My sons are 2 and 5 so my research for safe car seats ends around age 6.
Infant Car Seat – Graco Snugride (age 0-1)
I still remember vividly when we brought our first child home. We were both overwhelmed. My husband said, “They actually let us take him home? We have no idea what to do with a baby!” Then again, the only requirements to bring our baby home were to sign our baby’s birth certificate and have a properly installed car seat.
Before I was discharged, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital car seat fitting station helped install Graco Snugride in our brand new Toyota Highlander. It was one of the best rated infant car seats on the market. Today Consumer Reports gives it a “Best Buy” rating, which means it offers the best combination of performance and price.
The convenient bucket style allows you to carry a sleeping baby without unbuckling at each stop. Because babies sleep 20+ hours in the early days, it’s best not to disturb them. Although the Snugride can hold up to 30-35 pounds, our children eventually outgrew their it because of their height, not weight. We knew it was time to upgrade when their feet dangling outside of the bucket seat.
Convertible Car Seat – Britax Roundabout (age 1-3)
We transitioned our children to Britax Roundabout before their 1st birthday. Roundabout was one of the highest rated car seats according to Consumer Reports. It was comfortably sized for an infant. We traveled to Hawaii for vacation when our first son was 18mo, my husband installed the Roundabout on the plane. It would have been quite challenging to carry and install a larger convertible seat. We just moved our 2 1/2 year-old, 30lb toddler into a Boulevard.
Convertible Car Seat – Britax Boulevard (age 3+)
My sisters both opted to transition their children directly to a Britax Boulevard from an infant carseat. Much bigger than a Roundabout, a one-year-old may look somewhat buried in the seat. Because of that, I didn’t move my oldest son until he was about 3.
So far, we’ve been happy with all 3 choices and can recommend them to you with confidence.
No matter what you choose for your child, keep a couple of things in mind:
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised its recommendations to keep babies rear-facing until age 2.
- Get a fitting station to examine your car seat installation. You can reach out to local AAAs, police stations, or highway patrols.