Recently, there has been a trend of car seats that offer features like extended leg room, luxury fabrics, and even foldable cup holders.
While these are a great investment if you travel in the car a lot, not every parent wants to break the bank just to get a fancier design. Some parents simply need a cheap car seat that will keep their little one safe.
This car seat budget guide will go over some of the top infant car seats, convertible car seats, booster car seats, and all-in-one car seat options for parents who don’t want to spend more several hundred dollars on a car seat.
Affordable Car Seats for Infants
Using an infant car seat properly reduces your little one’s risk of death in a car accident by 71% when in a car accident.
Infant seats usually range from $100-250, though the two car seats mentioned below cost less than $100. There are also higher priced luxury seats from companies like UPPABaby and Doona that range from $200-$400. Some features you may find in these more expensive models include easier LATCH systems, luxury fabrics, removable cup holders, and a rebound bar or legroom extender.
Parents should always be wary when buying infant seats and be sure the car seat base is included, as infant seats are not as safe without the base.
Graco SnugRide Click Connect Infant Car Seat
The Graco SnugRide Click Connect Infant Car Seat is designed for use by infants from 4-30 pounds in the rear-facing stage.
For parents looking for a travel system, they will appreciate that this is compatible with Graco Click Connect Strollers. You can see our full review of the Graco SnugRide Click Connect and how it compares to the Chicco Keyfit 30 Zip here.
This car seat features a lightweight build that parents will appreciate when lugging their little one around. It works with the LATCH system as well and has a 5-point harness and energy-absorbing foam that will protect your little one in a car accident. It also has a canopy and an adjustable handle.
While this isn’t the fanciest in terms of comfort, it gets the job done. The padding is sufficient.
One downside is that the canopy audibly clicks, which might wake your little one up if they are easily started.
- Compatible with Click Connect travel systems
- Very lightweight
- Energy-absorbing foam for added safety and comfort
- Adjustable handle for easy carrying
- Canopy clicks loudly when adjusted
Safety 1st onBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat
Low price car seats like the Safety 1st onBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat often lack comfort or convenience features, but this model is different. It is designed to work with infants to toddlers in rear-facing mode, from 4-35 pounds.
Its lightweight construction makes it easy to tote your little one around, which is nice if they fall asleep while you are out on errands. For newborns, there are head and body inserts for added comfort and security.
Additionally, the padding is easily removable for baby messes and there are four adjustable harness heights to grow with your child. You can tighten with a single pull once your little one is in the seat.
One downside is that even though there is an adjustable handle, it can be hard to raise or lower it with the position of the canopy. The canopy is not removable.
- Cheap car seat without sacrificing quality
- Works from 4-35 pounds
- Comes with added head and body inserts for infant comfort and safety
- Lightweight construction
- Canopy is not removable
- Hard to adjust handle because of canopy
Best Cheap Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats are designed to be used front-facing or rear-facing, making them ideal for parents who don’t want to worry about buying a second car seat until their child is ready for a booster seat.
For parents who want the most use out of a car seat, pay attention to manufacturer recommendations for height and weight compared to total cost.
Lower priced convertible car seats can cost anywhere from $50-100, while higher end models might cost from $200-300 or even more. You’ll find models from companies like Evenflo and Cosco are more affordable, while companies like Diono and Maxi Cosi are higher priced.
Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
The entire weight range of the Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat is 5 pounds to 40 pounds, with limits of 5-40 pounds rear-facing and 22-40 pounds forward-facing.
Its safety features include a 5-point harness, LATCH system install, and side-impact safety. There are four adjustable positions for the shoulder straps to grow with your little one.
For parents with smaller vehicles, this is a good choice because of its compact size. It also has convenience features like a removable cup holder and a removable seating pad that is machine washable.
One factor to consider is how often you will be using this car seat. If you plan on taking your little one on frequent long trips, it may not have thick enough padding to keep your child comfortable.
- Install using LATCH system
- Tested for safety
- Compact car seat is good for smaller vehicles
- Machine washable removable seat pad
- Not a lot of padding
Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat
This best affordable convertible car seat has a longer useful life than the Evenflo model. The Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat works as a rear-facing seat when your infant is between 5 and 40 pounds, then can be used forward-facing from 22-65 pounds.
The safety features of this seat include a 5-point harness and adjustable headrest that grows with your little one to provide side-impact protection and comfort. It also has removable pillows and a removable cup holder.
The slim design is good for growing families with small vehicles since it won’t take up too much room in the back seat. It is also a lightweight car seat, so this car seat is not a hassle to move between vehicles.
The one downside is installation. Without a recline function, you may need a pool noodle or rolled up towel (according to manufacturer instructions) to get the car seat positioned properly on the seat.
- Lightweight, slim design
- Can be used from 5-65 pounds
- Adjustable headrest
- Removable pillows for added comfort
- Difficult to install
Affordable Toddler Car Seats and Boosters
Vehicle seat belts are designed for adults, not children.
Kids should remain in a booster until they are 4’9 tall, regardless of their age. The legal age for transitioning from a booster seat is age 8, but children should not be allowed to sit without a booster until they are adult-sized.
A properly positioned lap belt should sit across the hips instead of the abdomen. The shoulder strap should be positioned over the chest instead of the neck or collarbone.
Toddler car seats and boosters range from $20-40. (We even picked up a cheap $12 one from Walmart once for carpool). Generally, backless boosters are cheaper than booster seats with a back.
More expensive models might range from $50-100. Usually, the design of the seat and the materials used affect the price. Cup holders are standard, but not all seats will have them.
Mifold Grab-and-Go Booster
The Mifold Grab-and-Go Booster is unique because it is much flatter than traditional booster seats. Instead of bringing your child up to the seat belt, its unique design brings the seat belt down to your child.
A major benefit of the Mifold is its compact, lightweight design. You can easily slide it into a bag or store it in your car until it is needed. Your kid can even toss it in their backpackit weighs less than most textbooks.
You can learn more about it and see our full review of the Mifold booster here.
The Mifold positions the lap belt across your little one’s hips instead of their abdomen and holds the shoulder strap across the shoulder instead of the neck. This protects them in a car crash and reduces the risk of internal injury.
The biggest challenge of this seat is that it does not have the same height as other seats, so children may scoot forward, which moves the position of the belt. It also does not have as much padding as other car seats.
- Brings seatbelt down to child
- Works as a booster from 40-100 pounds
- Compact, lightweight design makes it easy to carry
- Compatible with all vehicle seats
- Child may scoot forward and change belt positioning
- Not as much padding as other seats
Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster Car Seat
The Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster Car Seat is an affordable high-backed booster model that transforms to a cheap backless booster seat as your child grows. After age 4, this can be used for weights 30-110 pounds. It can be used as a high back booster from 38-57 or a backless booster from 40-57.
Instead of fiddling with the seat belt, parents will appreciate that this has a single-handed 6-position height adjustment. This lets you easily adjust the guide for the seat belt as your child grows. It also features dual cup holders and comfortable, energy-absorbing foam. The foam also covers the headrest, which is great for naps on long car rides.
The one downside is that there is not a lot of cushioning in the back, especially when the headrest is raised. Additionally, it has a wide design, even for a booster seat.
- One-hand 6-position height adjustment
- Can be used as backed or backless booster
- Dual cup holders are nice
- Foam on headrest and seat bottom are comfortable
- Wide design
- Not a lot of back cushioning
Best All-in-One Cheap Car Seat
While all-in-one car seats are more expensive, they can be used longer.
You may find you don’t need to purchase a second car seat if you choose an all-in-one seat, which saves money in the long run.
Parents will find car seats under $100 in all the previous categories. Since all-in-one car seats are designed to last longer ,they generally have a higher price tag than infant, convertible, or booster seats. You can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $350 for a car seat your little one can use from infant until they are past the 4’9″ recommendation for the backseat.
As you shop, keep in mind there are 3-in-1 models that usually work as a backed booster, but not once your child passes a certain height. You’ll want in all-in-1 or 4-in-1 for a full lifetime of use.
Graco Milestone All-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
The Graco Milestone All-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is designed to keep your little one safe coming home from the hospital until they weigh 100 pounds. It can be used as a rear-facing seat from 5-40 pounds, forward-facing from 22-65 pounds, and as a booster with a belt-positioner from 30-100 pounds.
Safety features include an InRight LATCH system that clicks when it is in place and a simple-adjust harness system. Parents will also appreciate the adjustable headrest that moves to allow adjustment once your child is ready to transition to a booster.
This seat also features a 4-position recline in rear-facing and forward-facing modes for safe and comfortable sitting.
The one downside is that even with the LATCH system, installation is difficult. Additionally, the LATCH system is only on one side so there may be some wiggle room that needs to be adjusted for.
- Audible click from LATCH system when installed
- Can use from 5-100 pounds
- Adjustable headrest/belt positioner
- Adjustable recline
- LATCH system is only on one side
- Difficult installation
Should I Buy a Used Car Seat to Save Money?
Even though yard sales, thrift shops, and other secondhand stores are a good way to find low price car seats, there is no way to know if their has been internal damage to the seat.
When a car seat is in an accident, it causes stress fractures along the internal components of the seat. By distributing the impact in this way, it keeps your little one safe in an accident. However, it can also cause damage not apparent by looking at the outside of the seat. If a secondhand car seat was in an accident, it may not provide the same protection that it would when the seat was new.
We recommend against buying a used car seat.
You can never trust that you are getting the full story from someone at a yard sale and there is no opportunity to talk to the owner when shopping secondhand.
Your child’s safety is the top concern and there are plenty of alternatives for finding cheap car seats.
Finding Sales for Car Seats
For parents looking to save money, finding deals and sales can be a lifeline to inexpensive car seats.
While we advise against buying secondhand, car seats are often on sale because there is a huge market for them. New models come out, supply and demand changes, and companies try to move some of their inventory.
Finding clearance car seats on Amazon, Buybuybaby, Walmart, Target, and other wholesalers can help you spend less while keeping your little one safe.
For parents who love the Graco brand, the Graco company offers sales every 1-2 months with 20-30% off retail. There are also the standard sales, including Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day, where you can find steals on car seats.
As you can see from reviewing this list of affordable car seats, there are many options for keeping your little one safe in the car without burning a hole in your wallet.
The most important guideline for car seat safety is proper installation. Choose a car seat compatible with the design of the backseat of your vehicle and be sure you choose an appropriate model for your child’s age, height, and weight.
By following all safety recommendations, you won’t need to spend a fortune on your child’s safety.