Best Convertible Car Seats 2020
- Top 5 Comparison Table
- 1. Graco Extend2Fit
- 2. Britax Advocate ClickTight
- 3. Britax One4Life 4-in-1
- 4. Graco 4Ever 4-in-1
- 5. Chicco Fit4 Convertible
- 6. Britax Boulevard ClickTight
- 7. Chicco NextFit Zip
- 8. Safety 1st Grow & Go
- 9. Diono Radian 3RXT
- 10. Britax Marathon ClickTight
- 11. Graco Milestone All-in-One
- 12. Maxi Cosi Magellan
- 13. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio
- 14. Diono Rainier
- 15. Nuna RAVA
- 16. Maxi Cosi Pria 85 Max
- Additional Models
- Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
|Model and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. Graco Extend2Fit|
|#2. Britax Advocate ClickTight|
|#3. Britax One4Life|
|#4. Graco 4Ever 4-in-1|
|#5. Chicco Fit4 Convertible|
Here are the Best Convertible Car Seats of 2020!
This Graco convertible car seat has all the right 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 (4-65 pounds), going all the way down to 4 pounds (making it a great option for preemies). It also has a sturdy steel-reinforced frame, a no-rethread harness, hefty side impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, superior crash test performance, two cup holders, and we found it easy to install (using the innovative EZ-Tight LATCH) and use. It's also super comfortable and approved for air travel, making it an obvious choice for parents looking for superior versatility. Not to mention that the price is way more reasonable than the Britax competitors, coming in at only about $250 - which sounds steep but is a great price for such a feature-rich car seat.
This is a very similar car seat to the Graco 4Ever, and we think it is very deserving of this top rated spot on our 2020 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 3RXT 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).
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 a small car 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 (and 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 Convertible Car Seat here.
The Britax Advocate ClickTight Anti-Rebound Bar (ARB) is one of the best overall convertible car seats for 2020, and there is so much to love here! Some of the best features of this car seat include the anti-rebound bar in rear-facing position, the large overall weight range (5-65 pounds), the no-rethread harness, and triple (!) side impact protection. It also has a sturdy steel-reinforced frame, EPP energy-absorbing foam, superior crash test performance, comfortable cushioning and fabric, easy installation and use, and a super high quality fit and finish. It's also approved for air travel. So there are so many positive aspects with this convertible car seat. What are the negatives? Only a few, including no booster mode, a limited rear-facing weight limit (40 pounds rather than 50 like some), no cup holders, and it is big and heavy and relatively expensive. The Britax Advocate usually sells for about $380+ (eek!) and has several basic pattern options, most of which are in the black and grey theme.
Britax USA is world-renowned for building the best car seats that money can buy, combining the best of 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.
The One4Life is the newest addition to the Britax line-up of excellent infant and convertible 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 becoming a front-runner. And all 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 late last year and then recently were able to conduct a full hands-on review for inclusion in our 2020 round-up. We were super impressed with the quality of this car seat. Out of the box, 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 says they will be adding an anti-rebound bar in the near future, for rear-facing installations (we'll update this review when it shows up).
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.
In the rear-facing configuration and with the infant insert installed, the seat can support from 5-20 pounds; the newborn recline setting is sufficient for many vehicles, but Britax also included a little cut-out area in the base to fit a pool noodle in case you need a bit more incline to accommodate your back seat's angle. For newborns, the 5 pound minimum is a little ambitious given that the lowest harness height is a bit higher than you'd expect a preemie newborn's torso length to be at that point. 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. Remove the infant insert and your child can remain rear-facing up to 50 pounds or until the top of their head is less than 1" below the top edge of the head rest. In the front-facing configuration with the 5-point harness, the seat supports children from 22-65 pounds and less than 49" tall (the highest harness position is 19" tall!). Finally, the seat transitions to a full booster mode for children from 40-120 pounds. That makes this a full 10-year convertible car seat, lasting from newborn all the way until your child is ready to transition to the vehicle's seat.
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? Well, the seat is rated down to 5 pounds but we found that the lowest harness height was maybe a bit too tall for such a little newborn (or preemie). We also didn't like that the protruding cup holders were placed right in the middle of the arm rests, rendering the arm rests pretty uncomfortable for older kids. It also doesn't convert to a backless booster, but you probably won't need it with this extended booster mode. It's also huge, wide, and heavy, making it less ideal for trying to fit three car seats in a row or moving it between vehicles (unless you have biceps like the Hulk). And the relatively high price, coming in at about $375. Overall, this is a truly amazing convertible car seat that is worthy of this top-rated position on our list, but you'll need to decide if it fits your budget and needs! Interested? You can check out the Britax One4Life all-in-one convertible car seat here.
If you're looking for versatility and long-term use, you've come to the right place! The Graco 4Ever can basically be used until your child is ready to ride without a car seat at all, with the largest weight range available (4 to 120 pounds) and true 4in1 convertible car seat capabilities (serving as a rear-facing seat, front-facing harnessed seat, front-facing belt-positioning booster, and a backless booster). In addition to this awesome versatility, it also has all the convenience features you've come to expect in a $300 car seat: a no-rethread harness, beefy side-impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, and great side-impact protection. It also has great crash test performance and is approved for air travel. Like the Extend2Fit, it has two cup holders, easy install and adjustments, and modern LATCH connectors. Unlike the Extend2Fit, it only accommodates rear-facing up to 40 pounds. Given all its versatility, we found it to be pretty big and heavy and not well suited for compact cars. It's also a bit of a jack-of-all-trades but master of none, and some of the adjustments got really sticky over time. The Graco 4Ever sells for about $250 to $300, depending on color options.
This year we have several Graco car seats in the top 5. 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.
The Chicco Fit4 is the newest all-in-one convertible car seat, introduced late last year and making a big splash. And for some great reasons. Highlights include support 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. For safety, it includes EPS energy-absorbing foam, a steel-reinforced frame, beefy side-impact protection, intuitive seatbelt guides and lock-offs, and super easy (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 FAA approval 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 deep seat on the Fit4 is also a bit more amenable to extended rear-facing (to 40 pounds). Overall, we think the Fit4 is a superior convertible car seat to the NextFit, with a couple caveats: seatbelt installation is a bit more challenging with the Fit4, and its infant mode might not be quite as cozy as with the NextFit.
We got our hands on the Fit4 for testing in early 2020 and were really impressed. We love the 4-stage FitKit system that provides padded inserts that are suitable for each 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. The kits 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 our test babies tended to get a sweaty back sooner than with other car seats, given the somewhat low breathability of the thick fabrics. So there's definitely a comfort versus coolness trade-off. 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 comes in at a whopping 25 pounds. Of course, you'll hopefully be keeping the car seat in the vehicle the vast majority of the time, so that weight shouldn't be a huge issue. Other things we really appreciated were the deep seating position without having high bucket-style sides (unlike the NextFit), the easy adjustments (and the very vast recline settings), the removable and machine-washable cover, and super easy LATCH installation. 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 a booster transition, especially given the recent controversy surrounding poor belt-positioning booster crash test results. 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 relatively compact cars and for tall 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, this is a truly excellent new convertible car seat that is very deserving of this spot on our list! 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.
Is the Advocate out of your price range? The Britax Boulevard might be a great choice for you and save you some serious cash in the meantime. Highlights of this car seat include the strong Britax reputation for safety, quality, reliability, and support. It's also made right here in the USA, has a good overall weight range (5-65 pounds), a no-rethread harness, and the awesome ClickTight technology that makes installation a breeze. For safety features, it is basically unparalleled (other than the Advocate!): it has double side-impact protection, a sturdy steel-reinforced frame, EPP energy-absorbing foam, SafeCell technology, and excellent crash test performance. We found it super comfortable in both its padding and fabrics and easy to clean. It's also approved for air travel if you're on the go. So there's a lot to love here.
The only cons we encountered were minor and similar to the Advocate: it has no booster mode, rear-facing is limited to 40 pounds, it's quite big and heavy, and has no cup-holder. You're saving some money relative to the Advocate, which basically means one less layer of side-impact protection, and the old-style LATCH connectors. The Britax Boulevard usually sells for 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 2020 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. Like the other ClickTight models, this has an expiration date 10 years after manufacturing, which is super long (see our full list of car seat expiration dates here)! 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.
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 beefy steel-reinforced frame, and EPS energy-absorbing foam. It's weight range is the same as the Boulevard and Advocate, supporting babies as small as 5 pounds, and kiddos up to 65 pounds. Overall, we think it has high quality fit and finish, and is a truly superb car seat that's worth considering. The only real cons we found include: it's very big and heavy just like most of the front-runners this year, it has no booster mode, rear-facing is limited to 40 pounds, the cup holders are a little annoying, the crotch buckle positioning is poor, and the bucket seat is comfortable but also really to get babies into and out of (especially in smaller cars). Oh, and it's also about $350, putting it on par with the Britax Boulevard for price. The Chicco NextFit Zip is usually about $300, 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 isn't it higher on our list? Well, if you compare it feature for feature to the Graco 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. While we're here, we also want to point out that 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 newborns (only babies over 12 pounds), and the NextFit Air is the most expensive with its 3D AirMesh lumbar area to promote airflow. Interested? You can check out the Chicco NextFit IX Zip here.
Safety 1st makes some outstanding baby products for budget-friendly prices. They have 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 a little 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. 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 really great fit! Interested? You can check out the Safety 1st Grow and Go Convertible Car Seat here.
The Diono Radian RXT3 excels because of its super narrow (17" wide) footprint that makes it ideal for fitting three seats in a row. That's not to say it's not an awesome car seat - it is, but the narrowness is really king here. Like the 4Ever and Magellan, this car seat can support babies as little as 5 pounds and all the way up to 120 pounds (it's a 3-in-1 car seat), giving it an excellent overall weight range. For safety, it supports rear-facing up to 45 pounds, has side-impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, a steel-reinforced frame, and uses the safe-stop harness technology. 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) and actually fits between the arm rests without issue. The fabric is soft and breathable, and the styling is simple and sophisticated. It's also quite expensive and not great for kids with a really hefty bum given how narrow it is! The Diono Radian is usually about $300. That's pricey for many, but it's 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 3RXT convertible 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 20-65 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 harness between 5 different height settings (with rethreading), 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 3RXT, during both front-impact and side-impact crashes. Overall, this is an excellent, versatile, and very well-constructed seat, with some minor cons and a hefty price tag. One downfall worth mentioning 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 3RXT all-in-one convertible car seat here.
This is the most reasonably-priced Britax convertible car seat on the market, making it appealing to parents who want the Britax reputation without the $350 price tag. Made right here in the USA, the Marathon has a very strong history for safety, quality, reliability, and a fair price (about $250 and up). 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. But it's also much cheaper than the Advocate and Boulevard, so you lose a few things: first, it's not great for taller kids, is less plush and comfortable than those higher-priced car seats, has a non-machine-washable cover, and uses the old-fashioned LATCH connectors. Rear-facing is limited to 40 pounds just like the Advocate and Boulevard, and it has no cup holders. The Britax Marathon usually sells for 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 while still having one of the best convertible car seats of the year. Interested? You can check out the Britax Marathon ClickTight here.
Usually about $200, depending on color options. This is a truly awesome option that is similar in some ways to the Graco 4ever. There are a few primary differences between these two Graco models. First, this Graco Milestone convertible car seat is nearly $100 less expensive, but doesn't convert into a backless booster for use up to 120 pounds. The other difference is that it doesn't support babies down to 4 pounds, only down to 5. So if you have a premie baby under 5 pounds you'll need to look into the 4ever. Outside of those differences, this is nearly as versatile as the 4ever, supporting babies from 5 pounds (using included infant insert) up to 100 pounds, and has basically identical features. One of the most versatile and best car seats on the market, this seat converts from a rear facing infant and toddler car seat supporting weights from 5 to 40 pounds, to a forward facing seat supporting weights from 20 to 65 pounds, and then finally to a belt- positioning booster from 30 to 100 pounds. It expires 10 years after the manufacture date, which is really fantastic if you want to use it for the long-haul (or for more than one kid!). Many car seats expire after only 6 years, as detailed in our car seat expiration guide. It's heavy, like all convertible car seats with a steel-reinforced frame.
Speaking of safety, it also uses EPS energy-absorbing foam like most of the other best seats on the market. In addition to this versatility that is second only to the 4ever, there are some additional great features. First, we love the Simply Safe adjustable harness and headrest, that adjust together by pulling up on the red handle at the top of the headrest. Super simple to adjust across 10 levels of height, and you will never need to rethread from the rear. Second, we liked the recline function: while it wasn't quite as extensive as the 4ever (which has 6 recline settings, and this has 4), it was easy to use via the handle right up front, and we found that the 4 positions were definitely sufficient for most applications (ranging from small to large vehicles, and little babies to toddlers). To make things easier, there is a clever ball level that shows you exactly how much recline you should have when positioned rear-facing. Third, the InRight LATCH system makes installation and swapping between vehicles super easy with the Graco-designed LATCH connector that is a snap to use. 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.
Cons? Well, nothing major except that it isn't quite as versatile as the 4Ever All-in-1 convertible car seat in terms of weight range (both lower and upper), converting to a bottom-only booster, and number of recline positions. It also has only 1 detachable cup holder, versus the 2 built-in cup holders on the 4Ever. We also find it a bit narrow for larger kids. Not narrow for the overall chassis, but mostly the seating area. If your child is normal build, they'll be fine, but if you've got a chunky monkey you might want to consider the Boulevard or 4Ever. We also suggest either of those seats if you're looking for a more premium experience in terms of cushioning and overall build quality. 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. For the price, we suggest going with the 4Ever. Interested? You can check out the Graco Milestone here.
We first got our hands on this new release from Maxi Cosi last year, and were really excited for what it offers! Overall, we found it to be super durable and have a high quality fit and finish that you've come to expect from Maxi Cosi. It has a really superior weight range from 5 to 120 pounds, making it almost as versatile as the Graco 4Ever (but not as suitable for preemies). It's a 3in1 convertible car seat, meaning it can be rear-facing, front-facing with harness, or front-facing as a belt-positioning booster. And they've somehow fit all that versatility into a car seat that's reasonably narrow, coming in at about 19" wide. They've also squeezed some good safety features, like adjustable side-impact protection, EPS and energy-absorbing foam. Installation is a little clunky but easy enough, and it's not super heavy - likely owing to the fact that it doesn't have a steel-reinforced frame.
In our testing, we found it to be an expert lint and fur collector, making it look a bit shabby after a couple days. It's also limited to 40 pounds rear-facing (or 40" height). So a lot of great features and comfort, but it's a bit lacking for a $300 car seat. The Maxi Cosi Magellan usually sells for under $300, and is 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 RXT) 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.
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio has been on our list of best convertible car seats for several years now. It's always in the 5-10 range in our rankings, and almost always an after-thought when we're consider car seats. But we don't think it should be neglected in your search! Peg Perego makes some very high quality baby products, and this car seat is no exception. It has a very premium fit and finish, and has some great safety features. It is one of only two car seats on this list with a rear-facing limit of 45 pounds (right between the usual 40-pound limit, and the industry-leading 50-pound limit), and has a decent overall weight range of 5-65 pounds that matches some of the very high-ranking seats on this list. For additional safety, it uses EPS energy-absorbing foam, side-impact protection, the innovative Peg Perego SAFE crumple zone system, and it's pretty easy to install correctly. The fabric is relatively durable and easy to clean, it uses a no-rethread harness system, and has premium LATCH connectors. It's also approved for air travel.
So what's there not to like? Well, at this high of a price (about $350) we simply were expecting more from the seat. We found it to be rather bulky and large, it has no booster mode or cup holders, the seat sits super high up in the car (which isn't good for smaller cars), and it's not very good at accommodating taller kids. The steel-reinforcement is a plate in the back of the frame, rather than a full frame steel reinforcement, though we do point out that it has a great safety record. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio is 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.
The Diono family of convertible car seats is vast and impressive. And the numbers and lettering 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). When comparing the Radian versus Rainier, the Rainier offers extended rear-facing up to 50 pounds, and huge and deep side walls. The Rainier is also extremely heavy (31 pounds) and truly enormous (18" wide, 16" deep, and over 28" tall), making it only reasonable for parents with large vehicles (especially when rear-facing), and those who do not need to regularly swap the seat around between vehicles.
All of that weight and bulk translates to increased safety features and comfort: the Rainier uses a full steel frame, energy-absorbing EPS foam, aluminum-reinforced side walls, and memory foam seat. Like we noted earlier, the Rainier 2AXT adds the adjustable head rest, but also adds about $100 more cost. If money is no issue for your family then we definitely suggest going with the 2AXT, though the 2AX is basically the same thing without the extra head rests, and it's only about $230. The Rainier is one of the more luxorious convertible car seats on this list, and in our testing we found it extremely comfortable and high quality. Installation was a little difficult simply due to its weight and bulk, especially when positioning rear-facing. Its integrated LATCH system is high quality and easy to use, the harness tension is easy to adjust, and we appreciated the rubber base that makes it less likely to slide around on your vehicle's seat. An important note about the LATCH system: do not use LATCH when your child exceeds 35 pounds rear-facing, or 40 pounds front-facing (switch to the vehicle's belts at that point).
The seat cover was easy enough to remove and is machine washable, and we liked how it folded up for travel (to throw in the trunk, or to bring on a plane). The other thing we liked is how low the sides are on the bottom, making it surprisingly easy get your baby in and out of the seat. There were a few things we didn't like about the seat. First, its size and weight make it impractical for most families, but we'll leave that up to you. Second, the shoulder harness height is only adjustable by rethreading from the rear of the seat, which is a pain. Third, in rear-facing the seat uses a floor tether that is a bit of a pain to install, and the belt-positioner in booster mode isn't the best (similar to what we found with the Radian). So overall, the Diono Rainier is a great option for people with bigger vehicles and bigger budgets, offering superior comfort and safety features, the Diono reputation for quality, and some serious versatility to support growing children from birth up to about 8-10 years of age. Interested? You can check out the Diono Rainier 2AXT all-in-one convertible car seat here.
Nuna makes some awesome car seats that are super comfortable and have a very high quality fit and finish. And you'll pay for it, with this car seat coming in at about $450, making it the most expensive convertible car seat on our list! But we do admit, you get a lot for the price. For safety, this car seat can support rear-facing all the way up to 50 pounds (just like the Extend2Fit), uses Simply Secure and True Tension technologies, premium and easy to use LATCH connectors, has beefy side-impact protection, 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-rethreat harness, and we found the adjustments really easy to use. It looks, feels, and acts like a truly premium car seat. It's also approved for air travel, in case you're jet-setting with baby. Like most of the car seats on this list, it's very heavy and large. It also has no booster mode (belt-positioning or otherwise), and a really awkward cup holder. Like the Maxi Cosi, it uses a very similar fabric that is a supreme master at lint, hair, and dust collection, which results in the fabric looking a little shabby after a couple weeks. Did we mention the price? Ack! The Nuna Rava is 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 and extended rearfacing before they transition to forward facing. 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. 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. 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.
This is a very expensive car seat, usually coming in at about $315 or so, and available in several color options. This convertible car seat it all about style, comfort, and functionality. Let's start with style and comfort. While the one we tested was the relatively boring Night Black color, the Pria 85 Max is available in some pretty funky styles, like the trendy Graphic Flower, burlap-like Nomad Sand, and the bright and bold Red Orchid. The common theme is that they all look fantastic. And the brand isn't Maxi Cosi for nothing - these things provide maximum 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 to fit babies down to only 5 pounds. The fabric is self-wicking and provides pretty good ventilation for the hotter months. So, it's definitely super stylish and comfortable, no doubt about it.
Now let's get into some of its functionality. This seat supports babies as small as 5 pounds and up to 40 pounds in the rear-facing position (as long as they are under 40" tall). When turned around to front-facing after your baby reaches at least 1 year old, it supports toddlers and bigger kids from 22 up to 85 pounds (and 29" to 52" tall). There are three recline positions to suit these varied heights and weights: position 3 is for rear-facing, position 2 is for babies 22 to 40 pounds, and position 1 is for kids from 40 to 85 pounds. Basically, position 3 is the most reclined, position 2 is medium recline, and position 1 is nearly upright. The harnesses do not require re-threading to adjust harness and headrest height, and from what we could tell in our testing, the height adjusted between about 7 different positions that extend pretty far down (for infants) and pretty far up (for bigger kiddos). There are really nice shoulder pads included. Adding to its adjustability, there are 3 crotch buckle positions, and it comes with it installed in the middle/medium position. So there's a lot of adjustment here, but to be honest the adjustments were one of the more difficult aspects of the car seat. The harness and headrest height adjustment was difficult to engage and use, using a handle at the top of the headrest. Same thing 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 LATCH system is modern and easy to adjust. Routing the vehicle's belt is relatively easy for forward-facing, but a bit of a pain to fit through the tight opening for rear-facing positioning. 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; although it does make it a bit harder to keep clean, but we'll take that trade-off.
The Pria 85 comes in the regular and Max models. The difference between them is that the Max adds several core features. First, the Max supports smaller babies, with the Max going down to 5 pounds but the non-Max version only going down to 14 pounds (and doesn't have an infant insert like the Max). Second, the Max machine washable fabric just like the non-Max, but the Max's fabric is more breathable and self-wicking. Third, the Max versions (including the Mico Max and Magellan Max) use the new ClipQuik chest clip device. This device 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: the harness hold-back clips are a nice touch, but realistically you need to dramatically loosen the chest straps to get them to reach all the way up to the clips. And that seemed a little silly. Also, we love the big Air Protect side impact system, which is really the most substantial side impact head protection on the car seat market. But it's also a little bit crinkly when you push in on it; like a combination of memory foam with a potato chip bag embedded inside. Not that your child will really be pushing on it, just something we noticed. We really like a lot of things about this Pria 85 convertible car seat, 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. But for the price, we were expecting a few more safety features (maybe an anti-rebound bar, reinforced frame, energy-absorbing foam), and thought that some of the adjustments were a little cumbersome to use. Good stuff here, with some limitations to consider.
Here are some convertible car seats that didn't make it into our top 10 car seats list:
Other Graco Convertible Car Seat Models to Consider
- Graco MySize 65: The MySize 65 is basically the same as the Graco Size4Me. 65 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.
Here are some of the most important factors we considered when finding the best convertible car seat for your family:
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 Britax, Graco, Chicco, Maxi Cosi, Nuna, Peg Perego and Diono. But we also understand that finding the perfect car seat isn't a simple task, and even with our top 10 ratings you might be wondering what factors you should consider. Here are the most important factors we consider when conducting our reviews!
Car Seat Ease of Use Ratings
This is probably 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. But if you're expecting to use a car seat from newborn all the way up to tween, 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, 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. In our reviews, whenever we have not used the model for at least a year or two, we mention that in our review and note that we will update the review after 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 Test Results
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 that also means that same car seat can convert to up to 4 other configurations and show some serious versatility while your baby grows. 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 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 Convertible 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 $450. 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.
Best Car Seats for 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 head rest 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.
Convertible Car Seat 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. Our top 10 convertible car seats list has 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 unique 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!
Conclusions: What Testing Revealed About the Best Convertible Car Seats.
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 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 2020? According to our hands-on tests, the Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB is the absolute best all-around convertible car seat for 2020.
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.