Best Convertible Car Seats: The Only Car Seat You’ll Ever Need

These cleverly designed convertible car seats are made to grow with your child and their changing needs.

byLisa Conant| UPDATED Sep 2, 2022 1:06 PM
Best Convertible Car Seats: The Only Car Seat You’ll Ever Need
The Only Car Seat You’ll Ever Need. Deposit Photos
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For new parents, one of the most surprising things is often the large amount of stuff that you absolutely have to have in order to properly take care of your child. While a lot of those items may be somewhat gimmicky, one item that is important and necessary is a reliable and safe car seat. When it comes to car seats, many parents opt for a convertible car seat that will allow their child to grow without having to replace the car seat every year or so. 

This can add up to some serious cash savings over the life of the car seat. If you’re looking to purchase a convertible car seat, check out my top picks and informative buying guide to make sure you’re getting the ideal model to suit your needs and budget.

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Summary List

Our Methodology

When it comes to convertible car seats, The Drive’s Gear staff have a lot of parents on the masthead, including myself, who has gone through more than my fair share of car seats. When it came to offering up my favorites, I used that hard-earned knowledge of sweaty, grunt-filled wrestling, Cheerio-encrusted covers, and LATCH usability to select the products below. I relied on name-brand offerings, kept the price within reason, and ensured that safety and functionality were the highest priority in terms of offerings. And if you’d like more about the selection criteria and methodology, check out The Drive’s Gear About page.

Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Brand: Graco
  • Model: 1967059
  • Weight Allowances: 4 to 65 pounds

Pros

  • Designed to grow with your child through several stages
  • Cover is easy to remove and machine washable
  • Harness is fully adjustable without having to uninstall the seat

Cons

  • Cupholder doesn’t accommodate larger cup sizes
  • Neck support could be improved for infant stage

If you’re looking for the ideal combination of safety, thoughtful features, comfort, and price point, our top pick is the Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat. This seat is designed to give you up to seven years of uninterrupted use. Approved for use in children ranging between 4 and 65 pounds, this seat may be the only one you ever need to buy. It has been rigorously tested to exceed all U.S. safety standards, including those for side-impact crashes. The five-point safety harness and headrest can easily adjust in one motion to eight different positions without the need to uninstall and reinstall the seat itself. This seat also features three recline positions that ensure maximum comfort for your child at all times. One of the coolest features of this seat is the machine washable rapid remove cover that easily comes off the seat in less than one minute, also without having to uninstall the seat itself. This seat also features a conveniently located cupholder, but it won’t accommodate all sizes of cups. This car seat could also be improved by having more substantial neck support for younger infants. Neck support could be improved for infant stage

Specs

  • Brand: Evenflo
  • Model: 38111190
  • Weight Allowances: 5 to 40 pounds

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Straightforward, user-friendly features
  • Cover is machine washable

Cons

  • Only has one somewhat flimsy cup holder
  • Won’t be appropriate for the entire duration of your car seat needs

Just because you’re looking for a more budget-friendly convertible car seat doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice much-needed safety features, and the Evenflo Tribute LX Harness Convertible Car Seat is a great example of that. This seat is also a bit more compact in size than some other competing models, so it’s a great option for more compact cars. This is a two-stage seat that can be used in the front- or rear-facing position and it’s approved for babies ranging in weight from 5 to 40 pounds. While this car seat is a great value, you will still need to purchase a separate seat once your child surpasses the 40-pound weight limit or 40 inches in height. This model features four different shoulder harness positions and the standard five-point safety harness. It also includes one removable and washable cupholder. This seat definitely doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that other models have, but for the bargain price point, it’s a great buy.

Specs

  • Brand: Graco
  • Model: 1963212
  • Weight Allowances: 4 to 65 pounds

Pros

  • Offers extra legroom in the rear-facing position
  • No-rethread quick-adjust harness set-up
  • Easy to clean dual cup holders

Cons

  • Only good for children up to 65 pounds
  • Only offers six recline positions

The Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat is a great option if you have a taller child whose feet are always crammed into your car seat in the rear-facing position. It offers a four-position extension panel that gives them up to five inches of additional rear-facing legroom that you won’t get from most other car seat models. And thanks to its clever design, your child can ride in the safest rear-facing position until they reach 50 pounds. This seat has also undergone rigorous crash testing and is designed to provide plenty of protection for your baby in the event of a side, frontal, rear, or rollover crash. This seat is meant to be used by children ranging from 4 to 65 pounds, so while it won’t provide all the seating your child will need, it will still last quite a while. The no-rethread adjustable harness allows for quick and easy customization of comfort and fit to accommodate a wide range of children's heights and weights. This model offers a six-position recline, which is less than some other competitors’ models, the padding is somewhat less comfortable than in other car seat options, and the child can sink and become somewhat slouched in the seat.

Specs

  • Brand: Safety 1st
  • Model: CC078CMI
  • Weight Allowances: 5 to 65 pounds

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Spacious design

Cons

  • Fewer harness positions than some other models
  • Side impact padding is less substantial than on some other options

For those who drive a more compact vehicle, finding a high-quality, comfortable car seat can be a bit of a struggle. The streamlined, lightweight design of the Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat makes it a great option for those where space is at a premium. It’s designed to be used in the rear-facing position for children ranging from 5 to 40 pounds, and forward-facing is suitable for kids between 22 to 65 pounds, making this a car seat that will last your child for quite a while. It features the usual five-point harness with easy access front adjustment and also offers five different harness heights and three independent buckle locations to allow you to customize the fit of the seat and maximize your child’s comfort level. The side impact protection padding isn’t as substantial on some bulkier, more expensive models, but still provides a decent level of guarding. While the cover is also machine washable, it’s not as easily removable as on some other competitor’s models. Offered at a very reasonable price point, however, we find this option tough to beat.

Specs

  • Brand: Baby Trend
  • Model: ‎‎CV89D08B
  • Weight Allowances: 5 to 100 pounds

Pros

  • Integrated canopy keeps sun and wind out of the baby’s eyes
  • Clean, streamlined design
  • Dual cup holders

Cons

  • Canopy can make it hard to see your baby
  • Side padding isn’t the best for newborns

The Baby Trend Cover Me 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat gets high marks for being a thoughtfully designed, well-made convertible car seat that’s designed to keep your child safe and comfortable. Unlike many others, this model features an integrated canopy that’s perfect for providing UV and wind protection, making it a great option for Jeeps and convertibles on sunny days. It also has flip-out side visors to provide next-level shade and wind protection on each side of the seat. This car seat will also grow with your child for as long as they are required to be in a car seat. With rear-facing from 4 to 40 pounds, forward-facing from 22 to 65 pounds, and belt-positioning from 40 to 100 pounds, you get years of reliable use. The clean and sleek design and substantially designed cupholders are also nice touches. One thing to note: the canopy position can make it difficult to see and monitor your baby while underway and the side padding could also be thicker and more protective for newborn stages of use.

Specs

  • Brand: Evenflo
  • Model: ‎‎35312310
  • Weight Allowances: 4 to 120 pounds

Pros

  • Seat can rotate up to 360 degrees for easy access
  • Designed to be used for the entirety of your child’s car seat needs
  • 14-position quick-adjust headrest

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Seat padding is not as thick and cushioned as on some other models

The newer designs of rotating car seats provide quick and easy access to your child from anywhere in your car, and the Evenflo Gold Revolve360 Rotational All-in-1 Convertible Car Seat makes getting your baby in and out of the seat a breeze. It provides 360 degrees of rotation so you can get to your child quickly and without dealing with awkward angles. This model features the Sure360 Safety Installation System with a substantial tether that’s designed to minimize motion and jarring in the event of an accident. Like many others, this convertible car seat will provide comfort and protection for your child for years to come. It’s suitable for use in children ranging between 4 and 120 pounds, which is good because it comes with a very hefty price tag. It also offers a fun on-the-go recline feature that adjusts quickly and easily without the need to uninstall and reinstall, saving you time and frustration. Dual cupholders are a nice added feature. The padding on this seat is not as thick or cushioned as on some other models, but it’s very soft.

Specs

  • Brand: Britax
  • Model: ‎‎ ‎‎E1C277T
  • Weight Allowances: 5 to 120 pounds

Pros

  • Durable padding and stitching
  • 15-position quick-adjust headrest
  • Nine different recline positions

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy and bulky

The Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat offers a lot of comfort and safety options all wrapped up in a high-quality, comfortable package. It will grow with your child the entire time they need to use a car seat. It’s approved for use in children ranging between 5 and 120 pounds and will last for up to 10 years of use and it offers a maximum height range of 63 inches tall. Unlike a lot of other seats on the market, this model features two layers of side impact protection and cell technology that is designed to crumple and absorb energy in a crash. A specially designed high-strength steel frame and a V-shaped tether provide added safety and protection that are lacking in some other models. A 15-position quick-adjust headrest and harness and nine quick recline positions give you plenty of options for premium comfort and fit. One thing that’s tough to swallow about this car seat is its price tag, as this premium seat comes at a premium price point.

Our Verdict on Convertible Car Seats

If you’re looking for the ideal combination of safety, comfort, user-friendly design, and price, my top pick for the best overall convertible car seat is the Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat. Approved for use in children ranging between 4 and 65 pounds, this seat may be the only one you ever need to buy. And if you’re looking for a great budget-friendly option that will still provide you with reliable protection and safety, check out the Evenflo Tribute LX Harness Convertible Car Seat.

What to Consider When Buying a Convertible Car Seat

Not all car seats are created equal. When purchasing a reliable and safe convertible car seat, there are so many options on the market that it can be difficult to pull the trigger and decide which one best suits your needs. The following buying guide will help you prioritize what’s most important as far as features and options so that you can quickly weed through the choices and select one with confidence.

Convertible Car Seat Key Features

Side-Impact Protection

This type of protection varies from model to model. For example, you can find seats with single-layer protection, double-layer protection, and side-impact absorbers. A good convertible car seat will have been subjected to rigorous impact and crash testing to ensure that it provides maximum protection for your child in the unfortunate event of an accident or crash. However, side-impact protection could add bulk to the seat and make it more expensive. You have to decide whether a seat with this feature suits your needs.

Energy-Absorbing Foam

The most common types of energy-absorbing foam are expanded polypropylene (EPP) and expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), which are both water-resistant, high-density, closed-cell foams that decrease the amount of energy your child absorbs in an accident. The foam is placed in the sides, bottom, and back of the seat. EPP and EPS perform very well in an accident and help protect your child.

Harness Type 

If you purchase a less expensive car seat, you may need to adjust the height of the shoulder harness by manually rethreading it through the holes on the back of the car seat. More expensive seats have a no-thread harness that adjusts with the click of a button. Some car seats offer just a few harness positions, while others may offer up to 14 or 15 different harness heights, giving you virtually unlimited options for comfort and customized fit.

Attachment Mechanism

Some models of convertible car seats can be installed using just the seat belt. Other seats use the LATCH or ISOFIX systems, which attach to the frame of your car’s seats. In general, car seat manufacturers recommend you use one system only, except when installing a booster seat. To keep your vehicle's upholstery in good condition, you also have the option of buying seat protectors.

Breathable Fabric

Some children get very sweaty when traveling in a car seat, and oftentimes, it’s the fabric that’s the cause. Look for seats that feature breathable material so it is more likely to keep your baby cool. You really don't want your child to be uncomfortable or overheated in the vehicle.

Anti-Rebound Bars

This feature is intended to protect your child in a rear-end collision. Specifically, it's designed to reduce whiplash, neck, and spinal injuries. Seats with this feature are much more common in Europe than in the United States. They are not required but are intended to offer additional protection in a crash.

Convertible Car Seat Pricing 

When it comes to convertible car seat pricing, you can get a great seat ranging in price from $75 to upwards of $400. On the lower end of the spectrum, convertible car seats will provide basic level safety and cushioning. In the $100 to $250 range, you will start to see better-made car seats that may grow through all the stages with your child. You can also get a greater selection of styles, padding, and colors in this price range. Above $250 is where you will find the crème de la crème of convertible car seats with the best methods of adjusting, padding, features, and safety standards.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

How do I know if I properly installed the car seat?

Check the installation by visiting a certified car seat technician. Your local fire station and pediatrician can also offer guidance, and they will make sure it's properly installed. You can also check the manufacturer's website.

Do convertible car seats have removable bases?

Convertible car seats have a permanent base that allows the seat to recline to a specific angle, depending on how it's installed. The base and the seat are attached together.

Is it OK for my child to sleep in a convertible car seat?

Children can sleep in a convertible car seat as long as it is properly installed and the harness is correctly adjusted to the child's height and weight. However, children should not sleep in the seat when it is outside of the vehicle.