10 Best Car Seats for Small Cars
Published: February 6, 2017
The first time I attempted to install the car seat for my soon-to-be baby girl, I thought I might break my back. Trying to maneuver a large, bulky object into a now-surprisingly cramped space is not an easy task. And wrangling the latches or seatbelt through the car seat with no room to work with? Forget about it. Not to mention, once I finally did get it installed, I barely had room to lean my front seat past a ninety-degree angle. A two-door or economy sized car isn’t necessarily the ideal place for a car seat. Buying a larger car isn’t exactly ideal either. So what is the solution?
Why Compact Car Seats?
If you’re like me and haven’t graduated to the mini-van stage yet, and you must squeeze a big car seat into a tiny car, there are some car seats that may be a better fit while saving you some back pain and making your car rides a little more enjoyable. Not to mention freeing up some space (every inch counts!) for trips to the grocery store or when hauling items around. Even if you have a minivan or a larger sedan, but you have to put more than 2 car seats in your backseat – this article is for you, too, because no one wants to have two car seats squished next to each other, allowing siblings to go at it within arms reach, while you’re busy driving.
Compact car seats are ideal for compact cars for obvious reasons. A small space demands a small car seat. An added benefit is that compact car seats are typically lighter in weight and therefore easier to handle. If you transfer the car seat between multiple vehicles in your household this is an important point to consider. A compact car seat is also beneficial if you need to fit multiple car seats into one small backseat. An added perk is that it leaves some extra space for the passenger in the front row to actually lean their seat away from the windshield. Although this may not allow for a peaceful car ride (at least in my case), at least you can be a bit more comfortable.
Also, many compact car seats are ideal for traveling as they easily pass through security checkpoints and can have FAA certification which allows them to be used in-flight. Moving down the cramped, crowded aisle of an airplane with a compact car seat makes the situation a little more bearable, not to mention the added ease of placing the car seat in whatever mode of transportation awaits you at pick-up.
About Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats seem to be the most popular option online, as they eliminate the need to purchase multiple car seats as your infant grows into the toddler and pre-school stages and beyond. Purchased separately, you would need an infant, toddler, and booster seat, at the minimum. I did some research and checked out the best-seller and highest-reviewed lists to see which compact car seats were the best for small cars. I was happy to find a variety of prices and styles, and they all have high safety ratings as well.
Whether a new mom writing up a baby shower gift list, or a mom of one with another on the way, feel free to scour this list to find the information you need to purchase the car seat that will best fit your lifestyle. With many options to choose from, each offering pros and cons, you’ll be able to find the car seat that works for you.
Without further ado, here are our top choices. Need a jogging stroller, too? Check out these best jogging stroller and car seat combos! For jogging strollers on a budget, check out these best jogging strollers under $200.
Best Car Seats for Small Cars
There are so many different types of car seats (infant, convertible, luxury)that it can be overwhelming to choose the right one, especially if you are a new parent. Of course, the top priority is finding the safest car seat for your child. One that’s affordable. And comfortable. And easy to handle. Now add “compact” to the list of requirements, and you may have quite the headache. How do you find the perfect car seat for your circumstances when there are endless options available? What makes one better or worse than the other? To lessen the frustration, and save you some time, we have compiled a list of the best car seat options for smaller cars. All highly rated, they stand out in different ways, which makes narrowing down the possibilities a much less daunting task. Here are some of the best car seat options for small cars.
Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat
The Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat received the top rating due to its safety ratings and its FAA certification (which means you can take this seat on an airplane). It has 3-in-1 features and can be used rear-facing (5-45 pounds), forward-facing (20-80 pounds and up to 57 inches in height), and as a belted booster seat (up to 120 pounds). With is narrow design, the Diono Radian is an exceptional pick for use with compact cars as you can fit three of these car seats across a single row or leave plenty of space for passengers if only using one.
The Diono Radian boasts a 10 year period of use, which is another reason it is rated so highly – it can be used during the infant, toddler, and booster seat stages, which some children required until they are 11 years old. This car seat is built with a steel frame, reinforced sidewalls, and an energy-absorbing harness, so it is very safe and durable. It is made with memory foam and comes with an additional infant body support cushion, as well as adjustable headrests and one cupholder, although you are able to attach more cupholders (up to 3) if you desire.
Even better, the Diono Radian folds flat, so it is great for transferring, traveling, and again, is approved for airplane use by the FAA. The product specifications on Amazon indicate this seat weighs around 28 pounds.
Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat
The Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat has a smaller range of support than the Diono, allowing rear facing capabilities of 5-40 pounds and forward facing 22-65 pounds. This seat, however, is an ideal fit for small cars. The base is compact, and contains a nine-point incline system which allows you to easily adjust the incline of the seat without pushing or prodding, creating the perfect fit for your vehicle. A six-point headrest adjustor lets the seat grow with your child by integrating harness control movement, providing safety and comfort from babyhood and beyond. The five-point harness is equipped with a two position chest clip, another beneficial safety feature for the growing child. The Super-Latch system this car seat employs allows you to secure the seat into your car with ease by providing easy-to-follow directions right on the base.
The Chicco NextFit uses a bubble leveling display that helps you identify proper positioning when rear-facing or forward-facing. It is highly touted an an easily converted car seat and the Super-Latch system eliminates the timely hassle of securing the seat by implementing an easy slide path between the seat and base. It also offers an insulated cup holder and pocket. At around 25 pounds, it is a few pounds lighter than the Diono, making this a great choice for a compact car.
Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
The Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat is the #1 Best Seller on Amazon for convertible car seats. It is affordable at around $58.00 and is made in the USA, which for some of us is an important fact to note. It has been tested in safety and structural integrity and meets two times the federal standard of car seat safety in crash tests.
Although the Evenflo Tribute has a lesser maximum weight recommendation (at 40 pounds) compared to our previous two choices, it is still a top contender in quality and design. A width of 17 inches, with the base only 15 inches, allows this car seat to easily fit into a compact car. The latch system is easy to implement, perfect for parents needs to frequently move the seat between vehicles.
This car seat comes with an attached body cushion and also a detachable head pillow for use with younger children. The seat cushion is removable and machine washable which is a definite plus for keeping the seat clean for multiple years. There is a 5-point harness system which is adjustable from a front adjustment lever. Four harness slotting options line the back, enabling the car seat to grow with your child. In addition, there are two crotch buckle positions that provide a comfortable fit for your child from infant to preschooler.
The Evenflo Tribute weighs in at a whopping 9.1 pounds – almost half the weight of the other car seats listed! For frequent travelers, this may be the perfect option with its lightweight, easy-to-carry design. So, for ease of transport, this one might take the cake! When you consider the affordability factor along with the easy transport design perhaps we should move this car seat to the top of the list!
Britax USA Boulevard Convertible Car Seat
The Britax USA Boulevard Convertible car seat is a compact car seat that can also be used in either rear (5-40 pounds) or forward-facing (20 – 65 pounds) positions. This is the perfect seat to be used in older cars that may not have a latch system installed. By opening the front of the car seat, essentially lifting the seat up, you can easily slid the seat belt across and secure it. Then, just push the seat back down, no more hassle of squishing your hand through a small opening and trying to push the belt through.
The Britax Boulevard comes with an impact protection system that enhances the safety of the frame, base, tether, and even the stitches. Every consideration has been made to provide better safety for your child. A safety harness, which they claim is one of the safest and easiest to use, makes a click to help you in tightening the harness to the proper snugness. Layers of impact absorbing material surround the child’s head and body, which help to absorb energy during a collision. The cover is also removable, allowing for easy cleanup of spills or crumbs.
Like the Diono, the Britax USA Boulevard car seat is built with a durable steel frame; although this does contribute to this seats’ 24 pound carrying weight. However, an added benefit is its 14-point harness and 2-point buckle system, which allows for multiple adjustments as your child grows, making this an extremely customizable car seat in terms of adjusting to your child’s growth.
Combi Coccoro Convertible Car Seat
The Combi Coccoro Convertible Car Seat is designed with deep side walls and energy-absorbing material surrounding the child’s head, neck, and spine. A five-point harness ensures your child is secure, and will remain so as he grows with four harness heights. The buckle has an indicator that lets the parent know when the buckle is fastened properly, so you’re never left wondering. A push-button LATCH system provides easy, simple installation, making the transfer of this seat into different vehicles a breeze.
This seat is compact, allowing for three carseats across a row if necessary, so it is perfect for small cars. It comes with a removable infant cushion as well. The Combi Coccoro Convertible car seat weighs almost 16 pounds, which puts it in the middle-range of the car seats listed here. It sells for around $240.00, though it has been found to be available at deep discounts of up to $90.00 at certain times of the year. Another added benefit – these car seats come in really cool colors and designs, check out the Cherry Pie/Red version…pretty cool. They give off a rather vintage vibe with the solid colors and white piping accent. Even better, the cover, harness pads, and infant pillow are all removable, allowing for easy cleaning to maintain those vibrant colors.
This car seat does have limited use – rear-facing specifications are for 3-30 pounds, and forward-facing for 20-40 pounds, so it will not provide a decade of use for your child. You will have to buy an additional car seat once your child exceeds the 40-pound mark.
Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with Tiny Fit Convertible Car Seat
The Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Car Seat also comes in some cool colors and designs (check out the Bohemian blue model), and it also has an air cushioning system that protects the child’s head. This car seat can be used rear-facing from 9-40 pounds, which is important to note if planning on using for a newborn, as it is has the highest minimum weight limit of the car seats on our list. Conversely, it also has the maximum weight limit of car seats on our list at 22-70 pounds, meaning this is the best option for long-term use as your child ages and grows. Weighing in at 23 pounds, this is one of the heavier models to transport, however as this car seat is designed solely for vehicle use and not for carrying or use with a stroller, that detail may not be of the greatest concern.
This car seat is constructed of air-wicking fabric that will keep your child dry and comfortable. The fabric is easily removed by snaps for easy clean up and there is no harness rethreading, which is also a plus.
The Maxi-Cosi car seat offers a one-hand harness height adjustment in addition to micro-adjustment options and deep rear-facing adjustments for optimal comfort and proper fit every time. Also, it is one of the larger compact car seats included in this list, so it may not be ideal for all compact cars.This seat makes it easy to install for the rear-facing position as well.
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
The major perk with the car seat is its ability to add up to five inches of additional leg room while rear-facing. This makes it much easier to comply with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to remain rear-facing until at least age two. With a weight span of 4-50 pounds while rear-facing, this car seat offers one of the highest maximum weight limits of all our choices. Once the time comes, turn the car seat forward and use until your child reaches 65 pounds.
An adjustable harness system allows you to easily change the height of the headrest and harness without the struggle of rethreading the straps through the back of the seat. Harness storages make coming and going easy by keeping the straps out of the way and free of being tangled.
The base allows for six positions of incline to ensure your child rides comfortably. The seat cushion is removable and machine washable, making cleanup of spills and food crumbs easy.
This seat weighs in at 23.8 pounds, placing it on the higher end for car seats on our list. However, the added bonus of the rear-facing legroom extender panel and a moderate price point of $199.99 (with a sale price as low as $119.19 if you’re looking at the right time) make this a wonderful choice for a convertible car seat that will be usable well through your child’s early elementary years.
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible Car Seat
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible Car Seat is on the high end of price points for our list, but the construction and attention to even the finest details make this a superb choice for your new car seat. Available in ten different color schemes ranging in price from $267.66 to $399.99, this car seat offers a great selection to suit various tastes in style.
With a rear-facing weight recommendation of 5-45 pounds and front-facing weight recommendation of 22-65 pounds, this seat will be suitable to use for many years and through all your child’s stages of growth. Using 4D Total Adjust Technology, you are able to adjust the seat to fit your child in four different ways: the headrest can adjust to 5 different vertical positions, the upper backrest adjusts to 3 different vertical positions, the side wings adjust to 3 different horizontal positions, and the seat can recline into 5 different positions. This enables a completely customizable fit for your child in safety and comfort.
The aluminum backrest provides ample protection in the case of a collision, along with EPS foam in the side wings and headrest to absorb energy upon impact. The rigid Latch system provides easy installation and creates a stable attachment to your vehicle.
This car seat also has the ability to fold onto itself, great for saving space when not in use or when packed for traveling. With a width of 21.2 inches and weight of 21 pounds, the Primo Viaggio is not the smallest and sleekest car seat on our list, but it will fit into most standard compact-sized cars.
Eddie Bauer XRS 65 Convertible Car Seat
This car seat is a great fit for a compact car at a little over 18 inches wide, meaning you could easily fit three across a row, ensuring enough room for all passengers in the vehicle. The Eddie Bauer XRS is Latch System equipped, allowing for easy installation, while its weight of only 14. 4 pounds means you won’t break a sweat transferring it between vehicles or carrying it through an airport.
Usable from 5-40 pounds while rear-facing and 22-56 pounds while forward-facing, this car seat will provide continued comfort and safety for your child for many years. An infant insert cushions your newborn, while the 5-point harness is easily adjustable with a front strap to maintain a safe snugness level. A kickstand base allows you to easily level the car seat for safe travels.
The Eddie Bauer XRS 65 Convertible Car Seat is available in two color options, with a cup holder attachment, and constructed of easy-to-clean fabric. At a price of $99.99, this is a good, quality car seat built to last but without all the bells and whistles of some of our previous picks.
Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX Convertible Car Seat
This is a simple, yet safe option that provides ample room for the other passengers in a compact car by measuring only 17 inches across. And weighing only 14 pounds, you can easily transport this car seat anywhere. With weight recommendations of 5-40 pounds rear-facing and 22-65 pounds forward-facing, you’ll be able to go from newborn to elementary school-age with this car seat. Featuring a 5-point harness with 5 different heights and 3 buckle locations, you can rest assured that your child is properly restrained per their height and weight. This car seat is constructed with Side Impact Protection, designed to keep your child safe through the impact of a collision. The Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX is also certified for use on airplanes, meaning you can carry this lightweight car seat from the car, through airport security, onto the plane and into whatever vehicle awaits.
The fabric of this car seat is machine washable and safe for the dryer, meaning you can clean up any mess in no time and with ease. A price of $89.99 brings this car seat to the low end of cost on our list, but that does not detract from the high ratings it has received for it’s quality and durability. With four simple, yet colorful designs, this would be a great car seat for a boy or girl.
So, there you have it. These are the ten best options I found for compact convertible car seats. I encourage you to check out the reviews for each one before you decide to purchase. Each car seat featured here has numerous reviews to provide you with personal insight of the design, fabric, fit, and functionality, along with every high note and unfortunate flaw. Even with this limited selection, it may still be difficult to determine which car seat is the best for your child. Each car seat has its pros and cons, but at least you will know that it will fit in the backseat of your small car. One last tip – if you want to be certain of the fit, dig out the tape measure and measure the back seat of your car. The dimensions and weight of each car seat is listed on Amazon, and this is a great way to make sure you won’t be sending it back. Even compact cars have different dimensions, so it’s a good idea to take some measurements and factor that into your decision.
Categorised in: Baby Gear Reviews