3. Also nice for traveling since it’s so lightweight. If installing with LATCH isn’t an option then you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install this carseat with seatbelt.  See our full review of the Cosco Scenera NEXT.  We have more details and pictures in our Comparison of Convertible Seats Under $100.

Diono Radian RXT & Diono Rainier

  Diono Rainier - Graphite

Features: Rear-facing 5-45 lbs. (Radian RXT) or 5-50 lbs. (Rainier), Forward-facing 20-80 lbs. (Radian RXT) or 20-90 lbs. (Rainier); premium push-on lower LATCH connectors; 3 buckle positions, EPS foam; adjustable head wings for use with the top 3 harness slots; tether that can be used rear-facing as well as forward-facing; SafeStop crash force load limiter for forward-facing harness use (remove SafeStop at 40 lbs.); infant head support and body support; rubber grips on base of seat; folds flat for storage; steel frame

Differences between Radian RXT & Rainier: Rainier has deeper sides for enhanced side-impact protection, is rated to 50 lbs. rear-facing and up to 90 lbs. forward-facing. Rainier is a little wider than the RXT and less likely to “puzzle” next to other carseats when forward-facing. Radian RXT is more narrow and better suited for tight 3-across situations. Radian RXT is rated to 45 lbs. rear-facing and 80 lbs. forward-facing.

Drawbacks: Both seats are very heavy; lack no re-thread harness; lack built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; are incompatible when forward-facing in some vehicles. Both will take up a lot of room rear-facing if your child isn’t old enough to use the optional angle adjuster accessory to make the seat more upright; may not fit a newborn. Shoulder belt guides are problematic when used in booster mode and we do not recommend either seat be used as a booster. SafeStop attachment must be added for forward-facing kids under 40 lbs. but must be removed once child hits 40 lbs. (and this process requires uninstalling the seat). You must switch from installing with lower LATCH anchors to installing with seatbelt in the rear-facing position once the child hits 35 lbs. When forward-facing you must switch from LATCH installation to seatbelt plus tether once the child hits 40 lbs.

Our comments: If you want to be able to rear-face your kid beyond 40 lbs., or if you’re trying to fit 3 seats across the back of a narrow vehicle then these may be the seats for you. The low profile of these seats makes it easy to load and unload kids. Forward-facing almost all kids will max the seat out by height before being anywhere near the weight limits. Installation can be challenging in many cases, especially if you can’t use lower LATCH anchors because your child is over the weight limits. In some cases the seat is just incompatible and a proper installation cannot be achieved. Since these seats lack a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install these carseats with seatbelt. The Diono rear-facing angle adjuster accessory can help make the seat more upright (subsequently taking up less space) for older rear-facing kids but there is no other way to adjust the rear-facing recline angle. We do not recommend using either seat in booster mode due to the seatbelt getting stuck in the shoulder belt guide. We have a full review of the Diono RXT here and a full review of the Diono Rainier here.

Evenflo SureRide

Evenflo SureRide

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing; 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; 6 sets of harness slots; 3 crotch strap positions; fits small newborns well; generally easy to install; lightweight; budget-friendly; push-on LATCH connectors (only available on certain models currently sold at Walmart).

Drawbacks: Basic hook-style LATCH connectors on most models, large gap between harness slots 3 and 4; deep sides make loading and unloading rear-facing child cumbersome; no lockoffs for seatbelt installation but you can use LATCH up to 50 lbs.

Our comments: This is the rare extended rear-facing seat available for less than $100! The SureRide is budget-friendly and fits a wide range of kids – from small babies to older school-age kids. Also nice for traveling since it’s so lightweight. This seat lacks a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations so you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install this carseat with seatbelt. See our full review of the Evenflo SureRide DLX.  We have more details and pictures in our Comparison of Convertible Seats Under $100.

Evenflo Symphony DLX (aka Symphony Elite)

Evenflo Sym65 - Ocala

 

 

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing with 5-point harness, booster from 40-110 lbs.; “Infinite Slide” harness height adjusting system; unique self-ratcheting “SureLATCH” connectors; E3 foam for enhanced side-impact protection; one-hand adjustable headrest, dual integrated cup holders; buckle pocket to hold harness out of the way during loading/unloading (only on certain models)

Drawbacks: Lacks built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; not tall enough in booster mode to be the last seat your child will need; harness is not removable or replaceable

Our comments: A nice 3-in-1 seat with deep headwings for enhanced SIP; works well in all modes (rear-facing, forward-facing & booster); only the DLX (Elite) model has the innovative push-on “SureLATCH” connectors with built-in retractors. You attach the SureLATCH connectors to the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle, shove down on the seat and the connectors automatically tighten for you! Discontinue installation with SureLATCH and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Since this seat lacks a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install this carseat with seatbelt. See our full Symphony DLX review here.

Graco 4Ever All-in-One & Milestone All-in-One

Graco 4Ever Graco Milestone - gotham

BEST-BET-BOOSTER-LOGO small

 

 


Features:
 4-40 lbs. (4Ever), 5-40 lbs. (Milestone) rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing with 5-point harness, booster up to 100 lbs.; no re-thread harness with 10 position headrest; 2 buckle positions; base with multiple recline positions for rear-facing and forward-facing; push-on LATCH connectors; EPS foam; infant insert; cup holder

Differences Between 4Ever & Milestone: 4Ever is rated from 4 lbs. because of its infant insert cushion and fits smaller newborns better than Milestone, which doesn’t have the same insert and starts at 5 lbs. 4Ever base has 6 recline positions (3 for rear-facing), Milestone base has 4 recline positions (2 can be used for rear-facing). 4Ever can be used as a highback or a backless booster, Milestone can only be used as highback booster.

Drawbacks: Lacks a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; doesn’t have two LATCH attachment straps (one for RF, one for FF) like other Graco convertibles so you have to manually move the strap to the other beltpath when switching from rear-facing to forward-facing and vice versa.

Our Comments: Either is an excellent choice for extended rear-facing; they’re so tall that all kids will be able to rear-face in the 4Ever or Milestone until they reach 40 lbs. Easy to install in many vehicles but discontinue forward-facing installation with lower LATCH connectors and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 42 lbs. Since these seats lack a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install these carseats with seatbelt. Milestone should fit average-sized full term newborns well but may not be a good fit for low birthweight babies or preemies. 4Ever is better suited for smaller newborns. We have a complete review of the Graco 4Ever here and a complete review of the Graco Milestone here.

Graco Contender 65 & Graco Size4Me 65 

Graco Contender  Graco Size4Me

Features:  Rear-facing 4-40 lbs. (Size4Me), 5-40 lbs. (Contender), 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; both models have no re-thread harness with 8 height positions; EPS foam; 2 buckle positions; infant insert; integrated cup holder

Differences Between Size4Me/Clones & Contender: Size4Me and its “clones” (Fit4Me, MySize, Head Wise) are rated from 4 lbs. because of their infant insert cushion which helps to fit smaller newborns better than Contender, which doesn’t have the same insert and starts at 5 lbs. Contender has a different base design with a flip foot that you move back and forth for rear-facing and forward-facing. Size4Me has premium push-on LATCH connectors while Contender has basic hook-style connectors. Contender is generally about $30 cheaper, a few pounds lighter and its headwings are shaped differently.

Drawbacks: All models lack a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; can be difficult to get the last bit of slack out of the harness when tightening, especially on a small baby; padding is minimal. Contender has basic hook style lower LATCH connectors.

Our Comments: Excellent choice for extended rear-facing; almost all kids will be able to rear-face in the Contender, Size4Me or “clones” (Fit4Me, Head Wise & My Size 65) until they reach 40 lbs. Easy to install in most vehicles but discontinue installation with lower LATCH connectors and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 42 lbs. Since these seats lack a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install these carseats with a seatbelt. Should fit average-sized full term newborns well but may not be a good fit for low birthweight babies or preemies. See our full Size4Me review here. Contender review here.

Graco Extend2Fit

Extend2Fit Gotham Target

Features: 4-50 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; 4-position legrest extension panel for rear-facing only, no re-thread harness with 10 height positions; 2 buckle positions; base has 6 positions; EPS foam; push-on LATCH connectors; harness storage pockets to hold harness out of the way during loading/unloading; infant insert; dual integrated cup holders.

Drawbacks: Lacks a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; seat takes up more space rear-facing when the legrest panel is extended; can be difficult to get the last bit of slack out of the harness when tightening – especially on a smaller baby; moving LATCH belt from RF beltpath to FF beltpath is challenging because the cover is difficult to detach at the bottom; harness strap covers cannot be used when child is forward-facing; recline position #4 is required when the seat is installed forward-facing for a child weighing less than 40 lbs.

Our Comments: We jokingly refer to Extend2Fit as the “Shut Up and Take My Money Seat” because it’s a home run for Graco! A top choice for extended rear-facing. Easy to install in most vehicles but discontinue installation with lower LATCH connectors and use seatbelt (plus tether if forward-facing) to install if child weighs more than 45 lbs. Since this seat lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install the E2F with a seatbelt. Should fit average-sized full term newborns well but may not be a good fit for low birthweight babies or preemies. See our full Extend2Fit review here.

Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 & Pria 85

Maxi Cosi Pria 70 - 2015  Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 - Devoted Black front

Features: Rear-facing 9-40 lbs. (Pria 70), 14-40 lbs. (Pria 85); Forward-facing 22-70 lbs. (Pria 70), 22-85 lbs. (Pria 85). Both seats have no re-thread harness; deep head wings with Air Protect technology for enhanced side-impact protection; push-on LATCH connectors; 3 position base; integrated cup holder, easy remove covers that are machine washable and dryer safe.

Differences between Pria 70 and Pria 85: Both seats are rated up to 40 lbs. and 40″ tall in the rear-facing position but the minimum weight limits are different. The Pria 70 model starts at 9 lbs. and the Pria 85 models starts at 14 lbs. The 70 model is rated to 70 lbs. forward-facing and the 85 model is rated to 85 lbs. Both seats have Air Protect cushions on the headwings for enhanced SIP. The Pria 85 model offers harness holders (clips on the sides of the seat that can hold the harness out of the way while loading/unloading).

Drawbacks: Lacks lockoff for seatbelt installations; 10″ bottom harness slots means most babies won’t fit until about 6 months old; recline position #2 is required when the seat is installed forward-facing for a child weighing less than 40 lbs.

Our comments: If you’re planning to use an infant seat first and then transition to a convertible when the baby is bigger, then the Pria 70 or Pria 85 models could be the seats for you. With tall 18″ top harness slots and generous rear-facing and forward-facing weight limits both Pria models are great for extended rear-facing and for forward-facing older kids too. Easy to install in most vehicles but discontinue installation with lower LATCH connectors and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. These seats have rules about what base positions must be used both RF and FF so make sure you read the instructions carefully. Since all Pria models lack a lockoff device for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install these carseats with seatbelt. Both Pria 70 and Pria 85 models have lots of padding in the cover – it’s like sitting on a cloud! See full Pria 85 review here.

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible

Features: 5-45 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; deep headwings for enhanced side-impact protection; 10 harness height positions; no re-thread harness; 2 buckle positions; tether can also be used rear-facing; EPS foam; thick no-twist harness straps; push-on LATCH connectors; premium fabrics

Drawbacks: Rear-facing beltpath is tight to work with. What looks like it should be a lockoff for seatbelt installation is just a “guide” according to Peg Perego and you must still lock your seatbelt to install this seat correctly.

Our comments: One of the few convertibles rated to 45 lbs. in the rear-facing position but rear-facing height room is limited. Very easy to install and use properly but discontinue installation with lower LATCH connectors and use seatbelt plus top tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Since this seat lacks a real lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install this carseat with seatbelt. Italian fabrics are high-end and luxurious. Molto Bello! See Heather’s full Primo Viaggio Convertible review here.

Forward-Facing Only Seats

Forward-facing only seats can be broken into two groups: forward-facing harnessed seats and combination seats. Forward-facing harnessed seats are seats that can only be used with the 5-point harness in the forward-facing position and do not convert for any other mode of usage. Combination seats are much more common and can be used with the 5-point harnesses and then converted to a belt-positioning booster seat after the harness is outgrown.

Combination Seats

Britax Frontier ClickTight & Britax Pinnacle ClickTight

Britax Pinnacle G1.1Britax Frontier G1.1 - stockBEST-BET-BOOSTER-LOGO small

 

 

 

Features: 5-point harness from 2 years AND 25-90 lbs.; booster to 120 lbs.; innovative ClickTight installation system; easy no re-thread harness height adjuster; HUGS harness pads; 3 buckle positions; SafeCell technology in base; dual integrated cup holders; arm rests; Pinnacle 90 model has additional energy-absorbing “Side Impact Cushion Technology” bolsters on sides for increased protection in side impact crashes

Drawbacks: Heavy & bulky; Pinnacle model is very wide due to the additional side-impact bolsters; harness adjuster is hard to find at first (it’s set waaaay back); lower LATCH connectors limited to 40 lbs.—but who needs LATCH with ClickTight?

Our comments: Very high weight limits combined with very tall top harness slots will keep kids in a 5-point harness longer than any other seat on the market. ClickTight installation system makes it a dream to install properly with seatbelt and acts as a lockoff too. Requires tethering over 65 lbs. but ideally should be tethered at any weight. 9 year lifespan before expiration. Kudos to Britax for putting a 2 year minimum age limit and reasonable lower weight limit on the seat! If you don’t have the room for the additional width of the Pinnacle model then look at the Frontier instead. The Frontier CT and Pinnacle CT both have a Best Bet rating from the IIHS. See Darren’s review of the Frontier 90 here and Heather’s review of the Pinnacle 90 here.

Evenflo Maestro

Evenflo Maestro Keller

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Features: 5-point harness from 22-50 lbs.; booster from 40 to 100 lbs.; 4 sets of harness slots; EPS foam; 2 crotch strap positions; dual integrated cup holders; lightweight

Drawbacks: Not very tall in booster mode; non-adjustable headrest; basic hook-style LATCH connectors; lacks a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations

Our comments: A nice, lightweight seat that is also budget-friendly. Tall top harness slots combined with the 50 lbs. weight limit on the harness is enough to get many kids to the size/age/maturity to safely transition to a booster. Just don’t expect them to use this seat very long in booster mode. You can install with LATCH up to the maximum harness limit of 50 lbs. If installing with LATCH isn’t an option then you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install this carseat with seatbelt. The Maestro has a Best Bet booster rating from the IIHS.

Evenflo SecureKid DLX

Evenflo SecureKid DLX - Grayson

 

 

Features: 5-point harness from 22-65 lbs.; booster from 40 to 100 lbs.; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; height-adjustable headrest; SureLATCH self-tightening LATCH connectors; energy-absorbing “e3” foam; dual integrated cup holders; lightweight

Drawbacks: Harness might be a little tight for kids on the top end of the weight and height limits—especially if they are dressed for colder weather. Lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations.

Our comments: Everything we love about the Maestro but better! SureLATCH connectors work really well due to the design of this seat. If you’re not planning to install with LATCH then save yourself a few bucks and opt for the Secure Kid LX model instead which costs a little less because it has standard push-on LATCH connectors instead. Discontinue installation with lower LATCH connectors and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 50 lbs. Since this seat lacks a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install this carseat with seatbelt. The SecureKid has a Best Bet booster rating from the IIHS. See Kecia’s full review of the SecureKid here.

Graco Nautilus 65 LX (new improved model)

Graco Nautilus LX - new model 
Features: 5-point harness from 22-65 lbs.; converts to a highback booster and backless booster; no-rethread harness (on new models only); 3 buckle positions; 3-position recline; EPS foam; integrated cup holder; storage areas in each armrest.

Drawbacks: Lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations; basic hook-style lower LATCH connectors

Our comments: Newest Nautilus models offer a no-rethread harness and an extra, more generous position for the crotch strap/buckle. These are nice improvements over the original models. The Nautilus is generally easy to install and use correctly although it still has the basic hook style LATCH connectors. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 42 lbs. Since the Nautilus LX model lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install that model with seatbelt. The original Nautilus models have a Best Bet rating from the IIHS when used in highback mode but the newest models haven’t been rated yet. Nautilus LX review coming soon!

Graco Nautilus 80 Elite (Formerly Graco Argos 80 Elite)

Graco Argos 80 Elite

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Features: 5-point harness from 20-80 lbs.; converts to a highback booster and backless booster; no re-thread harness; 3 buckle positions; lockoff for easy seatbelt installation; 3-position recline; EPS foam; integrated cup holder; storage areas in each armrest

Drawbacks: basic hook-style lower LATCH connectors; harness strap covers are mandatory at any weight

Our comments: The 3rd crotch strap position, seatbelt lockoff, increased weight limit and 10 year lifespan on this model make the Argos 80 Elite the top-of-the-line Graco combination seat. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 42 lbs. The Argos 80 Elite has a Best Bet booster rating from the IIHS when used in both highback and backless modes. See the full Graco Argos 80 Elite review here.

Highback Boosters

Highback booster seats are belt-positioning booster seats that have a back and head restraint. They do not have a built-in harness and must be used with the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt. Some models may also convert to a backless booster.

Britax Parkway SGL

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Features: 40-120 lbs.; adjustable “SecureGuard” lap belt clip to prevent submarining; removable back to convert to a backless booster; back adjusts height-wise with one hand; dual cup holders; SGL model has lower LATCH connectors

Drawbacks: Lap belt clip may annoy some children but it’s optional and can be removed.

Our comments: A versatile booster that will grow with your child. Tall maximum height setting. Good head and torso support for sleeping and for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes. Only the SGL model has lower LATCH connectors. Best Bet rating from the IIHS when used in highback mode. See our Parkway SGL review here.

Chicco KidFit & KidFit Zip
Chicco Kidfit - paprika originalChicco KidFit Zip

 

 

 

Features: 30-100 lbs.; 40-110 lbs. as a backless booster; lower LATCH anchor connectors; 10 height positions; EPS foam in head rest; dual cup holders; zip models have machine washable zip-off pads.

Drawbacks: Minor assembly required; not as tall as other dedicated highback boosters

Our comments: We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. It’s reasonably priced, comfortable, LATCHable and tends to fit kids of different ages and sizes well. We just wish it was a little bit taller! The KidFit has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS in both highback and backless mode. See our Chicco KidFit review here.

Clek Oobr

BEST-BET-BOOSTER-LOGO small 

 

 

 

Features: 33-100 lbs. with back; 40-100 lbs. as a backless booster; rigid lower LATCH connectors; EPS foam; open loop shoulder belt guides; tall armrests; recline feature when attached to lower LATCH anchors; magnesium frame; has a detachable drink-thingy; Crypton upholstery fabric.

Drawbacks: Wide; heavy; leg depth not as deep as some other dedicated boosters

Our comments: We appreciate the rigid lower LATCH connectors, a “true” recline feature and the Crypton fabrics (on all fashions except for Drift). We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. The Oobr has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS when used in highback mode. See our Oobr review here.

Diono Monterey

Diono Monterey - Heather

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Features: 40-120 lbs.; converts to a backless booster; lower LATCH anchor connectors; 11 height positions; torso wings are width adjustable; EPS foam; deep head and side wings for enhanced side-impact protection; dual cup holders

Drawbacks: Somewhat heavy and bulky. Requires head support from the vehicle even when used with the back.

Our comments: A popular booster that tends to fits taller and wider kids well. Just be aware that it should not be used in seating positions that don’t have a head restraint. The Monterey has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS when used in highback mode.

Graco Affix

Graco Affix - Atomic

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Features: 30-100 lbs.; 40-100 lbs. as a backless booster; lower LATCH anchor connectors; EPS foam in head rest; dual cup holders; height adjusts with one hand

Drawbacks: Assembly required; not as tall as other dedicated highback boosters

Our comments: We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. It’s budget-friendly, LATCHable and tends to fit kids of different ages and sizes well. We only wish it was taller! The Affix has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS in both highback or backless mode. See our review of the Graco Affix here.

Graco TurboBooster

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Features: 30-100 lbs.; 40-100 lbs. as a backless booster; EPS foam in head rest; dual retractable cup holders; height-adjustable arm rests; back adjusts height-wise with one hand

Drawbacks: Complex assembly required (you’re going to have to read the manual!). Armrests require screws to be installed (you’re going to need a screwdriver too!). Not as tall as other dedicated highback boosters.

Our comments: The TurboBooster has been a staple in the booster market for over 10 years. We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. It’s budget-friendly and tends to fit kids of different ages and sizes well. We just wish it was taller! The screws provided in the little plastic bag with the manual (to secure the arm rests) are often lost and they are required, so look for them if you purchase the seat. The TurboBooster has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS when used in either highback or backless mode.

Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro

 

 

 

Features: 33-100 lbs.; highback only (does not convert to backless booster); rigid lower LATCH connectors; various types of thick energy-absorbing foam; height-adjustable back; unique leg extension feature; crumple zone technology in lap belt guide; fabric is treated so it resists spills; 8 yr expiration

Drawbacks: Heavy; seat depth may be too much for younger kids with shorter legs (which could promote slouching).

Our comments: A fine example of German engineering. Highly adjustable. Rigid lower LATCH connectors are great. We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. The Cruiserfix Pro has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS. See Kecia’s full review of the Cruiserfix Pro here.

Maxi-Cosi RodiFix

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Features: 30-120 lbs.; highback only (does not convert to backless booster); rigid lower LATCH connectors; thick energy-absorbing EPS foam; Air Protect Technology for enhanced SIP; height-adjustable back; recline option; no armrests

Drawbacks: Side wings are just EPS foam and are not supported by plastic shell making them potentially fragile; narrow seat—is better suited to slim or average-sized kids

Our comments: RodiFix is a unique, high-end booster with innovative features that make it easy to install and easy for kids to buckle themselves. Deep head and torso wings plus the Air Protect cushions offer enhanced protection in side-impact crashes and make the RodiFix comfortable and supportive for sleeping. The rigid lower LATCH connectors are a huge bonus and we like the fact that it only weighs 14 lbs. We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. The RodiFix has a Best Bet rating from IIHS. See our full review of the Maxi-Cosi RodiFix here.

Recaro Performance BOOSTER

-PlumBEST-BET-BOOSTER-LOGO small

 

 

Features: 30-120 lbs.; highback only (does not convert to backless booster); generous amounts of EPS foam; deep head and side wings for enhanced side-impact protection; flexible lower LATCH connectors; dual integrated cup holders

Drawbacks: Wide; may not fit kids on the lower end of the weight range well; lower LATCH connectors are not adjustable so the booster will still move around a little bit on the vehicle seat.

Our comments: Sturdy; comfortable; good sleep support; we recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. The Performance Booster has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS. See our full review of the Recaro Performance BOOSTER here.

Backless Boosters

Backless boosters are belt-positioning boosters that raise the child up so the lap/shoulder seatbelt fits correctly. The vehicle must have a head restraint for the child since the booster doesn’t provide head support for whiplash protection. Backless boosters are recommended for older kids who don’t sleep frequently in the car.

Evenflo AMP
 Performance - Blue BEST-BET-BOOSTER-LOGO small

 

 

 

Features: 40-100 lbs.; dual integrated cup holders; tall armrests for easy buckling; optional shoulder belt adjuster strap

Drawbacks: Wide; may not fit well in narrow or contoured seating positions.

Our comments: It’s a backless booster with cool, kid-pleasing colors at a reasonable price. We recommend only for older kids who weigh at least 40 lbs., don’t sleep in the car and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. What else is there to say? Well, there’s more to say in Kecia’s AMP Review! The AMP also has a Best Bet rating from IIHS.

Harmony Big Boost Deluxe with LATCH

Harmony Big Boost - stock

Features: 30-110 lbs.; hook-style lower LATCH attachments; optional shoulder belt adjuster strap; cup holder can be attached to either side.

Drawbacks: Wide, may not be a great fit on smaller, lighter kids; currently only available at Walmart

Our comments: A great lightweight, LATCHable backless booster. Best suited for kids who weigh at least 50 lbs. We recommend only for older kids who don’t sleep in the car and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. Available at some Walmart stores and at Walmart.com. The Big Boost Deluxe has not been rated by IIHS yet.

Harmony Youth Booster
  BEST-BET-BOOSTER-LOGO small

 

 

 

Features: 30-100 lbs.; full-wrap cover; optional shoulder belt adjuster strap; size and shape make it a good option for narrow or contoured seating positions

Drawbacks: Low profile belt guides are easily missed by kids who buckle themselves (and inattentive parents or caregivers). Make sure you route the seatbelt properly under those little armrests!

Our comments: Narrow and lightweight. A great little booster for a great price. Fun fashions that appeal to big kids. We recommend only for older kids who weigh at least 40 lbs., don’t sleep in the car and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. Available at most Walmart stores. The Harmony Youth Booster has a Best Bet rating from IIHS.

Lil Fan No Back Slimline 

Lil Fan LBB - Ohio State Lil Fan LBB - Yankees

 

 

Features: 40-110 lbs.; for kids 40 – 57″ tall; optional shoulder belt adjuster strap; size and shape make it a good option for narrow or contoured seating positions; lightweight; full-wrap cover is machine washable;

Drawbacks: More expensive than a typical backless booster but you’re paying a premium to have a team logo on the cover. Licensing agreements aren’t cheap and Lil Fan has a lot of them.

Our comments: This is child passenger safety for the fanatical! Tons of NCAA and MLB teams to chose from. NHL coming soon! Also available as a highback booster. Relatively narrow and very lightweight. Fashions that appeal to big kids (and parents too!). We recommend only for older kids who weigh at least 40 lbs., don’t sleep in the car and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. The Lil Fan backless booster has a Best Bet rating from IIHS. We have a review of the Lil Fan Booster here.

BubbleBum

BubbleBum black and purple

 

 

 

Features: 40-100 lbs.; inflatable; extremely lightweight; optional shoulder belt adjuster strap; size and shape make it a good option for very narrow or contoured seating positions.

Drawbacks: Shallow leg depth; lap belt guides are difficult for younger kids to navigate

Our comments: A niche product. Great for travel, carpooling and tight 3-across situations. We recommend only for older kids who weigh at least 40 lbs., don’t sleep in the car and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. Newest models have updated lap belt guides which are easier for kids to use. The BubbleBum has a Best Bet rating from IIHS. See Heather’s BubbleBum review here.

Safety 1st Incognito

 - stock

Features: 60-120 lbs.; extremely lightweight; comes in vehicle seat colors

Drawbacks: Tab at back of seat can interfere with some vehicle seats

Our comments: This unique “kid-positioner” fits kids bigger, older kids when traditional boosters don’t. Its short stature boosts those bigger kids up just enough for proper belt fit while its plain design makes it look more like a vehicle cushion than a booster. Shorter adults have even been known to use it to improve belt fit! See our preview and kid-written review of this terrific product.

 

Editors’ Picks

This award goes to our favorite carseats in each category. Where possible, we separate categories by cost and limit the choices to one or two carseats at each price point.  If you want to narrow down your choices quickly, this is the place to start!

Editors Pick collage - 2016

Rear-Facing Only (Infant Seats)
Convertible Carseats
All-In-One Carseats (RF/FF/Booster)
Combination Carseats
High Back Booster Seats
Backless Booster Seats

*Graco Nautilus 80 Elite was formerly called the Argos 80 Elite.  There have been only minor changes.

In many cases, manufacturers make nearly identical seats with different names or slightly different features. For simplicity, we do not list similar products on our Editors’ Picks list. Our full list of Recommended Carseats can be found above by scrolling UP.

For reference, here is an article with some background to these recommendations. Feel free to comment about our list or about your favorite child seats there.

Last Updated: May 1, 2016

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