Over 8 million convertible car seats were sold last year alone, but according to our research over 50% of new parents are not happy with their convertible car seat purchase decision. And that's why we do the research to make our car seat buying guides!
Three times a year we pull together parents and kids to test the best new convertible car seats we can find, installing them in different vehicles, putting in infants, toddlers, and big kids, and testing out all of the key features. We spill milk and juice on them, test their stability during erratic driving, measure head-flop during naps, research crash test ratings, and solicit honest opinions from parents. Below are the top rated car seats that met and exceeded our expectations for safety, reliability, comfort, features, and ease of use. Click on any of the Top 10 convertible car seats to jump down to our full review of that seat.
Here are the Best Convertible Car Seats of 2018:
PROS: Rear-facing to 50 pounds, Large overall weight range (4-65 pounds), No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Superior crash test performance, Comfortable, Easy to use, Approved for air travel, Relatively low price (about $150 to $200).
CONS: No booster mode, Big and heavy, Confusing range of models at different stores.
PROS: Britax reputation for safety, quality, reliability, and support, Made in USA, Good for tall kids, Decent overall weight range (5-65 pounds), No-rethread harness, Double side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPP energy-absorbing foam, Superior crash test performance, SafeCell technology, Approved for air travel, Comfortable, Easy to install ClickTight technology.
CONS: No booster mode, Big and heavy, No cup-holder, Old-style LATCH connectors, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds, Expensive (about $300).
PROS: Largest weight range available (4 to 120 pounds), A true 4in1 convertible car seat that converts to belt-positioning and backless booster car seats, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Superior crash test performance, Approved for air travel, Comfortable, Cup-holders, Easy adjustments, Modern LATCH connectors.
CONS: Big and heavy, Adjustments get sticky over time, Pricey (about $250-300), Jack of all trades but master of none.
PROS: Britax reputation for safety, quality, reliability, and support, Made in USA, Reasonable price (about $225 and up), Decent overall weight range (5-65 pounds), No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPP energy-absorbing foam, Approved for air travel, Superior crash test performance, SafeCell technology, Easy to install ClickTight technology.
CONS: Limited height for tall kids, Less plush and comfortable than Boulevard, No booster mode, No cup-holder, Cover not machine-washable, Old-style LATCH connectors, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds.
PROS: Zip-off machine-washable cover, Decent overall weight range (5-65 pounds), Easy to use and innovative LATCH system, Wide adjustment range, Easy installation, Out-of-the-way no-rethread harness design, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Soft breathable fabric, Approved for air travel, Durable and high quality fit and finish.
CONS: Very heavy, Very large, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds, No booster mode, Difficult to use cup-holder, Poor crotch-buckle positioning, Bucket style seat difficult to get into and out of, Very expensive (about $350).
PROS: Exciting new addition for 2018, Only convertible seat with an anti-rebound bar, Excellent overall weight range (4 to 100 pounds), Converts to belt-positioning booster car seat, High quality fit and finish, Relatively narrow form factor (19.5" wide), No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPP energy-absorbing foam, Soft breathable fabric, Approved for air travel.
CONS: Very heavy, Very large, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds, Bizarre cup-holder, Very expensive (about $350), Only available through premium retailers.
PROS: Super narrow (17" wide) for fitting three seats in a row, Excellent overall weight range (5 to 120 pounds), Rear-facing up to 45 pounds, Converts to belt-positioning booster car seat, High quality fit and finish everywhere, Easy adjustments, Machine washable cover, Detachable cup-holder, Folds for transport, Approved for air travel, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Safe-stop harness technology, Soft breathable fabric.
CONS: Very heavy, Very large, Rear-facing limited to 40 pounds, Some crash testing concerns, Expensive (about $300).
PROS: Stylish and super premium fit and finish, Rear-facing to 50 pounds (like the Extend2Fit), Decent overall weight range (5 to 65 pounds), Awesome easy installation with Simply Secure and True Tension technologies, Premium LATCH connectors, Super soft and comfortable, Easy adjustments, Flip-up cup holder, Machine washable cover, Approved for air travel, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam.
CONS: Very heavy and large, No booster mode, Awkward cup holder position, Too expensive for our tastes (about $450), Only available through premium retailers.
PROS: Premium fit and finish, Rear-facing to 45 pounds (like the Diono Radian RXT), Decent overall weight range (5 to 65 pounds), EPS energy-absorbing foam, Soft and comfortable, Peg Perego SAFE crumple zone system, Premium LATCH connectors, Durable and easy-clean jersey fabric, Easy installation and adjustments, Approved for air travel, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection.
CONS: Bulky and large, No cup holders, No booster mode, Too expensive for most (about $350).
PROS: Premium fit and finish, Smart SensorSafe technology, Extra "Linear" side-impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, Soft and comfortable, Premium LATCH connectors, Durable and easy-clean fabric, Tons of easy adjustments, Approved for air travel, No-rethread harness.
CONS: Bulky, wide and large, Only for vehicles newer than 2007, No steel-reinforced frame, Rear facing limited to 40 pounds, Bucket style seat difficult to get into and out of, No booster mode, Too expensive (about $330).
PROS: Great bang for the buck (about $200), Good overall weight range (5 to 100 pounds), Converts to belt-positioning booster car seat, Premium LATCH connectors, Durable and easy-clean fabric, Easy installation and adjustments, Detachable cup holder, Machine washable cover, Approved for air travel, No-rethread harness, Side impact protection, Steel-reinforced frame, EPS energy-absorbing foam.
CONS: Bulky and large, Only 4 recline settings, No backless booster mode (unlike the 4Ever), Uncomfortable arm rests, Narrow seating area.
Here are the Full Reviews:
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 top rated spot on our list. 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 a rearfacing car 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 innnovative extension panel that pulls out on the front, extending leg room up to 5". That means you can use this as a rearfacing car 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). That's some serious rear-facing support, the best we've ever seen in our testing. And while many seats, such as the Diono Radian RXT and Clek Foonf, 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 with that new extending capability in this Graco car seat, 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" seat (though Graco does sell a $350 Extend2Fit all-in-one, Check it out here). 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 seat position, only limited by its ability to transition to a booster. This is probably 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 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 this car seat stick out even farther from the back seat. For smaller cars or taller front seat occupants this made things challenging: the car seat protruded so much from the back seat that it became even more likely to hit up against the back of the front driver's or passenger's seat. This won't be an issue if you have a larger car or SUV, or if you're comfortable having your front seats slid forward a bit more. Given the increased safety offered by rear-facing for longer periods of time, we think the compromises are worth it, especially at this very competitive price point. 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. 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. A similar conclusion was recently made by several other buying guides, with some also pointing out its superior crash testing performance. Note that Target and Babies R Us have negotiated exclusive versions of the Extend2Fit with certain retailers; for instance, Target calls their version the Extend2Fit with Safety Surround, which provides some additional side impact protection around the head. We are not aware of any data showing that the Safety Surround version is better, safer, or worth the added cost, relative to the Extend2Fit sold in most other places. Interested? You can check out the Graco Extend2Fit here.
Usually just about $300, depending on color and patterns. As you probably know, Britax USA is world-renowned for making (right here in the USA!) several top rated and 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 car seat and the Britax Advocate ClickTight convertible car seat 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, and we consider it one of the best convertible 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. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight supports babies as little as 5 pounds, with 5-40 pounds as a rearfacing car 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 car 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 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 Britax is an expert at this - in fact the Boulevard ClickTight was also recently ranked at the top of Babygearlab's reviews, receiving excellent crash test ratings, and Babylist gives it accolades for its safety features. Another minor inconvenience is the lack of cup-holders, and those old-fashioned (not easy-click) LATCH connectors mean that you need to loosen the straps 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 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.
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. 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 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 car 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 here). 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 car seat. 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. Interested? You can check out the Graco 4Ever 4in1 here. Note that if you like the look, feel, and features of this seat, but don't need such a wide weight range, consider the Graco Milestone allinone convertible car seat (below).
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. It 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 our "best of" lists for infant car seats and convertible car seats, and it's not only us. They also show up at the top of reviews done by our friends at Babylist. Britax car seats are excellent, and they have been dominating the convertible car seat niche for a very long time. The Marathon ClickTight convertible car seat 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 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 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, 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 car seat brand for a reasonable price, and are willing to compromise a bit on versatility. Interested? You can check out the Britax Marathon ClickTight here.
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 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 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. 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. The L-shaped seats are much easier. But overall, this Chicco car seat is an excellent option, and definitely worth considering if you're willing to pay the extra cash. Interested? You can check out the Chicco NextFit IX Zip here.
Usually about $350, offered in 3 colors, and only available through exclusive retailers. To our knowledge, we are the first major baby gear review website to get our hands on the City View car seat and do a comprehensive test and review! And we get really excited about new baby gear releases, especially from companies with a history of making innovative and high quality products, like Baby Jogger. This Baby Jogger car seat is no exception. From opening the box to installing it and trying it out with 4 kids, we fell in love with so many aspects of it. It's a great competition for the NUNA Rava and the price point makes it more attainable, though it is a bit steep. So, onto the review. The City View car seat is surprisingly versatile, safe, and well-constructed. We found all of the parts to feel high quality, sturdy, and easy to use. This includes all of the soft-touch fabrics, the harness, recline, and headrest adjustments, the easy to use chest clip and buckle, and the infant insert. The versatility is second to only a couple seats like the 4Ever and Radian RXT, supporting babies as light as 4 pounds and up to 40 pounds rear-facing, from 22 to 65 pounds front-facing (up to 49" height), and from 40 to 100 pounds as a high-back booster (43-57" height). It does not convert to a bottom-only booster, just fyi. And it is really excellent in any capacity. As an infant seat, it has great hip, shoulder, and head support from the included infant insert, an anti-rebound bar to lower rotational forces during an accident, and a wide range of recline adjustments to suit your vehicle's seating angle. It has great support, a detachable cup holder, no-rethread adjustable harness and headrest height (10-positions!), and it fits a really wide weight and height range. As a belt-adjusting high-back booster it also is quite good, though there's nothing really special about it, and it really shines primarily as an infant and toddler seat. One of the advantages of having such a versatile car seat is that the headrest and harness height adjustments are really broad, which means that even very tall toddlers won't grow out of this seat as quickly as they would with something like the Britax Marathon. And while it's a large car seat, particularly in its height and weight (about 20 pounds), it's not terribly large. It's not narrow enough to make it into our best narrow car seat list, but it's pretty decent at only 19.5" wide. That means it's more likely that you could feasibly fit three car seats in a row if you have a large vehicle (full-size car, or medium to full-size SUV). Regarding safety, the anti-rebound bar is unique to the U.S. convertible car seat market, we have never reviewed another convertible seat with an anti-rebound bar included on the infant seat. Of course, anti-rebound bars are only for rear-facing scenarios, and it detaches for when you're ready to transition to a convertible seat. It also includes a steel-reinforced frame for structural integrity, and EPP energy-absorbing foam to reduce the amount of energy that needs to be absorbed by the baby. Some other random points are that this seat (except for the booster mode) is approved for air travel, it uses the modern quick-release LATCH connectors, soft padded harness covers, included infant body and head inserts, a machine-washable cover that's reasonably easy to remove and replace, and has a really intuitive bubble-level indicator and recline guides. In our hands-on testing, we found the City View car seat reasonably easy to install, adjustments easy to make (though the harness adjustment strap does get pushed up against the back seat in rear-facing position and makes it hard to fish out), and everything felt really well-made, secure, and durable. We liked it a lot. We didn't like the flimsy removable cup holder (or should we call it a holster?) which was nearly useless, and we don't like having to pay twice as much for this seat versus some of the better-ranked seats on the market. But that's definitely a matter of personal preference. For now, we place the City View here on our list, but our continued long-term testing will reveal where it falls in the long run! Interested? You can check out the Baby Jogger City View here.
About $300. Expensive, but truly a very high quality, safe, reliable, durable, and comfortable seat that accommodates a wide range of baby shapes and sizes. We would definitely put it higher on the list if it had a more reasonable price point! The Diono Radian series is well-known for making 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 here. This is a no-compromise 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 very heavy, it is FAA certified for taking onto an airplane, and folds flat to make carrying a bit easier. We found it could be carried like a back-pack, and it also sat nicely on top of a larger wheely-suitcase. Oh, and it has a little cup-holder that's removable for tighter fits. But we want to talk about crash test results. Some have found less than stellar crash test results for the Radian RXT, during both front-impact and side-impact crashes. So overall, this is an excellent, versatile, and very well-constructed seat, but the crash test results leave us concerned about safety. It is definitely safe, passing the government standards, but definitely not meeting the protection performance of some of the other seats on this list. Another downfall is that the shoulder straps require rethreading from the back as your baby grows, and that can be a real pain in the butt. A bit more expensive than some others, but if you're looking for a full steel alloy frame, very high build quality, and a narrow enough chassis to squeeze into even the tightest back seats, this is definitely worth the price! Interested? You can check out the Diono Radian RXT allinone convertible car seat here.
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 NUNA Rava achieves this high rear-facing limit by extending the seat about 2" longer than most other car seats, giving your child a bit more leg room as they grow. This is the same approach as with the Extend2Fit, but the Rava does it for about $200 more and without the actual extension panel. So the Extend2Fit and Rava are the best options if you're interested in keeping your toddler rear-facing for as long as possible, but they are going to appeal to slightly different budgets. The Rava is a truly premium, luxury car seat. The fabrics are top-notch and the softest and plushest on this list, and your baby will be thanking you for the level of superior comfort that NUNA has achieved 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 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 something fancy to go along with it, which you can find in our reviews of luxury strollers 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. Interested? You can check out the Nuna Rava here.
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 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; the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible car seat 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). 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 Viagio here.
About $330, with a few different color options. The seat converts from rear-facing (5-40 pounds) to front-facing (22-65 pounds), but does not convert to a booster. We were so excited to try out this new "Smart Car Seat" in mid-2018. It took us a while to get our hands on it, and then even longer to get it tested with several sets of parents given the complexities of installation. This includes not only securing the car seat to the vehicle, but also connecting the SensorSafe receiver to the vehicle's OBD2 port, and syncing it with your phone. But that installation process is exactly because of what makes this convertible car seat stand out! It uses the innovative SensorSafe technology that integrates with your vehicle and your smart phone app (iPhone or Android) to send important reminders and notifications to parents. Baby been in the seat for too long? Vehicle interior temperature getting too hot for safety? Forget to get baby out after you leave the car? Baby somehow figure out how to unbuckle the chest harness? All of those situations will send an alert right to your phone, keeping you constantly aware of these possible safety issues. Of course, always use your best judgment and do not rely only on the device for your baby's safety. Anyway, we thought that the SensorSafe feature was overall a great concept and well-executed by Cybex. We appreciated the alert whenever you turned off your vehicle that your baby is still buckled into the seat, and the temperature notification - both of those were super valuable. Also unique about the Cybex car seats is the use of their Linear Side Impact Protection, which includes clever side impact absorbers that you can pull out on each side (pull it out as far as you can), which helps absorb energy in the event of a side impact (of course, this is in conjuction with the existing EPS energy-absorbing foam and structural side impact protection the seat also has). In our testing, we really liked these two innovative features. We also liked that there are magnets on each side so you can put the harness buckles and straps out of the way to the side when not in use. We also liked its very wide range of headrest and harness adjustments that were easy to use - the recline goes really far both ways, which is great if your back seat has a funky incline. And the harness pads were amazing and thick, and they have this great rubbery backing on them to help hold them in place on even a wiggly baby's shoulders. Plus a detachable cup holder, super comfy and easy to clean fabric, and high overall build quality. So why isn't it higher on our list? Well, we love the tech, that's for sure. But we also thought it had some big limitations. First is the restricted rear-facing weight range, only going up to 40 pounds. Second is that it's only compatible with vehicles model years 2008 and newer. Third, it isn't a steel or magnesium reinforced frame. Also some little things - the cup holder was hard for even toddlers to reach, the bottom harness straps fall on the thighs in a funny place (lower down on the leg than most convertible car seats), the bucket-style deep seat was sometimes hard to pull baby in/out of, and it's very wide making it not a great candidate for fitting more than two car seats or people in the back. So for about $330 that's a lot of limitations to keep in mind. Interested? You can check it the Cybex Sirona M SensorSafe 2.0 here.
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 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 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 allin1 convertible car seat, 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 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. Interested? You can check out the Graco Milestone here.
Other models worth mentioning: In addition to the 10 excellent convertible car seats included in our buying guide, we also reviewed a bunch of other models. A few of them are worthy of mention here.
- The Clek Foonf and Clek Fllo are awesome convertible car seats, and we provide a full review of them in our Narrowest Car Seats article (see it here). Some highlights are steel and magnesium-reinforced frames, energy-absorbing foam, anti-rebound bar, and tons of fancy features that you'll be sure to love!
- The Evenflo Symphony has a great weight range from 5-110 pounds, rear facing up to 40 pounds, front-facing up to 65 pounds, and high-back booster up to 110 pounds. Also EPS foam and a steel-reinforced frame. No rethreading, great LATCH system, cup holders. But also poor breathability, very heavy and large.
- The Graco 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 car seat for premies, 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.
- The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3in1 convertible car seat has great bang for the buck, rear facing 5-40 pounds, front-facing 22-65 pounds, and high-back booster 40-100 pounds. EPP foam in the headrest, but no steel-reinforced frame, lower comfort and fit and finish versus other models, and the harness was difficult to loosen at times.
- The Evenflo SafeMax has a very wide weight range, rear-facing 5-40 pounds, front-facing 22-65 pounds, and high-back booster 40-120 pounds. Huge and heavy, with a steel-reinforced frame, easy LATCH, cup holders, no rethreading. Install is difficult, padding severely limited, low breathability fabric, and difficult to convert to booster.
- The Maxi Cosi Pria 70 is a super plush and comfortable car seat, but is not ideal for newborns (weight range is 9 to 70 pounds) though you can buy a separate newborn MaxiCosi Pria Tiny Fit insert. Bit side impact protection, no rethreading, no steel-reinforced frame or EPP or EPS energy-absorbing foam. Some quality control issues.
- The Evenflo SureRide DLX convertible car seat is a nice no-frills and super cheap (about $85) car seat that will support 5-40 pounds rear-facing, and 22-65 pounds front-facing. It does have a few perks but its harness requires rethreading, it's pretty uncomfortable, and it felt a bit flimsy to us.
- The Graco Size4Me 65 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 here.
- The Graco MyRide 65 is a great inexpensive convertible car seat option (about $85), and we do a full review of it in our best budget convertible car seats list.
- The Evenflo Tribute LX convertible car seat (and the Evenflo Triumph LX) are also great budget options, and we review the Tribute fully in our best budget convertible car seat list.
What we looked for: First of all, we want to mention that there are several main types of car seats. There is the infant car seat that only can be used rearfacing, and the convertible car seat that can be used rearfacing and also as a frontfacing car seat. Some convertible car seats are 3in1 or 4in1, meaning not only can they go from frontfacing to rearfacing, they can also convert to a belt-positioning booster car seat (a 3in1 convertible car seat) or a backless booster car seat (a 4in1 convertible car seat). There are a few things you should look for when trying to find the perfect convertible car seat. First, because you buy an 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 well-rated car seats require re-threading (particularly the inexpensive convertible car seats). 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. If you have any doubts about whether you have the proper install for your seat, most local police and fire departments will employ a CPST technician who can help. Seat installation can be surprisingly tricky, and you want to make sure things are installed correctly before taking your baby on the first trip with a new seat. Of course, even though you're using it as a rearfacing car seat for your baby, none of these convertible seats will fit into any stroller or travel system. 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 car seat (65+ pounds). Fourth, make sure the convertible seat you've chosen from our buying guide is approved by the FAA for air travel. All of the ones on this list are approved, but you will realize that they are absolutely huge in an airplane seat: they are really wide, heavy, and cumbersome. If you can afford it, another option is to have a separate seat for air travel, such as the Cosco Scenera NEXT convertible car seat: it's super cheap (like $50), super lightweight (about 10 pounds), relatively narrow (like 17.5" wide), and super easy to transport. It's also relatively uncomfortable and limited in its weight range (5-40 pounds), but realistically the Cosco Scenera is still perfect for air travel. Finally, always buy new and go with a reputable brand so you can be confident that the 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 a rearfacing car seat for your infant and then transition to a forwardfacing car seat 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. New safety standards suggest that babies and toddlers stay in a rearfacing car seat for as long as possible, but only a few seats on this list make that possible (the Graco Extend2Fit and the Nuna Rava). When you switch from rearfacing to frontfacing, safety standards change, and you will likely need to use the vehicle's seat belts rather than LATCH (since your baby will soon go over the 65-pound TOTAL weight limit of the Baby plus the Car Seat), and attach the top tether to secure the seat (all of the seats on this list come with a top tether strap). That's why it's rare to find a booster seat with LATCH, since at that point the only use of the LATCH would be to hold the booster onto the seat when it's not being used. They also grow with your child, typically with adjustable shoulder strap height, crotch buckle position, recline/tilt, and head rest. The best options 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 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 18 months of age, or earlier/later as your baby's napping patterns, weight, and height dictate. The all-in-one car seats on this list, like the Graco 4Ever All-in-One convertible car seat and the Graco Milestone (or even the Extend2Fit 3-in-1), will cover the entire age range of car seat use, but they tend to be a jack of all trades but master of none. In other words, as an example the Graco 4Ever allin1 convertible car seat is not "great" at any one use, but they are "good" at everything. So while they will go from infant all the way to a toddler booster seat ( and even a youth booster seat without the back), they do not perform quite like one of the other less-versatile seats on this list - typically that means they aren't as comfortable or feature-rich in any given mode of use. Most babies and toddlers will be perfectly fine in an allinone car seat, but pickier babies and parents might be happier with something more comfortable and less versatile (like the Nuna Rava), or a premium infant car seat and car seat stroller combination (like offered by the Chicco Fit30 or the Graco Snugride car seats). These will include an infant car seat base that makes it easy to pop the seat into and out of the vehicle, and make it lighter to carry around or pop easily into and out of the stroller (and with all the other baby products and baby gear you might be carrying, this can get really important!).
We do not do our own crash testing, or pay an outside firm to crash-test our candidate car seats. Instead, we rely on government-standard crash test methodologies and metrics, and consumer reports car seat tests, which are published and available online. A couple other car seat review sites provide some very basic crash test ratings. This is commendable, but one issue with this approach is that they only pay for a small subset of available car seats to be tested, and the testing methodologies provided by outside contractors are not always perfectly reliable, sensitive, or comprehensive. For instance, some testing only considers front-impact, some only considers side-impact, and some do both but only on a small subset of car seats that they assume will come out on top before they even do the testing. It also makes it more difficult to revise the top 10 lists as new candidates emerge onto the market - and most "best of" annual lists are not revised after January 1st. Our articles are updated on a monthly basis, and any new candidate seats are considered for hands-on testing on a rolling basis. All of the car seats on this list, and any other list we publish, meet the U.S. government's minimum safety standards for passenger protection. So they are all safe and compliant with government regulations. But when crash testing from several different sources reveals something to be aware of, we try to include those details as they emerge.
Once you decide on purchasing one of these car seats, there are many factors to consider, including features, safety, convenience, and price. The premium options 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 Britax, Nuna, or Chicco models (enough so that in some cases you might end up maxing out your credit card!). This is a matter of taste and budget, as all of the top-ranked car seats we review on this list are safe, comfortable, and well featured. If you have a limited budget, check out our list of the best inexpensive car seat option here, all selling for under about $150. If you fear having to wake a sleeping baby, then definitely consider using an infant car seat first (our reviews of those are here), then transitioning to a convertible around 2-3 years of age. That's an important point if you're buying new parents a car seat from their baby registry - be sure they actually request a convertible rather than infant seat. Finally, a couple additional notes. If you're interested in the Clek Foonf or Clek Fllo, or the Graco SlimFit All-in-one Convertible car seats, check out our reviews of the narrowest car seats. If you're interested in the Graco Contender, Britax Roundabout, or Evenflo Tribute LX, check out our reviews of budget convertible car seats. If you have any questions or need personalized advice, visit our facebook page and send us a message!
Research and Resources:
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Child Seat Research and Testing.
- Consumer Reports Car Seat Crash Testing
- Reuters: Crash tests confirm safety of rear-facing car seats in rear impact collisions.
- NHTSA Car Seat Ease of Use Ratings
- Babylist Best Convertible Car Seats Article