Carseats for Infants

Archived Q&A and Reviews

What carseat do you like best for a baby?

Feb 2004

I looked in the archives but haven't seen any recommendations for car seats since 2001. I am wondering which car seats parents liked the best. We have a 2004 car, so we can install the seat with the newly required hitches, rather than having to use the seatbelt. Are there carseats that will fit an infant and last for a while? Or do you have to buy a new one every year or so?

We did a lot of research and got a Graco Snugride for newborn-5 months, and a Britax Marathon after that (we will probably have to get a booster seat eventually). Technically the Britax Marathon is supposed to work for a newborn too, but it is very convenient to be able to take the carseat out of the car when your newborn is sleeping (and light enough to carry in the seat). Ours actually slept at night in the carseat, placed in the bassinett, from about 1 month to about 5 months. Anyway, we've been very happy with both seats, and bought them because they were rated safest, but the Britax is very expensive. The Graco was hard to install, but if you buy it from a local store they'll install it for you, or you can make an appointment at the police station and have them do it. anon

You can buy a ''convertible'' carseat that is usable from the day your baby is born up to somewhere around 3 or 4 years of age. At that point you would buy a ''booster'' seat which is used until the child is 6-8 years old.

However, most people find it much more convenient to use an infant carrier seat (AKA ''bucket'') for a newborn, and carrier seats generally are easier to install properly and adjust for a small baby. I recommend getting one unless your budget is very tight. (These seats are also sensible if you'll need to transport the baby in more than one car on a regular basis. You can spend an extra $20 or so on a second base, which stays in the car, and just move the carrier part between the two bases. This is easier and cheaper than getting two convertible seats, and it's a lot easier than uninstalling and reinstalling one convertible seat every time you want to use the other car.) The bucket seat will last from birth to somewhere around 6 months, depending on your baby's size. (Some outgrow them by 3 months, others not until a year.) Ours was a Graco SnugRide; it's a well-rated and popular model, and we liked it.

When your baby outgrows the bucket seat, at around 26'' or 20 pounds (whichever comes first), you need a convertible seat installed rear-facing. A larger seat (such as the Britax Marathon or Cosco Alpha Omega) will last longer because it has a higher weight and/or height limit than the standard/smaller ones (such as the Britax Roundabout or Graco Accel) but you may have a hard time getting a bigger one into your car, especially in rear-facing position (which is necessary until your baby is at least 1 year old and at least 20 pounds, and is preferable as long thereafter as possible, up to the seat's weight and height limits for that position). So some people buy a standard convertible (e.g., a Roundabout) and use it for a year or two, and then get a larger convertible or toddler seat (e.g., a Marathon or Husky) sometime after their child is riding forward- facing. Most people who do that need the smaller seat for the next child, so they'd be buying another one anyway. :-) One advantage of getting a Marathon (65 lb. limit) or Husky (80 lb. limit) at that point is that you can avoid switching to a belt- positioning booster as long as possible (harnessed seats are safer than boosters), which is especially important if your child is large for his age.

Britax seats, in general, have the best reputation for quality, comfort, ease of installation/use, and safety. They are also expensive. For us it was worth it, and we have liked our Roundabout Advantage and our Husky very much.

If you can't afford Britax, check the Consumer Reports ratings, the Baby Bargains book, and the information at and various other places. There are many brands and models of convertible seat that are safe and not too difficult to install and use; which one is best for you depends on the car(s) you drive, the size and body type of your child, and the type of trips you take.

Britax car seats are the best! With 3 kids I've owned many car seats, and Britax is the easiest to use, and most comfy for baby. They also have the best safety ratings. They can be used forward or backward, so both infant and toddlers can use one seat. They're more expensive but worth every penny.

I purchased a peg perego car seat because I really liked the stroller (plikomatic) as far as 'travel systems' went. In the end, I found the car seat to be VERY safe to the point of almost confining. If I got in an accident, my child wasn't going anywhere. The seat was expensive (about $150) and I only used if for six months. I don't have a wide child, but a very long one, so she grew out of it quickly. Many of my friends who purchased Graco's could keep their infants in the infant seats for a few more months. But, I didn't like their strollers too much (I really wanted an umbrella stroller).

The 'latch' car seats are great. They are very easy to install. The down side is that you have to lug the base with you everywhere.

I have since purchased a Britax Roundabout which I love. It is light weight (key when lugging around airport) and for my baby's rate of weight gain, it should last her until it is time to put her in a booster seat.

If I had to do it over again (the best advice that I never got), I would have borrowed an infant seat and then purchased a car reversible car seat when she hit six months. Infant seats are great for newborns because newborns sleep ALL OF THE TIME. It is nice to not have to get them out of a car seat, into a stroller ,etc while they are sleeping. Also, I would buy one of those cheap 'universal' car seat carriers. After a few months, then I would have looked to buy a real stroller and not have gotten lured into buying a 'travel system.' I am happy with my Pliko-matic, but see several other high quality umbrella strollers that I would have preferred, but when I was shopping, I wouldn't look past getting a travel system.

Hope that helps.

The Britax Marathon or Roundabout can be used from infancy to toddlerhood. We started off with an infant seat and then graduated a few months later to the Britax. Though we could have used the britax earlier I liked the infant carrier because of it's portablitly. When they are so little an sleeping so much it is really nice to be able to snap them out of the car seat and into the shopping cart or stroller or into the house or where ever - something I would love to do now especially a half hour into a marathon nap in the car! I'd get the infant car seat and then trade up later. If cost is a concern check out this listervs marketplace where you can often find great deals on used car seats- especially the infant ones that you can pick up for 50% off or more- and since this isn't an item which is used for extended periods of time I'd bet most were in excellent condition. I also have seen used ones at places like Fashion After Passion in Alameda.