Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews (2018): 21 Top Rated Convertible Car Seats for Your Precious Cargo!


Clek Fllo Convertible Baby and Toddler Car Seat Rear and Forward Facing with Anti Rebound Bar, Noire

Purchasing a car seat for your child is one of the most important safety decisions you will make. Car accidents are a leading cause of death and injury in American children, and the proper use of a car seat can prevent injuries and save lives.

The Centers for Disease Control presents these amazing statistics:

Car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants (aged <1 year) by 71%; and to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54% in passenger vehicles

Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4–8 years when compared with seat belt use alone

So let’s be clear:

Car seats save our little ones from a heck of a lot of injuries and fatalities.

But here’s the problem: there are not only thousands of different types and styles of car seats to choose from, each state has different requirements, and each family has different needs.

And to complicate things even more, there are constantly new recommendations and regulations. 

For such an important decision, it's frustrating that it isn't made easier and more straightforward!

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide. In this guide, we break down everything you need to know before you choose a car seat, help you choose the right one for your needs, and give you all the information you need to keep your child safe in a car for years to come. 

Child Car Safety regulations

Child Care Safety Seats: The Basics

Laws & Regulations

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set forth guidelines and safety standards that all car seat manufacturers must meet, governing the crashworthiness, flammability, labeling, and anchoring of car seats.

Every state has laws that require children to be safely secured when traveling in a motor vehicle.

So it's not just a good idea; it's the law to always have your child in the appropriate car seat when they are traveling in a car.

However, the legal requirements for manufacturers change over time, and different states have different rules. Is there a better standard to follow? Are there guidelines that would apply no matter what state you are traveling in?

Recommendations

Centers for Disease Control

Car seat recommendations are based on your child's age, size, and weight. Our best and most consistent recommendations come from the NHTSA, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, who agree on the best ways to transport children safely in cars:


  • Birth through 2 years of age or 40 pounds or they outgrow the car seat.

    Rear-facing infant car seats placed in the back seat. They should remain in the rear-facing position for as long as possible, until they outgrow the car seat.
  • 2 years or they have outgrown the infant seat due to height or weight through 6 years or 60-65 pounds or they outgrow the car seat.

    Front-facing child car seats placed in the back seat. They should remain in these seats as long as possible, until they have outgrown the seat.
  • 6 years through 10-11 years in age or 4'9” in height..

    Child booster seat in the back seat. They should remain in the booster seat until they are tall enough for an adult seat belt to fit properly across the lap and shoulder.
  • 10-11 years in age or 4'9” in height through 13 years of age or over 100 pounds.

    Adult seat belt in the back seat, until they are at least 100 pounds and can withstand the impact of a front passenger airbag.

Generally speaking, if you abide by these principles, you will also be in compliance with your state and local laws, but of course you should always check your state's DMV to be sure. But following these basic recommendations will also ensure you are traveling safely if you travel out of state with your child.

As we can see, according to the laws and recommendations, a child needs to transition from an infant car seat, to a child car seat, to a car booster seat, over their first 10 years. Over time, these different seats can add up to a significant expense.

For that reason, many parents opt for a “convertible” or “3-in-1” car seat that will adapt to your child's changing needs over time. A convertible car seat can be attached in the rear-facing position, then turned to the front-facing position, then transitioned into a booster seat. 

Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat Review

Types of Car Seats

There are different types of car seats for every stage of a baby's development, based on how they should travel in a car. Here are the different types:

Infant Car Seat

Infant Car Seat

These are designed for the smallest babies, to be installed in the back seat of a car, facing backward. These car seats are also often designed for multiple purposes, so that the seat can be removed from the car and used to carry the child. Some infant car seats have multiple parts for multiple needs.

Some models have a base that is permanently installed in the car, but the carrier itself can be snapped into the base for car transport, snapped off the base to carry the baby, or even snapped into a stroller.

Rear-facing car seat

safecell infant britax

Adult seat belt in the back seat, until they are at least 100 pounds and can withstand the impact of a front passenger airbag.

Forward-facing car seat

Forward facing car seat

When a child has outgrown a rear-facing seat, they can be placed in a forward-facing car seat until they are older and big enough to sit in a booster seat.

Booster seat

Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat, Conley

This is a car seat that elevates a child's body and shoulders so that a normal car seat belt properly fits across their lap and shoulders. Children should sit in a booster seat until they are tall enough to correctly wear a seat belt without the booster.

Convertible car seat

convertible car seat

Generally speaking, a convertible car seat is designed to transition from rear-facing to front-facing when the child is old enough. These car seats are larger, to remain big enough for the child as they grow, and allow a single car seat to do the work of two.

3-in-1

3-in-1 car seat

A “3-in-1” convertible car seat transitions from rear-facing, to front-facing, to a booster seat. They are intended to be the only car seat a parent needs to buy.

4-in-1

4-in-1 car seat

There are now a few “4-in-1” car seats on the market. These convertible car seats often have two booster seat modes for an even better fit as the child grows.

Many parents prefer convertible car seats to save the time and expense of purchasing multiple car seats.

Installing an infant car seat rear-facing safety 1st

Is a Convertible Child Seat Right For You?

There are pros and cons for convertible car seats, which should be considered carefully.

SIZE

Convertible car seats are larger and heavier than infant sized car seats, in order to be big enough for the child when they are older.


They aren't designed to be removed for easily carrying and transporting the baby when outside of the car.

Pros

  • Because they are bigger and heavier, they are better at protecting small children in an accident. In fact, for safety reasons, Consumer Reports recommends transitioning children from infant seats into rear-facing or convertible car seats as soon as they can sit up.

Cons

  • They can't be used for carrying the baby outside of the car.

PORTABILITY

Convertible car seats are generally designed to be installed only once, and not removed.


While some models have easier installation and removal than others, they aren't usually designed for portability.

Pros

  • It saves time on moving a car seat in and out of a car and checking installation every time.

Cons

  • You will need a convertible car seat for every vehicle you intend to transport your child in.

COSTS

Convertible car seats are more expensive than single-purpose car seats.

Pros

  • It's a one-time expense, instead of purchasing three different car seats.

Cons

  • It's a larger initial expense than an infant car seat.

DURABILITY

All car seats have an expiration date, because the plastics and other components degrade over time and can compromise safety.


If you are buying a convertible car seat, make sure it is rated to last for 10-12 years so you can get all the possible use out of it.

Pros

  • It's a single car seat that can protect and grow along with your child until they can ride safely with an adult seat belt.

Cons

  • Child car safety seat standards and guidelines change rapidly. Even if your car seat is rated to last for 10-12 years, it's possible that the rules and standards will have changed by then, requiring an upgrade. 

If you have multiple children, they may be spaced in a way that lets you reuse car seats for more than one child. For example, if you had an infant seat that was rated to last for 5 years, you could use it with your first child, then get a child car seat for that child and reuse the infant seat for a new baby. 

By the time the baby was ready for a child seat, the older child may be ready to move to a booster, etc. Having multiple car seats with shorter lifetimes for multiple children could meant that each seat is newer and therefore more compliant with changing safety guidelines.

Ultimately, convertible car seats are the best way to protect a child of any age in the car, with the strength to offer the best protection, and the versatility to meet their changing needs over time.

However, due to changing technologies that may advance new methods and materials, and due to the changing regulatory environment, it seems unlikely that many convertible car seats will actually be compliant 10 years in the future. 

Choosing a Convertible Car Seat

Choosing a Convertible Car Seat

When buying a convertible car seat, there are still a number of other factors to consider. A convertible car seat should be evaluated carefully for:

Safety

Design, materials, installation, and use should all be highly rated for the safety of your child. It's the most important consideration.

Convenience

Particularly because you want a convertible car seat to last for up to a decade, it needs to be easy to clean and have the features that will make it work well for you, as well as for your child.

Comfort

Your child should be comfortable in the car seat at any age. It should meet the needs of their body and posture as it changes over time.

Fit

Let's face it, some car seats weren't designed to fit into small cars. Will your car seat work for your vehicle?

Lifestyle

If your family frequently travels, or rents or borrows vehicles, you will have different needs for a car seat than someone who intends to install it once and leave it for years.

Many people purchase car seats for children who aren't their own: grandparents, caregivers, and family members may all find it easier to have car seats installed in their own vehicles rather than frequently removing them and installing them.

Budget. While no one ever wants to jeopardize the safety of their child for financial reasons, the fact remains that many car seats are very expensive.

When you consider that you may need to replace it if the child grows out of it early, and will have to replace it if you are involved in a collision, however minor, cost becomes even more of a factor.

Booster car seat

Safety v​s. Convenience:
Do You Need to Compromise?

The car seats that have the highest safety ratings and crash test performance are generally made of steel and surrounded by some sort of foam. The foam absorbs and diffuses impact, while the steel forms a cage that protects the child.
These car seats, because of all that steel, tend to also be the biggest, the heaviest, and the most expensive.

But sometimes a giant, 30 pound car seat is simply impractical for your needs and lifestyle. The fact is that all car seats meet (and the ones we will review today generally exceed) federal crash test safety standards, and many of them achieve a smaller footprint and lighter weight by using advanced polymers, and often honeycomb or impact-crumple technologies that we are now using in cars themselves.

While big, heavy, steel car seats are undoubtedly the most crash-resistant in all the standard tests, you need not feel that you are compromising your child's safety by choosing something lighter, more compact, and less expensive.

The best car seats are safest, of course, but any car seat also needs to be the right model for your vehicle, your lifestyle, and the comfort of your child. 

Latch Car Seat System

​Installation: The LATCH System

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It's a system of installing car seats in vehicles, and has been required for all vehicles and all car seats manufactured since 2002. The LATCH system was an important milestone, because it created a standard in all vehicles and car seats for universal installation.

However, it doesn't mean that the LATCH system is the only, or even the best, system to secure a car seat. In the years since the LATCH standard was created, many car seat manufacturers have innovated better and easier systems to secure a car seat, using the vehicle's integrated anchors and tethers, or seat belts in different ways to install a car seat. 

Latch chart System

The LATCH system also has a notable limitation, in that every vehicle has a different weight rating for the lower anchors. These weight ratings refer to the combined weight of the car seat and of the child.​

While most anchors are rated for 65 pounds or more, many car seats weigh as many as 30 pounds themselves. If you buy a 29 pound car seat rated to hold your child until they weigh 40 pounds, the combined weight may exceed the weight limit on the anchors. A NHTSA rule added in 2014 requires vehicle manufacturers to improve labeling regarding these weight restrictions.

If you are buying a car seat for an older car, pay special attention to the installation methods and weight restrictions specific to your vehicle, to make sure you are choosing a car seat that you will be able to use properly in your car.

Before You Buy a Convertible Car Seat

Before You Buy a Convertible Car Seat

Here are a few more things to keep in mind before you buy your car seat.

Accidents

Never buy a used car seat, or one from a manufacturer you don't trust. If a car seat has been in even a minor collision in the past, it may have invisible structural damage that compromises its safety rating.

Only buy a convertible car seat from a source you know and trust.

Recalls

Convertible car seats are often recalled for various reasons. Register your car seat with the NHTSA as well as the manufacturer, so that you can be notified if there are any concerns or recalls with your model of car seat.

Installation

Installation is the most important factor in making sure your child is safe in the car. Follow the instructions carefully.

Many local police and fire departments will also personally inspect your car seat installation to make sure that it is correct and safe, so take advantage of those programs. The best car seat can't protect your child if it is not installed correctly.

Best Brand of Convertible Car Seat

Best Brand of Convertible Car Seat

When shopping for a car seat, it's good to know what the best reviewed, most reliable, most trusted brands in car seats are. In this instance, there's a single definitive answer.

The best and safest brand of car seat, with superior testing and materials, recognized by safety experts all over the world, is Britax. Britax has been an industry leader for decades, doing much of the research in Europe and Australia that would become the foundation for the US LATCH car seat installation system.

Britax created the first convertible car seat sold in the US, and has always been at the forefront of safety, technology, and standardization worldwide.

Britax car seats are recognized year after year, not just by parents and family organizations, but by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Consumer Reports, and the Juvenile Product Manufacturer's Association.

In fact, Britax has won more than 100 industry awards in just the past 5 years. Here is a comparison of the best Britax convertible car seats:

Overall dimensions

23.5 x 20.5 x 23 inches

23.5 x 18.5 x 23 inches

23.5 x 18.5 x 23.5 inches

Weigh​t of car seat

30 pounds

28.5 pounds

29.4 pounds

Rear-facing fit

5 – 40 pounds

5 – 40 pounds

5 – 40 pounds

Forward-facing fit

20 – 65 pounds

20 – 65 pounds

20 – 65 pounds

ClickTight technology

Y

Y

Y

Price

All of these Britax convertible models are also available in an ARB version, with an Anti-Rebound Bar for extra stability in the rear-facing position, at an additional cost.  

Britax's famous ClickTight technology makes installation fast and simple, helping ensure that the car seat is always correctly installed.

Britax Advocate ClickTight Anti-Rebound Bar Convertible Car Seat, Circa

The Britax Advocate is the single most highly rated convertible car seat for safety and ease of use, recognized by industry experts all over the world. It tops all the lists and reviews of the best, safest convertible car seats.

The Britax Advocate features:

ClickTight installation

Steel frame with 3 layers of side impact protection

Multiple recline positions

Hand wash the cover

Audible click harness

Auto level indicators

14 position harness adjusts with the touch of a button with no rethreading

10 year lifespan

The durable steel construction and 10-year lifespan of the Britax Advocate makes it easy to use with a smaller child when the older one outgrows it, increasing the value of the purchase.

At 30 pounds, the Advocate is not easily portable, and even with simple installation, not designed to be moved from vehicle to vehicle. But it is an incredibly sturdy, safe, and protective convertible car seat to see your child through their toddler years.

Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Verve

The Britax Marathon is very similar to the Advocate. The main difference between the two models is that instead of 3 layers of side impact protection, the Marathon has 1. This allows the car seat to have a slimmer footprint, making it easier to install 3 across the rear seat of a car, or to fit into an airplane seat or other slimmer space.

The Marathon includes:

ClickTight installation

Steel frame with side impact protection

Multiple recline positions

Hand wash the cover

10 year lifespan

Auto level indicators

14 position harness adjusts with the touch of a button with no rethreading

The Marathon has all the famous Britax features and advantages, but is a couple pounds lighter, and narrower overall. If the Britax Advocate is too big for your vehicle, the Marathon is a slightly scaled-down version that may be a better fit for your needs.

Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Circa

Finally, the Britax Boulevard sits directly between the Advocate and the Marathon. With 2 layers of side impact protection, it has the slimmer footprint of the Marathon, with some of the advanced protection of the Advocate.

The Britax Boulevard comes with:

ClickTight installation

Steel frame with 3 layers of side impact protection

Multiple recline positions

Hand wash the cover

Audible click harness

Auto level indicators

14 position harness adjusts with the touch of a button with no rethreading

10 year lifespan

The Britax Boulevard is an excellent choice to save a little bit of money and gain some space over the Advocate, while still transporting your child the safest way possible. It's just a half pound lighter than the Advocate, so it's still a heavy car seat, but is a good compromise between the Advocate and the Marathon.

While Britax is the universally acknowledged best brand of car seat, they may not be the best choice for your specific needs.

There are two other things to consider when looking for the best convertible car seat: the best car seat for your needs (vehicle, lifestyle, and budget), and the best car seat for your child (if your child is unusually tall or heavy). 

There are excellent car seats that are not Britax brand, that offer advanced safety, convenience, or features that might be right for you. Let's take a look at some of the other options in convertible car seats.

Best Convertible Car Seats for Specific Uses

Best Convertible Car Seats for Specific Uses

What is the best convertible car seat for small cars?

When you have a small car, the overall size, ease of access, and ease of installation for a convertible car seat matter even more. When you have less room to move yourself and your child in the back seat, you need a compact car seat, that is still roomy enough to be comfortable for your growing child.

The most compact car seats have a streamlined exterior, without protruding arm rests or features that interfere with other seats. The smallest child car seats are sized to fit 3 across the rear seat bench of a small car to securely transport up to three children in even very small cars.

Here are some of the safest convertible car seats for small cars: 

Overall dimensions

30 x 18 x 14 inches

23.5 x 18.5 x 23 inches

23.5 x 18.5 x 23.5 inches

29.5 x 21.2 x 22.8 inches

3 across?

Y

Y

N

N

Suitable for infants?

Y

Y

Y

N

Rear-facing fit

5 - 40 pounds

3 - 33 pounds

5 - 40 pounds

9 - 40 pounds

Forward-facing fit

22 - 65 pounds

20 - 40 pounds

22 - 65 pounds

22 – 70 pounds

Booster seat?

N

N

N

N

Side impact protection?

Y

Y

Y

Y

LATCH system?

Y

Y

Y

Y

Adjustable for comfort

Y

N

Y

Y

FAA compliant?

Y

Y

Y

Y

Price

Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat (Seaport)

Safety 1st is another excellent brand in child products. Originators of the famous “baby on board” vehicle signs, Safety 1st has its origins in child safety products. The attention to safety and protection that has made the company famous for over 30 years has only been enhanced in recent years as they have expanded into offering car seats.

The Safety 1st Guide 65 is one of the most popular compact convertible car seats on the market. With the cupholder removed, it's just 18 inches across, but still provides lots of comfort for a growing child. The ability to fit 3 of these car seats in the rear of a small vehicle, and the ability to convert it to a front-facing car seat, are both helpful features for a growing family.

2-in-1 convertibility from rear-facing to forward facing, to fit children from 5 through 65 pounds

Airport ready

The cover is machine washable, and the seat pad is hand washable

Removable lumbar pillows and adjustable head rest provide comfort for children as their needs change over time

Removable cupholder

Several attractive colors with cute accent patterns

The Safety 1st Guide 65 is a great car seat, and can accommodate larger children even with a compact-size car. However, some cars have an easier rear-facing installation of the Guide 65 than others.

If possible, read reviews or ask questions of those who have the same model of car as yours to ensure that it can be installed in the rear-facing position easily and safely.

Combi Compact Convertible Car Seat Rear and Forward Facing for Baby and Toddler – Fits Three Across – Coccoro

The Combi company was founded in Japan, and draws design inspiration from sleek, modern Japanese design. They aim to make products for children that meet the needs of both children and caretakers, focusing on safety and convenience. The Combi Coccoro is one of the few car seats small enough to fit into a sporty little convertible.

At just 15.5 inches wide, it easily fits 3 across, with a removable insert for newborn comfort. The deep side walls and Tru-Safe technology provide extra side impact protection, and FAA certification make this little car seat easy for travel.

The Combi Coccoro includes:

2-in-1 convertibility from rear-facing to forward facing, to fit children from 5 through 65 pounds.

Airport ready

Removable newborn cushion insert

Indicator light to show that the Coccoro is buckled correctly

Machine washable cover and harness pads

LATCH connectors

Multiple attractive colors available

The Coccoro specializes in being small, so it only accommodates children up to 40 inches height and 40 pounds in weight, but if you need an extra-compact car seat for small vehicles or multiple children across a car bench, this one is extremely popular.

It's also cushioned and comfortable for your child to ride in.

Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat, Matrix

Chicco was founded in Italy, and remains committed to the values of innovation, design, and quality that have defined the brand since 1958. Chicco holds a number of patents on their family-friendly products and innovations, and is always striving to advance safety, comfort, performance, and aesthetics.

The Chicco NextFit is an extremely popular convertible car seat. It is just slightly too wide to do 3 across in the most compact vehicles, but it can do 3-across in mid- and standard-sized vehicles. The NextFit boasts simple installation and advanced features for extra safety and convenience.

The Chicco NextFit has:

9 position recline leveling system for recline options to suit the widest range of vehicles

Removable infant insert

6-position headrest for adjustability and comfort as your child grows

Comes in several fun colors

Bubble levels indicate correct seat angle in both front- and rear-facing modes

Steel-reinforced frame and energy-absorbing foam lining for superior protection

Removable cup holder can be attached on either side of the seat

Fabrics can be machine washed, plastics can be spot cleaned

The very secure installation and harnessing system of the NextFit are one of the reasons it gets such praise from parents and experts alike, year after year.

With the NextFit, you are always sure that the seat is correctly installed for your vehicle, and that your child is securely harnessed in place. The 5-point harness tightens with a single pull for the simplest operation of any compact convertible car seat.

Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, Total Black

Maxi-Cosi is part of the Dorel Juvenile family of brands, that also includes Safety 1st. The Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 is designed to protect your child with maximum comfort. The self-wicking fabric stays dry, comfortable, and odor-free.

And the Pria 70 is designed so that you can remove the cover and the seat pad for machine washing and drying without un-installing the car seat, saving time and effort in keeping the car seat clean. 

The Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 features:

Multi-directional crash protection and advanced side impact protection

Simple machine washing

Integrated cup holder

Advanced fabric self-dries and self-deodorizes for additional ease and comfort

Compact and easy to fit either rear- or forward-facing

Wide variety of attractive colors

Earlier models of the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 had an optional (at additional cost) “Tiny Fit System” for children below 9 pounds, but the tiny fit system has been discontinued, so the Pria 70 isn't suitable for very small children.

However, the superior child comfort and ease of cleaning of this car seat have made it extremely popular, and it's rated for children up to 70 pounds, making it one of the most robust car seats designed for small cars.

What is the Best Convertible Car Seat for Travel?

What is the Best Convertible Car Seat for Travel?

Frequent travelers need more than just a convertible car seat that is FAA rated. They need a car seat that is lightweight and portable, easy to travel with in busy airports and long lines at security. It also needs to be easy to install and remove, so that it's a breeze to use a borrowed car, rental car, or any other vehicle when you're on the road.

Finally, it needs to be both comfortable and comforting for children who will spend protracted periods of time in the seat. And it needs to do all that without sacrificing safety standards. Frequent travelers have greater needs and high expectations for convertible car seats. 

Some things to keep in mind for airline travel with a car seat: 

Buying a seat on the flight

In order to use a car seat or airline child safety harness, you will need to purchase a seat on the flight for your child. Generally speaking, small children can fly for free (or for a steep discount) assuming that they will ride on their parent's lap during the flight, so purchasing a seat for your child is an additional expense.

However, if the flight isn't full, you may be allowed to use an extra seat for your car seat and your child, and it doesn't hurt to check in early for your flight and ask.

Calming your child

Some parents find that flying with their children is easier and less stressful when they purchase a seat and use a car seat, because the child is more accustomed to spending longer periods time secured in their car seat.

When a child is riding in a parent's lap, they can be more wiggly and restless than they might otherwise be.

Car seat width

The FAA recommends that a car seat to be used on a plane not be wider than 16 inches. Even the smallest car seats often exceed 16 inches, so that can be a difficult criteria to meet.

Generally speaking, car seats wider than 18 inches can't fit into a standard airline seat without raising the arms, but the arms can be raised to fit a larger car seat. 

You can look up the seat width dimensions on your flight before you travel, and check to see if your car seat will fit.

However, if your car seat is FAA approved for airline travel, and you have purchased a seat for your child, the airline is responsible for accommodating that seat in the same class of service, regardless of the width, so it's more important that the car seat be FAA certified than that it be less than 16 inches.

Restrictions

A child seat cannot be placed in oblique seats in first class, and cannot be placed in an exit row. Many airlines require that they be placed in a window seat in order to ensure exit access.

Generally speaking, placing a car seat in the rear-facing position doesn't allow surrounding passengers to recline their seats, which can sometimes cause problems with other passengers.

Extra time

Installing a car seat in an airplane and removing it takes additional time, potentially adding extra pressure when trying to make connecting flights. If you have a connection to make, communicate early and often with the flight crew so they can support you.

Let's look at some of the best convertible car seats for air travel, and note that the compact Combi Coccoro reviewed above is also an excellent choice for flying with your child. Here are some of the other top models.

Overall dimensions

22 x 16.9 x 26 inches

21 x 18.5 x 26 inches

28 x 17 x 16 inches

3 across?

Y

Y

Y

Suitable for infants?

N (Yes with purchase of infant accessory)

Y

Y

Rear-facing fit

14 - 50 pounds

5 – 40 pounds

5 – 45 pounds

Forward-facing fit

22 - 65 pounds

20 - 65 pounds

20 - 65 pounds

Booster seat?

N

N

Yes, up to 120 pounds

Side impact protection?

Y

Y

Y

LATCH system?

Y

Y

Y

Adjustable for comfort

Y

y

Y

FAA compliant?

Y

Y

Y

Price

Clek Fllo Convertible Baby and Toddler Car Seat Rear and Forward Facing with Anti Rebound Bar, Thunder 2018

Clek is an American brand that emerged from the automotive industry, and they bring driven, automotive thinking to the design and manufacture of convertible car seats. All their car seats are made in America, and most of their materials are sourced in America as well.

The Clek Fllo is extremely popular with travelers due to its small footprint and high quality construction. The “Infant Thingy” insert (available for separate purchase) makes the Fllo even more versatile, able to accommodate smaller children than the seat alone.

This convertible car seat features:

Extended rear-facing rating for additional safety

Adjustable head rest for comfort and safety

Crash tested to NCAP standards, with honeycomb crumpling technology similar to that found in the safest automobiles

Greenguard certified fabrics resist stains, moisture, and bacteria

Clek has a recycling program, so you can return your car seat when you are done with it, and protect the environment

Steel anti-rebound bar prevents car seat rotation during a collision, providing additional protection

Steel sub structure lined with energy-absorbing foam provides excellent side impact protection

Available in a wide range of colors and prints

Compact base at just 13 inches, for easier installation in tight spaces.

9 year expiration date

The Clek Fllo is an exceptionally safe convertible car seat, narrow enough to easily fit into an airplane. With the “Infant Thingy” accessory, it will protect your child for years. 

However, all that steel construction makes this a heavier car seat than many travelers prefer; at 24 pounds, it's literally not to be taken lightly.

Britax Allegiance Convertible Car Seat, Confetti

Britax is one of the premiere names in car seats, and a previous model, the Roundabout, was a favorite for long-distance travelers. The Essentials Allegiance has replaced the Roundabout, with the same compact footprint and travel-friendly features, including easy installation and removal.

The Essentials Allegiance includes:

A 10-position harness and adjustable headrest to grow with your child

Removable cover for easy cleaning without removing the harness

Britax SafeCell impact protection

Steel frame with impact absorbing base and a foam-lined shell for safety and protection

V-shaped tether reduces rotation upon impact

At less than 20 pounds, this convertible car seat is easier to travel with than some heavier models, and simple installation saves time on the go, while offering the same protection as more robust car seats.

Diono Radian RXT All-in-One Convertible Car Seat, For Children from Birth to 120 Pounds, Shadow

Diono is a Seattle-based company, specializing in design and innovation. The Radian line is the first steel-framed car seat capable of folding for travel. The Diono Radian RXT is the premiere of truly 3-in-1, 3-across convertible car seats. It has won numerous awards and is a favorite brand of both parents and experts.

The Diono Raidan RXT features:

Steel frame, aluminum reinforced side walls, and EPS foam for advanced impact protection

Newborn support cushions are included

Machine washable cover

Angled cup holder

Energy absorbing harness for additional protection

Low seating design makes it easier for children to seat themselves

12-position adjustable head support for comfort as your child grows

Steel sub structure lined with energy-absorbing foam provides excellent side impact protection

SuperLATCH installation system

10 year life duration

FAA certified and folds flat for travel

Variety of colors and patterns available

The Diono Raidan is truly designed to be the one car seat that will protect your child from infancy through their first decade and be the only car seat they will ever need. It can be used as a booster seat until your child reaches 5'7” or 120 pounds, while still being compact enough to fit 3 across in a mid-sized vehicle. It even folds flat for travel, although at a heavy 27.6 pounds it isn't exactly portable.

Diono Recall: You may have heard about a Diono car seat recall in late 2017. During internal testing, the company found that under certain conditions, for children over 65 pounds, their car seats made after 2014 may have posed the risk of a chest injury. Because 65 pounds is at the upper limit of the weight range for their car seats, no actual injuries have been reported due to this flaw, and the affected car seats do not need to be returned.

Owners of the affected car seats need to use a new chest clip and pad provided by the company at no cost. Despite the recall, Diono car seats are still safe and a very good choice for airline travel.

Child Airplane Travel Harness - Cares Safety Restraint System - The Only FAA Approved Child Flying Safety Device

However, if you are buying a new Diono car seat, particularly if you are buying it online, check the date of manufacture to see if it was made between January 2014 and September 2017. If it was, contact Diono for the free upgrade kit.

For older children, weighing 22-44 pounds, with their own seat on the airplane, you may want to consider getting the CARES safety harness instead of traveling with a car seat. 

This harness weighs just 1 pound, and is the FAA preferred and recommended method of securing a child that size in an airplane. It's a fast, lightweight, cost-effective alternative to transporting a convertible car seat when traveling by plane.

What is the Best Lightweight Convertible Car Seat?

What is the Best Lightweight Convertible Car Seat?

Lightweight in a car seat is important in air travel, but even more important just for getting around your city. If you use a lot of car-sharing services, rental cars, taxis or Ubers, or just frequently borrow or change vehicles, the weight of a car seat is essential to keep you moving. These kinds of car seats also need to be easy to install and not sacrifice protection.

Generally speaking, manufacturers who maintain safety in convertible car seats while reducing weight achieve these goals by sacrificing longevity of the car seat.

Expect a lightweight car seat not to last as many years as one reinforced with steel, and it should be replaced after any accident or collision, however minor. These are often constructed with honeycomb crumpling technology that is easily compromised even in small accidents.

Here are some of the best lightweight convertible car seats:

Overall dimensions

22 x 18.5 x 25 inches

30 x 18 x 16 inches

20 x 18.5 x 26.5 inches

3 across?

Y

Y

N

Suitable for infants?

Y

Y

Y

Rear-facing fit

5 - 30 pounds

5 – 40 pounds

5 - 30 pounds

Forward-facing fit

22 - 40 pounds

22 - 40 pounds

22 - 40 pounds

Booster seat?

N

N

N

Side impact protection?

Y

Y

Y

LATCH system?

Y

Y

Y

Adjustable for comfort

Y

y

Y

Weight

9.1 pounds

11.5 pounds

13 pounds

Price

Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat, Saturn

The Evenflo Tribute is incredibly lightweight, at just 9.1 pounds, and has a fast and easy installation. While it is convertible and can protect your child from rear-facing to front-facing position, it is small and children will outgrow it at a younger age than some larger and more robust convertible car seats.

The Evenflo Tribute LX features:

Made of 100% polyester for light weight and resistance to stains and moisture

Tested at 2x the federal standard for crash safety

4 shoulder harness positions with easy, up-front adjustment and 2 crotch buckle positions for adjustment over time

Machine washable pad

The Evenflo Tribute LX is designed to be a simple, lightweight, portable, safe car seat, and it succeeds. It isn't the most durable, but also isn't priced to last for years and years. 

It's an excellent choice for both safety and ease of transport for small children and toddlers.

Safety 1st Onside Air Convertible Car Seat, Happenstance

The Safety 1st onSide Air allows your child to stay rear-facing all the way through 40 pounds, with advanced AirProtect technology for protection around the head.

The unique design has a second layer of side impact protection by allowing air to escape from the headrest and channel energy away from your child. 

The onSide Air features:

Airplane ready

AirProtect system provides impact protection without adding excess weight to the car seat

Hand washable seat pad

4 harness heights and 3 buckle positions

Removable cup holder can be mounted on either side of the car seat

6-8 year expiration date

The light weight and long life of the Safety 1st make it a great choice for travel, and can be passed down to smaller children.

This car seat has excellent ratings from Consumer Reports, and easy installation in most vehicles. At just over 11 pounds, it can be transported with ease.

Graco ComfortSport Convertible Car Seat, Zara

The Graco ComfortSport is a lightweight, convertible car seat that has been rigorously crash tested. EPS foam absorbs impact and provides protection while being lightweight and portable. LATCH installation with a visual level indicator helps with correct installation. 

The Graco ComfortSport includes:

7-year expiration date

Cup holder can be placed on either side

Level indicator for rear-facing installation

Removable head support

Machine washable seat cushion

The Graco ComfortSport is attractive and lightweight, with good protection at a reasonable cost. It's a strong choice for a lightweight convertible car seat, with a longer life than some of the other lightweight models.

The level indicator is a great feature to make sure it's installed correctly no matter where you move it to.

What is the Best Affordable Convertible Car Seat

What is the Best Affordable Convertible Car Seat

Some car seats can be very expensive, and it can be difficult to justify the expense if your child will quickly outgrow the seat, and you won't be using it for years into the future. But of course it's crucial to not let your car seat budget affect the safety of your child.

A convertible car seat is a great way to save money because you only have to buy one car seat instead of two, making the purchase last for longer, and potentially even passing it down to another child.

When looking for the best convertible car seat on a budget, there's no reason to compromise on safety.

Here are the safest convertible car seats under $100.

Overall dimensions

22 x 18.5 x 25 inches

24 x 21.5 x 23 inches

26 x 20 x 24 inches

25.6 x 22.5 x 20 inches

3 across?

Y

N

N

N

Suitable for infants?

Y

Y

N

Y

Rear-facing fit

5 - 40 pounds

4 – 40 pounds

5 - 40 pounds

5 - 35 pounds

Forward-facing fit

22 - 40 pounds

22 - 40 pounds

22 - 50 pounds

22 - 50 pounds

Booster seat?

N

N

N

Y 40 – 100 pounds

Side impact protection?

Y

Y

Y

Y

LATCH system?

Y

Y

Y

Y

Adjustable for comfort

N

y

Y

Y

FAA Compliant?

Y

Y

Y

Y

Price

Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat, Maxwell

The Evenflo Tribute Sport is as lightweight as the Tribute LX reviewed above, at just 9.1 pounds, and has a fast and easy installation. While it is convertible and can protect your child from rear-facing to front-facing position, it is small and children will outgrow it at a younger age than some larger and more robust convertible car seats.

The Evenflo Tribute Sport features:

Made of 100% polyester for light weight and resistance to stains and moisture

Tested at 2x the federal standard for crash safety

Easy harness adjustment

Machine washable pad

Expires after 6 years from manufacture.


The Evenflo Tribute Sport is a slightly less expensive alternative to the Tribute LX, while retaining the light weight, safety features, and convenience of the other model.

Considering that this car seat will last for 6 years or protect your child until they reach 40 pounds, it's an excellent affordable convertible car seat.

Disney Baby Minnie Mouse APT 40 Convertible Car Seat (Mouseketeer)

While we don't normally think of “car seat” when we think of Disney, this Disney-branded convertible car seat is both affordable and highly rated.​

And it comes in a variety of adorable Disney-themed designs and patterns to make car time more fun. 

The Disney APT convertible car seat has:

5 harness heights and 3 buckle locations for adjustment over time

Hand wash for cleaning

2 integrated cup holders

While this car seat is only rated for children up to 43” in height, and therefore won't last for years to come, it's adorable and affordable.

People love the Disney APT car seat, and it's highly rated by parents who love the style and low price of this cute car seat.

Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat, Black Arrows

Cosco car seats are consistently ranked among the best affordable convertible car seats, and these simple, low-maintenance car seats are an excellent value.

Without additional padding or an insert, it is not suitable for small infants, but is sturdy enough to protect children all the way up to 50 pounds.

The Cosco Apt 50 features:

Machine washable seat pad

6 harness heights and 3 buckle locations for adjusting as your child grows

Two integrated cup holders

At just 11 pounds, this one is also highly portable and airplane-friendly. For a simple, basic convertible car seat at a reasonable price, the Cosco APT 50 is always a favorite.

Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite 40 Convertible Car Seat, Cumberland

The Safety 1st Alpha Omega is the one car seat your child will ever need, rated all the way up to 100 pounds and 10 year expiration date, at an affordable price.

With inserts for lumbar support and newborn head support, all the way up to a booster for a standard lap belt, this car seat will grow along with your child.

The Safety 1st Alpha Omega includes:

A QuickFit harness system that never needs rethreading

3 buckle locations

3 position recline

Detachable cup holder

Pivoting armrests

The Alpha Omega can be a little challenging to clean, as the harness must be removed in order to remove the cover, and some find it difficult to install in small vehicles.

However, the pivoting armrests help kids easily get in and out of the seat, and it has more cushioned comfort than other budget convertible car seats. It's a great value for the years of use you can expect from this car seat.

Best Convertible Car Seats for Your Child

Best Convertible Car Seats for Your Child

While the car seats we've talked about so far are all excellent choices for your needs and your lifestyle, they may not be the best or most comfortable for your child. If your child is unusually tall or big, it may be more difficult finding a car seat that is comfortable for them.

The truth is, while convertible car seats, and car seat regulations, are made with height, weight, and age recommendations, not all children are the same height and weight at the same age.

What is the best convertible car seat for tall babies?

The standards for rear-facing convertible car seats are that a child should remain rear-facing until:

  • check
    They exceed the manufacturer's weight limit for rear-facing AND
  • check
    The top of their head is less than 1 inch from the top of the car seat.

That 1 inch margin is crucial for safety. In fact, if your child is under 2 years old, or under 40 pounds, but too tall for the rear-facing position, it is better to get a new car seat that is tall enough for their needs, rather than turn the car seat forward-facing early.

Children should remain in the forward-facing convertible car seat until:

  • check
    They exceed the manufacturer's weight limit OR
  • check
    The top of their ears is level with the top of the seat

Then they should transition to a booster seat, and should continue to use that until:

They are 4'9” tall, and conventional car seat belt will fit them properly.

They should remain in the back seat until:

They weigh over 100 pounds, and will not be hurt by a front-seat passenger-side airbag in the event of a collision

If you have a tall child and are concerned about how they will fit in a convertible car seat, it may not be enough to check the manufacturer's height limitations. It might be a good idea to take your child to a store and “try on” some different models, even if you intend to do more comparison shopping and make a final purchase online.

But here are some of the best convertible car seats for tall children:

Overall dimensions

16 x 17 x 28.5 inches

19.5 x 21.5 x 28 inches

20 x 21.5 x 24 inches

Rear-facing weight range

5 – 45 pounds

5 – 40 pounds

4 – 40 pounds

Rear-facing height limit

44 inches

19 – 40 inches

49 inches

Front-facing weight range

20 – 65 pounds

22 – 65 pounds

20 – 65 pounds

Front-facing height limit

57 inches

28 – 50 inches

27 – 49 inches

Booster weight limit

50 – 120 pounds

40 – 110 pounds

30 – 100 and 40 – 120 pounds

Booster height limit

57 inches

44 – 57 inches

38 – 57 inches

Expiration date

10 years

8 years

10 years

Price

Diono Radian R120 All-in-One Convertible Car Seat, For Children from Birth to 120 Pounds, Essex

The Diono Radian R120 is slim enough to fit 3 across in most vehicles, but the height will fit a tall child, protecting your child for a full 10 years. And the generous weight limit will allow you to keep even a tall child rear-facing for as long as necessary.

The Dionio Radian R120 features:

Steel frame with aluminum reinforcement and EPS foam for additional impact protection

SuperLATCH installation system makes it fast, and lets you know when the seat is secured properly

FAA certified

Folds flat for travel or storage

Low profile makes it easy for the child to seat themselves

Soft, washable fabrics

Angled cup holder

Infant inserts and robust booster makes the Radian R120 truly the only convertible car seat you will need for your child as they grow, no matter how tall they get.

Evenflo Symphony LX Car Seat, Crete

The Evenflo Symphony LX is another good choice for a tall child, with the design and durability to protect them until they are big enough to use an adult lap belt.

The Symphony features:

Two integrated cup holders

Quick connector installation

Infinite slide harness never needs rethreading

Machine washable seat pad

Multi-position recline

Multi-position headrest

FAA certified

Tested at 2x the federal crash test standard

Infant inserts and robust booster makes the Radian R120 truly the only convertible car seat you will need for your child as they grow, no matter how tall they get.

Gracobaby 4Ever Extend2Fit 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Jodie, One Size

The Graco 4Ever has a unique adaptation in the booster mode, where the back can be adjusted to accommodate larger children. With a weight range of 4-120 pounds and a lifespan of 10 years, this is the most versatile of the all-in-one convertible car seats.

The Graco 4Ever has the following features:

6-position recline

10-position headrest

Steel reinforced frame

Integrated harness storage compartment stores harness when in booster mode

Level indicator for rear-facing installation

2 integrated cupholders

Machine washable seat cushion can be removed without removing the harness

Plush infant inserts

The 10 position headrest and wide range of weight and height allowances make this 4-in-1 easy to adjust to your growing child and get the maximum use out of a single car seat. It's a durable, versatile convertible car seat for a tall child.

What is the Best Convertible Car Seat for Large Babies?

What is the Best Convertible Car Seat for Large Babies?

The truth is, as many as 5% of children in America are too heavy for standard car seats, and more than 10% are severely overweight. This puts parents in the difficult position of putting them in car seats that are uncomfortable for the child, or using the car seat in a way that could compromise safety.

Important: Note that if your child is heavy and your car seat is heavy, it is important to check your vehicle owner's manual when using the LATCH system.

The weight rating of your lower anchors is specific to your vehicle, and many vehicles have lower anchors that are not rated to exceed 65 pounds with the combined weight of the child AND the car seat. 

Even if the seat itself is rated to hold heavier children, your anchor system may not be. If the combined weight of the child and the car seat exceeds the weight rating of your anchors, you may need to instead rely on tethers and your car's seat belt to correctly install and secure your car seat, and not rely on a traditional LATCH install. 

Car seat manufacturers are adapting to the need to safely accommodate these children in larger car seats, but here are some of the best convertible car seats for heavy babies.

Overall dimensions

22 x 16.9 x 26 inches

22.5 x 21.9 x 25.1 inches

24 x 19 x 23.75 inches

21 x 19 x 28 inches

Rear-facing weight range

14-50 pounds

4-50 pounds

5 – 50 pounds

NA

Rear-facing height limit

25-43 inches

Up to 49 inches

19-49 inches

NA

Front-facing weight range

22-65 pounds

22 – 65 pounds

22-65 pounds

25-90 pounds

Front-facing height limit

30-49 inches

Up to 49 inches

29-49 inches

30-58 inches

Booster weight limit

NA

30-100 pounds

40-100 pounds

40-120 pounds

Booster height limit

NA

38- 57 inches

43-52 inches

45-62 inches

Price

Clek Fllo Convertible Baby and Toddler Car Seat Rear and Forward Facing with Anti Rebound Bar, Noire

The slender footprint of the Fllo makes it easy to fit 3 across, but the more open design and higher weight ratings make this a good convertible car seat for a large child. The optional Infant Thingy accessory allows this car seat to be used for infants as small as 5 pounds and 19 inches.

The Clek Fllo features:

NCAP tested

Steel anti-rebound bar limits rotation in a collision and provides additional protection

Advanced side impact protection

Adjustable head rest

9 year expiration

Steel substructure and impact-absorbing foam, along with energy-absorbing crumple technology protect from collision

Greenguard superfabrics resist stains and moisture

FAA certified

Recyclable through Clek's recycling program

​It may be surprising that one of our slimmest convertible car seats is also rated to hold children several pounds heavier than most of the competition, but the Clek Fllo delivers just that. It's a comfortable way to transport a heavy child without compromising safety.

Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1  Car Seat Featuring TrueShield Side-Impact Protection, Ion

The Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 is a great choice for a big and tall child, as it has high weight ratings and an extendable panel for additional leg room. It also has the versatility to protect children from 4-100 pounds, one of the broadest ranges on the market, even in a 3-in-1. 

The Graco Extend2Fit includes:

6-position recline

10-position headrest

4-position extension panel for additional leg room as your child grows

Simply Safe harness adjustment system

Fuss free harness storage

Steel reinforced frame

Easy to read level indicator

Two integrated cup holders

Machine washable seat pad

10-year expiration

​The Extend2Fit is a good choice for a child who is both tall and heavy, as the high weight ratings and extendable foot panel provide additional leg room with sturdy protection.

This is an excellent, versatile car seat for children of all sizes.

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

The Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air is designed to be the only car seat you'll ever need, with the range to fit children from 5-100 pounds in a single convertible. 

The Grow and Go EX Air also has a special design to give an additional 7 inches of adult leg room in the front seat when the car seat is installed in rear-facing mode, making this car seat not only a good choice for babies who need extra room, but for adults as well. 

The Grow and Go EX Air features:

Advanced Air Protect cushion system

Machine washable and dryable seat pad snaps away from the frame for easy removal and replacement

QuickFit harness for fast and easy adjustment of harness and the headrest in one step

2 integrated cup holders

Compact design allows more leg room in the front seat when the car seat is in rear-facing mode

10-year expiration

3-position recline

The Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air is also easy to clean, which is a welcome feature in a car seat you plan to use for a decade. This is a great choice for big and tall babies, and big and tall adults as well.

Britax Frontier ClickTight Combination Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, Vibe

The Britax Frontier 90 isn't suitable for babies, as it does not have a rear-facing mode. But it converts from a front-facing car seat with harness, to a booster for a child with a car seat belt, and it holds children from 25-120 pounds, all the way up to 62 inches in height.

While children younger than 2 years old should not use the Frontier, it's an excellent way to protect a heavier child for years to come, and the open sides keep it from being too confining. The Frontier 90 includes:

ClickTight installation for easy installation

SafeCell impact protection

Steel frame with 2 layers of side impact protection

Easily removable, machine washable cover

Multiple recline positions

9 position quick adjust harness

9 year expiration

Integrated cup holders

The Britax Frontier 90 is a big, robust convertible car seat with the strength and scale to protect big, robust children. It's an excellent choice for a large toddler, and durable enough to see them through their pre-teen years.

After You Purchase a Convertible Car Seat

After You Purchase a Convertible Car Seat

After you have your new car seat, there are three things you need to do:

Register it

Registering your car seat with the manufacturer and with the NHTSA not only secures your warranty should there be problems with the seat, but also means that you will be notified of any future recalls that may affect you. Recalls of car seats are frequent, and generally minor, but it's important that you know of any safety issues the moment they are discovered.

The NHTSA has a program where you send them your car seat registration information, and they share it with the manufacturer on your behalf.

That way you get rapid notification about car seat problems and recalls, whether the problem is discovered independently by the manufacturer, or discovered during NHTSA reviews. It's a great way to protect your child.

Install it

Unfortunately, as many as 85% of child car seats are not correctly installed. Poor installation compromises safety, however well-made the car seat itself is.

While every car seat comes with detailed installation instructions, and there are often videos online with installation instructions, and also installation guidelines issued by the DMV and the NHTSA, it's clear that we are still not doing a good job of installing car seats.

For that reason, the NHTSA and other organizations have certified installation technicians who will install your car seat for you, or check your installation to make sure it's correct.

These technicians will give you a one-on-one teaching experience, so that you always know how to check your car seat, and install it properly yourself if you have to change vehicles.

Check the NHTSA directory to have your car seat checked for correct installation.

Conclusion

Never let your child ride in a vehicle without being properly secured, even if it's for a short trip. Never let a caretaker or family member drive your child without the correct car seat.

If your child will be riding in a car seat provided by a family member or caretaker, check it carefully yourself to make sure it's the right size for your child and that it is correctly installed.


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