Best Convertible Car Seats: All-in-One Safety and Versatility

These top convertible car seats provide the best protection for infants and children

A mother places her child in a car seat.
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Parents are inundated with baby equipment, so when a product serves more than one function, it makes life a lot easier. The best convertible car seat can be used when your child is an infant up until he or she is a toddler. This type of car seat has several safety features, is convenient, and protects your offspring in the event of a crash. Here’s our guide to some of the best convertible car seats on the market.

Best Convertible Car Seat Overall: Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Matrix
Best Value Convertible Car Seat: Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Harvest Moon
Best Convertible Car Seat Honorable Mention: Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat, Binx

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.

Types of Car Seats

Infant Seat

Infant seats are intended for babies that weigh from 4 pounds to as much as 44 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, but the major benefit is that the carrier itself is portable.

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 as little as 65 pounds or as much as 120 pounds, depending on if 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.

Top Brands

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. One popular product is the 4Ever Car Seat, the first car seat that goes from baby seat to backless booster.

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. One of the company’s top products is the Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Circa.

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. It has since produced a line of child safety products, including the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Harvest Moon.

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. Its top convertible car seat is the Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat, Saturn.

Chicco 

Chicco was founded in 1958 and is a division of the global corporation Artsana, S.p.A. The company is headquartered near Milan, Italy, and designs products geared towards child safety and comfort. One popular product is the Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat, Vivaci.

Convertible Car Seat Pricing

  • Under $75: Convertible car seats in this price range may be difficult to get in and out of your car and to properly latch. They may also not be as comfortable for your child. 
  • $75-$200: Many different child seats are available in this price range. They offer a wide range of options and comfort levels for your infant/child.
  • Over $200: There are a few convertible car seats that cost as much as $300 or more. It's not unrealistic to pay this much money for a reliable, safe car seat that protects your child.
 A mom buckles her little boy in his car seat.
gettyimages

Comfort is one important factor when choosing the right convertible car seat for your child.

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. 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 EPP and EPS, which 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.

Other Considerations

  • Comfort. Some car seat models have a range of options that make them more comfortable for children, including extra padding and cup holders. Keep in mind, these options tend to be included on more expensive models. If you drive your child around a lot, you may want to consider these extras so they have a pleasant ride. 
  • Ease of Use. One of the most important things about a convertible car seat is how easy it is to get your child in and out of it and how easy it is to get the seat in and out of your vehicle. A good harness is not only easy to get on and off, but it also keeps the child safe and secure.
  • 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.
  • Attachment Mechanism. Some models of convertible car seats can be installed using just the seat belt. Other seats require the LATCH or ISOFIX systems, which come in your car. 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.
  • Adjustment Capability. It's important to be able to make adjustments on a car seat for a growing child. Some seats, for example, have at least five height positions for the headrest and harness. There should be at least two crotch buckle adjustments and five or more wide recline adjustments to account for various types of vehicles.

Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews & Recommendations 2019

Best Convertible Car Seat Overall: Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Matrix

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Matrix
Amazon

This four-in-one convertible car seat weighs 22.8 pounds and is usable for 10 years. It functions as a rear-facing baby car seat for infants 4 to 20 pounds and a forward-facing toddler car seat for kids from 22 to 65 pounds. It also acts as a booster seat in the high-back-belt-positioning mode from 30 to 100 pounds and in the backless-belt-positioning mode for children 40 to 120 pounds. Its InRight Latch system fosters one-second LATCH attachment. 

This seat has more height in the headrest (which has 10 positions) compared to some other models, and there is plenty of padding to protect your little one. It is very secure and doesn't wiggle around when tightened. It doesn't require rethreading if you're adjusting the headrest and shoulder straps, adding or removing the infant insert, or washing the cover. When the car seat is at its most reclined position, it still leaves plenty of room for the front-seat passengers. In addition, it arrives fully assembled in the box, except for the cup holders.

One of the biggest problems is that the shape of the headrest may cause your child's head to fall forward while he or she is sleeping. Also, the headrest may rattle whether there is a child in the car seat or not. The attachment strap may also be too short for larger vehicles, such as SUVs.

Best Value Convertible Car Seat: Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Harvest Moon

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Harvest Moon
Amazon

This three-in-one car seat weighs 19 pounds and can be used in the rear-facing position (5  to 40 pounds), forward-facing position (22 to 65 pounds), and as a belt-positioning booster (40 to 100 pounds). It features side-impact protection for added safety and harness holders that keep the harness in an open position so it's easy to get your child in and out of the seat. The QuickFit harness allows you to easily adjust the harness and headrest. Also, the seat pad is machine washable and easy to take off.

The seat is sturdy, compact, and comfortable with good padding and cushions. You can change the recline on the seat so it can fit into different types of vehicles. Also, the headrest and straps are adjustable as one piece, so no rethreading is required.  There are little holders to keep the harness straps out of your way when you are getting your baby in the seat. In addition, the side headrests are great for sleepy children, and the padding is super easy to remove and wash. The fabric is breathable, stretchy spandex, which keeps your baby cool.

One downside is it may be harder than other models to loosen the harness on the seat. It can also be challenging to install it by yourself without the help of a professional. Finally, it is difficult to tightly secure with the LATCH system, particularly in the rear-facing mode.

Best Convertible Car Seat Honorable Mention: Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat, Binx

Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat, Binx
Amazon

This car seat weighs 19 pounds and is designed to help protect a rear-facing infant from 4 to 50 pounds and a forward-facing toddler from 22 to 65 pounds. It has an adjustable, four-position extension panel that provides 5 inches of additional legroom for rear-facing children. It also features a six-position recline for comfort and a 10-position headrest for growing children.

One great feature is that you don’t have to remove the harness to adjust the height. The fabric also allows a lot of breathing room during hot days. If you're a tall parent, you can easily move the front passenger seat and driver seat all the way back with this narrow convertible seat in the middle of the back seat. The seat is comfortable with just enough cushioning, shoulder pads, and head and body inserts. It also features an extendable footrest.

One downside is the seat belt install may be tricky. Also, the straps may be hard to adjust until you wear them in. The strap adjustment is very stiff, making it difficult to get a snug and safe fit on your child. Another problem is that it can be challenging to remove and replace the cover for washing.

Tips

  • 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.
  • When choosing between an infant seat and a convertible seat, your baby’s size is a factor. For example, even the highest safety-rated convertible car seats may be too large for tiny newborn babies and preemies.
  • Consider buying more than one convertible car seat if you frequently drive your child in more than one vehicle. These seats tend to be bulky and heavy and aren't very portable.
  • It may be challenging to find the best convertible car seat for small cars, particularly those with bucket seats. Baby convertible car seats are large, take up a lot of space, and may not fit in compact cars.
  • 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.
  • To prevent your child from sweating in a car seat, put sunshades on the passenger's windows and don't overdress the baby. Also, turn on the air conditioning for a few minutes before putting the baby in the seat.
  • A rear-facing convertible car seat can easily be converted to a front-facing seat; however, experts recommend that you keep your child in the rear-facing position for as long as possible.
  • 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.
  • If you find that your child's head falls forward or sideways when asleep, make sure to adjust the tilt setting on the seat to make him or her more comfortable.

FAQs

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

A: 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: What is LATCH and ISOFIX? 

A: Vehicles made after 2001 include LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). It's known as ISOFIX in Europe. This system enables you to easily install a car seat in your vehicle. LATCH includes a built-in top tether or strap and lower anchors. It keeps the seat in position during accidents and in various driving maneuvers, including hard stops and sharp turns.

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

A: 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? 

A: 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? 

A: 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? 

A: 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. 

Final Thoughts

Our pick for the best convertible car seat is the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Matrix.  It’s easy to install, features 10 headrest positions, and provides plenty of padding for protection.

If you want a less expensive option, consider the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Harvest Moon.

Let us know what your favorites are in the comments!