Best Car Seat Values for Children of All Ages

Expert picks among infant, convertible, all-in-one, and booster seats

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Karen Shinbaum Photo: Tanya Yatsenko/Stocksy

Consumer Reports’ testing shows that buying an expensive car seat does not necessarily translate to the best car seat. The higher price tag may get you additional features but that doesn’t mean they all work well or have a safety benefit.

That’s why CR evaluates car seats for how easy to use each car-seat’s features are—buckles, harnesses, labels, and instructions—as well as whether the seat can be securely installed in a handful of family vehicles with the vehicle belt or lower anchors.

More on car seats

While all car seats sold in the U.S. meet the minimum federal safety standard, CR’s crash test protocol goes beyond the federal standard to differentiate additional margins of safety provided by the seat’s design. (Seats are evaluated for their crash protection on a scale of Basic, Better, and Best.) Car seats with booster modes are also evaluated for belt fit in the vehicle with a test dummy representing an average 6-year-old child. (For more information on which car seat type is best for your child, see our car seat timeline recommendations.) 

In our ratings, car seats that balance performance with value earn CR’s Best Buy designation. All of these seats score either Best or Better for crash protection. 

Below, we present our top two Best Buys for each car seat category.

Infant Car Seats

Convertible Car Seats

Booster Seats

Toddler-Booster Seats

All-in-One Car Seats

Emily A. Thomas, PhD

At Consumer Reports, I've found the perfect blend for my love of injury biomechanics, forensics, and kids as an automotive safety engineer for child passenger safety. For me there's no greater reward than helping families keep their little ones safe and coming home to put my advice into practice with my own precious little boy. Between church activities, my big Indian family, and exploring new places with the hubby and baby—my life and my heart are full.