When you start looking for a convertible car seat, you’ll discover two things: There are a ton of options, and certain brands top the lists for safety and comfort. Find your fave in no time with our guide to the highest-rated brands in convertible car seats and the models and features that make them great.
photo: Ole Designs
- 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.
- While you can use a convertible car seat from birth, you may not want to. Many prefer to start with an infant car seat they can remove from the base and move between the car, stroller and other locations without waking a sleeping baby.
- Some convertible car seats are marketed as all-in-ones, 5-in-1s, 4-in-1s or 3-in-1s, meaning they convert from a convertible car seat into a booster seat, extending the time you can use them. Some companies consider these convertible car seats, while others put them in a different category on their websites.
Britax has six great options for convertible car seats: The Allegiance and Emblem are the least expensive, and they rank 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 top 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 just 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, $179.99-$399.99.
Another leader in convertible car seats, Chicco’s NextFit is known for being easy to install, which is handy when you travel or move the seat to a different car. It comes 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.
Available at chiccousa.com, $249.99-$369.99.
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, from $379.99-$449.99.
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, $44.98-$99.99.
The Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0 features some 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, $329.95.
Large families love the radian models from Diono because they’re slim enough to fit three-across in most mid-size vehicles. All of the radian and rainier car seats aside from the rainier 2AX are 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, $179.99-$2,250 (higher-price models feature leather seats).
Evenflo offers three all-in-one car seats, which convert from convertibles to booster seats, as well as nine models of convertible car seats, all with budget-friendly prices. 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, $42-$280.
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, $101.99-$249.99.
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, $229.49-$382.49.
Rated “Excellent” 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; $449.95 for RAVA, and $649.95 for EXEC.
Peg Perego offers two convertible car seats, the Primo Viaggio Convertible and Primo Viaggio Convertible Kinetic (pictured above), which adds safety features such as an anti-rebound bar, which reduces rotation in a collision from the front or rear, and kinetic pods, which are designed to move forces away from baby in a side collision. Both also have side-impact protection and a top tether hook to increase stability when forward-facing. An optional microfiber cover ($99.99) is designed to keep kids warmer in cold weather and cooler when it’s hot out.
Available at us.pegperego.com, $349.99-$569.99.
Safety 1st has a large array of convertible car seat options including 4-in-1s and 3-in-1s, all at budget-friendly prices. The four seats that were ranked by Consumer Reports (Guide 65, Guide 65 Sport, Chart Air 65 and Complete Air 65, which is pictured above) were all given a “Very Good” rating, driven by their performance in crash protection and forward-facing installation using the LATCH system.
Available at safety1st.com, $59.99-$172.49.
—Eva Ingvarson Cerise
featured image: Diono