Car seats are vital for the safety of children when traveling anywhere in a vehicle, and the guidelines are solid for what your kid needs depending on their height, weight, and age.
Experts recommend a rear-facing car seat for at least the first year of life, switching to a forward-facing model once they hit the one to three year age bracket. After that, you’ll want to switch to a booster seat appropriate for their size and keep them in that, seated in the back, until they reach 4’9” or age of 12, whichever happens first.
So for all the years from birth until then, we looked at some favorites across the board and even got a couple of expert recommendations. Below you’ll find a variety of top-rated car seats of both the specialized and variable variety, in price points that will accommodate many budgets.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn a commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing, expert advice and our own research. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Our first recommendation comes from Olga Zakharchuk, Founder & CEO of useful parenting resource site Baby Schooling, who chose the Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat that sees your child through up to 10 years of safe riding and is safe for children four to 120 pounds.
“Graco's Protect Plus label means the car seat has been through extra rigorous safety tests, which is the most important and best feature of this choice,” Olga adds of her choice, adding, “The cover pops off for easy machine washing, the seat comes in a variety of stylish colors, it's simple to latch in and out of the car, and is overall just a really smart choice for a car seat.”
On top of this glowing report, thousands of Amazon users have also invested in the piece and left near-unanimously satisfactory reviews. A whopping 97% of folks who purchased Graco’s 4 in 1 would recommend it to other parents in the market for a car seat.
Graco came up again when ParentingPassage.com’s founder Darah G. weighed in on the subject.
“As a parenting expert I totally understand the importance of a good car seat,” the author and mother of a three year old son explains. “Safety experts advice the safest way for a baby or toddler to sit is rear facing. With this in mind it is important to get a seat that is suitable to fit your child rear facing for as long as possible.”
Like the Graco mentioned above, this model is meant to grow with your child and fits kids who weigh anywhere from four to 65 pounds with a 4-position extension panel that adjusts to provide five inches of extra leg room which allows the child to safely ride rear-facing longer before switching to forward facing later on. Darah praises these components and notes the seat is “easy to use and light weight,” so handling it simpler on already-tired parents’ arms.
The Britax is slightly less versatile for growing children but ideal for the smallest of the bunch, with babies from four to 35 pounds fitting snugly in this well-made seat for the safest ride possible almost unanimously approved by real parents.
One compelling review says the seat “kept my baby safe during a car accident,” a nightmare for any parent. They continue: “The base of the seat had some damage but the baby was perfectly protected. I immediately ordered an exact replacement. I’m thankful for Britax!”
This model is a bit heavier than the Graco options, so that’s something to consider if you’re a particularly small person or need something lightweight, but heavy usually points to a solid construction and thus could alleviate some parental anxieties in situations like the wreck mentioned above. It’s also USA-made, assembled at the company’s South Carolina headquarters.
For the growing toddler in your life, this Evenflo Chase Plus Booster seat is a godsend on a budget. Less than $60 will get you a solid seat that holds kids 22 to 120 pounds, and two color options let you pick between a neutral gray and bright pink to match your child’s mood and preferences.
“Evenflo always never ceased to amaze me,” one reviewers raves. “This seat is so comfortable, for my son, the belts are easily moveable to help adjust to his body.” They also praise the two cup holders that come with the seat, noting their usefulness in keeping your curious tot busy while you drive.
Once big kids graduate into just needing a lil’ boost on the go (40 to 100 pound children are covered here), this $20 option will provide the extra couple of inches they need to stay safe and get a better view out the window on road trips. Cup holders let them bring along a beverage and snack and if they spill, the cushion is removable and fully washable. Buyers love how “cute and sturdy” it is, and many are so impressed by the low price point that they’ve purchased extras for grandparents’ cars as well.