Let me cut through it for you. Safety is a table stakes requirement met by all car seats sold on the market today. Beyond that, you're looking for a carseat that is attractive and suits your lifestyle. All of the carseats listed below meet these requirements and more. Read on to discover which one will be best for your family.
The Best Infant Car Seats
The Pipa is incredibly lightweight (only 7.9lbs!). It features beautiful European design and aesthetics, a full-coverage canopy, and a load leg on its base for added safety. It is free from chemical fire retardants, has a small front-to-back footprint (making it ideal for more compact cars) and has extensive stroller compatibility using Maxi Cosi adapters. It's also easy to buckle the Pipa into a car without the base, should you prefer to travel without bulk. The only downside is that the Pipa's harness must be rethreaded as baby grows (there are three sizes). This is not a big deal though, since it's extremely simple to do and you only have to do it twice during baby's lifetime anyway.
The Doona is a combination car seat and stroller—just pop out the wheels and off you go. It's the best car seat for those who rely on rideshare services like Uber and Lyft to get around, and it can be used with a base or without one (ideal when traveling). Other than this one huge selling point—that it can convert from carseat to stroller in a matter of seconds—the Doona is nothing to write home about. It's heavy (16.5lbs), requires a manual rethread of the harness straps as baby grows, and it's expensive for baby gear you can only use for a year or so. That said, it's worth it not to have to schlep a stroller and a car seat (or schlep a car seat by hand at your destination if you forgo the stroller) if you Uber often.
On a budget? If you’re on a tight budget, the Evenflo Lite Max 35 is safe, attractive, and under $100 new. But like anything inexpensive, it comes with compromises—no load leg or rebound bar for one (an important but not necessary safety feature) and some janky detailing, like difficult-to-adjust straps, for another.
Short story, the Evenflo is totally fine if you’re set on buying new, but I’d strongly recommend you check out the secondhand market if money is tight. Search for one of the carseats listed above or below, ideally from someone you know (or a friend of a friend). Some caution against buying used car seats, but it’s totally fine as long as you verify that the car seat has never been in a crash and that it is not expired.
More Great Infant Car Seats
There are many more great infant car seats, and below are a few that are also wonderful (though not as wonderful as my three top picks above for various reasons noted here).
- Clek Liing ($400+) – A fantastic car seat very similar to the Nuna Pipa in all the important ways, but more expensive. One-ups the Pipa by featuring a multi-position reclining base, which allows for additional adjustability on steeply angled rear seats.
- Bugaboo Turtle by Nuna ($350) – Nearly identical to the Nuna Pipa but compatible with Bugaboo strollers without the need for adapters.
- Nuna Pipa Lite LX ($400) – Gorgeous and super light (5.7lbs!), but can't be installed without the base, which is prohibitive for traveling and Uber riding.
- Nuna Pipa Lite ($350) – Same story as the Nuna Pipa Lite LX, but in more limited color ways.
- Chicco Fit 2 ($280) – The only infant car seat that accommodates toddlers up to 35lbs and 35 inches, allowing you to click your carseat into your stroller for way longer than with any other car seat. On the downside, this car seat is heavy (11lbs) and takes up a considerable amount of room in the rear seat.
- Cybex Aton Cloud Q ($400) – Similar to the Nuna Pipa but significantly heavier and bulkier. Allows for a full flat recline outside the car (which is more a gimmick than practical feature, in my opinion) and has a multi-position no rethread harness. [Full Review]
- Cybex Aton Q ($380) – Similar to the Cloud Q, but without the full flat recline feature. [Full Review]
- Peg-Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Nido ($350+) – A fantastic, super safe car seat very similar to the Nuna Pipa, but slightly more expensive and a little less attractive.
- Peg-Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 ($300) – A fantastic, super safe car seat very similar to the Nuna Pipa, but slightly more expensive and a little less attractive. Similar to the Nido, but with an anti-rebound bar and no load leg.
- Britax Endeavours ($280) – A super safe, attractive car seat that is heavy (11.5lbs) and takes up a lot of room in the back seat.
- Cybex Aton M ($280+) – Safe and light, but I don't like the look personally and would prefer the Nuna Pipa at this price point.
- Cybex Aton 2 ($250+) – Same story as the Aton M.
- Maxi Cosi Mico Max Plus ($300) – Very similar to the Nuna Pipa, but less attractive in my opinion and with less elegant detailing.
- Maxi Cosi Mico Max 30 ($280) – Same story as the Mico Max Plus, but without the load leg.
- Evenflo Lite Max 35 ($90) – A simple, safe, attractive-enough car seat for less than $100.
- Britax B-Safe Ultra ($240) – Attractive, but also heavy and does not have an anti-rebound bar or a load leg on its base for additional safety.
- Britax B-Safe 35 ($200) – Similar to other Britax seats but without an anti-rebound bar or load leg.
- Maxi Cosi Mico 30 ($200) – Similar to other Maxi Cosi seats but without an anti-rebound bar or load leg.
- UPPAbaby Mesa ($300+) – Similar to the Nuna Pipa but heavier and without a load leg for added safety.
Unattractive (Sorry Not Sorry) Infant Car Seats
These are some of the popular infant car seats that did not make our cut, primarily because they are unattractive. If the price point on one of these car seats feels right for you, consider the Evenflo Lite Max 30 or buying a car seat listed above secondhand from a trusted source.
- Chicco KeyFit ($180) & KeyFit 30 ($200)
- Evenflo Embrace ($110)
- GB Idan ($400)
- Graco Snug Ride 35 ($120)
- Maxi Cosi Mico Nxt ($110)
- Safety 1st Onboard 35 Air ($170)
Note: There is no one universal “best,” especially when it comes to parenting. These are “The Best Infant Car Seats” based on Also Mom's strict criteria, detailed here.