We put 24 different convertible car seats to the test, independently researching and testing each model for safety, reliability, comfort, features, and ease of use.
Below we quickly summarize our top 5 results, including rankings and ratings. Then we provide our comprehensive reviews of the 10 best convertible car seats that met and exceeded our expectations. Finally, toward the end of this article we detail some additional car seats that are worth considering; be sure to also check out our full car seat buying guide.
|Model and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. Britax Advocate ClickTight|
|#2. Graco Extend2Fit Platinum|
|#3. Britax Boulevard ClickTight|
|#4. Graco 4Ever 4-in-1|
|#5. Chicco NextFit Zip|
Here are the Best Convertible Car Seats of 2019!
Pros: Anti-rebound bar (ARB) in rear-facing position, Large overall weight range (5-65 pounds), No-rethread harness, Triple side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPP energy-absorbing foam, Superior crash test performance, Comfortable, Easy to use, High quality fit and finish, Approved for air travel.
Cons: No booster mode, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds (not 50), Big and heavy, Expensive.
Full Review: About $380 with several basic pattern options, most of which are in the black and grey theme. Britax USA is world-renowned for building the absolute best car seats that money can buy, combining safety and quality. And this is their highest-end model. Made here in the USA, this Britax Advocate ClickTight provides the ultimate in safety and features. Let's start with safety. One of only two top convertible car seats with an anti-rebound bar, a device used when the seat is rear-facing to reduce rotational forces experienced by your child in the event of an accident. Very common in Europe, the anti-rebound bar is slowly making its way onto the US market, and Britax and Baby Jogger are leading the way for anti-rebound bars on convertible car seats. But the safety doesn't end there. You see those giant side impact wings? That's three layers of side-impact protection, making it not only super bulky but also a top-performer in crash tests. Britax is also known for using steel-reinforced frames, which increase the structural rigidity of the car seat during a crash. Not to mention the thick SafeCell EPP energy-absorbing foam, the premium LATCH sytem, the Click & Safe snug harness system that clicks when it's at the appropriate tightness, and the ability to go rear-facing up to 40 pounds. Out of the box, the Britax Advocate felt huge, sturdy, and super high quality. All of the fabrics and fasteners not only felt premium but also were easy to use, and this includes all of the adjustments (recline, headrest height, harness tightness). And installing it into our vehicles was amazingly easy when using the vehicle's seat belts; this is because the ClickTight system allows you to lift up the entire seat bottom to expose the seat belt pass-through. No more fishing around tight places with your hands trying to pull the belt through.
In rear-facing position with the anti-rebound bar, the seat adopts a great recline position for newborn babies, supporting down to 5 pounds with the included infant insert. At the upper limit of 40 pounds rear-facing, leg room got a bit cramped in the rear-facing position, but this is to be expected. Note that there is no specific height limit for rear-facing, it's the same as it is for front-facing (49" tall). If you're interested in prolonging the rear-facing position up to 50 pounds, check out the Graco Extend2Fit or NUNA Rava (below). With the Advocate, you can turn front-facing as early as 20 pounds (Note: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends going rear-facing to the 40-pound limit of the seat), and it will support children up to 65 pounds or 49" tall. At that point, you'll need to transition to a separate belt-positioning booster.
In our testing, we always love the Advocate. It's like the big brother of the Boulevard and Marathon car seats, and really sets the standard for safety and build quality. If we were in an accident (knock-wood), we would want our children to be in a Britax product, ideally the Advocate. But you'll pay the price for all that quality, and you need to have a big back seat to fit all the bulk related to the safety. But the fit and finish are fantastic, the fabric is breathable, and the seat makes you feel really great about your purchase. What else is missing? Well, no cup holders or booster mode. You can buy a separate little cup holder to attach to the side, if needed.
Overall, this Britax Advocate is the best car seat on the market. If you can afford it, and if you can fit it in your vehicle. Interested? You can check out the Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB Convertible Car Seat here.
Pros: Rear-facing all the way up to 50 pounds, Large overall weight range (4-65 pounds), No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Superior crash test performance, Comfortable, Easy to use, Cup holders, Approved for air travel, EZ Tight LATCH.
Cons: No booster mode, Big and heavy, Relatively high price (about $250), A confusing range of models at different stores.
Full Review: About $250, with several color options. This is a very similar car seat to the Graco 4Ever, and we think it deserves this top rated spot on our 2019 list. Given that the 4Ever and Extend2Fit are siblings in the lineup of Graco products, you won't be surprised to learn that they share many basic features and specifications, such as EPS energy-absorbing foam, side impact protection, a steel reinforced frame, 10-position headrest and harnesses, 6-position recline, washable cover, two cup holders, infant insert, and 2 crotch buckle slots. 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. The difference between the 4Ever and Extend2Fit, however, is that the Extend2Fit can support up to 50 pounds (and head at least 1" below the grey headrest adjustment handle) rear-facing, using an innovative extension panel that pulls out on the front, extending leg room up to 5". That means you can use this as a rearfacing seat for much longer and increase safety: in our testing, we could fit kids up to about 3 years old as rear-facing, but older than that and their legs were a bit cramped (though if they are comfortable, they can definitely go older). And while many seats, such as the Diono Radian RXT and Nuna Rava, offer rear-facing up to 45 or 50 pounds, you will find that your child's legs will be uncomfortably bent against the back seat; the extension panel solves this problem. But you do lose some features in comparison to the 4Ever. Specifically, there is no backless booster or belt-positioning booster mode, meaning that this is no longer an "all-in-one" seat (though Graco does sell a $350 Extend2Fit all-in-one, Check it out here).
In our testing, several reviewers commented that this seat was plush and made with high quality breathable fabrics, and that all the adjustments were easy to work with. The Platinum version has especially high quality fabrics, a bit more padding in the seat, and the awesome EZ Tight LATCH system that basically automatically tightens the LATCH system simply by pushing back on the seat (rather than pulling up on a strap). The non-platinum version uses the InRight LATCH system. There's one other point worth considering with this seat: in our testing, we found that the 5" extension does make this car seat stick out even farther from the back seat. For smaller cars or taller front seat occupants this made things challenging: the car seat protruded so much from the back seat that it became even more likely to hit up against the back of the front driver's or passenger's seat. This won't be an issue if you have a larger car or SUV, or if you're comfortable having your front seats slid forward a bit more. Given the increased safety offered by rear-facing for longer periods of time, we think that compromise is worth it. As always, read the owner's manual because there are some specifics about recline positions for different weight ranges: for instance, when rear-facing a child over 40 pounds use reclines 2, 3, or 4, but when forward-facing a child 22-40 pounds use position 4, and over 40 pounds use positions 5 or 6 (the front-facing range is 22-65 pounds).
Overall, we found this Graco Extend2Fit Platinum to be one of the best overall car seats on the market, with super versatility, comfort, reliability, ruggedness, ease of use, superior crash testing performance, and safety. Not surprisingly, it was our #1 best for two years in a row! Interested? You can check out the Graco Extend2Fit Platinum here.
Pros: Britax reputation for safety, quality, reliability, and support, Made in USA, Good for tall kids, Decent overall weight range (5-65 pounds), No-rethread harness, Double side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPP energy-absorbing foam, Superior crash test performance, SafeCell technology, Approved for air travel, Comfortable, Easy to install ClickTight technology.
Cons: No booster mode, Big and heavy, No cup-holder, Old-style LATCH connectors, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds, Expensive (about $300).
Full Review: Usually about $300, depending on color and patterns. As you probably know, Britax USA is world-renowned for making (right here in the USA!) some of the safest car seats available on the market. They have a very long reputation of high quality, reliability, and product support. Britax makes several of the best car seats in the world, with a range of prices. The least expensive convertible models are the Roundabout and Marathon, and the most expensive are the Boulevard and Advocate. But as you jump up to the better Britax models, you increase convenience and safety features. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible and the Britax Advocate ClickTight convertible are also about 2" taller than the Marathon, which is great for taller kids and can help extend the rear-facing position before hitting the height limits. The Boulevard is right up near the top of the Britax range, just under the Advocate (reviewed above), and we consider it one of the best car seats we have ever tested. The primary differences between the Britax Boulevard and Advocate, are that the Advocate adds triple-layer side-impact protection, an anti-rebound bar, and a bit more padding (and about 1 more pound of bulk). Most everything else is the same between the two seats, and you can check out the Britax Advocate here.
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible car seat supports babies as little as 5 pounds, with 5-40 pounds as a rearfacing seat (which means this can function as a rear-facing toddler car seat for a decent amount of time), and 20-65 pounds as a forwardfacing car seat (front-facing), so that's an excellent range for a convertible seat. Let's start with the installation. If you're using the car's shoulder belts, you will absolutely love the Britax ClickTight technology, which allows you to pivot up the bottom of the seat and feed the seat belt through the rear. It's amazing, and we always wonder why no other manufacturer thought of this idea: it's a total pain in the butt to route a shoulder belt through the back of a seat, and this makes it very simple and secure. Honestly, the ClickTight makes life so much easier that it justifies the extra cash over any of the Graco options on this 2019 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 routing things correctly and have a perfect recline position for your baby.
We've already mentioned that the Britax car seats are all about safety, so let's consider the safety features. First, let's cover the basics: it has a 5-point harness that is easily adjustable from right up front, with no rethreading needed, just slide the headrest up and down using the handle right up top. Second, this Britax also uses the SafeCell impact protection system, which means that it is reinforced by steel, and uses a shell that is packed with energy absorbing foam. Third, it also has very thick double side-impact protection, using energy absorbing foam in the wings, and a well-padded headrest. And great convenience features here too, including the Click & Safe Snug Harness Indicator, which gives you a "click" sound when the harness is tight enough for your baby. And 14 headrest/harness positions, and 2 crotch buckle positions.
In our testing, we found everything had a great hand-feel, and all of the components felt durable, high quality, and comfortable. The fabric is breathable and comfortable, and provides easy clean-up and washing. The Nanotex is even better if you're willing to cough up the extra cash. With all the safety and convenience features, you will notice that the Boulevard is really large. Safe car seats tend to be really heavy, and Britax is an expert at this - in fact, the Boulevard ClickTight was also recently ranked at the top of Babygearlab's reviews, receiving excellent independent crash test ratings, and Babylist also gives it accolades for its safety features. Another minor inconvenience is the lack of cup-holders, and those old-fashioned (not easy-click) LATCH connectors mean that you need to loosen the LATCH straps before detaching the seat from the vehicle. Outside of those small issues, you are getting a truly excellent and safe car seat that deserves its 5 stars based on its safety and features alone, and in our opinion, it is the second best seat available on the market, that will satisfy even the most safety-conscious parents. Interested? You can check out the Britax Boulevard ClickTight here. Looking for triple side-impact protection? Check out the Britax Advocate, which is even bigger and safer, but also more expensive.
Pros: Largest weight range available (4 to 120 pounds), A true 4in1 convertible car seat that converts to belt-positioning and backless booster car seats, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Superior crash test performance, Approved for air travel, Comfortable, Cup-holders, Easy adjustments, Modern LATCH connectors.
Cons: Big and heavy, Adjustments get sticky over time, Pricey (about $250-300), Jack of all trades but master of none.
Full Review: About $250 to $300, depending on color options. This year we have several Graco car seats in the top 5 of these 2019 reviews. Given their versatility and longevity, we think the Graco 4Ever and Extend2Fit are worth every penny. Our reviewers agreed that the Graco 4Ever was one of the most versatile, comfortable, and functional products available. It truly is an all-in-one seat, accommodating a weight range from 4 to 120 pounds. The secret is that it starts as a rear-facing infant seat (4 to 40 pounds) with a plush and removable infant insert. And the rear-facing infant mode with the insert provides really nice support and positioning for a newborn, which is impressive given that this seat converts all the way up to a booster! If you're looking to go even longer rear-facing, then you might want to check out the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit, which is the same seat but with a 5" extension to provide more leg room while rear-facing (just like the Graco Extend2Fit convertible seat, above), and supporting up to 50 pounds rear-facing. After rear-facing, it transitions to a front-facing toddler car seat (20 to 65 pounds) without the infant insert. Then it transitions to two different types of booster seats, one with the highback still on it to position the vehicle's seat belt (30 to 100 pounds), and then finally you remove the back completely for a bottom-seat-only booster (40 to 120 pounds; see our reviews of best booster seats). Given how low the infant weight range goes (4 pounds), this can be a great option for premature babies.
This is the most versatile car seat on our list: not only does it convert from an infant to toddler seat, it also converts all the way to a bottom-only booster. To meet this lifespan, the seat is rated for up to 10 years of use! In addition to that awesome versatility, there are a ton of other positive features here. First, the shoulder belts and headrest are easily adjusted using a handle positioned on the top (no rethreading ever needed). Second, the recline handle is right on the front and adjusts to a wide range (6-positions) of backseat slopes: this allows you to get the correct recline when used in rear-facing infant mode: as your infant gets larger, you will want less of a recline, even when rear-facing. The color-coded recline settings on the side were a nice touch, helping you understand how much recline is needed for each configuration. It also has a built-in level to help you ensure the "base" is mounted in an ideal, level position. Third, the InRight LATCH system is awesome and makes life easier when you need to pull it in/out of different vehicles. Instead of the traditional "hook" LATCH, which is a pain to remove for quick-swapping between vehicles, the InRight LATCH system has a red button that you press to release the clip. Of course, it also has easy-to-use seat belt pass-throughs for vehicles without the LATCH option.
Speaking of safety, the 4Ever has a steel-reinforced frame, beefy side-impact protection, and EPS energy-absorbing foam. Fourth, we found it generally comfortable and soft, and very supportive for even very little (4 pound) babies, with the included infant insert. The fabric is not quite as soft, plush, or breathable as some other options, like the Nuna Rava, but it has a clear advantage: you can remove and machine wash it! Finally, it comes with two nicely positioned cup holders: for babies, these can be used for storing toys, and for toddlers they can be used for sippy cups and snacks. They will also collect sticky old foods, so there's that to look forward to. Downfalls? Well, we've received several recent reports of the harness adjustment becoming very tight and difficult to adjust, usually after about a year of ownership. We didn't have that happen yet in ours, but we want to point out that several parents have told us about this experience. If you find yourself in that situation, contact Graco and they will likely replace or even refund.
Overall, we think you really can't go wrong with this safe, sturdy, well-made, Graco product, and it is very deserving of this spot on our list. Interested? You can check out the Graco 4Ever 4in1 car seat here. Note that if you like the look, feel, and features of this seat, but don't need such a wide weight range, check out our review of the Graco Milestone all-in-one convertible car seat.
Pros: Zip-off machine-washable cover, Decent overall weight range (5-65 pounds), Easy to use and innovative LATCH system, Wide adjustment range, Easy installation, Out-of-the-way no-rethread harness design, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Soft breathable fabric, Approved for air travel, Durable and high quality fit and finish.
Cons: Very heavy, Very large, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds, No booster mode, Difficult to use cup-holder, Poor crotch-buckle positioning, Bucket style seat difficult to get into and out of, Very expensive (about $350).
Full Review: Usually about $350, though the non-Zip version without a machine washable zip-off cover is a bit less expensive. The Chicco NextFit Zip comes in at a whopping 26 pounds, nearly the heaviest on our list (but see the NUNA Rava); 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. This versatile car seat supports newborn babies using the included infant insert, starting at 5 pounds and going up to 11 pounds. It supports up to 40 pounds in rear-facing mode, and then up to a very high 65 pounds in front-facing mode. This means in rear-facing mode it can serve as an infant car seat and a toddler car seat for up to 40 pounds (which kids usually reach around 4-5 years old).
There were certain things we really loved about the NextFit Zip. First, the easy to read recline indicators have an intuitive numbered system (from 1 to 9) for recline levels appropriate 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 during a drive! 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 conventional back 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. And 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 put an anti-rebound bar on it in the near future (like the Advocate).
So, there are really a ton of great features on the Chicco Nextfit ix Zip, not to mention how great the fabric was - it was soft, breathable, and comfortable, while also being easy to wipe clean with a cloth as needed. So why is it down here on our list? Well, if you compare it feature for feature to the Graco, Diono, and Britax options above, you realize that it doesn't really stand out in any particular way except for the higher weight and higher price tag. Is it worth paying a little more to have one of the best seats on the market, with the best zip-system for removing the cover? Maybe, but we'll leave that up to you! We also found the harness tightness very difficult to adjust when the seat was rear-facing, as the adjustment strap gets squeezed up against the rear seat. Also, the detachable cup holder isn't super easy to use, and the crotch strap was great for babies but not so well positioned for bigger kiddos: our 5 year old was sitting on the buckle, after putting it into the outer position. And the deep bucket-style seat made it a bit more difficult to get baby in and out of the seat, especially in smaller cars, and to be honest this is one of the biggest downfalls of this seat. The L-shaped seats are much easier to get in and out of. But overall, this Chicco model is an excellent option, and definitely worth considering if you're willing to pay the extra cash. Interested? You can check out the Chicco NextFit IX Zip here.
Pros: Britax reputation for safety, quality, reliability, and support, Made in USA, Reasonable price (about $225 and up), Decent overall weight range (5-65 pounds), No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPP energy-absorbing foam, Approved for air travel, Superior crash test performance, SafeCell technology, Easy to install ClickTight technology.
Cons: Limited height for tall kids, Less plush and comfortable than Boulevard, No booster mode, No cup-holder, Cover not machine-washable, Old-style LATCH connectors, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds.
Full Review: Between $225 and $350, depending on color and pattern options, and coming in at only 17 pounds. Made right here in the USA, rated as best overall in private crash testing, and receiving excellent government front-impact crash ratings, the Britax Marathon ClickTight is a super safe, reliable, comfortable, and versatile car seat. Britax is known for making some of the safest convertible seats on the market. The Marathon is rated for 5-65 pounds, with rear-facing from 5-40 pounds, and front-facing from 20-65 pounds. So you'll very likely be able to use this seat as rear-facing until your toddler is about 2 years old, unless they are very tall. If so, you will want to consider the Britax Boulevard (above), which is about 2" higher in the back. Britax never fails at appearing 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. Britax car seats are excellent, and they have been dominating this niche for a very long time. The Marathon ClickTight is Britax's flagship car seat, and in our testing, we found that it has high quality construction, great safety features, super easy installation, and comfort.
This infant to toddler car seat has great side impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam (and SafeCell impact absorbing base and harness pads), 12-point quick-adjust harness system, adjustable recline, and it feels very sturdy and comfortable. The ClickTight technology is second-to-none for making installation a breeze when using the vehicle's seat belts. The entire front bottom lifts up and exposes the underside, making it super easy to reach in and feed the seat belt through. This gives parents the ease of use, and peace of mind they deserve when installing a car seat for the first (and second, and third) time! The fabric is also nice, but not machine washable, so keep that in mind. While Britax is never inexpensive, the seat does have some great features, and it comes with the Britax reputation for quality and safety. But overall we also found that it's quite basic, doesn't have a great weight range for parents wanting to rear-face for longer, and is not as comfy and plush as other options. We also found the crotch strap to be a bit short, resulting in the lower straps digging a bit into chubby baby thighs. Finally, we have a warehouse full of used seats and have discovered that many of the Marathons have torn/ripped cover fabric, especially along the seams. We don't tend to see that with many other brands, particularly ones at this price point.
If you're finding yourself on the upper end of the price range because of your color options, may we also suggest checking out the Britax Boulevard? The Boulevard is the higher-end seat, but very similar in most regards. From what we could tell, the key differences are that the Boulevard is a bit beefier and heavier, providing more shoulder room for the child, and its shell is about 2" taller than the Marathon. The Boulevard also has a bit more padding behind and to the sides of the head, and provides a softer infant insert. But the added comfort and safety comes with some added cost, with the Boulevard coming in about $30-40 more than the Marathon. 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 on versatility. Interested? You can check out the Britax Marathon ClickTight here.
Pros: Exciting new car seat (released in 2018), Durable and high quality fit and finish, Superior overall weight range (5 to 120 pounds), Converts to belt-positioning booster car seat, Relatively narrow form factor (19" wide), No-rethread harness, Adjustable side impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Super soft breathable fabric, Approved for air travel.
Cons: Very heavy, Very large, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds or 40" height, No steel-reinforced frame, Expert lint and fur collector, A bit expensive (about $300).
Full Review: Usually under $300, and available in multiple colors (the Midnight Slate is pictured here). This is the newest addition to the Maxi Cosi convertible car seat line-up. And they make some truly excellent car seats - this Magellan 5-in-1 is no exception. This versatile seat supports newborns as small as 5 pounds, and rear-facing up to 40 pounds or 40" height. That's a much lower weight limit than the Extend2Fit or Nuna Rava, which both support up to 50 pounds rear-facing. Then it transitions to a forward-facing toddler car seat from 22-65 pounds with the 5-point harness, and then finally to a belt-positioning booster seat from 40-120 pounds. That's a lot of versatility, second only to the 4Ever, which can support as low as 4 pounds and up to 120 pounds or about 10 years of age. The 4Ever can also convert to a backless booster, which this does not. But there is a ton of additional versatility, such as a 14-position headrest with no-rethread harness, seat belt lock-offs, premium LATCH connectors (can be used up to 40 pounds), adjustable lower and Air Protect upper side impact protection, 7 recline positions (awesome), two cup-holders that are super functional (though a little narrow for some bottles and sippy cups), FAA approved for air travel, and machine washable fabrics that are reasonably easy to remove.
Out of the box, this thing was pretty heavy, tipping the scale at about 25 pounds; so it's not a great option for easily swapping in and out of different cars. We measured it at about 13" wide at the bottom, about 19" wide at the torso (from cup-holder to cup-holder), and about 19.25" at the shoulders. But much of that weight and bulk comes from its superior side-impact protection that protects both the torso and upper extremities. 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. Make sure you read the owner's manual to ensure you're installing and using the seat appropriately.
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 (more on that later). 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 only available at premium retailers for about $40 more than the regular Magellan (click here to see it at Nordstrom). 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. Relative to the non-Max, we would rank the Max up a couple places in this list (maybe #4 or so).
Limitations? Well, 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 (the Diono Radian) or 50 (the Nuna Rava and Extend2Fit) 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. It was also amazingly good at attracting lint and dog hair, so we suggest keeping a lint brush in your car (or going with the Magellan Max version for a much better fabric)! No other complaints though, other than the slightly high price. So overall this is a truly excellent, premium car seat with only a few limitations to consider when making your decision. Interested? You can check out the Maxi Cosi Magellan Convertible Car Seat here. Also check out our review of the Maxi Cosi Pria 85 Max, for something a bit cheaper than the Magellan Max but with a lower weight limit.
Pros: Rear-facing all the way up to 50 pounds (like the Extend2Fit), Stylish and super premium fit and finish, Rear-facing to 50 pounds (like the Extend2Fit), Decent overall weight range (5 to 65 pounds), Awesome easy installation with Simply Secure and True Tension technologies, Premium LATCH connectors, Super soft and comfortable, Easy adjustments, Flip-up cup holder, Machine washable cover, Approved for air travel, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam.
Cons: Very heavy and large, No booster mode, Awkward cup holder position, Too expensive for our tastes (about $450), Only available through premium retailers, and the fabric is a supreme master at lint/hair/dust collection.
Full Review: Usually about $450, and only available through exclusive merchants, such as Nordstrom. The NUNA Rava is truly excellent, and one of the best we have ever tested. And we've been doing this for over a decade, so that's saying a lot! But it's also just so darn expensive, that we can't justify putting it higher up on our list. Moms rave about the Rava, and for some great reasons. Rear-facing, this seat can support from 5 (with the included infant body/head inserts) all the way up to 50 pounds, and front-facing up to 65 pounds. That is the highest rear-facing weight limit on this list, tied with the Extend2Fit Graco car seat. That means you can use this in rear-facing position not just as an infant seat, but also as a toddler seat. The NUNA Rava achieves this high rear-facing limit by extending the seat about 2" longer than most other seats, giving your child a bit more leg room as they grow. This is the same approach as with the Extend2Fit, but the Rava does it for about $200 more and without the actual extension panel. So the Extend2Fit and Rava are the best options if you're interested in keeping your toddler rear-facing for as long as possible, but they are going to appeal to slightly different budgets.
The Rava is a truly premium, luxury 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. And everything works perfectly. The harness is easy to adjust for tightness and the harness and headrest are easy to adjust for height (no rethreading, and adjusts across 10 height levels!). There are 10 recline positions so this seat is excellent for fitting rear seats with awkward pitch angles. Even the crotch buckle is adjustable between two positions, without rethreading. The cover is machine washable. When we put this in the car, we loved the Simply Secure Installation and True Tension Door: this seat really does an excellent job with belt-based installations, with a built in tensioning system to make sure you're getting the perfect fit when rear-facing or front-facing. It does come with the premium quality (push-button) LATCH lower anchor connectors, but NUNA is very adament (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? Well, 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. We thought the Simply Secure installation system was easy to use, and is clearly the best long-term installation option.
In our testing, it took us a little time to learn the different belt paths and tension doors for rear- and front-facing installations, but once we figured it out we were very pleased with how secure everything felt. Speaking of safety, this seat has a steel frame, EPS energy absorbing foam, and side-impact protection; it's a beast. And in spite of its high price, it's up here on the list because of the amazing rear-facing support up to 50 pounds, making it one of the safest car seats on the market. So this car seat has it all, with premium fabrics, premium safety and convenience features, and a premium price tag. If the price tag doesn't scare you away (it did for us!), we highly recommend the Rava for discerning parents. And while you're at it, check out something fancy to go along with it, like one of our best luxury strollers. What are the cons? Well, it's the heaviest seat on this list, with all that premium quality translating into a 27-pound monster. If you have a smaller car like a Corolla or Civic, it might not fit when rear-facing (at least not with a driver over 5 feet tall!) because of its height. It's also wide, coming in at 19", so you can put those dreams of three-in-a-row aside if you're considering this seat. We also found the flip-up cup holders a little awkward in their position. Even our older and taller kiddos struggled a bit to reach way down and to the side to access their cups. So some downfalls, but minor ones. If it weren't for the hefty price tag, it'd by close to the top of this list. Interested? You can check out the Nuna Rava here.
Pros: Premium fit and finish, Rear-facing to 45 pounds (like the Diono Radian RXT), Decent overall weight range (5 to 65 pounds), EPS energy-absorbing foam, Soft and comfortable, Peg Perego SAFE crumple zone system, Premium LATCH connectors, Durable and easy-clean jersey fabric, Easy installation and adjustments, Approved for air travel, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection.
Cons: Bulky and large, No cup holders, No booster mode, Too expensive for most (about $350).
Full Review: Usually about $350, depending on color options. This is a newer edition of the excellent series of Peg Perego car seats. Much pricier than the competition, but for some good reasons, making it a great option. First, we really liked the fact that the rear-facing weight limit of the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible car seat goes all the way up to 45lbs. Not many seats came close to this weight limit and this is extremely useful given the new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that that children be rear-facing for as long as possible. For maximum safety, they advise keeping your baby rear-facing for as long as the car seat allows, and this one reasonably allows you to keep your baby in the safer position for a longer period of time. Front-facing it can support from 22 to 65 pounds. Second, this is a very safe product with great side impact protection; the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio uses EPS energy-absorbing foam on the sides of the car seats as well as below the seat to protect your child's head, neck, and spine in the event of an accident, as well as a contoured steel plate on the back to minimize flex in the event of an accident.
In our tests, 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 (a big plus when your child spills milk all over the seat!) and the seat is heavy and big, but nothing ridiculous (21lbs). A couple cons worth pointing out: first, it does not have cup holders, though that might not be a deal-breaker for you. Second, babies out-grow the Primo Viaggio in height while rear-facing, usually long before they out-grow it in weight. The reason is that the head-rest cannot adjust very high in rear-facing mode (according to the owner's manual), so once your baby gets over about 32" tall. Finally, it's pretty expensive - not as expensive as the Nuna Rava but pretty close, coming in at around $350. Overall, this is a great car seat and would have been higher on our list if it weren't for the price; at $350-400 it's more than twice the price of several other options. Interested? You can check it the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio here.
Pros: Super narrow (17" wide) for fitting three seats in a row, Excellent overall weight range (5 to 120 pounds), Rear-facing up to 45 pounds, Converts to belt-positioning booster car seat, High quality fit and finish everywhere, Easy adjustments, Machine washable cover, Detachable cup-holder, Folds for transport, Approved for air travel, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Safe-stop harness technology, Soft breathable fabric.
Cons: Very heavy, Very large, Some crash testing concerns, Expensive (about $300).
Full Review: Usually about $300. Expensive, but truly a very high quality, safe, reliable, durable, and comfortable seat that accommodates a wide range of baby shapes and sizes. We would definitely put it higher on the list if it had a more reasonable price point! The Diono Radian series is well-known for as one of the narrowest and best car seats on the market. Looking to fit more than 2 car seats in the back some day? Then this is probably the best bet for you, coming in at only 17" wide (if you detach the cup holder). This means that you can fit three across in the back seat of most cars. You can check out our reviews of the narrowest car seats. The Diono Radian RXT covertible car seat is a no-compromise product in terms of safety, quality, comfort and features. It uses a full steel alloy frame with aluminum sides for super strength and rigidity, thick energy absorbing EPS foam side impact protection, a Safe Stop energy absorbing harness system for bigger kids (20-40 pounds, front-facing), and a top tether for rear-facing applications to decrease seat rotation in the event of an impact. It also uses the SuperLATCH system, which makes attaching and detaching the seat easy and secure, with a nice visual indicator so you'll be confident that it's attached correctly.
With all that safety, it's got a lot of bulk and weight, coming in at over 20 pounds heavy! One of the only *full* steel frame and aluminum side convertible seats on the market, which we think is definitely worth the added weight. Unless of course you plan to do a lot of air travel or constantly switch it between vehicles, in which case it might get a bit heavy. We also thought it was super versatile: rear-facing infant seat from 5 to 45 pounds, front-facing toddler seat from 20-80 pounds, and a highback (belt-positioning) booster from 50-120 pounds. That's basically from birth until your child is a "tween"! For the smaller babies, down to 5 pounds, there is a comfortable removable infant insert that nicely supports the hips and head. The range of adjustments were really wide and very easy to use. The head rest adjusted between 12 different height settings, the shoulder belt between 5 different height settings, and the crotch buckle between 3 different positions. It also has nifty adjustable sides that angle in and out to provide more or less support for growing thighs. So as your baby grows into a toddler and beyond, they are sure to be comfortable with ample customizations. Speaking of comfort, the fabric was high quality, soft, and nicely padded; not quite as plush and comfy as the Nuna Rava, but really great. It was also easy to spot-clean, and machine-washable for larger spills and odors. Another feature we loved is that it can fold up for easier transport; so while it's very heavy, it is FAA certified for taking onto an airplane, and folds flat to make carrying a bit easier. We found it could be carried like a back-pack, and it also sat nicely on top of a larger wheely-suitcase. Oh, and it has a little cup-holder that's removable for tighter fits. But we want to talk about crash test results. Some have found less than stellar crash test results for the Radian RXT, during both front-impact and side-impact crashes.
Overall, this is an excellent, versatile, and very well-constructed seat, but the crash test results leave us concerned about safety. It is definitely safe, passing the government standards, but definitely not meeting the protection performance of some of the other seats on this list. Another downfall is that the shoulder straps require rethreading from the back as your baby grows, and that can be a real pain in the butt. A bit more expensive than some others, but if you're looking for a full steel alloy frame, very high build quality, and a narrow enough chassis to squeeze into even the tightest back seats, this is definitely worth the price! Interested? You can check out the Diono Radian RXT all-in-one convertible car seat here.
Conclusions: What We Learned.
Our Hands-on Tests. 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.
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 seats separately and then graduating to a convertible car seat around 2-3 years of age.
Here are some reviews of car seats that didn't make it into our top 10:
Our Review of the Cybex Sirona M SensorSafe Convertible Car Seat
Our Review of the Maxi Cosi Pria 85 Convertible Car Seat
Our Review of the Evenflo Everystage DLX All-in-one Convertible Car Seat
Our Review of the Graco Milestone All-in-one Convertible Car Seat
Our Review of the Baby Jogger City View Convertible Car Seat
As always, if you have any questions or need personalized advice, visit our facebook page and send us a message!