Best Convertible Car Seats: All-in-One Safety and Versatility
These top convertible car seats provide the best protection for infants and children
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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON April 12, 2019
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 until he or she is a toddler. This type of car seat has several safety features, is convenient, and protects your son or daughter in the event of a crash. Check out our guide to some of the best convertible car seats available.
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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 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 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.
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.
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 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, 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 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.
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.
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.
- 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 2021
- 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.
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.
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.