When you have a little one on the way, you need a lot of new furniture, not to mention bottles, diapers, and the other small things your baby will need in the early months and years of life.
But it can be a challenge, when you’re shopping for all these new items, to fit them into your home and car. Car seats, in particular, are a struggle. Car seats are notoriously bulky, heavy, and hard to maneuver and change. Many parents feel like they have to have at least one large vehicle before having a baby, just to make sure their car seat will fit.
But that doesn’t always make sense. After all, why would you buy a new car, costing tens of thousands of dollars, to accommodate a piece of furniture that you’ll likely only need for a short time?
It’s even harder to justify those big changes when it comes to infant car seats since they are only designed to protect your little one for the first few months of your baby’s life.
These infant car seats are designed to provide the same safety as a larger car seat but still fit comfortably in your smaller car or sedan. We’ve picked some of the best compact infant car seats (and a couple convertible car seats with infant protection) so that you can rest assured that your baby has the best protection out there.
Let’s get started.
|Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat|
|Graco SlimFit 3 in 1 Convertible Car Seat|
|Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat|
Let’s take a quick look at the differences in these car seats. If you’re looking to narrow down your list more quickly, this is a great way to do that.
|Infant Car Seats||Maximum Weight||Maximum Height||Additional Safety Features||Check the Price|
|Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat||30 lbs||30 inches||Recline Sure Levelling Foot, Ride Right Bubble levels, and Super Cinch LATCH Tightened, Newborn positioner||Check the Price|
|Graco SlimFit 3 in 1 Convertible Car Seat||100 lbs||Convertible, no set max-height||Simply Safe Adjust Harness System, 5 Point harness system, InRight Latch system, Simply Safe Adjust Harness System||Check the Price|
|Diono Radian 3RXT All-in-One Convertible Car Seat||100 lbs||No height max lasts through about age 10||SuperLATCH system, automotive-strength steel dual spine, infant liner, side-impact protection||Check the Price|
|Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 XT Infant Car Seat||35 lbs||32 inches||4 recline positions, level indicator, All-weather boot, 5 point harness||Check the Price|
|Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat||35 lbs||32 inches||Integrated belt lock-off system, recline indicator, buckle pockets, full-coverage canopy||Check the Price|
|Baby Trend EZ Flex Loc Infant Car Seat||30 lbs||30 inches||Adjustable 5-point safety harness, 4-position push-button height-adjustable base, Soft head support, EZ Flex-Loc||Check the Price|
|Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat||35 lbs||32 inches||wicking fabrics, full-body protection, safe center latch, recline & level indicators, extra-large canopy||Check the Price|
|UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat||35 lbs||32 inches||Passes federal safety standards, SPF hideaway canopy, low-profile base, Side Impact Protection||Check the Price|
The Car Seats:
Editor’s Rating: 4.8
This car seat is a good choice for parents that are looking for a slim fit car seat, are willing to upgrade to a convertible in a few months, and don’t mind spending a little more for extra safety.
This car seat is designed to keep your baby both comfortable and safe, but it is a little pricey for an infant car seat they’ll outgrow in a few months.
The good news is that the car seat is durable enough you should be able to pass it down to future kids as well. With a high safety rating, it’s likely to meet safety standards for years to come, (though it’s always worth double-checking!).
The total weight of the seat is 17 lbs. That’s not too bad overall, for comparison, that’s a little heavier than 2 gallons of milk. It can safely hold your baby up to about 30 lbs, or 32 inches tall, whichever happens first.
The car seat is also designed to work as a stroller system with Chicco strollers. That’s good news for parents who are looking to get back to their normal activity levels as quickly as possible. However, the size restrictions on the seat mean that the travel system really only works for a few months.
This car seat made our top pick for several reasons. It has high safety ratings, cuddles, and protects your little one so that they’re more likely to be comfortable on car rides, and doesn’t weigh as much as some alternatives.
It’s also designed with parent comfort in mind. The car seat is easy to install, and lightweight enough to make moving between vehicles a lot easier. You’ll also have a choice of several different colors and designs with this car seat, which makes it easier to customize.
However, it’s not perfect. This car seat only accommodates your little one for so long, and may not be as suitable for families with a history of large babies at birth.
It doesn’t have mesh or wicking fabric, which can mean that your little one gets a little sweaty during the summer months. The wide canopy helps with heat problems, but the black fabric can only do so much.
Overall, however, the benefits of this system far outweigh the cons for most families.
|Safe, easy to use harness system|
|Comfortable handles for carrying|
|Works with Chicco strollers for a travel system|
|Extra cushioning protects infants|
|Fabric retains heat and doesn’t wick moisture|
|A little on the pricey side|
|Harness release buttons are stiff|
|27.50 x 17.00 x 24.00 inches|
|Maximum Child Weight: 30 lbs|
|Maximum Child Weight: 32 inches|
|Seat cover and newborn inserts are machine washable|
Editor’s Rating: 4.7
We also wanted to include a couple of convertible options on this list. This first option is designed for infants through about 10 years old, using inserts and changing configurations to work for your child the entire time they need a car seat and booster in the car.
The SlimFit is a great option for families that don’t want to have to buy an SUV or van, just to accommodate their little ones. The dimensions of this convertible car seat are reasonable. It’s not much wider than an infant car seat, though the other dimensions are larger to accommodate your growing child.
Infant inserts make this a good rear-facing choice for a child as small as 5 lbs. The rear-facing mode maxes out at 40 lbs, which is 5-10 pounds heavier than most infant-only car seats. When you convert it to a front-facing toddler seat, your little one will be comfortable until about 65 lbs. Finally, the seat will turn into a booster seat. The booster is safe and comfortable up to about 100 lbs, or about ten years old.
The biggest issue with the SlimFit is that the smaller design does mean that your baby may outgrow the different stages of the car seat a little sooner. Even if they are under the weight limit, you should pay attention to your little one showing signs of discomfort or telling you that the seat is too narrow.
However, that can be a risk with most car seats designed for smaller vehicles, so we can’t take too many points away from the SlimFit for than particular issue.
|Convertible up to a child booster seat|
|Narrow profile perfect for smaller back seats|
|Reasonable price for use and durability|
|Lightweight for a convertible car seat|
|Can be slightly too narrow for some children|
|Safety sticker retains and radiates a lot of heat|
|Weight limit 5-100 lbs|
|Machine washable cover|
|26.81 x 19.88 x 22.36 inches|
Editor’s Rating: 4.5
The second, and last, full convertible car seat on our list is a slightly more expensive option with more customization, but a similar features list to our Best Value pick. This car seat costs a bit more because of a more premium materials design but has a similar 100 lbs maximum weight limit.
This option is advertised as being able to fit three car seats across the back of your car, making it a good choice for larger families. However, we’re skeptical of that. While it might be able to technically fit three car seats across the back of your car, getting in and out would be difficult.
Smaller compact cars also simply aren’t big enough to accommodate this kind of use. While three car seats would fit more comfortably in a larger car, we doubt that a small-car user would be able to use them this way.
That said, this convertible car seat still offers good padding, has an infant insert to make it safe for infants as small as 5 lbs, and will last through the first several years of your child’s life.
We also appreciated that this car seat comes in more than just black and accent colors. It might be harder to keep a brightly colored car seat looking clean and new, but you’ll also be rewarded for it. Bright colors retain less heat than black cat seats, making them more usable in warm summer months and sunny locations.
|Many color options|
|Designed to protect infants-10-year-old children|
|Extra-wide harness straps|
|Memory foam seat bottom|
|More expensive than some alternatives|
|Requires additional support setup for rear-facing—takes up more space|
|Maximum child weight: 120 lbs|
|16.1 x 16.9 x 28.4 inches|
|Requires a little extra support in the rear-facing configuration.|
Editor’s Rating: 4.6
The SnugRide is another good infant car seat from Graco (the same company that produced our top pick car seat). It’s ultimately fairly similar to the SlimFit in several important ways, namely the overall safety and quality of the design, but there are enough differences that we wanted to give the SnugRide its own slot.
One of the bigger adaptations is an all-weather boot that acts as a kind of blanket for your little one in cold weather. A lot of car seats focus on how they can reduce heat retention and keep the seat cooler, but if you live in a colder northern state that may not be your primary concern.
You’ll still get the level indicator and the easy to use harness system from the SlimFit, in addition to having a similar selection of different colors. One failing we did notice is that basically all of the color options are black or gray based, meaning that this seat will retain a good bit of heat, despite the large canopy.
We also appreciated that this car seat, while not quite as slim as the SlimFit, is close enough that it won’t make much difference, even in compact cars and cars with limited space.
|Easy to install|
|Easy to move from car to car|
|Comes with an all-weather boot to help keep your little one warm in cold temperatures|
|The sunshade is hard to move|
|Some users note that the materials feel cheap|
|Maximum Child Weight: 35 lbs|
|Easy to read leveling tool|
|Easy harness system|
Editor’s Rating: 4.6
This mid-range infant car seat immediately stands out from the crowd for one big reason, it’s not black!
The combination of light lavender print and a tan canopy means that this is one car seat that won’t absorb excess heat in the sun. It’s a good option for parents living in sunnier and warmer climates, who are worried about being able to keep their new little one cool.
The LiteMax’s infant insert provides a lot of additional support for the first few weeks when your baby’s head needs more structure and protection. You’ll also be able to choose between 4 different recline positions to make sure your baby is in the right position for their comfort and development while they grow.
The car seat’s overall design is also meant to make parent’s lives easier. You’ll benefit from tuck away pockets for harness tabs, machine washable pads and cover, and a smooth handle.
The car seat is designed to last about the standard time for an infant seat. Its max weight is 35 lbs, and the max height is 35 lbs. The good news is that most babies will hit these milestones at a similar time, so you’re not likely to need to switch early just because your baby puts on a little extra baby fat or decides to get taller quickly.
This car seat gets our best bargain rating for several reasons. It’s a more affordable seat than many, while also using higher quality fabric. You can also tell that there was some serious thought put into the color and overall design since each element provides more comfort to you and your little one.
This car seat performs more like it’s more expensive competitors than the car seats in its same price point. That said, Best Bargain doesn’t mean that this is the cheapest car seat you’ll be able to find for your infant, just that we think this one is one of the most affordable and high-quality options.
|Low heat-retaining design|
|The canopy can be difficult to operate|
|18.3 x 17.8 x 30 inches|
|Maximum Child Weight: 35 lbs|
|Compatible with Evenflo travel systems|
Editor’s Rating: 4.4
The big advantage of the EZ Flex Loc car seat is that it’s been designed with parent comfort in mind. The handle is completely rounded and offers some additional support in case you’re using it for an extended period.
It’s also designed with a one-hand seat release. While most parents will use both hands for seat release, even with this feature, it does make it significantly easier to lift out of your car anytime you need to take your infant car seat with you.
The EZ Flex Loc also has some additional cushioning and support around your baby’s head. That means it’s an especially safe option for the first weeks of your baby’s life, while also being a good option as they start to grow and need a little less security. Right before your baby transitions to a convertible car seat, they’ll still appreciate the additional cushion and pad from this extra support.
The easily adjustable 5 point harness also means that this seat accommodates a larger range in baby proportions than many infant car seats.
That said, it also has a taller profile than many infant car seats. While it can still be a good option for small cars, or it wouldn’t be on this list, you should be prepared for a slightly different design from this car seat.
|Lots of head support|
|Designed with parent comfort in mind|
|Easy to take out of the car|
|Safety tested for security and effectiveness|
|Doesn’t recline much|
|Relatively narrow seat|
|16.25 x 14.66 x 26.00 inches|
|Maximum Child Weight: 35 lbs|
Editor’s Rating: 4.7
The B-Safe system lives up to its name. With cellular construction, a steel frame, and side-collision protection, this is one car seat that’s designed with safety in mind from every angle. It also creates additional comfort using a moisture-wicking fabric.
However, those adaptations come with a higher price tag. While not quite the most expensive infant car seat on our list, the B-Safe isn’t a particularly affordable option either.
However, the B-Safe system also works with Britax strollers, making it a reasonable travel system if you like Britax products in general. However, you will need an adaptor, which is sold separately.
It’s also easy to set this car seat up with a reasonable level of recline. The indicators on the car seat itself will help you choose the ideal configuration for setting up your car seat, no matter the car. That’s a good adaptation since more and more families need to move their cat seat between multiple vehicles.
The center latch makes it easy to secure the base of the car seat, and easy to test.
Overall, this is one of the better car seats out there for infants. Unfortunately, in our opinion, it doesn’t have enough additional adaptations to justify the higher price, which is why this car seat didn’t make our Top Pick rating.
|Safe cell construction|
|Sturdy steel frame|
|Lots of added comfort and protection for your little one|
|Easy remove cover|
|Main color is black in all color selections|
|26.50 x 17.75 x 25.00 inches|
|Maximum Child Weight: 35 lbs|
Editor’s Rating: 4.3
This car seat might have the most features of any seat on our list, but it’s also far and away the most expensive option. We didn’t want to exclude it based on price alone, but the Mesa is certainly lower-rated thanks to the exclusive pricing.
That said, it offers an SPF hideaway canopy, attaches to two different models of stroller without needing any attachments, and uses a Smart Secure system to make installation significantly easier. It also has a low-profile and lightweight base, which can make it easier to move the car seat between different vehicles.
We also appreciated that the additional head support, including small shoulder pads, really protects your infant while they’re in the car.
|Fantastic head support|
|Works with several travel systems|
|Low-profile lightweight base|
|Reversible on strollers|
|Plastic warning labels heat up in the sun|
|Heavier than many infant car seats|
|28 x 17 x 25 inches|
|Maximum Child Weight: 35 lbs|
|Rear-Facing Minimum weight, 9 lbs|
That’s it! Hopefully, this list not only gave you a shortlist of great car seats to choose from but also highlighted some of the important features you should pay attention to when looking for a new car seat for your newborn.