Safety is the most important criteria for all types of car seats.
We offer our opinion on the safest car seats based on recommendations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Consumer Reports, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
We developed a list of our picks for the three safest car seats in each of three categories: infant, convertible and booster. We also look at durability, comfort, and ease of use. This gives you the best overall options for safety and practicality for infant car seats, convertible car seats and booster seats.
It’s no surprise the top seats for each category come from Britax and Chicco.
The safest infant car seat is the Chicco KeyFit 30 Zip Air Infant Car Seat, while the safest convertible car seat is the Britax Marathon ClickTight, and the safest booster car seat is the Britax Frontier ClickTight Harness-2-Booster.
Safest Infant Car Seats
Chicco KeyFit 30 Zip Air Infant Car Seat
The Chicco KeyFit 30 Zip Air Infant Car Seat is a top-rated car seat in the United States. This car seat performed well in crash test. The Zip Air offers great head and side support to protect your child in a crash.
Plus, the infant insert provides extra protection for small or premature babies. Not only is this infant car seat safe, it’s compatible with the Chicco Travel Systems.
The KeyFit 30 exceeds safety standards. The ReclineSure leveling foot and RideRight bubble level make it easy to know if the seat is installed correctly. Only when a seat is installed correctly can the safety features work right to protect your baby.
When looking at the safety level of any car seat, consider the details. The Chicco KeyFit 30 includes breathable 3D AirMesh on the backrest with airflow channels for improved ventilation. Your baby stays protected from heat. Consider when you leave a napping baby in the car seat and snap them into the stroller. You want your baby’s skin protected.
The Chicco Key Fit 30 model sets the standard for infant seats. It is safe. In addition, it’s reliability, ease of use and top-quality design make it a good purchase overall.
- LATCH connectors and a SuperCinch tightener
- Alternate installation with the vehicle seat belt, clear belt routing and integrated lock-offs
- ReclineSure leveling foot and RideRight bubble level
- Five-point harness
- Breathable 3D AirMesh backrest
- For infants from 4 to 30 pounds and up to 30 inches in height
- Energy absorbing EPS foam
Britax B-Safe 35 Ultra
The Britax B-Safe 35 Ultra infant car seat is just as safe at the Chicco KeyFit 30. However, I rated this seat behind the Chicco model because in my opinion the fabric doesn’t keep the baby as comfortable and the installation was confusing for some parents.
Overall, the Britax B-Safe is a top infant seat for safety. The safety features may even exceed the Chicco model, if you look at that criteria only in your purchase decision. The 35 Ultra offers the standards you expect for safety, including a LATCH system, steel frame and impact absorbing base.
You can anaylze all the details of the B-Safe 35 for yourself in our B-Safe review.
- Integrated steel frame
- Impact absorbing base
- Auto-level indicators
- Quick adjust harness
- For infants from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches in height
- LATCH installation system
- European belt guide for use without base
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat
The Graco brand offers quality and reliability at a slightly more affordable option than Chicco or Britax. Plus, the Graco SnugRide Infant Car Seat exceeds brand expectations for safety. The SnugRide has a hassle-free 3-step installation that makes securing the infant seat easy but accurate. And, the level indicator provides peace of mind for parents.
The Graco seat works well to keep small babies safe with the removable newborn head and body support. Also, the energy absorbing foam helps keep children safe in a crash. Overall, the SnugRide is well designed for both safety and comfort.
In addition, the SnugRide works with all Graco Click Connect strollers. It’s also FAA approved for air travel. This Graco infant car seat is a practical choice for easy travel whether in the air or simply to the park.
- LATCH connectors
- For infants from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches in height
- Click Connect technology to easily lock into strollers
- ESP foam
- 5-point harness system
- Crash tested to exceed safety standards
- Level indicator for proper installation
Safest Convertible Car Seats
Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat
It’s hard to beat Britax on safety. That shows with the Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat. In my opinion, the Marathon ClickTight is the top choice for safety, comfort and price range. While more costly than some other options, for the money, you get a reliable car seat that will last until it expires.
The impact absorbing base, side impact protection, and steel frame is designed to keep your child safe in a crash. This well-built convertible car seat is rated higher for safety than almost any other car seat model of any type.
The other benefit with the Marathon ClickTight is the easy and accurate installation. The ClickTight installation system and auto-level indicators make is easy for parents to get car seat installation right. Plus, it’s not too difficult to move the seat to another vehicle.
Overall, if you want a safe convertible car seat, the Britax Marathon is the right choice. In addition, your child will be comfortable while they ride. Read more about the details of the Britax Marathon to make your buying decision even easier.
- ClickTight installation for accurate and easy installation
- SafeCell Impact Protection System: Side impact protection, steel frame, V-shaped tether and impact absorbing base
- Rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds and forward-facing from 20 to 65 pounds
- 14 positions, easy adjust harness
- Foam padding for added safety and comfort
Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 convertible car seat is build to last while keeping your child safe. This car seat is designed to work for all stages from newborns to children up to 120 pounds. That is staying power.
But, what I love about the 4Ever 4-in-1 is the top safety features. This car seat meets or exceeds all U.S. safety standards. Plus, it held up to side impact testing support with the steel frame and energy absorbing foam.
Like other top convertible car seats, the 4Ever 4-in-1 uses the LATCH system for easy installation. You can trust your child is safe with the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System and 10-position headrest that requires no rethreading.
The Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit Platinum 4-in-1 Car Seat is the premium model in the Graco 4Ever line. I didn’t make it the top choice because the higher price point may be resistive for some budgets. However, if budget allows, this offers all the same safety features with even more bells and whistles.
- Side impact tested to meet or exceed safety standards
- Steel enforced frame
- LATCH system and easy to read indicator for safe installation
- Simply Safe Adjust Harness System and 10-position headrest
- Rear-facing from 4 to 40 pounds
- Forward-facing harness from 20 to 65 pounds
- Highback booster from 30 to 100 pounds
- Backless booster from 40 to 120 pounds
Diono Radian 3RXT Convertible Car Seat
I like the Diono Radian 3RXT convertible car seat for safety, style and practicality. Plus, like the Graco 4Ever, this seat is designed to meet all your car seat needs from birth through the booster seat years.
The 3RXT is designed with safety in mind. The steel frame and aluminum side impact walls lined with energy-absorbing EPS foam, make this is a top choice to keep your child safe in a crash. Plus, the 12 positions adjustable head support keeps your child’s head protected as they grow.
Not only is the 3RXT safe, it’s also stylish and modern. In addition, the narrow design allows for three seats to fit across most mid-sized vehicles. Overall, the Diono Radian is great for safety and style.
Read more about the details of the Diono Radian 3RXT to support your purchase decision.
- Integrated steel frame
- Aluminum side impact walls lined with energy-absorbing EPS foam
- SuperLATCH Installation
- Patented Safe Stop harness system
- Rear-facing from 5 to 45 pounds
- Forward-facing with 5 point harness up to 65 pounds
- Booster seat conversion for 50 to 120 pounds
Safest Booster Car Seats
In the booster car seat category, it was hard to determine our opinion because so many of the convertible car seats offer top safety booster seat options. But, for this category, we’ve selected non-convertible booster seats.
Britax Frontier G1.1 ClickTight Booster Car Seat
Once again, Britax ranks at the top for safety. The Britax Frontier received a Best Bet rating from the IIHS for its excellent safety features.
The Britax Frontier offers similar safety features to the Marathon and either are a great choice for a safe booster car seat. Like the Marathon the Frontier includes the SafeCell Impact Protection System and ClickTight Installation System. Both are the reason Britax receives top ranking in my opinion.
The Frontier ClickTight also has a 9 positions quick-adjust harness so that you don’t have to rethread the harness as your child grows. This means that you don’t risk error in securing the harness.
Read more about the Britax Frontier’s features and details to understand all the pros this top booster seat has to offer.
- Two layers of side impact protection
- ClickTight Installation System
- Integrated steel frame and impact absorbing base
- Quick-adjust harness
- For children 40 to 120 pounds as a booster seat
Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat
Like the Britax Frontier, the Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 booster seat is rated Best Bet by the IIHS. The Chicco KidFit offers many top safety features at a friendlier cost point. The KidFit also works as a backed and backless booster seat to grow with your child.
The DuoZone head and shoulder protection provide ample protection in a collision. Plus, the SuperCinch tightener is a premium version of the LATCH system for accurate and easy installation. This quick and easy option is really important for older kids.
Overall, the Chicco KidFit includes the safety features you want with practical features like zip-off cushions for easy cleaning.
Check out more details about the Chicco KidFit to determine the best option for your family.
- Side-impact protection
- SuperCinch tightener LATCH system
- Foam padding and contoured seat for comfort and safety
- Works for children 30 to 110 pounds
Evenflo Big Kid Booster Car Seat
The good news about booster car seats is even on a limited budget, you can find safe options. The Evenflo Big Kid booster seat is budget-friendly yet still rates as a Best Bet option with the IIHS.
While this seat doesn’t have many of the bells and whistles of the middle and high-end models, it’s a great choice for older kids that need a booster but can use a seat belt. This would be a great option to buy if you are passing down your convertible car seat to a younger sibling, but still need a booster for your older child.
The seat tested well for side impact protection. Also, it is designed and tested for structural integrity at energy levels approximately two times the federal crash test standard.
- Works for children 40 to 100 pounds
- Side impact tested
- Works with seat belt installation
Proper Car Seat Installation
For every well-made car seat, the biggest determinate of safety is proper car seat installation. The safest and best car seats cannot work well if they aren’t installed right.
Many local police and fire departments offer car seat installation training. They also usually will inspect your seat for proper installation for free. Take advantage of these free services for your peace of mind and child’s safety.
However, most of the top-rated car seats include LATCH technology and an easy-to-read level indicator to make the installation process effortless. Look for both features when you purchase a car seat.
LATCH vs Seat Belt – Which is Safer?
In my opinion, the best car seats include options for both LATCH technology and seat belt installation. Using the lower LATCH anchors, combined with the top LATCH tether option, is the safest way to correctly install a car seat.
Read the manual for your particular car seat to check for correct car seat installation and proper LATCH use. Always check with the level indicator and do a movement test to ensure the seat is positioned and installed correctly.
However, the seat belt option is still safe. The problem I have with seat belt installation is getting a tight enough and accurate install. I’ve never felt confident when I’ve used the seat belt on car seats for my kids.
With that said, sometimes the seat belt is the only choice. For older model cars (those made before 2002), the LATCH anchors may not be present in the vehicle.
In my opinion, it’s always best to get a second opinion from a certified passenger safety technician (CPST) when using seat belt installation. They can show you how to install a car seat securely with a seat belt or LATCH system to help your child travel safely.
Car Seat Safety Guidelines
Between infant car seats, convertible car seats, and booster car seats, there are many safety considerations. You might be wondering about things like:
- What are the car seat federal safety standards?
- What’s the safety difference between an infant car seat and a convertible car seat?
- When is it safe for my child to use a seat belt only?
- How do I install a car seat?
- What should I do if my car seat was in an accident?
- Are car seat accessories, like pads and blankets, safe to use?
We’ve compiled all our research into a car seat safety guide that has your answers to all these questions and more. Please read that guide before and after you make your car seat purchase, as it contains all you need to know to keep your child safe in the car.
Safety Lessons – You Aren’t the Only Confused Parent
When it comes to safety, it’s hard to know the best choices to make. You aren’t the only confused parent. And, car seats won’t be the only confusing safety topic. These hard infant safety decisions are only the beginning of a lifelong journey to keep your child safe.
The good news is that if you’re reading this article, you are already halfway there. The intention and desire to understand car seat safety means you care and want to make the best choices for your child.
After my first child was born, I went to my pediatrician with a long list of questions. I was so nervous and said, “I’m just scared I’m going to do it all wrong.” And she told me, “I’m not worried. I feel great about the parents that show up and have lots of questions. It’s the parents that aren’t bringing their children to the doctor that I worry about.”
So take heart. You are on the right path!
For car seat safety, read the reviews, ask other parents their opinion, consider your budget, and trust yourself to make the best selection.