Adding a baby car seat to your registry? Read our recs for the safest infant car seats, convertible car seats, and travel systems right now.
If there’s one baby-gear purchase new parents will carefully consider, it’s the car seat. It’s a symbol of your baby’s safety in the world—in fact, you can’t leave the hospital without one.
For little babies, car seats come in two basic types: rear-facing infant car seats and convertible car seats. A third, the travel system, combines a car seat with a stroller.
Rear-facing car seats are the only safe option for newborns and are considered mandatory up to a max height and weight that varies by the seat. Rear-facing seats attach to a base that stays in the car, making the seat itself conveniently portable (think: baby stays asleep while you both move from car to home or another location).
Convertible, or “all in one,” car seats transition from rear-facing to forward facing to booster seat. By growing with your baby, a convertible model extends the life of the car seat.
The key difference between an infant seat and a convertible seat is that a convertible is heavier and not designed to easily pop in and out of the base, so it’s just not as portable.
How to Choose the Best Car Seat?
One thing to keep in mind when choosing a car seat: All models sold in the United States are required to meet the same standards for safety and installation, which is, of course, a very good thing.
Lots of features have also become industry standard, including ergonomics designed for baby’s comfort in addition to safety, a five-point harness, and a base included in the package. Integrated harness holders are becoming widely available, so parents can easily tuck straps out of the way when getting baby in/out of the seat—that means no more fighting a cranky little one AND floppy straps at the same time.
With the basics of safety, utility, and comfort in place, it’s the “extras” you’re deciding among when you choose a car seat for your family—things like higher-end materials, slim design, and compatibility with your particular car.
You’ll want to consider your personal situation and preferences:
- How big is your car, and how will you access the car seat?
- How many other kids will typically be in the back seat?
- What’s the installation process in relation to your car?
- Are there extra safety features that are particularly important to you?
- How important is style? Ease of maintenance?
- Do you want a travel system—a car seat/stroller set with a compatible stroller frame?
There’s a lot to think about! To help you get started, we combed baby registries on MyRegistry.com and added our own research to find some of the top car seats available in the market right now. From top sellers to niche models, budget-friendly to top-of-the-line, here are our picks for the coming year, including what makes each one worth considering. (You can add a car seat and any other gifts you like to a universal baby registry right here on MyRegistry.)
Infant, or Rear-Facing, Car Seats
MaxiCosi Coral XP
The new MaxiCosi Coral XP stands out for its modularity and four different carry modes: an innovative cross-body strap for the lightweight inner carrier (hello, hands-free errands); two grabbable side handles on the inner carrier; a standard overhead handle for the nested inner carrier and shell (letting you take the whole thing with you); and a stroller compatible option.
- Inner carrier weighs just 5 pounds
- Inner carrier that allows parents to keep baby closer, sling style
- Suitable for babies weighing as little as 4 pounds
- Stroller compatibility includes select Maxi-Cosi strollers and other brands such as UPPAbaby and Stokke
MaxiCosi Coral XP Infant Car Seat
Britax B-Safe 35
The Britax B-Safe 35 offers all the features at a great price. This cozy infant seat has a contoured shell, which means it takes up less space in your car (and also minimizes side-to-side movement to maximize protection). Just note that it’s on the heavier side, relative to similar models.
- Easy-release harness button makes it simple to loosen harness straps
- Ergonomic handle makes carrying comfortable with hand or forearm
- Extra-large canopy gives extra protection from sun and rain
- Pairs with any Britax stroller to become a travel system, no adapters necessary
Britax B-Safe 35 | Target
Stokke Pipa by Nuna
The Stokke Pipa by Nuna combines good looks with all the protection and safety features a new parent wants. It’s compatible with all Stokke strollers as well, transforming into a travel system without the need for adaptors. Since it can also be used with a car’s seat belt, it works well for city living or city traveling, in addition to being aircraft-certified for most airlines.
- Fabric covers designed to keep baby cool when it’s warm out and warm when it’s cooler
- SPF 50 sun canopy with mesh window
- Steel stability leg that greatly minimizes forward rotation in the event of impact
- Ergonomic, lightweight aluminum handlebar for portability
Stokke® PIPA™ by Nuna® Travel System
The UPPAbaby MESA is notable for its intuitive design and easy installation, with a clear indicator light that changes from red to green to confirm the base has been installed correctly every time—perfect for on-the-go parents who might transfer the seat between cars.
- No-rethread harness eliminates need to redo the harness system as baby grows and means less room for error
- Adjustable headrest reinforced with EPP foam offers added protection in the event of side-impact collision
- Breathable fabric wicks away moisture to help keep baby comfortable
- Compatible with the UPPAbaby VISTA stroller to become a travel system
UPPAbaby® MESA Infant Car Seat
Nuna Pipa Lite
Nuna is a European manufacturer of baby gear designed with the idea that if a product is easy to use, parents will love using it. The Nuna Pipa Lite uniquely combines protection and portability, but the key here is that it’s super lightweight for easy toting, without sacrificing any of the safety features you’re buying a car seat for.
- Just 5.3 pounds (not including canopy or insert)
- All elements sourced to be flame resistant and contain no added fire retardant chemicals
- Luxe features include cozy micro-knit fabric and a leather-look carry handle
- Removable UPF 50+ canopy
Nuna Pipa Lite Infant Car Seat
All-in-One Convertible Car Seats
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One
Offering a seriously long life span, the Britax One4Life will grow with your child for up to 10 years. Starting out as a rear-facing infant seat, it converts to a forward-facing 5-point harness seat, then a high-back belt-positioning booster seat, to take you from infant to toddler, preschool, and big kid (from 5 to 120 pounds and up to 63 inches tall).
- 15-position headrest and harness
- Harness adjuster designed for one-handed tightening
- 9-position recline, offering the best fit for each vehicle
- Soft harness pads designed to stay put and help prevent rubbing against child’s neck
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
Diono radian 3QXT All-in-One
The Diono radian 3QXT ups the convertible car seat game with five levels, ranging from birth to booster, plus four stages of newborn protection: a protection insert, a travel high wedge, a positioning liner, and harness pads for a custom fit.
- Accommodates rear-facing position up to 50 pounds (or approximately 4 years old)
- Slim design allows three across in most cars without compromising child or other passenger comfort
- Steel anti-rebound bar that also allows more legroom in the rear-facing position
- Add-ons include: waterproof seat protector, angle adjuster, seat gripper, and parent-view mirror
Diono radian 3QXT All-in-One | Nordstrom
Chicco Fit4 4-in-1
Designed to offer just the right fit and comfort at each age/stage, the Chicco Fit4 4-in-1 will safely, securely, and comfortably accommodate your child from newborn baby through big kid in a booster seat (from 4 to 100 pounds, and up to 57 inches). Gracos’s 4-Stage FitKit System is made up of easy-to-remove layers for a perfect fit at each transition.
- As baby grows, the QR Code on the side of the seat can be scanned for transition instructions
- Chicco’s SuperCinch LATCH tightener attaches seat securely with a fraction of the effort
- 10-position headrest and 9 recline positions
- Slim design, for more free space in the backseat
Chicco Fit4 4-in-1 | buybuy BABY
Like all convertible car seats, Graco’s Extend2Fit transitions from a rear-facing harness seat (for babies 4 to 50 pounds) to forward-facing (22 to 65 pounds). What differentiates Extend2Fit is an adjustable extension panel for up to five inches of additional legroom, so your baby can ride in a rear-facing position longer.
- 10 headrest heights
- 6-position recline
- Graco’s push-button InRight LATCH for easy attachment with an audible click indicator
- Removable head and body inserts and a machine-washable seat pad
Graco Extend2Fit | buybuy BABY
Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1
Looking for a more budget-friendly option in a convertible car seat? The Safety 1st Grow and Go is an all-in-one that will take you from newborn right out of the hospital to big kid trips to sports practice—and every stage in between—all while exceeding federal safety standards.
- Takes up less space in the back seat, for several inches of extra room in the front
- Seat pad is machine washable and dryer safe, without removing the harness
- YouTube videos are available to help with installation and moving from one car to another
- Color options from basic gray-black to mint, pink, and aqua
Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 | Target
Evenflo Folio3 Stroll & Jog with LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat
The Evenflo Folio3 is what’s known as a crossover: The car seat transitions (with no adaptor needed) from the base to a lightweight stroller that has all the features you want for everyday walks, along with large pneumatic tires for trekking over any terrain. A front-wheel swivel lock and adjustable handle are added benefits for jogging parents.
- One-hand, in-seat release lets you fold easily to an ultra-compact, self-standing position
- Removable plush head pillow offers both comfort and added safety as baby travels out and about
- Large storage compartment, plus parent console with deep cup holders
- Full-coverage canopy with peekaboo window
Evenflo Folio3 Stroll & Jog with LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat | Walmart
Doona+ Car Seat & Stroller
The Doona+ Car Seat & Stroller is a bit higher end. Like all travel systems, it allows on-the-go parents to move from car to street while baby stays comfortably secure in the seat. It also has a lot of style, with a sleek charcoal aluminum frame, a black inner seat cover, and a choice of six colors for the canopy and other accents: Flame Red, Blush Pink, Racing Green, Grey Hound, Nitro Black, and Royal Blue.
- Rear-facing only
- Add-ons include: rain cover, snap-on storage, 360-degree protection sunshade, and insect net
- Adjustable handlebar also serves as an anti-rebound bar inside the car
- FAA aircraft-approved for travel
Doona+ Car Seat & Stroller | PishPoshBaby
MaxiCosi Zelia Max 5-in-1
The super functional Zelia Max 5-in-1 adds a carriage mode to the stroller mix. The Mico Max 30 infant car seat travels in-car with the stationary base, while the stroller function offers five positions: a parent-facing and an outward-facing full-recline carriage, a parent-facing and an outward-facing stroller/toddler seat, and the car seat stroller attachment.
- Sophisticated color options with tan vegan-leather trim
- Extendable canopy with mesh window for airflow and peek-a-boo access
- Contoured car seat handle that curves around parent’s hip for more comfortable carrying
- Stroller includes a spacious storage basket and folds easily into an upright position
Maxi-Cosi® Zelia Max 5-in-1 | buybuy BABY
Car Seat Accessories
We’ve also found a few car seat accessories that will make the ride more comfortable (and fun) for you and baby.
Car Seat Cuties Fairy | MaterialJill
Wimmer-Ferguson Sight & Sounds Travel Toy | buybuy BABY
Brica Baby In-Sight Car Mirror | Munchkin
Car Seat Cuties Pirate | MaterialJill
BRITAX Head & Body Support Pillow | Bed Bath & Beyond
Having a Baby?
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