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Momtrends Must-Haves: Car Seats

Presenting the 2015 Must-Haves: Car Seats!

There are three main types of car seat:

Infant car seat - Infant car seats can be used from birth, are only rear-facing, and include a base that stays in the car as well as a removable carrier seat.

Convertible car seat - Convertible car seats can be installed either rear-facing or, once your child is old enough (at least age 2 according to the American Academy of Pediatrics), switched to a forward-facing position. Many of these seats can be used from birth into toddlerhood which can save you money, but do not have the convenience of the removable carrier, a godsend when getting a sleeping baby from the car to the house.

Booster car seat - Booster car seats are broken in three groups, with many seats able to transform between all three styles. A forward-facing harness seat is geared for preschool and school-aged children, but still uses a 5-pt harness restraint. A highback belt-positioning booster provides neck and head support and boosts your child into the correct position to uses your car's seat belt system. A backless belt-positioning booster raises your child into the proper position to use your car's seat belt system, but doesn't provide any back or neck support.

The most important car seat advice to remember is this: The best car seat is the one that fits your car AND your child. So whether you have a Suburban or a Subaru, a preemie or a hefty tot, the right car seat will be the one that has a secure installation for your particular car and fits the the age, weight and height of your child.

First up, our top overall pick....

Best Overall Car Seat:Graco 4Ever All-In-One Car SeatIf you've ever purchased and installed your umpteenth car seat for your kids and wondered, why can't there just be one car seat that does it all--and does it well? - your wait is over. The new 4Ever All-In-One car seat from Graco is just that seat. It offers four different modes allowing the seat to be used from 4 lbs. all the way up to 120 lbs. - with the SAME CAR SEAT! The seat transforms from a rear-facing seat (4-20 lbs.), to a forward-facing seat (20-65 lbs.), to a high-back, belt-positioning booster (30-100 lbs.) and finally to a backless booster (40-120 lbs.). Graco has given parents and kids everything to make the seat suitable for all these phases - a steel-reinforced frame and EPS energy-absorbing foam, a 6-position recline, 10-position headrest, two integrated cup-holders, two removable plush inserts, and a machine-washable seat cover that doesn't require harness re-threading. At $300, the Graco 4Ever isn't cheap, but it's the ONLY car seat you'll need to buy - 4ever.BUY: Toys R Us

Graco 4ever car seat

Best Infant Car Seats - Looking for a seat for your newborn? We've got you covered with some of our favorite picks for baby.

Best For Preemies: Safety 1st onBoard™35 Air+ Infant Car Seat

Parents of preemies need a car seat that has a low weight limit and multiple low harness slots to ensure a correct fit. Our top pick is the onBoard 35 Air+ (also called the OnBoard Air Plus) that includes a range from 4 lbs. up to 35 lbs. and is suitable for babies up to 32" tall. This seat also offers 4 harness heights and 3 crotch buckle positions as well as a fabulous customizable infant pillow. This onBoard seat uses Safety 1st's new Air Protect+ technology that combines their Air Protect® cushion system with patented GCell HX™ foam to work together to provide full-body, side-impact protection. So you can rest assured that your preemie is safe and secure. BUY: Amazon

Safety 1st on-Board

Best Affordable Infant Seat: Evenflo Embrace Select Infant Car Seat with Sure Safe Installation

You don't need to spend a bundle to keep your little bundle safe. The Evenflo Embrace Select Infant Car Seat with Sure Safe Installation is a mouthful to say, but will cost you just $80. Despite the low price, Evenflo didn't skip on features or safety. This car seat can be used from 4 lbs. up to 35 lbs., has an energy-absorbing foam liner, removable head pillow, three harness heights, and a machine-washable cover. If you've ever found yourself digging around in your backseat trying to find your LATCH connectors, you'll love Evenflo's new Sure Safe Installation which includes LATCH guides that remain in your car, making it easy to get a safe installation every time. Plus, the carrier weighs just 7.5 lbs. - one of the lightest on the market - making it a little easier on your body to schlep baby from home to car to stroller. BUY: Walmart

Evenflo Embrace Select SureSafe

Longest Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat: Graco SnugRide 40Graco's SnugRide 40 offers the highest infant car seat weight limit on the market, making it an ideal choice for parents who want both a removable infant car seat and a car seat to keep their child rear-facing up to age 2, as the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends. The base adjusts to 8 different positions, providing your child with the leg room he needs to stay rear-facing comfortably. The base also has a pull-out footrest to protect your car from muddy shoes or added wear. From birth to two, your baby will stay safe with the seat's EPS energy-absorbing foam, an adjustable 5-pt harness, and a removable infant head and body support pillow. Added bonus? The carriers weighs just 9.3 lbs. BUY: Amazon

Graco Snugride 40 car seat

Best Infant Car Seat Safety Features: Cybex Aton Q

This new infant car seat from Cybex has some innovative safety features that help to secure the car seat in a crash. The Aton Q comes with a European-style load leg that extends from the base to your car's floor, preventing the seat from rotating forward and transferring much of the crash energy to the vehicle’s floor (the company claims it decreases forces on your baby up to 50%!) The seat also has fold-out Linear Side-impact Protection devices that help to provide early absorption of side impact forces. Despite their focus on safety, Cybex hasn't forgotten about style, and parents will love the uber-chic interior fabric, bold hues and extra large, UVP50+, fold-away sun canopy. (Psst - be on the lookout for the Aton-Q Cloud releasing this year which has a lay flat feature!) BUY: Pish Posh Baby


Best Infant Car Seat Style: Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30

In a world where you can customize your sandwich, your computer and your car, why not your car seat? The soon-to-be-released Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 (look for it in March!) lets your creative side go crazy, mixing and matching over a dozen different colors and prints to customize the look of your car seat's base, seat, canopy and padding. The current seat doesn't allow mix-n-matching but still comes in a whopping 13 different colors and has a new weight limit up to 30 lbs. More than just a pretty package, the Max 30 also comes with Air Protect® Technology, one click LATCH system for quick and easy installation, and a rebound bar. Suitable from 4 lbs up to 30 lbs, we also love that the carrier only weighs 8.9 lbs. BUY: Amazon

Maxi Cosi Max 30

Best Convertible Car Seats - A convertible car seat lets you use one car seat from infancy to toddlerhood. Check out some of our top picks.

Longest Use Convertible Seat: Diono Rainier Convertible Booster

Except for the Graco 4Ever, the new Diono Rainier convertible car seat has one of the longest ranges of use, from 5 lbs up to 120 lbs as a rear-facing car seat, forward-facing booster and belt-positioning booster. This car seat is unique for two key reasons - first, it can remain rear-facing for children up to 50 lbs. (most only go up to 40 lbs.) and second, it is suitable as a forward-facing, 5-point harness car seat up to 90 lbs (most 5pt. harnesses top out at 65 lbs.) The Rainier also has new extra deep side walls for added side impact protection and an industry-leading 12-year product life. BUY: Amazon


Best Convertible for Three Across: Clek Fllo

If you're looking for a narrow convertible seat to fit three across, we love the new Clek Fllo which measures just under 17" wide. The Fllo works as a rear-facing car seat from 14-50 lbs. (many only go up to 40 lbs. except the Clek and Diono seats) and forward-facing from 22-65 lbs. We also love the steel anti-rebound bar, advanced side impact protection and deep side wings. Plus the six solid color Crypton® Super Fabrics are GREENGUARD Select Certified and provide built-in protection against all the yuck - stains, moisture, and odor-causing bacteria. BUY: Amazon

Clek Fllo

Best Luxury Convertible: Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible

Style shouldn't be your main concern with a car seat, but we understand that it can make a parent cringe to install a cutesy car seat into their black BMW. For a perfect blend of safety and style, choose the Primo Viaggio Convertible car seat from Peg Perego. This seat works rear-facing from 5-45 lbs. and forward-facing from 22-70 lbs. Side impact protection, energy-absorbing foam, and a contoured steel back plate provide support and security while a wide, padded seat with leather trim keeps Primo Viaggio looking, well, primo. Don't worry about the seat getting too hot - every part that the baby touches is covered with soft, breathable Fresco Jersey fabric. BUY: Amazon

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Peg Perego car seat

Best Affordable Convertible: Evenflo Symphony LX All-In-One

The price range of convertible car seats is huge - from under $100 to (gulp) over $400. For an affordable seat that still provides plenty of comfort and safety, we love the Evenflo Symphony LX All-In-One. Each version of this seat is suitable for kids 5-40 lbs rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing, and 40-110 lbs. as a booster. Choose the Symphony LX for the most affordable option or the newer LX with SureSafe for Evenflo's updated installation. You can also upgrade to the Platinum Symphony™ DLX for added Outlast Performance fabric that helps to balance your child's body temperature. The Symphony LX also comes with a removable head and body pillow, multi-position recline, and integrated cup holders. Style, comfort and safety at an affordable price. BUY: Amazon


Best Convertible Car Seat Feature: Chicco NextFit ZipOh the things that will end up in your car seat - fish crackers, squeezey yogurts, milk and other, even less desirable "deposits". Car seats can seem intimidating to clean, but with the new Chicco NextFit Zip, you simply zip off the seat material and throw it in the wash. No rethreading, no degree in car seat assembly needed to reattach the material. Zip off, wash, zip on. Simple, easy and do-able for the average adult. Plus, we love that the car seat is suitable for kids 5-40 lbs. rear-facing and 22-65 lbs. forward-facing, has a removable infant insert and insulated cup holder, offers a 9-position ReclineSure fit to accommodate a wide range of vehicles, and has an innovative Super Cinch LATCH tightener that uses force‐multiplying technology to help achieve a secure fit with you breaking a sweat.

Chicco NextFit Zip

Best Booster Seats - Older kids have different support and style needs. Eliminate the booster seat battle by choosing a seat that has the features and look your child will enjoy.

Longest Use: Recaro Performance SPORTThis combination harness-to-booster car seat has an amazing range of use - suitable for kid from 20 lbs. in harness mode up to 120 lbs. as a booster! This German company designs seats for race cars so they know a thing or two about safety which is why it's no surprise the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety names the SPORT a "Best Bet". Metal reinforced deep side wings provide excellent head support while the HERO harness system technology positions the shoulder pads to best fit the child's neck, head and shoulders while keeping the harness from twisting and ensuring proper chest clip positioning. We also love the Cloud Comfort memory foam seats and temperature-balancing fabrics in 11 different colors - most of which are gender-neutral, making the seat even more versatile. BUY: Amazon

Recaro Sport

Best Installation: Britax Pinnacle with ClickTightThis new forward-facing seat from Britax isn't cheap, but it does have an amazing range of use - from 25-90 lbs. with the 5-pt harness and from 40-120 lbs. as a high-back, belt-positioning booster. Britax is known for their above-and-beyond safety features and the Pinnacle is no exception. The seat boasts Britax's new SafeCell Impact Protection, an integrated system of safety components that work together to protect your child including an impact-absorbing base, impact-stabilizing steel frame, and complete side impact protection. Plus, the Pinnacle offers the new ClickTight installation system which is, in a word, amazing. It's simpler, faster, takes less man-handling than LATCH and, in our experience, can get your seat a snugger fit. Check out a video here of ClickTight in action. BUY: Toys R Us

Britax Pinnacle car seat

Best Affordable: Graco Highback TurboBoosterFor a booster that won't break the bank, choose the TurboBooster from Graco. This booster is suitable for kids 30-100 lbs. and can convert to a backless booster if desired. Kids will love the hide-away cup holders and the adjustable height armrests while parents will appreciate the slim design (just 16.5" wide) and lightweight design (just 9 lbs.!) making it a breeze to install and switch between cars. Best of all this booster will cost you under $50. BUY: Amazon

Graco TurboBooster

Best Booster for Three Across: Evenflo ProComfort Amp LX High Back Booster

A bigger seat isn't always a better seat - and it can be a problem if you're trying to get three car seats across your car. This booster is just 16.5" wide making it possible to get three across most back seats. There is lots more to love about this booster from Evenflo starting with the price - a recommended retail price of just $69.99! But that doesn't mean they've skimped on features and safety. Au contraire. Suitable as a high-back or backless booster, the seat can be used from 30-110 lbs. and was named a Best Bet from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We also love the new ProComfort gel-matrix material which gives your child's tush some extra cush for drives, alleviating pressure points, as well as the two integrated cup holder and a built-in reading lights. BUY: Target

Evenflo PorComfort Amp Booster

Best Backless Booster For Big Kids: Clek Olli

If your big kid is giving you grief about sitting in a "baby seat", check out the Clek Olli. This backless booster is designed with older kids in mind, including a modern, square shape, non-cutesy fabrics and an extra thick seat pad. We also love that the Olli has LATCH which secures the booster to the seat, keeping it from sliding off the seat and across the car as you crank it around the corner, crossing off those errands. But the Olli also has a quick release pull-strap to make it a breeze to switch the booster between cars. Add on a removable cupholder and machine washable Clek jacket seat cover, and this is one booster that even your tween won't roll her eyes at. BUY: Amazon

Clek Olli

We're giving away one of Graco's new 4Ever All-in-One car seats that converts into four different stages and will last your child from 4-120 lbs!

Win a Must-Have

Enter the content here. Full Disclosure: Winner must be 18 years or older and a US Resident. No purchase necessary. Winners will be notified via email with the specifics on how to claim their prize. Contest ends February 17, 2015 at 11:59PM EST. One winner per email. Winners will be picked by By entering this contest, you will automatically be signing up for the Momtrends newsletter. Good luck!

Graco 4ever car seat

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