2015 was a milestone year for me. Granted, it was a milestone many people reach before I did. In 2015 I bought my Ford Focus. I was so proud, I felt like I had made it. Now, I realize most people buy a car before they are 27 but I had never needed one before. When I was in high school my older brother was happy to drive me places (I know I am super lucky to have a brother like that) and he would jump at any excuse to get behind the wheel of his car. When he couldn’t be my chauffeur, I would carpool with friends. Then I went to college and grad school where there was public transportation.
In 2013, I moved to New York and I relied on the subway or the bus along with what seemed like every single person in Manhattan. When I moved back home I couldn’t put it off any longer…I needed a car. After a ton of research and a few test drives, I bought my Ford Focus and I fell in love with it. It was a great deal and has all of the bells and whistles. Sunroof, leather seats, navigation, the works. But, its blessing is also its curse…it is a very small car. I am talking ‘barely fits an adult in the back seat’ small. So, in 2016 when I got pregnant the search for the best car seats for small cars was on.
I searched to find a car seat that was safe yet compact. Car seats are being built safer than ever which is amazing. Did you know that properly installed car seats reduce infant death by 71% in passenger car accidents? 71% that is huge! Check out Kids Sitting Safe for more mind-blowing statistics. There are so many choices out there for car seats it can be a little overwhelming, especially for first-time parents. There are so many options from infant bucket car seats to convertible car seats to all-in-one car seats. Prices range wildly too. You sit there wondering if you’re paying for more safety or just paying more.
So what is the difference?
Infant bucket seats
An infant bucket seat is a removable car seat that clicks into a non-removable base. When your baby falls asleep you can just pull the entire car seat out and your little angel can keep snoozing away. Having it clip into a base is perfect for when you have multiple cars. My mother-in-law watches my son two days a week so just buying three bases (my car, my husband’s car and my mother-in-law’s) and only one car seat saved us a lot of money for that first year.
These car seats are often part of a travel system so they clip right into a stroller. They make that first year really convenient. But, the con to these car seats is they are only meant to be used while your baby is an infant. So you will have to replace it after only a year, or sooner depending on how fast your child grows.
Convertible Car Seats
A convertible car seat is built to go from rear-facing to forward-facing and work for your child through the toddler years. The pros of these seats are their versatility and ability to go from rear-facing to forward-facing while still keeping a compact size. The cons are some convertible car seats aren’t meant for small newborns and your child will outgrow it in a couple of years. Thus requiring you to pay for multiple car seats.
All-In-One Car Seats
These car seats are exactly what they sound like, a seat to fit all of your child’s needs in one package. These seats are great because you never have to replace them which will save you money in the long run. The seat is adjustable and adapts to your growing baby. But, they are also rather large. You can’t make an all-in-one too compact or it won’t work for all your child’s sizes. This is the only type of car seat where you don’t have to pay for multiple car seats during your son or daughter’s childhood.
What to consider
So how do you choose what kind of car seat is best for you? The first aspect to consider will be affordability. Can you afford to purchase more than one car seat over the course of your child’s first decade? If you can I really recommend starting with an infant bucket seat. The convenience is worth it!
The second thing to think about is convenience. Which car seat will make your life easier? As a first-time mom I wish someone had told me that I will want to do everything I can to make my life easier. So buying that diaper rash butt spatula is worth it and don’t wait for 5 months to get it! But, I digress.
The third thing to consider is your specific situation. Do you already own a stroller that you can’t clip an infant seat into? Or, maybe you are having twins so the smallest car seat possible is your ultimate choice? Can the seat cover be easily removed when ‘poopocolypse’ eventually occurs? No matter what your situation, you can find the perfect car seat to protect your little one.
So what are the best car seats for small cars?
I scoured the internet and asked the experts a.k.a. my mom friends and here are the top 5 car seats for small cars.
My Choice: I decided an infant bucket seat would be the best choice for our needs when my son was first born. I got the Chicco traveling system so it had a stroller that the car seat fit right into and it was really convenient.
Assembled Dimensions: 27.5″ x 17″ x 24″
Product Weight Without Base: 9.6 lbs.
Base Only Dimensions: 20″ x 15″ x 8″
Base Only Weight: 7 lbs.
Ship Weight: 20 lbs.
Carton Dimensions: 17.32″ x 14.96″ x 27.95″
The Chicco KeyFit 30 is an infant bucket seat that allowed me to bring my son wherever I needed to without waking him up. If he actually slept. Which was basically never. Just thinking about that time period is making me tired.
My son had colic until he was about 9 months old so sleep was a precious thing. This car seat was a life saver. If he would fall asleep in the car, I could just take the whole car seat with me while he slept. I miss that. Now when he falls asleep I have to either wait in the car until he wakes up or try really hard to not wake him up while I take him out of his seat. That never happens…he always wakes up. I highly recommend this seat for infants.
My Choice: When my son outgrew his infant bucket seat we upgraded to the Chicco NextFit iX Zip. This is a convertible car seat that he will continue to use through his toddler years.
Assembled Product Dimensions: 21″ x 19″ x 29.2″
Assembled Product Weight: 25.1 lbs
Minimum Weight: 5 lbs
Maximum Weight: 65 lbs
This car seat is rear-facing from 5-40lbs and forward-facing from 22-65lbs. My son is on the small side so I hope we can extend his rear-facing even past two years old with this seat. It has 9 reclining positions to ensure your child has the perfect position for their growing body. The entire top half of the cover can completely zip off making keeping it clean a breeze. My son loves this car seat; it gives him comfort while still being compact enough to fit in my car easily. This car seat is also one of Amazon’s choices!
Britax is world-renowned for being safety experts when it comes to car seats. They are top-of-the-line and are always innovating their safety testing. That makes this car seat perfect to keep your little angel safe and is still a great fit for a small car.
Product Dimensions: 23 x 18.5 x 23.5 inches
Product Weight: 24 pounds
Minimum weight recommendation: 5 Pounds
Maximum weight recommendation: 65 Pounds
This car seat is rear-facing 5-40 lbs and forward-facing 20-65 lbs with a maximum height of 49 inches. This car seat has an extra layer for side impact protection, a Click & Safe Snug Harness Indicator to ensure your little one is properly harnessed and Britax Safe Cell technology. Overall this car seat is a powerhouse. And, the dimensions of this seat is perfect for small cars.
This car seat is the smallest on my list. It would be perfect for anyone expecting multiples or that have more than one child in a car seat at the same time.
Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 29.5 x 21.2 inches
Product Weight: 24 pounds
Minimum weight recommendation: 9 Pounds
Maximum weight recommendation: 70 Pounds
This car seat is specifically engineered to fit in your car better. It is covered in self-wicking fabric to keep moisture off your child and keep them feeling comfortable. When your child inevitably spills on their car seat, it is machine washable. This car seat is meant to fit in your car easily making it a great fit for small cars.
This is an all-in-1 car seat that is surprisingly small and perfect for anyone that wants to stick with one car seat for as long as their child needs one. You don’t have to replace it through infancy to booster seats.
Product Dimensions: 26.1 x 20.4 x 21.3 inches
Item Weight: 24 pounds
Minimum weight recommendation: 4 Pounds
Maximum weight recommendation: 120 Pounds
Having a child is expensive so having a one-and-done car seat is a great option. This car seat was designed to offer 5 extra inches of legroom to give your child a comfortable fit and keep them rear-facing longer. Rear-facing is the safest way to travel with your baby so keeping them rear-facing as long as possible is a huge plus for this car seat.
Picking a car seat is stressful. You are literally picking a seat to keep your child safe while traveling. Nothing is more important anytime your child gets in a car. You want to find the safest option while being realistic. I know I can’t afford a bigger car just to get a bigger car seat so I am limited to certain car seats. The safety tests that go into all car seats on the market now are incredible.
Having an infant bucket seat to start honestly made my life so much easier. When you want to quickly run out to the store or run an errand it is easy to just buckle in your baby and sling the car seat handle over your arm and you’re off. You don’t have to worry about waking up your baby when you need to just pop into the grocery store for milk because leaving your child in the car is never an option. Having a seat that grows with your child adds a layer of convenience.
Making sure their time in the car is comfortable and something to enjoy starts with the seat they ride in. An easily removable cover is also overlooked until the seat cover needs to be washed. Believe me having a car seat with a zip-off cover is awesome! When my son drops more puffs than he makes into his mouth, that zipper comes in handy. I hope this list of best car seats for small cars helps you find the perfect car seat for your little one.