Did you know that the average infant car seat weighs as much as 20 pounds? That’s more than 2 gallons of milk. It’s one thing if it stays inside the car, and another if you’ll be carrying it around with the baby inside.
If that seems like too much weight to be toting, you’re in the right place. Today, we’ve reviewed the best lightweight infant car seats. We rated them based on safety, comfort, features, and value for the money. Here are our top picks now:[table id=1 /]
- 1 Are lightweight infant car seats safe?
- 2 How to choose the best lightweight infant car seat
- 3 How to get the best value when shopping for an infant car seat
- 4 Best Lightweight Infant Car Seat in 2021
- 5 Conclusion
Are lightweight infant car seats safe?
To be sold in the USA, infant car seats must have crash test ratings. This is true no matter how lightweight they are.
You can evaluate the car seat’s quality at the source – go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s site and check out the ratings. Look at the safety label to see that the seat meets or exceeds Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. And see if there is a JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) seal on the box.
Even the cheapest infant car seats have to be assessed for safety. They may not be very comfortable, but they have to protect the child.
(If you’re considering repurposing a used car seat, at least check the official recalls list to see if there’s been a problem with it).
How to choose the best lightweight infant car seat
You’ll need a car seat when you go home from the hospital, which means you’ll probably be doing anticipatory shopping for a baby you’ve not seen yet in person. Yet, it’s easier than you imagined.
Consider these four basics:
- Car seats should be rear-facing until the child is two years old (1). This protects the child’s neck in case of a crash. Any car seat that isn’t rear-facing isn’t appropriate for infants.
- Infant car seats should also provide extra support for newborns. This may be as simple as a padded insert that can be removed as the child grows. (Extra points if the fabric is washable.)
- All car seats have weight and height limits. Infant car seats should usually be replaced with a larger model when the baby reaches 30 to 35 pounds or 30 to 35 inches in height.
- Finally, the best infant car seats are easy to remove from the base for carrying or to clip onto a stroller.
Keep in mind that there are convertible car seats that purport to protect your baby from birth until they are a toddler. Unfortunately, these are not lightweight.
How to get the best value when shopping for an infant car seat
Once you search for rear-facing car seats that meet the basic criteria, you’ll discover many brands and styles to choose from. The most expensive isn’t necessarily the best choice, especially if it’s not compatible with your car (2).
To get the best value for your money, it’s essential to consider certain details. For example, how simple it is to buckle in the child and how well the car seat fits inside the vehicle. If your car was built after 2002, it should have something called a LATCH connector. These are anchors for the car seat so that you don’t have to use a seatbelt to secure the baby’s seat.
Trust us, it’s worth it to spend a few minutes reading the instructions and watching a video or two. You’ll need it to master the fine art of buckling the harness and checking the recline. There’s no point in purchasing an infant car seat if it’s not properly installed and used. It won’t be safe.
Best Lightweight Infant Car Seat in 2021
If you’re anxious about getting the right infant car seat, we hope the reviews below help you find what you need.
Chicco KeyFit 35 Infant Car Seat
It was a tough choice between the Chicco KeyFit 30 and the 35. The former is less expensive and has an excellent reputation. But the 35 features improvements like an anti-rebound bar, adjustable headrest and harness height, European belt routing, and a higher height (up to 32”) and weight capacity. Let’s see if we can translate some of these terms into real-life benefits.
For one, the anti-rebound bar is that curved piece down by the child’s feet. It provides a little more legroom. But crucially, it’s extra protection in the case of an accident. It stabilizes the car seat during a collision, helping defend the baby whether it’s a front, rear end, or side-impact crash.
Next, the European belt routing means that the seatbelt doesn’t have to wrap around the head of the car seat (like American-style belt routing). Therefore, it reduces the force of a collision on the baby’s head and neck.
Happily, this is an all-around easy car seat to install no matter what terms they use to describe it. It comes with level indicators and the SuperCinch strap tightener.
Moreover, the seat has a removable cushion called a Newborn Positioner. It’s helpful for babies from 4 to 11 pounds. There’s even a full-coverage canopy with UV protection.
We also liked that it’s possible to remove and replace the carrier part of the seat into the base with only one hand. Once it’s out of the car, it clicks into compatible Chicco strollers, too.
- Extra crash protection with an anti-rebound bar and European belt routing
- Removable cushion supports newborns from 4 to 11 pounds
- One-hand operation for removing the carrier and replacing it in the base
- Rapid, secure installation with level indicators and a strap tightener
- Adjustable headrest and harness height
- Full-coverage canopy with UPF 50+ sunshade
- Compatible with all car seat compatible Chicco strollers
- Fits children up to 32 inches in height
- May not fit well in small vehicles or in cars where the front seats are fully pushed back
Disney Baby Minnie Mouse Light ‘n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat
Even if you’re on a tight budget, we’re sure you don’t want to sacrifice safety. Disney’s Mickey and Minnie car seats are inexpensive, yet they meet or exceed ASTM and federal safety standards. They have side-impact protection with a 5-point harness. Plus, they both come with a one-year limited warranty.
Both are equipped with LATCH connectors for vehicles manufactured after 2002. And both are suitable for infants weighing 4 to 22 pounds. Once that limit has been reached, you’ll have to upgrade. Consequently, it may be worth spending a little more and avoid having to purchase another car seat so soon.
We checked with parents who are currently using this car seat. They say that it’s light and easy to carry. On the downside, the padding is a bit thin and not especially supportive for newborns. Also, the sunshade feels a little flimsy and doesn’t cover the child fully.
- Inexpensive infant car seat meets or exceeds federal and ASTM safety standards
- 5-point harness and side-impact protection
- Suitable for infants from 4 to 22 pounds
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Thin padding and minimal sunshade
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 XT Infant Car Seat
Recline is a surprisingly important feature. The angle at which the child sits protects the baby in the event of a collision. It also keeps the baby’s head from falling forward and obstructing the airway.
This Graco car seat’s base has 4 recline positions to accommodate all sorts of backseat installations. Moreover, it has a level that you can check to make sure it’s installed correctly. There are only 3 steps to follow to set it up.
If someone else is borrowing the car seat, you can send the instruction manual along inside the storage compartment. The LATCH connectors fit inside there, too, or you can use the car’s safety belt.
The seat is made for children from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches tall. It comes with a removable head and body support cushion for newborns. As a child grows, you can adjust the shoulder straps, but you’ll need to rethread them from the back (unlike the Chicco KeyFit 35).
If you can, choose the Graco model with the TrueShield technology. It protects the baby’s head, neck, back, and hips from side impacts.
Since it’s part of the Graco Click Connect system, the seat is compatible with their strollers. It weighs approximately 9 and a half pounds without the base.
- 3-step installation compatible with LATCH connectors or the car’s seatbelt
- 4 recline positions and a level indicator to accommodate different types of seats
- Removable head and body support cushion for newborns, adjustable breathable canopy
- Adjustable harness suits children from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches
- Compatible with Graco’s Click Connect system strollers
- Not a lot of color choices
Maxi-Cosi Mico Max Plus Infant Car Seat
When we contemplated this car seat, it looked so comfortable that we wished it came adult-sized. It features plush fabric that wicks away sweat. There’s head and neck support for both newborns and babies up to 30 pounds and 32 inches tall. Even the carrying handle is padded for mom and dad.
But it’s not just extra-comfy, it’s also safe. It has an anti-rotation stability leg to defend the neck and head against sudden rotation. Plus, there’s the Air Protect technology that guards against side impacts. Overall, the seat exceeds federal standards for safety, including FMVSS 213 regarding seat harnesses.
The seat cover is removable and machine-washable and dryable. You don’t even have to unthread the harness to take it out. Then, the canopy provides coverage for the baby’s whole body from the sun with plenty of ventilation. Even the harness is well-thought-out. The buckle moves out of the way so you can pick your baby up out of the seat.
Here’s another big attraction: the car seat is compatible with 50 stroller systems. They don’t have to be Maxi-Cosi brand, although you may need an adapter.
- Extra-comfy with plenty of padding and plush material that wicks away sweat
- Machine-washable and dryable fabric
- Made for newborns and babies up to 30 pounds and 32 inches
- Exceeds federal safety standards especially with Air Protect technology and an anti-rotation stability leg
- Compatible with 50 different stroller systems
- Extensive canopy and padded carrying handle
- A little bigger than some models, but still lightweight
You and the baby are going places. The right lightweight infant car seat will keep her safe and help you save time and energy.
We hope you found the perfect car seat for your child today. We’d love to hear about your experience using it. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
1 https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/stay-safe-in-car WedMd Staff, accessed April 21, 2021
2 https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/car-seats/buying-guide/index.htm updated: February 19, 2021, accessed April 21, 2021
3. https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Child Seat Recall Campaign Listing