10 Best Convertible Car Seats | December 2016

10 Best Convertible Car Seats
Best Mid-Range
★★★
Best High-End
★★★★
Best Inexpensive
★★★★★
We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. We've taken these convertible car seats for a test drive and ranked them based on price, ease-of-use, and safety ratings. Our selection includes models that can grow with your child from newborn all the way up to 120 pounds, and offer both forward- and rear-facing capabilities. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best convertible car seat on Amazon.
10
The Evenflo Symphony has an easily adjustable harness for growth spurts. It uses Latch technology for a secure installation that keeps it firmly in place while keeping your little one cozy with higher than average shoulder strap limits.
  • comes in two fabric combinations
  • dual cup holders
  • difficult to get kids in and out
Brand Evenflo
Model 34631358
Weight 25.3 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0
9
Available in eight colors, you should be able to find a Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 that matches your car's interior. It's easy to keep clean with a machine-washable and dryer-safe pad that simply unsnaps when it is time to be removed.
  • forward and rear-facing use
  • harness organizers
  • can be difficult to tighten
Brand Maxi-Cosi
Model CC121BIZ
Weight 23.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
8
The Graco MySize 65 is sort of the La-Z-Boy of car seats that has been made so comfortable, your infant or toddler may refuse to leave it. With deep reclining ability and tons of extra padding, it could help with sleep for long trips.
  • easy to adjust head and neck straps
  • built-in level ensures safe installs
  • won't connect to any strollers
Brand Graco
Model 1967059
Weight 22.6 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
7
Keep your little one safe in the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Atmosphere, which features EPS energy absorbing foam throughout the entire seat. It also has a device that allows the shell to crumple upon impact, reducing the force felt by the child in a crash.
  • moisture-absorbing fabric
  • reclines for child comfort
  • steel back plate reduces flexing
Brand Peg Perego
Model IMCO01US35DX53
Weight 26.7 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
6
The Recaro ProRide comes from a German company that originally designed racing seats for cars, so they likely know a thing or two about safety. The ProRide features more side-impact padding than most seats, but is otherwise very firm compared to plushy American models.
  • keeps baby cool by not trapping heat
  • very easy to clean
  • heavier than most models
Brand Recaro
Model 335.01.QQ95
Weight 24.4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
5
The Graco Nautilus 65 LX has three different configurations that can grow with your child from 22 lbs to 120 lbs. It allows you to adjust the height of the harness and headrest in one quick and easy motion, making it handy for those times you are in a rush.
  • child retention tested
  • personal cup holder
  • has a storage compartment
Brand Graco
Model 1949389
Weight 25.3 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0
4
The Britax USA Marathon ClickTight has SafeCell Impact Protection, ensuring the highest level of safety for your child. It features an energy-absorbing base, a steel frame, and a V-shaped tether that always keeps kids securely in place.
  • multiple harness positions
  • 7 recline settings
  • clicks into a seatbelt buckle
Brand Britax USA
Model E1A385R
Weight 33 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
3
Possibly the easiest to install seat is the Chicco NexFit Matrix, which has a unique reclining system that does not require unsafe modifications to keep level. This model also sports a reputation for putting children to sleep, and can be re-threaded rapidly.
  • padding removes easily for washing
  • dual chest clip positions
  • multiple headrest postitions
Brand Chicco
Model 04079490990070
Weight 31.3 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0
2
At just 9 lbs in weight and costing under $60, the Evenflo Tribute LX is the lightest and most affordable model to make our list. Despite its low cost and easy portability, it offers maximum protection, rated at 2x the Federal crash test standard.
  • multiple shoulder harness positions
  • integrated body cushion
  • head pillow is removable
Brand Evenflo
Model 38111190
Weight 13 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0
1
If you are truly worried about safety, you need the Diono Radian RXT which comes with a steel frame, possibly exceeding government safety standards. The extra support allows for a narrow design so that someone can sit comfortably next to it or you can install another seat.
  • high rear facing weight limit
  • can have up to four cup holders
  • meets stringent ncap standards
Brand Diono
Model 16001
Weight 31.7 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

Why Should I Buy A Convertible Car Seat?

We're committed to helping you make well-informed choices and avoid unnecessary expenditure, so we've set out for you the pros and cons of buying a convertible car seat right away, versus using an infant car seat for the first 6-12 months.

Safety: There's no question that tiny babies have different requirements than bigger toddlers: their little spines and skulls are still growing and they're not yet able to support their own heads. This means they have to be able to lie flat in the car seat, so you'll need a seat that will allow them to do that. Infant car seats are designed to do this, but most convertible car seats now do too.

Another key safety issue is your little one's direction of travel: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be kept rear-facing in the car until the age of 2, and this is the law in many US states. If your child outgrows their infant car seat before that age - which they are likely to do - then you're going to need to upgrade to a convertible seat in any case. Don't forget you need to bear in mind the seat's maximum height as well as the maximum weight allowance.

When it comes to protection in case of impact, the latest tests for Consumer Reports show convertible car seats outperforming infant seats in their ability to protect a child's head.

Comfort: Traditionally, infant car seats have been preferred for very new babies because they provide a measure of padding to keep your baby secure and cozy. These days, as you'll have seen from the products reviewed above, a lot of convertible car seats come with a removable 'infant insert' designed to do just that (although if your baby is especially tiny you might still find these seats a little too big at first).

Convenience: This is one big advantage that infant car seats have over convertible models: they can be lifted out of the car and carried into the house. Some models even fit right onto the stroller. But before you make a purchasing decision based on this, there are two things you need to remember:

  1. Your baby is going to get heavy! Sure, swinging the car seat right out of the car and carrying it around seems like a great idea at first, but as your baby grows this is going to become less and less practical.

  2. Multitasking your car seat may not always be safe. Some parents like to put the car seat on top of a shopping cart, but the manufacturers of both car seats and shopping carts advise you not to do this, as it can easily cause the cart to topple over, risking injury to your child. Meanwhile, even leaving your child in her car seat in your home is not as good an idea as it might seem: a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics last year found that this may not be safe.

Price: There's no contest here: buying one car seat is definitely going to be less expensive than buying two! We think you can get all the advantages of an infant car seat from a convertible seat if you choose carefully: check out the next article for our advice on how to do just that.

Convertible Car Seats: The Essentials, The Desirables, And Winning Details

Think of buying a car seat like hiring somebody for a job. It's one of the most important jobs in the world: that of helping to keep your baby safe. So you definitely know what you don't want. A second-hand car seat? That's like a resumé printed in Comic Sans - straight in the trash.

But once you've filtered out the definite 'no's, there are still a lot of candidates out there. To help you pick one, we've put together a sort of job description for the ideal convertible car seat: starting with the essential qualifications, then the desirable qualities, and finally a list of little winning details. Keep an eye out for these and they could just help you spot the car seat of your dreams.

Essentials

  • LATCH (Lower Anchors & Tethers for CHildren) - and maybe a decent seat belt alternative. LATCH is a set of straps by which you can attach your car seat directly to anchors built into the car, instead of having to wrap the seat belt around the car seat. All car seats have been compatible with this since 2002, so you should be golden - unless you're in an older vehicle, in which case you may not be able to use LATCH. Check your vehicle's specifications and if it isn't LATCH-able, make sure you buy a car seat that attaches via the seat belt with minimal fuss.
  • A 5-point safety harness. Almost all modern convertible car seats come with this sort of harness, which is made up of a strap for each shoulder, a strap for each thigh, and a fifth strap between your baby's legs. Only with a 5-point harness can you ensure that the car seat is properly adjusted to your child's shape and therefore keeping him or her completely secure.
  • A harness that is easily adjustable from the front, so you don't have to take the seat out of the car every time when the straps no longer fit your growing child.
  • An infant insert. If you're going to be using this car seat for your newborn, this padding is essential so that he or she can fit snugly inside and still have room when they get bigger.

Desirables

  • A machine-washable, removable cover! We toyed with filing this under 'essentials' but it's not strictly necessary...it's just going to make your life about a billion times easier once that car seat is all smeared with PB&J.
  • A decent NHTSA 'Ease of use' rating: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates car seats on how easy they are to install and use correctly.
  • Side-impact protection. The amount of protection offered from side impact varies a lot between models. It's not possible to protect against every little eventuality, but for your own peace of mind you'll probably want to get the best side-impact protection you can afford.

Winning details

  • A cup-holder! It sounds frivolous, but if your kid wants juice, you're going to want somewhere to put juice. Somewhere that is not 'all over your kid'.
  • A lightweight seat. The biggest downside of convertible car seats versus infant car seats is their bulk and weight: opting for a seat made of lighter material could save you some heartache (and arm-ache) when you inevitably have to shift the seat around.
  • An affordable seat. If you find a seat that checks all the boxes above - and it suits the size of your child and of your car - don't spend any more than you have to.

A Brief History Of Child Car Seats

The 19th century saw the earliest manufacture of cars, but it wasn't until the 1930s that the first child car seats appeared - and even then, they weren't really intended to keep children safe: just keep them still and in view of the driving parent.

Some 1940s models hooked on to the front passenger seat so Baby could keep the driver company - and even had a little steering wheel fitted so he or she could join in with driving, much like Maggie Simpson.

In 1962, two models of child safety seats were developed at around the same time: in Britain, a rear-facing seat with a three-point strap was created by the inventor Jean Ames; while Leonard Rivkin in the US designed the front-facing, metal-framed Strolee National Safety Car Seat for Children.

In the late 1960s, car manufacturers began to develop their own child safety seats: first Ford's Tot-Guard, which was developed in 1967, but it took a number of years to become available to the public; then the Loveseat, produced by General Motors.

The first federal safety standard for child car seating was adopted in 1971, although to this day the law regarding the use of child car seats varies by state.



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Last updated on December 15, 2016 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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