Best Car Seats 2021

Seatcheck’s SafeDad Picks the Top Recommended Carseats for 2021 & 2022

Many clients ask me for recommendations for their next car seat.  While I do not sell child safety seats myself, I do appreciate it when customers use my links to Amazon, Walmart or Target before purchasing a car seat.  I get a small commission and you get the same great deal with my advice!

As an expert with decades of experience and training, I always advise caregivers that the “best” seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, fits your budget, and will be used properly every single trip. This means there’s no single best seat for every situation, and it also means that *your* best seat might not be on this list. That’s OK! The list below contains seats which are generally found to be easy to use and to fit a fair variety of children and vehicles well. There are inexpensive and pricey seats on the list. While all seats have to meet the same basic safety standards, some seats may have features which make them more comfortable or easier to use.

Speaking of safety, it’s not unusual to hear a parent say they purchased this seat or that one because “it was the safest.” While some seats may have features which could improve their performance in a crash, there aren’t any reliable, comprehensive crash test comparisons for US and Canadian seats. This means that there’s no way to tell if one seat is actually safer than another in the real world. Fortunately, a properly used seat provides excellent protection in most crashes. I hope the below list aids you in your search, and if you have any questions, please ask them on our forums!

Within each category, seats are listed roughly in order of increasing price. Price ratings are based on typical retail prices as of September, 2021, with the following key for all seats except boosters:
$: Less than $100
$$: $101-$150
$$$: $151-$200
$$$$: $201-$300
$$$$$: Over $300

Rear Facing Only Seats (rear facing with a carrying handle, also known as “infant seats”

  • Evenflo LiteMax 35 ($): 3*-35 pounds; Budget model that tends to fit preemies and small newborns very well; more compact than previous Evenflo models with incorporation of an anti-rebound handle position. Features range from basic on lower end models to high-end features like sensor-containing chest clip and load leg on base on higher trim models. (*Note: use for children with weight 3-4 lbs. and height from 15.75-17” is with physician approval and is retroactive, stated in Evenflo FAQs. This is a great option for discharge of smaller healthy babies.)
  • Graco Snugride SnugLock (various models) ($$-$$$): 4-35 pounds; features vary slightly with model. Built in tightening and locking mechanism in base.
  • Chicco Keyfit 30 ($$$): 4-30 pounds. Easy to install with LATCH or seatbelt, compatible with a number of Chicco strollers. A perennial favorite, far and away the most often recommended by our community.
  • Nuna Pipa Lite/RX ($$$$): 4-32 pounds. Rigid lower LATCH, load leg (“stability leg”), seatbelt lockoffs on base, extra large canopy, compatible with several high-end strollers. I recommend the RX models with the newer and improved RELX base.
  • Clek Lling ($$$$$): 4-35 pounds. Rigid lower LATCH, load leg, built in belt-tensioning system in base, UPF canopy with peekaboo window, narrow for 3 across, recline adjusts after installation of base, excellent fit for small and large babies.

Convertibles (rear or forward facing)

  • Evenflo Sureride ($): RF 5-40 pounds, FF 22-65 pounds; inexpensive seat with extremely high top harness setting so that it lasts a long time.
  • Graco Contender 65 ($$): RF 5-40 pounds, FF 20-65 pounds; shell as tall as the more expensive Graco convertibles at a bargain price with a few less convenience features; fits average to large newborns with newborn insert.
  • Graco Extend2Fit ($$$): RF 4-50 pounds; FF 22-65* pounds. Roomy yet compact seat has a panel that allows more leg room rear-facing, low-priced option for heavier children to rear-face longer. *Please note: The Extend2Fit requires a recline for forward facing children under 40 lbs. that is so extreme it results in widespread incompatibility in this mode. We do not recommend this seat if you have a lighter-weight child whom you intend to turn forward-facing before they reach 40 lbs. due to installation difficulty in that mode. (Once 40 lbs. the seat can be installed more upright which resolves the installation issues.)
  • Britax Boulevard Click Tight ($$$$): RF 5-40 pounds, FF 22-65 pounds; nearly foolproof seatbelt installation, very tall shell.
  • Chicco Nextfit Zip ($$$$): RF 5-40 pounds, FF 22-65 pounds; “SuperCinch” tightening system for installation, good ease of use, long-lasting.  Easy-off cover for cleaning.

Combinations/Harnessed Boosters (forward facing with harness or as a booster without harness)

  • Chicco MyFit ($$$): 22-65 pounds harnessed; booster 40-100 pounds. Multi-position recline with built-in lockoffs and a narrow-contoured base make this a choice for comfort and for simpler installation in many vehicles, though not suited for vehicles with forward-of-the-bight seatbelts.  Very tall height limits.
  • Graco Nautilus SnugLock ($$$$): 20-65 pounds harnessed; booster to 100 pounds high backed, 120 backless. The highly-compatible design of the Nautilus with the added benefit of the SnugLock automatic tightening and locking mechanism for simple install with or without locking shoulder belts.
  • Britax Grow With You ClickTight ($$$$): 25 lb – 65 pounds harnessed; Booster to 120 pounds. Highest seated torso-height harness adjustment of any seat currently available, nearly foolproof seatbelt installation.

Dedicated Boosters (positions the seatbelt properly)
Since boosters tend to be less expensive than harnessed seats, the price rating has been adjusted as follows:
$: Less than $20
$$: $21-$50
$$$: $51-100
$$$$: $101-150
$$$$$: Over $150

High-backed Boosters

  • Graco Highback Turbobooster ($$): 40-100 pounds. Removable back, widely available, inexpensive. Nearly universal fit-to-child.
  • Chicco Kidfit ($$$): High back booster 30-100 pounds, backless booster 40-110 pounds. Cushy cover, comfortable seat, and removable back make this a community favorite.
  • Graco Highback Affix ($$$): 40-100 pounds. Removable back, LATCHable. Fits children like the TurboBooster.
  • Britax Highpoint ($$$$$): 40-120 pounds. Extremely tall seat is great for tall or long-torsoed children. SG clip is an anti-submarine feature that helps keep the belt positioned low on the child’s lap, below the hips. Flexible LATCH.

Backless Boosters

  • Harmony Youth Booster ($): 30-100 pounds. A cheap, lightweight booster good to have for a spare, carpool rides, or everyday use in a smaller vehicle.
  • Graco Backless Turbobooster ($): 40-100 pounds. A classic, this booster has been a favorite for years because of good belt positioning, wide availability, and variety of designs.
  • Bubblebum ($$): 40-100 pounds. Inflatable booster is easy to take along for travel or carpool, positions the belt well on most booster aged children.
  • Graco RightGuide ($$): 50-120 pounds. A nearly heightless booster that is great for older children who have outgrown a traditional booster, but still need a bit of belt positioning. Intended for 5 years and up.

 

All-In-One or 3-in-1 Seats (Rear-facing, forward-facing with harness and booster modes)

I generally recommend that parents buy a top Convertible Carseat above, then later buy a high back or backless booster.  This generally saves money and gives you a newer, cleaner, and more flexible booster seat when they are older.  If you do get an all-in-one, these models offer easy installation and have few compromises!

 

Narrow options for middle seats and compact vehicles

  • Chicco Keyfit 30 ($$$): 4-30 pounds. Easy to install with LATCH or seatbelt, compatible with a number of Chicco strollers. A perennial favorite, far and away the most often recommended by our community.
  • Cosco Scenera NEXT ($): RF 5-40 pounds, FF 22-40 pounds; a good choice for an inexpensive seat.
  • Graco SlimFit3 LX or True3Fit ($$$$) Very narrow.  Not to be confused with the standard SlimFit.
  • Maxi-Cosi RodiFix ($$$$) Narrower than average and no “arms” making it easier for kids to self-buckle
  • BubbleBum ($$) A very narrow backless booster
  • RideSafer Travel Vest ($$$) Works in many situations where a traditional 5-point harness car seat will not fit

Updated 09/07/2021

In many cases, manufacturers make nearly identical seats with different names or slightly different features. These are also highly recommended, but not included for simplicity.  There are many other excellent car seats on the market.  The purpose of this short list is to help parents narrow down all the options, rather than to list all the models I would personally recommend (with input from the staff and community at my Car-Seat.Org forum)

recommended-car-seat-graphic

Made in conjunction with the staff and members of Car-Seat.Org.  Please also see a more complete list of Recommended Carseats at Car-Seat.Org with more information on each model.   Please note that SafeDad, Car-Seat.Org and Carseat Media LLC DO NOT conduct any testing on car seats.  The safest model is one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and is easy for you to use each and every trip.  This list will help you find those that tend to work well for many parents.  There may be incompatibilities, so please make sure you have a good return policy just in case you don’t like it for any reason!  Image courtesy NHTSA.