The Best Convertible Car Seats of 2023
From newborn to big kid, these car seats offer versatility for growing children.
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When your baby is ready to transition from rear-facing to forward-facing, a convertible car seat makes it easy and convenient, helping you save time and money. But many parents make this transition too early.
According to the NHTSA and AAP, the safest way for your child to ride in a car seat is rear-facing until they reach the car seat manufacturer's weight or height limits, usually around 2 years old. The best convertible car seats will extend the time your little one can remain rear-facing, sometimes up to 50 pounds; research shows that prolonged rear-facing reduces the risk of injury or death in the event of an accident.
Just for fun, what does ChatGPT-4 think is the best convertible car seat!?
"I can confidently recommend the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat as the best convertible car seat on the market. This car seat is versatile, safe, easy to install and use, comfortable, and has several convenience features." -ChatGPT-4
We don't always agree with robots! In fact, while the Graco 4Ever is a great car seat, we think there are even better options for your family.
We've been reviewing convertible car seats for over 10 years, and if we made our own convertible car seat, here is what it would look like:
✔️ Rear-facing support to 50 pounds.
✔️ Height limit at least 50" tall.
✔️ Adjustable harness & headrest.
✔️ No rethreading required.
✔️ Quick-release LATCH.
✔️ Seat belt lock-offs.
✔️ Side impact protection.
✔️ Steel-reinforced frame.
✔️ EPS energy-absorbing foam.
✔️ Crash crumple zones.
✔️ Anti-rebound bar or load leg.
✔️ Excellent crash test ratings.
✔️ Removable infant positioner.
✔️ Machine washable cover.
✔️ No flame retardants.
✔️ Breathable fabrics.
✔️ Narrow and lightweight.
✔️ Intuitive & easy installation.
✔️ Cup holder(s).
Of course, you will also want the car seat to fit your style (color, patterns) preferences, fit well in your vehicle, and meet your budget constraints. That's a lot to ask, and very few convertible car seats meet the needs of picky parents!
- Top 5 Comparison Table
- 1. Best Overall: Graco Extend2Fit
- 2. Chicco NextFit Zip
- 3. Nuna RAVA
- 4. Britax One4Life 4-in-1
- 5. Diono Radian 3QX
- 6. Clek Foonf
- 7. Britax Boulevard ClickTight
- 8. Graco 4Ever 4-in-1
- 9. Diono Radian 3RXT
- 10. Maxi Cosi Pria 3-in-1 Max
- 11. Britax Advocate ClickTight
- 12. Britax Marathon ClickTight
- 13. Chicco Fit4 Convertible
- 14. Safety 1st Grow & Go
- 15. Graco Milestone All-in-One
- 16. Maxi Cosi Magellan
- 17. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio
- Additional Models
- Deciphering the Diono Model Naming System
- Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Full disclosure: Some of these car seats, including the Safety 1st, Maxi Cosi, Diono 3QX, and Graco models, were sent to us as free test samples by the manufacturer.
Here are our top 5 recommended convertible car seats, followed by comprehensive reviews of over a dozen options. If you are looking for something easier to carry around that will snap into a stroller, check out our list of the best infant car seats.
In addition to the safety benefits of rear-facing, some additional convertible car seat safety guidance includes:
- Install the car seat in the center rear seat, which can reduce injury risk by 43% relative to rear outboard positions (see the research here).
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for all aspects of installation, adjustments, maintenance, and care.
- Visit a safety event, fire station, or local child passenger safety (CPS) technician to get your installation checked for safety. You can find one here.
- When rear-facing, the shoulder straps should be at the same height or lower than the top of your child's shoulders. See more information and details here.
- When front-facing, the shoulder straps should be at the same height or higher than the top of your child's shoulders.
- In any configuration, the top of your child's head should be at least 1" lower than the top edge of the car seat's shell. Check the owner's manual for any deviation from this guidance.
Remember, safety first! If you are ever uncertain about any installation steps, adjustments, or transitions, contact a CPS technician (see link above).
Here are the Best Convertible Car Seats of 2023!
Still the best after all these years, the Graco Extend2Fit is hard to beat with its superior features, versatility, comfort, safety, and ease of use. It truly stands out against the crowd for several primary reasons. First and foremost, it supports rear-facing all the way up to 50 pounds and has a really large overall weight range, going all the way down to 4 pounds (making it a great option for preemies), and up to 65 pounds. It also has a sturdy steel-reinforced frame, a no-rethread harness, adjustable recline and headrest height, hefty side impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, superior crash test performance, two cup holders, and the easy to use EZ-Tight LATCH system. This Graco Extend2Fit convertible car seat begins as a rear-facing seat for infants, supporting babies as little as 4 pounds with the included infant insert. In line with current safety recommendations to extend rear-facing for as long as possible, the Extend2Fit supports rear-facing all the way up to 50 pounds (or until your toddler's head is less than 1" below the grey headrest adjustment handle) using an innovative extension panel that pulls out on the front, extending leg room up to 5 inches!
In our testing, we could fit kids up to nearly 3 years old rear-facing. If they're taller, they'll likely reach the height limit before that time, but most toddlers will be able to stay comfortably rear-facing for at least 2 years in this seat. Speaking of comfort, we found the fabric and padding to be plush and high quality, and toddlers seemed very happy on long rides. Installation was a breeze with the LATCH system but a bit more involved when using the vehicle's seat belt. Once installed, we need to mention that the extension panel makes the Extend2Fit stick out quite a bit from the back seat. For a smaller car or taller front seat occupants, this can make things challenging, causing it to press up against the back of a front seat. This won't be an issue with a full-size car or SUV, but it's worth pointing out if you wouldn't be comfortable sliding your seat forward a bit more than usual. Given the increased safety offered by extended rear-facing, we think this is worth the inconvenience. As always, read the owner's manual because there are some specifics about recline positions for different weight ranges that are worth knowing. Cons? It doesn't transition to a belt-positioning high back booster, so it's not an all-in-one car seat (though Graco does sell a pricey Extend2Fit all-in-one model). Overall, we found this Graco Extend2Fit to be the best overall car seat on the market, with super versatility, comfort, reliability, ruggedness, ease of use, superior crash testing performance, and safety. And we're not the only ones, it's also a top pick by our friends at Babylist, The Bump, WhatToExpect, Babygearlab, and The Wirecutter. Impressed? You can check out the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat here.
The Chicco NextFit Zip supports newborn babies as small as 5 pounds using the infant insert (use the insert from 5-11 pounds), and up to 40 pounds in rear-facing mode. Transitioning to front-facing mode, the NextFit can support toddlers and big kids from 22 up to 65 pounds (or up to 49" tall). The Chicco NextFit Zip is always a crowd favorite, and for several good reasons. One is convenience: it uses a zip-off machine-washable cover that makes cleaning a breeze. It also uses an easy to use and innovative LATCH system to make for easy installations, and is overall easy to use in terms of adjustments and fit. And it's super comfy with its bucket-seat style and soft breathable fabric. It also offers a nice wide adjustment range, and some great safety features including side-impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, and EPS energy-absorbing foam. Its weight range is on par with most other convertible car seats, though it can't stay rear-facing up to 50 pounds like some others. In our testing, we loved the easy-to-read recline indicators with their intuitive numbered system (from 1 to 9) for rear- and front-facing modes. They also included bubble levels to make sure you have things positioned appropriately. Second, the Zip-off washable cover was brilliant, we were really impressed with how easy it was to remove the cover and throw it into the wash. It was also easy to get back on. In our opinion, the Zip feature is worth every penny, and you will realize why the first time you have vomiting or a diaper explosion! Third, we loved how the lower straps of the harness automatically flared outward when unbuckled, to make it easier to slide your baby in and out. Fourth, the Super Cinch LATCH system made life much easier when attaching the seat; of course, it also can be attached using the vehicle seat belts, but the super cinch system takes the guess-work and struggle out of getting a good LATCH connection.
Finally, we thought the side impact padding was substantial and the headrest was easy to adjust up and down, and we loved how high and low the headrest went, adjusting between 9 different positions. The steel-reinforced frame and EPS energy-absorbing foam give us confidence in the event of a crash, though for this price we hope Chicco will add an anti-rebound bar in the near future. The only cons are that it's very big and heavy just like most of the front-runners this year, rear-facing is limited to 40 pounds, and the bucket seat is super cozy but can be more difficult to get babies into and out of (especially in smaller cars and with chunky monkeys!). The Chicco NextFit Zip comes in at a whopping 26 pounds, nearly the heaviest on our list; but remember, this is convertible so it will likely be staying in your car 99% of the time, unless you need to swap it between vehicles a lot. Note there are a couple other versions of the NextFit, including the NextFit Sport and NextFit Air. The NextFit Sport is the least expensive, but does not have an infant insert or support infants under 12 pounds, and the NextFit Air is the most expensive with its 3D AirMesh lumbar area to promote airflow. Who else loves the Chicco NextFit? It's a top pick by our friends at Babylist, The Bump, and WhatToExpect. Impressed? You can check out the Chicco NextFit Zip here.
The Nuna RAVA supports children rear-facing from 5 pounds (using the infant insert designed for 5-11 pounds) up to 50 pounds, and front-facing from 22 to 65 pounds. Maximum child height is 49". Like the Extend2Fit, the Nuna RAVA uses an awesome little calf support panel on the front of the seat to extend rear-facing leg room for taller toddlers. Nuna makes super comfortable and very high quality car seats, and the RAVA is no exception. Yes, it's expensive, but you get a lot for the price. For safety, the Nuna RAVA supports rear-facing all the way up to 50 pounds, uses True Tension (just like ClickTight) lock-off technology, premium and easy to use LATCH connectors, impressive side-impact protection including flip-out side impact protection (SIP) pods, a steel-reinforced frame, and EPS energy-absorbing foam. In addition to the safety, it's also a really premium seat in terms of its styling and super premium fit and finish, has a machine-washable cover, easy adjustments and a no-rethread harness, and we found the adjustments really easy to use. The 10 recline positions and 10 headrest/harness heights are unmatched, and the crotch buckle is adjustable without rethreading! It looks, feels, and acts like a truly premium car seat. The fabrics are top-notch and the softest and plushest on this list, and your baby will be thanking you for the level of superior comfort that NUNA has achieved. Note that most of the Nuna Rava seats are flame retardant free, meaning that they do not include any of the harsh chemical sprays that many seats use, which is great for parents looking for a more natural alternative.
Installation was very confidence-inspiring; we won't say it's easy the first time, but once you read the manual and watch a demo video, you'll realize just how awesome it really is. It does come with the premium quality (push-button) LATCH lower anchor connectors, but NUNA is very adamant (with tons of bright stickers to tell you so) that they want to you use the vehicle's lap and shoulder belt for installation. Why? With all the confusion about when to switch from lower anchors to the vehicle's seat belt, NUNA wanted to simplify and keep their customers confident and safe. Like most of the car seats on this list, it's very heavy and large, and also pretty wide (about 19"). It also has no booster mode, and a somewhat awkward cup holder. Other than that, this car seat truly has it all, with premium fabrics, premium safety and convenience features, but also a premium price tag. If the price tag doesn't scare you away, we highly recommend the RAVA for discerning parents who want a high quality, comfortable, and beautiful car seat. Who else loves the RAVA? It's a top pick by our friends at Babygearlab, Babylist, and WhatToExpect. Impressed? You can check out the Nuna Rava here.
The One4Life is the newest addition to the Britax line-up of excellent car seats. Offering superior versatility and features, and competing directly with the Graco Extend2Fit and other all-in-one convertible car seats, it's quickly winning over hearts and minds. The One4Life is the most versatile car seat offered by Britax, offering support from 5 to 120 pounds. It starts as a rear-facing infant car seat with an infant insert, supporting infants from 5-50 pounds (or until the top of their head is less than 1" from the top of the headrest). Then it transitions to a front-facing toddler car seat, supporting toddlers and big kids from 22-65 pounds (and less than 49" tall). Finally, the One4Life transitions to a high back belt-positioning booster mode, supporting kids from 40-120 pounds. This impressive versatility makes it a truly all-in-one car seat, taking advantage of a 10-year expiration date to support your child from newborn to transitioning into the vehicle's seat. In our testing, we thought that the 5-pound minimum was a little ambitious of Britax given that the lowest harness height is a bit high for a preemie newborn's torso length. We think it's better suited for about 6-7 pounds and up, and wouldn't suggest it for a premature baby at 5 pounds. Most of the fanfare surrounding the One4Life is well justified given the features, comfort, installation ease, versatility, and safety. We first got our hands on the One4Life at a baby show in 2020, and then more recently we got our hands on it for a hands-on review. We were super impressed with the quality of this car seat. It feels like a tank - heavy, large, and thick padding and high quality plastics all around. And when we say it's a tank, we're not kidding: it's 30 pounds and nearly 20" wide!
So what do you get with all that weight and bulk? For safety features you get a steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, SafeCell impact-absorbing technology, ClickTight installation, and two beefy layers of side-impact protection. Britax also recently added an anti-rebound bar option for rear-facing installations, which we love! Installing the One4Life was a breeze using the awesome ClickTight system that allows you to lift up the front of the seat and follow clearly-labeled belt paths (the blue stickers indicate rear-facing information, and green indicates forward-facing information). This is one of the safest aspects of Britax seats because it increases the chances that parents will properly install the car seat - and a properly installed car seat is one of the best safety "features" that money can buy. In the rear-facing configuration the seat protrudes very far from the back seat (up to about 35"), making it more suitable for the passenger side or for larger vehicles. Features abound in the One4Life with a 9-position recline, 15-position quick-adjust headrest and harness height, 2 removable cupholders that are dishwasher safe, a removable cover, harness holder slots and a flip-forward crotch buckle pad, modern quick-connect LATCH connectors, and a cool harness storage compartment when the seat transitions to belt-positioning booster mode. So what didn't we like? The cup holders are placed right in the middle of the arm rests, which is convenient but also a little uncomfortable for older kids. It's also huge, wide, and heavy, making it less ideal for trying to fit three car seats in a row, lugging through an airport, or moving frequently between vehicles. But it's not really built for that. Overall, we love this new addition to the growing field of all-in-one convertible car seats, and think it's very worthy of inclusion in our reviews; in fact, after having used the car seat with our own children for over a year now, it has slowly crept up over 5 positions in this list! Who else loves the Britax One4Life? Our friends at Babylist consider it a top pick! Interested? You can check out the Britax One4Life all-in-one convertible car seat here!
The 3Q series is the newest addition to Diono's line-up of high quality and versatile car seats with an excellent safety record, versatility, comfort, and features. Diono is world renowned for their narrow profiles that make it possible to fit three car seats in a row, including the original Radian 3R and this new Radian 3QX and 3QXT. Just like the original Radian 3R, this new Q series comes in at a super slim 17" wide while including a hefty steel-reinforced frame, excellent side impact protection, energy-absorbing Safe Stop harness technology, and a steel anti-rebound bar for added rear-facing protection. In addition, the Radian 3QX added a newly designed SAFE+ infant insert that can be used with infants as little as 4 pounds, and much greater headrest adjustment range (12 positions and 22% more range) than the original Radian models (to fit taller kiddos!). Because a proper installation is the most important safety "feature" of any car seat, Diono put a lot of thought into making installation intuitive and effective, including easy to use visual indicators, adjustable crotch buckle positions, one-handed headrest adjustment, an amazingly posh infant insert, and harness buckles that are smooth and easy to operate. The new Radian 3Q series can support infants as small as 4 pounds, extend rear-facing use up to 50 pounds, serve as a forward-facing car seat with harness up to 65 pounds, and as a belt-positioning high-back booster up to 120 pounds. That's class-leading range!
In our testing, our immediate impressions were about bulk and weight. This is a big (tall, not wide!) and very sturdy car seat that feels extremely high quality and has great fit and finish. It literally feels like it would do an excellent job protecting your little one in an accident, and we can't say that about all of the car seats we test! The fabric is soft, the cushioning is comfortable, and we loved that the base can fold up for storage or transport. We installed it with minimal difficulty and we appreciated the vast adjustments. The shoulder harness requires manual rethreading from the rear; while we realize this isn't as convenient as a quick-adjust harness, those do tend to "bind up" and become difficult to loosen or tighten. You'll likely only need to adjust the harness height once or twice in the first year, and then likely only about once every year or two as your child grows. In rear-facing position, you don't even need to uninstall the seat to rethread. After we installed the 3QX in the rear-facing position, the new infant insert was incredibly comfortable and supportive! When you remove the infant insert, the seating area is surprisingly deep (about 13"). This is great because even when your child's legs get longer, there is still room for them in the rear-facing position. The harness tightens and loosens smoothly, and the rear-facing angles are great for infants and toddlers alike. As a true 5-in-one car seat, the Radian 3QX is comfortable and versatile in both rear- and front-facing positions. We love the soft seat pillow, and the small amount of space this seat occupies while front-facing is really impressive. Were we able to fit 3 in a row? Yes! Even in our 2021 RAV4 and our 2015 MDX, we could configure 3 in a row, just like with the original 3R series. Overall, we think the new Q series Radian car seats are a fantastic new addition to the Diono family, and were happy to have a chance to try them out. Note that the 3QXT adds another infant protection insert and more side impact support, and the 3QXT+ adds an adjustable leg support for added front-facing comfort. Cons? With smaller vehicles, the car seat might be a bit tall in rear-facing infant mode; we suggest at least a mid-size car or SUV with the Radian models in rear-facing position (or short adults who don't mind having their seats slide forward!). Also, while manual rethreading harnesses have some advantages, we still prefer the quick-adjust style. Not deal breakers, but worth mentioning! Overall, we think the new Radian 3Q series is perfect for families who want a true 5-in-one car seat (from premie to 10 year old!) without compromising on safety, quality, or comfort, and keeping a slim enough profile to fit up to two additional car seats in the same row. Interested? You can check out the Diono Radian 3QX all-in-one convertible car seat here and use the coupon code DIONOGIVE20 for 20% off your order!
The Clek Foonf has both style and substance, supporting infants in rear-facing mode from 14-50 pounds (25-43" tall), but it can be used from birth with a separate infant insert (called the "infant thingy"). Once you transition to forward-facing, the Foonf supports children from 22-65 pounds (30-49" tall). Clek likes to say the Foonf is built like a tank, and we can't agree more! Coming in at a hefty 33 pounds, the Clek Foonf sports crumple zones, a steel-reinforced frame, and a steel anti-rebound bar. Those alone probably add about 10 pounds to this seat! Despite the weight, you won't notice much bulk: the Clek Foonf is sleek, narrow, and stylish. At under 17" wide (16.9" to be precise), this is one of the narrowest convertible car seats on the market, making it perfect for smaller cars and fitting three car seats in a row. But don't let that small stance and cute styling fool you, the Foonf has some serious capability! Features include push-button rigid LATCH connectors, three recline settings (across a nice wide range), adjustable headrest that doubles as side impact protection, shoulder and torso side impact wings, energy-absorbing EPP foam, and amazing fabric. Let's talk about that fabric: the Foonf uses Greenguard GOLD certified fabrics (C-Zero Plus Performance Collection) that are free of nasty flame retardants, super soft and durable, and very high quality. Our initial impressions of the Foonf were that it was indeed built like a tank, heavy, stylish, very high quality, and inspires confidence with its safety and durability. Installation is a breeze with the LATCH connectors or vehicle's seat belt, and adjustments were easy. Just read the manual and watch videos (here's a great one) to help with adjustments. The buckles are easy to use, recline was straight-forward (though limited in slots), and the headrest height was easy to adjust. We had to work a little harder here to rethread the harness from the back, which was a little unfortunate (note that the harness slots range from 8" to 17" height). Our test toddlers found the seat to be super comfortable, and we liked how they could peek out over the side impact wings without too much effort, making the seat feel less claustrophobic than some options (like the Chicco). Made in Canada, the safety, eco-friendly materials, and style all inspire confidence whenever we use this car seat; and that's hard to find, and might be worth paying for. Some cons worth mentioning. First, it has a high weight minimum for rear-facing (14 pounds) unless you purchase the infant-thingy. And that brings us to the second issue, which is that there are a lot of accessories to purchase separately, including cup holder (the "drink thingy"). Finally, the cover is not machine washable because you will remove the coatings that give it the superior water repellant, anti-odor, and anti-bacterial properties. Instead, you need to wipe it down for cleaning, which makes sense. Who else loves the Clek Foonf? It's a top pick by our friends at WhatToExpect, Babygearlab, and Babylist. Impressed? You can check out the Clek Foonf here.
Britax has an impeccable safety reputation, and their convertible car seats are extremely high quality and reliable. They are also a little pricey, but the Britax Boulevard is right in the middle of the pack: below it is the flagship Britax Marathon, and above it is the high-end Britax Advocate. Made right here in the USA, the Britax Boulevard supports babies as small as 5 pounds using the included infant insert, and toddlers up to 65 pounds. Rear-facing, it supports from 5-40 pounds, and front-facing from 20-65 pounds (or up to 49" tall). The Boulevard is basically unparalleled for safety features, including double side-impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, an anti-rebound bar when rear-facing, EPP energy-absorbing foam, SafeCell technology, and excellent crash test performance. Because achieving a proper installation is the most critical aspect of car seat safety, the Boulevard makes installation a breeze with color-coded belt guides, clear instructions, an easy to use LATCH system, and the amazing ClickTight lock-off system. If you're using the vehicle's seat belts for install, you will absolutely love the Britax ClickTight technology. We all know how much of a pain it usually is to route a seat belt through the back of a convertible car seat. ClickTight provides unprecedented convenience in this regard, allowing you to flip up the seat bottom for easy access to belt routing. ClickTight makes life so much easier that it justifies the extra cash over any of the other options on this list. Of course, if you're using the LATCH, it includes that as well and installation will be a breeze. There are also a ton of indicators and easy to follow diagrams on the side of this seat to make sure you're installing correctly.
To achieve a perfect installation, the seat has 7 recline positions with clearly visible level indicators, 14-position quick-adjust harness and headrest height (no rethreading needed), and two crotch buckle positions. Once installed, the Boulevard feels very secure, and is super comfortable. The harness uses the Click & Safe Snug Harness Indicator, which gives you an audible "click" when the harness is tight enough for your baby - taking some of the guess work out of getting the right harness fit. We love Britax car seats in our household and in our 10+ years of experience we absolutely love everything about them, including the durability, quality, fabric and padding, and comfort. Speaking of fabric, it is breathable and soft, and provides easy clean-up and washing. The Nanotex fabric is even better if you're willing to cough up the extra cash! There are only a couple cons to consider: it's big and wide, and pretty heavy. It is also limited to 40 pounds rear-facing, and there aren't any cup holders. You might be wondering how the Boulevard compares to other Britax convertible car seat. Relative to the less expensive Roundabout and Marathon, the Boulevard adds additional side impact protection and about 2" more height support. This is great for taller kids and can help extend usage before hitting the height limit. Add in a 10 year expiration, and this is going to last your family for many years! Who else loves the Britax Boulevard clickTight? It is also a top pick by our friends at Babygearlab, Babylist, and WhatToExpect. Impressed? You can check out the Britax Boulevard ClickTight here.
The Graco 4Ever offers amazing 4in1 versatility, supporting children from 4 to 120 pounds. This begins as a rear-facing infant seat (4 to 40 pounds, under 49" tall), then transitioning to a front-facing harness toddler seat (22 to 65 pounds, under 49" tall), a front-facing belt-positioning booster (40 to 100 pounds, 43-57" tall), then finally to a bottom-only booster (40 to 120 pounds, 43-57" tall). That weight and height range offers some serious versatility, truly supporting your child from birth up to about 10 years old! For safety, it includes side-impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, and great crash test performance. A critical part of car seat safety is achieving a proper installation, and the 4Ever has super easy installation and adjustments, with modern InRight LATCH connectors, a no-rethread 5-point harness with quick shoulder and headrest height adjustment (10 heights), 6 recline positions, and belt lock-off. In addition to these safety and installation features, it also has the convenience features you've come to expect in a $250 car seat: two cup holders, removable infant insert, a rapid remove washable cover, and harness storage to keep the harness out of the way while getting your baby in and out. In our testing, our first impression was this this car seat was truly huge and heavy! Installation was a little cumbersome given the sheer mass of this car seat, but adjustments themselves were pretty easy. The top handle was easy to use for adjusting harness and headrest height, the recline handle is conveniently located up front and easy to use, the color-coded recline settings and built-in level are nice touches, and the two buckles were easy to open and close. After transitioning the Graco 4Ever between its various modes, we came to realize that it truly is a Jack of all trades, but perhaps also a master of none. As a rear-facing infant car seat, it's excessively large and cumbersome, and isn't likely to fit into smaller vehicles. And as a front-facing belt-positioning booster it starts to see a little narrow in the seat and torso for bigger kids. Also, after using the car seat for a few months, some of the adjustments got a little stiff and harder to use. The fabric and padding are comfortable, but not to the level of the Nuna RAVA. We did like the cup holders, and thought the overall versatility offered by the 4Ever (and its 10 year expiration to to make that possible) were really impressive and likely worth the cost. Note that rear-facing does support up to 40 pounds, but if you're looking to go up to 50 pounds then you might want to check out the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit, which adds the 5" extension panel to add more leg room and rear-facing support. Overall, we think you really can't go wrong with this safe, sturdy, well-made, and ridiculously versatile Graco 4Ever, and it is very deserving of this spot on our list. Who else loves the 4Ever? It's also a top pick by our friends at Babylist and WhatToExpect. Impressed? You can check out the Graco 4Ever 4in1 car seat here.
The narrow Diono Radian 3RXT was recently updated with some more substantial safety features. The new Radian 3RXT supports children from 5 to 50 pounds rear-facing, using the removable infant insert. It then transitions to a front-facing toddler seat to support from 22-65 pounds, and finally to a high back belt-positioning booster to support from 40-120 pounds (up to 57" tall). Like the Graco 4Ever, this car seat can support your baby from birth until they are ready to leave a car seat entirely (the 10 year expiration makes that dream a reality)! What makes the Diono Radian 3RXT truly unique is they are perfect for fitting three car seats in a row, with a super narrow (17" wide) stature. But the benefits don't stop there, the 3RXT also has excellent safety and convenience features. For safety, it has a steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, side-impact protection, and the Diono energy-absorbing Safe Stop harness technology. We all know how important installation is for safety, and Diono makes proper installation and positioning a breeze with their SuperLATCH system, clear visual indicators, 12 headrest height adjustments, 2-in-1 head and body infant insert and newborn wedge, three crotch buckle positions, and the nifty adjustable bottom sides that angle in and out to accommodate growing thighs. The only thing that the 3RXT is missing in the installation and adjustment department is a no-rethread harness: the harness will need to be manually rethreaded as your child grows, to move it between the five height positions. Outside of that little nuisance, in our testing we found that this car seat has really high quality fit and finish everywhere, easy adjustments, an easy to remove and machine washable cover, a great detachable cup-holder, and an easy-fold capability for transport (it's also approved for air travel). The fabric is soft and breathable, and the styling is simple and sophisticated. Yes, it's expensive, coming in at about $300. And it's ridiculously heavy at 30 pounds, and we totally prefer a no-rethread harness system. But it's truly a very high quality, safe, reliable, durable, super narrow, and comfortable seat that accommodates not only extended rear-facing, but also a wide range of baby shapes and sizes. Who else loves the Radian 3RXT? It's a top pick by our friends at Babylist and The Bump. Impressed? you can check out the new Diono Radian 3RXT here!
Alert: This car seat was recently recalled (see the recall announcement here); it cannot support children over 65 pounds or 49 inches tall when not using the top tether. If you are not using the top tether, the weight limit is 65 pounds! The Maxi Cosi Pria Max 3-in-1 supports children as small as 5 pounds and up to 40 pounds rear-facing (up to 40" tall), and front-facing it supports toddlers from 22 to 85 pounds (29-52" tall). Building upon the classic Pria 85, the Pria all-in-one also has a 3-in-1 belt-positioning booster mode, supporting big kids up to 100 pounds. The Pria is nearly 20" wide and about 23 pounds heavy. Maxi Cosi is all about, wait for it, maximum coziness! But before we get into the style and comfort, let's talk about safety and features. For safety, the Pria boasts side impact protection and GCell energy-absorbing foam, but no steel-reinforced frame. Installation uses modern LATCH connectors, 3 recline positions, easy belt routing paths (but no lock-offs), 4 crotch positions, and quick harness and headrest adjustment without rethreading. The Pria Max is not cheap, coming in at about $300, and for that price we expect a lot. Maxi Cosi fulfills all expectations for style and comfort. It uses beautiful soft-touch fabrics (machine washable), modern and unique colors and patterns, and maximum padding and coziness for your baby. All of the fabrics and areas of the seat are soft and plush, everything is padded and soft-touch (like the crotch buckle guard), and the infant insert provides additional plush supports for smaller babies. The fabric is self-wicking and provides pretty good ventilation for the hotter months. In our testing, we found the adjustments to be one of the more difficult aspects of the car seat. The harness and headrest height adjustment was difficult to engage and adjust, using a handle at the top of the headrest. Same with the recline adjustment, which uses a big red handle at the bottom rear of the seat: it's cumbersome and clunky to use. Of course, you won't be using those adjustments every day, so that's not a huge issue. Other adjustments, such as the harness tightness, were very smooth and easy to use. Even when rear-facing, the adjustment strap could be easily accessed and pulled on for tightening. The cup holder was a good size, and we liked that it's integrated as opposed to something your toddler could pop off and throw around the car. The Pria Max versions use the new ClipQuik chest clip device, which uses a sliding magnetic clip that is supposed to make buckling and unbuckling the chest clip much easier. Is it easier? Well, for the first 10-15 times we used it, it was a bit of a pain in the butt. It took us a while to figure out exactly how to position our hand and how much to press our thumb to make it work. Once you figure it out, it's great and we see the allure, but until then you might be a little frustrated by it. And let's not mention when your care-giver tries to use it - be sure to take the time to teach grandma, the babysitter, and anyone else who might be transporting your baby! A couple other little things we liked: the harness has a spring-assisted out-of-the-way system that moves out of the way to help move your baby in and out of the seat, and the cover was easy to remove and wash. However, after a few washes, the fabric quality was markedly deteriorated. If you can avoid machine-washing the cover, you'll be much better off. We really liked the original 2-in-1 Pria 85, and we now truly appreciate the Pria 3-in-1, and we are consistently impressed with Maxi Cosi's new releases and efforts to become a front-runner in the car seat market. It's really on-point with its style and comfort, and that alone might be worth the somewhat hefty price tag. Of course, you'll be missing out on extended rear-facing, a steel-reinforced frame, and the convenience of seat belt lock-offs. Who else likes the Pria? Our friends at WhatToExpect and The Bump. Impressed? You can check out the Maxi Cosi Pria Max here!
You know we love Britax convertible car seats, and the Advocate is the king of the Britax models, and there is so much to love! The Britax Advocate supports children from 5-65 pounds. In rear-facing mode it supports babies and toddlers from 5-40 pounds (and a height at least 1" below the top of the headrestraint), and in front-facing mode it supports toddlers and big kids from 20-65 pounds (up to 49" tall). The seat itself tips the scales at a hefty 30 pounds, and is about 20" wide. Britax never compromises with safety features, and the Advocate is the cream of the crop. It has the most (triple!) layers of side impact protection of any seat on this list, a steel-reinforced frame, SafeCell EPP energy-absorbing foam, an anti-rebound bar, and superior crash test performance. Now you know why it weighs 30 pounds! For installation and convenience, it includes a no-rethread harness with a quick-adjust headrest and harness height (14-positions), premium LATCH connectors, the amazing ClickTight belt access and lock-off system, removable infant inserts, 7-position recline with bubble level indicator, Click & Safe harness tightness indicator, and 2 crotch buckle positions. The Britax Advocate is approved for air travel, but nobody in their right mind would want to lug this beast through an airport! Out of the box, the Britax Advocate is huge, sturdy, and super high quality. All of the fabrics and fasteners are premium quality, and all adjustments were very easy to use (recline, headrest height, harness tightness). Installing it into our vehicles was amazingly easy when using the vehicle's seat belts and the ClickTight system. If we were in an accident, we would absolutely want our children to be in a Britax product, ideally the Advocate. But you'll pay the price for all that quality, you'll need to have a big back seat to fit the sheer size of the car seat, and you'll compromise on cup holders and extended rear-facing. Note that you can buy a separate little cup holder to attach to the side, if needed. Overall, if you can afford the price and deal with the weight and bulk, the Britax Advocate is truly excellent and confidence inspiring, and as a bonus it's made in the USA. Interested? You can check out the Britax Advocate ClickTight Anti-Rebound Bar Convertible Car Seat here.
Love the idea of the Advocate, but can't stomach the price or weight and bulk? The Marathon is the most reasonably-priced Britax convertible car seat on the market, and might be the best bet for your family! The Marathon supports children from 5-40 pounds rear-facing (height up to 1" below the top of the headrest), and 20-65 pounds front-facing (up to 49" tall). The car seat itself is about 28 pounds, and just under 19" wide. Made right here in the USA, the Marathon has a very strong history for safety, quality, reliability, and a fair price. Like the Boulevard and Advocate, it has a decent overall weight range (5-65 pounds), a no-rethread harness, side impact protection, a sturdy steel-reinforced frame, SafeCell technology, EPP energy-absorbing foam, and superior crash test performance. It is also approved for air travel and installation is super easy using the awesome ClickTight technology. The quick-adjust harness and headrest height moves between 14 positions, it has 7 recline positions and a bubble level, and everything is super easy to adjust. It's also much cheaper than the Advocate and Boulevard, so you lose a few things: first, the overall shell is about 2" shorter making it easier to install in smaller vehicles, but not great for taller kids. It's also less plush and comfortable than its higher-priced siblings, has a non-machine-washable cover, and uses the old-fashioned hook LATCH connectors. Just like the other Britax car seats, it has no cup holders. We used the Britax Marathon for 4 years with our first child, and it was superb in safety, quality, and craftsmanship. Every time we get our hands on one, we fall in love all over again: it's the perfect balance of safety, quality, and convenience. Not surprisingly, Britax never fails to appear in at least a few of our best-rated car seat lists, and it's not only us. They also show up at the top of reviews done by our friends at Babylist and Wirecutter. For cons, we already mentioned the lack of cup holders and lower overall comfort, and the fact that the cover is not machine washable. Another thing some parents notice is that the crotch strap can be a bit short for chunky baby thighs, and of course the rear-facing is a little limited (40 pounds). Finally, we have a garage full of used car seats and have discovered that many of the Marathons have torn or ripped fabric covers, especially along the seams. Of course, they are well-loved car seats and this does happen after several years with any car seat. Overall, the Marathon is a great option for those who want the Britax brand for a reasonable price, and are willing to compromise a bit while still having one of the best convertible car seats of the year. Interested? You can check out the Britax Marathon ClickTight here.
The Chicco Fit4 is one of the newest all-in-one convertible car seats on the market, expanding upon Chicco's success with the NextFit. The Chicco Fit4 supports children from birth (4 pounds) all the way to 10 years old (100 pounds or 57" tall), making it one of the most versatile car seats on the market. The Fit4 comes with a 4-stage FitKit system that provides padded inserts suitable for each developmental phase: infant rear-facing from 4-16 pounds, then toddler rear-facing from 12-40 pounds, then preschooler front-facing from 25-65 pounds, and finally big kid belt-positioning booster from 40-100 pounds. For safety, it includes EPS energy-absorbing foam, a steel-reinforced frame, beefy side-impact protection, intuitive seatbelt guides and lock-offs, and the convenient SuperCinch LATCH installation. For comfort, it has a truly innovative 4-stage FitKid system that involves a series of four removable inserts to make each stage (infant, toddler, preschooler, big kid) a perfectly comfortable fit, and soft and high quality fabrics and cushioning. For versatility, it includes a 9-position recline and leveling system, 10-position headrest with a no-rethread harness, two crotch buckle positions, two collapsible and removable cup-holders, and it's FAA approved for air travel (up to stage 3: front-facing with harness). In our testing, nearly every adjustment, fastener, and instruction was intuitive and easy to use, and it quickly won our hearts! We can't help but compare the Fit4 versus the Chicco NextFit. The Fit4 offers superior versatility in weight and height range (extending down to preemie at 4 pounds, and up to booster at 100 pounds), superior comfort across the stages of development, superior installation ease, and a better overall shape and size to help get infants into and out of the seat. The deeper seat on the Fit4 is also a bit more amenable to comfortable rear-facing near the 40-pound limit. We got our hands on the Fit4 for testing in early 2020 and were really impressed. The FitKit pads are easy to swap in and out of the seat, though we do realize it's yet another thing to worry about and store in the garage. Another point to make about having all these layers is that kids tended to get a sweaty back sooner than with other car seats, given the somewhat low breathability of the thick fabrics. We loved the SuperCinch LATCH installation, which can be used up to 35-pounds in rear-facing and 40-pounds in forward-facing mode, after which point you will need to switch to the vehicle's seatbelts. Note that those LATCH weight limits are a bit lower than with some other seats, simply because the seat itself is a hefty 25 pounds. We also noticed that the harness height adjustment goes very high, allowing you to squeeze out every last pound (up to 65) of harnessed front-facing, even for taller kids. This is important to ensure your child is developmentally ready for transition to a booster car seat. Another point that parents of infants and toddlers will appreciate is that this seat doesn't stick out very far from the backseat of your car when rear-facing, making it a decent option for taller parents who want to be able to slide their seat back for leg comfort - we love that! Some little cons arose during our testing. First, seatbelt installation was challenging given the small and highly padded belt routing path you need to get through; small hands are ideal for this task. Second, the up-front harness tightness adjustment hole was pretty small for fitting in a thumb to activate the adjustment lever, though we do want to point out that adjusting both height and tightness were super smooth and easy. Third, this car seat cannot be positioned in the center position while using a LATCH installation, since it requires the standard (11") LATCH spacing and most vehicles do not have dedicated lower anchors in the center seat. It's also quite heavy (25 pounds) and bulky (19" wide), but those aren't too outrageous when you consider similarly-featured options. Overall, we think this new convertible car seat makes an awesome addition to our reviews. Save for some very minor gripes, we fell in love with this car seat and think you will too! Interested? You can check out the Chicco Fit4 here.
Safety 1st has a long and strong history of making comfortable, safe, versatile, and long-lasting products that can be found at very competitive prices. The Grow and Go is Safety 1st's flagship convertible car seat and offers some serious bang for the buck. Let's start with some of the features. First, 3-in-1 means that it can accommodate newborns, infants, toddlers and big kiddos by transitioning from a rear-facing (5-40 pounds) car seat, to a front-facing car seat (22-65 pounds), and finally to a belt-positioning booster (40-100 pounds). That low minimum weight (5 pounds) makes it a great option for premature and smaller newborns, with its super cozy removable infant insert. Second, it has some great installation and fit features, including no-rethread harness and headrest height adjustment, 3-position recline, 3 crotch buckle positions, harness holders to keep harnesses out of the way when not in use, and an integrated LATCH system (hook-style). Installation wasn't as easy as with something like the ClickTight system, but routing the vehicle's belt through the rear was easy enough, and using the LATCH system was pretty simple (though it does use the traditional style hook system). Getting the seat to install tightly into the vehicle was easy with the LATCH but more challenging when using the vehicle's seat belt. A lock-off feature would likely remedy this, but it's not included with the seat. In terms of daily use, we found the seat surprisingly comfortable for its price range (about $150), with padding in all the right places, soft-touch plastics, and high quality fabric. That high comfort level makes it ideal for little naps during car rides, and makes longer road trips more bearable for babies and toddlers. When it gets dirty (and it will!), the cover is easy enough to remove but more importantly it's machine washable *and* can be thrown in the dryer, which is a minor miracle when dealing with a messy eater! Another practical feature is the dual cup holders which are a breath of fresh air given that they are true cup holders, they do not stick out awkwardly from the side, and they can double as snack holders. Other great aspects include the wide range of colors and styles, the 10-year expiration date, and the versatility that will likely last your child until they're ready to get rid of a car seat entirely. Limitations? Well, no extended rear-facing to 50 pounds like some of the front-runners, no steel-reinforced frame, and no anti-rebound bar when rear-facing. Those aspects do make it a little lighter-weight, which is a definitely plus. Another negative is that the most extreme recline angle might not be sufficient to fit some cars and prevent head-flops, so it's not totally ideal for newborns and vehicles with a steeper seat angle (cue the pool noodle!). Realistically, if you're looking for an awesome car seat for a toddler who is ready to graduate from an infant car seat, this could be a good fit. Interested? You can check out the Safety 1st Grow and Go Convertible Car Seat here.
The Graco Milestone 3-in-1 is like the little brother of the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1. It offers rear-facing support from 5-40 pounds, front-facing harness support for 22-65 pounds (up to 49"), and high-back belt-positioning booster support from 40-100 pounds (38-57"). It weighs about 20 pounds, is just over 19" wide, and has a 10-year expiration. For safety features, it boasts a steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, and ProtectPlus side-impact protection. It does not include an anti-rebound bar for rear-facing mode. For installation and convenience, it includes the Simply Safe adjustable harness and headrest height (10 positions), Inright LATCH system, and 4-position recline (with a ball level). In our testing, we found all of the adjustments very easy to use, and sufficient in range for most babies. Installation with the LATCH was super simple, but with the seat belt it was a bit more involved. The fabric has a premium and soft-touch feel, and is easy to clean, completely removable for machine washing. We also thought the ventilation was pretty good, so little babies won't get too hot with the black version. We can't help but compare the Milestone to its big brother, the 4Ever. In comparison to the 4Ever, it lacks a few features: it doesn't convert into a backless booster (or have the higher 120-pound weight limit), doesn't support babies down to 4 pounds, and it has fewer recline and headrest positions. It also only has 1 detachable cup holder rather than 2, and in our testing it was a bit narrow in the lower seating area for hefty kids. Overall, this is an excellent Graco model that basically has all of the bells and whistles as the 4Ever, but with some minor differences, at an excellent price point usually under $200. Interested? You can check out the Graco Milestone here.
The relatively new Maxi Cosi Magellan All-in-One is Maxi Cosi's answer to the Graco 4Ever and Britax One4Life, offering superior versatility from newborn to about 10 years old. Starting as a rear-facing infant seat, it supports babies as small as 5 pounds and up to 40 pounds (or 40" tall). As a forward-facing harness seat, it supports toddlers and big kids from 22-65 pounds (and 29-49" tall), and then as a belt-positioning booster from 40-120 pounds (and 43-57" tall). The seat itself weighs about 25 pounds, and is about 19" wide. For safety features, the Magellan Max features adjustable side-impact protection and EPS energy-absorbing foam, but no steel-reinforced frame. When we installed it, we appreciated the modern LATCH connectors, the seat belt lock-offs, 7-position recline, and quick-adjust harness and headrest height. Routing the vehicle's seat belt through the back was a bit of a chore, so we definitely suggest using the LATCH for as long as possible (up to 35 pounds for this seat). We also noticed that it's not nearly as heavy as most all-in-one car seats, likely owing to the fact that it has no steel-reinforced frame. A final thing we noticed is that the fabric is really good at collecting lint and fur, making it look a bit shabby after a couple days of use. This is especially true for darker color fabrics. Speaking of fabrics, they were easy enough to remove and machine washable, which we love. All of the fabrics were super soft and comfortable, Maxi Cosi is definitely good at providing maximum coziness for your baby! And all of the adjustments, lock-outs, the torso side impact protection mechanism, recline, headrest height, and everything else were super easy and intuitive to use. We have tested both the Magellan 5-in-1 and the slightly more expensive Magellan Max 5-in-1. There are four primary differences between the regular and Max Magellan seats. First, the Max uses the "Nomad" line of fabrics, which has trendy colors (like heather gray) and fabrics that are less vulnerable to collecting hair and lint. Second, the Max uses spring-loaded "easy in, easy out" harness system that stands up and open on its own (we loved this). Third, the Max uses a magnetic slide-based chest clip rather than a typical squeeze clip (we actually didn't like this as much as the typical clip style). Finally, the Max is a bit more expensive $40 more than the regular Magellan. Is the Max worth the extra cost? We did love the spring-loaded easy-out harness and the premium fabrics, and those alone might be worth the extra 40 bucks. But that magnetic chest clip will take some getting used to. For cons, we didn't see any sign of a steel-reinforced frame, which can increase structural rigidity during a crash. The rear-facing weight limit is also a bit low for a recently-released product, when some of the other premium car seats are increasing that limit to 45 or 50 pounds. In our testing, we also thought the fabric was awesome, but it got a little warm in the summer months and caused a sweaty back in one of our toddler testers. No other complaints though, other than the slightly high price. So overall this is a great, premium car seat with some limitations to consider when making your decision. Interested? You can check out the Maxi Cosi Magellan Max Convertible Car Seat here.
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible car seat is an old classic at this point, similar to the Britax Marathon. Of course, big improvements have been made along the way, keeping up with modern safety and convenience standards. The Italian-made Primo Viaggio supports children from 5-45 pounds in rear-facing mode (with head at least 1" below top of headrest), and 22-65 pounds in forward-facing mode (or 49" tall). The seat itself weighs only 21 pounds and is under 19" wide. Safety features abound, including side impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, shock-absorbing foam element (SAFE) crumple zone, and a steel-reinforced frame. For installation and convenience, we found that this model is also extremely easy to install, and the buckles worked very well for quickly getting the child in and out of the seat. The fabric is breathable and easy to clean, and the seat is pretty large, especially in the vertical dimension (it sits high up off the seat). All of the adjustments were simple and smooth, as would be expected from Italian craftsmanship, and we think the car seat looked really great! It would look even better in an Alfa Romeo, but it definitely upgraded interior look of our Highlander! A few things we noticed. First, it does not have cup holders, and second, toddlers typically out-grow the Primo Viaggio in height while rear-facing before they out-grow it in weight. The reason is that the headrest cannot adjust very high in rear-facing mode (it can only go up to position 7, according to the owner's manual), and your baby's head needs to be 1" below the top of the headrest. Given this, we find it more likely that your baby will phase out of rear-facing with this car seat long before they hit the 45-pound limit, which is unfortunate. Finally, it's pretty expensive - not as expensive as the Nuna Rava and some others, but pretty close at about $350. Overall, this is a great car seat with some minor drawbacks. If you love the style and your child isn't likely to be on the taller side, this could be an awesome choice. Interested? You can check out the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio here.
Honorable Mention Car Seats:
Our Review of the Cybex Sirona M SensorSafe Convertible Car Seat
Our Review of the Evenflo Everystage DLX All-in-one Convertible Car Seat
Our Review of the Baby Jogger City View Convertible Car Seat Recently discontinued and removed from this list: Diono Rainier.
Other Graco Convertible Car Seat Models to Consider
- Graco MySize 65: The MySize 65 is basically the same as the Graco Size4Me. It has a nice low weight minimum of 4 pounds, making it a great option for preemies, but it only goes up to 65 pounds. Doesn't feel as sturdy as others, no steel-reinforced frame, but does have EPS energy-absorbing foam. Harness was difficult to tighten, lower buckle was too big for chubby thighs, and chest buckle was hard to unbuckle at times.
- Graco Size4Me 65: As we said above, the Size4Me is basically the Graco MySize 65. It is also similar to the Graco Contender but with a rapid remove cover, premium LATCH connectors, thicker cushioning and infant insert. We review the Contender in our budget car seat list.
- Graco MyRide 65: Here is a great inexpensive convertible option (about $85), and we do a full review of the Graco My Ride in our best budget convertible car seats list.
The Diono Model Numbering System:
Diono makes a truly amazing line of convertible car seats, but the model numbers and letters are a little confusing. Here's what they mean: the 2 or 3 is simply the version, with the Radian being on its 3rd version (e.g., the 3RXT), and the Rainier being on its 2nd version (e.g., the 2AXT). The next things to consider are the letters: you can ignore the R and A, and focus on the X and T. The X indicates that it includes an infant positioner, and the T indicates that it includes an adjustable headrest. So to get all that a Diono car seat has to offer, you're looking for the XT versions (e.g., the Radian 3RXT or Rainier 2AXT).
Factors to Consider when Picking a Convertible car Seat:
Our hands-on testing and focus groups resulted in some outstanding convertible car seats for you to consider. The overall best and safest convertible car seats include options from Clek, Britax, Graco, Chicco, Maxi Cosi, Nuna, Peg Perego and Diono. Even with our selections, we realize that finding the perfect car seat isn't a simple task, and there is a daunting range of factors you can consider. Here are the most important factors we consider when conducting our reviews!
Car Seat Ease of Use Ratings
This is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a convertible car seat. The last thing you want to do is drop several hundred dollars and find yourself dealing with a frustrating installation process, annoying adjustments, cumbersome buckles, or a cover that isn't removable or washable! Even the most comfortable and safest convertible car seat will render itself super annoying if you end up cursing it every time you use it!
In our hands-on testing, we consider how all of the individual components work, and how they work together. We're looking for an install that's intuitive and won't pinch fingers or stress your arms, adjustments that are smooth and extensive, buckles and straps that are not only easy to secure but also easy to unbuckle in a hurry, and covers that are removable and machine washable. In general, we found that the more expensive car seats are the ones that are also generally more user friendly. But there were also some exceptions: in our reviews of some more expensive and versatile Maxi Cosi seats, we found some adjustments and buckles to be super cumbersome and annoying. We consider all of these factors when pulling together our final ratings.
Car Seat Reliability Ratings
Convertible car seats are getting increasingly versatile and make claims of lasting for up to 10 years with some models, like the Maxi Cosi Magellan 5-in-1 or the Graco 4Ever. But if you're expecting to use a car seat from newborn to double-digits, you better be sure that it can withstand the test of time. We have plenty of old car seats in our garage that we've tested and within a few years they have splitting fabric seams, sticky buckles, broken harness buckles, restricted or stuck adjustments, and more. Don't worry, those car seats didn't make it onto this list!
The bottom line is that car seats are increasingly expected to last for a very long time, and it's therefore necessary for car seat manufacturers to use increasingly high quality parts. Is that always the case? Nope. In their quest to hit every portion of the car seat market, the companies don't always think about long-term reliability for when parents actually attempt to use the seats for 8-10 years. We update all of our review as we gain experience with long-term testing. We think that's really important because some convertible car seats are outstanding out-of-the-box and then don't stand the test of time.
Car Seat Versatility
Like we mention above when talking about car seat reliability, car seat companies are trying to make a single convertible seat that will appeal to every aspect of the car seat market: newborn, infant, toddler, big kids, and all the way up to tweens. That means some of the convertible car seats can support babies as little as 4 pounds, making them a great option for premature babies; but it also means that same car seat can convert to up to 4 other configurations and show some serious versatility while your baby, toddler, and big kid grows up.
We have been testing car seats for over 10 years and in our opinion, we think it's best to begin with a dedicated infant car seat (see our car seat buying guide for some great reasons why) and use it until your baby grows out of it (usually at about 35 pounds). That will make your life much easier during the infant years, allowing you to snap an infant car seat in-and-out of the base and your stroller. Then, switch to a rear-facing convertible car seat, which will eventually transition to front-facing, then to a booster (belt-positioning, and sometimes even bottom-only).
Of course, this is the more expensive option since it involves purchasing two separate car seats, but it will pay dividends in convenience and your and your baby's comfort. If you're on a tight budget, then a 4-in-1 or 5-in-1 convertible car seat might be a good option for you. In our testing, we consider the challenge of choosing car seats that have high versatility without breaking the bank, and without compromising on comfort or suitability any single stage of development.
Cost for the Best Baby and Toddler Car Seats?
You have probably realized by now that convertible car seats vary widely in quality, style, and price. Some convertible car seats sell for about $100 (see our reviews of cheap convertible car seats here), most in the $200-250 range, and then some others for $250 upwards to $500. In our experience, you can get a truly fantastic convertible car seat for about $200, and it's only really worth increasing above that point if the car seat offers additional safety or convenience features that aren't offered at the lower price point. We do not suggest forking over $300-400 simply to get the more stylish or popular car seat of the year - many of those seats look amazing but aren't always great for ventilation or cooling, or ease of use. In our reviews, we consider these trade-offs when ranking the contenders.
Varied Baby Weight and Height
Convertible car seats vary widely in weight and height ranges. Some popular models like the Maxi Cosi Pria are basically designed for toddlers and up, whereas others like the 4Ever are designed for newborns and up. Some also have very high weight and height ranges but in reality they have narrow proportions that aren't well suited for chunky monkeys, or a headrest that doesn't rise up high enough for taller kids. In other words, car seats sometimes offer high height and weight limits that aren't very realistic given the actual dimensions of the seating surfaces and versatility of the adjustments. In our testing, we try our best to test out the car seats on shorter, taller, skinnier, and chunkier kiddos to make sure we're getting a good representation of how the seat does at supporting its claimed range. In this manner, we try to go beyond simply stating the specifications of the seats, to providing you with feedback from real-world use.
Safety and Crash Test Results
All convertible car seats sold in the United States are safe. That's because they all have to meet the strict federal NHTSA safety standards and requirements, which includes passing stringent crash tests and build requirements. Of course, some car seats exceed those requirements by adding additional safety features. The top 10 convertible car seats have some great examples of that. This includes multi-layer upper and lower side-impact protection, steel-reinforced frames, lower and upper energy-absorbing foam and crumple-zones, anti-rebound bars, and load legs. At a minimum, these additional safety features will provide some extra security during a crash, helping to absorb some of the harsh forces involved when a vehicle impacts another object from the front, side, or rear.
For instance, an anti-rebound bar and load leg can reduce dramatic rotational forces during a collision by up to 50%. Is that worth an extra $100 or so? We'll let you be the judge, but in or opinion it's worth the peace of mind. Most CPST technicians will note that even more important than all these safety features is that you are performing the installation safely and in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. This includes appropriate installation angles, thresholds for the amount of play (wiggle-room) in a seat, the distance from the front seat when rear-facing, how to recline beyond car seat adjustment ranges to compensate for a pitched vehicle seat, when to switch from LATCH to vehicle belt, vehicle belt routing, appropriate crotch and shoulder belt positions for your baby's size, and how to use tethers correctly. If you are at all concerned about a proper installation, most local police or fire departments have a CPST technician who can help make sure car seats are properly installed. Finally, always check car seat expiration dates to make sure you're in the clear.
Car Size to Fit Convertible Car Seats
If you don't drive a large car or SUV, and you have more than one child, you definitely need to consider the size of the convertible car seat. This includes both the width and height of the seat. Width is important when you're trying to squeeze multiple car seats into the back seat of your car, and height is important when the convertible car seat is rear-facing (since it will likely come in contact with the back of the driver's or passenger's seat). Modern convertible car seats are getting larger and larger, with bigger side-impact protection, thicker cushioning, taller backs, and accessories like cup holders that often stick out a couple inches on the side and/or front of the car seat. Techically speaking, this is a good thing - car seats are also getting safer, more comfortable, and more versatile. But it also makes squeezing car seats into little cars a bigger issue for some families. We have two suggestions here. First, do the measurements. It only takes a few minutes to grab a measuring tape and figure out what your space constraints are, and compare these with the car seat's specifications. Second, check out our list of the narrowest car seats of the year! On this list, you will learn about some excellent car seats that also have a relatively small footprint, like the Clek Foonf, Clek Fllo, and several others!
Our Hands-on Car Seat Tests and Ratings
Over 8 million convertible seats were sold last year alone, but according to our research only about half of new parents are happy with their purchase decision! That's a problem, and our reviews are here to help! Three times a year we pull together parents and kids to test the best new models we can find, installing them in different vehicles, putting in infants, toddlers, and big kids, and testing out all of the key features. We try them out as a rear-facing infant and toddler car seat, a forward-facing car seat and if possible for the model, as a booster seat.
During our hands-on testing, we spill milk and juice on them, test their stability during erratic driving, measure head-flop during naps, research crash test ratings, test all of the features and adjustments, and solicit honest opinions from parents who have owned and used the convertible car seats for at least 6 months. We also read all of the published safety and crash test results available from Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ease of use ratings.
To learn more about what we consider in our reviews and testing, and learn about what model might be best for your family, check out our complete car seat buying guide. Ideally, the seat you choose will be the best for your infant, the best toddler car seat, a great big kid seat, and an awesome booster. But, most 4-in-1 car seats are a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, so you might be better off picking out one of the best infant car seats separately and then graduating to a convertible car seat around 2-3 years of age. Some are tempted to transition their toddler front-facing earlier around the 15 month timeframe, but the American Academy of Pediatrics makes very strong safety statements about how children should remain rear-facing until at least their 2nd birthday or until they reach one of the car seat manufacturer's height or weight limits. If you're looking for something less expensive than these options, such as the Evenflo Symphony, check out our reviews of the best inexpensive convertible car seats!
As always, if you have any questions or need personalized advice, visit our facebook page and send us a message!
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Car Seats and our Test Results
What is the best convertible car seat 2023? According to our hands-on tests, the Graco Extend2Fit and Britax Boulevard ClickTight are the absolute best all-around convertible car seats for 2023.
What convertible car seat is best for small cars? The Diono Radian 3RXT comes in at just under 17" wide, making it perfect for small cars and even fitting three car seats in a row.
Which convertible car seat is easiest to install? The Britax Advocate, Boulevard, and Marathon use the ClickTight system, making installations super easy.
Can I use a convertible car seat for a newborn? Yes, a convertible car seat can be positioned rear-facing, just make sure your newborn is at or above the minimum height and weight for the convertible car seat.
What is a convertible car seat? A convertible car seat can be installed in a rear-facing position, and then be converted to a front-facing position; some all-in-one models also convert to a belt-positioning booster, and even a bottom-only booster.
When should I switch to a convertible car seat? As long as your baby is larger than the minimum height and weight requirements, you can switch to a convertible car seat whenever you'd like. But according to the AAP, only switch the car seat to front-facing once your baby grows out of the car seat's rear-facing height or weight limit.
Which convertible car seat is the safest? In addition to a steel frame, energy-absorbing foam, and side-impact protection, the safest car seats also use an anti-rebound bar, like the Britax Advocate ARB.
Which Graco convertible car seat is the best? The Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit combines the best convertible car seat with the most versatile model into one truly fantastic all-in-one car seat.
Can I take a convertible car seat on an airplane? All of the best-rated convertible car seats on our list are FAA approved for air travel, and therefore can be taken on an airplane in most cases. Be sure to check with your airline carrier before assuming the seat can be brought onboard the aircraft.