10 Best Lightweight Car Seats For Infants & Toddlers in 2018

Being a parent is an amazing experience, in both a negative and positive context. Sure, bringing home a new baby is an incredible feeling bolstered by the rush of adrenaline and endorphins from having just been a part of welcoming them into the world. Nothing can match that thrill, yet the ride quickly gets a bit bumpy.  As the time to take the baby on their first car ride approaches, reality begins to set in. Did you get the right car seat? Raising a baby is a very expensive endeavor. Every single item that you need for your little bundle of joy comes with an inflated price tag, because manufacturers know that you’ll spare no expense when it comes to keeping your child alive and healthy.

Last Updated: May 3, 2018
By Daniel Gonzalez:

The recent updates to this article include updating our list to include the top lightweight car seats available on the market today. We also added a Frequently Asked Questions section to address some of the most common concerns that arise when it comes to purchasing a car seat such as the safety of lightweighted car seats and whether or not front or rear facing is the way to go.

Featured Recommendations

Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight
  • Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Quick adjusting 9-position harness
  • Price: See Here
Graco Highback Turbobooster
  • Graco Highback Turbobooster
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • clean with just soap and water
  • Price: See Here
Graco SnugRide CC 35
  • Graco SnugRide CC 35
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • use with a variety of Graco strollers
  • Price: See Here

Car seats are absolutely no exception. Luckily, there is an insane number of car seats on the market, all with drastically varied price tags. If you were to, heaven forbid, choose a cheaper model, would your child end up paying the price? Would you be a horrible parent? Really, it’s not that bad. There are many more reasonably priced options out there that will perform every bit as well as, if not better than, some of the more expensive seats available.  Many of these lower priced models even come from some of the top brands in the industry, so going cheaper can definitely be a viable solution. Now, when it comes to choosing which one suits your needs, without necessarily trying out every seat you can find, this buying guide is your answer.

Now, maybe this guide won’t actually be the answer that every parent was looking for, but at the very least, it should be able to shed some light on what exactly need to be looked at when trying to find the perfect product.  The most important aspect is safety, and each of the selections on this list have that in spades. So then all that’s left is finding one that has the most useful features for you and your child. With that in mind, let’s jump in and see what we can find.

 

10 Best Lightweight Car Seats

 

1. Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight

Britax is rapidly becoming one of the most trusted brands for car seats, in some cases eclipsing the big two of Evenflo and Graco. Parents are seeking out their products because they see them as very innovative, high value alternatives. The G1.1 Frontier Clicktight seat is one of their flagships, seamless lessly blending together everything they stand for. In terms of value, versatility, and performance, this seat can easily compete with the best anyone else has to offer, and it also happens to be arguably the best lightweight car seat available. While other brands will take notice and try to dethrone them, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
Expand to see more
Amazing value
On the surface, the increased price on this seat may seem like a cash-in, but that can’t be further than the truth. Everything Britax managed to do with this seat leaves an end result that is worth every penny spent on it. It’s lightweight and relatively compact, and all but guaranteed to be the safest seat that money can buy.

Impact resistant
Britax took a lot of steps to make sure that this seat is able to stand up to a huge amount of impact in an accident. Starting with the shell, the SafeCell protection gives the seat a steel frame and energy-absorbing base to disperse all of the energy produced on impact. After that, even the headrest has impact resistant properties, making sure that the child’s head and neck are as stable and secure as possible.

Cost and Value
This seat by Britax does come with a higher price tag. However, while it’s not a traditional convertible seat per se, it does turn into a booster to accommodate older children. With that in mind, it’s easy to see the seat for what it really is: An excellent value that will last through many years of growth.
Pros

Quick adjusting nine-position harness eliminates the need to rethread

Clicktight system makes installation super easy and convenient

Britax took extra measures to increase impact protection

Headrest is made with impact resistant foam to ensure the head and neck are secure

Excellent value, even with the slightly higher price

Cons

The seat has a habit of being very noisy

Fairly small for a seat that claims to fit up to 120 pounds

2. Graco Highback Turbobooster

This is the first time Graco makes an appearance on this list, but make no mistake, it’s not the last. This seat shows up first because it just does so many things right. Optimum safety, lightweight portability, an eye-catching aesthetic, this seat manages to pack it all into one top notch product with a nice price point that makes it accessible to all types of consumer. Anything Graco is a smart purchase, and this one just happens to take it up a notch.
Expand to see more
Grows with the child
Front-facing car seats can safely hold a child for a fair amount of time, though eventually it starts to get a bit small, while normally that would meant buying a whole new seat, in this case it’s simply a matter of removing the back, making a few adjustments, and it’s now a fully functional booster seat, capable of holding weight up to 100 pounds.

Cleans up nicely
One overlooked aspect of car seats is how easy they are to clean. Everybody is so concerned about how safe they are, and this is very important, but when it comes time to clean them, it can be quite a challenge. Graco thought of this, and made this seat as easy to clean as can be. With just a bit of soap and water, the seat cleans up just like new.

Cost and Value
This price, especially when applied to a Graco product, has the potential to make anybody do a second take when looking at the tag. The company is known for high value, cost-effective products, but at a price this low, it’s almost ridiculous. Now, while it is limited to being a front-facing seat which does limit its usefulness, that doesn’t really affect the value and worth.
Pros
  • Can safely accommodate children from 30-100 pounds
  • Very easy to clean with just soap and water
  • Ranks at or near the top of several best of lists
  • Designed to offer to superior comfort to children for longer trips
  • Converts easily to a backless booster seat once the child grows taller
Cons
  • Seat needs to be readjusted before almost any use
  • Wide construction makes it difficult to use with bucket seats

3. Graco SnugRide Click 35

In order to have a well balanced buying guide, it’s important to properly highlight a few models from the top companies. To accomplish that required strong representation from Graco, hence the addition of one of their more popular infant seats. This is a very lightweight car seat that is very easy to install. Just strap the base to the seat, and then it’s just a matter of simply clicking in the seat. Infants tend to sleep a lot, so not having the hassle of getting the seat in keeps them sleeping longer. Hopefully.
Expand to see more
Safety first
Graco is undeniably one of the titans in the world of child safety seats, so it should come as no surprise that they go the extra mile to make sure the child ia as protected as can be. To that end, they have put their seats through constant testing, and have met or exceeded all standards.

Convenience is just as important as safety
As strange as that sounds, having a super safe car seat that is heavy and bulky is not a great idea, so convenience than becomes an important factor. The Quick Connect seat take care of all of that, being a nice lightweight, compact model that can be attached or removed with the click of a button.

Cost and Value
Graco makes products that cover the entire spectrum, there are bound to be at least a few that offer insane value for a relatively low price. The SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat is a fine example of that, giving consumers all of the features of a high-end model, while holding steady with a mid range price point.


Pros
  • All Graco seats are super easy to clean with soap and water
  • Can be used with a wide variety of Graco strollers
  • Harness is built to hold tight for a long time
  • Graco put the seat through several tests and certifications to ensure safety
  • Convenience is a key factor with this seat
Cons
  • Adjustments on the straps can only be performed around the back of the seat
  • Seat is almost a bit too small and compact

4. Evenflo Maestro Booster

4. Evenflo Maestro Booster
It took a while, but here’s EvenFlo throwing their hat in the ring with a very well made front-facing car seat. This is the answer to consumers looking for a lightweight seat that won’t compromise anything other than a few pounds, keeping the quality and performance intake at exactly the same level one would come to expect from them. Rated for up to 110 pounds, this seat is going to remain an integral part of the family vehicle up until the child grows enough to safely fit the seat belt.
Expand to see more
Keep it straight
This car seat has an auto adjust belt path, which is actually very convenient. WIthout it, the seat belt has a tendency to to twist, causing all sorts of problems with foot and comfort. Luckily it does have it, so that is now a thing of the past.

Does one job
The Evenflo Maestro car seat is a dedicated front-facing car seat tailored specifically to a certain weight range. Because of this, the manufacturers were able to concentrate on making the best model in its class without having to worry about accommodating a larger demographic. Single-minded in both scope and uncompromised quality and value.

Cost and Value
This isn’t a convertible seat. It’s a straight up front-facing car seat that performs one task: keeping toddlers safe and protected at all times. It does a remarkable job at that, and compared to other similar seats, is surprisingly cheap. Value is sought after when it comes to anything to do with child safety, and this seat is the epitome of it.
Pros
  • Designed to withstand impacts at twice the federally required standard
  • Multiple harness positions allow the seat to grow with the child
  • Cup Holders are integrated as opposed to external, making the seat more compact
  • Auto-adjust belt path keeps the seat belt in the right position at all times
Cons
  • Takes up quite a bit of room in certain vehicles
  • The harness doesn’t quite hold up as well as it should, and tends to fail quickly

5. Britax Boulevard ClickTight

5. Britax Boulevard ClickTight
All the research that went on to compiling this list uncovered one pretty unavoidable truth: consumers love this seat. It may not quite have the chops to make it to the top, but the BRitax Boulevard Convertible Car seat offers more than enough to make it a consistent favorite for families everywhere. It’s one of those rare products that can seamlessly walk the line between high performance and an affordable price. It’s with car seats like this one that Britax has been able to climb so far up the ranks in the minds of parents.
Expand to see more
Lightweight AND convertible?
It is a very rare thing to see a truly lightweight car seat that is a fully convertible model. They are required to do so much, that it’s usually an inevitability that there are going to be more parts, and therefore more weight to them. In fact, there are only two convertible seats on this list. That being said, this seat doesn’t compromise any of the safety and comfort features that parents need in order to feel good about buckling their kid in.

Click, and you’re in
It’s been mentioned in the past how easy Britax seats are to install, but it’s worth touching on briefly again. Instead of having to fight to put in the seat, now it’s pretty much just a matter of putting on a seat belt. In three very quick and easy steps, the seat and the child are safely and securely in place, ready to go wherever the road takes them.

Cost and Value
Don’t stress out out over the price of this seat just yet. It’s a convertible seat, and as far as they go, this Britax model falls well below being the most expensive. If we’re talking about value though, then that’s a different story. This is one of the best rated convertible car seats on the market, and the high level of value it delivers for a reasonably low price tag is a big reason for that.
Pros
  • Uses Britax trusted and convenient Clicktight installation system
  • Snug harness indicator leaves no question about the harness being tight enough
  • One of the most lightweight convertible car seats available
  • The seat has a ten year lifespan
  • Seat padding easily comes out to allow for washing
Cons
  • Can fit awkwardly for smaller children
  • Leg straps sit across the thighs instead of the hips, causing irritation for the child

6. Maxi-Cosi Mico AP

6. Maxi-Cosi Mico AP
This Maxi-Cosi Mico AP Infant Car Seat is a rear-facing car seat that has your child covered until they are ready to make the move up to a front-facing seat.. It features a five-point harness packed in to an impact resistant outer shell that protects your baby head incase of an accident. The seat can easily separate from the base, and is nice and light, so transporting the child is a breeze. Speaking of transporting the infant, the handle is designed to be comfortable, erasing any risk of hand pain. All that, plus it’s got an eye pleasing aesthetic, to boot.
Expand to see more
Premium quality
Maxi Cosi specializes in premium car seats at an affordable price. That much is pretty evident. What really makes them shine, however, is that they manage to pack all that high-end luxury in to such a lightweight seat. More than anything else, this seat is meant to be compact and easy to carry. That it does it so well is the real luxury.

Unparalleled comfort
All of the fabrics and materials that went in to making this seat were intentionally chosen thanks to their ability to provide maximum comfort and protection to a level that other seats just can’t hope to compete with. Made from premium, breathable threads, everything together puts this seat in a class of its own.

Cost and Value
For a high-end manufacturer, Maxi Cosi sure likes to be deceptive when it comes to the price. It certainly doesn’t cost near what other premium brands do, yet the quality and performance rivals and often exceeds anything else out there on the market today. Overall, a great buy for anyone looking to add some class with their safety and protection.

Pros

Premium, lightweight seat at a not so premium price

 

All of the materials used for this seat are of top quality

 

Superior side impact resistance ensures maximum protection

 

Excellent value with a very reasonable price

 

Multi position sun canopy keeps the sun out of the baby’s face

Cons

Extremely narrow profile makes it a tight fit for infants

 

Sun canopy suffers from inferior construction

7. Maxi-Cosi Pria 70

7. Maxi-Cosi Pria 70
This list needs to be as fair and varied as possible, in order to ensure that there is something to suit everybody’s needs. For this reason, Maxi Cosi has a couple of entries, showcasing the value of some higher-end products. Starting with the Pria 70 convertible seat, their line if car seats exceeds all safety standards, while bringing comfort and unparalleled construction to the table. This is a perfect example of just what a high-end car seat can, and should be. The best part is, even though it is certainly a high-end option, it’s going to to go surprisingly easy on the wallet.
Expand to see more
Warm, dry, comfortable
Maxi Cosi built their seat with a fully removable liner to make it so much easier to clean. Not only that, though, but the lining has been made from very breathable fabrics, helping to keep your bundle of joy as dry and comfortable as can be at all times while in the vehicle. At the same time, it’s also going to wick away moisture from spills or sweating, preventing odor from building up.

Impeccable impact resistance
Every car seat out on the market is going to have exceptional resistance to impacts, that’s the very nature of their existence. Some companies like to go much further with this tough, and Maxi Cosi happens to be one of them. Everything built in to this seat was intended to provide a measure of protection, all adding up to an especially safe seat that protects peace of mind as completely as it protects the child.

Cost and Value
It’s already been determined that these Maxi Cosi seats are in this guide as a high-end offering. It’s kind of funny though, because nothing about the price would indicate that. The manufacturers choose to focus on value added instead of just slapping an arbitrary price on the seat, given consumers a luxury product at a bargain price.

Pros
  • Supportive cushions are used to provide maximum comfort and stability
  • Self-wicking fabric draws moisture and odor away from the seat
  • The head and neck of the infant is extra secure due to an air cushion system
  • Simple LATCH system makes the safe installation of the seat second nature
  • Energy created from impact is quickly moved away from the child in multiple directions
Cons
  • All the supportive cushions  are almost too snug and constricting for the child
  • Proper installation of this seat can be a very aggravating experience

8. Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1

8. Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1
It’s costco's turn now to make an impression, and does it ever succeed. It’s been designed to grow with all of your child’s needs once they graduate to a front-facing seat. As far as bells and whistles go, this seat lacks anything fancy, choosing instead to concentrate on doing what it does best: keeping the child safe when things take a turn for the worse. Starting life as a full front-facing seat with a harness, it easily switched to a booster seat, giving thee child plenty of room to grow.
Expand to see more
Built for families
This seat is absolutely a must for large families with multiple young children. Built in such a way that it can line up in a row three across without getting in the way, this seat is meant to be used a lot. Raising one child takes up a lot of space and money, so when there are more, parents need all the help they can get, and this seat provides it.

Cleaning up is a joy
Kids are messy. They usually can’t help it, but when it happens, the clean up needs to be as efficient and easy as possible. The entire interior of this seat can be taken out and washed, including teh cushioned pad, so the sat can be back looking good as new in a very short time.

Cost and Value
For a seat that was designed to accommodate two stages of the child's development and growth, the low cost and high level of functionality make it really an exceptional value. The upfront cost is surprisingly low, and the fact that it could very well be the last seat a child will ever need makes it a must-have for busy families everywhere.

Pros
  • Slim design allows up to three seats to fit across
  • Fabric contains extra fabric for the highest level of comfort
  • Five point safety harness keeps kids securely in place at all times
  • Removable, washable car seat pad makes cleaning up quick and easy
  • Converting the seat from front-facing to booster is a simple job
Cons
  • Plastic construction is thin and seems flimsy
  • Booster seat doesn’t work very well with the seat belt

9. Chicco Keyfit 30

9. Chicco Keyfit 30
In the overall scheme of things, Chicco isn’t a name that usually comes up. In fact, they have far fewer offerings in the market compared to some of the other brands. However, when it comes to finding the ideal lightweight seat, this brand brings a lot to the table. Most of what they produce is lightweight and compact, and the Keyfit 30 line of seats is among the best. Otherwise, they wouldn’t rank so highly among reviewers everywhere. This seat blends comfort and value, and packs it in to a classic shell. What that means for consumers is that they now have another superior option when it comes time to making a choice.
Expand to see more
Installs in seconds
Car seats can be an exercise in stress and frustration when it comes time to install it. With multiple ways to set it up, none of which are usually clear, parents can find themselves losing their patience very quickly. Chicco wanteds to eliminate installation as a stressor, so setting this seat up is a matter of a few seconds of concentration.

Top-rated quality
Chicco’s Keyfit infant seat has been rated as the top card seat on the market. Not the best infant seat, not the best lightweight seat, but the best seat, period. Among the endless sea of choices available, that is a huge distinction, and anybody looking for peace of mind should find everything they need right here.

Cost and Value
Chicco definitely comes off as a high end car seat manufacturer, and that is reflected in the cost of their seats. Just because they are a bit purifier, that doesn’t take anything away from their performance. The best rated car seat in the U.S. can get away with charging a few dollars more, because really, top notch quality is neither easy to come by nor cheap to execute. The return on investment though, will make up for the price immediately.

Pros
  • Currently the top rated car seat in the US
  • Newborn head and body supports  can all be removed as the infant grows
  • Can accommodate infants up to 30 pounds and thirty inches in length
  • The handle can be affixed in two positions for maximum comfort
  • Keyfit installation is a simple process that takes seconds
Cons
  • For a lightweight car seat, the Keyfit is overly heavy and bulky
  • Sunshade doesn’t really do much shading from the sun

10. Evenflo Sonus Convertible

10. Evenflo Sonus Convertible
This is the final spot in this list, and to no one's surprise, it’s being filled by one of the main three. This time it’s EvenFlo, with their lightweight and extremely versatile Sonus convertible seat. Finding a truly convertible car seat in the lightweight category is almost unheard of, but they pulled it off admirably without sacrificing any comfort or safety. It's for reasons like these that EvenFlo sit among the top of the mountain.
Expand to see more
Perfect fit every time
All car seats are going to be safe,and one of the key attributes of this is the ability to adjust the harness to provide a better fit. Unfortunately, some manufacturers choose to have all adjustments made from the back, which can be very difficult and inconvenient.

Use in any vehicle
Not only is this seat going to provide the highest possible level of safety while in use while driving, but it also meets all of the requirements set out by the FAA to allow parents to use it while on an airplane. That makes travel much easier without having to buy a new seat after landing.

Cost and Value
EvenFlo products shouldn’t be rated based on the price or value. Not because they’re expensive, but actually quite the opposite. The price is rarely ever going to make consumers go elsewhere, because it’s not high by any means. How they manage to give so much with their seats while maintaining such an affordable price point is a mystery that may never be solved, and that’s perfectly fine.

Pros
  • EvenFlo puts each seat through their own series of testing, ensuring top safety standards
  • Car seat meets FAA requirements for air travel
  • All harness adjustments are done on the front of the seat for easy access
  • Wider seating area provides extra comfort to the child
  • Cupholders are removable and fully machine washable
Cons
  • Only goes up to 50 pounds, necessitating the need for a booster seat
  • Very difficult to properly install

While going through the list, it should have been noted that there weren’t a lot of convertible car seats present. Unfortunately, that is one of the drawbacks of choosing to go a more lightweight route. Convertible car seats are highly specialized given their relatively complex nature, and as such require more materials to manufacture.  This, in turn leads to an increase in the total weight of these seats. If you do happen to find a convertible car seat that doesn’t weigh a figurative ton, and they do exist, most of the time it’s going to be a very basic model without many of the bells and whistles that make most convertible seats so heavy.  Are lightweight car seats a bad idea? Do they lack any of the safety and security of a full-sized version?. The answer to both questions is no. Lightweight car seats are going to be exactly as safe as any other seat available for sale. They have to be, it’s the law. All car seats must pass the same safety standards before being legally cleared for sale, regardless of their weight and dimensions.  What that means for the consumer is they can now browse this list with confidence knowing that whichever option is ultimately chosen, the child’s safety will never be compromised for the sake of shaving off a few pounds.

 

Criteria Used In Evaluation

Of The Best Lightweight Car Seats in 2018

Which Features should I look out for in lightweight car seats?

This is going to be discussed in the following criteria sections, but on its own, the amount of features, or lack thereof found on a car seat is going to often be the deciding factor when it comes time to select the right seat.  Think about it for a second. When in the final stages of researching the best possible car seats, once the math is done, and once the safety ratings have been scrutinized multiple times over, any deadlock is almost always determined by what the seat has to offer as far as add-ons and other bells and whistles goes.  That’s why the features are so important. Even though they are typically left until the end of the decision making process, most parents go into it knowing that the features will push the winner to the top. Why are features so important? Because everything else in the selection process is a given.

Safety is already determined before the search evcen begins.  All child safety seats are going to provide a similar level of protection, and that level is going to exceed the current standards.  They have to. If any car seat didn’t achieve and maintain a specified level, it would not be allowed to be sold, simple as that. So that isn’t the issue.  Even when a seat does vary significantly in terms of safety, it’s due to the features that have been added to the seat to increase protection, and not because of any additional standards.

Price isn’t very much of a variable either, because once the consumer has decided what style of seat to get, i.e a convertible seat, a booster, seat, or one dedicated strictly to infants or toddlers, the cost of the seat doesn’t really going to stray outside of a certain range, regardless of the Brand.  The only way a certain seat in a certain category is going to cost substantially more is when the added features merit that increase.

So that leaves the features.  Which features are the most sought after?  Well, it can be as simple as integrated cup holders that save space, or a built in sun shade to keep out the sun’s rays, or, for the ultimate in convenience, a user friendly LATCH system that lets parents install the seat one handed, with the press of a button.  Whatever the case, the additional features that the manufacturers opt to include cover a wide range of situations and preferences, and there are so any that it would be impossible to list them all.

To summarize briefly, extra features included with a car seat fall under three main categories:  Safety-minded, for the sake of convenience, or purely cosmetic. Once you determine exactly what it is that you need your seat to do and how you want it to perform, it’s a simple matter of seeing what’s out there and deciding if it’s what you’re looking for.

Type of seat

This is going to be fairly brief, since lightweight car seats do tend to favor one particular style, but does bear mentioning.  No matter how many different models of child safety there are on the market today, they all fall under three styles. These types of seats are the convertible seat, the booster seat, and a seat that is dedicated to either infants or toddlers.  Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, when it specifically comes to lightweight car seats, it’s the convertible seat that seems to get the most attention.

Infant car seats are the most common dedicated type of child safety seat, though like the toddler seats, these are quickly being replaced by convertible models.  The main reason that infant seats are still in demand is because convertible seats still aren’t a good option for very young or very small children. Infant seats offer the support and stability that these children require.  Also, infant seats are removable, as they can be attached to a base that is installed in the vehicle. Because of this ability though, it becomes very important for the seat to be as lightweight and portable as possible, while still providing the same level of protection.

Convertible car seats are a very popular choice for parents everywhere, as it allows the child to grow. While still offering support and protection from infant all the way to when they’re ready to leave the seat altogether.  They begin life as a rear-facing seat for infants, and then convert to a front-facing model when the child grows to a certain height and weight, usually around the age of two. As the child continues to grow, the convertible seat then turns in to a booster, for those children who are able to utilize the vehicle’s seat belt with some support.  Although the seats remain permanently installed throughout their lifespan, they still need to be light and compact in order to maximize the limited space in the vehicle. If the seat is too heavy or bulky, it may restrict the number of additional seats that can fit, or even limit the number of passengers that can be transported.

The last stage of life for a car seat is the booster.  These seats remove the back and the harness, relying on the pre-existing seat belts found in the vehicle.  They are used for children that have grown to about 4’9” in height and are around 80 pounds, though not quite yet large enough to properly fit the seat belts on their own.  These seats are therefore meant to literally provide the child with a boost, maximizing the safety of the seat belt while minimizing the risk of injury due to their smaller size.  Booster seats are easier to remove than convertible seats, and can be used in other applications. As such, they are often lighter in order to make them as portable as possible.

Again, convertible seats appear to best suit a lightweight profile, and since they own such a large share of the car seat market, it only makes sense that they remain the focus of most manufacturers.

Brand

This buying guide, or at least the vast majority of it, is all about three main brands. Those juggernauts are Graco, EvenFlo, and Britax.  There are other brands that do manage to earn a spot on the list, but that was as much for the sake of fairness and variety as anything else.  However, competition is often a good thing, as it keeps the major players on their toes while forcing the industry to constantly grow and evolve.  For this guide though, since the big boys make up sixty percent of the available options, the focus is going to be on them, and therefore the selection criteria takes that in to account.

First off is Graco.  Widely considered the first name in car seats,  they have an extensive lineup of very well made products that range across the entire spectrum of the market.  They are on the top of the pile, thanks to decades of knowledge, skill, and attention to detail. Every seat that they produce has been tested, again and again, making absolutely sure that it is going to hold up as much as it can in an accident, helping to keep the child safe, and maximize the odds that they’ll be able to walk away, shaken, but not hurt.

Joining Graco right up at the top is EvenFlo, though how they got there is a bit different.  While many other manufacturers opt to copy what Graco does, EvenFlo does their own thing, often resulting in game-changing innovation. One of the biggest innovations that they can lay claim to is how they cost their seats.  Their craftsmanship puts them at the top of the list is many categories, except for price. In that, they’re more than happy to sit comfortably in the middle of the market average, giving EvenFlo a distinct advantage over their biggest competition.

As stated throughout this buying guide, car seats need innovation in order to perform.  In fact, thanks to ever changing government regulations, they have no choice but to evolve in to safer, more functional seats.  One of the best companies for pushing the envelope is Britax. They’re a newer manufacturer, who choose to blend high-end materials with a keen eye for visual appeal.  As a result, Britax models stand out among the crowd, drawing consumers in with their unique design, and keeping them loyal through their safe, high quality construction.  Another company that follows their own path, giving the other big two a run for their money.

Price

Finally, price is a huge part of choosing an ideal car seat, lightweight or not.  It can vary wildly, depending on what the parent is looking to get out of them.

The choice of brand is probably the biggest factor, mainly because not every company produces a lightweight option for consumers.  Despite there being so many car seats to choose from, once you start to single out lighter options specifically, there isn’t that much left.   Graco, Evenflo, and Britax are the names that come up most frequently, but then again, theses brands have absolutely flooded the market with every type of car seat imaginable.  Should you choose to go with one of these giants, you’ll be getting unparalleled quality, but because of the name recognition, it’s probably going to cost a lot more than some of the other seats out there.  That’s why brand is such a big deal. By having so many options, they are able to essentially dictate the market, and any other lesser known companies have a hard time even getting noticed.

The type of seat chosen is another large factor in price.   Convertible seats are going to be the more expensive options, let alone being hard to find as a lightweight model.  The initial costs can be pretty steep, but keeping in mind that it will be used pretty much exclusively, if one can be found that is sufficiently lightweight, it’s a good idea to get it.  Dedicated seats that aren’t convertible are often less expensive, thought they will need to be changed out as the child grows., and are going to cost a lot less money.

Last up is the features that the lightweight car seat is going to need to have in order to perform to the needs of the parent.  For the most part, they shouldn’t have much of an effect on the performance or safety of the seat, instead existing largely to improve convenience.  This is everything form softer materials to multiple cup holders To many extra features, however, and the seat begins to take on weight and bulk, rendering the whole purpose of having a lightweight car seat pointless.  All seats have a latch system to attach them securely, and even provide a means to attach the seat using the vehicles seat belts, and that is the only optional feature that is going to have an impact on performance.

 

Terminology

Convertible car seat:  This is a type of seat that offers a lot of versatility to the user by starting off as a rear-facing infant seat, and then transitioning to a front-facing seat for older children, and then finally a booster seat toward the end of its required use.

Crash tested: All child safety seats need to undergo a series of rigorous testing in order to ensure that they are able to fully protect the child in the event of an accident.   Beyond the legally required testing, car seat manufacturers can choose to subject their products to additional test, administered either by themselves or a third party.

Car seat:   An alternate name for a child safety seat.  This seat is required in order for children from birth up to about the age of to ride safely in a vehicle.  This seat is designed to protect the child in the event of an accident.

Car seat base: This is a platform  that the car seat attached to when used in the vehicle.  The base remains permanently attached to the seat of the vehicle using the built in seat belt to secure it.  This is used instead of the LATCH system.

Harness: A harness on a car seat can be found in three point five point varieties.  This is the mechanism that secures the child in place and prevents them from being thrown around in an accident.  THree point harnesses are legal for use, but most manufacturers have switched to a five point system, with straps that come over both shoulders, both legs, and the crotch, all connecting together in front of the child.

Infant: The first stage of life. Children are considered infants until the age of one in many cases, or until they learn to walk on their own.  The car seats that are designed to hold these very young children are outfitted with a variety of padding and other forms of support in order to cradle them more comfortably and safely.

LATCH system: Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.  Any vehicle produced on or after September 1st, 2002 is required by law to have this system in place to help make car seat installation easier and more secure.

Travel System:  This all-in-one transpiration set combines a car seat that attaches to a dedicate stroller.  While most of the time they can be found as a set, some manufacturers produce their seats to be compatible with any one of their strollers.  Alternatively, consumers can purchase adapters that allow a car seat to work with almost any model of stroller.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

About Lightweight Car Seats

Q: Are lightweight car seats cheaper than regular size versions?

Not necessarily. Lightweight car seats didn’t come into being as a lower priced alternative for the market,  but rather as an option for more convenient carrying and storage. As a result of this, lightweight car seats often see no reduction in price compared to any other models, and depending on the brand, may actually cost a fair bit more.

Q: Are all car seats safe?

For all intents and purposes, yes all car seats that are approved for use are safe, insomuch as they meet the current standards and regulations.  Unfortunately, the rules change fairly often, and as a result, a few older car seats that don’t conform to them do manage to slip through the cracks occasionally.  For the most part, even these seats are still safe as long as they haven’t expired, but do need to be replaced as they are found out.

Q: How many types of car seats are there?

There are several car seats on the market, but they all fall under three main categories:

  • Rear-facing – Meant for children under the age of two.
  • Front-facing – For children over two, includes a harness and top tether.
  • Booster seat – This is for children who are too large for a front-facing seat with a harness, but either too short or too light to properly fit a regular adult seat belt.

Q: Can I buy a used car seat?

Technically, yes.  There is no law stating that a car seat needs to be purchased new.  However, buying a new car seat is preferable, since that way it is easier to ascertain the condition of the seat, and know if it has been involved in an accident or not.  Also, it may be expired or does not meet current safety regulations.

Q: Is a booster seat necessary?

After a while, the child will most likely grow too large to fit in to the car seat comfortably.  While some parents may then think the child is ready to get rid of the car seat all together, chances are that they are still too small to safely and comfortably utilize them.  That’s where a booster seat comes in. It is designed to raise up and support the child so that hey can then use the seat belts properly.

Q: Is a lightweight car seat going to be as strong and durable as regular seats?

Absolutely.  If there was ever any question as to the level of safety that a lightweight seat can provide, they would never be allowed on the market. As long as the seat is attached securely, either using the LATCH system or linking the vehicle’s seat belt through it, the seat will perform exactly as well as any other model out there.  When referring to a car seat as lightweight, it only means that the seat is lighter and less bulky than full size models, making it more convenient to transport and install. It does not compromise quality in the slightest.

Q: Do all car seats fit every car?

Not necessarily, though lightweight car seats were specifically designed in order to accommodate as many different  models of vehicle as possible. Each of the seats found on this list have a very high chance of being compact enough to fit in to any car.  While some may run into some problems, this can be remedied by checking the dimensions of the seat, or one of the many websites that list car seat compatibility.

Q: What’s the difference between forward-facing and rear-facing car seats?

Small children and infants are required to sit rear-facing in a vehicle because this position restricts the head and neck from flying forward in an accident, while still completely securing the rest of the child’s body.  Once the child reaches a certain height and weight, and are able to hold their head up on their own indefinitely, they can be moves to a front-facing seat. The average age that children transition to a front-facing car seat is two years old.  At this age, their necks are better able to withstand a significant amount of force, though the support of the safety seat is still needed to better ensure safety.

Q: Can car seats be used while flying?

Car seats can be brought along and used on an airplane, provided that they meet the FAA’s requirements.  Lightweight car seats are ideal for this purpose, as their reduced size makes them easier to travel with.  In fact, having a lightweight car seat while flying is a good idea, as it makes transporting the child on and off the plane a lot more convenient and efficient.  Also, not using a seat will mean that younger children will have to be held, posing problems in terms of convenience and comfort. As such, there are no laws or regulations stating that using a car seat on a plane for smaller child is mandatory, though some airlines use their discretion and ask that a seat is used, since holding the child can also cause an increased risk of injury if the plane were to be involved in an accident.

Q: In the winter, can the child still wear their coats while in the car seat?

This depends on whether or not the seat is too snug for the child while wearing their coat, but it’s not usually a very good idea for them to be wearing clothes that are too bulky or constricting.  The biggest issue this causes is that the coat can get caught in the LATCH, causing various problems and compromising the safety of the seat. Also, too many layers of clothing can cause a lot of compression on the child’s chest area, which could lead to an increased risk of injury in an  accident. The best way to ensure that this doesn’t become an issue is to dress the child in moderately light clothing while in the car, and making sure that the vehicle is sufficiently warmed up before departing. Alternatively, a blanket can be draped over the child after they have been secured in the seat.  Once out of the car, the child can then wear a coat appropriate to the climate. This can also reduce the risk of overheating.

Q: Can small children use the front seat of the vehicle?

Under no circumstance is it considered safe or legal for a child that requires a safety seat to sit in the front seat.  Although the actual size requirements do vary by area, for the most part, until the child at least 4’9” and 120 pounds, they must remain in the back of a child safety seat of some kind.  The biggest risk to the child sitting in the front seat is the airbag being deployed upon impact. THe child’s neck and spine are not yet developed enough to be able to withstand the force created by the airbag, and therefore are prone to serious injury or death.

Q: Are child safety seats recommended for trucks as well?

Using a car seat in a truck can be a bit of a tricky situation.  The ability to install the seat comes down to figuring where it’s going to fit.  While some truck cabs will have a back seat, this space is often much too limited to allow a car seat to fit safely.   Only on rare occasions will a truck have enough room to fit a seat. If it does, then installation is pretty much the same as in any other vehicle.  If the child does have to be placed on the front seat, first it needs to be determined if there is enough room. Once that is taken care of and the seat is in, the passenger side airbag must be turned off.  If not, this can cause serious injury to the child in an accident. For the most part though, it is not recommended to have a child in a truck until they are able to safely use the adult seat belts.

Sources

  1. Very Well Family –  Moving Your Toddler to a Booster Seat in the Car
  2. My Best Car Seat – Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat – Which one is better?
  3. How Stuff Works –  How All-in-One Car Seats Work
  4. Quora- Is an infant car seat safer than a convertible car seat?
  5. What To Expect – Do You Really Need to Switch From Infant to Convertible Car Seat by Age 1?
  6. Baby Center – How to buy a convertible car seat