As parents, we want to offer our children with the safest and most comfortable experience in transport.
However, traveling by a small car requires an adequate car seat that can present quite the challenge. The challenge gets even trickier if you can't seem to stay within the budget.
Luckily, you have come across an article designed to review the products of your desire.
If you consider the purchase of the best infant car seat for small cars that deliver in budget, comfort, and safety, you have come to the right place.
Table of Contents
- Best Infant Car Seat For Small Cars: My Top 10 Favorites
- #1. Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat - Best In Infant Car Seats
- #2. Safety 1st Onboard 35 LT - Best Car Seat for Small Cars and Air-travel
- #3. Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat - Best Budget Buy
- #4. Disney Baby Minnie Mouse Light' n Comfy 22 Luxe - The Safest Infant Car Seat for Small Cars
- #5. Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base - Best Stroller Convertible Car Seat
- #6. Britax B-Safe Gen2 Flexfit Infant Car Seat - Best Spacious Seat Design
- #7. Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat - Best In Installation
- #8. Baby Trend Secure Snap Tech 35 - Best for Chubbier Babies
- #9. 2018 UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat - Best Travel System
- #10. Maxi-Cosi Mico Max Plus Infant Car Seat with Base - The Best Fit For Petit Babies
- Types of Car Seats
- How Do You Choose the Best Infant Car Seats for Small Car?
- Do baby car seats fit all cars?
- How wide is an infant car seat?
- Are all infant car seats the same size?
- Can any infant car seat fit in any car?
- How do I know if an infant car seat will fit my car?
- What side of the car is safest for an infant car seat?
- What is the smallest infant car seat?
- What is the safest infant car seat 2022?
- Which car seats can fit 3 across?
- Which Graco infant car seat is the slimmest?
- How do you fit a rear-facing car seat in a small car?
- How do you fit three infant car seats in a row?
- Final Words
Best Infant Car Seat For Small Cars: My Top 10 Favorites
Here is the car seat you won't regret buying in terms of convenience, comfort, and design. The Chicco KeyFit 30 seat has got to be one of the most impressive models of car seats that the brand offers.
So, let's see why you should consider purchasing this model.
First of all, accessibility is a big plus when it comes to Chicco.
With the unique LATCH system, you won't find yourself struggling to adjust the perfect angle. The system is accompanied by two push-style connectors and a middle strap used for further tightening.
If you are buying a baby car seat for the first time, you will love the Chicco bubble indicator.
The indicator helps parents find the correct adjustment angle with the help of the adjustment foot. Therefore, you will not need any pool noodles or any other DIY accessory to level the car seat.
But, the real challenge is, how well does Chicco KeyFit 30 work in a car crash?
With the cinch tightener, the car seat has proved to work incredibly secure in crash tests.
Among other popular competitors, the Chicco infant car seat had the best results regarding head sensors and side-impact protection. If you want a stress-free ride, we recommend you go for this type of model.
Since we are sincere, we have to address a few points we didn't like in this infant seat.
For starters, this may not be the best choice for parents using public transportation daily.
The belt is not color-coded, even though it is accessible to the thread, the base-free installation is trickier.
The Safety 1st car seat is my next pick.
This safe and comfortable infant car seat with a narrow design and slim features is a fantastic candidate for smaller cars.
Not only that, but the car seat is suitable for air travel as well, so if you are planning a trip anytime soon, now is the time to invest in the Safety 1st Onboard 35 LT!
For air travel, the last thing you want to deal with is a cumbersome car seat.
Well, that's where the Safety 1st car seat comes crashing in and delivers a lightweight design of only 14 lbs, but without the base, it weighs only 7 lbs.
Once you put the baby in, you will be surprised at how easy it is to adjust the harness. Unfortunately, the harness tends to give a lot of headaches with some parents who are not used to the system but not this one.
It has up to four heights, so you can change it up as your little one grows. How cool is that? No more tight and uncomfortable rides.
The slim infant car seat comes with a base that includes height adjustments for easier compatibility.
However, things did not go that easy for some parents. They complained about how difficult it is to get the seat tight and the length of the straps.
If you prefer a car seat that is easier to install when you are in a rush, I would honestly recommend the Maxi-Cosi Mico Max Plus Infant Car Seat with Base.
Of course, the car seat also uses a base, but the whole system is far from complicated.
If you are on the budget, look no further than Evenflo LiteMax infant car seat.
The car seat carries the title of budget-friendly in our article, but the amazement does not stop there. The rear-facing car seat is easy to install, rideshare friendly, and will not break the bank.
The seat's installation contains a seat-belt lock off and SureSAFE connectors that make the process without the base a piece of cake.
We mentioned that it's rideshare friendly mostly because of the American-style belt. Although some would prefer the European style better in terms of safety, this one effectively keeps the baby secure.
Evenflo car seat also includes a stay-in-car base, which made the task of installation a lot easier for most parents.
Babies weighing from 4 to 35 pounds of weight will fit snugly into the padded seat. Even for the tiniest passengers, the padding is designed to fit comfortably around the baby's body.
Since the padding is not too bulky as some can be, the seat has proved to be the best choice for small cars.
The reclining system is on the trickier side. Some parents had issues adjusting for babies 20 pounds of weight.
However, knowing that some babies can outgrow the rear-facing car seats in height before weight may not be an issue for you.
The adjustment knob is slightly different from the other seat models on the market, so you may find it troublesome if this isn't your first purchase.
The Disney Baby infant car seat has the most endearing design I have ever seen! No matter if you are a Disney fan or not, no one could resist this car seat!
But, let's see how it tests out and whether it is worth the hype.
Firstly, this car seat received a high safety rating, which is the feature I value the most.
It has a five-point harness, but the weight limit sure did disappoint me. It's only suitable for infants from 4-22 pounds, making this the car seat with the lowest weight limit.
If you are searching for a compact and narrow infant car seat, you can use only for a few months, then great! This could be the one!
But, in the long run, I would recommend you pick something you can use for a bit longer, such as the Evenflo LiteMax Infant Car Seat.
Nonetheless, this compact car seat is super easy to install with the latch and a base.
As many infant car seats tend to make the process of installation challenges, it was refreshing seeing how effortless it was to install this Disney car seat.
Okay, now I have to mention the apparent downside.
The padding is sold separately, and if you want your baby to be as comfortable as possible, you will have to break the bank a little bit.
The good news is that the car seat is not expensive, so additional purchases should not be a problem. Still, it would be better if you got everything then and there.
Lastly, I would like to mention that the best place for installing this car seat into a small vehicle is in the middle. It gives utter protection even during lateral crashes.
We have all been there when the baby gets fussy when moving from the car seat into a stroller. Well, with this hybrid car seat, you won't have such problems.
The Doona infant car seat is a practical solution for parents on-the-go.
This type of car seat is the only one on the market that converts to a stroller in a matter of seconds-all while not disturbing the baby.
Even though it comes with the base, you can freely install it without one. The installation process is pretty straightforward, but you will need some practice, that's for sure.
One issue we have with the seat is the weight. The weight is a whopping 16 pounds. Add the baby weight to it, and you have yourself a problem.
However, many parents commented that it gets easier over time, and the integrated wheels help with not carrying the seat to another location.
You will get the best out of this car seat for about a year or so. After that, consider purchasing a convertible car seat that offers a higher weight limit. The weight limit on the Doona one is 35 pounds, a standard for most car seats on the market.
Another promising feature is bound to turn heads when you take it out for a stylish design walk.
The rear-facing car seat has a bamboo charcoal textile called hypoallergenic, heat, and humidity regulating and washable.
Hence the price. As you can see, the Doona car seat is the most expensive model in our article, but you won't get it wrong if your budget allows you.
Take a look at this next generation of Britax car seats - the FlexFit! It's a super narrow infant car seat that incorporates a spacious seating area, making your baby comfortable.
As you may know, Britax has car seats that are designed to grow with your baby.
This model is no different due to the seating area as well as the no-rethread 5-point harness. As your baby grows, the harness can be adjusted easily, making every position cozy and snug.
Along with the harness, the headrest can also be adjusted!
What I value the most in the European belt guide. Not only does it increase the stability of the infant car seat, but it makes installations without the base possible!
I struggled with the base installations all the time, so this is a huge bonus on my part!
As for the overall design, I expected nothing less from Britax. The seat is compact and narrow, allowing other passengers to ride in the back seat as well.
The car seat fabric is made out of mesh, so it allows for optimal airflow and thermoregulation.
One of the features that are the most significant selling point of Britax has got to be the SafeCell crumple technology. It's designed to absorb crash energy and soften the blow in case of collision.
However, the car seat is not so lightweight, so if you were looking for a lighter option, may I suggest the UPPAbaby MESA infant car seat.
Also, the stroller compatibility is limited.
For example, this particular infant car seat for small cars is compatible only with BOB strollers or Britax strollers.
And, since the car seat is pricier, I would suggest you make an intelligent purchase and plan on the type of stroller you want to get in the future.
Coming up, we have another budget-friendly option that did not disappoint.
When you search Amazon for infant car seats, the Graco brand is bound to pop up eventually. It is a favorite of many, especially those who like to keep it both economical and practical.
The question of safety has to be mentioned when it comes to Graco. Graco's recent crash tests resulted slightly lower than some of our models on the list.
For example, while Chicco Keyfit 30 scored an impressive 330 in head sensor protection, Graco scored 606, and the lower the number, the better is the protection. However, Graco scored impeccably in chest protection.
When it comes to safety, we give a point to the Chicco car seat, but Graco seat sure did not disappoint in this department. So, you decide from there if this is going to be your best pick.
The Snugride 35 has a LATCH style clip. The process of attaching and taking off can present a problem to some.
If you are used to more expensive models that connect with ease, you may somehow find the system flawed.
But, the installation with the base is surprisingly well. Not only this, but the combining base with the vehicle seat belt is a quick task.
With this kind of price, you have to be prepared for some compromise.
Speaking of design and comfort, Graco does not revolutionize the whole prospect. Comparing it to other seats, this one has slightly thinner padding.
As for the canopy, it is long enough, but it can be tricky to keep it open while the handle is upright.
Overall, the design is not low, but the pricing rage sure does determine the finish and the longevity of the product.
The Baby Trend Secure Snap Tech 35 is a convenient car seat that enables easy maintenance and a safe environment for your little passenger.
It's available in several different color designs, and each of them is super luxurious, even though the price tag is budget-friendly.
Compared with the competitors on our list, this car seat is a bit heavier at weighing nearly 19 pounds. But, don't worry.
It's still narrow to fit in a smaller vehicle. However, you will struggle a bit carrying this one in and out of the car.
Installations are done with the LATCH, which not many parents found troubling.
The maintenance of the car seat is also a breeze. We all know infants can get a bit messy, especially during feeding time.
For those spills and spit-ups, the car seat includes the removable 4-piece infant insert. It's easily cleaned, but just don't use any harsh chemicals.
What's unique about this narrow car seat is that it includes a boot that provides extra comfort and warmth to your baby.
For added safety, the car seat does include EPS energy-absorption foam as well as side impact protection. However, I noticed that the side flaps tend to get a bit loose when you put the baby in.
The design is still snug, but I would prefer something that would stay put during the entire ride.
I do have another complaint, and those are the crotch straps! They get tangled real quickly, and you will have trouble trying to adjust them correctly.
Many of the parents also complained that their infant did not fit in this car seat. I did not have this problem, but my guess is, it's not very good for petit babies.
So instead, try the Maxi-Cosi Mico Max Plus Infant Car Seat with Base.
The UPPAbaby MESA rear-facing car seat for small car owners is one of the expensive items we picked out.
However, with a great budget comes great responsibility. If you invest in a pricer model, make sure that it checks off all the essential boxes.
This rear-facing car seat is easy to install with or without the base, making it the ultimate choice for parents who use public transportation daily.
The travel system is a must-have if you don't plan on leaving the car seat in the car most of the time.
By the Federal safety requirements, we have to admit that UPPABaby showed impressive head and chest safety crash tests.
We mentioned how much we admire the safety system in the Chicco KeyFit 30 car seat; consider UPPABaby, a close competitor.
As for the installations, we were astonished by how the LATCH system operates. The connectors are straightforward, easy to install, and won't give you any headache when fast installation is required.
The infant car seat also has a level indicator, telling you at which point the seat has been installed adequately via LATCH or a belt.
The one downside of the infant car seat is that it's quite heavy. It stands around 10.36 pounds, which is quite the difference if you used lightweight models previously.
Last but not least is the exceptional comfort and design.
The UPPABaby rear-facing seat is sleek in design, with reliable and sturdy construction. The inside offers a thick, padding seat that keeps the baby comfortable during longer rides.
Also, the padding is made out of wool, which does not contain any fire retardants. The seat's design is a favorite to those who worry about chemical interaction with the baby's skin.
The Maxi-Cosi infant car seat comes full front with European stylish features and design. Parents all over the world and especially in the U.S. are loving this infant seat!
Though the fashionable seat is not on the affordable side, it sure is a worthy purchase.
Since many are not familiar with this new car seat on the market, let us introduce you to the magnificent Maxi-Cosi Mico infant car seat.
This upgraded version has a 4-30 pound weight limit, making it useful until the baby turns two years old. Some parents commented that by the time the kid was two, he/she could no longer fit in the seat.
So, you should always consult with the instructions on this one. Set some money aside just in case you need to repurchase another car seat that would fit a two-year-old better.
Nonetheless, this one is an excellent choice for infants in travel.
The seat base is made out of a bulkier material and may not be as compact as some other modes. However, don't let that discourage you.
We have found that numerous parents excite the seat for the easy installation while traveling.
The safety question is the biggest issue when considering an infant car seat. This rear-facing seat is constructed out of a sturdy frame and comfortable padding, keeping the baby snuggly and safe throughout the ride.
Moreover, the anti-rotation stability leg is there to fold from the base while extending to the floorboard.
This safety feature limits the rocking movement and protects the baby's head and spine in case of an accident.
Types of Car Seats
The convertible car seat and infant car seats are the two available options for baby transports as you are familiar with.
Therefore, it's quite essential to select the right one for the baby and your car size.
1. Infant Car Seat
Infant car seat is the right choice for small cars. They are only meant to be installed as rear-facing, so don't even think about using them as forward-facing later on.
Following the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, infants should be secured in a rear-facing car seat until two.
Also, infant car seats are known to be smaller and more compact for small cars. Moreover, you can find some models in the market compatible with strollers.
Have you seen the Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base review? Here is the car seat you should consider if you want to save up on stroller purchase.
2. Convertible Car Seat
Convertible car seat is the type of seat that can be used rear face until your baby is significantly larger. After that, the convertible car seat can be turned into a forward-facing seat.
Due to this, convertible car seats are much bulkier in design. However, you can find some options that are narrow and can fit into small cars.
So, what is the right option, then? For small cars, we would recommend you purchase infant car seats.
Yes, you can only use them for infants, and use for different ages is not recommended, but they are suitable for narrow spaces.
On the other hand, convertible car seats are a great option if you want to save up on buying forward-facing seats in the future.
How Do You Choose the Best Infant Car Seats for Small Car?
1. Does if Fit Your Car?
Before you go on and splurge on car seats, make sure you check the dimensions. Many people look past this and end up getting a bigger model than their car can handle.
Also, check if the car seat is compact.
Traffic commotion can disturb the baby, and it's peaceful sleep, so you want to make sure the seat you are choosing is a snug fit.
Some car seats have an adjustable positioning system allowing them to fit in most vehicles. On the other hand, most of them lack this feature, so this is another trait to keep an eye out.
2. Are Car Seats Easy to Install?
Technology has come a long way, and hard-to-install car seats should be a problem of the past. Still, please pay attention to the seat base and the installation with or without it.
Some of the seats like Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, contain a level indicator which shows you the appropriate level of car seat adjustment. The indicator is also a smart feature to look for if you don't want the base to latch off suddenly.
Most of the seats can be installed without the base. However, this can be quite dangerous in some terms, and it's a bit tricky when you are on the go.
3. Features & Safety
You would be pleased to know that even infant car seats meant for small cars have additional features.
The features include extra padding, an energy-absorbing layer, temperature regulation layer, etc.
However, those extra features are not as important as checking if car seats have been tested for safety. Usually, car seats have one label on the side, declaring that it passed the crash safety test.
Do baby car seats fit all cars?
No, unfortunately. Baby car seats are not a "one-size fits all", and they do not fit in all cars.
The factors may depend on the type of baby car seat and its dimensions. But, the car's configuration may also prevent the baby car seat from being installed.
For instance, the belt seat buckles may be too long, so it would be impossible to install the seat correctly.
If you have a smaller car, only search for slim and narrow car seats that fit in the back seat.
How wide is an infant car seat?
The proportions vary from frame to frame, base, or shell. Thus, you have bulkier and narrower car seats.
But, on average, infant car seats are mostly 18 to 23 inches wide. So, with base or without base, the dimensions may change.
In addition, you may or may not be able to install three across in the back seat of your vehicle.
You must calculate all proportions to ensure all seats have enough room for optimal installation.
Are all infant car seats the same size?
No, they are not the same. Multiple car seats have similar but not the same proportions.
Namely, their base or width may vary, approximately 17 to 21 or 18 to 23 inches. In addition, their height might be different due to reclining positions and installation angles.
So, they can never be the same. Of course, you must measure the proportions accurately to ensure the infant seats will fit other seats in your vehicle if you want three across.
And, even if you must install them in the front - not recommendable, some seats can not fit the seat.
Can any infant car seat fit in any car?
No, they will not fit all cars.
According to numerous studies conducted in 2018 and 2019, more than 40% of seats don't align with vehicles.
So, it would help if you considered multiple factors before the final solutions.
Firstly, you must consider the correct car seat group for your kid - based on their weight and height. Then, the seat will match your car based on these proportions.
Second, fitting issues may occur - floor storage boxes or long seat belt buckles for unsafe leg support or buckle crunch. Again, visit a retailer to explain them in detail before the purchase.
Finally, examine the seat's features to ensure it fits your car - reclining, extended rear-facing, etc.
How do I know if an infant car seat will fit my car?
Follow the procedure below:
- Examine the car seat in person thoroughly. Visit a store and ask a clerk if you can test the wanted model in your vehicle.
- Visit a car seat checking event and find all necessary info about the wanted model(s)
read the instruction manual to find the correct proportions and other info regarding the fitting and installation process
- Ensure you understand all steps for a proper setup process. Ask a safety technician to help you, if not.
- Pay attention to the rear-facing angles and extended uses.
What side of the car is safest for an infant car seat?
The safest position is always the central position in the back seat of your vehicle.
However, if you have two or three seats, then it's completely fine to put your infant seat next to the window.
Rear-facing seats are safer than the forward-facing ones, so rear-facing seats have more side-impact protection and anti-rebound bars for more security.
Never install your seats in the front unless you must.
Still, ensure the seats are far away from the active airbag system or turn them off to eliminate severe risks.
What is the smallest infant car seat?
For small car dimensions, we would highly recommend the Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat.
With the dimensions of 18.3 x 17.8 x 30 inches, the infant car seat is bound to fit right in any car space.
We also mentioned the ease of installation for this rear-facing seat and suitable design that will not take up too much space.
What is the safest infant car seat 2022?
These two are our ultimate winners when it comes to crash test results and baby safety in transportation.
Also, the two options present a budget-friendly pick and a slightly more expensive one. So, depending on your budget options, you can opt for a favorite.
Which car seats can fit 3 across?
A car seat that has the best three across installations is the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat.
This narrow car seat is only 17 inches wide, allowing two more car seats to be installed in the back seat.
Chicco is followed by UPPAbaby MESA infant car seat, which is half an inch smaller in width so that it will fit perfectly!
Which Graco infant car seat is the slimmest?
The slimmest infant car seat by Graco is the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 LX infant car seat.
Its dimensions are 30.67 x 11.75 x 15.59 inches, so it fits absolutely like a dream in the back seat. Because of its slim and narrow design, it's possible to fit three across.
How do you fit a rear-facing car seat in a small car?
If you use a LATCH procedure, follow the steps below:
- Read both vehicles and car seat instruction manuals
- Please pay attention to the lower anchors and their use
- Place the seat back, in the central position if possible
- Find lower anchors in the car
- Link the lower anchor attachments on the base to the lower anchors, ensuring the straps aren't twisted
- Firmly press down the base and tighten the straps. If it's correct, you cannot move it more than 1 inch in all directions.
- The seat must be installed at the right installation angle.
- Attach the infant carrier to the base
For the seat belt installation:
- Read both manuals and find how to use seat belt straps and lock them. The process will vary from one vehicle and seat to another.
- Place the base in the back seat
- Thread the seat belt through the rear-facing belt path. Ensure there are no twists in the straps and belts
- Buckle the seat belt
- Lock the seat belt
- Press down firmly on the base and shake it to ensure it doesn't move more than 1 inch in all directions
- Ensure the seat belt is installed at the correct installation angle
- Attach the infant carrier to the base
Visit the NHTSA for more info.
How do you fit three infant car seats in a row?
You can place the two rear-facing seats behind the driver and passenger seats. Then, place the forward-facing car seat oppositely in the central position.
Such installation might also be valuable because the child in the forward-facing seat could buckle themselves into the seat without your assistance.
Choosing the best infant car seat for small cars requires a lot of patience.
You will find yourself having to compromise on many things, starting with the car seat's price and weight. But, whatever you do, never compromise for comfort and safety.
Buying a car seat, whether it is a convertible car seat, forward-facing, or infant car seats, in this case, represents a challenge.
We made a choice more comfortable for you by creating the list of the most popular car seats for small car owners, and it's time to pick our favorite.
The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat checks off every point on our list when it comes to the best infant seats for small vehicles.
You, too, will be amazed by its functionality, comfort, and size.
- EASIEST INFANT CAR SEAT TO INSTALL – Simple, accurate and secure installation – every time – with two bubble-level indicators and spring-loaded leveling foot for proper base angle in vehicle...
- COMPATIBLE WITH CHICCO STROLLERS – Infant car seat clicks securely into the stay-in-car base and compatible Chicco strollers for a convenient car seat and stroller combo. A two-position carry-handle...
- TOP-RATED INFANT CAR SEAT – Innovative SuperCinch Force-Multiplying LATCH Tightener helps achieve a secure fit in the vehicle and the carrier shell is lined with EPS energy-absorbing foam for...
- FROM DAY ONE – Car seat includes a removable infant head and body support insert to accommodate newborns and smaller infants on their first rides. The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat is designed...
- ADJUSTABLE CANOPY AND WASHABLE SEAT PAD – Features include large, removable canopy that provides shade from the sun and machine washable seat pad for easy cleanup, ideal for baby travel.