Rotating car seats, or “spinning” car seats, have become more and more popular in the United States over the past few years. They’ve been available in Europe for a while now, and Americans are finally getting to enjoy the spoils of those designs. Cybex was the first company to release a rotating car seat in the U.S., with most other major brands following suit pretty quickly.
These car seats are one of those things that people may put on their registry thinking that they’re aspirational. Really, they pose the perfect chance for a group to go in on one big gift, as opposed to everyone buying separately. It’ll automatically make you the baby shower heroes. Still, since rotating car seats are so new, most people don’t really know what to expect. That’s where I come in. Read on for things you should consider when buying or registering for one of these seats, followed by our reviews of the best.
The Best Rotating Car Seats
The Basics of Rotating Car Seats
Rotating car seats spin on the base, allowing parents to get their babies and toddlers in and out of the car with a great deal more ease. They’re convertible and appropriate for kids through the late toddler stage. The way that they work is that the base of the car seat is stable and unmoving, but the seat itself is slightly bowl-shaped at the bottom, and it runs on a track on the base, spinning either 180 or 360 degrees. You secure the base into your car’s latch system, and the car seat attaches to the base, clicking in at the back with a slide-like mechanism that holds it steady in the forward or rear-facing position.
I understand that many people are concerned that the strength of the connection between the seat and the base is less than traditional car seats, but that’s not true. These pass all the same tests in the U.S. and often Europe as the standard seats. You may have seen the viral video of an empty Evenflo Revolve that came off of the base during a collision. The reason that happened is that it was not installed properly. That can happen with any car seat, which is why it is so critical to install it correctly, follow all instructions for usage, and keep it maintained according to the brand's directions.
Most major brands have a rotating car seat, and some, like Cybex, have more than one. But I’m only including the best on this list—car seats that I have tested personally or have had a trusted tester use and comment on. (Though even in those cases, I’ve seen and operated them myself.)
What You Need to Know Before You Buy
These are undeniably creative, helpful, and convenient car seats. Anyone who has ever tried to put a baby in a car seat when the baby decided they want to plank can understand why these would be a great asset. As someone who has a partially paralyzed left hand, I can tell you that the accessibility level of these car seats is worth the price of entry all on its own. But that’s not to say they’re perfect. There are a few issues that come up that might mean these car seats are not a good fit for your family. First: They take up a lot of space. They’re never going to be a model that you can fit three across, like something from Clek. In fact, they make the middle seat of a bench virtually unusable unless the person is quite small and gets out before the baby and in after the baby is locked in place.
Another sticking point for a lot of families is that these seats are hard to fit in some cars, or in cars where the front or middle-row seat is close to the row where the seat is installed. For example. my sister-in-law tested the Baby Jogger, and when my gigantic brother is driving, the car seat clips the corner of the front seat on the turn. It doesn’t affect the safety at all, but it might start damaging the corner of the car’s seat.
These also have a lower limit for weight and height in rear-facing mode than traditional car seats. There are parents for whom this is an automatic no.
And yes, rotating car seats are more expensive than standard, fixed-position ones. There’s no getting around that, and lo, though I wish that weren’t the case, it is. The majority of rotating car seats are over $500, though two on this list are under that threshold.
What to Consider
As with any car seat purchase, there are a few major things that you need to prioritize when shopping: the size of the seat, the height and weight limits, how you care for or clean it, and the style of the leveling indicator. In most car seat reviews, I bring up what the harness type is on the seat. However, with these, they all have five-point, no-rethread harnesses.
- Size of the seat: Does it fit in your car? With these car seats, I tell parents to look at the dimensions and add a few inches in every direction except the side nearest the door to see if it fits in your space. That top part really does jut out, and it can clip your seat or plain old not fit in the space.
- Height and weight limits: Pay close attention to these, especially if your kids are on the taller or heavier side.
- How to clean it: Is the cover machine-washable or spot clean only? Is the base easy to clean? Kids are wonderful, gross little humans, and cleaning up after them can feel like a full-time gig.
- Leveling indicator: This is a crucial functioning item of the rotating car seats. This is the indicator that tells you whether or not the seat is safe and ready for driving. Some are bead indicators, and others, like the Nuna, do not have one, as it’s a permanent connection.
How We Tested
Each of these seats has gone through the testing gauntlet either by myself personally or a trusted tester. We installed them in different sizes and makes of cars, tested them with different ages and sizes of children, cleaned their fabrics, cleaned the bases, and scrubbed the mechanisms. And they went through the wringer. We’re talking kids with juice, kids who get car sick, and a few accidental diaper blowouts. (We tested two at the height of norovirus season, so you know intense cleaning followed.) All of the seats on this list have enhanced safety measures, like anti-rebound mechanisms in the Cybex Sirona S 360 or the SnugLock technology of the Graco, that assists parents in easy and safe installation.
Check out the very best rotating car seats you can get your hands on.