Probably one of the most challenging aspects of becoming a new parent is finding the best car seat and stroller for your infant. It’s a daunting task. And for new parents this task got even more complicated with changes to the car seat rules. Click here to read Triangle Moms on Main’s take on the this topic, and how the 2014 regulations may affect you and your child.

But when it comes to finding a car seat and stroller, a simple shopping trip may leave you confused by all the several styles and brands from which to choose. So today, with the help of our friends at Babies R Us and our trusty Baby Bargains book, we’ll focus on a few highly rated infant car seats and strollers – all of which make sense for our lifestyles here in the Triad. If you are reading this post early, tune to Fox8 TV News at 9:30 am to watch me showcase a few of these models live, thanks to our friends at Babies R Us!

Consider This First

The price range for infant car seats is wide – anywhere from $60 to $900! And the price range for strollers is just as wide. But don’t be fooled into thinking the most expensive car seat or stroller is the safest one on the market. To help us make sense of the best buys, I consulted the 9th edition of the Baby Bargains book (published in 2012). And then I checked withBabies R Us and confirmed all the models suggested below are available to purchase (or order) in the Winston-Salem and Greensboro locations.

Moms, if you are expecting and have not picked up a copy of Baby Bargains, please do yourself a HUGE favor and purchase one soon. You can find this book at any major book store for under $20. It was my bible for baby shopping and it’s a fantastic resource when you need to weigh decisions on the big ticket items. Not only does it provide its own trusted ratings system for a variety of products, but it also provides Smart Shopper Tips and Money Saving Secrets. For infant car seats, it also shares tips on the latest safety regulations and sources for more information. Below I provide highlights from the book, but there is so much more advice and information available in that you should consider picking up a copy yourself. Remember: an infant car seat can be expensive and is only used for six months – so it behooves you to shop smart!

Infant Car Seats: Top Picks

Chicco KeyFit 30
Baby Bargains Rating: A
NHTSA* Ease of Use Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Price: $190
According to Baby Bargains, the Chicco KeyFit scored at the top of the Consumer Reports latest car seat report, and Babies R Us confirms its one of its best-sellers. Chicco makes two versions of this seat – one to fit up to 22 lbs and one to fit up to 30 lbs. Baby Bargains recommends you buy the one that fits up to 30 lbs, and the same base works with either model. This seat provides lots of positives, such as EPS foam for side impact protection, ease of use, easy-to-adjust straps, ability to leave the handle up when driving, ease of installation, and adaption to other strollers. Some negatives on this model include it’s weight (at 9.4 lbs it’s heavier than other models), it takes two hands to release the handle, the sunshade is small, and the larger base may not fit some cars and shopping carts.

Chicco just unveiled its NextFit model (pictured right) for $300. Technically a convertible car seat, it can also accommodate an infant , the NextFit features are too numerous to list (click link above to see details). But one of the cooler features for this model is its machine-washable padded neoprene seat. I’ve never seen that material used on car seats, and it’s so smart! Babies R Us received a shipment early (it’s not supposed to debut in stores for a few weeks) and they’ve already sold out. But you can pre-order yours today in store or online.

Graco SnugRide 30, 32, 35 (also known as the Teutonia t-tario, Aprica A30)
Baby Bargains Rating: A
NHTSA Ease of Use Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Price: $145

Another top-selling car seat, the Graco SnugRide (which I used for my children!) is an affordable option with excellent features. Part of its popularity is all the versions available for weight and height limits, so be sure to check the descriptions carefully before you make your purchase. Also, you can find a million different fabric options for the SnugRide too. Some of the best features of this product include its lightweight carrier, level indicator for installation, good size canopy, ease of use, and adaption to a variety of strollers. The negatives? The SnugRide lacks the extra side-impact protection and side rebound bar you would find on the higher Britax model (see below). Also, Consumer Reports only ranked the basic SnugRide in the middle, and the SnugRide 32 and 35 dead last, and according to Baby Bargains, that was due to “fair fit to vehicle using a safety belt and average crash protection.”

Britax B-SAFE
Baby Bargains Rating: A-
NHTSA Ease of Use Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Price: $160
For years, Britax is typically one of the more popular brands but it’s high prices tend to make it slow sellers. This model, however, is slightly less expensive than its earlier models. The B-SAFE model is a scaled down version of its well-known Chaperone model (at $50 less) but in doing so, it omitted its anti-rebound bar (an excellent safety feature) and its no-thread harness, and offers basic side-impact protection (versus true side-impact protection with the Chaperone). The positives with this new model is a lighter base (9.6 lbs vs. 11.2 lbs with the Chaperone), and a shorter base (which is great for smaller cars). Critics say the Chicco model is easier to install, but the Britax model has better fabric and canopy. But one of the biggest drawbacks with this model is finding a stroller that is compatible with this infant car seat. Of course you can always purchase a Britax stroller. And according to Baby Bargains, if you splurge on a Britax stroller, then you might as well pay an extra $50 and purchase the Britax Chaperone infant car seat then too.

Compatible Strollers: Top Picks

I normally would never recommend a travel system stroller to a new mom. Nine years ago when I had my first baby, these strollers looked good but I had heard too many moms complain about the weight and bulk saying they’re not worth the money. However, our friends at Babies R Us showed me the new Graco Fast Action Fold Sport Click Connect and I was have a new appreciation! For about $260, this stroller features one-second fold technology and it’s super light. If this was around when I was a new mom, this would be at the top of my wish list! Graco also offers a similar jogger travel systemfor $300. All travel systems include the infant car seat in the price.

Below are some favorites recommended by The Baby Bargains book, particularly for moms like us who either don’t live in a major metropolis or out in the country. Remember: Most stroller models now fit other brand car seats, but always check for compatibility before you purchase. Lots of strollers also now sell car seat adapters for about $50 to $60.

Baby Jogger City Mini
$200 – $250
17 lbs

Excellent tri-wheel stroller with oversized canopy and reclining seat. Its quick fold feature also allows you to lift one strap to simply fold the entire stroller. Is car seat adaptable with a special bracket you can purchase for about $60.

Maclaren Quest
$200 – $250
12 lbs.

(Pictured right) Has a four position seat recliner and one button that locks both wheels. It’s lightweight and easy to fold, and has foam grip handles. Is not car seat adaptable.

Baby Trend Snap N GO
(Pictured left) This is a must-have stroller if you also have a larger travel system. It’s simply a stroller frame that lets you snap in most any brand infant car seat (thus, the reason it’s so inexpensive!). I had this with my children and used it everywhere, and it even has a small basket at the bottom to store a purse or bag. Baby Trend also makes a double version that holds two car seats and sells for about $150.

~Chicco makes a similar product and it’s a big seller at Babies R Us!

And When Your Child Outgrows the Infant Car Seat…

Chicco C6 (also known as the Capri)

11 lbs.

(Pictured right) Once your child outgrows a car seat, this is a top pick for a lightweight stroller. This stroller features a five-point harness, two-position seat recline and a basic canopy.

Maclaren Volo
9.4 lbs

(Pictured left) Another good option, and similar to the Chicco model above

First Years Jet
11.4 lbs

(Pictured right) For those of you who frequently fly, this stroller is recommended for airline travel. This lightweight model has no frills but it gets you from here to there – quickly. And for just $40, it’s not the end of the world if something happens to it in the cargo hold!

What about you? What models do you suggest, and why? Add your favorites below as a comment!

*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration