In this hands-on review, we find the safest and best convertible car seats on the market for 2018. We pulled together a group of 13 parents and tested 14 of the best car seats, installing them in different vehicles, putting in infants, toddlers, and bigger kids, and testing out all of the key features. We spilled milk and juice on them, tested their stability during stop-go and twisty-turn driving, tested the head-flop factor during naps, and solicited honest opinions from our testing parents. What remained after this process was a group of the best convertible car seats we could find: 13 truly excellent and safe car seats that met and exceeded our expectations.
Here are the Best Convertible Car Seats of 2018:
About $150 to $200, depending on color options. This is a very similar car seat to the Graco 4Ever, and we think it deserves this spot as the best overall convertible car seat of 2018. Given that the 4Ever and Extend2Fit are siblings in the lineup of Graco car seats, 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, InRight LATCH system, washable cover, two cup holders, infant insert, and 2 crotch buckle slots. It begins as an infant car seat to be installed rear-facing, 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 rear-facing, using the extension panel. It does this through an innnovative extension panel that pulls out on the front, extending up to 5". That means you can have a rear-facing toddler car seat for much longer, primarily limited by leg-room rather than weight. In our testing, we could fit kids up to about 2.5 to 3 years old as rear-facing, but older than that and their legs were a bit cramped. That's some serious rear-facing support, the best we've ever seen in our testing. And if you're looking to maximize safety, you want to keep your baby rear-facing for as long as possible. This Graco car seat makes that dream a reality! But with that new extending capability, you do lose some features in comparison to the 4Ever. Specifically, there is no booster mode, meaning that this is no longer an "all-in-one" convertible car seat. It can do rear-facing and front-facing (from 22-65 pounds), but it cannot serve as a belt-positioning booster, or a backless booster. So what you have here is a highly innovative method for extending the rear-facing convertible car seat position, only limited by its ability to transition to a booster. This is why it's cheaper than the 4Ever by about $100. So for parents interested in having their baby rear-facing for longer, as recommended by most safety experts, this is definitely the best convertible car seat option. 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. There's one other point worth considering with this seat: in our testing, we found that the 5" extension does make the convertible 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. So that's something worth considering. Given the increased safety offered by rear-facing for longer periods of time, we think the compromises are worth it, especially at this very competitive price point. Overall, we found this Graco car seat to be one of the best overall car seats on the market, with super versatility, comfort, reliability, ruggedness, ease of use, and safety. Note that Target and Babies R Us have negotiated exclusive versions of the Extend2Fit with certain retailers; Target calls their version the Extend2Fit with Safety Surround, and Babies R Us calls their version the Extend2Fit with TrueShield. Both of these versions provide some additional side impact protection, though the Safety Surround appears to be mostly in the padding around the head, and the TrueShield appears to be bolstering at the seat's outer shell. We are not aware of any data showing that either of these car seats are better, safer, or worth the added cost, relative to the Extend2Fit sold in most other places (like here on Amazon).
Usually just about $300, depending on color and patterns. As you probably know, Britax is world-renowned for making (in the USA!) the safest infant and convertible car seats available on the market. They have a very long reputation of high quality, reliability, and product support. They have also been the subject of a few recent recalls, but in our opinion, don't let that alarm you: it's a sign of a responsible company taking care and pride in their products. Now on to the review of this excellent Britax car seat! 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. As you increase in price, you increase in both convenience and safety features. The Boulevard is right up near the top of the range, just under the Advocate, and we consider it one of the best convertible car seats we have ever tested. It supports babies as little as 5 pounds, with 5-40 pounds rear-facing (which means this can function as a rear-facing toddler car seat for a decent amount of time), and 20-65 pounds front-facing, so that's an excellent range for a convertible car seat. Let's start with the installation. If you're using the car's shoulder belts, you will absolutely love the 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 car seat manufacturer thought of this idea: it's a total pain in the butt to route a shoulder belt through the back of a convertible car 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 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 of this car seat. 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. With all those safety and convenience features, you will notice however that this is a beast of a car seat. Safe car seats tend to be really heavy, and this is no exception. Another downfall is the lack of cup-holders, and those old-fashioned (not easy-click) LATCH connectors mean that you need to loosen before detaching the seat from the vehicle. Outside of those small issues, you are getting a truly excellent and safe convertible car seat, and in our opinion the second best convertible car seat available on the market, that will satisfy even the most safety-conscious parents. Looking for triple side-impact protection? Check out the Britax Advocate, which is even bigger and safer, but also more expensive.
About $250 to $300, depending on color options. This year we have several Graco car seats in the top 5 of this list. Given their versatility and longevity, we think the Graco 4Ever and Extend2Fit are worth every penny. Our reviewers agreed that the 4Ever was one of the most versatile, comfortable, and functional car seats 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 car seat (4 to 40 pounds) with a plush and removable infant insert. If you're looking to go even longer rear-facing, then you might want to check out the 4Ever Extend2Fit, which is the same seat but with a 5" extension to provide more leg room while rear-facing (just like the Extend2Fit, above). 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). 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-racing. 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 car seat, and it is very deserving of this spot on our list. Note that if you like the look, feel, and features of this seat, but don't need such a wide weight range, consider the Milestone (below).
About $300. Expensive, but truly a very high quality, safe, reliable, durable, and comfortable convertible car 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 making one of the narrowest and best convertible 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. This is a no-compromise convertible car seat 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 the car seat was super versatile: rear-facing infant car seat from 5 to 45 pounds, front-facing toddler car 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 quite 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. So overall, this is an excellent, safe, versatile best convertible car seat. 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!
About $200, depending on color options. This is a truly awesome convertible car seat that is similar in some ways to the Graco 4ever. There are a few primary differences between these two Graco car seats. First, this 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. This convertible car seat converts from a rear-facing infant and toddler car seat supporting weights from 5 to 40 pounds, to a forward-facing car 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!). 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 much really, except that it isn't quite as versatile as the 4ever, in terms of weight range (both lower and upper), and number of recline positions. It also has 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 Radian. We also suggest either of those seats if you're looking for a more premium experience in terms of cushioning an overall build quality. Overall, this is an excellent Graco convertible car seat 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.
About $170-180. This Evenflo car seat has a great weight range, accomodating babies, toddlers, and big kids from 5 to 110 pounds! With an upper weight capacity like that, this might very well be the only car seat or booster you will ever need to buy. You can use it rear-facing up to 40 pounds, forward-facing as a toddler car seat up to 40 pounds, and then as a high-back booster up to 110 pounds. Note that the high back isn't removable, so there is no option for a bottom-only booster (like with the 4Ever Graco car seat, above). The seat itself is heavy, coming in at about 25 pounds; it is made in the USA and is built tough to protect your baby and last your family for many years, and includes a steel-reinforced frame and EPS foam liner for safety. We thought the Sure LATCH system was awesome, you no longer need to pull to tighten the latch, just simply push it down and you'll see it self-tighten. This is a really helpful system. The adjustable height harness is very easy to adjust upward as your child grows, without any rethreading hassle. The shoulder harness adjustment strap is right up front, as is the recline handle to help you get it perfectly level in the back seat of your unique vehicle. It also has two built-in cup holders that can be used for bottles, sippy cups, and toys. However, we didn't like how the cup holders were actually half of a cup-holder with an elastic strap on the outer side. In other words, you can't put anything other than a rigid object (bottle/sippy cupe) in there without it falling right out of the side. So no snacks or small toys in there. In our tests, we thought the cushioning on this seat was fantastic, supportive, and easily cleaned. It has removable cushions for infants, and they are incredibly comfortable. Other negatives? Well, it doesn't have highly breathable rear cushioning so if your baby heats up easily they will probably sweat more in this seat than in the options with side mesh. Note also that this particular Evenflo car seat, with its huge side impact wings, is really quite large. Might not be suitable for rear-facing in some relatively small vehicles, as it will bump up against the back of a front seat.
Usually about $350, though the non-Zip version without a machine washable zip-off cover is a bit less expensive. The seat comes in at a whopping 26 pounds, nearly the heaviest on our list (but see the NUNA Rava); but remember, this is a convertible car seat so it will likely be staying in your car 99% of the time, unless you need to swap it between vehicles a lot. This convertible 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 this car seat. 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. So there are really a ton of great features here. We also thought the fabric 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 convertible car 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 shoulder strap tightness very difficult to adjust when the seat was front-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. But overall, this Chicco car seat is an excellent option, and definitely worth considering if you're willing to pay the extra cash!
About $450, and only available through exclusive merchants, such as Nordstrom. The NUNA Rava is a truly excellent car seat, 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 car seat, but also as a toddler car seat, the extra clearance helps when your child's legs get longer and risk discomfort from bending up against the back seat. The NUNA Rave achieves this high rear-facing limit by extending the seat about 2" longer than most other convertible car seats. This is the same approach as with the Extend2Fit, but the Rava does it for about $200 more. So the Extend2Fit and Rava are the best convertible car seat 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 convertible 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 with this car seat. 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 convertible car 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. So this convertible 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 a luxury stroller to go along with it. What are the cons? Well, it's the heaviest seat on this list, with all that premium quality translating into a 27-pound monster of a car seat. 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. Did we mention how darn expensive this seat is? 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.
About $350-400 depending on color options. This is a newer edition of the excellent series of Peg Perego infant and convertible car seats. Much pricier than the competition, but for some good reasons, making it a great ninth-best convertible car seat. First, we really liked the fact that the rear-facing weight limit of the Peg Perego goes all the way up to 45lbs. Not many car seats came close to this weight limit and this is extremely useful given the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that that children be rear-facing until at least 2 years of age. 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 car seat with great side impact protection; Peg Perego 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 car seat 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). 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.
About $160. If you have a premature baby that's below 5 pounds (but at least 4 pounds), this tenth-best convertible car seat might be the seat for you. Like the Graco 4ever, this Graco car seat goes as low as 4 pounds with the included infant insert, but this model only goes up to 65 pounds. The seat itself is 19.2 pounds, which is relatively light on this list. It has special inserts that support even the tiniest of babies, and some of our tester moms thought this was awesome and seemed like it would be very supportive for even the smallest newborns. It uses a multi-position (5 positions on this one) harness and headrest that adjusts using a lever to pull it up or down to fit your baby's size. It also has 3 recline positions to suit most vehicle's seat positions, and a little cup holder that will definitely come in handy, and collect crumbs through the toddler years! Like the Graco 4ever and Evenflo options, this Graco option has a machine washable cover that you can pull off really quickly; just take it off and throw it in the wash. The fabric is soft and breathable, but not quite as much as the Graco 4ever or the Extend2Fit. So while it's cushy and comfy, the fabric isn't quite as soft as some others. The side impact protection seems substantial, though it does feel like it's not quite as sturdy as other options, and it doesn't have a steel-reinforced frame like all the others above (perhaps why it is lighter than most others on the list). However, the somewhat smaller side impact wings make it a bit easier to fit into more space-constrained vehicles, and we do like the fact that it uses EPS energy-absorbing foam. This makes it a good alternative to the Symphony if you have a smaller vehicle (like a compact or economy car). We also found it a bit tough to tighten the harness properly at times, the bottom buckle was a bit too large for chubby baby thighs, and the upper chest buckle was a bit harder to unbuckle than the other options on this list. But at $160 we believe this car seat is a great deal: you get a comfortable, safe, versatile car seat that will last you for many years!
About $240. This relatively new-to-market Evenflo car seat has some great potential, and we were happy to get our hands on one for testing! This seat has an impressively wide weight range, supporting babies and kids from 5 up to 120 pounds: 5-40 pounds rear-facing, 22-65 pounds front-facing, and 40-120 pounds as a high-back booster. At its limits, it can support babies as small as 19" tall, and as big as 57" tall (usually around 11-12 years old). In our opinion, you'll likely switch over to a bottom-only booster long before you'll hit the age and height limits, so it's probably a pretty small niche audience that will need this seat over about 80 pounds. With that huge range of height and weight support, the seat itself is also really enormous, coming in at about 25 pounds heavy, and just under 23" wide. If you're thinking about putting the seat into a smaller vehicle, or thinking that you might eventually have a need for 3 in a row in the back seat, this is definitely not the seat for you! Coming in at around $240, this seat is in the upper middle of our price range, so you will also expect a lot of features. And it delivers in this area, particularly when it comes to safety. Like the Diono, it has an integrated steel frame for stability and strength, and also uses large side impact and head supports, a 5-point harness, is FAA approved for air travel, and uses the new easy-connect and disconnect LATCH system. It also has a lot of great convenience features, including multiple recline positions, an easy-adjust harness height, and two cupholders. The cupholders have removable inserts, the cover is easy to remove (using some zippers) and machine washable, We found no evidence that it uses EPS energy-absorbing foam, however, and there were a few issues we encountered during installation and use. First, the seat was a bit difficult to install; this is partially because it is so large, but also because it is missing a handy bubble level that can make judging incline much easier. Second, converting this to a booster was quite a chore. Hopefully you'd only have to do this once, but if you're imagining being able to use this flexibly for different-sized kids, the difficulty of that conversion would be a deal-breaker. Third, did we mention how large this seat is? It's really huge! Putting an infant in here looked ridiculous, and the infant padding inserts weren't all that substantial and comfy: you'd be better off with some of our higher-rated seats for making sure you have a comfortable infant fit. Finally, we didn't think this seat breathed quite as well as some of the others, making for a sweaty baby during summer months. Overall, this is a great Evenflo car seat, but where it excels in upper weight limits, it underperforms as a seat for smaller babies and more compact installation requirements.
Between $200 and $280, depending on color and pattern options, and coming in at only 17 pounds. It is rated for 5-65 pounds. No, we don't own shares in Britax, but we are certainly considering it. The company never fails at appearing in our "best of" lists for infant car seats and convertible car seats. Britax car seats are excellent, and they have been in the car seat niche for a very long time. The Britax Marathon is a flagship convertible car seat, and it is excellent. Britax prides itself in a top-notch safety record, quality construction, and comfort. This infant to toddler car seat has great side impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, 10-point quick-adjust harness system, adjustable recline, and it feels very sturdy and comfortable. The fabric is also nice, but not machine washable. Overall, this is another excellent choice by Britax. 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 it's quite simple, doesn't have a great weight range, 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 various used car 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 as 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. 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 car seat brand and are willing to compromise a bit on comfort, style, and durability.
About $250 depending on colors, and about 18 pounds. It's called Maxi Cosi for a reason, this thing is really maximum coziness in a car seat. Definitely the softest one of the bunch, with the most comfortable padding and support, making it a great option even down here as the 13th best convertible car seat on our list. If you're looking for the cushiest car seat out there, this is the one for you! The Maxi Cosi Pria isn't the cheapest on our list, nor the most expensive. It's not the most fully featured, nor the least. But one thing is for darn sure, it is one of the softest and most comfortable car seats your baby will ever sit in! With several different styles and colors (click the picture to see more options), there seems to be something for everyone's tastes. Note that while most of the convertible seats on this list cover from 5 to 65 pounds (or higher), this one covers from 9 to 70 pounds. If you want it to go higher, check out the Pria 85. So it's sort of in an odd position: most newborns are less than 9 pounds, so unless you have a chunky monkey you'll need to get the Pria 70 with the Tiny Fit insert that supports newborns (down to 4 pounds), but that seems to be difficult to find. The Air Protect side impact protection is a bit like the pillow of the RECARO and Evenflo, and the cup holder a bit like the Graco. The Maxi Cosi has 3 recline positions, a multi-position quick-adjust harness and headrest, and super soft cloth that will make you smile every time you slide your baby into this little lounge chair! When they make one of these for grown-ups, please contact us to let us know, we'll be first in line! Downfalls? The recline options seemed limited, the fact that you need to buy a separate insert to support infants under 9 pounds seemed odd, and the buckle release button was sometimes very hard to press down. There is also no steel-reinforced frame or EPS energy-absorbing foam, so if you're concerned about structural integrity and impact absorption during a crash, you might want to consider those points. Though the lack of the steel reinforcement does make it much lighter than other seats on this list. Finally, several moms commented that there have been some quality control issues with the center adjustment strap, noting that it frays after about a year of use.
What we looked for in the best convertible car seat: There are a few things you should look for when trying to find the top car seats of 2018. First, because you buy a infant to toddler car seat to last many years, avoid the hassle of shoulder straps that need to be rethreaded for adjustment. You will find that many decently-rated convertible car seats require re-threading (particularly the inexpensive ones, which we review elsewhere). Second, if you're going to use one of these as an infant car seat, then you want to make sure that it is capable of reclining far enough to make for comfortable rear-facing infant positions. If it does not, then your baby's head will flop forward when they fall asleep. Third, get a car seat with a wide weight range so it will last your child for many years, going not only from an infant to toddler car seat, but also to a big-kid booster; a good start is from 4 pounds to 65 pounds, but even better is one that converts to a booster (65+ pounds). Finally, always buy new and go with a reputable brand so you can be confident that the convertible car seat is safe. Never buy a used car seat. Even if the owner is being honest about having no accidents, sometimes smaller impacts can lead to micro-fractures and weakness.
Convertible car seats begin as rear-facing for your infant and then transition to front facing when your baby meets size and weight requirements. Usually this happens around 2 years of age, but in the meantime the seat can stay rear-facing but with a more upright recline. They also grow with your child, typically with adjustable shoulder strap height, crotch buckle position, recline/tilt, and head rest. The best convertible car seats can save you a lot of time and money versus buying an infant seat and then a separate toddler car seat, and let you spend a bit extra on a nice stroller (our stroller reviews are here) or, god forbid, something nice for mom. But given how much infants nap, and the fact that you can't carry around a convertible car seat like you can an infant car seat, our honest recommendation is to go with a dedicated infant car seat and then transition to a convertible at around 10-12 months of age, or earlier/later as your baby's napping patterns, weight, and height dictate.
Once you decide on purchasing one of these car seats, there are many factors to consider, including features, safety, convenience, and price. The premium convertible car seats on this list have proven capabilities in all of these areas. We suggest that you invest some money to find the best and safest seat that you can find; we don't suggest saving a few hundred dollars and going with a seat that isn't as safe, comfortable, or convenient. Overall, though, you can get really high bang for the buck with Graco car seats and Evenflo car seats, or pay a bit more for a premium Diono, Maxi Cosi, Nuna, Chicco, or Britax models. This is a matter of taste and budget, as all of the top-ranked convertible car seats we review on this list are safe, comfortable, and well featured. If you have any questions or need personalized advice, visit our facebook page and send us a message!