When you start looking for a convertible car seat, you’ll discover two things: There are a ton of options, and certain brands top parents’ and caregivers’ lists for safety and comfort. We share new releases and our guide to the highest-rated brands in convertible car seats. Read on for the convertible car seats with load legs, the best car seats for hot weather, and more.
- Purchase your convertible car seat no later than your child’s first birthday, according to Consumer Reports.
- A convertible car seat can be installed forward-facing or rear-facing, but experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend you keep it rear-facing for safety as long as possible. Some states require rear-facing until your child’s second birthday.
- You can use a convertible car seat from birth, or you can start with an infant car seat and then switch to a convertible before your child’s first birthday. An infant car seat lets you remove the seat from the base and move between the car, stroller and other locations without waking a sleeping baby. But it is an additional expense.
- Some convertible car seats are marketed as all-in-ones, 5-in-1s, 4-in-1s or 3-in-1s, meaning they convert from an infant seat into a convertible car seat and then a booster seat, extending the time you can use them.
New for 2021
Evenflo Gold Revolve360 Rotational All-In-One Car Seat
Our mom tester loved that this clever car seat rotates 360 degrees (with a simple lift tab mechanism) to make it easier to get your child in and out of the car. No more awkwardly reaching into the car to get your child buckled in, or bonking your baby's head trying to take them out! When it's time to go from rear-facing to forward-facing, just give it a spin; no need to reinstall. A helpful indicator lets you know when the seat is firmly locked into position. It then converts to a booster seat for up to 10 years of use (4-120 pounds). On-the-go recline and 14 headrest settings mean a more comfortable ride for your little one, and two cup holders give you lots of room for cups, snacks or toys. The cup holders are top-rack dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.
Available at evenflo.com, $379.99.
Graco SlimFit3™ LX 3-in-1 Car Seat
Graco's slimmest car seat (16.7 inches wide) lets you fit three seats across the back seat without compromising on safety. This 3-in-1 converts from rear-facing to forward-facing and a high-back booster, accommodating kids 5-100 pounds. Adjust the height of the harness and headrest together in 10 positions for a customized fit; four recline options provide added comfort. The cover can be removed and machine-washed without uninstalling the car seat or removing the harness. The cup holders are also removable for cleaning.
Available at gracobaby.com, $249.99.
New for 2020
Cybex Sirona S SensorSafe Convertible Car Seat
The Sirona S car seat rotates around 360 degrees. Turn the seat sideways to get your child in and out of it more easily, a big plus for everybody, especially for adults with sore backs or kids with special needs. Kids can sit rear-facing up to age 4, but when it's time to switch from rear-facing to forward-facing, there's no need to reinstall the seat and risk installing it incorrectly. You just spin it around. This car seat comes complete with a load leg to stabilize the seat and reduce crash forces in the event of a collision. The SensorSafe technology in the harness's chest clip alerts you if your child becomes unbuckled while driving, the back seat's temperature gets too hot or other unsafe conditions occur. There's a 12-position headrest and a 12-position recline for maximum comfort.
Chicco Fit4 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
The Fit4 is an all-in-one car seat designed to suit infants up to big kids, from 4 pounds to 100 pounds. Babies sit in rear-facing comfort thanks to the ergonomic infant positioner, which you then swap out with a toddler-size cushion. Once kids move forward-facing, adjust the 10-position headrest as they grow. When kids are at the booster stage, switch from the harness to the seat belt and add the shoulder pad for extra comfort. And don't worry; the Chicco website has instructional videos and guidelines for when and how to move your car seat to the next stage.
Available at chiccousa.com, $349.99.
Evenflo EveryFit 4-in-1 Car Convertible Seat
The Evenflo 4-in-1 car seat goes from a rear-facing infant car seat to a high-back booster seat to a no-back booster, keeping your child strapped in safely from 4 pounds to 120 pounds. For convenience and your child's comfort, there's a 12-position headrest, removable cushions with machine-washable fabrics, two integrated cup holders and a removable snack tray. Mesh fabrics keep your child cool on longer rides, and the recline positions (3 for rear-facing, 1 for forward-facing) are designed to minimize the head slump of a sleeping baby.
Available at evenflo.com, $189.
Top Brands in Convertible Car Seats
Britax has several great options for convertible car seats: The Allegiance and Emblem are the least expensive and has ranked highly on Consumer Reports ratings for convertible car seats. The company’s other three models, Boulevard ClickTight, Advocate ClickTight (pictured above) and Marathon ClickTight, all appear on that list when it comes to crash protection and other important factors. You can also get those three models with an anti-rebound bar, a bar located near your child's feet that provides stability in the event of a collision. The company has also launched the One4Life ClickTight All-in-One, which is designed for your child's first ten years, from a rear-facing seat for infants and toddlers to a forward-facing seat and booster seat.
Available at us.britax.com.
Another leader in car seats, Chicco car seats are known for being easy to install, which is handy when you travel with them or move them to a different car. In addition to the Fit4 four-in-one car seat profiled above, the brand also makes the popular NextFit line in four different styles: Sport, Zip, Zip Air and Zip Air Max (pictured above). The Zip style features a seat pad you can zip off and wash in the washing machine, while the Zip Air sports both the machine-washable seat pad and a breathable backrest for added comfort. The Zip Air Max adds 25% more legroom in rear-facing mode, so kids can sit rear-facing until they weigh 50 pounds. When forward-facing, kids enjoy extended calf support. New for 2021 is the Adapt model of the Fit4 car seat, which uses humidity-regulating fabric and breathable mesh to keep your child cool when it's warm and warm when the temperatures are colder.
Available at chiccousa.com.
The Fllo and Foonf car seats from Clek feature advanced safety technology, including an anti-rebound bar and a design that accommodates rear-facing seating until a child turns four. Both models have a nine-year expiration, so you can use them with multiple kids. Clek is also the first car seat manufacturer with a recycling program.
Some key differences:
• Foonf (pictured above) has three recline positions, while Fllo has one set angle for rear-facing and one for forward-facing.
• Foonf is designed for a rigid LATCH installation, while Fllo is designed for a belt installation, vehicle belt or LATCH belt.
• Fllo is about 10 pounds lighter than Foonf and only 17 inches across, making it easier to place three car seats next to one another in the back seat.
Available at clekinc.com.
Starting at under $45, Cosco convertible car seats are a great, budget-friendly choice, especially if you need a backup car seat for travel or to put in other caregivers’ cars. Some of their models are even certified for use on an airplane, such as the Scenera NEXT (pictured above) and Apt 50. These lightweight and compact car seats are easy to carry through airports and come in a variety of bold colors and patterns, so you can spot them fast on the luggage conveyer belt.
Available at coscokids.com.
Cybex is known for car seat innovations, as you've seen with the Sirona S profiled above. The Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0, pictured above, features safety features you won’t find in many other car seats. It syncs with your cell phone to alert you if your child’s chest buckle opens while driving or if you leave the child in the car after you've removed the key. It will also alert you if the backseat gets too hot or cold. The car seat also features a 12-position height-adjustable headrest and adjustable side-impact protection for comfort and added safety.
Available at cybex-online.com.
Large families love the radian models from Diono because they’re slim enough to fit three-across in most mid-size vehicles. They're also all-in-ones, meaning they convert to a booster seat when your child outgrows the convertible seat, so you get extended use out of them. The Diono seats feature a unique foldable seat that makes them convenient for air travel.
Available at diono.com.
Evenflo offers a number of all-in-one car seats, 4-in-1 car seats (like the EveryFit profiled above) and convertible car seats, all with budget-friendly price tags. The Everystage All-in-One (pictured above) lets your child sit rear-facing up to 50 pounds and adjusts to multiple positions for comfort. The SafeMax all-in-one incorporates SensorSafe technology to alert you if a child’s chest buckle opens while driving or if a child is left in the car after keys are removed. It has also been tested for safety in the event of a rollover.
Available at evenflo.com.
With a number of convertible car seats to choose from, including the 4Ever DLX (pictured above), Graco’s car seats let you choose the features most important to you, from extended rear-facing seating and a steel-reinforced seat to easy-to-remove seat pads and additional side-impact protection. If you’re looking for a car seat to grow with your child, check out their 3-in-1 car seats (convertible plus booster seat) and the 4-in-1 car seats, which convert from rear-facing to forward-facing to a high-back booster and backless booster, for safe seating up to 120 pounds.
Available at gracobaby.com.
The Pria car seat from Maxi-Cosi comes as both a 3-in-1 (pictured above) and a convertible car seat that accommodates kids up to 85 pounds. All the Pria models feature side-impact protection and removable, machine-washable fabric. The Magellan models are all 5-in-1, so your child is able to use them from birth to age ten. They all have side-impact protection and a 14-position headrest you can adjust as your child grows.
Available at maxicosi.com.
Highly ranked by Consumer Reports, the RAVA (pictured above) boasts extended rear-facing seating, up to 50 pounds. The car seat also provides up to two more inches of leg room rear-facing, with extra support while forward-riding. It’s known for being easy to install and for its push-button, 10-position recline, as well as its soft fabric. The company recently launched the EXEC 3-in-1, which has a multi-functioning adjustable leg rest, an anti-rebound panel and fits three across in many mid-size vehicles. Kids can also sit rear-facing in the EXEC up to 50 pounds.
Available at nunababy.com.
—Eva Ingvarson Cerise
featured image: Diono