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Like our top-pick seat from Graco, the Chicco KeyFit 30 is tricky to install tightly without its base, since it uses an American belt-path configuration. We wish that weren’t the case, and if no-base installs are a priority for your family, the KeyFit 30 probably isn’t your ideal seat. To secure the base using LATCH (see this video for a demonstration), you click the push-button LATCH hooks into the car’s anchors. And then to tighten, you pull up on a single strap located at the center of the base (labeled with the words “Pull Strap Storage”).

Lower anchors have weight limits set by the vehicle and car seat manufacturers. You can determine the lower anchor weight limit by checking the warning label or installation diagrams located on the side of the car seat. If your car seat does not have a label, you can determine the maximum allowable child weight for lower anchor use by subtracting the weight of the car seat (usually available in the car seat’s instruction manual) from 65 pounds. The booster car seat keeps your child protected and safe while traveling and grows with them from front-facing to high-back and backless boosters. Its simple and secure harness system allows you to adjust the headrest and harness in one quick motion.

The sun canopy on the KeyFit 35 extends out a bit farther than the KeyFit 30’s, but it’s not as large as that of our upgrade pick, the Clek Liing. If you want a more generous sun canopy, the KeyFit 35 Zip ClearTex (which is the exact test model we tried for this guide, and the one pictured) has a canopy that can unzip to shade the seat completely; it costs about $30 more. If you’re comfortable paying more, it’s certainly a nice plus, but we think most people would be content with the standard KeyFit 35 model, as well. Many infant car seats require you to use two hands to adjust the handle position. But the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX has a button conveniently located at the top of the handle—you just press it and then move the handle using one hand. Releasing the bucket from the base is also a one-handed maneuver, as you simply lift up a handle at the back of the seat.

After the impact of a crash, a car seat can surge forward in the car and then rebound back, potentially sending a baby face-first into the vehicle seat back; the anti-rebound bar can limit that rebound effect. (For more information, see Understanding optional safety features.) Regardless of whether you consider this feature to be important, it’s pretty uncommon on a seat that costs around $200. After careful consideration and consultation with experts, we decided that field testing graco turbobooster alone, without crash testing, should dictate our picks in this guide. If anything, our research has confirmed that caregivers can take comfort in knowing that most car seats do their job very well. “Five-point harness child restraint seats are highly effective in reducing the chances of injury and death,” Maltese said. So the most effective strategy for keeping your kids safe on the road is to choose a car seat that works well for your family, and for you to use it correctly.

Graco’s goal is to give every family the chance to thrive through the One Family Project, which has supported families in need across the nation by donating over $1M in baby gear since 2010. Your child’s safety could be in jeopardy if your car seat is not installed correctly. Before you install your car seat, make sure you’re familiar with vehicle and car seat parts used in the installation process and these important installation safety tips. The Boulevard weighs about 29 pounds—more than many similar seats, but significantly less than our 38-pound also-great pick, the Clek Foonf.

graco car seat

Car seat manufacturers frequently release new models and update their existing ones. Though we didn’t rule out any seats on the basis of their being brand new, whenever possible we chose to test models that had been available for at least a year, in order to give us a more solid track record of user reviews. For crumby messes, we use a handheld vacuum with a crevice tool; baby wipes work well for cleaning spills and debris that accumulates in the cup holders. Detach both sides of the harness from the splitter plate behind the seat. Now, turn your attention to the front of the seat, where you’ll unsnap the cover on the front. Ultimately, we didn’t think it was fair to eliminate the Liing or ignore its merits purely because of its price.

This is a problem because this recline requirement makes it impossible to safely install the seat sometimes, usually because the bottom of the car seat hangs too far off the vehicle seat. And, in vehicles with non-removable headrests, this awkward recline can make it difficult to raise the headrest high enough for a proper harness fit, too. Graco, the manufacturer of our top-pick convertible, the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible, makes a lot of convertible car seats, including the Graco Contender 65 and the Graco graco convertible car seat Admiral 65. We opted not to test these seats because they’re less widely available than the Extend2Fit Convertible and have lower rear-facing weight limits. We additionally dismissed seats that were not as well suited for extended rear-facing as the Extend2Fit Convertible, which has the extension panel for added rear-facing legroom. One of our favorite things about the Extend2Fit Convertible is how exceptionally well it facilitates extended rear-facing riding, with a 50-pound rear-facing weight limit.

In sedans, these are usually located above/behind the vehicle’s back seat on the rear shelf. In some larger vehicles such as vans, pickup trucks, and SUVs, these tether anchors may be found on the back of a vehicle seat, on the floor, the ceiling, or other location. Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions.

And unlike the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX and the Chicco KeyFit 30, the Clek Liing is also easy to install snugly if you’re using it without the base. This is because, like the Chicco KeyFit 35, it has a European belt-path configuration, which provides a more secure fit than the American configuration. The Liing comes with the added safety feature of a load leg, a metal support rod that sits between the car seat and the vehicle floor; in an accident, the load leg absorbs some of the initial impact of the crash and limits the amount that the seat can move. The seat has the same height and weight allowances (32 inches and 35 pounds) as the SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLX and the KeyFit 35, and it comes in a range of stylish, high-end fabric options.

But for the few who do, here’s a quick guide to this pretty simple process. The harness mechanism pulls quite smoothly and does not require significant strength to tighten. Directions for assembling the cupholders are in the manual — they slide into a channel and click into place. Once assembled, the cupholders are required to remain attached to the seat.