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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 | BabyTrend Flex-Loc Infant Car Seat
Another popular infant car seat, the BabyTrend Flex-Loc is known to be one of the safest infant car seats on the market. And while there are certainly features we like about it – namely the removable foot boot, full coverage canopy and secure fit – we had many more complaints when using it on a daily basis. At one of the heaviest car seats we tested (9.5 pounds), the Flex-Loc will take some muscle to lug around. Not only that, but the vast majority of BabyTrend users we spoke to said that the handlebar constantly sticks – making it difficult to lift up and down – and the buckle is frustrating to latch. And while a hard-to-fasten buckle might be good for a toddler who likes to Houdini out of the restraint system, you’ll definitely want something easier for the daily ins-and-outs of an infant car seat. So while the safety ratings are good, it’s one of the most frustrating to use.
Get it from Babies R Us, $129.99