Before we begin this post about Safe in the Seat’s recommended forward-facing car seats, don’t forget this important reminder: all car seats are safe when they’re installed and used correctly. Yes, even the ones that are on the list of seats we do NOT recommend! Just because you don’t see a car seat below or it’s not one we recommend, it doesn’t mean that it’s not safe; it just means that we like other seats better. If you’re in the market for a new car seat for your little one, read on so you can make the best purchase for your family.
Heads up! This is not a comprehensive list of all of our recommended car seats. You can find a complete list with a full database in the Forward-Facing Buying Kit. This list contains our top picks. You may find it helpful to use the Notes app on your phone, or you can have some paper and pencil nearby to prioritize what features are important for you to consider when choosing a car seat.
Car Seat Buying Process
Child fit is one of the most important factors when choosing a car seat. The goal is to choose a car seat that is going to last you a very long time. Matching up your child’s growth trajectory with the specifications of various car seats will ensure you get the most bang for your buck. Is your child taller than average, or do they have a tall torso, or maybe they are a little higher percentile in weight? Or perhaps the opposite is true? There are some seats that will work better and last longer than others based on this information. This is why our recommended car seats vary depending on the child’s size.
Some children may use their convertible car seats until they are ready for a booster. But if you have an infant who is needing a convertible car seat and you have an older child is who already forward-facing, it makes sense to get the oldest a forward-facing only seat and give the convertible to the youngest. You may also need this type of seat if your convertible car seat has expired or has been in a crash. Maybe your child has outgrown their convertible car seat and you don’t feel like they are ready for a booster. Whatever the reason, we have some options for you! Some of the seats on this list turn into boosters as well, but if they don’t, just keep in mind that there are some very cheap booster options when your child is ready for them.
If you don’t already know where your child falls on a growth chart, check out this site and find your child’s height and weight percentiles. If you make an account, you can even use the project function in the top right corner to find out when they might reach certain weights and heights.
Your child’s size is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a car seat. But vehicle fit is equally important. This is why we can’t just tell you a car seat that we recommend without a lot of information. There are a few things you should consider. If you will need to fit 3 people with comfort in your back seat now or in the foreseeable future (like if you are planning on having more kids), you will want a narrow car seat, ideally 17.5″ or less. See our YouTube video on 3-across car seats here.
When fitting multiple kids in a vehicle, it’s important to remember that the forward-facing kids need a seating position that has a top tether. This may mean having rear-facing kids in the 3rd row so that the forward-facing kids can have a top tether. This is a crucial safety component in the forward-facing harness stage and you do not want to go without it. If you have a vehicle older than 2002 and it does not have top tethers, we highly recommend that you rear-face the child in a seat with a 50 pound limit and move them into a high back booster after that.
If your vehicle has non-removable headrests, you may find the car seat is incompatible once you get to booster mode. We will note below which ones we have found to work best with those kind of headrests. But remember that each vehicle manufacturer has different headrests, so what works with some headrests may not work with yours. In some cases, you will just have to try it and see if the car seat and headrest fit together. See our YouTube video on car seats with non-removable headrests here.
If you have a Ford or Lincoln vehicle that has inflatable seat belts, you have to consider that not many car seats can be installed with those kinds of seat belts. Typically, if there is a center seat in the 2nd or 3rd row, it would have a normal seat belt, so you may be able to install the seat there instead.
If you don’t own a vehicle and you use public transportation and taxis/Ubers, we would recommend a car seat that is lightweight.
There are a lot of convenience features that are available on car seats now which are often a driver of the higher price points.
If you move seats around to different vehicles often, you would want to choose a seat that has an ease of installation feature if possible. Some car seats have easy seat belt installations, and some have been designed for easy lower anchor installation. In our list below, we have noted if the car seat has ease of installation features with a symbol of either a seat belt or lower anchors.
The weight of a car seat may be a factor you need to consider. For example, if you travel often via airplane, a lightweight seat may be your best option. You can find our top picks for airplane travel here. If you travel internationally, vehicles often don’t have locking seatbelts, so a car seat with a built-in lock-off is a must! You can check out our Wheels Up course and private Facebook group for more information about airplane traveling with kids and car seats. In the lists below, we have provided the weight of each seat.
There are other things to consider as well. If you are interested in a seat that is free of flame-retardant chemicals, you will have fewer choices as not all car seat manufacturers have seats that meet this criteria.
If you are someone who plans to wash their car seats a lot or if you have a child who is accident prone (potty training, gets car sick often, etc), then you would probably want a seat that is machine washable instead of one that is hand wash only. See our YouTube video on cleaning car seats here.
Car seat manufacturers have different crash policies as well that vary from replacing the seat after any crash to contacting the manufacturer, and they will decide on a case-by-case basis. Read more about crash replacement policies here.
Time to shop!
Now that you know your child’s fit information and have taken into consideration your vehicle fit, convenience factors, and added safety features, it’s time to start narrowing down the forward-facing car seat choices. Below are our recommended car seats.
Top Forward-Facing Car Seat Recommendations
Cosco Finale $59.99
Review Coming Soon
This is one of our favorite travel seats. It’s also great for 3 across configurations. It has a 30-pound minimum, which is higher than most forward-facing seats, so that’s something to keep in mind if you have a smaller child. It’s also one of the best options if you are on a tight budget!
Chicco MyFit $219.99
This is another good option for 3 across configurations. The Chicco MyFit ClearTex is a flame-retardant-free option if that is important to you. It has a tall harness height and a higher standing height limit than other seats on the market, so this is often the best option for taller children. This seat is very easy to install with the lower anchors, but unfortunately, that method does have a 40-pound limit.
Graco Nautilus SnugLock Grow $249.99
Review Coming Soon
This is one of the easier forward-facing seats to install since it has the SnugLock mechanism. This one often works with non-removable headrests. This is the only one currently in this blog that has a backless booster mode as well.
Britax Grow With You Clicktight $299.99
Review Coming Soon
This seat has the ClickTight mechanism for easy installation with the seat belt. It currently has the tallest harness height on the market. The high back booster mode is long-lasting, thanks to its high limits and tall headrest. Most kids can fit into the adult seat belt after outgrowing this seat. The versions with SafeWash fabric are flame-retardant-free.
Wayb Pico $495.00
This is one of our favorite travel seats since it is lightweight and it folds up. It’s also great for parents who do not own a vehicle since it’s easy to carry around. It’s very narrow so it can work in some 3 across configurations. Because the Wayb Pico is so short, it often works in seating positions that have non-removable headrests.
Ride Safer Travel Vest $189-219
This is a unique option that won’t be right for every family. We recommend that a child is close to 5 before they begin using this vest. The only exception to that would be if you have a child who has already reached 65 pounds and you have no other option. This can be a great option if you have a very tight 3 across situation. It is also a good option for parents who do not own a vehicle.
Shop the car seat sales like a pro!
When you know what you’re looking for, watching for car seat deals can be a low-stress process! We hope this post helps highlight that child fit is a critical component to consider when choosing a car seat where you will get the most bang for your buck. For a more detailed process of how to choose a car seat and all of our recommended car seats, head to the best-selling Car Seat Buying Kits that will lead you to the top recommended car seat for you in under 30 minutes! Once you know what car seats are best for you, shop the deals! You can find our car seat sales blog here which is updated daily.
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