Babble Best Picks:
There might not be a more important baby product that you'll buy than a car seat. You can skimp on hand-me-down clothes, used toys or even second-hand strollers, but experts agree that car seats should be brand new - especially if you don't know the history of the particular car seat.
There are two options for babies: First there's the standard infant car seat, which is fitted more securely for a baby and is also lighter and more maneuverable for parents. An infant car seat can easily transfer between multiple cars, as well as turn into a travel system by hooking onto a stroller or shopping cart. However, infant car seats only face backwards and have a relatively short weight and height capacity, meaning you'll need to buy a bigger car seat toward the end of your baby's first year.
The second option is to just go with a convertible car seat from the jump, saving you money on the infant car seat and multiple car seat bases. Every convertible car seat that we tested can be used rear facing starting with newborns, although they generally don't have the best fit and features for the littlest ones. Convertible car seats are naturally much bigger and heavier than an infant car seat, and aren't as simple to move in and out of cars. Plus, you'll need multiple car seats for multiple cars, rather than just buying an inexpensive base (as with infant car seats).
Yet once your baby hits around 30 lbs., a convertible car seat can last you until your child is 65-100 lbs., possibly making it the last car seat you'll buy. But with so many different features, manageability and price points, it can be hard to tell just which ones are the very best. So to give you a hand, we tested the most popular infant and convertible car seats to fit your lifestyle and budget.
READERS’ CHOICE CONVERTIBLE CAR SEATS | Maxi Cosi Priori Convertible Car Seat
The Priori doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as some of the other models, but its use of energy-absorbing EPP foam gave it very good crash ratings. It’s a very trusted, well-liked, basic model. No plush cushions, no giant impact-resistant protrusions, no extra roomy interior. In fact, we like how compact it is for those of us who don’t have a giant SUV or for those who have multiple kids in car seats. However, you will find some pretty snazzy color combos.
It took us a little longer to figure out how to get the Priori to fit securely into the car, but once we did it was very simple to use. You won’t be able to adjust the car seat straps from the front, but you can adjust the recline without taking the seat off of the base, which is pretty cool.
While we would still recommend an infant car seat for both safety and travel-system convenience, if you want to buy a convertible car seat to go from infancy to toddlerhood, this is a good choice for infants. It could work well as an extra car seat for Grandma or another infrequent caregiver since you can later face the car seat forward.
We only wish that it would accommodate bigger babies. The Priori fits up to 35 lbs. rear facing (which is pretty good), but only 40 lbs. forward facing (which isn’t as excellent). So for bigger kids, it won’t give you as much longevity.
Bottom line: Our little one was comfy with no complaints, and we like that you can recline the car seat quickly and easily. While we wish it would have a higher front-facing weight capacity, we do like that it’s one of the best rear-facing convertible seats for infants.
Get it from Maxi Cosi, $183.54