Best Infant Car Seats for Small Cars

Buying a car seat for your baby is easy if you have a big car. You could get a car seat of any size and still have room left over for groceries and anything else you want to fit in your car.

However, for those with small cars buying a seat for your child that is not only safe, but that fits easily in your car can prove to be a bit of a struggle.

This article will outline some of the best infant car seats for small cars to help you make the right decision for your needs without getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of different models available on the market.

Table of Contents

Our Pick: Chicco Next Fit Zip

The Chicco Next Fit Zip car seat is super easy to install comes with latch connectors. It also has two ride right bubble levels which show you the proper angle for the seat in rear-facing and forward-facing mode.

There’s a reason why it’s first on our list. This car seat performed very well in safety tests which is a feature I think most parents would appreciate.

The seat is good for 5 pounds in the rear-facing mode and up to 65 pounds in front-facing mode. Although it’s not the smallest or the narrowest infant car seat, the Next Fit Zip convertible seat takes the crown because it has a unique combination of features like the 9-position leveling system which allows for a perfect fit in a wide range of vehicles, especially the compact cars.

With that many reclining options, finding the angle to fit in your small back seat (without giving up more front seat leg room) will be much easier.

I particularly love this reclining car seat because at 26 inches it is taller than most other car seats which makes it one of the more ideal ones for tall babies.

PROS
  • Easy to install
  • Great performance in safety tests
  • 9-position leveling system for accurate fits
CONS
  • Buckles hard to tighten
  • Customer service could be improved
  • Not as easy to clean as others on the list

Bang For The Buck: Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35

I particularly love this car seat because it is not only reasonably priced to give you bang for the buck, but it also has a weight limit of 35 pounds and a height limit of 32 inches which means that you will get more use out of it as your baby grows.

Not only that, but the car seat weighs in at seven and a half pounds which makes it easier on the arms if you have to carry your baby around for long periods of time.

In addition to being easy to carry, it’s also easy to install. I’m almost certain that there will be no cursing under your breath when you’re installing this car seat in your vehicle.

Bear in mind that the seat is snug (as the name implies). It does come with a lot of comfortable padding which I think a lot of babies will appreciate as it makes for a cozy ride.

The car seat includes a newborn head support cushion which is removable. The click-connect technology helps give you the peace of mind of knowing that the seat is safely and securely installed in the car or stroller.

Although this carrier is compatible with all of Graco strollers, you will need to get an adaptor if you intend to use other brands.

PROS
  • Lightweight, easy to get in and out of the car
  • Attaches to all Graco Click Connect Strollers
  • Meets all Federal Safety Standards
CONS
  • Loud noise when adjusting sunshade
  • Does not come with body pillows
  • Needs adaptor for other stroller brands

Budget: Evenflo LiteMax 35

Baby gear can cost a lot of money, and considering the fact that a baby car seat is just one of the hundreds of items that you need to buy for the new addition to your family, it may be prudent to go for a budget-friendly option like the Evenflo Litemax 35 infant car seat.

This particular seat is one of my favorites because it is affordable without compromising on the safety of your child. If you’re worried about not being able to afford all of the things on your baby list after getting a car seat, I hope this takes the weight off your mind.

This rear-facing only car seat has a width of just 18.3 inches and comes with three shoulder harness positions which is great in my opinion as it ensures that the seat will grow with the baby.

It can be used in the rear-facing position for infants up to 35 pounds and it is also lightweight (9.1 pounds) which is ideal if you’re a busy parent who’s always moving in and out of their car.

For parents looking to get a good quality car seat for new babies, this compact car seat from Evenflo could be the right choice for you and your baby.

PROS
  • Meets all safety requirements
  • Great value for money
  • Compact and lightweight
CONS
  • No additional padding in harness
  • Only fits mostly babies 18 months and below
  • Looks a little cheap

Budget: Evenflo Nurture

This is a favorite among a lot of parents, and I have to say, I understand why it frequently makes an appearance on the best car seat lists. This car seat comes with rear-facing recline, an upfront harness adjustment, and 4 harness positions to accommodate growing kids.

In addition to all that, it also has a removable head support cushion for baby’s extra comfort. The cushion is machine-washable which makes it easy to keep clean at all times.

The 2 crotch buckle positions are great for extra safety which you will appreciate if you’re concerned about the baby moving around in the car seat while the car is in motion.

This infant car seat from Evenflo can be used in a rear-facing position from 5 pounds up to 30 pounds and up to 37 inches height. In forward-facing mode, you can use it for toddlers weighing 22 pounds right up to 40 pounds (height up to 40 inches.).

This car seat is great for smaller cars because of its compact size and it makes a great choice if your space is limited and you want a small but safe car seat for your infant.

PROS
  • Great for smaller cars
  • Good value for money
  • Tested for side-impacts
CONS
  • Padded headrest attached with velcro, easy for toddlers to pull off
  • Can be a little trickier to install than others on this list
  • A little flimsy doesn’t seem too sturdy while driving

Also Great: Chicco Keyfit 30

In my opinion, not many car seats can compare to the Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat when it comes to safety and reliability. It’s also portable and lightweight which makes it ideal for busy parents.

Taking it out of the car and securing it back in is a breeze which is great if you’re always on the go.

It connects to most Chicco strollers easily as well as other brands, too. The car seat comes with an infant insert which makes it great if you want to carry a preterm baby safely and comfortably.

This car seat from Chicco is an all-around champ which features a great combination of safety, comfort and adaptability features. The car seat measures 27.5 inches front to back, and 17 inches at its widest point, and 24 inches tall. It fits from 4 to 30 pounds.

The base of the handle is narrow making it easy and convenient when placing the seat next to other seats. For parents of twins or triplets who need to fit up to three seats in the back of the car, this feature could prove to be handy indeed.

PROS
  • Beautiful pattern design
  • Easy to install and uninstall
  • Affordably priced
CONS
  • Headrest too bulky for some babies
  • Styrofoam in the seat makes it a little hard
  • Sun visor is small

3 in 1: Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

This is definitely one that I would recommend if you’re searching for a convertible car seat that will last through all your firsts with your baby. As far as compact seats go, this one would be an ideal choice if you have a really small car but are set on getting full use out of your baby’s car seat in the coming years.

The Safety 1 st Grow and Go 3-in-1 seat features extended use at each stage with rear-facing mode (from 5 pounds up to 40 pounds), 22 to 65 pounds for forward-facing mode, and a booster for belt positioning (up to 100 pounds.).

No one will have to compromise any leg room in the front with this seat because when it is placed in the rear-facing mode it allows up to 7 inches of extra legroom for anyone sitting in the front.

The car seat includes two snug removable pillows for extra comfort. I particularly love the harness holders.
They are designed so that the harness is always in an open position which is great for getting your baby in and out of the car seat easily.

If you’re searching for a quality 3-in-1 car seat for your small car that you can use for years to come, this could be the right choice for you.

PROS
  • Great impact protection system in case of a side collision
  • Easy maintenance due to removable fabric pad
  • Easy installation due to integrated latch system
CONS
  • A little tricky getting it to correct level while rear-facing
  • Mostly plastic composition doesn’t inspire confidence in parents about the safety of the seat
  • May prove to be a little tricky to install on cars using seat belts instead of newer models with latch

Conclusion And My Final Pick

As my review of the best infant car seats for small cars has shown, there are plenty of options available, but in my opinion, the best is (Drumroll, please!) the Chicco Next Fit Zip.

It fulfills most of the criteria that most parents searching for car seats have on their list like safety, comfort, and affordability while offering other unique features like the 9-position leveling system.

This presents a distinct advantage over most other car seats which only offer 3 to 5 positions and means that you will be able to get an accurate fit on most vehicles.

In addition to that, it’s also lightweight and portable which is great for parents (and babies) on the go.

If you need a car seat that has all the necessary features to ensure the safety and comfort of your baby while still being compact enough to fit in your small car, then the Chicco Next Fit Zip could be the right choice for you.

How Do I Choose The Best Infant Car Seats For Small Cars?

All car seats are not created equal. Whether you opt for a normal infant car seat or a convertible one, there are a few things that you should consider in your quest to find the ideal car seat for your baby.

Here is a comprehensive list of features to look out for before buying.

Safety Features

Although this may be one of the most important considerations when choosing a car seat for your baby, you really don’t have to worry too much about this as most of the car seats on the market are designed with safety in mind.

For your peace of mind, we made a point of selecting only the ones we deemed among the safest for our review list. These car seats have met all the standard safety requirements.

Compact Size

You should always look at the size of the car seat you intend to buy, but since this article is focused on parents with small cars, we’ve already got you covered on this one.

All the car seats in our review are ideal options if you have limited space in your car.

Lightweight or Heavy

If you’re going to be moving the seat in and out of your car then you need to consider its portability before you settle on the right car seat for your baby.

There’s nothing worse than toting a heavy car seat while shopping and running errands. Make sure that the seat you choose has a weight that suits your needs.

Easy Cleaning

Check that the car seat you choose has a cover that comes off and is easy to clean. You know how messy babies can be, and you’ll probably have to clean something or other off of the car seat every other day, so do yourself a huge favor and go for one that will make the job easier for you (and save you lots of time in the process.)

Comfortable for Baby

Your baby is going to spend a lot of time in the car seat so it’s up to you to ensure that it’s as comfortable as possible while not compromising on safety or any of its other features.

A padded car seat with enough head support is a great choice if you want to ensure your baby’s comfort on those long rides. Also, make sure that the fabric of the seat is soft, durable and breathable.

Age Range/Booster Seat

Many car seats are made to fit only for a particular age range. Depending on how long you want to use the car seat, you can get one that can be converted into a booster seat like the all-in-one Graco 4ever or the 3-in-1 Safety 1st (both of which are on our list).

Although they may be a little pricier, they are more budget-friendly in the long run because they can be used rear-facing from birth and then facing forward for up to 10 years!

Price

Your next consideration after safety, comfort, and size should be the price. As parents, we’d love to always get the best for our children, but sometimes finances just don’t allow us to do so.

Luckily, these days there are some really good quality car seats on the market at an affordable range of prices and we’ve included a couple of budget options on our list of the 7 best infant car seats for small cars that are ideal if you want safety, comfort and all the other features of a great car seat without burning a hole in your wallet.

Ease of Installation

A lot of people underestimate the process of installing a car seat and end up frustrated when they fail to do it after purchasing it.

Don’t worry though, all the car seats on our list are relatively easy to install and come with very clear instructions to fit them into your vehicle.

Extra Features

Now that you’ve taken care of the necessary requirements, it doesn’t hurt to have a few more unique features like cup holders, more padding, better buckle systems, stylish design and colors, and so on. These extra features aren’t deal-breakers, but they are nice to have.

Why Use An Infant Car Seat?

Not every new parent understands the need for a car seat, and if you’re one of those who wonders if you need a car seat at all, the simple answer is yes, you do!

Infants and toddlers are fragile and need the added safety of a car seat that has undergone rigorous safety testing whenever they’re traveling in a vehicle. In addition to safety, the car seat also offers comfort to ensure that their little bodies don’t get fatigued during those long rides.

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat

There are two main types of car seats: Infant seats and convertible seats (we know, buying a convertible meant something totally different before you had kids).

Infant car seats usually have an average weight of under 40 pounds and an average height of up to 35 inches tall, and they can only be used rear-facing positions.

They often come with handles to make it easier to transport your baby in and out of the car. All newborn babies require a rear-facing car seat for maximum safety.

Convertible car seats, on the other hand, are all-in-one seats have an average limit of around 50 pounds and they can be used as rear-facing for infants or front-facing as the baby grows past the rear-facing weight and height limits.

It is recommended that infants and toddlers use rear-facing car seats until they reach the age of two years (at least), or until they reach the weight and height specifications for their car seat. You can choose to buy either an infant seat that is only rear-facing or you can opt for a convertible car seat which can grow with the baby.

Advantages Of Using A Convertible Car Seat

By getting a convertible car seat for your small car, you essentially ensure that you will not have to go through the entire buying process again before long when your baby outgrows the rear-facing stage. Another great advantage of getting a convertible seat over a straight-up infant car seat is the convenience it gives you.

Buying a convertible car seat lets you buy once and use the same car seat for years as your baby grows. It eliminates the need for multiple car seats as your baby grows and saves you a lot of money in the process.

The versatility of a convertible seat gives you true value for your investment as the years go by especially if you get a booster seat for school-age kids.


Photo by Bradley Gordon / CC BY, Modified by Author.

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