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Best Convertible Car Seats for Babies and Toddlers

by Kitty O’Callaghan


Best Convertible Car Seats for Babies and Toddlers
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Convertible car seats are one-seat wonders that fit all sizes of baby, from newborns to toddlers to preschoolers (depending on how big you grow ‘em). Here’s how they work: For a younger baby, a convertible car seat offers lots of padded support and can be installed in a rear-facing, semi-recline position. As a baby outgrows the rear-facing seating arrangement, a convertible car seat can be turned around and installed in an upright, forward-facing position. Some convertible car seats can even be changed into booster seats for elementary school kids who graduate to using a seatbelt. (See Safety section below)

 

The obvious logic of the convertible design is to help parents save time and money: one seat, many miles. But note that packing so much convenience into one car seat makes these models heavier and bulkier than infant car seats that don’t “convert” to fit a larger child. The large size of a convertible car seat is not a problem in itself, because they are meant to stay put in your car. However, if we’re keeping it real, at some point during your travels you will want to remove your newborn from your car without removing them from the car seat. This requires a car seat with a carry handle (convertible car seats don’t have that) and a lightweight frame (again, not happening with a convertible). So while parents might appreciate the amazing longevity of a convertible car seat, they still end up buying two or more types over the course of baby’s childhood.

 

 

 

When Do I Need a Convertible Car Seat?

 

Deciding when you want to start using a convertible car seat really depends on your baby’s age, how often you are in and out of your car, and your budget. To help you narrow down your choices and find the best convertible car seat for you, check out the following categories.

 

A Note About Car Seat Safety

 

There’s no question that car seats save lives, which is why all seats must meet federal crash-test safety standards and why their use is required in all 50 states. (Check here to see your state’s regulations.) Legislation alone is not enough to save lives, however, as car seats are only effective when properly used. That means it’s up to parents — the vast majority of whom are not certified in car seat installation — to close the safety gap. It’s not an impossible learning curve but it IS a learning curve. Here are a few things you need to know when you are installing a car seat.

 

Follow all manufacturer’s instructions. While this seems too obvious to point out here, we’re going to point it out here. All car seats come with a booklet that spells out everything from proper installation angles to how to contact customer service. Some models even allow for a storage area for this manual right with the car seat so that you never lose it. It’s that important. However, if you do lose it, many companies post PDFs of the instructions online or you can contact them directly for a new copy.

 

Watch supplemental videos. In addition to reading the instruction manual, most national brands, including Evenflo, Britax and Graco, offer helpful videos online to demonstrate the proper installation for their specific models.

 

Register your make and model with the company. The car seat will come with a registration/warranty card. Fill it out and send it back immediately or register online so that you will be notified of any future recalls or fixes.

 

Check expiration dates. All car seats now come with expiration dates (usually between 6 and 10 years), which you can find stamped on a manufacturer’s label at the side or base of the seat. Since convertible car seats can be used for a very long time (in some cases, from infancy up to 120 pounds), it’s important to take note of the year you need to retire your seat. And if you are given a car seat or intend to buy one second-hand, check the date of manufacture and make sure it’s still “fresh.” (Also, verify that the car seat has not been in a crash or structurally compromised before you start using it.)

 

Even if you believe you have installed your car seat like an expert, it’s a good idea to consult an actual expert to check your work. You can locate a car seat safety technician who has been certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at NHTSA.gov. And don’t forget that you are not your baby’s only chauffeur. It’s important that caregivers and family members also follow the same rigorous path for safe installation and proper car seat use. If you know ahead of time that your dad will resist (“What? Back in my day we didn’t even need car seats!”), then make sure you are armed with a ready-made solution. Namely, that you will get the seat installed and inspected.

 

Finally, take a little time to surf around the NHTSA web site. It offers a wealth of information about car seat safety, from the height and weight requirements to vehicle compatibility to recall information.

Image Credits: Amazon

Best Convertible Car Seat/Booster to Grow with Baby

Graco 4-in-1 Car Seat Featuring TrueShield Technology

Price:$330.00

Ten years. You can use this car seat for 10 years! (And, yes, the seat cover is machine washable.) So no matter when your baby’s growth spurts happen or if just you never want to research or shop for car seats again, the Graco 4-in-1 has you covered. It fits teensy newborns (4 pounds) using a padded infant insert and the rear-facing position offers six reclining options to get just the right angle. For your older baby or toddler ready to face front, you will appreciate the one-handed head and harness adjustment feature with 10 different heights. For the final metamorphosis, the Graco 4-in-1 becomes a high-back booster seat for kids up to 100 pounds, and a backless booster up to 120 pounds. As for safety features, this steel frame car seat has side-impact protection and a LATCH attachment to secure the seat to your car.

Specifications:
Rear-facing from 4 to 40 lbs. Forward-facing from 22 to 65 lbs. Highback booster from 40 to 100 lbs Backless booster from 40 to 120 lbs.

What Reviewers Are Saying:
“Comes already assembled (yay!)”

“Bought this for our seven month old son because his infant car seat was getting uncomfortable for long road trips. He really likes it, and sleeps quite comfortably when he wants to. The seat is heavy but is still a fairly easy to move from car to car when we want to. I really like the graduating feature and the fact that as he's gotten bigger all we've had to do is remove padding and start changing the tilt”

“The best part (in mom's opinion) is that we can finally fit her cups in the cup holders! No more trying to reach over the seats to hand off water bottles!”

Image Credits: Buy Buy Baby

Best Convertible Car Seat for Newborns

Cybex Sirona M Sensorsafe 2.0

Price:$330.00

This convertible car seat delivers for newborns, cradling them with 10 rear-facing recline positions with level indicators and a quick-adjust 5-point harness that features shoulder pads and an anti-slip back to keep them in position. The Sirona’s best newborn-friendly feature, however, is its Sensorsafe technology. This wireless warning system, located in the chest clip, works with most car receivers to alert parents when the backseat car temperature is dangerously hot or cold, your child has unbuckled his harness or if you’ve accidentally left baby in the car. And, yes, there’s an app for that, so the alert shows up on your phone. In addition to this feature, the Sirona offers side-impact panels for greater crash absorption and is LATCH compatible. One more thoughtful design perk for new parents: The Cybex Sirona has magnetic belt holders on either side of the seat to get the straps out of the way while you situate baby. A big plus for when you have a squirmy wormy.

Specifications:
Rear-facing from 5 to 40 lbs. Forward-facing from 22 to 65 lbs. and up to 49” tall

What Reviewers Are Saying:
“Our car does not have rear air vents, and the Sensorsafe tells me when its too hot or cold in the back seat. Huge peace of mind living in HOT Georgia!”

“The app is a luxury as well as the magnetic strap holder that’s featured.”

“My little girl is a big baby (21 lbs at 6 months) she is so comfortable in this seat. Easy to get her in and out.”

Image Credits: Buy Buy Baby

Best Lightweight Convertible Car Seat

Combi Coccoro

Price:$240.00

It’s only 14 pounds but the Coccoro has everything you need in a convertible car seat. The seat padded and features side-impact protection and safety LATCH system with push-button connection. The 5-point harness that shows a color when it’s clicked in and it adjusts to 4 harness heights. The padded infant insert works with tiny newborns and both the car seat cover and pad is removable and washable. And it’s slim footprint leaves room for more car seats across the back seat, even in smaller vehicles.

Specifications:
Rear-facing from 3 to 33 lbs. Forward-facing from 20 lbs. (over 1 year old) to 40 lbs. and up to 40”

What Reviewers Are Saying:
“This is the only convertible seat I found that could rear face in our 2-door car.”

“Definitely serves its purpose. We have a small hatchback with two car seats in the back, my daughter's infant carseat and the combi.”

“It fits wonderfully and my son feels happy... Other car seats are too bulky and wide.”

Image Credits: Nordstrom

Best Splurge Convertible Car Seat

Nuna Rava

Price:$450.00

Safety, luxury and ease are what you should expect at this price, and the Nuna Rava doesn’t disappoint. Safety features include a steel frame and two side-impact retractable pods, and a rear-facing weight limit holds a baby up to 50 pounds, which is well beyond most convertible car seats on the market. The seat is also easy to install, with a flip-up panel located on the seat back that allows convenient access for seat-belt threading. It also features 10 different reclining positions, 10 headrest height adjustments that can be slid up and down with one hand, and a crotch strap and 5-point harness that grows with baby but does not require re-threading. And, lastly, it’s a convertible car seat that just looks handsome. The profile is slim, the car seat cover has ventilation panels for cool comfort and the material feels soft to the touch.

Specifications:
Rear-facing from 5 to 50 lbs. Forward-facing from 25 to 65 lbs. and up to 49”

What Reviewers Are Saying:
“I chose this seat for its extended rear facing (50 lbs) and ease of install...The fabric is soft and cushy for my 9-month-old. The holders for the straps are super convenient when putting baby in the seat. Very easy harness to tighten.”

“It is so easy to adjust the straps. That alone made it worth the purchase.”

“Definitely worth the money. Super easy to install...and my daughter loves it. My husband and I joke that if we could, we would sit in it.”

Image Credits: Amazon

Best Convertible Car Seat for Multiples

Diono Radian 3RXT

Price:$292.00

Whether you have a massive SUV or a hatchback barely large enough to hold a big idea, the Diono Radian 3RXT is slim enough to fit. It’s not a lightweight seat, however, and its steel frame with reinforced aluminum sides make it best as a stay-put car seat. It grows with your child all the way up to 120 pounds, and this long timeline (plus a much higher weight threshold in the rear-facing position than other convertible car seats) is an added bonus for multiples, because while they may look alike, they don’t grow alike. The car seat fits all comers with lots of adjustable padding and a 12-position headrest. It has a LATCH system attachment and a low side profile, so toddlers and older kids can climb in and out by themselves. While the seat comes with a cup holder, it might not fit if you are using three across.

Specifications:
Rear-facing from 5 to 45 lbs. Forward-facing from 20 to 120 lbs.

What Reviewers Are Saying:
“The harnessing system is also easy to use and adjust. Adjustments to the harness height and buckle placement are very easy to make”

“I've done it one-handed a few times!”

“This is by far the narrowest car seat I have ever used, but its still more then wide enough for my 3 year old. I was able to fit 3 car seats across in my outback using this car seat.”

“A bit more heavy than the traditional convertible car seats BUT that full steel frame makes it worth it! They are incredibly sleek & Slim. Could easily fit three across.”

Image Credits: Amazon

Best Convertible Car Seat for Air Travel

Cosco Scenera Next

Price:$54.00

This FAA-approved convertible car seat is one of the few that doesn’t demand a lot from your back or your wallet. Weighing in under 10 pounds, this no-frills car seat is easy to transport through an airport and has a narrow base that fits better in skinny airline seats than most passengers do. For car travel, the Scenera has side-impact protection and LATCH restraints and 5 harness heights. Note: The Scenera Next delivers the normal convertible convenience of rear- or forward-facing riding options but has a limited lifespan, as it only carries kids up to 40 pounds. That said, at this price and weight class, you won’t resent having to move on.

Specifications:
Rear-facing from 5 to 40 lbs. and 19” to 40” Forward-facing from 22 to 40 lbs. and 29” to 43”

What Reviewers Are Saying:
“It was easy to install on a plane. We flew southwest and it fits on their seats(forward facing) perfecty.” We carried it through the airport and through cruise ports with no problem at all.”

“Perfect for flying with my twins. Cheap enough that I don't mind risking them getting damaged on flights and light enough that they are a breeze to travel with.”

“We have bought one for every vehicle from parent cars to grand and great grandparent vehicles. So affordable it's worth not having to move and reinstall every time someone helps out.”

Image Credits: Amazon

Best Convertible Car Seat for Toddlers

Britax Marathon ClickTight

Price:$303.00

This convertible seat handles all shapes and sizes during that fast-growing phase between 12 and 36 months. Set rear-facing, the Marathon goes up to 40 pounds (always safest to remain rear-facing as long as you can). But if baby is long legged or simply freaks out wanting to face front like their older sibling, this Britax model can do an earlier conversion, from 20 pounds up to 65 pounds. For baby, the Marathon ClickTight is a comfy ride with 7 recline and 14 harness positions, and low side panels for climbing in and out “like a big kid.” For you, there is the no-rethread harness straps for easy adjustments and the ClickTight design for easy installation. To secure the Marathon, just lift the seat up from the base, guide the seat belt through and click it into the car’s buckle.

Specifications:
Rear-facing from 5 to 40 lbs. Forward-facing from 20 to 65 lbs.

What Reviewers Are Saying:
“I feel like my kid is safe. This thing is a tank! It's super easy to install, both with the seatbelt and the LATCH clips because of the click connect. I can get it in my car in just a couple of minutes with no movement whatsoever. I also like the ball angle indicator on both sides.”

“The seat is very comfortable for my now 1 year old, and looks as if it will grow well with him. The front buckle padding keeps the buckle forward when not in use, so no need to dig under the baby to buckle him in.”

“I installed the carseat today, and it was the tightest I have ever gotten a carseat, and it took not even 5 minutes!(it is heavy, about 35lbs) The straps are not hard to adjust, and the crotch buckle comes with a little pad so you wont pinch when buckling! Easy to buckle, and no hassle with the buckles going under the babys butt!”

Image Credits: Bed Bath and Beyond

Best Convertible Car Seat for Easy Clean-Up

Chicco NextFit iX Zip

Price:$300.00

This convertible car seat checks all the boxes for a quality rear-facing ride: multi-position recline, adjustable straps and headrest, lots of comfy padding, a heavy steel frame for safety. But it also features a machine washable seat cover with a zipper for easy removal and reattachment. Because as every parent knows, at some point, spot cleaning just ain’t gonna cut it.

Specifications:
Rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds Forward-facing from 22 to 65 pounds

What Reviewers Are Saying:
“My husband and I purchased this car seat when our son grew out of his Chicco KeyFfit car seat. We've been incredibly pleased with the performance and safety features of this car seat. We love how easy it is to install in a variety of vehicles and the numerous recline positions make it quick to get the perfect fit no matter the seat angle.”

“I bought this car seat for my son about 6 months ago. My son has cerebral palsy and it was hard to find a car seat that 'fit' his special needs until we found this one! Best investment for so many reasons! Easy instillation, comfort and style. He can ride comfortably and my mind is at ease that he is safe!”

“I love the ability to unzip the car seat. My daughter makes a mess eating in the car and this makes for an easy clean up. I would recommend this car seat.”