While we didn’t conduct crash testing ourselves, we chose to only evaluate products whose manufacturers had thoroughly tested each device for safety. Since being a parent is a full-time job, we wanted to find products with convenience features to make your life a little easier. We looked at user reviews, safety certifications and convenience features to compare the products in adjustability, durability, ease of use and overall safety.
We also evaluated products based on price. Less expensive car seats scored extra points, but to rank among the best they must have all the safety features combined with essential convenience features. Products with longer warranties also scored higher.
We chose to evaluate only car seats that had undergone thorough crash testing and were certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Keep in mind that the NHTSA does not require manufacturers to publish crash test results. We looked for rear-facing car seats that had high weight and height limits to accommodate growing children. Car seats that could account for larger babies scored higher. We also awarded more points to car seats that could convert to face forward when your child is old enough.
We looked for center-pull adjustments, since you can typically tighten these safety restraints with one hand. We gave more points to car seats with adjustable handles and moveable canopy shields, as these allow you to use the car seat and move your baby around easier.
We wanted to make sure that the car seats in our comparison would stand the test of time. The only time your car seat will be fully put to the test is if there is a crash, but there are certain features that can add to its durability. We only chose car seats that offered side-impact protection, LATCH connectors and energy-absorbent foam, as these features raised the durability of a carrier. The length of a car seat’s warranty can often portray the confidence the manufacturer places in the product. For that reason, we gave more points to car seats with longer warranties.
Ease of Use & Convenience
In our assessment, we considered how easy it was to install and remove the device. We gave more points to car seats that included stay-in-car bases as these helped save time. For these same reasons, we scored a device higher if it had an adjustable carrying handle, could be used on a variety of strollers, came with machine-washable cushions and could be installed without the base.
How Much Should I Spend on a Baby Car Seat?
Price is an important factor, but when it comes to baby car seats, safety is always first. The more expensive car seats in our comparison are between $200 and $350, but they have innovative and safe design features that make it easy to properly install in your car. The more cost-effective models in our guide range from $100 to $200 and are certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but are missing some convenience features like a stay-in-car base and machine washable cushions and canopy.