Reviews

Best Convertible Car Seats (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Save money and space with these safe and efficient convertible car seats.

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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON November 12, 2021

One of the surprising things about parenting is the sheer amount of stuff you need when you have a baby. One of the most important items you’ll need is a car seat and if you’re looking to save money and not add a lot of extra equipment to your repertoire, a convertible car seat is a great option. Convertible car seats are designed to grow with your child, minimizing the need to purchase brand new equipment each time your child grows past a certain height or weight. If you’re in the market for a new convertible car seat, we’ve got you covered with our list of top picks and a handy buying guide that will have you confidently choosing the best option to suit your needs.

Best Overall
Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat
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Summary
Summary

Approved for use in children ranging between 4 and 120 pounds, this seat may be the only one you ever need to buy.

Pros
Pros
  • Designed to grow with your child through all stages
  • Cover is easy to remove and machine washable
  • Harness if fully adjustable without having to uninstall the seat
Cons
Cons
  • Cup holders don’t accommodate larger cup sizes
  • Neck support could be improved for infant stage
Best Overall
Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat
Best Value
Evenflo Tribute LX Harness Convertible Car Seat
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Summary
Summary

This seat is an affordable option that’s a bit more compact in size than some other competing models, so it’s a great option for vehicles where space is a premium.

Pros
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Straightforward, user-friendly features
  • Cover is machine washable
Cons
Cons
  • Only has one cup holder
  • Won’t be appropriate for the entire duration of your car seat needs
Best Value
Evenflo Tribute LX Harness Convertible Car Seat
Honorable Mention
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
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Summary
Summary

This car seat is a great option if you have a taller child whose feet are always crammed into the seat in the rear-facing position.

Pros
Pros
  • Offers extra legroom in the rear-facing position
  • No-rethread quick-adjust harness setup
  • Easy to clean dual cup holders
Cons
Cons
  • Only good for children up to 65 pounds
  • Only offers six recline positions
Honorable Mention
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

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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Our Methodology

When it comes to convertible car seats, The Drive’s Gear staff have a lot of parents on the masthead, including Managing Editor Jonathon Klein, who has gone through his fair share of car seats. When it came to offering up our favorites, we used that hard-earned knowledge of bruised knuckles, Cheerio-encrusted covers, and LATCH usability to select the products below. We stuck to the name-brand offerings, kept the price within reason, and ensured that safety was our highest priority in terms of offerings. And if you’d like more about our selection criteria and methodology, check out The Drive’s Gear About page.

Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews & Recommendations

Best Convertible Car Seat Overall
Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat

If you’re looking for the ideal combination of safety, thoughtful features, comfort, and price point, our top pick is the Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat. This seat is designed to give you up to 10 years of uninterrupted use. Approved for use in children ranging between 4 and 120 pounds, this seat may be the only one you ever need to buy. It features Graco’s Protect Plus engineering that’s designed to hold up and protect your child in front, side, rear, or rollover crashes and the safety harness features 10 different positions that you can easily adjust in one motion without the need to uninstall and reinstall the seat itself.


This seat also features six 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 two conveniently located cup holders, but they won’t accommodate all sizes of cups. This car seat could also be improved by having more substantial neck support for younger infants.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Graco
  • Model: ‎2074607
  • Weight Allowances: 4-120 pounds

Pros

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

Cons

  • Cup holders don’t accommodate larger cup sizes
  • Neck support could be improved for infant stage
Best Convertible Car Seat Value
Evenflo Tribute LX Harness Convertible Car Seat

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 5-40 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 cup holder. 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.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Evenflo
  • Model: ‎38112278
  • Weight Allowances: 5-40 pounds

Pros

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

Cons

  • Only has one cup holder
  • Won’t be appropriate for the entire duration of your car seat needs
Honorable Mention
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

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 5 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 4-65 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.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Graco
  • Model: ‎1963212
  • Weight Allowances: 4-65 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
Best Convertible Car Seat For Newborns
Diono Radian 3QXT 4-in-1 Rear and Forward Facing Convertible Car Seat

Many convertible car seat options lack the level of padding to truly protect your infant’s neck and spine during use, but the Diono Radian 3QXT 4-in-1 Rear and Forward Facing Convertible Car Seat more than makes up for that. This 4-in-1 convertible car seat is designed for use in children ranging between 4 and 120 pounds, giving you all the use you’ll need for your child. For the newborn stages, this model provides thick and well-cushioned padding to prevent your baby’s neck from being strained due to awkward, unprotected positioning.


The design of this convertible car seat also offers a high level of side impact protection that is meant to provide your child with next-level lateral protection in the event of a crash or impact. With four modes of convertible positioning, this seat also ensures maximum comfort and visibility for your child. The slim-fit design of this model also makes it a great option for most midsize vehicles or those with more than one car seat installed. Be prepared to pay a high price for this one, though, and installation of this unit can be harder than with some other models.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Diono
  • Model: ‎‎51225
  • Weight Allowances: 4-120 pounds

Pros

  • Plenty of padding for infant support
  • Slim design is more compact than some models
  • Substantial side protection for safety during impacts

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Tough to install
Best Convertible Car Seat for Small Cars
Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat

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 5-40 pounds, and forward-facing is suitable for kids between 22-65 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.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Safety 1st
  • Model: ‎CC078BJB
  • Weight Allowances: 5-65 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
Best Uniquely Designed Convertible Car Seat
Baby Trend Cover Me 4 in 1 Convertible Car Seat

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 4-40 pounds, forward-facing from 22-65 pounds, and belt-positioning from 40-100 pounds, you get years of reliable use. The clean and sleek design and substantially designed cup holders 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.


Product Specs

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

Pros

  • An 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
Best Convertible Car Seat for Travel
Evenflo Chase Plus Booster Car Seat

If you find you travel frequently and need a car seat that’s easy to transport and can fit in a wide variety of different vehicle sizes, consider the Evenflo Chase Plus Booster Car Seat. This is a 2-in-1 booster seat option that’s designed to accommodate children ranging from 22-120 pounds. Choose from a forward-facing harnessed booster seat to a high-backed booster that uses your vehicle’s built-in safety belts. Weighing less than 10 pounds, it’s an ultra-lightweight option that you can easily carry from car to car, through an airport, or anywhere else you need to take it.


This model features two deep cup holders that are perfect for securing drinks and snacks and it offers an easy-to-clean wipeable or machine washable cover that can be removed relatively quickly. The drawback to this seat option is that it’s not meant to support newborns or infants under 22 pounds. You can only use it in the forward-facing position and it also has fewer harness adjustment positions than most other convertible car seats on our list.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Evenflo
  • Model: ‎‎30712344
  • Weight Allowances: 22-120 pounds

Pros

  • Super lightweight and slim design for easy transportation
  • Highly affordable
  • Cover is easy to clean and fully machine washable

Cons

  • Not for use with newborns or babies under 22 pounds
  • Can’t be used in the rear-facing position
Best Rotating Convertible Car Seat
Evenflo Gold Revolve360 Rotational All-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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 cup holders 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.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Evenflo
  • Model: 35312310
  • Weight Allowances: 4-120 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
Best Premium Convertible Car Seat
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat

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 9 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.


Product Specs

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy and bulky

Our Verdict on Convertible Car Seats

If you’re looking for the ideal combination of safety, comfort, user-friendly design, and price, our top pick for the best overall convertible car seat is the Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat. Approved for use in children ranging between 4 and 120 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.

Types of Convertible Car Seats

Infant Seat

Infant seats are intended for babies that weigh between 4 and 40 pounds. Infant seats are rear-facing, have carrying handles, and are attached to the car via a stationary base. You can move the base from one car to another, or even latch it into a stroller system. The major benefit is that the carrier itself is highly portable and doesn’t require you to take the baby in and out of it whenever you want to go anywhere. 

Convertible Car Seat

An easy-to-install convertible car seat is designed for toddlers and babies in both rear-facing and forward-facing positions. A good rear- and forward-facing convertible car seat may have the ability to convert to either a highback booster seat or backless booster seat. The weight limit is usually between 65-120 pounds, depending on whether the convertible seat can be transitioned into a booster seat.

Booster Seat

Booster seats are designed for children who no longer need a forward-facing, five-point harness seat. These seats enable your child to safely wear a vehicle's lap and shoulder belts. There are a variety of booster seats on the market, some having high backs, while others are backless. A few feature a harness option.

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.

Benefits of Convertible Car Seats

Versatility 

The best transition car seats can be used throughout your child's development. You can use them the day you leave the hospital until they are big enough that they no longer need one.

Saves Money

The best toddler convertible car seat may cost more than a regular child safety seat or booster seat; however, it's cheaper to buy baby convertible car seats than both a car seat and a booster seat separately.

Long Lifespan

Some recommended convertible car seats can be used for as long as 10 years before they expire. This is particularly convenient if you have more than one child or you are a babysitter and watch children of different ages.

Brands To Know

Graco

Graco, based in Atlanta, Georgia, was initially named Graco Metal Products before engineers Rex Thomas and David Saint (who had nine children) started dreaming up baby products in the mid-1950s. Graco employs over 1,500 employees worldwide. 

Britax 

British company Britax has been around for over 70 years and produces childcare products such as car seats and strollers. It launched its designs in America in 1996. 

Safety 1st

Safety 1st is a brand of Dorel Industries Inc., which is a Canadian company based in Montreal, Quebec. The company launched the well-known "Baby on Board" sign over 30 years ago. 

Evenflo

Evenflo, which dates back to the 1920s, initially manufactured products related to baby feeding. The company is headquartered in Ohio and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Goodbaby International Holdings Limited. 

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. They’re not usually designed to suit the full needs of your child’s car seat requirements, but will likely have to be upgraded at some point as your child continues to grow. In the $100-$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.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and convertible car seats. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • It is critical that you follow installation instructions as well as weight limit guidelines so you know when you need to change seats or adjust your convertible car seat to a different mode.
  • Make sure to put the user manual for the convertible car seat in a place where you can easily access it. A few models contain pockets for storing the manual so you will always have it on hand.
  • Before purchasing a top-rated convertible car seat, measure the interior of your car and make sure the car seat will fit. The best convertible car seats for small cars may be compact enough to fit in a tiny car, but they may lack accessories and other features.
  • Never leave a child alone in the car unattended. If necessary, purchase a car seat alarm or download an app to ensure that you don't leave your child in his or her seat.
  • Do not put bulky clothes on your baby before placing him or her in a car seat. In the winter, take his or her coat off before strapping him or her into the seat because the harness won't properly function.
  • If the seat and the child combined weigh more than 65 pounds, do not use the LATCH system. Instead, attach the car seat with a seat belt.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: What’s better: an infant seat or a convertible seat? 

It's a personal preference. Both types are safe for your child, and they are both required to meet federal safety standards. An infant seat tends to be less expensive, but your child will grow out of it sooner than they will a rear-facing convertible seat.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: Can a convertible car seat be attached to a stroller? 

Convertible car seats are generally designed to stay in your vehicle and are not meant to be portable. Some infant car seats, however, may be affixed to certain, recommended strollers. 

Q: Is it okay 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.