The beauty of a good convertible car seat is that, for many kids, it’s the only car seat you’ll ever need to buy, keeping them safe from those newborn days well into their elementary school years. The problem with convertible car seats is that they’re a big purchase, both in terms of cost and sheer physical size. So whether you’re just starting to prepare for fatherhood or you’re looking to buy one last car seat to last for the rest of those little kid days, you’re in the right place.
Below, we’ll break down just what is a convertible car seat (as well as what it’s not), the features to look for, the drawbacks to consider, and we give some pointers on how to make the best and safest use of this type of car seat. First, as we new parents have about one to three minutes of free time per day, let’s jump on in and run through 10 of the best convertible car seats 2020 has to offer.
Now let’s break them down a bit, one by one, but for the record, all of these are well-rated and well-reviewed by experts and customers alike, and in fact this author has tested more than half of these brands with his own two kids.
Evenflo EveryStage DLX All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
This car seat features an innovative ratchet tightening system that not only makes it easy to secure with minimal effort, but also creates the most secure installation we have ever seen when using the LATCH anchoring system. Rear facing, it can accommodate a newborn baby, and its five different incline settings make it easy to adjust the rear-oriented car seat as your baby grows up. Once a child’s legs are becoming cramped or she passes the rear-facing weight limit (which is 50 pounds, so the legs will surely be cramped before that) it swings around, secure with both the lower LATCH points and a third over-the-seat band, and can be used for most kids up until 120 pounds, a weight rating sufficient for many full-grown adults. And yet for all its ease-of-use and impressive weight capacity, this is a moderately priced convertible car seat.
Chicco Fit4 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
This car seat is well worth its rather hefty price tag because it can be adjusted and customized on myriad ways to safely and comfortably accommodate myriad kids of varied ages and sizes. From multiple positions to inserts that can be used or removed as needed, to compatibility with a built-in five-point harness or a vehicle’s safety belt system, the Fit4 well suits kids from as small as four pounds (the preemie, e.g.) up to 100 pounds. Its inserts (or lack thereof) and rear- or forward-facing settings adjust from infant to toddler to preschooler to big kid. At every age, you’ll take comfort knowing there is a steel-reinforced frame and generous energy-absorbing foam packed into the seat body.
Maxi-Cosi Pria 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
The Maxi-Cost Pria car seat is all about making things safe for kids and easy for adults. As in the easy-to-remove padded fabric coverings that can be pulled off and machine washed as needed. Or the little clips that hold the straps out of the way as you get your kid into the seat, alleviating the daily frustration of digging underneath a wriggling kid looking for car seat buckles. Then there’s the easily raised and lowered shoulder harness and headrest, the easy reclining function, and the conversion to booster mode using the car’s seat belt to secure your bigger kid.
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible Car Seat
This convertible car seat from Italian brand Peg Perego has a slimmer profile than many bulkier seats but without sacrificing any safety or quality. It can be used in car cabins with less clearance between the front and back seats, and in many vehicles you could install three of them across a single back bench seat, provided there were LATCH anchor points or seat belts positioned properly to secure the seats. The head rest, which has excellent side impact protection, can be raised or lowered to 10 different height settings, so you can always keep your little guy or gal comfortable and safe.
Cybex SironaS SensorSafe 2.1 Convertible Car Seat
Unlike with just about every convertible car seat on the market today, this one from Cybex does not require you to uninstall and then reinstall the seat once you wish to switch the seat from rear-facing mode (baby and young toddler orientation, e.g.) to forward-facing bigger kid mode. The base securely installs in place, reinforced by a load leg that secures against the floor, and then the seat can be rotated 360 degrees on its base, tilting as needed to accommodate the ideal rear or forward facing position for your child. (Oh, and you can achieve that rotation with one hand.) Its SensorSafe buckle can connect to your smartphone via app and lets you know if your kid unbuckles himself or if the back seat becomes too hot or cold for a child’s safety.
Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat
Not that style should be foremost on the list of factors informing your choice of convertible car seat, but the 4Ever DLF from Graco does comes in several fun print options. And in more demure grays and blacks. More to the point, it features a six-position recline, a one-second attachment to the LATCH system that produces a loud click you won’t miss once it’s in place, and, at present, the seat has more than 9,000 reviews on Amazon and enjoys a stellar (indeed almost unheard of) 4.9-star overall rating from customers.
Nuna RAVA Convertible Car Seat
The Nuna RAVA Convertible Car Seat wasn’t designed for a small car, exactly; rather it was designed for your child’s maximum comfort and safety. It’s big and plush, with plenty of cushioning and plenty of room for a growing kid as inserts are removed, the headrest raised, and the angle of incline changed as needed. It’s on the heavier side for the category at more than 27 pounds but this seat also exceeds every safety standard set for convertible car seats in America.
Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat
At first glance, the hefty price tag of Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat is a bit confusing. It looks rather simple and on the smaller side, so why the big price? In fact, it’s an advanced and extremely safe seat featuring a solid metal frame, multiple layers of energy-absorbing foam, and honeycomb crumple zones that minimize the force of an impact during an accident. It’s sleeker and slimmer than many seats, making it good for smaller cars (or bigger cars or slow
Safety 1st Jive 2-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
This is a very affordable convertible car seat, but it’s not a cheap option in the pejorative sense. Narrow enough for a three-across setup in most vehicles and safe enough for kids up to 65 pounds, it’s a great choice for budget shopping or for people who will only see their car seat used periodically, like grandparents or aunts and uncles. The seat only weighs 14.25 pounds, so it’s easy to take out of the car and carry back to the garage (or vice-versa) whenever it’s not needed.
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat
This is a true decade-plus convertible car seat, able to accommodate kids as small as five pounds all the way through when they weigh 120 pounds and are up to 63 inches in height, which is well within the range for sitting in a car seat and using the normal seatbelts without any sort of booster anyway. It has plush, soft inserts for the baby and toddler years and strips down to work with a car’s lap and shoulder belt as they grow. The seat comes in multiple stylish colors and patterns.
What to Look for (and Look Out for) In a Convertible Car Seat
You can trust that all of the convertible car seats above are safe, reliable options that will serve most customers just fine, but for varied reasons, some will be better suited than others from one family to another.
First, you have to simply consider size, meaning your child’s size, to be specific. If your kid is already past the preschool days, there may be no need for a convertible car seat at all, as you’re already in booster seat territory, so instead consider something like the.
On the other hand, though convertible car seats can accommodate babies as small as newborns, the fact that you can’t take these larger car seats in and out of cars as you can with a pop-out infant car seat might mean constantly waking your baby, so a dedicated infant car seat may be worth getting before you later consider a convertible seat.
Still, the fact that a convertible car seat can accommodate baby through big kid makes it a net savings in the long run, and their safety is hard to match. Look for a seat that can handle your child’s size now and for as long as possible to come, and don’t overlook possible siblings on the horizon (or use by nieces and nephews and friends). Next make sure your vehicle can accommodate the physical size of the seat and that it can be installed properly, ideally using the LATCH system.
Take into account your own experience and abilities with car seats, as some have features that remove all guesswork as to positioning while others make it easy to secure the seat with varied tensioning systems.
Once you’re sold on the best convertible car seat for your family, go ahead and commit and, in many cases, you can plan to enjoy a solid 10 years of service from your seat.
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