A convertible car seat is a type that comes with several nesting parts, made to be taken out or changed over time.
Convertible models are built to grow with your child and keep them safe in the car. The seats are convenient and easy to use, and they are made to last many years.
What are Convertible Car Seats?
Car seats are an essential part of keeping your child safe in the car, and a convertible model, while often more expensive than standard ones, may save you the effort of buying different models as they grow. They are rear-facing for infants and can later convert to forward-facing for your toddler.
We’ve reviewed several of the most popular and reliable best convertible car seat models for you in this article.
But, first, let’s provide some essential information for you on this topic so you can make an informed decision on what’s best for you.
|Best Convertible Car Seats|
|Graco 4ever 4-in-1||CHECK PRICE|
|Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1||CHECK PRICE|
|Graco Extend2Fit||CHECK PRICE|
|Peg Perego Primo Viaggio||CHECK PRICE|
What Should You Look For In A Convertible Car Seat
When buying the best convertible car seat, there are many things to consider. First, you’ll want to narrow down which features you want in your car seat. You might add or subtract elements based on the size of your budget, as well. As with any consumer product, you will often get more when you spend more.
It’s also important to take into account what kind of convertible car seat you’re looking for. Convertible car seats range from two-stage to four-stage, and picking how many stages you need will help narrow down your search results. Keep in mind that, if you’re not purchasing a four-stage car seat, it’s recommended that you buy seats for the additional stages later on. This can add up in cost.
However, remember that while multi-stage car seats like the Graco 4ever are advertised to last through ten years of growth, the car seat itself may not be able to stand up to ten years of abuse. Just because the seat can be used for ten years doesn’t mean it will last that long.
Tellingly, the 4ever car seat comes with only a one-year warranty. If you take good care of it, it may last ten years, but if you have children who treat things roughly, it may be smarter to plan for multiple new car seats as your child grows.
Lastly, you will want to make sure the car seat you’re interested is compatible with your vehicle(s). It would be no good to do your research, purchase a car seat, and then not be able to install it safely. Safe, correct installation plays a considerable part in the life-saving potential of car seats – you don’t want to skimp on this step!
Installation and Compatibility
When installing an infant car seat or any convertible car seats in your car, there are several more things to consider. Firstly, you will need to determine whether your car is compatible with a LATCH system, or if you need to use a seatbelt-compatible model instead. Typically, any car made after 2002 will have the LATCH system. This usually makes car seats easy to install.
You’ll also need to consider the size of your car. Convertible car seats can vary significantly in size (usually bigger than an infant car seat or booster seat), and you’ll need to measure the width of your seats (especially if you need to install more than one car seat), how much legroom you need when a car seat is behind you, and whether a car seat can accept the proper adjustment angle to sit flush with your convertible car seats. Based on your car, a car seat can be easy to install or a chore. Keep in mind that if you’re going to be removing the car seat frequently, the easy to install feature will quickly become an important one for you.
Safety Matters, and Used Seats Can be Dangerous
More than anything, be wary when buying used convertible car seats. You may be tempted to do so because they’re cheaper as you look for the best convertible car seat. But, convertible car seats are not safe to use after they’ve been in a car crash. If you have no way of knowing whether convertible car seats have been in an accident or not, just don’t buy them.
On the topic of safety standards, be aware of recalls on car seats while you’re shopping. While it’s technically not legal to sell seats that have been recalled, you may run into one if you buy it from an irresponsible seller or if it’s secondhand. Make sure to check your car seat model and year thoroughly before installing it in your car, just to be safe that you are compliant with the appropriate safety standards.
Additionally, make extra sure that any car seat you buy meets or exceeds all US safety standards for car seats. Any car seat responsibly sold in the United States should meet these criteria, but be aware of very old secondhand car seats that may no longer be safe.
Another thing to think about in finding the best convertible car seat is multi-use car seats. Some car seat models will slot into strollers, be convertible to a carrier, and the like. While we didn’t review any of those in this article, whether you want one of these will be something to consider when buying your car seat. Keep in mind, however, that any multi-functional car seat is unlikely to be convertible as well. Sometimes they feature a steel frame for durability and side impact protections. But, this same steel frame can also add additional weight to consider.
After purchasing your car seat, please be sure to read all warnings labels and manuals thoroughly. These labels give you important information on safe usage, age and size limits, and how to install the seats correctly. If you don’t follow these directions, you may end up using the car seat in a way it’s not meant to be used. Doing this can result in unsafe situations for your child.
Register Your Seat
You will typically find a registration card or web address included with your car seat purchase. It’s always a good idea to register your car seat; if you do so, the company who made the seat will send you recall notices for the seat.
This is an important part of maintaining your child’s safety, as well as keeping a sound investment in your seat. Often, if there is a recall, the parent company will send you replacement parts or a new seat for free to replace the defective one.
Frequently Asked Questions About Convertible Car Seat
When shopping car seats, it pays to know what you’re looking for in researching the best convertible car seat. If some of the terms we’ve mentioned in this article have stumped you, this is the place to look.
What does LATCH mean?
LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) is a series of attachments built in newer cars that are meant to anchor a car seat in the back safely. All car seats manufactured after 2002 should be compatible with LATCH, but there are some that are also able to be strapped in with a seatbelt instead.
Should I buy multi-stage or single-stage car seats?
This will all depend on your budget, what function you want out of your car seat, and whether you want multi-purpose vessels. Many rear-facing car seats, for example, also function as carriers for newborns, but you’d be hard-pressed to find this functionality in a two-stage car seat.
Additionally, it will be more expensive to buy a seat for each stage of your child’s growth, but, as they say, sometimes a master of one is better than a master of none. A car seat that’s meant to serve only one function may be safer or more accessible than a car seat that’s been designed to do multiple things.
What are the stages in a convertible car seat?
As your child grows, there are technically four stages of car seats that should be used to keep them safe in a vehicle. After birth, a child is considered to be in the first stage. Most car seats will have an infant insert that comes with the car seat (thus, making it an infant car seat). This is to be used until your child outgrows the insert, at which time they would sit properly in the car seat.
During the infant stage, the car seat sits facing the seat back behind it. This ensures optimum safety for the child, as standard airbags can harm children while they’re young. There are some carriers and seats available that are rear-facing only, but often, it will be more economical to buy a two-stage seat which supports both foward facing and rear-facing configurations.
Seats that are exclusively rear-facing are typically only designed to last through the infant stage. You could call these a pure infant car seat. Typically, this will last until one of the following happens: the child grows too tall for the infant car seat, the child exceeds forty pounds, or the child reaches two years of age. Some car seats are designed to extend the amount of time the child can sit rear-facing.
The second stage in a convertible car seat is the forward facing stage. This stage will typically last until the child exceeds sixty-five pounds. Some car seats can be used even longer, such as the Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max, which can be used in front position until the child weighs eighty-five pounds. In the front stage, the child still uses the included harness with the seat, but sits facing forward normally.
The third stage in a convertible car seat is the backed booster stage. During this stage, the child still sits in the car seat as usual, but instead of using the straps on the car seat, they sit buckled into the car’s seat belt. This setting can typically be used until the child reaches one hundred pounds.
The fourth and final stage of car seat use is the backless booster stage. During this stage, the back is removed from the car seat (or a standalone booster seat can be purchased), and the child sits atop the booster, but with their back against the car seat. These seats use standard seat belts, and the extra height provided by the booster seat helps the child sit within safe range of the belts.
The backless booster configuration can be used until the child reaches 120 pounds. However, many children will be old enough to sit without a booster seat before reaching that point.
Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews (The Moms Ratings For 2020)
1. Graco 4ever 4-in-1 – Parent’s Choice Convertible Car Seat
The Graco 4ever 4-in-1 car seat is an all-around good buy. Its most attractive feature is its high safety rating among users. It’s a popular, moderately-priced choice, and it will fulfill any purpose for which you need it.
Additionally, it’s advertised to last for ten years, which helps justify the price tag on it.
The specifications for this seat are as follows:
- Four configurations: rear-facing, forward-facing, high-back booster, and low-back booster
- Built to last through ten years of growth
- Simply Safe Adjust harness makes adjustment easy; harness and headdress adjust together
- Fuss-Free harness
- Soft, plush seats for baby
- Easy-to-remove washable cover
- Unused straps are stored in a compartment, out of the way
- Two cup holders included
Safety is at the forefront of the creators’ minds when building the seat. Using the same car seat for ten years will most likely save you money and effort in the long run – no need to buy a bigger seat every few years. This model has an impressive inner steel frame and strong side impact protection.
However, there seems to be a lack of padding in the head area of the Graco 4ever seat that can cause neck discomfort and head flopping in children who aren’t used to it. Other than that, the car seat is easy to install, sturdy, washable, and very safe. The washable seat cover and removable cup holders are especially useful. Unfortunately, there also seems to be a lack of padding in the seat when the infant insert is removed.
The harness on the seat can also loosen over time, although this can be a common feature among similar seats. The harness is easy to adjust, however, doesn’t require threading, and the excess belt stays out of the way. The car seat is also advertised to have a “one-handed” adjustment system for easy install.
Overall, this car seat comes out above most of the competition. The ten-year lifespan is undoubtedly its most attractive feature, but it also comes with many quality-of-life upgrades that make usage easy and enjoyable. This seat will suit your child from 4 pounds all the way up to 120 pounds.
2. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 – Safest Convertible Car Seat
The Safety 1st Grow and Go car seat is an excellent choice for those who are either satisfied with a 3-in-1 seat or those who are looking for budget convertible car seats. Despite being affordable, the car seat does not compromise on safety.
The product specifications are as follows:
- Three configurations: rear-facing, forward-facing, and backed booster seat
- Easy in-and-out harness
- QuickFit Harness adjusts the harness and seat in one step
- Washable seat pad that snaps off for easy removal
- Usable for children from five to one hundred pounds
- Three back positions
- Designed to allow the front seat more legroom in rear-facing mode
- Featured on our “best seats of 2019” list
The Safety 1st Grow and Go car seat is designed for safety and convenience on a budget. The seat has many features found in more expensive seats, but by cutting out some less important functions, such as a removable back and extra reclining settings, the makers have kept the price of the seat low. The car seat is only a 3-in-1, so it is edged out in versatility and long-term use by other 4-in-1 seats.
That’s not to say that this car seat isn’t a good buy. It’s affordable in terms of pricing compared to other car seats. Those looking for a car seat with a good assortment of features, longevity, and safety on a budget would be smart to consider this seat.
However, some people do seem to have significant issues with making this seat secure in their car. Whether this is attributable to operator error, design flaws, or just not fitting in specific car models is unclear. It’s an important thing to keep in mind when ordering the seat, though – if you can’t make it fit safely in your car, you may need to return it and try another one.
Although it comes out below Graco’s 4-in-1 car seat because it’s missing a stage, this seat still comes out near the top of available convertible car seats because of its budget-friendly price and safety features. It may be more economical to buy this car seat in addition to a backless booster if you can find a good deal.
3. Graco Extend2Fit – Affordable Choice Convertible Seat
The Graco Extend2Fit car seat is a different breed than many of the other convertible car seats that we feature in this article. This car seat has an extension area beneath the seat that allows your child to remain in the rear-facing position for longer. Typically, rear facing convertible car seats are mainly intended as an infant car seat. The specifications of this car seat are as follows:
- Extend2Fit foot panel lets your child sit rear-facing for longer than a traditional car seat
- Simply Safe harness system adjusts the harness and headrest in one step
- Ten headrest positions and six recline positions
- Fuss-Free harness system with compartments for extra belts
- Removable dual cup holders
- Removable and washable seat pad
- Accommodates children from four to sixty-five pounds
- Featured on our “best seats of 2019” list
The Graco Extend2Fit car seat’s leg panel is considered by some to be useful, and by others to be gimmicky. While it’s meant to let your child sit rear-facing for longer, your car needs to have enough room to use this feature for it to be useful. Rear-facing car seats take up a lot of space in the back seat as is, and the extended leg tray takes up more.
However, it is indisputably safer to have your child sit rear-facing as long as possible. If you have a car that’s large enough to make the leg tray work, it is a sound investment.
The price of the Extend2Fit is one of the biggest points in its favor. It’s much cheaper than its counterpart that we reviewed, the 4ever. However, it does not last as long – while the 4ever can be used for children up to one hundred twenty pounds, the Extend2Fit is only usable up to sixty-five pounds.
Other than lacking two configurations that the 4ever has, the two car seats share many useful features, such as removable cupholders and seat pads. However, they also share a few pitfalls. There have been reports that the warning label on the seat pad can heat up in sunny weather, potentially hurting your child. Make sure to check its temperature on sunny days if you invest in a Graco car seat.
Additionally, the removable cupholders in the Extend2Fit are strangely shaped. For whatever reason, they are somewhat cube-shaped, and drinks don’t fit well into the cup holders. They also tend to be out of reach of shorter children.
4. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio – Luxury Choice Convertible Seat
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio seat is a bit of a mouthful, but all in all, it seems to be an excellent all-around car seat. However, this seat is undoubtedly more of a luxury item than many of our other choices – this is reflected both in the price and features included.
The full specs of the seat are listed below.
- Made in Italy
- Two configurations: forward facing and rear-facing
- Appropriate for children from five to sixty-five pounds
- Easy seat adjustments with ten positions
- Constructed with shock-absorbing foam inserts
- Steel back for strength and rigidity
- No re-thread harness
- Removable seat pad and easy-to-wash Fresco Jersey material with moisture-wicking properties
- SAFE (Shock Absorbing Foam Element) underneath the car seat is designed to crumple in the event of a crash, reducing the stress on the child
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio car seat is undoubtedly a luxury product. However, this doesn’t mean that the seat skimps on quality. It comes packed with safety and convenience features, and the SAFE element beneath the car seat could be considered one of the most advanced features that we’ve reviewed in this article.
The Peg Perego car seat is lined with a moisture-wicking fabric that is great for warm climates (or sweaty children). It’s also soft, comfortable, and easy to clean. However, there are reports that the harness pads can be too large for some children. This can be remedied by buying aftermarket pads.
The seat is packed full of convenience and is easy to install. Notable, however, is the absence of cup holders in this car seat. That said , there are some available for purchase at an additional cost. The car seat is also lined with shock-absorbing foam, further increasing the safety of your child. Additionally, the seat fits easily into small cars.
All in all, this car seat has much more going for it than against it. It’s a fully-featured car seat, but it comes at a luxury price.
5. Britax Advocate ClickTight
The Britax Advocate car seat is built to assure optimum safety for your child. Similarly to the Marathon, the Advocate sails ahead of other car seats in terms of security, but falls behind in features for the price.
The specifications of this car seat are listed below.
- ClickTight installation makes setup painless
- No re-threading harness clicks when it’s in place
- Built with Britax’s impact-absorbing base and steel frame
- Three layers of side impact and head protection
- Supports children from five to sixty-five pounds
- Featured on our “best seats of 2019” list
As usual, Britax manufactures their car seats with safety first in mind. However, this ends up leaving behind many of the more convenient features that other car seats have. Besides the advanced protection of this car seat, it’s a bit lacking in features for the price. This is one of the most expensive car seats we’ve reviewed, and add-on features, like cup holders, will cost you more on top of that price.
As we mentioned, Britax car seats don’t come with cup holders, but they can be bought separately. However, it doesn’t seem to be worth the investment. Many features that come standard with other car seats require an additional purchase for a Britax car seat, such as a machine-washable cover or cup holder. The expenses from this can add up quickly.
The advanced safety of the Advocate car seat – arguably the safest car seat that we’ve reviewed here, with its three layers of impact protection – is the biggest pro in its favor. Additionally, Britax’s ClickTight system makes it painless to install, and it’s easy to configure. In terms of extra features, though, the Advocate (and other Britax seats, as well) falls behind. This is a big con against the car seat.
The price to feature ratio on this car seat is abysmal. However, its safety is top-notch. As with the other Britax seat we reviewed, whether this car seat is appropriate for you depends on your priorities and your budget.
6. Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max
Comfort was at the forefront of the minds of those who created the Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max. However, they didn’t skimp on safety or convenience features, either. This car seat is the most fully-featured 2-in-1 model we reviewed, but it comes at a price.
The specifications for the seat are listed below.
- Extra comfortable, made with premium padding and fabric
- Appropriate for children from five to eighty-five pounds
- Two configurations: rear-facing and forward-facing
- Magnetic ClipQuik belt can be opened with one hand and latches on its own
- Harness holders keep straps away when necessary
- FlexTech body manages strong forces in the event of a crash
- AirProtect side impact pads offer extra protection
- Seat covers are easy to remove, machine washable, and dryer safe
- One-handed height adjustments
- Featured on our “best seats of 2019” list
The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max seat comes with the most exceptional combination of luxury, convenience, and safety. However, this winning combination comes at a price. While not the most expensive car seat we reviewed, it’s up near the top of the list.
This car seat is the hands-down winner in terms of comfort. If you have a fussy baby or take extended drives frequently, the extra padding for your child may justify the price. Additionally, the covers on the seat are entirely removable, machine washable, and dryer safe. This is the ultimate convenience for children who often get carsick or spill food and drinks.
Unlike our other luxury car seats, the Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max does come with one cupholder. Whether you find this necessary is up to you, but it is also not removable, meaning it may be challenging to clean sticky messes from it. However, the cupholder is close to the child, meaning it’s much easier to reach than those on other models.
The car seat also comes with rigorous safety standards. The body itself is made to flex in the event of a crash, reducing the stress on the occupant and helping to ensure their safety. Overall, though, the car seat is nearly flawless, aside from its price, and it’s also rather bulky.
If you have a flexible budget, this car seat is an excellent pick.
7. Britax Marathon ClickTight
The Britax Marathon convertible car seat is not an all-around car seat – this seat is designed with safety as the priority. However, because of this, it lacks some of the quality-of-life features that other car seats have.
- ClickTight system installs in car easily
- No re-threading of the harness is ever necessary
- SafeCell protection system for side-impact safety, with a steel frame and a base designed for impact absorption
- Two configurations: rear-facing and forward-facing
- Quick-Adjust handle to change between reclining positions easily
- Works for children five to sixty-five pounds
- Featured on our “best seats of 2019” list
The Britax Marathon car seat is designed to put safety first. The seat itself is made with heavy-duty steel components in addition to the usual plastic. However, this extra safety comes with a steep price tag on top of only having two configurations. This is a significant disadvantage over other convertible car seats, such as 4-in-1s and 3-in-1s.
That said , this extra attention to safety can be significant and even essential to some. Additionally, Britax car seats are some of the easiest models to install that we’ve reviewed. All you need to do is buckle the car seat into your car with the ClickTight system, and it’s secure. The car seat has fourteen reclining settings and can be changed between these settings quickly and easily.
If you’re a person who drives for a significant portion of their day with a child in the car, this may be a good car seat to consider. Alternatively, if you have a history of car accidents or have young drivers in the household, this seat is also an excellent choice.
The attention to safety detail in this car seat is its best feature. Unfortunately, though, it lacks some of the features of other, even cheaper car seats. For one, the seat has no cupholders for toys, drinks, and snacks. The car seat is also very heavy, and it can be challenging to move between cars as a result. The seat cover is not machine washable – it must be hand-washed.
Lastly, the price to feature ratio on this car seat is rather unimpressive. Its safety, however, is very high among all of the convertible seats we’ve reviewed. Whether this car seat is right for you comes down to your priorities and your budget.
8. Clek Fllo
The Clek Fllo is made to be a narrow car seat. Its draw is in the ability to fit three seats across the back of your car, which may not be possible with larger car seats like the Maxi-Cosi.
However, aside from that, it doesn’t provide many benefits to balance out its high price. Its specs are listed below.
- Appropriate for children fourteen to sixty-five pounds
- Two configurations: forward facing and rear-facing
- Comes with an anti-rebound bar that allows children to stay rear-facing longer
- Stain-proof fabric is easy to clean but is not removable
- Reinforced with a honeycomb safety structure that buckles in a crash, reducing stress on the occupant
- Narrow enough to fit three car seats to the back seat of a small car
- Recyclable with Clek’s car seat recycling program
If you’re concerned about being green, Clek is the only brand we’ve reviewed with a recycling program for their car seats. However, for most, this program alone won’t justify the high price on the seat – the highest we’ve reviewed in this article. Overall, the car seat does not appear to be worth the investment required, as it has more cons than pros.
While the stain proof fabric is a good idea in theory, it is not in practice. While nothing soaks into the fabric, liquids spilled on the seat run through holes in the fabric, such as for the seat belt clip, and collect in the bottom plastic area of the seat.
When this happens, the only way to remedy the spill is to take the seat apart and allow to air dry. However, if you have careful children who don’t make many messes, this may be permissible.
The narrowness of the car seat is its biggest boon. However, this doesn’t necessarily justify the other issues with the seat. While it does allow parents to keep their children rear-facing for longer (up to fifty pounds), it’s difficult to install, hard to clean, and not easy to adjust. The honeycomb crumpling safety feature within the car seat is a plus, however.
Overall, unless you need this car seat for a niche purpose, such as needing narrow car seats or an extended rear-facing configuration, it’s not likely worth the investment. Additionally, if you want extra accessories for this seat, such as cup holders or a stability mat, this will mean additional costs.
Our conclusion on the best car seat to purchase is split between two contenders: budget-friendly and not. If you’re strapped for cash or want a car seat that will last you the life of your child, the Graco 4ever car seat is your most logical choice.
The Graco 4ever offers the most bang for your buck, hands down, as it’s already moderately priced, is fully-featured, and will keep you from needing to buy more car and booster seats as your child grows.
In a close second, for those who aren’t concerned about a budget, we picked the Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max. While expensive, this car seat provides the ultimate comfort for fussy children – even beating out the Graco 4ever. It comes with many safety and convenience features that will enhance your and your child’s quality of life. However, it’s expensive, and it’s only a two-stage car seat – you will eventually need to buy a booster seat with this model.
You can’t go wrong with either model. Whether you buy the Graco for its versatility or the Maxi-Cosi for its comfort, you will have made a sound investment. Both are reliable, feature-filled, offer many safety features and meet impressive safety standards, and accessible car seats that any child would enjoy.