The 9 Best Convertible Car Seats You Can Buy Now
A convertible car seat is one of the most important baby gear items on your must-buy list. One reason: You’ll use a convertible car seat for a long time—which means it’s a purchase you want to get right. But with tons of options and features and types, the decision is anything but straightforward. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got everything you need to know to determine the best convertible car seat for your family. Whether you’re looking for one you can use when you first bring baby home from the hospital or are on a quest to find a slim convertible car seat that fits in your compact car, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn why convertible car seats are so important—plus, shop our top picks.
In this article:
Infant car seat vs. convertible car seat: What’s the difference?
When to switch from infant car seat to convertible car seat. What to look for when shopping for a top-rated convertible car seat. Best convertible car seats
Confused over what is what in the world of car seats? We don’t blame you. Here’s the breakdown.
An infant car seat can only be used rear-facing, and has a more limited height and weight range (often maxing out at 40 pounds). A convertible car seat, on the other hand, is a car seat that can be used both rear- and forward-facing, often from infancy to toddlerhood and beyond (depending on its height and weight capacity).
Another key difference between the two types of car seats? Infant car seats typically cannot be used after a child turns one, while convertible car seats might last until a child is 4 or older. Infant car seats do offer parents more portability, since they’re lighter, can be clicked in and out of their base and often connect to stroller systems. Convertible car seats remain in the car. They can be a one-and-done purchase though, growing with your child from the newborn days and beyond.
If you decide to use an infant car seat first, you’ll eventually have to switch over to a convertible car seat. Exactly when that happens depends on the size of your little one: As soon as they reach the maximum height and weight for your specific infant car seat, model, it’s time to make the move to a rear-facing convertible car seat. But even if your child stays within the infant car seat’s size limits by their first birthday, you should consider making the move over to a convertible: Consumer Reports finds that a convertible car seat is safer in a crash than an infant car seat for children one and older.
Feeling unsure about where to start when it comes to finding the best convertible car seats? You’re not alone. Each seat boasts its own set of bells and whistles that can make it feel overwhelming and impossible to choose. The questions, below, can help you spot key features and determine the best convertible car seat for you and your family.
- How big is it? Convertible car seats are not known for being particularly slim and trim. Be sure to take into consideration the car seat’s width (especially if you have a smaller car or plan on having more than one car seat in the row) and also its length (particularly if the seat will be on the driver’s side). Take weight into consideration if you plan on switching the car seat from vehicle to vehicle or traveling with it.
- What are its size limits? Convertible car seats can hold infants as small as 4 pounds up to kids as large as 120 pounds—and anywhere in between. If you plan on using the seat from infancy on, make sure the weight limit starts low enough; on the flip side, if you want the seat to last beyond toddlerhood, look for a high weight and height capacity.
- How does it install? Convertible car seats can be installed using either a car’s seat belt or a LATCH system (lower anchors and tethers for children), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). While nearly all vehicles made after 2002 are equipped to use LATCH, it’s important to confirm before selecting a car seat. Also, correct installation is critical to a car seat’s safety—so look for a seat that makes the process simple.
- What are its safety features? The good news: Save for any recalls (we’ll get into that in a bit), all convertible car seats available for purchase in the US will be safe to use (they must adhere to strict standards). However, there are some extra features that can increase a seat’s safety in the event of a crash or collision. Keep an eye out for some form of side-impact protection, through an adjustable headrest, side wings or energy-absorbing foam, and anti-rebound bars (ARB), which reduce the movement of the car seat towards the back of the car.
- How comfortable will it be? Lots of features can make for an extra comfy ride for your little one. If planning to use the convertible car seat from infancy on, look for a seat that comes with an added infant insert for extra head and neck support. Multiple recline and head rest positions will tailor the ride for your little one, cup holders will become critical as your child grows, and an adjustable, no rethread harness will make things easier for both parents and little ones alike. Another biggie: Examine the car seat for how easy it is to clean (because, hello, toddlers are messy).
Above all else, parents are looking for the safest convertible car seat possible. One way to determine that is through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHSTA) evaluations: The NHSTA evaluates convertible car seats for their ease of use, looking at four different categories and subsequently ranking them from one to five stars. And while the ranking doesn’t explicitly address safety, a car seat is only safe when used and installed correctly (which is where ease-of-use comes in). Additionally, the NHSTA keeps track of any car seat recalls.
So what’s the best convertible car seat? That depends on exactly what you’re looking for. Check out our list to make the decision that’s right for you and your family.
Best Convertible Car Seat for Easy Install: Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB
In the school of convertible car seats, the Britax Boulevard Clicktight ARB is easily crowned valedictorian. It’s a top-rated car seat by Consumer Reports in terms of safety and ease of use—and a big reason for both is its foolproof installation. Installing the Britax Boulevard securely is as easy as buckling a seatbelt (truly), thanks to the ClickTight system (just lift the seat, thread the seatbelt, and click it shut). Simple installation isn’t the only area this seat gets top marks though. Features like an anti-rebound bar, V-shaped tether, high-strength steel frame and SafeCell technology make this one of the safest convertible car seats on the market.
Buy it: from $370, BuyBuyBaby.com
Best Extended Rear-Facing Convertible Car Seat: Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
Both the AAP and the NHSTA advocate for children to remain rear-facing in their car seats for as long as possible—and extended height and weight limits make that safe position a possibility for longer. The Graco Extend2Fit convertible car seat has one of the highest height and weight limits, topping out at 49 inches and 50 pounds—both of which are over the 90th percentile for a typical 5-year-old boy. Plus, the adjustable extension panel gives your growing little one up to five inches of extra room, eliminating fears of scrunched up legs. A 10 position headrest and six position recline also provide a comfortable seated position, no matter your child’s size. And at just over $200, it’s one of the most affordable options available.
Buy it: $210, BuyBuyBaby.com
Best Convertible Car Seat for Small Cars: Clek Foonf
Convertible car seats are not known for being especially lean, which can become problematic in smaller cars or even mid-sized cars with multiple car seats. Enter the Clek Foonf, which combines both a narrow footprint (less than 17 inches, to be exact) and top-of-the-line features. Even at a trim 16.9 inches wide, the Foonf provides a comfortably roomy seat for growing toddlers—and its size doesn’t skimp on safety. An anti-rebound bar, steel magnesium frame and rigid LATCH system (the only of its kind for a forward-facing seat in the US) all work together to keep your child safe in the event of a crash. The only thing hefty about this slim convertible car seat? The price tag.
Buy it: $550, Clekinc.com
Best 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat: Diono Radian 3 RXT All-In-One Convertible Car Seat
Considering investing in something that will grow with your child and last you for years? Do need to fit multiple car seats across in your midsize vehicle? Allow us to point you in the direction of the Diono Radian RXT; it packs a ton of features into an attractive, strong alloy and aluminum frame. And while we’re highlighting it for its ability to transition from a newborn car seat to a convertible car seat to a booster seat, it’s also great for transitioning from car to car, thanks to the straps that let you carry it like a backpack.
Buy it: $350, Diono.com
Best 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat: Graco4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
This convertible car seat is a quadruple threat. It transitions from a rear-facing convertible car seat to a forward-facing one to a high-back booster to a backless booster. Basically, your kiddo will be able to use it from the day they’re born until the day they’re ready to sit in your car without any type of car seat. Plus, Graco’s InRight latch system ensures an easy one-second attachment for quick and easy installation, and the Simply Safe Adjust harness system automatically adjusts both the harness and headrest height without you needing to rethread. For $300, you’re basically getting four car seats in one. Win-win-win-win!
Buy it: $ 300, BuyBuyBaby.com
Best Infant Convertible Car Seat: Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Kinetic
Designing a car seat that works just as well for infants as it does for growing toddlers is no easy feat, but the folks at Peg Perego have taken the task to hand. The tri-stage cushion provides extra support for a newborn’s neck and bottom, and can be removed as your baby grows older to maintain proper positioning. Plus, the combination of kinetic pods (which direct force away from your child in a side-collision), an anti-rebound bar and height-adjustable side-impact protection work to keep your little one safe at every stage.
Buy it: $400, BuyBuyBaby.com
Best Toddler Convertible Seat: Nuna Rava
It’s a consistent bestseller and family favorite for a reason. The Nuna Rava is top-rated by both the NHSTA and Consumer Reports; it comes with advanced safety and convenience features, is simple to install and it’s stylish to boot. Installation is as simple as opening a color-coded pathway, threading the seatbelt and shutting the pathway door. Children can stay rear-facing up to 50 pounds (one of the highest capacities available), and the 10-position headrest adjusts with just one hand. Parents and toddlers alike appreciate the double cup holders, magnetic harness holders and washable fabric (because toddler messes are inevitable). A bonus for the environment? The Rava is Greenguard gold certified.
Buy it: $500, Nordstrom.com
Best Rotating Convertible Car Seat: Cybex Sirona S
When it comes to innovations in car seat technology, the Cybex Sirona S has a lot going for it. It’s one of the only convertible car seats to feature a load leg (a common safety feature on infant car seats), which helps to stabilize the seat during any potential impact. It is also the only convertible car seat in North America that you can install just once and use both rear and forward facing. SensorSafe technology in the chest clip alerts parents of any critical situations happening in the car seat, like dangerous temperatures or a child left unattended. But the standout feature with this [Best of Baby winner])https://www.thebump.com/a/best-of-baby-winner-convertible-car-seat-2021) is its 360-degree rotation, which makes for easier access both in and out of the seat—and allows the car seat to convert from rear to forward facing with just a single swivel.
Buy it: $500, BuyBuyBaby.com
Best Affordable Convertible Car Seat: Evenflo Tribute LX
Looking to save on cost without having to sacrifice safety? The Evenflo Tribute LX is a fantastic option for those on a budget. It received top crash test results by Baby Gear Lab, at a fraction of the price of its competitors (less than $80!). Besides topping out in the safety arena, this convertible car seat is great for small cars, tight spaces and travel—thanks to its light weight (just 9 pounds) and narrow width (17 inches). You won’t find a lot of extra frills, features or padding, but in terms of balancing budget and security, the Evenflo Tribute LX can’t be beat.
Buy it: $80, evenflo.com