I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Our kids deserve only the best car seats.
Apart from meeting ASTM and Federal Safety Standards, the Best Convertible Car Seats are NCAP crash tested. They have reliable seat belts, frames that provide complete side-impact protection. And their multi-recline positions not only comfort your child – but also to let you fit the seat into different cars effortlessly.
Feeling lost in the car-seat jargon?
You don’t have to, as above mentioned is our criteria selecting the best car seats for this article.
Look at the comparison table. I will provide you with more information that will help you in our Buyer’s Guide later.
Best Convertible Car Seats of 2019
Do you know what the difference is between a rear-facing car seat and a front-facing one? And how both of them are different from their booster counterpart?
Well, if you choose the Graco Milestone Gotham – which is three in one, you don’t have to!
First thing first, the fact that its manufacturer calls it an all-in-one car seat is because the Graco Milestone would fit your child whether regardless of their weight. All you have to do is to change the position of the car seat when your baby touches the designated weight mark and BINGO!
Turning our attention to its performance and ease of use, and that is where the 4-position recline comes into play. While the infants would like you to recline the seat to its maximum so that they could do what they do best – crying! – for the toddlers and the slight grown-ups, who like to discover the world, the straight-up position would suit much better.
Safety-wise, the Graco Gotham meets all the safety standards we talked about at the start of this article. Not only has it been approved in crash testings, but its reinforced steel frame assures the safety of your child in the event of an accident.
To make sure that you install the seat correctly – which most parents don’t – the Graco Gotham has an insight Latch system. This system is far more secure than using a seat belt to secure your seat, as it gives you an audio cue on the proper installation of the system. And even if you aren’t an expert, you would be able to install this seat in less than a minute.
Finally, adjusting the harness is a cinch with this the Graco Milestone Gotham. Both the shoulder straps and the headrest are connected, which means you won’t have to re-thread the straps to adjust the harness. Instead, all you have to do to pick the straps up is to grab the car seat handle and just push both the shoulder straps and the headrest to the right height.
While the price of this seat certainly raises eyebrows, the fact that it has only four recline positions does little to complement its price tag.
- Meets all Safety Standards
- Easy to Adjust Harness
- Latch makes installation a cinch
- Durable, sturdy steel frame
- Has only four recline positions
At the cost of sounding hyperbolical, Milestone Gotham is one of the most fantastic seats to have ever come out of Graco’s warehouses. Hence, if you can afford to pay what it demands, this seat won’t leave your child wanting.
For a seat that is ranked amongst one of the top-rated car seats on the market today, the Graco 4-in-1 car seat does not come cheap, to put it mildly.
Is paying the price which Graco demands this seat worth it? Let’s find out.
What makes this car seat so expensive? My first question on seeing its price tag for the first time. Well, as I found out later on: its suitability for children of all ages.
For instance, if you have an infant, the 4Ever would turn into a rear-facing car seat to soothe them. For toddlers, meanwhile, its forward face would come into play. Similarly, if your child is growing up, you could turn this into a booster. That means that, if used properly, this is the only car seat your child would ever need.
Looking at how this seat would assure the safety of your child, and Graco has provided it with an EPS energy absorbing form. As the name suggests, this foam would absorb the impact in case of an accident to ensure that your child remains safe.
If that wasn’t enough, and you’re still worried, the 5-point harness should settle all your doubts. Considered the safest in the industry, the 5-point harness system would buckle your child from five positions, so that he doesn’t jump out of the seat with the impact of an accident.
Finally, putting the Graco Milestone Gotham to shame, this seat comes with 10-reclining positions for its forward-facing version. Add to it the fact that the cover is machine washable, and the Graco 4-in-1 car seat has done well to justify its otherwise lofty price tag.
Impressed by the features of the Graco 4 in 1 car seat? Now break that bank – for this car seat is one of the most expensive models in the market right now.
- 10 reclining positions
- 5-point harness system
- Offers booster without a backseat
- Comes with an easy to read level indicator
Consult Amazon – where this seat is the best-selling, and you’d only hear rave reviews about it from enthused parents. In case you want to join that list – and your pocket permits you to do that as well, the Graco 4-in-1 won’t disappoint.
Liked the features of both the Graco seats but not willing to pay the price they demand? Don’t worry, in the Safety 1st Grow, you’d have everything for growing children, and that too at a price which falls in the range of the majority of parents.
While it doesn’t have an astronomical price tag, the Safety 1st Grow does have its share of unique features. Take, for instance, its buckler holder. It holds both the buckle tongues as well as the harness webbing out of the way when the buckle is not in use – so that you won’t have to dig the buckle from under your child every time they sit in the seat,
As for the recline positions, three of them are on an offer with this car seat, though the difference in front space between recline position two and three would vary by vehicle type. That is, while bigger cars like the Cavalier could install the seat in its 2nd recline position, smaller ones might not have enough space for that.
Turning our attention to its harness system, and the Grow provides a no-rethread harness for all but the infants. It means that unless your child isn’t 6 to 9months old, you’d have to use the newborn harness position which requires a bit of rethreading.
If you intend to use this seat for an infant, you’d be pleased to know that the Grow offers infant padding – both at the back as well as the head to keep your infant’s entire body in correct position. That said, if you feel that the child is getting uncomfortable with added padding, you could remove that on your own.
Finally, the Safety 1st Car seat is going to be with your child for years, as suggested by its 3-in-1 tag. While its rear-facing version would take care of infants, toddlers would find the forward-facing mode comfortable. As for the slight grown-ups, the booster stage of the Safety 1st would come into play.
FAA has approved this seat in ‘’harness mode’’. It means that once you convert it into a booster, you won’t be able to take it alongside you into the airplane.
- Added Padding For Infants
- Has a newborn harness position
- Has a buckle holder
- Three recline positions
- Its booster version isn’t allowed in airplanes.
As suggested earlier, the FAA limit on this seat might be a deal-breaker for parents who travel by air. However, we think it is safe to say that most parents won’t be bothered by it, and if you feel that you belong to the latter category, this seat deserves your attention.
Like other best convertible car seats in this review, the Chicco NextFit Spectrum doesn’t come cheap, which means you’d have to have very deep pockets to afford it. However, even if you think you cannot afford, don’t go away without looking at its features first. For, who knows whether they’d be able to force you to get out that checkbook.
With its nine recline positions, the Chicco Spectrum provides everything an infant or a toddler might love to have in their car seat. That said, this feature would be more helpful in SUVs which offer bigger space than sedans where the seat could only be reclined up to the 3rd position.
In good news for your baby– who would be strapped down for hours in this seat, the Chicco Spectrum offers extra-thick pads, with both the harness and headrest being adjustable. Consequently, there won’t be any problem with the buckles pinching your child.
As for its safety, Chicco has gone for the steel-reinforced frame as well as the side impact protection in the Chicco Spectrum. LATCH connectors are there as well, and there is also a bubble level meter for the perfect seat angle. Add to all these features the 5-point harness, and your baby’s safety is all but guaranteed.
Apart from guaranteeing the safety of this seat, both the latch connector as well as the bubble level meter make it a cinch for installation. That said, you need to make sure that your car has supporting metal anchors (every post-2000 car has it), to take advantage of this easy installation mechanism.
Parents have complained that in the rear-facing mode, the straps are very difficult to tighten, especially if your baby weighs on the heavier side.
- Nine recline positions
- Dual-level indicators
- Zipped and machine washable fabrics
- Steel-reinforced frame provides side impact protection
- Straps aren’t easy to tight in rear-facing mode
For a seat that offers nine reclining positions, is a cinch to install and has impeccable safety credentials, the Chicco Spectrum does well to justify its otherwise lofty price tag.
For those of you who don’t have metal anchors for latch connectors in your car – or who cannot find them – the Britax Boulevard ClickTight, with its seatbelt installation mechanism, might prove to be a godsend.
Look at the top rated car seats out there, and 90% of them come with latch connectors. That, to me, isn’t fair as most pre-2000 cars do not have built-in latch connectors. Luckily, it is to cater to this segment of the market that Britax has allowed installing this seat only with the seat belt.
And if you are worried that the absence of latch connectors might compromise the safety of this seat, you don’t have to.
For, be it federal or state, the USA Boulevard meets all US Safety standards, has a reinforced steel frame, V-shaped tether, and its energy absorbing base would distribute the impact evenly when the accident takes place to shield your baby.
Feeling good now? Here’s more: the Boulevard comes with a unique belt installation system, which, thanks to its built-in lock, makes installation foolproof. Add to it the level indicator, and the chances look bleak that you could mess up with the installation of the Boulevard.
Still, there is one major shortcoming which mars the performance of this convertible, particularly in the rear facing mode. The position of the reclining handle is so awkward that it is almost impossible to use it in the rear facing mode, which means that you’d have to rely on the built-in seat adjustment.
As suggested above, the handle of the recliner is the sort of shortcoming which could serve as a deal-breaker for many.
- Seat belt installation
- Energy absorbing base
- V-shaped tether minimizes seat rotation
- Double layer side impact protection
- The positioning of the recliner in a reverse-facing mode
If you could put up with the not-so-minor awkwardness which is posed by the curious positioning of the reclining handle, this seat might prove to be a good buy.
Of all the car seats which we have reviewed thus far in this article, the Evenflo car seat is undoubtedly the most inexpensive. Still, it wasn’t its price tag but the performance which forced us to include this Made in USA seat in our review.
Starting with how this seat would keep your child safe, its side-impact protection and energy-absorbent foam come into play. Both of them reduce the impact of the accident, albeit differently. While the former absorbs the impact with its three layers, the latter would evenly distribute the impact of accident throughout the seat, hence saving your child from any shock.
Moving on, and making this seat easy to install is the market-favorite Latch connector system. Regardless of the position you install this seat in – be it rear-facing or front-facing, the same latch connectors would help in installation, which means you won’t have to improvise.
In its rear-facing position, Evenflo states that this seat would support a child as light as 5lbs. While this looks to be okay for most parents, any premature child won’t fit in this category, as their weight usually lies below this limit.
This car seat comes with an easy-to-adjust harness system which is a must-have if you intend to use it for years. For, depending on your child’s body shape – and his growth – the versatility of the harness system would allow it to complement the same.
Add that to the built-in cup holder – where you can place your baby’s feeder, the machine washable covers, and three reclining positions, and this seat makes up for a decent product despite its below-average price.
Some of us want to have a car seat which we could convert into a stroller to use it as a separate travel system. Unfortunately, the Evenflow provides no such freedom.
- Provides Side-Impact Protection
- Has an Energy Absorbent Form
- Adjustable headrest has a removable head pillow
- Easy to install with Latch connectors
- Can’t use it as a separate stroller
For the price at which this seat is available, most parents won’t take offense from the fact that they cannot turn it into a stroller. And with the features that it provides, this seat has more than enough usability to make up for this shortcoming.
Before you ask, NHTSA rates convertibles on how they keep your child safe, and as we have already stated, the Marathon G 4.1 has achieved the top rating in this regard. Thus, in light of this certification, G 4.1 has already heightened our expectations about its performance.
Starting with the reason as to why this seat is rated so highly by the NTHSA, it is what Britax calls its ‘’Safe Cell Impact Protection’’ system that deserves all the praise.
Three features are of particular importance in the context of the safety of this seat; steel-resistant frame allows it to tolerate the impact of an accident, an energy absorbing base to safely distribute the impact, and a V-shaped tether to keep your child in the seat when/if the accident happens.
One of the nicest features of the Britax convertible car seat is its built-in lock clips. For those of you who would install the seat using aseat-belt, the lock-off clips would bind the seat tightly into its place, hence providing better protection than the traditional seat belts.
When installing the seat in its rear-facing mode, you’d have to slide the connectors around the metal bars to swap their positions. And if you don’t know that beforehand – which most buyers won’t as the instruction manual doesn’t provide easy-to-follow instructions, installing the seat might become a bit confusing.
Finally, while the base allows easy recline adjusting – regardless of which side the seat’s face is towards, the thick padding and plush covers allow your baby a comfy ride. And the covers come in various patterns to complement your baby’s mood (or taste).
If you intend to use Britax as a rear-facing convertible car seat, you might want to know that it is anything but small. It means that its rear-facing mode might not install in small seats.
- Installation with seat belts is easy
- 10-position harness is easy to adjust
- Easy to recline, even in the rear-facing mode
- Thick padding
- Might be difficult to install its rear-facing mode in small cars
If you have a big car which could provide its rear-facing mode the space it needs to function properly, the Britax convertible car seat won’t leave anything to desire with its performance.
Check the most comfortable car seats out there, and you might find a flaw in their safety practices. Fortunately, as its side-impact protection might testify, the Evenflo Symphony Elite all-in-one provides both comfort and safety with aplomb.
Installing the Symphony Elite is a cinch, a fact you’d know by merely looking at its Latch connector system. All you have to do is to get its latch connectors out, bare the metal anchors of your car, and connect both. That’s it! The entire process shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
However, if you care doesn’t have latch connectors, the Evenflo Symphony gives the option of seat belt installation. Yup, it won’t be as easy as the latch connector installation, but the installation with seat belt would be as safe.
Moving ahead, the Evenflo Symphony has head and body pillows, both of which are removable. What’s more, the instruction manual of this seat also contains a guideline using which you could easily remove both if you think that your infant’s breathing is disturbed by the pillows.
Of the three reclining positions that are on offer, each is for a specific position. That is, the Recline 1 is rear-facing only, whereas Recline 2 is forward-facing mode. As for the Recline 3, it is for both the booster as well as the forward-facing.
The seat is both wide and heavy, a potential deal-breaker if your car isn’t an SUV since it would make fitting the seat inside the car a bit difficult.
- Both Latch and seat-belt installation
- Buckle Pockets
- Maintenance and cover removal is fairly simple
- Simple, easy to understand instructions
Overall, there is not much fault that you could find with the Elite Symphony. It offers two installation mechanisms, is easy to use and even easier to maintain. What more can you ask!
Despite coming from as famous a brand as Britax – and despite offering a plethora of useful features, the Britax Static doesn’t cost as much as other seats from the same manufacturer. So, if you only want a Britax for your child, the G4.1 Static’s price might just suit you.
As suggested by the term ‘’static’’ in its name, this Britax gives an impression that it has a secure base. Fortunately, during our testing, we didn’t find anything to repudiate this claim. That said, while it gives the option of seatbelt installation, we’d recommend going for Latch connectors for maximum security.
And to make installation easy for you, Britax has gone for color coding in this model. That is, when you’d be installing its rear-facing version, the Static’s Blue color code would indicate the seat’s level. As for those who have toddlers – which means they want forward-facing, the green color would come to help.
With the increase in their age, children need the harness and the buckle of their car seat to provide more space to avoid pinching. And with its 10-harness and 2-buckle positions, the Britax static provides just that.
Finally, as we have come to expect of the Britax seats, the Static also offers side-impact protection thanks to its stainless steel shell which would absorb maximum impact in case of an accident.
Some parents have complained that the position of the neck rest is awkward, which means that it would either be too low or too high and seemingly never in position.
- Sturdy Fabric, thick foam pads
- Easy to clean thanks to machine washable cover
- Latch connectors make it easy to install
- Very roomy, great for taller children
- The position of the neck rest is awkward
Some of us have fussy children who require special arrangements to settle down. Fortunately, thanks to the chest clip of this seat, the Static would take care of them. Hence, if you feel your little one is similarly fuss-creating, select the static.
Though it doesn’t come from as famous a brand as Britax or Evenflo, the Diono R100 cares less about its reputation than its features.
Have doubts? Scroll down.
First thing first, though it comes at half the price in comparison to some other seats in this review, the Radian R1000 offers three-in-one usability. Yes, whether you want to use it as rear-facing, forward-facing or want to convert it into a booster, the R100 would deliver.
Read more: The Complete Review of Diono Radian R100
Next up is its frame, and Diono seems to have taken no chances with the safety of your child with its steel frame. Add to the equation its aluminum sides and an energy absorbing base, and you won’t have to worry about your child’s safety with the R100.
More importantly, the R100 folds flat so that if you think your child doesn’t need it on a journey, you could easily store it with your other luggage in your car’s Diggy. Similar ease is on offer with its 5-point harness and 3-position buckle, both of which grow with your child to provide them with maximum comfort.
Some parents who wanted to install this car seat with seatbelts were unable to find any instructions in the instruction manual of the R100.
- Foldable and has a steel frame
- Fits 3-across
- 3 Buckle position makes it suitable for children of all ages
- Machine Washable and FAA certified
- Not easy to install with a seat belt due to lack of instructions
It might not be as famous as the Britax or Evenflo seats mentioned in this review – and it is certainly not as expensive, the Diono Radian R100 has all the features which define a quality seat. Consequently, if you want the ultimate comfort and safety of your child – but don’t want to break the bank for it, the R100 would suit you just right.
Best Convertible Car Seats – Buying Guide
Think the product reviews are enough for selection? Think again, as this buying guide is necessary if you want to make an informed decision.
Its belt should provide Proper Fit
Two elements of a convertible play an important part in its fit: the lap belt and the shoulder belt. If you could tug both these belts properly, your child’s safety would go up a notch.
Lap Belt Fit
The major purpose of the lap belt is to keep the child in their seat in the case of a crash. However, it would not be able to do so if its fit is not proper.
Therefore, make sure that the lap belt is lying flatly on top of the thighs, and NOT higher up your child’s abdomen, which is a wrong position.
Shoulder Belt Fit
As adults, we have been wearing shoulder belts since times immemorial. Still, most of us don’t know about its correct configuration: it should fit neatly across the middle of your child’s shoulder.
Otherwise, if it is too close to the neck or too further down the arm, the shoulder belt won’t provide adequate protection.
Rear Facing Vs. Front Facing Vs. Booster Seats
Since you are in the market looking for the best toddler car seat, you might already have heard about ‘’extended rear facing’’ and ‘’extended front facing” seats. Still, what you may not know about them is that their performance has less to do with their shape – and more to do with their age restrictions.
Rear Facing Car Seats
Cutting right to the heart of the matter, toddlers remains up to five-times safe when they use a rear-facing seat in comparison to those using a forward-facing seat.
That said, you cannot force your toddler to keep using a rear-facing seat forever. Instead, when your child hits the 40pound weight-mark – or crosses the 2year age-mark, several states legislatures require switching to front facing seats.
When choosing a front facing seat, there are two major features you need to consider for ensuring both its comfort and longevity.
First, its weight limit should approach 70pounds, which would ensure that your child won’t overgrow it quickly, and second, its expiry date should be 8years from the date of purchase.
As your little one continues to grow – with his front-facing harness pulling and pinching him, it is the time that you switch to a booster seat. It boosts the position of your child high enough for the shoulder belts to restrain them properly.
Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that you could keep using a booster seat unless your child is either 8-years-old or is less than 4’9’’. Still, if you feel confused, this map would help you in getting to know your state’s requirements.
It should be Easy to Install
Most convertibles in the US provide installation options: LATCH and Seat Belt. Let’s take a look at which one is easy to install.
With 4 in 5 car seats in the US installed incorrectly, LATCH is undoubtedly the best and the easiest way to secure a snug, tight connection to your baby seat with the car. At the cost of sounding too technical, LATCH uses straps from the convertible and connect it to metal anchors in your car.
In case you are wondering, your car WILL have metal anchors if its model year is 2000 or above, which means that you could use LATCH connectors with them. Mostly, metal anchors are located either in the back seat or in the roof of the car. Before using a LATCH connector, make sure you check the weight limit of both your car seat as well as the metal anchor to which you’d connect the convertible.
Most vehicles have anchors with an upper weight limit of 65lbs. That means if the combined weight of your child and their seat is more than 65lbs, then the LATCH connector will not provide adequate protection.
In contrast to the abovementioned installation system, seat belts could be used to install all baby seats without having any weight limits. Also, whether or not you like it, your child will outgrow the LATCH connector within a few years’ time after which your seat belts would remain your only option.
Before installing the car seat using a seat belt, consult your car’s owners’ manual to find the path of its seatbelt, as you don’t want the seat-belt to over-extend doing which could compromise the safety of your child.
Tips for Car Seat Safety
Until now, we were concerned about how you could choose the best convertible car seat. In this section, we will tell you how to use it for the maximum safety of your child.
Choose the Correct Size
As a rule of thumb, while children below two years of age should use the rear-facing seat, those between 2 and 4 (weighing less than 40lbs), should go for the front-facing one. Between Age 4 and 8 – or until your child gets 4’9’’ tall, a booster seat would be best. Finally, after age 8 and provided adult seat belt fits them properly, transition them to your car seat.
Consult the Level Indicator during installation
Check the products that we mentioned above, and you’d see that almost all of them have level indicators.
While all of them don’t look the same – with some coming in the form of lines and others offering fluids, you should consult them while installing the seat. And only when the level indicator indicates that the seat’s installation angle is correct should you finish the installation procedure.
Keep it Center, If possible
It is common sense that for car seats placed in the center, they won’t take the hit in case of an accident.
Research says the same as, if you place your child’s seat in the center of the car, it would have a 43 percent lower injury risk than seats placed in the car’s side. Therefore, if your baby doesn’t throw tantrums when he doesn’t get the window seat, show him the world through the windshield, instead.
Keep Using A Rear-Facing Car Seat, For As Long As Possible
As suggested earlier, rear-facing car seats reduce the risk of your child getting seriously injured in comparison to the front facing ones.
Still, that doesn’t mean that you should use a rear-facing seat for your 5-year-old. Instead, keep the rear facing seat at least until age 2, and at most for as long as your child is comfortable with it
Use The Five-Point Harness System
There are three mechanisms car seats employ to restrain your baby’s seat from abrupt motions: seat-belt, three-point harness, and five-point harness system. Of these three, it is the five-point harness system which is the safest. Not only does it provide better roll support and stability to the seat – but in the event of a crash, it distributes force evenly through their body, hence protecting their abdominal area which contains main internal organs.
Mistakes to Avoid While Installing Car Seat
You’ve paid the money, have the best car seat delivered to your doorstep, and are ready to install it. But before you pick up your tools, look at these commonly-made mistakes to make sure you avoid them during the installation procedure.
Leaving Harness Too Loose
Most of the times, seat with a five-point harness system evoke these mistakes – as parents stop count while fastening the buckles. To make sure that you don’t leave the harness too loose, we introduce to you a ‘’pinch’’ test. That is, when t you cannot pinch any harness material between your thumb and the fingers, the harness is optimally tight.
Seat Angle is Incorrect
There’s a reason why most products you saw above had a level indicator; so that you could ensure that the seat angle is correct. Obviously, the angle of the child seat should be such that the child won’t flop forward in an accident.
Equally crucial is the fact, however, that you SHOULD NOT recline it 45* from its vertical position. For, if you do that, the child could be thrown out headfirst between the straps during the accident.
Not leaving any space between Vehicle Front Seat and Car Seat
This mistake might have severe repercussions if you are using a front seat, as it naturally swings forward in event of an attack, hence throwing the baby headfirst against the vehicle front seat. Therefore, while installing your convertible, make sure there is considerable space between the car seat and vehicle front seat.
Seat Installed too loosely
A properly fit seat could barely move an inch or less in either direction, therefore, whether you are installing the base with the seat-belt – or installing it with the LATCH, make sure the seat isn’t too loose.
When Should I stop using a Convertible Seat?
Seat belts fit people who are at least 145cm tall. To see whether or not your child has what it takes to swap a convertible seat for a seat belt, this 5-step-test might come handy. If your child passes it, you could swap his convertible for your car’s seat belt.
Your child’s back should lie flat against the back of the seat. Their knees should bend over the edge of the seat belt should pass through the centre of their shoulder Apart from touching their thighs, the seat belt should sit low while passing through their hips Your child should be comfortable while seat-belted for the entire trip.
After reading various convertible car seat reviews, I opted to go for Britax Boulevard ClickTight. To my surprise, this car seat proved to be the best amongst its competitors. Although this convertible car seat is heavier than most of the other car seats, this one proves to be the most reliable and completely compatible with almost every car. The reinforced steel frame, V-shaped tether, and its energy absorbing base allows this car seat to overcome big impacts, keeping your baby safe from the potential damage. Based on my personal experience, I trust this convertible car seat the most reliable one as it keeps my infant safe and comfortable at the same time.
In case you feel that we left out some other best convertible car seats, don’t hesitate to let us know.