Best Cheap Car Seats Rated & Compared
Raising a child certainly isn’t cheap, but thankfully there are plenty of areas where you can save money without having to sacrifice safety. Car seats are an absolute necessity, but they can easily get expensive and put a big strain on any parent’s budget. There are plenty of cheap car seats on the market today, but you need to make extremely sure that the product you are purchasing is still safe.
If you are worried you will end up with a bad seat that isn’t safe, take a look at this guide which covers everything you need to know about cheap car seats. We are covering the ten best models, as well as other helpful info and FAQs.
Our Top 3 Picks
10 Best Cheap Car Seats
1. EVENFLO BIG KID
6 POSITION HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT
This seat grows as your child does! Easily raise up the back of the seat to adjust as your child grows taller. You can use this seat until your child is 110 pounds and 57 inches tall, which is one of the best height and weight limits you will find when it comes to booster seats.
Highback booster seat that can also be used as a backless booster seat for children weighing between 30 and 110 pounds (or 40-110 pounds as a backless booster)
6-position height adjustment
2 built in cup holders
Energy absorbing foam provides safety and comfort
Pad is removable and machine washable
Belt guides help keep seatbelt in the proper position at all times
Made in the US
Lightweight- only weighs 8.2 pounds
This is one of the cheapest seats on this list, but is also one of the best and safest. You cannot beat the value for the money or the incredible weight range with this seat- it can be used for children weighing up to 110 pounds! You will rest easy with this seat that your child is completely safe while on the road.
- Very affordable
- Can either be used as a highback or backless booster
- Sleek design is attractive and comes in 6 subtle color options
- Energy absorbing foam will keep your child safe and comfortable, even on long road trips
- Very convenient that seat pad is removable and washable
- Since it is so lightweight, it will be very easy to travel with, especially when backless
- Only is a booster seat, there is no harness included
2. GRACO HIGHBACK
HIGHBACK AND BACKLESS
You will get plenty of use out of this booster seat. First off, use it as a highback booster for children weighing between 30 and 100 pounds. After that, you can use it as a backless booster for children weighing between 40 and 100 pounds. After this, they’ll be ready for a regular seatbelt!
Highback booster seat that converts to a backless booster for use with kids weighing between 30 and 100 pounds
Heavily crash tested for ultimate safety
Energy absorbing foam
Belt guides to help you correctly buckle the seat
Slide-out cup holders
This is a high quality car seat for an excellent price. It is a great value for the money, especially considering you can use it with children up to 100 pounds and as a backless booster seat as well. This is a great final car seat to get for your child and is one they will enjoy sitting in as well.
- High weight limit- it is rare to find a car seat that will hold children at 100 pounds, which is great so that you can keep them there until they are tall enough to use a regular seat belt
- Plenty of safety features including energy absorbing foam
- Can also be used as a backless booster for kids who don’t want a car seat anymore but need more of a boost
- Cup holders are great especially for long road trips
- Great for long road trips due to features like adjustable headrest, armrests, and cup holders
- 4 unique color and pattern options
- Can only be used with a seatbelt, does not have a harness for smaller children
3. COSCO PRONTO
WASHER AND DRYER FRIENDLY
You don’t always get a machine washable seat pad when it comes to booster seats, but this seat is an exception! The seat pad easily removes and can be machine washed and also put in the dryer! You can’t beat the convenience of this feature, and you will surely love it when your child inevitably spills something or gets sick.
Highback belt positioning booster seat for children weighing between 40 and 100 pounds
Converts to a backless booster seat
Machine washable and dryer safe
Made in the US
Exceeds federal safety standards
Slide-out cup holder
This is one of the most affordable car seats on this list, and is such a great value for the money. Your children will enjoy sitting in this seat, and you can rest easy knowing they are safe. This is one of the best booster seats on the market today, and you don’t have to break the bank to get it.
- Great that it can be used as either a highback or backless booster seat
- High weight limit ensures you can use this until your child is big enough to use a regular seat belt
- 6 color and design options
- Incredibly convenient that the seat cover can be removed and washed
- Can only be used as a booster seat, does not have a harness
4. DREAM ON ME BOOSTER
FRONT, REAR, AND SIDE IMPACT PROTECTION
This seat does not sacrifice safety to provide a cheaper price. You are getting superior front, rear, and side impact protection with this seat, ensuring your child’s body, head, and neck will be safe in the event of an accident.
Highback booster seat to be used for children weighing between 30 and 110 pounds
Converts to a backless booster for children weighing between 40 and 110 pounds
Front, rear, and side impact protection
Plenty of foam padding to provide safety and comfort
Lightweight design- only weighs 4 pounds
Seat pad is removable and machine washable
The price of this seat is what makes it so great. It is so incredibly affordable but without sacrificing safety. You cannot beat the value of this seat, and it is a great option for any parents needing a booster seat for their growing child.
- Incredibly affordable
- High weight limit ensures you can use this seat for a long time
- Plenty of padding so that your child will be comfortable, even on long road trips
- Can be used as a highback or backless
- Easy to adjust the height of the seat
- Super convenient features- it is lightweight and the seat cover is machine washable
- No cup holders
- No seatbelt guide
5. COSCO APT 50
EXTENDED USE FORWARD AND REAR FACING
Not only does this seat have the ability to be used forward or rear facing, it has extended usage in both of these positions. This seat can be used rear facing when a child weighs between 5 and 40 pounds, and forward facing when they weigh between 22 and 50 pounds.
Car seat to be used rear facing for children weighing between 5 and 40 pounds and forward facing for children weighing between 22 and 50 pounds
Side impact protection
Seat pad is easily removable and machine washable
5-point adjustable harness
2 cup holders
Certified for usage on an aircraft
This seat is a great value for the money, and is one of the seats on this list that you will be able to use the longest thanks to the extended weight range. Complete with plenty of safety features, it is amazing that this seat comes in at such an affordable price.
- The extended usage both rear and forward facing is a major plus- this gives this seat an even greater value for the money and allows you to keep your child rear facing for longer
- 8 color options
- Machine washable seat pad is always a nice addition
- Cup holders are great for holding drinks, snacks, and toys, perfect for long road trips
- Can use this in the car or on an airplane
- No headrest
6. EVENFLO NURTURE
This car seat also makes an excellent baby carrier, especially due to the pivoting canopy that will help shield your baby from the sun when walking with them outside. You will get a lot of use out of the car seat, both in and out of the car.
Rear facing car seat designed for children weighing between 5 and 22 pounds
3 harness shoulder positions and 2 crotch buckle positions
Stay-in-car base makes it easy to switch from using the seat in and out of the car
Can be used with or without the base
Energy absorbing foam liner
Car seat pad is easily removable and machine washable
Side impact tested
Lightweight- only weighs 6.5 pounds
Ergonomically shaped handle for easy carrying
2 color designs- pink and blue
This is a great value for the money, especially considering how many safety featuring you are getting. For a first car seat, this is a perfect option that will keep your child safe on the way home from the hospital, and in the days ahead both in the car and outside of it!
- Plenty of safety features and crash protection that makes you feel confident using this with your newborn
- Easy to use this as a carrier and as a car seat due to the stay-in-car base and the well-designed handle
- Perfect for longer travel as well since it weighs less than 7 pounds
- 2 cute color options- one for boys and one for girls
- Only can be used rear facing, and only until the child weighs 22 pounds
7. COSCO SCENERA
CERTIFIED FOR AIRCRAFT USAGE
What is great about this car seat is that it is certified for use on airplanes, making it a great option for parents who know they will be traveling a lot with their child. By using the same car seat in your car and on the plane, your child will feel much more comfortable thanks to the sense of familiarity. Best of all, the seat is lightweight, meaning carrying it through the airport will be a breeze!
Car seat to be used rear facing for children weighing between 5 and 40 pounds, and forward facing for children weighing between 22 and 40 pounds
3 different buckle positions
Seat pad is easily removable and machine washable
Certified for usage on aircrafts
Side impact protection built into headrest
Removable and dishwasher safe cup holder
Made in the US
This is a great value for the money, considering that you can use this forward and rear facing until your child is 40 pounds. You will have to purchase another seat when they get larger than that, but this will still last you for a while and is easy to travel with. Overall, this is a great purchase!
- It is great this can be used forward and rear facing, extending the life of the seat
- The convenience features of both the seat pad and cup holder being removable and machine washable/dishwasher safe are great for busy parents
- Safety features make you feel confident using this seat, even though it is affordable
- Perfect for parents who travel since it is lightweight and approved for flying
- 7 fun color options
- Can only use forward facing as a car seat with a harness, does not convert to booster seat
8. EVENFLO DLX
This car seat makes it easy for new parents to take their child in and out of the car. Use this car seat as a carrier outside of the car, and then easily lock it into place in the base when it is time to go! The base stays in the car, making it easy for you every time!
Rear facing car seat for babies weighing between 5 and 22 pounds
Adjustable shoulder straps and crotch buckles- 3 shoulder harness positions and 2 buckle positions for the best fit every time
Stay-in-car base allows seat to easily move from car to home
Energy absorbing foam provides safety and padding for comfort
Car seat pad is easily removable and machine washable
Side impact tested
Full body pillow for smaller babies and extra comfort
Lightweight- only 6.5 pounds
This is an affordable car seat, and it is a great value for the money. This seat has as many safety features as you would expect on a very expensive model. While you can only use it rear facing, you will have peace of mind that they are safe but do not have to break the bank.
- Specifically for newborns, which gives you confidence they will be safe, especially given all the safety features
- Adjustable elements and body pillow ensure the seat will fit your baby properly no matter their size (as long as within weight limit)
- 2 color options- purple and turquoise
- Base makes it easy for transfer between car and home, but you can also use the seat without the base, which is nice when traveling
- Can only be used rear facing, so the limit of time is much smaller
9. COSCO BOOSTER
USE WITH HARNESS OR AS A BELT POSITIONING BOOSTER
Once your child is front facing, there are still a few steps to take before they can use a regular seat belt. First, they need to still wear a harness when they are small. This seat works with a harness for children weighing between 22 and 40 pounds. After that, it works with your regular seat belt as a belt positioning booster seat for children between 40 and 80 pounds.
Front facing car seat to use with a harness for children between 22 and 40 pounds, and as a belt positioning booster for children between 40 and 80 pounds
Lightweight design (only weighs 10.5 pounds)
Easily adjustable 5-point harness (adjusts from the front)
Removable cup holder
13 color options
If you need a basic booster seat that is easy to travel with and affordable, this is the perfect seat. It has a simple design and doesn’t weigh a lot. It’s a great value for the money considering how affordable it is and how long you’ll be able to use it.
- Once out of an initial car seat, this may likely be the only other seat you will need until your child can use a regular seat belt
- Range of color choices, including bright pinks and subdued grays give you options no matter what your child’s personality is
- Cup holder is a nice feature but can be removed when traveling or in a tight space
- Lightweight makes it easy when traveling- and this seat can be used on an airplane as well
- Minimal padding
- No headrest
10. DISNEY APT CONVERTIBLE
REAR OR FORWARD FACING
It is not always easy to find an affordable car seat that can be used forward and rear facing, but this model does just that. This seat can be used rear facing for children weighing between 5 and 40 pounds, and forward facing for children weighing between 22 and 40 pounds.
Convertible car seat to be used rear facing until children weigh 40 pounds and forward facing for children between 22 and 40 pounds
Features side impact protection
Adjustable 5-point harness
Disney themed fabric designs
2 cup holders
3 different buckle locations
As with all the car seats we will feature on this list, it is a great price and a wonderful value! This one is slightly more expensive than others on this list, but not by much, and is still incredibly affordable. The slight increase in price gets you an awesome Disney product that your child will love- totally worth it!
- Numerous safety features and adjustable elements to keep your child safe as they grow
- 7 unique color options and patterns, all featuring Mickey or Minnie Mouse
- Can be used rear or forward facing, which extends the amount of time you can use this seat before needing to purchase a bigger one
- Cup holders are very convenient for drinks, snacks, or toys
- Slightly bulky in size, might not fit in compact cars easily
There you have it! These are the ten best cheap car seats on the market today. Depending on the age of your child, you should be able to easily decide which seat is right for you, depending if you need a rear seat, forward facing seat, or a booster seat. Here is some other information to help make the buying process even easier for you.
5 TIPS TO MAKE SURE YOUR CHEAP CAR SEAT FUNCTIONS WELL
- Check the weight limit: This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when selecting a car seat. It is crucial that you only use a seat when your child fits within the weight and height maximums for the seat. If your seat is a convertible seat, also make sure that you are using the seat in the correct way depending on your child’s size. For example, you should not convert a harness seat to a belt-positioning booster seat until your child is large enough. Your specific seat will give you the specific height and weight limits which you should always follow exactly.
- Stay rear facing as long as possible: You might think it is a pain, but in reality rear facing is the safest position for a child. Convertible seats often list a low weight for when you can switch your child to front facing. While that is true, it is best to stay rear facing until the upper limit has been reached. For ultimate safety, select a seat with a high rear facing limit. Some seats, such as the Cosco Apt 50, Cosco Scenera or Disney APT have weights limits of 40 or 50 pounds for rear facing.
- Make sure you know how to install the seat: This may sound obvious, but the reality is that installing a car seat can sometimes be confusing. Instead of just guessing how to install the seat, always make sure you follow the instructions exactly. If you need additional help, search online for tutorial videos that will walk you through the process. If you still cannot figure it out, do not be afraid to ask for help. You can either hire an expert or ask a fellow parent who knows how to do it. An improperly installed car seat can actually be dangerous for your child, so make sure you do it right each and every time.
- Ensure the seat will fit in your car: Some car seats are bulkier in nature, which might be a problem for parents with smaller compact cars. Make sure you measure the back seat of your car before purchasing a car seat to ensure it will fit easily without having to sacrifice leg room in the front seat.
- Determine if you’ll need it on a plane: Finally, if you know you are planning to purchase a car seat that you will be traveling with, make sure it is airplane friendly! Car seats that can be used on an airplane must be certified for usage, so make sure to check for that specification if this is a feature you are planning to use. On this list, the Cosco Apt 50 and Cosco Scenera are certified for aircraft usage. Other seats on this list may be as well, check with your airline to be sure before purchasing.
How to Recognize a Quality, Low-Cost Car Seat from a Bad Product
Parenthood is loaded with many different expectations and responsibilities. It can often be difficult and overwhelming and you may sometimes feel immense pressure to do the right thing all of the time. The best course of action is to cut yourself a little slack, look at the most important things and take care of them, and then take everything one thing at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself and try to take everything on at once. One of our most important jobs as parents is to keep our children safe, which can give us a good place to start.
There are many aspects to keeping your child safe, but there is one thing in particular that is necessary in order to ensure your child is safe each time they are in the car which is a car seat. A car seat is absolutely essential to ensure your child’s safety. You may not realize it, but putting your child in a car is likely the most dangerous thing you ever do with your child. The statistics clearly show what a massive threat car accidents are to children, so making sure your child is in a safe car seat is completely vital in order to keep your child as safe as possible in the event of a vehicular accident.
One common dilemma that parents tend to run into when choosing a car seat for their child is the cost of the car seat. We aren’t all made of money after all, and children can be very expensive as it is. At the same time, we all want the very best for our children, but with some car seats costing hundreds of dollars, you might simply not be able to get the most expensive seat for your child. The good news is, that is okay! Fortunately, pricier does not necessarily equal safer. In fact, many low-cost car seats are just as safe as the fancier, expensive car seats.
The question then arises, how can you differentiate a quality, low-cost car seat from a bad product? Well, there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind when shopping for a good-quality, low-cost car seat. An important thing to remember is that a truly good-quality, low-cost car seat is able to come at a lower price not because it sacrifices safety, but because it typically would have less fancy features and what not than a higher-costing car seat.
The first thing that you will want to look at when choosing a quality, low-cost car seat is that it truly is a safe option for your child. All car seats, legally, must undergo the same safety testing and meet or exceed the same safety standards. However, that does not mean that all car seats do that. There can certainly be car seats out there that are sold illegally even if you may not realize it. Additionally, a really cheap, bad product may only barely meet the very minimum requirements for safety.
Research whatever car seat that you are looking into and find out exactly what safety standards, if any, that it has been tested for and met. Safety is definitely the most important thing when it comes to purchasing a car seat, so you really want to make sure that whatever car seat you end up choosing really does meet or exceed appropriate safety standards to make sure that the car seat will hold up well in the event of a car accident.
The other big thing that you want to look at when it comes to searching for a good-quality, low-cost car seat is how well it functions. Basically, you want to make sure that it isn’t excessively difficult to install into your car, that it isn’t so bulky that it won’t fit well in your car, and that it is easy to buckle your child into it. When it comes to cheap car seats, bad products are likely to suffer in these areas of functionality. You may find a seat that is more difficult than most seats to install or you may find one that has buckles that are very difficult to adjust or unbuckle. Consider these things when you are shopping for an inexpensive car seat. A truly good-quality, low-cost car seat will still have good, proper, and easy functionality.
Other Users’ Opinion
Beyond checking which safety standards that the car seats you are looking at have met or exceeded, you would also do very good to check into the user reviews of different car seats. This is often the absolute best way to distinguish a bad product from a good-quality product, especially when you are looking at the low-cost items of a category such as car seats.
User reviews are a perfect way to get a clear and truly honest picture of what a product is like for those that have actually purchased and used the product. The real users of the car seats can tell you if the product is actually good-quality or if it really is just a bad product. They know how easy or difficult the seat is to install as well as if it is easy or difficult to adjust it and put the child into the seat.
Do Your Research
When you are shopping for a car seat on a budget and trying to distinguish the difference between products that are truly of good-quality and those that are just bad products, your best bet is to simply do your research. It is important to know what you are buying and that it is definitely a safe, good-quality option to keep your child nice and safe.
PRODUCT CRITERIA OF EVALUATION
Price was the major determining factor when creating this list. We wanted to put together a list of car seats that were incredibly affordable without sacrificing safety. Therefore, all car seats on this list should be accessible to all parents, even those on more limited budgets.
We always consider user ratings when selecting products, especially ones as important as car seats. Seeing how these seats actually performed in the event of an accident, for example, is incredibly important information that we consider when selecting items for our lists.
This is crucial when purchasing items that will keep your child safe. For that reason, there are a lot of repeating brands on this list, simply because we know they are known for being incredibly safe. Brands like Cosco, Evenflo, and Graco have a great reputation and for that reason, we include them a lot on our lists.
Ease of Use
Finally, it’s always important that items are easy to use, especially car seats. As we said earlier, installation is crucial for the success of your car seat. Car seats can always be a little bit tricky, but we try to find ones that are pretty straightforward and have a lot of helpful information or guidelines to follow. Things like seat belt guides and stay-in-car bases help make these car seats much easier to use, so we are always looking for these types of features.
Are cheap car seats safe?
Not always. We don’t want to make a broad claim that all cheap car seats out there are safe, but there are plenty that are. Just because a car seat does not cost a lot of money does not mean it isn’t safe. What is more important is to see the car seat and read up about safety features and the materials that are used, how it’s installed, and things like that. The seats on this list are safe, and there are likely others as well. Always do your research, but do keep in mind that you can find quality products for a good price.
Can you use a cheap car seat at any stage of your child’s life?
Yes! There are affordable rear facing seats, forward facing seats, and booster seats on the market today. Safety is always a number one concern when it comes to children, but budget is an important factor for many parents as well. You can use a cheap car seat, even when first taking your child home from the hospital. For ultimate safety, we recommend either the Evenflo Nurture DLX or just the Evenflo Nurture, as they are both filled with safety features and are specifically made for newborns and can only be used rear facing.
How long should a child be rear facing?
There is not one set answer to this, but rather, you should understand that rear facing is the safest position for your child to be. If you already have a car seat that can be rear facing, check the weight limit and see how long you can keep your child there. If you are still shopping for one, look for ones with upper limits of 30 or 40 pounds, and keep your child there until they reach that limit. In the event of an accident, being rear facing will help absorb the shock and will keep your child much safer.
Are booster seats necessary for children?
Yes! Some parents think that once a child is big enough to not use a typical car seat with a harness, they must be big enough to sit in the car with just a seat belt. That couldn’t be more wrong! A booster seat not only provides additional protection in the event of an accident, it also helps position the child’s seat belt into the proper position. A seat belt that is up too high near a child’s neck can be incredibly dangerous should you get in an accident.
Are cheap car seats easy to install?
For the most part, yes. Just because these seats are cheap does not mean that they are any more difficult to install. Car seats of all price ranges can sometimes be tricky to install, but choosing a cheaper seat won’t make the job any more difficult for you. Always follow the instructions exactly and ask for help if needed. Check online for tutorial videos, as they can also be a great resource.