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 INFANT CAR SEATS | Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air
If you want to get the very most out of your infant car seat, the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air can accommodate premature 4-pound babies all the way up to 35 lbs., with more leg room than any other infant car seat we tested. And it’s still not big and bulky whatsoever, weighing in at a manageable 9 lbs.
To top it off, the car seat has excellent crash testing records due to its Air Protect Side Impact Technology, similar to their convertible car seat. But unlike the Safety 1st Complete Convertible Car Seat, the onBoard Air is specifically designed with newborns and infants in mind, so it’s a much better choice for babies. In the event of a crash, air is released to absorb the energy and cushion the blow, making it not only safe, but also cushiony and comfortable for your little one. Our newborn tester fit snugly in the infant insert and low harness slots, and the 2-year-old was able to climb in with ease. (He was, of course, too tall to safely ride in the car seat, but not by much.)
We only wish more strollers were compatible with this car seat other than Safety 1st strollers (which we haven’t tested) and the Quinny Buzz. However, the Safety 1st Click-and-Go Universal Infant Car Seat Carrier ($67.80) is one of the easiest travel system options, but completely unusable once your baby outgrows the infant car seat. We also wish that the canopy were a little easier to adjust, as it can be frustrating to open and close.
Get it from Amazon, $159.99
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