Best Convertible and All-in-One Car Seats of 2018 – Independent Ratings and Expert Reviews

(updated: November 16, 2018)
Baby in the Car

The best convertible car seats are dependent on features that simplify your life. Families today spend a lot of time in the car, whether it’s commuting to work, the grocery, soccer practice or vacations. Since we spend so much time on the go, it’s a no-brainer that a safe, comfortable and easy-to-use seat is a must have item for your kiddo.

Our site lists some of the best baby car seats on the market today, including infant, convertible, and booster seats. But why choose convertible?

The answer: convenience.

Convertible car seats have several benefits, including:

  • Versatility – Some models can grow with your child from the time they leave the hospital to the time they no longer need a child safety seat.
  • Saves money – Though a convertible can cost more than a single infant or booster seat, it costs less than buying two or more seats as your child grows.
  • Can be passed down – Convertibles usually have a long lifespan, sometimes 10 years or more before they expire. So you could easily use it for younger siblings or any child you babysit.
  • Higher weight limits – Convertible seats usually have a higher rear-facing weight limit than infant seats, which better allows for extended rear-facing (ERF), which the AAP highly recommends.

Jump to Ratings
Convertible Car Seat
Convertible Car Seat Ratings

Rear-facing that converts to a Front-facing position.

Rear-facing position: 0 – 2 years +
Front-facing position: 2+ years

*The AAP now recommends rear-facing for as long as possible beyond 2 years.

Infant Car Seat
Infant Car Seat Ratings

Rear-facing position only, provides more support for the child’s head.

Age Limit: ~ 2 years

*The AAP now recommends rear-facing for as long as possible beyond 2 years.

Investigated

Every one of the convertible seats listed below received a score of 8.0 (out of 10) or above in our testing. We’ve scoured expert sites, customer reviews, product specs and parent testimonials to break down the facts so you can make an educated decision. Don’t waste precious time and energy jumping from place to place. Let us do the hard work for you so your time and money is well spent.

Whether you choose an infant or convertible safety seat is up to you and your family’s lifestyle. Only you know what’s best for your child. Browse our reviews to find your best car seat.

When you read through the reviews, pay special attention to the things that matter to you as a parent. There is no one perfect seat. Weigh the pros and cons of each product for yourself, your lifestyle, and your baby.

For example, some parents won’t mind an infant safety seat that is more challenging to install because they’ll keep it in one car 99% of the time. For other parents who need to frequently switch the seat between cars, a lightweight and easy to install/uninstall seat is a must. Parents with small vehicles will want the most compact models they can find. Think about what you’re looking for in a car seat first. Perhaps even make a list. Then you’ll be ready to start shopping!


Best Seller Seat (2018 Moms’ Picks)

Graco 4ever ​All-in-One​

Graco 4ever ​All-in-One
Check Graco 4ever ​All-in-One price
Price: Average Our rating:
9.8
Our Choice

The Graco 4ever All-in-One has been a tried and true favorite for many families who love convertible car seats. Though it’s not perfect, it’s the closest we’ve seen among convertible seats that are often lacking in one area or another.

It is a meant-to-last car seat, meaning that it fully transitions from rear facing (4-40 pounds) to forward facing (20-65 pounds) to both high back belt-positioning booster (30-100 pounds) and backless booster seat (40-120 pounds) easily while retaining its reliability. It has easy-to-use parts, a premium LATCH system, and double cup holders.

The newest versions of this seat come with a wide variety of color options and an affordable price.

Go to ReviewRead Our Full Review of the Graco 4ever All-in-One

Advantages

Simply put, this is one of the top rated car seats on the market today. A steel frame, impact-absorbing padding, 6 recline positions 10 position headrest, a 5-point safety harness, and a 1-second LATCH system have made it a favorite for ease-of-use, comfort, and safety.

It comes in 8 colors to suit your taste. Switching between modes is easy, and each mode is truer to size than many other convertibles. According to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), it has a peak crash force that is approximately two times the Car Seat Standard.

The cup holders make it easy to travel long distances (just add a drink and some snacks), and the seat pad (comes in 3 parts) is machine washable for those inevitable accidents. The seat is also FAA approved for air travel.

Disadvantages

In some cars, the rear-facing and booster positions proved to be a bad fit due to the larger size of this car seat. You may not be able to fit it in a car with bucket seats, for instance. Legroom for front passengers may be an issue when this car seat fully reclined for rear-facing.

One big complaint involved a rattling sound in the adjustable headrest. Other smaller issues involved straps that can’t be removed for machine washing and some difficulty tightening the safety harness in rear-facing mode.

Compilation of customer opinions

At the end of the day, this is one of the best convertibles on the market. Parents love how simple it is to both install and use, its durability, proven crash safety record, and how well it grows with their children. This is truly a forever seat that will become a regular fixture in your car.


Best Convertible Car Seats of 2018

Convertible Vehicle Seat (Front Facing position)

A convertible car seat is one of the best options for parents so they don’t have to shop for a new seat each time their child outgrows their current seat. Convenience and ease of use are the main reasons why parents choose convertible models. When you see how quickly your baby grows, you will understand why convertible seats are a huge timesaver.

A convertible car seat starts as rear-facing and transitions into a forward-facing seat. Some convertible models also convert into booster seats. These models are specifically designed to take your child from infancy through elementary school and beyond.

The best baby seats should install quickly and easily, should be simple to use for every trip, and should be light enough to switch from car to car. Extra accessories are also a nice bonus, since your child will have changing needs as they grow (e.g. cup and snack holders).

These seats are often bulkier and heavier than infant safety seats, so you might want to look at the weight of each seat as well. Heavier seats, however, can absorb more bumps from the road and provide a comfier ride for your child.

When browsing our reviews, here are the top 7 things to consider before you buy a convertible car seat:

  1. Ease of use, including installation, conversion to other modes, and getting your child in and out of the seat.
  2. Expiration – 10+ years is ideal
  3. Car compatibility – measure your backseat dimensions and compare to the seat dimensions
  4. Height and weight limits – should allow for ERF well past 2 years old
  5. Level indicators – makes adjusting the recline a lot easier
  6. LATCH weight limits – higher the better to allow for ERF
  7. Lifestyle – Urban families or frequent travelers need light, easy-to-install seats for cabs and planes

Using these criteria, here are the convertible car seats that stood out from the rest of the crowd.


Our 2018 Ratings of Convertible Car Seats

Graco 4ever ​All-in-One Graco Extend2Fit Britax Marathon ClickTight Graco Milestone All-in-One Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Diono Rainier All-In-One Clek Fllo Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One Britax USA Boulevard Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max Graco Size4Me 65 Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible Chicco NextFit Britax Advocate ClickTight Evenflo Triumph LX
Graco 4ever ​All-in-One
Price: Average
Our Rating:
9.8
Graco Extend2Fit
Price: Average
Our Rating:
9.6
Britax Marathon ClickTight
Price: High
Our Rating:
9.5
Graco Milestone All-in-One
Price: Average
Our Rating:
9.5
Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1
Price: Low
Our Rating:
9.4
Diono Rainier All-In-One
Price: High
Our Rating:
9.3
Clek Fllo
Price: High
Our Rating:
9.1
Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One
Price: Average
Our Rating:
9
Britax USA Boulevard
Price: High
Our Rating:
8.9
Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max
Price: High
Our Rating:
8.8
Graco Size4Me 65
Price: Average
Our Rating:
8.6
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible
Price: High
Our Rating:
8.4
Chicco NextFit
Price: High
Our Rating:
8.3
Britax Advocate ClickTight
Price: High
Our Rating:
8.2
Evenflo Triumph LX
Price: Average
Our Rating:
8.1

Graco Extend2Fit​

Graco Extend2Fit
Check Graco Extend2Fit price
Price: Average Our rating:
9.6

The Graco Extend2Fit is a winner for those who want extended rear-facing past 2 years old. It's very affordable. The 50 pound rear-facing weight limit is one of the highest for the Graco line. It comes with a 4-position leg extension, adding 5” of legroom for your child.

Even better, the 10-position headrest allows for a great fit as your child grows. The seat itself has a 6-position recline as well. Included with this seat are Fuss Free Harness Storage Pockets, 2 crotch strap positions, a steel reinforced frame, InRight LATCH system, two cup holders, and a machine washable cover.

This seat also has a 10 year lifespan, comes in 6 different colors and other upgraded versions as well.

Go to ReviewRead Our Full Review of the Graco Extend2Fit

Advantages

This is one truly versatile seat. The compact size allows for good legroom for front seat passengers, even in rear-facing mode. The push-on LATCH system is really easy to use.

As far as safety goes, the performance is excellent, as parents have reported from real-life crash experiences. The Simply Safe Adjust harness moves the harness and headrest height in one motion, no rethreading of straps is required. It also has a fantastic steel frame that feels sturdy but is still comfortable.

Disadvantages

The Extend2Fit is bulkier in width than some seats. If you need to fit three children in the back seat, this might not be the best choice. Also, the fit probably won't be snug enough for preemies or newborns under 7 pounds. The seat cover can be hard to remove and replace for cleaning as well.

There are some rules about weight, recline, and use of some features that differ when using the seat rear-facing vs. forward-facing. These can be confusing at times, so keeping the manual on hand is wise. Some parents had trouble getting the harness straps tight while others found seat belt installation in rear-facing to be quite difficult.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, customers have been satisfied with this product and recommend it, especially for extended rear-facing. It lacks an easy-to-remove cover, which is really the biggest downside, but the affordable price makes up for that if you're on a budget.

Britax Marathon ClickTight​

Britax Marathon ClickTight
Check Britax Marathon ClickTight price
Price: High Our rating:
9.5

The Britax Marathon is one of the best convertible seats that we’ve come across. From the many safety features to the 8 creative color/pattern options (ex: Cowmooflage), it's a considerable but worthwhile investment.

This seat fits children rear-facing from 5 – 40 pounds and forward-facing from 20 – 65 pounds (up to 49" tall). Though it's not without a few flaws, the ease of installation and safety record far outweighs the negatives.

Go to ReviewRead Our Full Review of the Britax Marathon ClickTight

Advantages

A steel frame, impact-absorbing tether, and energy absorbing base are all part of Britax’s exclusive SafeCell impact protection. This seat is made in the USA and is top-rated by the NHTSA

.

The ClickTight installation system is easy to use, or “idiot proof”’ as one parent noted, so you should have no issues with that. With the smooth, non-skid base, the seat won’t leave marks in your car as easily as some other seats do.

A full range of 8 color/pattern combinations is available, from pink to Azul and polka dots to cow patterns. It also has 14 harness strap positions and 7 recline positions to offer a comfy ride as your child grows.

Disadvantages

The crotch straps may be too short. Several parents reported they were too tight on their child's legs. However, there are 2 crotch buckle positions, so it could be that they were unaware of how to adjust the crotch position.

Instead of rear-facing top tethers, which are no longer included, Britax recommends an anti-rebound bar and now sells another version that comes with an anti-rebound bar. Or you can buy it separately. While not a necessity, it would be nice if they had included it from the get-go.

Other issues included harness straps that don't adjust to equal tightness, crumbs accumulating in the ClickTight release button, seat padding coming loose and a jammed recline handle. How it fits in various vehicles is widely debated. It will depend on how you use it and how big your car interior is.

Compilation of customer opinions

Parents generally had positive reviews of this car seat. It's questionable as to which vehicles it may fit in, so you'll want to measure your car interior before purchasing. For a premium priced seat, the easy ClickTight installation and safety features make the ClickTight Marathon well worth your investment.

Graco Milestone All-in-One​

Graco Milestone All-in-One
Check Graco Milestone All-in-One price
Price: Average Our rating:
9.5

The Graco Milestone All-In-One is a promising car seat that, while relatively new on the market, parents are pleased with. This seat comes in a rear-facing mode from 5-40 pounds, a forward facing mode with a harness from 20-65 pounds, and a high-back, belt-positioning booster for 30-100 pounds. It comes in 2 colors - Ayla (pink/white) and Gotham (black w/ white trim).

The Simply Safe Adjust Harness allows you to adjust the harness and headrest height at the same time, which makes it easier to secure your child properly.

The seat comes with an adjustable base in 4 recline positions (two each for rear-facing and forward-facing). The frame itself is steel-reinforced with energy absorbing EPS foam. There are premium, push-on lower LATCH connectors and a cup holder included.

Go to ReviewRead Our Review of the Graco Milestone All-in-One

Advantages

Almost all parents who have tried this seat talk about the no-rethread harness which makes it simple adjust the strap positions as your child grows. The LATCH system with push-on connectors also installs extremely easy in many different types of cars - from SUVs to sports cars.

Converting, installing, cleaning, and even using the seat is pretty simple. Most of the adjustments can be done one-handed. For first time parents, this will be a huge benefit. The seat cover is easy to remove and machine washable. Everything else is wipe-clean.

When you don’t need the harness straps while in the booster seat mode, you can store them in the harness storage compartment built into the seat so you won’t lose them. Finally, it truly is a good value for the money when compared to other seats.

Disadvantages

Though this seat meets or exceeds all safety standards in the US, it is made in China, so there can be some quality control issues. Some parents noted that food can get caught in the harness tension latch, which could hinder proper tightening. Always check the latch and clean any loose debris before using it. There is no backless booster mode, which some parents didn’t like.

It doesn’t provide as snug a fit for newborns and preemies as the 4ever. While the one-handed adjustments are great, some inquisitive kids can easily loosen straps and recline/headrest adjustments.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, customers really loved this seat, and so did we. If you need to frequently transfer the seat from car to car or you will be using the seat on airplanes or trains, you may want to move onto something else.

However, for anyone who just needs a good convertible seat that will grow with their family, this is the one for you.

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1​

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1
Check Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 price
Price: Low Our rating:
9.4

The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 definitely focuses on the “growing” and “going” feature. It is certainly for a family that is always on the move - from the time the baby is born to the time you don’t need a seat anymore.

Grow and Go transitions easily from a rear facing seat (5-40 pounds), forward-facing seat (22-65 pounds), and a high-back belt-positioning booster seat (45-100 pounds). It comes in several color choices.

Read Detailed ReviewRead Our Detailed Review of the Safety 1st Grow and Go (3-in-1) - Pros, Cons and Final Verdict

Advantages

Removable infant padding and a shoulder belt positioner maximize comfort and safety for newborn to booster-ready children. Many parents loved the color options and the breathable fabric. They also enjoyed the little details, including harness clip holders which makes getting your child in and out easier.

The slim design means that your car will be able to carry more people in the back seat comfortably. Most car seats are safer in the middle of the back seat anyway, and if you have older children, they won’t be cramped on either side. In rear-facing mode, it also provides more front seat legroom than many other seats on the market. Two built-in cup holders come in handy for toddlers and beyond.

Disadvantages

The amount of padding and the side impact protection far surpasses industry standards but can be a bit too cushy, especially for younger children. Some parents didn’t like the side cup holders because they added bulk and were not removable for easy cleaning. The seat and headrest covers are machine washable on a gentle cycle. Some parents have reported fabric discoloration after multiple cleanings.

With 3 recline positions and a rethread-only infant harness, getting your child strapped in correctly could pose a challenge. Some parents reported that the seat flopped around and they couldn’t get a proper incline angle to fully support the baby’s head when sleeping. This could be due to the type of backseat (i.e. bucket seats), so if you have a sports or compact car, this car seat may not work well for you.

Compilation of customer opinions

For new parents, this one isn’t the best option. We’d recommend starting with an infant seat, then switching to this one. It’s definitely a good option for toddlers and up. One mom even reported that her 18-month-old slept through a 45 mph crash.

Diono Rainier All-In-One​

Diono Rainier All-In-One
Check Diono Rainier All-In-One price
Price: High Our rating:
9.3

Foldable and easy to store, the Diono Rainier is a bit of a revolution within the convertible car seat industry. With its tall, skinny profile, it still offers up all the protection that you could possibly want. The side headrests, EPS foam, extra-deep sidewalls for more impact protection, and fantastic 5-point harness makes it one of the safest options around. Memory foam makes it really comfortable.

The seat has a rear-facing weight limit of 5-50 pounds, forward-facing weight limit of 20-65 pounds, and a booster seat weight limit of 50-120 pounds – wide ranges compared to most seats. It comes in 5 different colors.

Note: There is a brand new version called the Diono Rainier 2AX with the same weight limits, but can only be used as a rear-facing or forward-facing seat and not a booster. They are offered in 7 different, brighter colors with plush, interlock knit fabric and cost about $50 more.

Go to ReviewRead Our Full Review of the Diono Rainier All-In-One

Advantages

With a rear-facing limit of 50 pounds, this seat is a good choice for ERF. The amount of padding, 3-position crotch strap, and adjustable head support with 12 height positions provides a comfortable and safe ride for your child at any size.

The seat is narrow enough that you can fit it comfortably in the backseat with other car seats or older passengers. A longer seat bottom and expandable sides provide extra leg room so that your child isn’t cramped. The best thing is that the seat folds flat for storage and comes with a protective bag so that you can easily transport it for plane rides or store it until you need it again.

New parents will appreciate the Superlatch system with an audible click and visual indicator that simplifies proper installation. An easy-to-use rear-facing tether provides extra stability to prevent seat rotation during a crash. Plus, the seat comes in 5 Euro-inspired designs and colors that complement your modern car interiors.

Disadvantages

Coming in at 29.79 pounds, the seat is quite heavy. It can sometimes be difficult to adjust the harness while it is already on your child. Installation could be challenging for some car models. Be sure to consult the manual, watch some videos on YouTube and call the customer service number if you need help.

Note that the Diono team isn’t well known for being able to troubleshoot installation issues over the phone. Consulting a local car seat technician is probably the best choice should problems arise. This particular model is a very new design that improved upon an older recalled model, so there isn’t a lot of customer feedback yet.

Compilation of customer opinions

Parents have commented on how easy it is so load and unload your child from the seat. They also love that it grows with your child for an extremely long time, prolonging their safety. Many parents have commented on the extra side protection on the head support.

Clek Fllo​

Clek Fllo
Check Clek Fllo price
Price: High Our rating:
9.1

The Clek Fllo 3-Across Convertible Car Seat is quickly gaining fans for its narrow and compact design and chic look. But what’s most impressive about this car seat is the advanced safety features from top to bottom.

Although there are some bumps when installing, the car seat delivers more pluses than minuses. This is one of the few convertible car seats where the rear-facing position can be used until the child reaches 50 pounds.

With both rear-facing and forward-facing positions, you can install using either the vehicle’s seat belts or LATCH system.

The Clek Fllo comes in five fabric types. Everything about the Fllo car seat is high quality. It is sturdy and made to perform to high standards for many years.

Read Review NowRead our Detailed Review of the Clek Fllo

Advantages

The Clek Fllo is one of the best built narrow convertible car seats on the market. Its main attraction is being able to fit three across in most vehicles’ back seats.

Structurally, the car seat incorporates industry-leading safety features, like a steel anti-rebound bar, a patented energy management system to minimize energy forces from the impact of a crash, and advanced side impact protection.

It easily converts from rear-facing to forward-facing and is compact and light enough to move from one vehicle to another. The car seat is also FAA approved for air travel.

The seat’s pad is protected by a stain guard, so dirt and stains can be easily wiped off.

Disadvantages

Depending on vehicle type, fitting the car seat in the rear-facing position may require pulling the front passenger seat up, thus limiting legroom for that passenger. In some vehicles, the car seat may ride high in the back seat when rear-facing.

The release button for the harness strap isn’t in the most accessible spot and the harness itself is rethread style. Some parents report problems with the crotch strap fitting too tightly on their child. However, a longer crotch strap is available to purchase separately.

The biggest disappointment is the lack of a cup holder. It is only available as an add-on accessory purchased separately.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, the Clek Fllo is one of the safest and narrowest convertible car seats on the market. Its versatility allows it to be used 3-across in most vehicles. Plus, it is lightweight enough to move from one vehicle to another or to travel with on an airplane.

Parents appreciate the high quality and durability of the seat itself and the choice of fabric types. It is a sophisticated looking car seat built to take your child from baby to toddler.

Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One​

Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One
Check Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One price
Price: Average Our rating:
9

The Evenflo Symphony is an all-in-one convertible car seat with a lot of details that make it a winner for many parents, no matter their lifestyle. Features include a ton of side-impact protection, buckle pockets, a 5-position adjustable headrest, 3 recline positions, and many more.

The weight limits are: 5-40 pounds for rear facing, 22-65 pounds for forward-facing, and 40-110 pounds in high-back booster mode. With a 60-second installation, it’s great for a busy, on-the-go family. Six color combinations are available.

Go to ReviewRead Our Full Review of the Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One

Advantages

Coming in at just under 25 pounds, this a fairly heavy seat, but the steel frame provides plenty of sturdiness to keep it steady. The wide weight range helps keep your child secure longer than other seats and allows for extended rear-facing. An Infinite Slide harness system provides an accurate fit as your child grows.

The cover is machine washable and dryable (on low heat). The cover itself is durable, with high quality fabric that's very comfortable, especially with the thick padding beneath. Parents of older toddlers and school-age children will appreciate the expandable cup holder that fits larger sippy and drink cups.

Installation is easy for most parents with the Sure LATCH connectors that are self-ratcheting, so you won't have to tug and pull so hard to get it tight.

Disadvantages

While there aren’t a lot of problems with this seat, there have been a few issues. Some parents noted a lot of wear and tear on the straps after several months of use. Other parents had difficulty getting their child at the proper recline position in rear-facing mode, so their child’s head fell forward when sleeping. Adjusting the angle with a pool noodle or towel is recommended.

The size of the seat will likely make a 3 car seat configuration impossible. Your front passengers may also lose some leg room while in rear-facing mode. Your child may outgrow the maximum height of booster mode sooner than the 110 pound weight limit.

Compilation of customer opinions

Parents appreciated that the seat was made in the USA, which often means higher quality. Customer service is also based in the USA. Parents also loved the easy installation. Many of them were concerned with the recline angle in rear-facing mode, and some weren't comfortable using a pool noodle or towel for angle adjustment.

Britax USA Boulevard​

Britax USA Boulevard
Check Britax USA Boulevard price
Price: High Our rating:
8.9

The Britax Boulevard has a rich-sounding name for a good little car seat. With a rear-facing weight limit of 5-40 pounds (and up to 49”), a forward-facing weight range of 20-65 pounds (and up to 49”), it is a great seat for your growing child.

The seat features seat belt lock offs, adjustable crotch straps, 3 adjustable recline settings, and a 14-position no-rethread harness. There is an upgraded version that comes with an anti-rebound bar, or you can buy one separately if you have a standard model. It comes in 6 color options.

Advantages

Some of the advantages to this seat include the ease of use. Britax provides exemplary customer support and a clear, easy-to-follow user manual to guide you through installation and conversion. The seat belt lock offs are incredibly easy to use as well. What we liked most was the easy ClickTight installation system that quickly secures the seat with just the vehicle belt.

A 14-position harness, 2-position buckle and easy-to-adjust headrest grows along with your child and is a lifesaver for those growth spurts. The seat doesn’t take up as much room from front to back as some other seats do, making it the perfect option for tall front seat passengers.

Parents love the cushioning, saying it’s much more comfortable than other seats they’ve tried, with better quality fabric that’s more breathable than older models.

Disadvantages

If you have a taller child, you may want to look elsewhere. While this seat is roomy, it doesn’t offer an ideal amount of legroom like many other seats. This could mean that your child will outgrow the seat earlier than some of the suggested weight limits.

It lacks a cup holder and doesn’t convert to a booster seat, so you’ll need to buy one of those when your child reaches 65 pounds. It’s also on the pricey side, but the great safety ratings and USA construction could make it well worth the investment.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, customers have been impressed with this seat. Like other Britax seats, the lack of accessories has been a sore point for some parents, but if you’re happy with a quality seat with few bells and whistles, this one is a great option.

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max​

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max
Check Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max price
Price: High Our rating:
8.8

The Maxi Cosi Pria 85 Max is a fantastic seat that fits a wide range of children. In the rear-facing mode, it fits 5-40 pounds and 40 inches or less. In the forward-facing mode it fits 22-85 pounds and 29-52 inches. The lower anchor weight limits are 40 pounds. The highest harness position is 17 inches and the lowest harness position is 9 inches or 6.5 inches with the infant wedge.

The seat comes with a 3-position crotch strap, 3 recline settings, a no-rethread harness, an easy to remove cover, and 2 infant positioning inserts. It’s designed to be safe while providing a super quick in-and-out process for on-the-go families. It comes in six fun colors/patterns.

Advantages

The inclusion of 2 infant inserts is somewhat rare among car seats, but a welcome benefit for parents of preemies. With a number of adjustment settings all over the seat, it’s easy to get the proper fit as your child grows.

One huge advantage it has over other seats is that the seat pad and harness covers snap on and off easily without having to unthread straps or remove the seat. They’re both machine washable and dryer safe. Harness holders keep the straps out of the way so getting your child in and out is easier. The flip-away buckle and ClipQuik chest clip also make getting in and out quicker.

A cup holder, comfy cushions and premium fabric ensure a great ride for those long road trips. Parents will also appreciate the added leg room for front seat passengers. FlexTech construction works well to distribute forces during a crash. With Air Protect side impact protection and thick padding, the Maxi-Cosi Pria meets or exceeds all US safety standards.

Disadvantages

Premium quality means premium price. Easily twice as much as many of the popular brands, this seat may not fit in everyone’s budget. The back of the seat isn’t covered at all, so you’ll see all the stickers and model info. There’s only a line guide for leveling instead of a bubble level.

Its wide profile could make adding additional car seats difficult and may prevent it from fitting well in smaller vehicles. Some parents had a hard time unbuckling the magnetic chest clip and others couldn’t get the seat installed tightly enough in their cars.

Compilation of customer opinions

Sometimes you get what you pay for, but in this case, the Maxi-Cosi Pria isn’t better than a lot of cheaper models. Keep an eye out for sales and special offers. If you’re still expecting, add this one to your baby registry and ask your family and friends to buy it as a group gift.

Graco Size4Me 65​

Graco Size4Me 65
Check Graco Size4Me 65 price
Price: Average Our rating:
8.6

Called “a seat for all families” the Graco Size4Me 65 is a fantastic seat that can grow with your child from 4 to 40 pounds rear-facing and 40-65 pounds forward-facing. It fits preemies and newborns quite well, something that most convertibles will not do without an infant insert.

The seat uses InRight LATCH, which is easier to use than many others on the market. Note that when your child is 45 pounds or over, the vehicle belt must be used instead of the LATCH system. It comes in 3 different colors.

Advantages

Parents love this seat because of the extremely generous height limits that allow for ERF until the 40 pound weight limit. Kids often outgrow the height limit before the weight in other models. There is a lot of legroom with this seat in general, both for your child and for front seat passengers.

The seat is easy to install and works in a majority of cars, whether you have a compact car, an older car, or something new. The push-on LATCH connectors make installation a lot easier than the hook connectors in many Graco seats. The EPS foam, lined wings and side impact protection are top of the line and come standard with every seat.

For the price, it is one of the best values. The fabric doesn’t fade in the sun, which is great if you live in a warmer climate. The cup holder is fully enclosed, so you can use it for loose snacks if needed.

Disadvantages

Some people have had a hard time tightening the harness straps, especially on smaller babies. The seat itself is a bit bulky even though it does fit into most cars - the bulk comes more in height than in width, so for low-profile cars, this could pose an issue.

Other parents had issues with the chest clip either being too difficult to open or so easy their toddlers could open it. Some didn’t think the seat itself was padded or breathable enough. Be sure to provide shade for your child during hot conditions as you drive, dress them lightly and watch for overheating.

Compilation of customer opinions

Though the seat cover is machine washable, it’s not dryer safe, so this could be a turnoff if you like to wash your seat covers frequently and don’t have a lot of time to spare. Overall, however, parents seem to be happy with this budget-friendly seat despite a few flaws.

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible​

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible
Check Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible price
Price: High Our rating:
8.4

The Italian-made Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible is one of the older convertible car seats on the market, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in quality. Peg Perego uses time-tested technology that other car seat manufacturers struggle to find. The design focuses on head, neck and spine stability, which is crucial during a crash.

The generous size ranges are comparable with other seats on the market. It has a rear-facing capacity of 5-45 pounds and a forward-facing capacity of 22-65 pounds. It comes standard with an infant cushion and harness covers and is available in 7 fashionable colors.

Advantages

The deluxe LATCH straps make this not only safer, but easier to use than other harnesses. Sometimes, buckles and straps can burn babies’ skin, but they are well-covered to avoid this, which makes it a good option for hot climates.

The conversion process is easier with a simple snap and twist motion. The 7-year expiration date means that it could last through a few children, but not as long as some of the 10-year models. The thing we liked most about it is that it stood up to several real-world crashes and kept the baby completely safe.

Disadvantages

Criticisms vary but are fairly rare with this seat. Besides the higher price tag and shorter expiration date (7 years), some reported their child could easily unbuckle the harness while others had issues with the recline angles and bulk when placed beside other car seats. Always do your research to make sure the seat will fit in your car or on an airplane seat, and thoroughly inspect all parts before using.

The rear-facing belt path is unique and will take a little while to get used to, which also means that installation may take longer. Initially, tightening the harness is difficult because of the padding, though should get easier with continued use.

Oddly enough, there are important spec misprints in the instruction manual (i.e. states 30 lbs as maximum LATCH limit, but it’s actually 40) and other typos. Consult the website and call the company to confirm if these have been fixed. But it does have a holder for the manual so you can keep it with the seat at all times.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, parents enjoy this convertible car seat. They say their children sleep better and that the ride is more comfortable. The typos in the manual annoy them, but they mentioned that there is an updated version on the website. It’s a pricey model, but we think it’s worth the investment.

Chicco NextFit​

Chicco NextFit
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Price: High Our rating:
8.3

For children rear-facing 5-40 pounds and forward-facing 22-65 pounds, the Chicco NextFit is a great convertible seat for parents who prioritize safety. The sturdiness inside gives way to a comfortable outside as well - it is truly the best of both worlds. The standard version is now only available in one color (black) while the updated NextFit Zip versions have a few more colors to choose from.

This seat is a fantastic choice for parents who want something that is a high-quality car seat for the years through preschool and early elementary school. Several exclusive safety and installation features like the ReclineSure 9-position leveling system

make it both safe and easy to use for busy parents.

Advantages

The biggest advantage to the Chicco NextFit car seat is the steel frame. This makes it sturdier for use with additional children as well as providing stability in an accident. It also makes the seat sturdier to better stand up to some abuse that comes with travelling, so if you are going to fly with the seat or you are going to take longer road trips, this might be the best option.

It is also quite easy to clean because the seat cover is machine washable. You can even get a guide that shows you how to clean certain stains and spills.

The SuperCinch latch tightener makes proper installation a breeze. Nine recline levels, a height-adjustable headrest and automatic harness adjustment makes this a true grow-with-your-child seat.

Disadvantages

The steel frame does make this a bit heavier (25 pounds) and bigger than your traditional car seat, so it’s better for those who don’t need to switch cars often. It will fit in smaller cars, but it won’t leave much room. There is no cup holder or booster mode with this seat.

Another sticking point for some parents is that it can’t be used with a stroller, but this is true with most convertible seats. When rear-facing, it can be difficult to adjust and fit the straps, which was a major issue for some parents. Others noted the straps irritated their child’s bare legs, particularly if wearing dresses or onesies.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, users love the safety features of this seat. For parents who have one car or don’t intend to move it, it’s a great option. Some users complained that it was too big for smaller cars. For parents who have children close in age, they have appreciated the durability so they can use it as younger siblings come along. It is on the high end for price, but it can be a good investment for the right family.

Britax Advocate ClickTight​

Britax Advocate ClickTight
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Price: High Our rating:
8.2

With a rear-facing range of 5-40 pounds and forward-facing range of 20-65 pounds, the Britax Advocate ClickTight is a convertible car seat that is perfect for the family who doesn’t like to stay at home. It comes in 3 colors, all a combo of gray/black.

With 14 harness positions, the lowest at 8.5” and the highest at 19.5”, it has quite a wide range compared with other models. It has an expiration of ten years, which means that it could last through a few children if you plan to have them close together and take care of the seat. Replacement parts can are available through Britax as needed.

Read Review NowRead our Detailed Review of the Britax Advocate ClickTight

Advantages

There are quite a few advantages, especially for parents who intend to use their car seats frequently. The no-rethread harness makes this one of the easiest harnesses to readjust as your child ages or if you have more than one child.

The ClickTight installation makes it a simple seat to transfer between multiple cars and it stays put while driving, even on leather or vinyl upholstery, where other car seats sometimes slide around. It’s made to withstand impacts from any angle with Britax’s exclusive SafeCell impact protection system.

This has 7 recline settings in both the forward and rear-facing models, which means that it can have micro adjustments for overall comfort – and to better fit into different cars. It does take some time to learn how to adjust it comfortably, but once you do, most parents agree that it becomes easier. If you travel long distances with your child, this is crucial because you can adjust it depending on the day, the sun, or your baby’s mood.

This has 7 recline settings in both the forward and rear-facing models, which means that it can have micro adjustments for overall comfort – and to better fit into different cars. It does take some time to learn how to adjust it comfortably, but once you do, most parents agree that becomes easier. If you travel long distances with your child, this is crucial because you can adjust it depending on the day, the sun, or your baby’s mood.

Disadvantages

Coming in at almost 30 pounds, this car seat is sturdy, but heavy. It also has a short crotch buckle, which makes it difficult to secure in some instances. If this is an issue, you can use the release mechanism to lengthen the upper straps so they meet the crotch strap easier.

Some users had problems getting the LATCH system tight enough in the rear-facing position. Others noted uneven harness straps in the forward-facing position. It’s also a bit pricier than other models. It lacks a few nice amenities such as cup holders.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, customers who have reviewed the Britax Advocate ClickTight have been very happy with this long-lasting and efficient convertible car seat.

Some customers found the weight to be difficult, but the ease-of-use makes up for it. This is a premier option for parents who want to keep their children in rear-facing car seats for a longer time to keep them as safe as possible while in the car.

Evenflo Triumph LX​

Evenflo Triumph LX
Check Evenflo Triumph LX price
Price: Average Our rating:
8.1

The Evenflo Triumph LX is a good-looking seat with a good height and weight range. The rear facing mode goes from 5-40 pounds and the forward facing mode from 22-65 pounds. The seat itself is about 19 pounds, 20” wide, and 23” high - making it a good fit for most cars, though smaller cars may have problems with the width of the seat.

Made in the USA, the seat has buckle pockets, 2 integrated cup holders, and comes in 3 color options.

Advantages

This seat is quite easy to install in most vehicles and is pretty lightweight. The LATCH system can be used up to 45 pounds, which is higher than some other seats. The easy-off machine washable padding and removable head & body pillow make this seat extremely comfortable.

It’s been extensively crash tested, most notably for Evenflo’s side impact standard for structural integrity, which is almost twice the federal crash test standards. Most newborns will fit into the seat from the start thanks to the easy to adjust harness, head and body pillow, and plenty of strap positions. The multiple recline angles can be easily adjusted with a button on the front of the base.

The seat is FAA approved and has dual, expandable cup holders that fit any size cup. Of course, the seat is made in the USA, so it tends to have higher quality materials.

Disadvantages

There is no built-in lockoff system in place to help with seatbelt installation. It doesn’t have harness strap covers, and none are sold separately. Some parents had issues with the straps irritating their baby’s skin. In fact, it seems that this seat lacks any accessories that you can buy for this model.

Finally, the seat is a bit wider than some seats, but usually leaves good legroom for the front passengers while in rear-facing mode. Some parents, however, found it difficult to turn the Tension Right adjusters (knobs located on the sides of the base) when installed in a smaller vehicle such as a Nissan Rogue.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, parents like this seat, but they weren’t happy with the lack of available accessories which seemed odd to us, because Evenflo has many products, and some of their other seats offer many accessories.


Let’s touch on some questions about convertible car seats that many parents ask

FAQ

We’ll dive into some more details at the bottom of the page.

  1. What is a convertible car seat? Simply stated, it’s a car seat that converts to several different modes to accommodate a growing child depending on his/her weight and height. Some convertibles are listed as 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 or All-in-one models. They all have a rear-facing infant mode, then convert to a forward-facing harnessed seat. Some will also convert to a harnessed or belt-positioning highback booster seat or even a backless booster seat.
  2. What’s the safest convertible car seat? All car seats sold in the US must meet Federal and ASTM safety regulations. Most seats exceed those standards, so pretty much any seat you buy will be “safe”, but ONLY if used correctly. A whopping 70% or more of seats aren’t used correctly. So, we strongly feel that the safest seats are those that are the EASIEST to install and use daily.
  3. Do any convertible car seats have bases? The short answer is no. You may be able to find third-party vendors still selling a couple of seats such as the Graco SmartSeat or the Orbit Baby G3, which did have bases, but those have been discontinued. We wouldn’t recommend purchasing these, as the manufacturer may not update you about recalls, have available replacement parts, etc. Convertibles are meant to stay in the car so their base is built into the seat.
  4. When should I switch to a convertible car seat? If you have an infant seat, and your child has outgrown the weight or height limit, you can switch to a convertible to allow for extended rear-facing or if she’s ready for forward-facing.
  5. Can you use a convertible seat for a newborn? You can, though keep in mind that the AAP and several child safety experts recommend a dedicated infant seat for newborns up to 8 pounds or more. Convertible seats tend to be roomier, so they may not offer a snug enough fit for a very small baby or preemie. Otherwise, if your baby isn’t super small, a convertible seat should fit her just fine.

Best Rated Infant (Rear-Facing Only) Car Seats of 2018

Infant Safety Seat (Rear Facing only)

Though a convertible seat can grow with your child longer, many safety experts recommend starting with an infant seat as opposed to a convertible. They’re designed specifically to support newborns and very small babies and tend to have a snugger fit with better-fitting harnesses than some convertibles.

It is so critical to have a quality car seat for your newborn that the hospital will even send a nurse to your car to check the seat and make sure that it is installed properly. Simply put, if there is one thing to “splurge” on, it isn’t a cute outfit or a fancy crib – it’s the car seat.

Ideally, you want to find an infant seat that will provide comfort and safety for your child while still fitting into your budget. Choosing the right one isn’t always easy, so we strive to provide updated, easy-to-read, accurate information to simplify your search.

The best infant car seat reviews present a well-rounded look at all facets of car seats, including what’s great and not so great about them. We study several characteristics of each product to get a thorough review so you can save time and money while still getting the best seat for your baby. For each product listed, we determine our rating and review on questions most parents have while shopping for a quality seat.

  • Which car seats provide the safest ride?
  • Which are the most comfortable (for both baby and parents)?
  • Which are the most user-friendly in terms of installation and daily use?
  • Which have the highest weight and height limits to allow for extended rear-facing?
  • Which are the most value for the money?

Technology is quickly advancing everywhere, including the safety seat market. Car seats have come a long way in the last few years and can accommodate a wider range of ages and sizes. Keep in mind that the AAP now recommends keeping children rear-facing for as long as possible. So, look for infant seats with higher rear-facing weight limits such as the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35​.

With just the right car seat, it’s easier to enjoy each and every car ride with your baby, from a short grocery run to a long road trip. But would you believe that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for a great seat?

Take the Chicco KeyFit 30 for instance. It costs less than several designer models and is our highest rated seat. Discover why it’s one of our top 3 highest rated infant seats in our mini and detailed reviews.


Infant Car Seats Rating 2018

Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Evenflo SafeMax
Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat
Price: High
Our Rating:
9.9
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35
Price: High
Our Rating:
9.7
Evenflo SafeMax
Price: Average
Our Rating:
9.5

Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat​

Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat
Check Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat price
Price: High Our rating:
9.9
Our Choice

Out of all the car seats on the market today, the Chicco KeyFit 30 is one of the most recommended car seats by neonatal nurses for its safety standards, personalization, and comfort. If you have a child that has special physical needs, consider giving this seat a try. It comes in 5 colors and is designed for infants 4 - 30 pounds.

Read Big ReviewRead Our Detailed Review of the Chicco Keyfit

Advantages

The Chicco KeyFit 30 is one of the only car seats on the market recommended for premature infants. This is because it adjusts to an extremely small size without cutting back on protection or comfort. A spring-loaded leveling foot and two bubble levels ensure you get the right angle so baby’s head won’t slump.

Parents love this seat because it’s easy to install, and the instruction manual provides a lot of support and guidance. Many of the features are smaller, making this a more compact and easy to use seat, especially for petite parents. It’s small profile makes for an easier fit for smaller cars or side-by-side car seats. It’s compatible with all Chicco strollers.

Disadvantages

One of the biggest disadvantages of this car seat is that the fabric, though easy to clean, does not breathe. If you live in a warmer climate and/or you don’t have a strong air conditioning system in your car, you may want to monitor your child for overheating. However, this is a very rare problem.

Compilation of customer opinions

By far, customers love the easy installation and say it’s easier to use than other car seats they’ve tried. They report that it’s comfortable and appreciate the varied fabric color and pattern options. If you are stuck on your search, this one’s a real winner.

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35​

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35
Check Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 price
Price: High Our rating:
9.7

All Peg Perego seats are known to combine safety, luxury, and beautiful features that you just cannot find in any other car seat. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio is no exception - this is a superb seat you will love to use. It comes in 12 fashionable colors and is designed for babies 4 - 35 pounds.

Read Detailed ReviewRead Our Detailed Review of the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35

Advantages

The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio is one of the most popular options among families for quite a few reasons. It is certainly worth considering, especially if you are going to be in your car quite a bit.

The anti-rebound bar on the base is a unique feature that will provide extra protection if there is a front or a rear collision. If you drive in traffic that is stop and go, this can help stabilize the baby during sudden stops and starts.

Parents also appreciate that the seat is attractive and has some of the highest rated safety options. Color coded belt paths help ensure proper strap adjustment, and the side impact protection has 6 adjustment levels to protect baby’s head and shoulders, no matter their size.

Disadvantages

Some parents have complained that the seat is uncomfortable to carry when the canopy is fully extended. Several noted that the material is a bit more difficult to clean, so if you plan on feeding your child in the car, this might not be a great option. (But feeding them in the car isn’t recommended anyway!) It may also not leave a lot of legroom for taller front seat passengers.

Compilation of customer opinions

For parents who can afford to spend a little bit more for peace of mind, this car seat has almost always left them satisfied. If you do plan on frequent car trips, the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio is an option you will certainly want to think about.

Evenflo SafeMax​

Evenflo SafeMax
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Price: Average Our rating:
9.5

Evenflo is well known for innovation and thorough testing when it comes to safety and security for your baby. The Evenflo SafeMax is the product of years of research. It’s the first rollover-tested car seat and is designed for babies 4 - 35 pounds.

Read Detailed ReviewRead Our Review of the Evenflo SafeMax

Advantages

One of the biggest advantages is the anti-rebound bar that offers more support and safety for your child. The lowest harness settings fit smaller babies, but the model also fits babies that tend to be longer and taller (up to 35 pounds) so you can keep them in a rear-facing seat longer. The different settings for height and width make this a perfect fit for almost everyone.

This stylish seat also feels expensive even though it’s not. The canopy is generous for those sunny days. As far as safety, EPS foam lines the entire inside of the carrier, protecting against impact but also against bumps in the road. A SuperCinch tightener and one-pull harness make securing both seat and baby effortless.

Disadvantages

One of the biggest problems with this seat is that the harnesses can be difficult to adjust so you should closely follow the user manual. The handle may also be stiff and difficult to move. For taller parents, the seat needs a bit more room, so you may have to move your front seat forward.

Compilation of customer opinions

Overall, customers rate the Evenflo SafeMax as a safe, reliable option for preemies and beyond. They like that it’s comfortable and holds the baby at a natural angle.

Go to Full Infant Safety Seats Rating


Our Top Rated Infant Travel System

Also called car seat / stroller combos, travel systems allow you to attach baby’s car seat to the stroller without removing her from the car seat. They’re perfect for long walks through the zoo,a museum, or around the neighborhood.

Several infant seats you’ll see on our site can either be bought alone or as part of a travel system. There are different stroller models depending on your lifestyle, including 3-wheeled, 4-wheeled, jogging and double strollers. Check out our #1 rated travel system below:

Chicco Bravo Trio​

Chicco Bravo Trio
Check Chicco Bravo Trio price
Price: High Our rating:
9.6

The Chicco Bravo Trio is a top rated travel system that has a stroller, one of Chicco’s safest car seats and one base included. It was designed for parents who are always on the go.

For stroller-only use, has an upper weight limit of 50 pounds, but you’ll need to use the infant seat with the stroller until your child is 6 months old. However, you can remove the stroller seat until you need it to keep from getting it dirty in the meantime.

Go to ResearchDetailed Review of Chicco Bravo Trio - Travel System

Advantages

The large storage basket beneath the seat is accessible from both the front and the back. It also has a large canopy that protects your child from the elements. Setting up the car seat, whether in your car, in the stroller, or as a carrier, is extremely easy.

Parents love that it comes with accessories that are often sold separately with other travel systems. They really appreciate the parent tray for holding cell phones, drinks, etc. while out for a stroll at the zoo or mall.

Finally, the seat is much lighter (9 pounds) than other options in this category, perfect for parents who plan to take their baby shopping or those who have a long walk from car to home. The one-handed fold and carry handle makes transporting the stroller quick and easy, while the height-adjustable handle accommodates short or tall parents.

Disadvantages

The car seat/stroller combo can be a bit difficult to maneuver until you get used to it. You have to use an attachment every time you put the car seat on the stroller, so if you lose it, you won’t be able to use the car seat with the stroller. A tray for toddler drinks and snacks is not included and can be pricey to buy.

Compilation of customer opinions

The Chicco Bravo Trio has some great reviews because of its comfort and versatility. You can move this seat from car to stroller easily, which parents like. For parents who jog, they found it to be one of the easiest to maneuver. For parents who live in cities, this is one of the top choices.


Below are some further considerations and information that can help guide your decision on which car seat will work best for your family.

Types of Car Seats

In the United States, there are three main types of car seats available on the market. These seats meet or exceed all federal safety standards and standards recommended by car manufacturers, hospitals, and parenting groups. They are:


InfantConvertibleBooster

Infant: These are designed for infants weighing as little as 4 pounds up to 22-40 pounds, depending on the model. These seats are always used rear-facing, attach to a stationary base and have handles for carrying. The base can be moved from car to car, but the carrier is a huge convenience – it allows you to carry your child around without disturbing her.

Convertible: These seats work for toddlers and babies in both rear-facing and forward-facing modes. Some 3-in-1 or All-in-One models also convert to belt-positioning highback booster seats or backless booster seats. Their maximum weight limit can reach 65 – 120 pounds, depending on whether they can be used as a booster.

Booster Seats: Use booster seats for children who have outgrown a forward-facing 5-point harness seat. These seats lift your child so that the vehicle lap and shoulder belts fit properly. There are high back and backless varieties. A few also have the option of using a harness.

Infant vs Convertible Seat

Infant vs Convertible

It’s just one of many questions you’ll be scratching your head about as a parent. Which one should you choose? At the end of the day, the choice is yours as to which is best for your family. You should note that both types of seats have extremely safe options and both meet federal safety standards, or they wouldn’t be for sale.

The most important thing is to follow all the proper installation and weight limit guidelines so you’ll know when it’s time to change seats (or convert to a different mode). Keep your user manual handy (preferably in the car) so you can refer to it quickly. Some seats even have special compartments just to store the manual so you’ll always have it on hand, even if you’re traveling in a different vehicle.

If your child is on the higher or lower end of the growth scale for children his or her age, you have to take that into consideration when you make your purchase. Convertible seats can sometimes be too big for preemies or smaller newborns. Many parents choose to start out with an infant seat and then switch to a convertible for that reason.

Convertible car seats tend to be more expensive, but they can be used for a longer period of time, especially the 3-in-1 models. If you start with an infant seat, keep a close eye on the height and weight limits, which often top out at around 32 inches and 35 pounds.

Make Sure the Car Seat is Compatible With Your Car

Small Car

Before you purchase your first car seat, if you have a smaller, sporty car, some seats will be virtually impossible to use, especially in cars with bucket seats. Convertible seats can be notoriously bulky and take up a lot of room. Their width could prevent you from putting two or more car seats beside one another.

If you’re a tall parent, the front to back length of a rear-facing seat could seriously decrease your front seat legroom. Some models are compact and slim to fit perfectly in small cars, but they may not have as much cushioning or accessories. Before buying, always measure your car interior and compare it to the car seat’s dimensions just to be sure it’ll fit.

Some car seats can be installed easily with the seat belt alone while some seats install easier with the LATCH and ISOFIX systems in your car. Check out our notes on installation in each of our detailed reviews to see which installation method works best. If you have a more expensive or luxury car and are worried about marking the interior, you can purchase protectors for your seats so that the upholstery stays clean and undamaged.

NOTE: Never use BOTH the seat belt and LATCH system to install a seat, except in some booster seats. Choose one or the other.

What is LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Сhildren) and ISOFIX?

LATCH System

Today’s baby car seats come with an attachment system that keeps them in place using built-in anchors and tethers in your car. However, most seats can still be used with the vehicle belt alone. Car seat manufacturers usually recommend using one or the other (with the exception of a booster seat). So always read your user manual or consult a local car seat technician to make sure you’re using the correct attachments.

LATCH: For any car made after the year 2001, tethers and anchors have been installed for the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). This is somewhat confusing for many people. LATCH essentially makes it easier to install a seat properly and safely. It can allow you to install your seat in any position in your car, including the middle seat.

With the LATCH system, you use a the car’s built-in top tether or a top strap and the lower anchors (or the seat belt in pre-2001 cars). The top tether is a strap located above your backseat and helps secure the seat into the vehicle, making it less likely to move around if you have to make a sudden stop, sharp turn, or when you are in an accident. It also helps to keep the car seat in place on slick upholstery like leather or vinyl seats.

ISOFIX: This is the same thing as LATCH, but it is called ISOFIX in Europe.

How do you know if a seat has been recalled?

Recalled

Car seats have recalls all the time, but before you panic, most do not involve anything life-threatening. However, you always want to stay informed about any product recalls that involve baby products. The best way to do that is to fill out that little postage-paid registration card that came in the box with your car seat.

Most people overlook this and just toss it out with all the other packing, but that’s the only way the manufacturer can contact parents directly about any recalls. You can even register most seats online now. All you’ll need is the model number, serial number and manufacture date along with your contact info.

You can also refer to the NHTSA’s website for listings of all recent car seat recalls. They update their listings frequently, so you can trust that their info is current.

How do I know if our car seat is correctly installed?

Fire stations, pediatricians and certified car seat technicians are trained to know what to look for in a properly installed seat. Take it to one of those experts if you’re unsure and they’ll confirm if your seat is safely installed. If not, they’ll show you how to do it right. You can also watch installation videos on YouTube for a ton of different models or check the manufacturer’s website.

How do I keep my kids from overheating and sweating while riding?

different climate

That depends on a few different factors. If you live in a hot climate or have hot summers, chances are, your baby will sweat, especially if you have to park in the sun.

  • First, look for models that have breathable fabrics (we mention that in several reviews).
  • Consider adding sunshades to the passenger windows closest to your child to block some of the sun’s heat.
  • Don’t over-dress your baby, even in winter. Coats should always come off before buckling in, or the harness won’t work properly.
  • Turn on the car and AC a few minutes before putting baby in the car seat to alleviate some of the heat in a sunny interior.
  • NEVER leave your baby in the car alone, not even for just a minute. An average of 37 kids die each year from being left in a hot car. The interior can heat up to triple digits quickly, even if it’s not that hot outside. Try apps or car seat alarms that will warn you if your child is still in the car.

How and when should I dispose of a car seat?

If your seat has reached the expiration date (around 10 years for most seats), it’s time to toss it. Some stores like Target will have trade-in days where you can bring in your expired seat so they can dispose of it properly. They usually give you a discount for your next upgraded car seat.

If it’s been in a crash, unless it’s only a minor crash, it should also be thrown out. A minor crash, as defined by the NHTSA is one that meets ALL these criteria:

  1. You could still drive the vehicle from the crash site
  2. The door nearest the child safety seat was undamaged
  3. None of the vehicle occupants were injured
  4. Air bags did not deploy
  5. There is no visible damage to the child safety seat

If something on the seat breaks, contact the seller and ask for a refund or exchange.

A list of most-wanted items in child safety seats

Time and again, parents have quoted these features as ones that simplify installation and daily use of their car seats. Ease-of-use is VERY important to maximize safety by minimizing incorrect usage.

  • LATCH storage
  • Harness storage (for convertible seats in booster mode)
  • Owner manual storage
  • Ease of installation with or without the seatbelt
  • One handed strap to tighten the harness, preferably at the front of the seat and easy to reach
  • Easy buckles for those with arthritis or other hand issues

Features that may be more hype than help

money box

Remember that all car seats sold today must meet or exceed federal safety standards that involve vigorous crash testing. You’ll see a lot of “side impact protection” features on many models that, while not dangerous, have not been part of any industry standardized testing. So, how much they add to the level of safety is debatable. They will NOT hurt your child, but they could hurt your wallet.

Here are a few you might see:

  • Multi-layers of foam padding – EPS, EPP, hard, soft
  • Anti-rebound bars
  • Forward-facing crumple zone
  • Energy-absorbing base
  • Extra padded or deep head wings

Again, all of these things are good features. There’s just no industry standard in defining how much they contribute to overall impact protection. When shopping, just keep in mind that a seat with things like anti-rebound bars or a crumple zone might cost another $50 – $100 and might not be much safer than a seat without those features.

Comments

  1. Merlion says:

    I’m really surprised the Nuna Rava isn’t included in the list. We had great experience with it, it was between the Peg Perego Viaggio and the Maxi Cosi Pria 85, all three were comparable in weight, but as far as feedback I had from several mommies, the Rava was the convertible for me. Upgrading from a Cybex Cloud, the Rava included an infant insert that would have worked just as well. Considering the tough shell, the actual fabric material is really soft and cushiony. Also, please please make note of warranties, while I didn’t experience it myself, my cousin recently got in an accident and had a terrible time with getting her car seat replaced by graco. I contacted Nuna recently and they were very reassuring with the requirements for a replacement in the case of an accident.

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Hi Merlion, thanks for your comment. We haven’t had the pleasure of reviewing the Nuna RAVA yet, but thanks for the recommendation. Also, thanks for the feedback about the warranties. We will make a better effort to find and report warranty details from here on out.

  2. Sarah says:

    The link to the car seat for the Graco All-in-one actually links to the 4-in-one…I know there is a difference…so which is the review for??

  3. Misty says:

    Can any of these fit in my Toyota Corolla or my husband’s Lexus GS?

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Most likely, although some seats will take up more front to back space in the backseat of some cars, so your front seat passengers may lose some legroom, depending on how tall they are or how large your car interior is. Check with the manufacturer to verify if your particular car is compatible with whichever seat you’re considering.

  4. Isabella says:

    For the Britax Advocate ClickTight, some of those were recalled in 2016. Could I be purchasing one of those?

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Hi Isabella,
      No, none of the seats manufactured prior to the recall can be sold legally. Anything available from a reliable retailer will not be on a recall list. You can always check with the manufacturer or the NHTSA website just to be sure.

  5. Katie says:

    I am trying to find a convertible car seat that swivels/rotates so that you can easily buckle the child in while they’re facing you before clicking them into place. There are tons of brands/models available in Europe and other parts of the world but I can’t find a single one for sale in the USA. Help! I know the rotation itself can’t be “illegal” because there had been one (since recalled for other reasons) available by Orbit until a few years ago.

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Hi Katie,
      While you may have found a swiveling car seat for sale at one time, they are no longer sold in the US, but only in Europe. It’s unfortunate, but you do have some alternatives so loading and unloading your child isn’t quite as back-breaking.

      One is the Diono Radian R100 All-in-One convertible, which fits children from 5-40 pounds rear-facing, 20-65 pounds forward-facing and 50-100 pounds as a convertible. It’s a slim-fitting seat that fold flat for easy portability and storage. What’s good about this one is the low profile / short sides that make loading and unloading easier so you’re not straining as much or hitting your baby’s head on the ceiling to get her in and out.

      Another is the Safety 1st Omega Elite convertible, which fits children 5-35 pounds rear-facing and 22-50 pounds forward facing. The convenient thing about this one is the rotating arm rests, which makes more room for getting your child in and out. It comes with a cupholder, whereas the Radian does not and is also more affordable.

  6. AGD says:

    I am having a hard time moving past the picture of the baby with the harness chest clip way in the wrong spot-you can’t even see it. It seems that an article about car seats should have a picture of a hold latched in properly. It kind of makes me wonder about list…

  7. Jamie says:

    Thank you for the list BUT very hard to continue reading an article on car seat ratings when the main picture is of a baby with loose straps and buckle not properly placed… just something I noticed!

  8. laura baker says:

    Has any company designed a seat that is easy for grandparents to use? I have some arthritis in my hands and that release button is MURDER. Seems like “they” could come up with something that would require more IQ than a toddler, but easier on my hands.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I have been on the hunt for the best car seat for my situation. I need a car seat that either has a detachable base (like infant car seat) so I can have multiple bases in cars and just have to switch the seat part or I need an extremely simple car seat to be able to remove daily. Having multiple car seats really isn’t an option in the situation so please don’t offer that suggestion. Also, I am not too concerned on price if it meets my needs. Thanks!

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Hello! Thank you for the question. I can advice you Graco Smart Seat. It has a Detachable Base. This car seat starts from 5 pounds as rear-facing for infant, converts to a forward with the child from 20 to 65 pounds and finally transitions to a belt-positioning booster up to 100 pounds.

  10. Eleonora says:

    I think cheap Evenflo Tribute LX is best convertible car seat 2017 for little-used second car or grandmas auto!

  11. Laura (Texas) says:

    Excellent mini-reviews. I choose infant car seat for a second child. With some research, you’ll find various lists of available infant car seats for your little angel. Do not just base your choice on what seems to be everybody’s favorite. Try looking for seats which have additional features to offer for you and for your child.

  12. Mary Zhang says:

    Very informative and great lists. Although, the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 is also nice, I think would be a great addition to this list. Chicco is no doubt a trusted brand by moms, theyve been here for YEARS!

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