The 4 Best Infant Car Seats of 2023

If you have no experience with infant car seats, here’s what you need to know: An infant car seat is a bucket-like carrier that secures a baby with a five-point harness. It is designed to face the rear of the car, and the bucket carrier clicks in and out of a base that stays installed in the back seat. (The seats in the photograph above are shown clicked into their bases.) You install the bases using either the vehicle’s seat belt or the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, which lets you attach a pair of metal hooks built into the base to a set of anchors built into the car. If you choose, you can buy multiple bases, so you can use the same seat in different cars without having to reinstall anything. You could also install the seat on its own with just a seat belt (no base)—say, if you’re traveling or taking a taxi. Whichever infant seat you choose, we’ve included helpful tips on how to safely use and maintain it.

Our pick

Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX

The SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX is easier to install, adjust, and operate than seats that cost far more. And it has an added safety feature: an anti-rebound base.

The Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX provides the total package of user-friendliness, quality, and value. It’s one of the simplest infant car seats to install when you’re using the base, whether you install it with a seat belt or the LATCH method. The SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX is a stylish seat with a high-end feel. And it has some bells and whistles usually reserved for pricier seats, such as a removable seat pad for quicker cleanup, harness straps that you don’t have to undo and rethread to adjust, and one-handed handle adjustment. This seat also has the added safety feature of an anti-rebound base (a metal bar built into the base of the seat), which can help limit the amount the seat rotates (or rebounds) after the initial impact of a crash. At 10½ pounds, the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX is the heaviest of our picks. But our testers didn’t think it was too heavy to carry comfortably, and we found it was easy to operate and to click in and out of its base. The seat can accommodate babies up to 32 inches or 35 pounds (this is the upper range of the category, and it’s likely more than most people end up needing). The only real drawback to the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX is that we found its no-base, seat-belt-only install tricky to pull off; we had difficulty getting the seat in snugly (a common problem with infant seats that have an American belt-path configuration, including this one). Most people prefer to use the base with their infant seat anyway, so this may not be an issue for you. However, if you plan to often go without a base—say, for frequent taxi rides or travel—you might want to consider our also-great pick, the Chicco KeyFit 35, or our upgrade pick, the Clek Liing, both of which are better for baseless installs. Also, the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX is not as compatible with as many strollers from various brands as our other three picks are.

Seat weight (without base): 10½ pounds

Baby height, weight limits: 32 inches, 35 pounds

Stroller compatibility: Without the purchase of an extra adapter, this seat works with Graco strollers, the Baby Trend Snap-N-Go, and many Joovy strollers (PDF). With an adapter (sold separately), it’s compatible with more brands’ strollers, including those from Baby Jogger, BOB, Mockingbird, and Thule.

Runner-up

Chicco KeyFit 30

The Chicco KeyFit 30 is easy to install and to use, and it delivers on its good reputation.

The Chicco KeyFit 30 is the Coke Classic of infant car seats: It’s a crowd-pleaser, and it’s been a longtime favorite for a reason. The KeyFit 30 is easy and intuitive to install, particularly when you’re installing the base with the LATCH system. Installing the base with the seat belt is also simple, though that method does require some force to get the base in tightly (we had to physically sit on the base to apply enough pressure). As with our top-pick Graco seat, this Chicco model’s seat-belt-only, no-base install leaves a lot to be desired, and installing it snugly is a challenge. The KeyFit 30 is relatively lightweight—about a pound lighter than the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX—and comfortable to carry, and it’s simple to adjust. The bucket seat smoothly clicks in and out of the base. It has a lower weight and height limit than our other three picks, so it may not be ideal for larger-than-average babies or for families that want to use an infant seat longer. But it should be able to accommodate most tots for over a year, which is usually plenty. Although the KeyFit 30 typically costs a tad more than the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX, the KeyFit 30 is missing some of the convenient extras that the Graco seat has, such as a no-rethread harness, a removable seat pad for easy cleaning, and one-handed handle adjustment. The KeyFit 30 also lacks an added safety feature, like the anti-rebound base on the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX and the Chicco KeyFit 35 or the load leg on the Clek Liing. We consider those to be bonuses rather than essentials, however. (Note: The Chicco KeyFit 30 ClearTex is the same seat, available at the same price. But rather than the standard polyester fabric, its cover is made with Chicco’s newer ClearTex fabric, which has no added chemicals and has received a Greenguard Gold Certification for lower chemical emissions.)

Seat weight (without base): 9½ pounds

Baby height, weight limits: 30 inches, 30 pounds

Stroller compatibility: Without the purchase of an extra adapter, this seat works with many Chicco strollers (not all Chicco strollers accept infant car seats, and some require an extra adapter), the Baby Trend Snap-N-Go, and many Joovy strollers. With an adapter (sold separately), it’s compatible with strollers from many more brands, including Baby Jogger, BOB, Britax, Mockingbird, Thule, and Uppababy. (Note: We’ve been alerted that the Chicco adapter no longer fits as it should on the Baby Jogger City Mini 2 stroller, following a minor model update to the stroller in 2021. It also doesn’t work with the Britax B-Lively.)

Also great

Chicco KeyFit 35

This seat is just as simple to install and use as the KeyFit 30, and it has some upgrades—including an anti-rebound base and a European belt path for easier no-base installs when you’re traveling.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $270.

The Chicco KeyFit 35 offers all of the things we love about the Chicco KeyFit 30, our runner-up pick—namely, it’s super user-friendly and easy to install—plus a few appealing upgrades. The KeyFit 35 comes with the added safety feature of an anti-rebound base, like our top pick, the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX. And like our upgrade pick, the Clek Liing, the KeyFit 35 has a European belt path (a rarity in the US); this allows you to install the seat more securely when you’re not using the base—a major plus for families that frequently travel or take taxis. This seat also has a convenient no-rethread harness (similar to the Graco seat’s), so you won’t have to take apart and reassemble the harness to make height adjustments as your child grows. The KeyFit 35 can accommodate passengers up to 32 inches and 35 pounds (hence the “35”), in contrast with the KeyFit 30’s 30-inch, 30-pound maximum; this may not be an issue for most folks, but it could be helpful if you have a bigger baby or you’d prefer to use your infant seat longer (before switching over to a convertible seat). The main downsides of the KeyFit 35 are its weight and price: It’s half a pound heavier than the KeyFit 30, and it costs more than the KeyFit 30 or the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX; the KeyFit 35 is still a very good value considering its combination of desirable features. (Note: The Chicco KeyFit 35 ClearTex is the same seat, available at about the same price. But its cover is made with Chicco’s newer ClearTex fabric, which has no added chemicals and has received a Greenguard Gold Certification for lower chemical emissions.)

Seat weight (without base): 10 pounds

Baby height, weight limits: 32 inches, 35 pounds

Stroller compatibility: Without the purchase of an extra adapter, this seat works with many Chicco strollers (not all Chicco strollers accept infant seats, and some require an extra adapter) and many Joovy strollers. With an adapter (sold separately), it’s compatible with strollers from many more brands, including Baby Jogger, BOB, Mockingbird, Thule, and Uppababy. (Note: We’ve been alerted that the Chicco adapter no longer fits as it should on the Baby Jogger City Mini 2 stroller, following a minor model update to the stroller in 2021.)

Upgrade pick

Clek Liing

This model is amazingly easy to install and is engineered to prevent user error (color-coding galore!). Plus, it has a huge sun canopy and the added safety feature of a load leg.

If it weren’t for the price of the Clek Liing, we’d tell everybody to get one—it’s an exceptionally well-designed, well-executed car seat. We’ve never come across another infant seat that is quite this easy to install; it is so cleverly engineered that installing it with the base (using either the LATCH system or the seat-belt method) requires minimal effort. Part of what makes the Liing so simple to install and operate is that Clek has incorporated color-coded indicators throughout the seat (green means you’re good, red means something is amiss), which takes the guesswork out of using it correctly. And unlike the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX and the Chicco KeyFit 30, the Clek Liing is also easy to install snugly if you’re using it without the base. This is because, like the Chicco KeyFit 35, it has a European belt-path configuration, which provides a more secure fit than the American configuration. The Liing comes with the added safety feature of a load leg, a metal support rod that sits between the car seat and the vehicle floor; in an accident, the load leg absorbs some of the initial impact of the crash and limits the amount that the seat can move. At 9 pounds, the Liing is the lightest of our picks to carry. The seat has the same height and weight allowances (32 inches and 35 pounds) as the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX and the KeyFit 35, and it comes in a range of stylish, high-end fabric options. Unlike our top pick from Graco, this Clek seat does not offer a no-rethread harness, a removable seat pad to make cleanup easier, or one-handed handle adjustment, and those omissions are disappointing (especially considering how much this seat costs). But the Liing’s sun canopy is the biggest we’ve seen, and this seat has the longest life span and best warranty of our picks.

Seat weight (without base): 9 pounds

Baby height, weight limits: 32 inches, 35 pounds

Stroller compatibility: Without the purchase of an extra adapter, this seat works with the Baby Trend Snap-N-Go and many Joovy strollers. With an adapter (sold separately), it’s compatible with a wide range of strollers from other brands, including Baby Jogger, Babyzen, Bugaboo, Colugo, Thule, and Uppababy. (See the full list on the Clek website.)

 

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