With the introduction of convertible car seats, the need to buy separate rear-facing infant seats, forward-facing toddler seats, and “big kid” booster seats has been eliminated, saving parents time, money, and hassle, and jump-starting a new segment in the car seat market. Today, with its multi-functional convenience, it would be hard to find a parent who hasn’t thought of buying a convertible car seat for their baby.
With so many brands and models of convertible car seats to choose from, it can be pretty overwhelming to make a choice. When your baby’s safety is on the line, it is imperative to choose correctly. To help guide you through the extensive amount of information available on car seat specifications and features, here is a list of our top 5 convertible car seats on the market today with safety as the main priority:
Top 5 Convertible Car Seats
Below are detailed reviews for each of our top 5 convertible car seats so you can see why these models and features impressed us so much.
A company with decades of experience in auto racing safety, RECARO has specialized expertise in automotive seating technology. With its recent redesign of the RECARO Performance SPORT Combination Harness to Booster Car Seat, parents can be sure that they are getting a convertible car seat with innovative design and exceptional quality. The many features, some of which are exclusive to RECARO car seats, include:
- Their HERO harness system technology, which aligns the shoulder pads properly, providing optimum protection and comfort. The system ensures ideal chest clip placement and the harness is designed to resist twisting.
- The RECARO Safety Stripe System, a highly-visible white stripe added to the outside edges of the five-point harness, making it easy for parents to notice whether the strap is starting to twist
- Side Impact Protection technology, engineered to protect the child in the event of a side-impact collision. Influenced by RECARO’s history of racing seat safety, the design features metal-reinforced wings that shield the face, head, torso, and pelvis, and a headrest that diminishes neck movement.
- Comfortable and breathable fabrics, such as Cloud Comfort memory foam and CoolMesh
- The five-point harness system meets all new FMVSS213 safety standards. It also accomodates children 20 to 65 pounds in forward-facing harness mode, and 30 to 120 pounds in high-back booster mode
- Convenient storage pockets for cups, toys, or snacks
Parents also appreciate its sturdy and supportive seat, plentiful safety features, dramatic racing style, and how easy it is to take apart and reassemble. The adjustable straps and headrest ensure that this car seat will accommodate your growing child from infant to toddler.
Graco, a trusted name in baby and child care products, is known for their high quality and superior safety standards, and the Graco Milestone All-In-One Convertible Car Seat is no exception. This smart and practical car seat owes its popularity to its ease of use and affordable price. Other notable features include:
- Graco’s Simply Safe Adjust Harness System allows you to single-handedly with one motion adjust the height of the harness and headrest without having to rethread the straps
- Effortless one-second attachment with audible click cue, thanks to their exclusive InRight LATCH feature
- 4-position recline in both rear- and forward-facing modes to ensure comfort for your growing child
- Has undergone extensive side impact testing, and meets or exceeds U.S. safety standards
- Washable seat cover which is detachable without having to remove the harness
- Removable cupholder, detachable plush inserts, and harness storage for holding unused straps
- Can be used as a rear-facing infant seat from 5 to 40 pounds, a forward-facing seat from 20 to 65 pounds, and a high-back, belt-positioning booster seat from 30 to 100 pounds
Parents who swear by the Graco Milestone All-In-One Convertible Car Seat love its user-friendly functionality, finding it easy to install, easy to access baby, and easy to adjust the harness and headrest. Also, thanks to its compact design, it's easy to transfer from one vehicle to another.
The Diono Radian RXT All-In-One Convertible Car Seat is the only car seat that boasts a full steel frame, providing a level of safety and durability unmatched by other car seats. From a company that really prioritizes safety and innovation, it’s not surprising that this car seat offers unique characteristics, such as a foldable design, perfect for travelling and storage. Its other offerings include:
- Diono’s Safe Stop energy-absorbing harness, which reduces the effects of an impact in the forward-facing position
- Easy and secure installation, thanks to their Super-LATCH system, which employs a visual indicator and audible click to confirm that the connectors are locked
- In addition to the full steel frame, aluminum-reinforced side wings and head support for superior side impact protection
- Rear-facing tether to minimize seat rotation during an impact
- Extremely compact design so you can fit up to 3 seats side-by-side in most mid-sized autos
- Body support cushions for infants, plush and durable fabric, and memory foam padding for maximum comfort
- Transitions well with your growing child with rear-facing from 5 to 45 pounds, forward-facing from 20 to 80 pounds in the 5-point harness, and up to 120 pounds in booster mode
The space-saving shape of the Diono Radian RXT All-In-One Convertible Car Seat is definitely a winning feature for many parents, as is its ability to be folded flat and carried on your back. This seat will undoubtedly see you from the newborn stage all the way up through the booster seat stage, knowing your child’s safety and comfort is well taken care of.
Britax has long been making an appearance on many car seat “best of” lists, and for good reason. The company has a reputation for quality construction and an outstanding safety record. The Britax USA Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat is a perfect example of their high standards. This seat has some great features, and at only 17 pounds, is a lightweight alternative to the many bulky, heavy car seats on the market. Its features consist of:
- Britax’s groundbreaking ClickTight Installation System, the simplest installation we’ve seen. All you have to do is open the front of the car seat, buckle the seat belt across, and click the seat closed for an easy and accurate installation.
- Their SafeCell Impact Protection technology, an integrated system of safety components which includes a steel frame, an energy-absorbing base, a V-shaped tether to reduce seat rotation upon impact, and staged-release stitches that slow forward movement during a crash
- Deep, foam-lined shell for side impact protection
- 12-position quick-adjust harness and 2-position buckle which allow you to easily customize the fit as your child grows
- 7-position recline for optimal comfort, and an automatic level indicator to help you achieve the best installation angle for your vehicle
- Accomodates a child from birth up through the preschool years: rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds and forward-facing from 20 to 65 pounds
Though the Britax USA Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat is on the higher end of the price range and has a limited weight range, it is nonetheless a popular choice due to its sturdy construction, easy access to baby, and budge-proof ClickTight installation.
As mentioned with our number 2 choice, Graco is a brand that is synonymous with high quality and superior safety standards. With the Graco My Ride 65 LX Convertible Car Seat, you get Graco’s first-rate engineering, affordable pricing, plus a lot of desirable features:
- Effortless one-second attachment with audible click cue, thanks to their exclusive InRight LATCH feature
- Keeps baby in the rear-facing position up to 40 lbs, longer than most other car seats in the U.S., and then accomodates forward-facing child in a 5-point harness from 20 to 65 pounds
- Has undergone extensive structural and side impact testing, and meets or exceeds U.S. safety standards
- EPS energy-absorbing foam for effective impact protection
- Easy-to-read level indicator for easy rear-facing installation
- Transitions with growing child, thanks to an adjustable headrest and removable body support
- Machine-washable seat cushion and cover
- 2 integrated cup holders
The Graco My Ride 65 LX Convertible Car Seat is an affordable option for parents looking for simplicity and reliability. We like that it installs easily, stays secure, offers good support, and has a gentle recline that ensures baby’s head remains comfortably cradled and doesn’t fall forward while sleeping.
Choosing a Convertible Car Seat
What is a Convertible Car Seat?
A convertible car seat accomodates your child from infancy to preschool age or older, eliminating the need to buy separate infant seats, toddler seats, and “big kid” booster seats. First released in the U.S. by Britax in the late 1990s, convertible car seats begin in a rear-facing position for babies and then transition to front-facing when your child meets size and weight requirements. They also adjust according to your child’s size, with features such as adjustable shoulder straps and crotch buckle position, recline/tilt capability, and movable headrest.
Why buy a Convertible Car Seat?
Convertible car seats can save parents a lot of time and money versus buying separate infant and toddler seats. Though bulkier and heavier than infant car seats, convertible car seats are still convenient and versatile due to their multi-use functionality, not to mention that they cut down on the amount of baby equipment that you would otherwise buy and have to store.
Many parents opt to use an infant car seat for their newborn, and then eventually transition to a convertible car seat when their baby outgrows the infant seat. Either way, you’ll find that a convertible car seat is an essential component in your baby care arsenal, especially for keeping your child in a rear-facing position until the recommended age of two years old.
Convertible Car Seat Features to Look For
- Keep ease of use in mind when comparing convertible car seat models. The easier it is to install in your car, secure your child, adjust the straps, and transfer to another vehicle, the more efficient (and enjoyable) your and your baby’s overall experience will be.
- A 5-point harness is essential for maximum protection. It is made up of a strap for each shoulder, a strap for each hip, and a strap that is positioned between baby’s legs. This feature should be available on all newer car seats.
- Look for side impact protection in the form of enhanced side wings or specialized energy-absorbing foam, both of which will shield baby’s head and chest in the event of a side-impact collision.
- Compatibility with the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system has been mandatory for all car seats since 2002. Some car seat makers have implemented their own specialized LATCH technology. This is so car seats can be attached directly to the vehicle’s frame rather than just relying on the seat belts to secure them.
- For maximum functionality, get a convertible car seat with a large weight range that can last your child for several years. Look for a weight range encompassing 4 pounds to over 100 pounds.
- If using a convertible car seat for your infant, look for one with significant reclining capability in the rear-facing position. This will keep your baby’s head from falling forward when they sleep.
- Try to find a convertible car seat with shoulder straps that do not need to be re-threaded when adjusting the harness for height. This is a hassle that some car seats avoid with the implementation of one-handed harness adjustment.
- Consider buying a convertible car seat with extended rear-facing capability. The current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is for toddlers to remain in rear-facing position until age two (or until they meet the height and weight limit for the car seat). This is because the rear-facing position is five times safer than the forward-facing one. Though most convertible car seats accomodate rear-facing up to 35 pounds, some will go up to 40 or 45 pounds.
- Machine-washable car seat covers are a breeze to clean, as opposed to those that cannot be removed and can only be spot-cleaned with a damp cloth. As a nice bonus, some car seats allow you to remove the seat cover without having to disassemble the harness.
- Buy from a reputable company, so you can be confident that your car seat is safe and meets the required safety standards.
- Never buy a used car seat. The previous owner may not disclose accidents or even minor incidents, which can still cause weaknesses in the seat. The plastic in an older seat may also become brittle, and therefore be vulnerable in a collision. If you do end up using a pre-owned seat, make sure it’s from someone you trust, and that it is less than five years old. Also, be sure to research possible recalls and check the seat label or owner’s handbook to confirm the seat model’s date of expiry.
Convertible car seats are a must to keep baby safe and secure on the road, and to avoid having to buy separate car seats for each stage of your child’s growth. By taking the time to research and investigate all the options available, you’ll be able to choose the right car seat that fits your needs, your vehicle, and your budget.