For most parents, a convertible car seat is their second car seat. After all, infants need an infant car seat, right? Not necessarily. While an infant car seat is great for portability, most convertible car seats can be used right from birth with the help of a newborn insert. And Consumer Reports encourages the use of a convertible car seat from baby's first birthday onward, since they've proven safer in crash tests.
Convertible car seats are different because they can convert, so to speak, from rear-facing to forward-facing and they accommodate toddlers well past the 30- to 40-pound mark. Some even turn into booster seats. So what is the best convertible car seat? That depends on what you're looking for. This list can get you started.
Best Convertible Car Seat for Easy Install: Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB
What's in a name? A parent-favorite installation method. The Advocate, complete with external side-impact cushions not found on other Britax models, allows for both latch and seatbelt installation. And this best convertible car seat comes with an anti-rebound bar (ARB), a U-shaped metal bar that attaches to the foot area in rear-facing mode. In the event of a crash, this bar would prevent the car seat from bouncing backward.
Standout feature: The ClickTight button won us over. With a press and a twist, you can lift up a seat panel and access the belt paths. Thread the belt through, buckle up and press the compartment back down to hear a click that tells you everything's correctly in place. Weight range: 5 to 65 pounds
Price: $376, Amazon.com
Best affordable convertible car seat: Evenflo Advanced SensorSafe Titan 65
Evenflo created the first infant car seat featuring sensor technology to remind parents their littlest passenger is in the backseat upon arrival at their destination. Now the sensor is back—this time for their convertible car seat. And it's surprisingly affordable. Standout feature: A sensor chest clip on the five-point harness works together with a plug-in receiver for your car. When you turn off the ignition, an alert sounds twice to remind you about your child. The goal is to prevent the roughly 37 accidental hot car deaths that occur each year. Weight range: 5 to 65 pounds
Price: $149, Evenflo.com
Best rear-facing convertible car seat: Graco Extend2Fit
You probably don't associate convertible car seats with a rear-facing seating position. But in light of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to keep infants rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old, it's a feature you're going to want to utilize. This best convertible car seat by Graco makes it especially easy. Standout feature: An extension panel provides adds 5 inches of legroom when the seat is tilted back in one of its six recline positions. This way parents don't have to worry about a toddler's legs getting squished while keeping them in a rear-facing position. Plus, this seat accommodates rear-facing through 50 pounds, compared to the standard 40 pounds.
Weight range: 4 to 65 pounds
Price: $200, BuyBuyBaby.com
Best all-in-one convertible car seat: Diono Radian RXT
Considering investing in something that will grow with your child and last you for years? We'd point you in the direction of Diono. The Radian RXT, in particular, packs a ton of features into an attractive, strong steel frame. And while we're highlighting it for its ability to transition from the newborn stage to a booster seat, it can also transition from car to car. The car seat even has carry straps so mom and dad can carry it like a backpack. Standout features: Special infant support cushions accommodate babies as small as 5 pounds, while a 12-position headrest and expandable sides turn it into a booster seat for big kids. Weight range: 5 to 120 pounds
Price: $252, us.diono.com
Best convertible car seat for small cars: Clek Fllo
You've made a lot of changes to your lifestyle since having a baby. And thanks to Clek, upgrading to a bigger car doesn't have to be one of them. At 17-inches wide (most convertible car seats are about 19- or 20-inches wide), Fllo's narrow frame was created to be compact, most vehicles can sit three across.
Standout feature: A smaller frame doesn't mean fewer safety features. This best convertible car seat uses something called energy-absorbing crumple technology to direct force away from your child in the event of a crash, sending it through collapsable aluminum honeycomb-shaped cores in the seat's base. Weight range: 14 to 64 pounds
Price: $379, Amazon.com
Best convertible car seat for style: Peg Perego Primo Viaggio
Admittedly, Italian craftsmanship and a double-stitched trim shouldn't be your first priorities in a car seat. But it's this attention to detail that consistently earns Peg Perego praise. Their breathable Fresco Jersey fabric (washable!) is equal parts stylish and comfortable. And underneath are supreme safety features, like a contoured steel back plate, adjustable side-impact protection and energy-absorbing foam.
Standout feature: All of these elements combined add up to a seriously well-made car seat. That durability is enough to earn the Primo Viaggio Convertible a two-year warranty. And that's a pretty big deal; almost every car seat's warranty lasts for just a year. Weight range: 22-65 pounds
Price: $349, Amazon.com
Best convertible car seat for big kids: Maxi-Cosi Pria 85
More arm chair than car seat, the Pria 85 is an ultra-comfy solution that will last well past your baby's “baby” days. That ”85” number signifies the weight range this seat can accommodate—the heaviest of all convertible car seats out there (not including convertible/booster combinations). It also comes with some big padding, with AirProtect cushions around the head area for extra side-impact protection.
Standout feature: Not only is the fabric padded, but it can also be snapped off the frame without having to uninstall the car seat. Because it is washer and dryer safe, this is one of the easiest seats to keep clean. Weight range: 14 to 85 pounds
Price: $300, BuyBuyBaby.com
Most versatile convertible car seat: Chicco NextFit Zip
With six headrest positions and nine recline positions, you're bound to find a configuration best suited to your child—and a new one as she grows. But multiple configurations do more than keep baby comfy—they facilitate a better (and safer) fit in a wide variety of vehicles. Standout feature: The kid-ready harness is another example of how this best convertible car seat adapts to your child. The outward-flex design keeps the harness and buckles out of the way so getting baby in and out is as easy as possible—a time-saver you probably wouldn't think about when making your purchase. Weight range: 5 to 65 pounds
Price: $350, Target.com
**All September, creating a registry on The Bump means one less child will be without a car seat. We’ve partnered with our friends at Buckle Up for Life, who will donate a car seat to a family in need for every new registry created on The Bump and teach them how to install it correctly. Learn more here.
To learn about Buckle Up for Life's car seat safety tips and programs, the national car seat safety program from Cincinnati Children’s and Toyota, please visit www.buckleupforlife.org.