When looking at the infant car seat arena, one would think that there are only two options. Sure, everyone makes a car seat or 10, but only a few of them are talked about. The Graco Snug Ride and the Chicco Keyfit 30. I might add the Britax Chaperone to the list, given that it has the anti-rebound bar to prevent excessive motion in the case of an accident.
The Chicco (left, $189) is about $30 more than the Graco (right, $159), and the Britax (Center, $229) is about $30 more than the Chicco. These can be had for less, so check the sales or amazon.
The Britax is a great seat, but it seems to fit a fairly small number of cars. The rebound bar adds enough length to the base for it to be unsafe in some cars due to seat overhang. In other cars, you can’t fit it in the car at all as there is not enough space between the back of the front seat and the car seat itself. This was sufficient for us to decide against this seat.
The Chicco seems to be the standard. These are tested and a fantastic choice. This is the seat we chose. If it has a downfall, it is the sun screen, which is a bit short. Also, if considering one of these, keep in mind that different colors come with different options. Weird, I know. But apparently only certain colors include the foot cover to provide extra warmth. There are certain color options that you will only find at BabiesRUs, so if you don’t like the standard colors, check there. The Keyfit Magic, available only at BabiesRUs has a larger sun shield that has mesh at the back to allow for additional airflow. This is the one that we purchased. Some have reported that the infant insert is smaller and perhaps less supportive, but we don’t have a standard keyfit insert for comparison.
I don’t know much about the Graco as we eliminated it in favor of the Chicco fairly quickly. Much of what I read indicated that the plastic felt flimsy and that the fabrics were of substantially lower quality than the Chicco. That said, the Graco is considered one of the best infant car seats on the market, and should be seriously considered as an option.
Remember that infant seats will be used for a relatively short period of time, as kids will likely outgrow the seats in terms of length long before they reach the weight limit (around 30 pounds). Practically, you will not want to be lugging a 30 pound kid in an 18 pound seat. However, the car seat is also vital for providing safety. These can save your baby’s life in an accident and are not, in my opinion, the place to pinch pennies.
That said, remember that as of Jan 1 (in California), children will be required to be in a car seat/booster seat until age 8 or 80 pounds. If you buy carefully, you can find a convertible seat that will last them from for the remainder of their car seat years. However, if you can wait until the new models designed to comply with the new laws come out, there should be a better selection to choose from. The Britax convertible is a very nice choice.
Apparently the 8/80 law is lower than federal recommendations which are suggesting that kids be in a booster seat until age 12! I think that most of us cringe a little at the thought of taking our Jr. Highers to school in a car seat — let alone the cost of a car seat that will support 120 pounds — so let’s hold our breath that they refrain from increasing the booster seat age any further.