Best Affordable Infant Car Seats

Best Infant Car Seats for Under $250

January 17, 2020

Best Infant Car Seats for Under $250

Best Infant Car Seats for Under $250

There’s a lot to think about when choosing the best infant car seat for your baby. Comfort, fit, ease of installation, stroller compatibility…the list goes on. And then, of course, there’s the cost. You want the safest, most reliable seat that works within your budget—but does that mean you’ll have to sacrifice if you can’t spend a ton? Thankfully the answer is a resounding no.

All car seats on the market need to pass strict federal safety regulations. While some of the more expensive seats may come with extra features like higher-end fabrics, additional padding or larger canopies, there are plenty of car seats on the market that are safe and affordable.

We talked to Rebekah Kimminau, a member of our very own Babylist team and a certified CPST (that’s a Child Passenger Safety Technician, aka an official car seat expert!) to share our picks for the four best, most affordable car seats. Every seat on our list comes in at under $250 and, if used correctly, will provide a safe, cozy spot for your newest family member during your next road trip.

Easiest Install

The Scoop
  • Easiest to install of all our budget picks
  • Works for babies 4-35 lbs and up to 32”
  • On the heavier side
What Our Experts Think

The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 is a favorite among affordable infant car seats thanks to its easy three-step installation, which Kimminau strongly backs. A seat that’s easy to install makes your life as a parent a bit easier, but also means you’re more likely to get the proper fit—and a properly fitted car seat equals a safer car seat.

Other standout features we love include a low weight limit (four pounds, which is great if you’re bringing home a preemie), a four-position recline, a European belt path (which means you can install the seat using either the base or your vehicle’s seat belt) and a removable insert that helps newborns get the perfect fit.

What’s Worth Considering

This is a pretty basic car seat model, so you won’t be getting any fancy fabrics or other bells and whistles. If this is something you’re looking for, there are more luxe models of this seat available, but you’ll have to up your budget a bit. The SnugRide is also on the heavier side, weighing in at almost 15 pounds.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 4–35 lbs; up to 32”
Product Weight 14.84 lbs

Expert Pick

The Scoop
  • Our CPST’s top pick among affordable infant seats
  • Features a load leg—a telescoping support leg that helps stabilize the seat during a crash
  • Lowest weight allowance on the market (three pounds!), top choice for preemies
What Our Experts Think

The Evenflo Litemax is our CPST’s top pick in the affordable infant seat category. A big standout here is the seat’s load leg, which is a fancy term for a telescoping metal pole that juts out from the back of the seat and extends down to your vehicle’s floor to stabilize the seat.

Why is this so important? Crash tests show that a load leg significantly reduces the forces on a baby’s head and neck, keeping your little one’s brain and spine safer during a crash. Most car seats don’t have this feature, and the ones that do are going to cost you a lot more money than the Litemax will, making this a pretty big deal. The seat is also the lightest on our list and has the lowest weight allowance on the market at three pounds, making it a great choice if you’re bringing home a preemie.

What’s Worth Considering

According to Kimminau, the installation for this seat isn’t the toughest, but it’s not the easiest, either, so keep that in mind.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 3–35 lbs; up to 32”
Product Weight 8.7 lbs

Lots of Safety Features

The Scoop
  • Easy install, but no European belt path option so not ideal for taxis or ride shares
  • Works for babies 4-35 lbs and up to 32”
  • Good side impact protection
What Our Experts Think

Another strong option in the affordable infant car seat category, the Britax B-Safe 35 is best known for its easy installation and its strong safety features. If you’re using the LATCH system to install the seat, you’ll tighten it using straps that extend from the middle of the base, not the sides—a feature that lots of parents love. The seat is also decked out with strong safety components including a steel frame, an impact-absorbing base, and a deep shell made from energy-absorbing foam to increase side-impact protection—all excellent features, considering the cost.

What’s Worth Considering

Our CPST says this seat is on the bulkier side, so it’s not ideal for many smaller cars. We also don’t love the lack of European belt path; if that’s something that’s important to you, you’ll want to spring for the Ultra model, which still comes in at under $250.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 4–35 lbs; up to 32”
Product Weight 10 lbs

Parent Favorite

The Scoop
  • Babylist parent favorite
  • Works for babies 4–30 lbs and up to 30”
  • Great LATCH installation, but tough to install using a seat belt
  • Slim profile and can often work three-across
What Our Experts Think

The Chicco KeyFit 30 consistently ranks as a top choice for lots of Babylist parents. And we see why, as there are some big pros to this well-priced infant car seat. Things like an easy LATCH installation, a thickly padded seat lined with energy-absorbing foam and a removable, washable cover are all big pluses here.

If you’re parenting multiples or anticipating needing more than one car seat across your back seat, you’ll definitely want to give the KeyFit a look. This seat has a slim profile and is a good choice for smaller cars or if you need to fit three-across.

What’s Worth Considering

Kimmenau notes a few important things worth considering with this Chicco seat. Installation without the base is possible, but it’s super difficult, so if you’re planning on using it in taxis, ride shares or on a plane, you may want to keep looking. And getting the right fit for infants can be touch and go; for some, it’s not a problem at all, but for others it can be a bit frustrating.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 4–30 lbs; up 30”
Product Weight 9.6 lbs
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