To help you pick the best infant car seat, BabyGearLab spends tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats at the same certified testing lab the US Government uses for its safety certification testing. Our crash-testing findings and extensive hands-on testing provide the details necessary to help you choose the right safety seat for your infant. With complete details of our testing shared, our goal is to provide you with all the info you need to narrow the field and choose the best car seat for your needs and budget.
Editor's Note: We updated this infant car seat review on March 20, 2023. The update includes the removal of two Britax seats that are no longer available. We plan to test new Britax seats and others in 2023.
The Chicco Keyfit 35 is a good quality infant seat with super easy LATCH installation thanks to Chicco's center pull SuperCinch system. This seat looks and feels higher quality with an easy-to-grip handle and a non-rethread harness adjustment for on-the-fly adjustments. The Keyfit 35 has a better crash-test analysis than most of the competition, and it is compatible with a variety of strollers from different brands, so you can create a combination as unique as your little one.
The Keyfit 35 is a little heavier than other competitors, which you might consider if you'll need to carry it with a baby inside. It also has a rubbing issue between the canopy and handle, making it hard to simultaneously have the handle upright and canopy open. Outside of these minor concerns, we think this high-ranking seat is perfect for most families and believe the reasonable price is icing on the already impressive cake.
The Cybex Aton 2 is a quality choice with one of the best crash test results in the lineup, making it an infant car seat we recommend. This car seat combines top-ranked crash-test analysis with a sleek design and additional safety features such as a load leg and "side-impact crumple zone." This Cybex has an easy-to-install LATCH system (that studies show potentially translates to increased safety), making the Cybex Aton 2 an excellent contender for many families with higher budgets.
The Cybex Aton 2 is no longer available, and it's now the Cybex Aton 2 with SensorSafe. The SensorSafe technology is built into the chest clip and provides instant insight and alerts about your child's safety and well-being. We are now linking to the Sensor-Safe version and hope to test it soon. This technology could be useful for those who are worried about leaving little ones in hot cars accidentally.
While the Aton 2 has a super easy LATCH installation system, some of its daily functions are a little more involved. This product is also on the spendy side, so anyone with a smaller budget might need to save up or put it on a registry. The Aton 2 is compatible with several strollers, but we suggest choosing a stroller with a click-in adapter to avoid secondary straps. If your budget allows, and safety crash test results and an easy installation are what you seek, then the Aton 2 (with the load leg) should be on your shortlist.
Important Recall Notice
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is has issued a recall on certain Cybex models, including some Aton 2 infant car seats, due to a potential issue with the webbing strap. For more specifics about the affected models and remedy, check the Cybex website.
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 has impressive scores for crash test results, installation, and comfort/quality that help earn it the highest rank in this competition. This Peg has a higher crash test result analysis and is one of the easiest contenders to install. Easy installation potentially translates to a safer experience as some documented injuries from real-world crashes are directly related to car seat installation errors instead of the seat's design. This Peg is lightweight, easy to carry, and has simple features that work well.
Unfortunately, this safety seat isn't compatible with many strollers outside of the Peg Perego brand, which sort of locks you into Peg Perego products or babywearing in one of the best baby carriers (which we love and is a highly viable choice). The Primo also has a higher price, making it potentially a no-go for parents on tighter budgets. Overall, the Primo Viaggio has the quality and comfort you expect for the price, and we believe it will please any parent unconcerned about stroller compatibility.
The Chicco Keyfit 30 has a good overall score and a budget-friendly price compared to many higher-ranking competitors in this review. These qualities make Keyfit an exceptional value to us. This contender is easy to install and has some of our lineup's best crash test results. The Keyfit has an easy-to-use LATCH system and unique features that help make installation as straightforward as possible. Parents love that this can translate to a potentially safer riding experience as, statistically, some crash-related injuries result from errors in use or installation. Combine this with an attractive design and large compatibility with many high-ranking strollers, and you get a car seat we absolutely love.
The Keyfit 30 is somewhat challenging to install without the base compared to other contenders, though it isn't difficult. The carrier portion of the seat weighs over 10 lbs, which is average but somewhat heavy if you plan to carry your baby in the carriers. These minor issues make this seat less ideal for anyone who uses public transportation or frequently commutes and doesn't want to tote a stroller. Still, we believe the Keyfit 30's better ease of use and crash test performance easily override these issues if you use a stroller, wear your baby, and own a car where the base remains installed. Overall, we believe the Keyfit 30 is hard to beat for budget-savvy families and those who love a great deal on a great product.
The Baby Trend EZ Flex-Loc is one of the least expensive contenders in this lineup of options. However, there is still much more to love about this safety seat than the impressively low price. The Flex-Loc is a straightforward infant seat that is easy to install with two different methods, including without the base. It is helpful since it is also lightweight, making it a potential option for those who commute or regularly travel.
This Baby Trend performed about average in most of our tests, with some features being more challenging to operate when compared to competitors. It also has thinner comfort padding and somewhat rougher fabric than we prefer. While not the top-ranking choice in our lineup, this Baby Trend is an economical infant seat that makes an excellent secondary seat, grandma's go-to, or for those on a tight budget who want to reduce cost without sacrificing safety.
The Doona is a unique infant seat that doubles as a stroller, making it an innovative, one-and-done option. This functional and useful design makes the Doona a standout for urban living, where taxis, Lyft, and Uber are the go-to transportation. This seat installs quickly and is ready to stroll at your destination, making it a real game-changer in a world without similar competitors. This safety seat/stroller is easy to use, easy to install without the base, and fulfills a niche that no other car seat can giving you a safer option for transporting your baby than going without a seat (which is legal on public transportation in many bigger cities).
This seat's higher price and heavier weight can make it a potential turn-off for suburban parents. However, it is hard to beat for city families who might skip using a car seat on public transportation or don't want to mess with carrying a stroller. On the flip side, Doona's lower crash test analysis might make it a less desirable choice for those who don't need this kind of solution. Overall, we believe this seat/stroller is an excellent choice for easy transport of your little one from your apartment to a cab to the sidewalk. We believe the Doona fills a specific need in a way that no other safety seat can. If you live in a world where you may be tempted to legally forgo a car seat, the Doona is a significantly better, safer, and more convenient solution than skipping a safety seat.
Our infant car seat testing has seven rating metrics:
Crash tests (20% of overall score weighting)
Ease of Installation - LATCH tests (20% weighting)
Ease of Install - Vehicle Belt tests (10% weighting)
Ease of Install -w/o the Base tests (5% weighting)
Ease of Use tests (15% weighting)
Comfort/Quality tests (15% weighting)
Weight/Size tests (15% weighting)
For our crash testing, we rely on MGA Research, the national testing laboratory that holds the compliance contract for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash testing protocol used to assess the safety of every car seat sold in the US. Every product in our review has been crash tested to the same exacting Federal safety standards, and we include the actual data from every seat for your review and transparency.
But, the safety of each car seat depends on other factors, such as how easy it is to install and use the safety harness. So we extensively test those factors in our comparison of seats. A NHTSA study showed that 84% of infant seats exhibited critical misuse, either in the installation of the seat or restraint of the infant. A study of 267 families by Portland's top Children's Hospital shows that "95% of parents made at least one error in either the positioning of the infant or installation of the car safety seat." These kinds of mistakes could place your infant at an increased risk of injury in a crash. Our companion article, How to Avoid Infant Car Seat Installation Mistakes, is intended to help you know what the most common mistakes are so you can be sure your baby's car seat is installed and used safely.
Our infant car seat testing protocol was developed by an expert panel including Dr. Juliet Spurrier, Board-Certified Pediatrician. Dr. Spurrier's background in urgent care pediatrics influenced her concerns with crash-related injury and the common safety risks of improperly installed car seats. To that end, our testing includes a comprehensive 360-degree assessment of the factors that impact safety and practical day-to-day use. Our seat installation and ease-of-use tests were developed by Certified Passenger Safety Technician and Senior Review Analyst, Bob Wofford. Those tests are designed to assess car seat installation difficulty for maximum safety. We consulted with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) experts and the crash-testing experts at MGA Research to develop our testing protocol and analytical methods for crash-testing data. Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, mother of two, has been a lead analyst of our infant car seat test results since 2014. Wendy has examined, compared, and rated the detailed results of more than 2,680 individual car seat tests.
We performed our tests under the supervision and guidance of a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician. We conduct comprehensive testing that we use in combination with Crash Test data to determine each seat's performance regarding measured forces of impact during crash tests. While each product conforms to the minimum safety guidelines required by the federal government, they are not all easy to use and install, nor do they all have impressive crash-test results.
A key part of our testing is the analysis of the crash test results we commission. We purchase two copies of each car seat we review. We then send one seat to MGA for sled crash testing. We commission MGA to run independent, third-party testing using the same crash sled testing used by NHTSA. We then use the test results to analyze and rank each seat against the competition. We also have a relationship with NHTSA to utilize their crash test data for analysis.
All of the products in this review passed the federal safety requirements and, therefore, provide a minimum or basic level of crash safety protection and are considered safe.
Our analysis focuses on the options that provide an additional margin of safetyrelative to the competition based on the crash test sensor data analysis. For example, if a seat's sensor measures significantly lower impact forces (better) in the head sensors of the crash test dummy, resulting in a lower Head Injury Criteria (HIC) score, we believe the seat offers a higher margin of protection than competitors with higher (more forces) HIC scores.
We analyzed each car seat's crash sled test data to determine their performance compared to competitors and the federal safety standard. We include graphs comparing the actual crash test data in each product review and summarize them below.
So, what matters most when analyzing crash impact test results?
Risk of a head injury (HIC score)
Risk of a chest injury (G clip score)
The crash test data for HIC scores and the % below the NHTSA maximum of 1000 HIC scores for each car seat in the review are shown above. We focused on examining how large a margin of protection each product offers below the federal maximum HIC score of 1000. Products that are further left (with higher bars) can be considered as providing an additional margin of protection.
Above is a comparison of the actual test result values for the HIC. A result of 1000 is the maximum allowable to pass the test. A lower number is better as it indicates fewer forces on the passenger's head during the crash.
Above is the % below the federal maximum Chest (G) Clip score of 60 that each seat achieved. As with the HIC score, we focus on how large a margin of protection each option provides below the federal maximum Chest (G) Clip score of 60 in their crash test. Seats that are further left (with higher bars) are farther below the Federal maximum Chest score and can be considered as providing an additional margin of protection. Below is a comparison of the actual test results for each seat in an easy-to-compare chart. The maximum allowable result for this test is 60, and the best scores are the lower numbers.
We do not use crash test results from other sources, such as Consumer Reports, as we do not have access to their testing methods or results. There would be no way to effectively use their results in an apples-to-apples comparison so they would be relatively useless. All crash test analysis is completed using test results from the crash tests we pay for from MGA and the occasional NHTSA data that is publically available.
Analysis of child auto crash injuries shows that head and chest injuries present the two highest risks for serious or fatal injury.
Additional Crash Safety Features
Some of the car seats in this review have other features that can potentially impact their overall safety. In general, we didn't factor these features or claims in our analysis as there is little to no real-world or test data available to support or analyze the claims or features. While you might be intrigued by a product that brags about side impact protection (SIP) or an anti-rebound bar, we recommend that you avoid choosing based solely on these features or claims. Substantial information about the efficacy of these claims is surprisingly lacking. Also, there are no agreed-upon definitions for most of the terms batted about in the safety seat industry, nor are there universally accepted tests to investigate any claims and features. For these reasons, we feel it is wiser to stick to the crash test data analysis when comparing potential safety instead of buying into an unsupported or unexplained claim.
We compared crash test data from the Cybex Aton2 and the Peg Perego Nido using the load leg and without the load-leg to evaluate the load-leg safety feature. Testing results indicate that using the load-leg improved crash test performance and could potentially impact real-world crash scenarios for the Aton 2, but not the Nido. Begging the question of the actual efficacy of this type of feature. The Aton 2 has a HIC score of 340 using the load-leg and 521 without the leg (a lower number is better); these results indicate a higher margin of protection when using the leg with the Aton 2. Alternatively, the Nido has a HIC score of 573 with the load leg and 430 without it, indicating a more significant margin of safety not using the leg with the Nido. So, while there may be some validity to the concepts of features like the load leg, we don't think parents should be swayed by every safety advantage manufacturers' claims. With the details we have gathered, we can't account for the difference in efficacy from seat to seat and leg to leg. We can say that all other factors during testing were identical, and the results speak for themselves and create some lingering questions.
Ease of Installation is Directly Related to Safety
Crash tests and results are important, but most parents don't know that improper installation and misuse of infant car seats are significant causes of injury in car accidents. Our conversations with safety engineers at NHTSA emphasized that car seat misuse is a more significant safety issue than the differences between the crash test performance of each seat. A study conducted by NHTSA demonstrated that 84% of infant seats exhibited critical misuse, either in the installation of the seat or restraint of the infant. A study of 267 families by Portland's top Children's Hospital shows that "95% of parents made at least one error in either the positioning of the infant or installation of the car safety seat." These kinds of mistakes could place their infant at an increased risk of injury in a crash.
Given the crucial importance of correct installation to keep your baby safe, we strongly encourage you to seek installation help. It is vitally important that you install and use your car seat properly every time with NO exceptions. To ensure that your seat is installed correctly, seek advice from a professional car seat inspection technician (it's free!). Also, consider consulting an expert when you move the seat to a new vehicle or position.
Best Rated Seats in our Crash Test Analysis
Analyzing crash test results, we rate each option on a 1-10 scale to identify the seats that, in our opinion, offer an extra margin of safety, over and beyond the required protection for all safety seats.
The Cybex Aton 2 (with load-leg) earned our highest crash test rating. The Aton 2 has impressive crash test results, with the lowest G clip result in this review and the second-lowest HIC result (lower is better). Given its performance in other test metrics, we think the Cybex Aton 2 is excellent for parents concerned with crash test sensor data and analysis. Its results indicate that it offers an extra margin of protection over the competition. The Chicco Keyfit 35 also has impressive combined sensor results earning second-place honors. Not too shabby for a seat that cost below the average and earned top marks for LATCH installation. Also notable for offering additional protection are the Chicco KeyFit 30 with the lowest HIC result and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35.
Did you Know?
While each car seat sold in the United States must meet certain federal safety standards, neither NHTSA nor any other government entity conducts actual testing on every seat. Rather, they rely on the manufacturers to ensure that their seats comply with the standards. The federal government only conducts testing on a random selection of seats, not all car seats.
Ease of Installation with the LATCH System
Studies show that more than 7 out of 10 car seats are incorrectly installed, or the baby was improperly restrained, and 93% of parents make mistakes on car seat use on the way home from the hospital. This information is why we believe that ease-of-installation and ease-of-use are critical considerations and encourage parents to include these metrics in their review process before making a buying decision. It encompasses more than just making life easier.
The easiest way to install a car seat, and therefore, the method we recommend is the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. The good news is that your infant car seat and vehicle are likely LATCH-compatible on the left or right side of the back seat. Nearly every car seat, and most vehicles manufactured since September 1, 2002, have the LATCH system. According to NHTSA, over 60% of parents place their infant car seats on the left or right side. Most choose the passenger side so that the driver can more easily see their baby while driving. The middle position is also popular but often lacks LATCH anchors making it unsuitable.
The LATCH system should make correctly installing a car seat easier by reducing the chances of mistakes.
During testing, we experienced that some options are significantly easier to install using the LATCH method over other installation types. Part of what makes one seat easier with LATCH is the connector type. Lower-cost seats typically use clips, but the easiest-to-use options have click-in push-button style connectors (both are safe, just vary in ease of use, in our opinion).
The Cybex Aton 2 uses a push-button connector that clicks onto the LATCH anchor point (above left). The Chicco Fit2 and the Chicco Keyfit 35 earned 10 of 10 for the LATCH installation using the SuperCinch. The top-scoring seats have unique LATCH anchors or tightening systems that make installation significantly more manageable than other contenders. This group includes the UPPAbaby Mesa with its self-ratcheting LATCH straps that earn impressive marks and the Nuna Pipa with rigid LATCH connectors.
Our Child Passenger Safety Technician swiftly installed the UPPAbaby Mesa using LATCH. After clicking the Mesa to the LATCH anchor bars, you push down on the base, and the straps self-retract to tighten. Once adequately tight, the indicator turns green; it could not be easier than this.
Tightening and Loosening Straps
LATCH connectors are only the first part of the infant car seat installation strap equation. Whether or not the straps on the connectors are easy to tighten and loosen is also essential. We love the UPPAbaby Mesa's self-retracting straps, and the Chicco Keyfit 30 and the Keyfit 35 also sport an easy-to-adjust strap. In contrast, the Graco LATCH straps are more challenging to tighten and loosen than most competition. We prefer products that don't require body weight to tighten or struggle to complete a secure attachment, including the Nuna Pipa and Chicco Fit2.
Best Rated Seats for LATCH Installation
The best LATCH installation score goes to the Chicco Fit2, Chicco Keyfit 35, and Nuna Pipa. The UPPAbaby Mesa, Chicco Keyfit 30, and the Cybex Aton 2 all tied for second place with scores right below perfect. Studies indicate that easy-to-accomplish correct installation can translate to a potentially safer experience in an accident, as injuries from real-world crashes are often related to installation mistakes or harness use errors. The Baby Trend is a higher-scoring seat and inexpensive choice many parents will be able to install easily.
Ease of Installation with a Seat Belt
If you'd like to use your car seat in the center of your back seat, which is considered the safest location for a car seat, then you'll need to master seatbelt installation in most vehicles. Our tests give you the information to determine which contenders are easier than others.
Some of the options are significantly easier to install using a vehicle belt than others, and the "lock-off" feature is typically the key. About half of the seats in this review include a base with a vehicle belt lock-off. A lock-off will prevent the base from being able to slide up and down the seatbelt. Good lock-offs create a more secure feeling seatbelt installation than the LATCH installation. If your car lacks LATCH connection points or you want to install the seat in the middle vehicle seat, you will probably need to install the car seat using the vehicle belt.
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 and the Peg Perego Nido have the best belt lock-off systems in our tests.
Best Rated Seats for Seat Belt Installation
The lock-offs on the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35, Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35, and the Peg Perego Nido make installation a breeze compared to seats without a lock-off or with challenging lock-offs. The Chicco Keyfit 30 lock-off is harder and makes this type of installation frustrating. Thanks to strap curling and bunching, we struggled to get the vehicle belt in the lock. Despite this, we still prefer a challenging lock-off over no lock-off, with all else being equal. We believe a lock-off is critical to achieving a secure installation using the vehicle belt with the base.
Most bases lacking a lock-off didn't perform well in our tests. In general, they feel less secure because they often slide on the shoulder portion of the vehicle belt, resulting in the seat tilting, which feels unstable. The Baby Trend EZ Flex-Loc wants to flip up, and it could loosen up over time as you drive and the seat bounces.
Can't find your center seatbelt?
Look up. It might be in the ceiling! Some SUVs and wagons have a center seat belt in the ceiling that can be easily overlooked if you aren't used to that many passengers.
Ease of Installation Without the Base
You might be wondering, why do I care about installing the seat without the base?
The answer is simple: taxis, Uber, buses, and airplanes; this installation method is a helpful solution for any parent who frequents public transportation.
In our opinion, if you don't expect to take your infant on public transportation very often (or ever), then you can ignore this section and move on to Ease of Use. However, if you think you will travel with your baby or need to install the carrier in a car that isn't your own, this section might be essential to your buying choice.
For those living in urban areas who frequently travel by taxi or services like Uber, learning to install your seat without the base is critical. Also, for traveling on airplanes, the FAA recommends using an approved car seat, calling it the safest way for babies to fly. If you use an infant seat on a plane, you'll likely want to install it without the base to avoid carrying the base through the airport.
There are two belt paths for installing a carrier without the base, European and American. Every seat uses at least one way, and some allow both. If your carrier has the European path, but your car only has a lap belt, you can use the American method without impacting overall safety.
The American pathway threads the seatbelt across the leg portion of the carrier through the designated pathway. This path is straightforward and creates a secure attachment that passes safety regulations in the US. This style does not utilize the shoulder strap on the vehicle belt, even if it is there.
The European path also routes the vehicle belt across the lower part of the carrierandwraps the shoulder portion of the strap around the carrier's back under a retention clip. We think the shoulder belt offers a more secure feeling that results in less carrier shifting. We can't say it truly is more secure, only that it feels that way.
We believe the European belt path offers a more secure feeling connection with less movement than the American method, thanks to the shoulder belt holding the back snug to the vehicle seat. However, the American path is more straightforward and quick to perform. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 (above left) uses the European path, while the Graco SnugLock 35 (above right) features the American method.
Best Rated Seats for Installation Without the Base
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 and Peg Perego Nido use the European color-coded belt path with easy lock-offs, and they earned top marks for this test as a result. This result means they have the highest scores for two installation methods in our tests! Depending on your installation method, either seat could easily meet your requirements.
If you live in the city and use taxis or Uber, we encourage you to consider the top-ranked options in this metric, as you'll typically need to install your seat without the base to avoid lugging both components around town. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 and the UPPAbaby Mesa have impressive scores for ease of installation without the base and are potential contenders for public transportation. The Doona only earns high marks for installation without using the base, and it converts to a stroller when you reach your destination, eliminating the need for additional gear. This design makes it an excellent choice for urbanites looking to decrease the hassle of baby transportation. In fact, we feel that the Doona is one of the best options for city dwellers, thanks to its strolling capabilities.
Ease of Use
At first glance, the infant seats seem similar and look like they function virtually identical. Not so. The contenders in this review are different regarding our test results for ease of use. Buckles, harness adjustments, handles, and carrier release mechanisms can be frustrating or straightforward and everywhere in between.
Never Leave Baby in the Carrier Outside of a Vehicle
While it is tempting to leave your sleeping little one in a carrier when you reach your destination, this action could be potentially dangerous and is definitely not recommended. Babies sleeping in car seats, swings, and bouncers have a higher risk of positional asphyxiation. Positional asphyxiation happens when the baby's body position prevents breathing. This issue can happen when the baby's head falls forward and potentially blocks the airway. A 2015 study of children under two years old who died in a sitting or carrying device showed that slightly over half of the 31 deaths involving car seats were a direct result of positional asphyxiation. To avoid potentially dangerous issues, always remove your baby from the car seat and put them to sleep on their back, in a crib or bassinet.
Buckle Release Buttons
Some seats have stiff, hard-to-use buckles. Getting your baby out of the carrier can be challenging if the buckle requires two thumbs. We think the Graco buttons are hard to use, and some also have challenging chest clips. The Peg Perego Nido and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 have buckles we dream about that virtually fall apart when you push them. However, the Nido chest clip is stiff and can create pain. Removing your baby swiftly and without complication is a must, and we favor products with easy buckle and chest clip combos.
For harness tightening and loosening in our tests, the Doona impresses. The strap pulls smoothly, and the release button requires less pressure than the competition. The Peg Perego Nido and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 harnesses are also easier to use.
Adjusting the Harness as Your Baby Grows
Adjusting shoulder strap height has two methods depending on the seat design. One involves detaching the shoulder straps from a splitter plate on the back and rethreading them through a higher slot before sliding the straps back on the splitter (above left). The other method is more straightforward and includes disengaging the height adjustment assembly (usually with a button or lever) and sliding it up or down (above right). The latter can occur immediately with your baby in the seat when you notice a need. The former typically requires an empty carrier and can be challenging to thread and adjust depending on the straps, the slots, or the padding. We feel parents are more likely to maintain a correctly fitted harness if it is straightforward, quick, and immediate when needed (i.e., when you first put your baby in the seat). Making immediate changes when the need arises is better than waiting for a more convenient moment. For these reasons, we believe non-rethread harnesses are better and theoretically safer for little ones.
Only a few options are the non-rethread harness style. They can operate from the front or back, depending on the design. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 and Peg Perego Nido earned the highest scores with smooth-moving, easy-to-operate assemblies. The UPPAbaby Mesa came in second place, and the Chicco Fit2 was next for its sliding assembly. The most challenging shoulder strap height adjustment is the Cybex Aton 2 with a difficult strap and splitter connection.
The Chicco Keyfit 30, Chicco Keyfit 35, and the Chicco Fit2 carriers are the easiest to attach to the base. They each fell smoothly into place, and we didn't experience mistakes. The UPPAbaby Mesa comes in a close second. The most challenging connect is the Cybex Aton 2, but it includes a visual indicator of when the carrier is on correctly. Hence, while more difficult, the indicator helps prevent a misconnection.
Most of the handles in this review are similar and unremarkable. They operate by squeezing or pushing buttons simultaneously on side pivot points and rotating the handle to the desired position. The number of positions and which positions are allowable for driving varies from seat to seat (see your manual). The major issue is the handle/canopy collision we found in several seats. This problem is most prevalent in the Graco seats, though the Peg Perego Nido also struggles. All Graco handles and canopies we've ever tested are the same height, making it challenging to use the handle when the canopy is open. It is a silly design flaw, but it is annoying and unnecessary. We hoped they'd alter the design in newer seats, but the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 remains the same. Sadly, the new Chicco Keyfit 35 has a similar issue. Other problems involve sharp plastic where fingers grip. The most comfortable handle is the UPPAbaby Mesa. The most unique may be the BabyTrend EZ Flex-Loc with its odd, triangle-shaped padded grip at the top.
LATCH storage can impede your ability to connect the seat carrier to the base. Designs that limit or prohibit efficient and correct seat installation lost points in our testing. Many of the cheaper options in this review have straps that can hinder a carrier connection.
Best Rated Seats for Ease of Use
The Doona earned top results for ease of use. Right on its heels are the Chicco Keyfit 30, Chicco Keyfit 35, UPPAbaby Mesa (above left), Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35, Peg Perego Nido, and the Chicco Fit2.
We compare the materials and how well they are assembled and work together for comfort and quality. We consider details such as padding, fabric, and canopies and how these translate to comfort, use, and potential longevity.
All seats have similarities, such as dense foam for impact protection and a hard plastic shell. However, some have thicker padding or softer fabrics. Overall, the seats with superior comfort and attention to detail are top performers for comfort and quality.
Best Rated Seats for Comfort and Quality
The most impressive option for comfort and quality is the Nuna Pipa (above left). Other standouts include the Chicco Fit2 and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35. These products have thicker padding, softer fabric, and a better finish than competitors.
While we measure the weight of both the car seat base and the "carrier" (i.e., the detachable car seat part you carry), we consider the carrier weight the most important. If a carrier is too heavy, carrying it for a long time will be challenging. Some of the bases are seriously heavy, but we only factored the weight of the carrier in our scoring because the base usually stays in the car. Yet, many parents will be carrying the car seat at some point every day. Even if you travel, the car seat's base weight won't necessarily matter since the carrier can typically be installed using the seat belt (without requiring the base) for most car seats.
Best Rated Seats for Weight
The carrier weights vary between 7.44 lbs for the Graco SnugRide 35 Lite LX and 16.8 lbs for the Doona; the average for the group is 10.5 lbs. This vast difference can make the Doona feel like a non-starter for carrying. However, this unique car seat doubles as a stroller, so you won't need to carry it if you don't want to (unless it is up or down stairs). While we don't believe that weight is the top consideration for most families, we think it can be relevant and help break a tie depending on your lifestyle and plans to carry. The BabyTrend EZ Flex-Loc is only 8.63 lbs, making it a good choice if you need to carry the seat very far or plan to travel.
There are so many infant car seats it can be difficult to claim that any particular seat will meet the needs of every family or infant. Every family has a unique lifestyle with specific requirements and budgets that can impact the kind of seat they end up buying. As a result, we've tested and ranked the infant car seats in this lineup to provide the information you need to make the best buying decision for your goals and budget. With our details and analysis of the MGA crash test data, we believe you can narrow your options to a few car seats that can meet your needs and budget.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.