Choosing the “right” car seat is a daunting task, as it’s one of the top ways you’ll keep your little one safe throughout the early years of life. You also need to decide if you should get an infant car seat or a convertible car seat, or both?
Do you need one car seat or two for your family’s cars? Combine that with the fact that it’s also one of the highest-priced items on your new baby’s list and you have a recipe for stress. The good news is, no matter which option you choose, ALL car seats pass a rigorous safety inspection so there really is no bad option.
I’m going to dive right into a roundup of the best convertible car seats, along with the pros and cons of each. We have a Chicco Nextfit, a Britax Marathon, and an Evenflo Tribute, so I’ll delve a little deeper there.
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- 1 What is the safest convertible car seat?
- 2 When can babies go into convertible car seats?
- 3 Value Convertible Car Seat Options
- 4 Mid-Range Convertible Car Seats
- 5 Deluxe Convertible Car Seat Reviews
- 6 Grow-With-Me Convertible Car Seat
- 7 Convertible Car Seat Review Roundup:
What is the safest convertible car seat?
While all car seats in the U.S. undergo rigorous safety standards, it was actually a lot harder than I thought to find out EXACTLY what tests they undergo. The best sources of information I found were the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the safety standard website for JPMA (Juvenile products manufacturers association).
Universally the biggest safety issue is improper installation, so for us, it was really important to choose a car seat with an idiot-proof installation process. All car seats are safety tested and the budget-friendly options undergo the same rigorous testing as the more expensive models. Don’t worry if you can’t afford a car seat with all the bells and whistles. It’s still safe.
No matter which car seat you go with, ensure you read the instruction manual for correct installation. We loved our Chicco KeyFit infant car seat, and therefore the NextFit was at the top of our list when looking at convertible options. The most important thing to note is that even if you pick one of the “best” convertible car seats – if you don’t install it properly it’s not safe.
Since child safety seats are tested and regulated by the JPMA, you should be looking at the best needs for your car and the features you’re looking for.
For instance, if you go with a “grow with me” car seat you probably won’t need an infant seat, a convertible car seat, AND a booster.
To help aid the process, check out the Consumer Reports Car Seat Buying Guide.
When can babies go into convertible car seats?
Babies can go into a convertible car seat from birth (5lbs. or greater) as long as you have an infant insert, but in many cases, they transition to a convertible seat once they outgrow the infant car seat.
Infant car seats all have different height and weight limits, so be sure to read your instruction manual and switch out at the appropriate time. One of the most limiting factors of the infant car seat is how heavy it will get as your baby grows. In reality, you’ll likely be more comfortable switching to a convertible seat due to weight before your baby actually outgrows the infant car seat.
In both an infant and convertible car seat, your baby will be rear-facing until age two or later.
Value Convertible Car Seat Options
Other than the fact that they’re more cost-effective, one of the best things about the “value” options is that they’re typically lighter weight, making them ideal for travel.
We tried out a couple of different convertible travel car seats and found our winner with the Evenflo Tribute. This was one of the only models we didn’t struggle to install rear-facing, and it is much lighter than our Chicco NextFit.
Evenflo Tribute (Mammas List Tested and Approved)
Rear-facing: infant or toddler from 19-37 inches and 5-30 lbs.
Front-facing: toddler 28-40 inches and 22-40 lbs.
This is the car seat that we use for travel. It’s lightweight, dependable, and very simple to install. There is a recline stand underneath that needs to be set properly first in the rear-facing position. While forward-facing is easier to install, this was the only model we could figure out how to install rear-facing without a ton of wiggle. It has straps for the anchors inside the seat of your car, and the tether on the back can be used when you move forward-facing. It is surprisingly light in weight and makes transport very easy when on the move.
Amazon Reviews: 4.2 stars out of 5
Price: Value – Under $60
Dimensions: 18.5 x 22 x 25.5 inches
Weight: 9.29 lbs.
Cosco Scenera NEXT
Rear Facing: Infant and toddler 19-40 inches from 5-40lbs
Front Facing: Toddler 29-43 inches 22-40 lbs.
This car seat is another low-price option which has some great travel benefits as well. It is very lightweight and compact, coming in at only 6.8lbs. It feels like you’re not carrying anything when compared to some of the larger and heavier car seats. However, there are some specific instructions that must be followed for installation.
The Scenera Next cannot be installed in a fully upright position when rear-facing. The grommets located at the bottom of the shell for rear-facing must make contact with the vehicle seat. The fully upright forward-facing position should not be used when installing as a rear-facing car seat or you won’t get a good fit.
There are a few other notable nuances with this car seat that I would definitely read more about if it’s your top choice. It gets great Amazon reviews, but we weren’t ever able to figure out how to properly install it rear-facing. Find a full review of the Cosco Scenera Next here.
Amazon Reviews: 4.1 stars out of 5
Price: Value – Under $60
Dimensions: 17 x 22 x 23.5
Mid-Range Convertible Car Seats
Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat
Rear Facing: Infant or toddler from 5-40lbs. Top of the head must be at least 1” below the top of the child restraint. The child should use car seat forward-facing only if the child is over 20lbs and can sit upright unassisted.
Forward Facing: Toddler from 20-65 lbs. The child must not exceed 49”. The top of the child’s ears should be at or below the child restraint seat back.
This car seat has an adjustable headrest and shoulder harness positioning system that does not require any rethreading of those tricky straps. It’ also side-impact tested. It comes with an infant insert and a cup holder as well. This car seat has more padding than the budget options listed above but is still more friendly on the wallet than some of the luxury seats we’ll talk about below.
Amazon Reviews: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Price: Mid-range, under $150
Dimensions: 27 x 20.8 x 26 inches
Weight 15.2 lbs.
Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat
Rear Facing: Infant or toddler from 5-40lbs 19 to 37 inches
Forward Facing: Toddler from 22-65 lbs. and 28 to 40 inches
The Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat has a feature called the E3 side impact protection, which reduces side impact crash forces up to 50%. This is done through the three layers of support that the car seat provides. The Triumph has dual integrated cup holders for your child’s favorite drink or snack. Almost all car seats these days come with some type of cup holder, but the ones that snap on and off can easily be lost with babies around.
The triumph also includes a headrest and removable pillow head along with easy off machine-washable car seat pads. One last feature to mention is that the tension adjusters are located on the side of the car seat to tighten and loosen the harness for your child. This can be incredibly helpful to get the right fit. Our car seats tighten near the feet, and while rear-facing it is challenging to pull the straps tight.
Amazon Review: 4.2 out of 5 Stars
Price: Mid Range, under $130.00
Dimensions: 28.5 x 22 x 20.1
Weight: 23.4 lbs.
Deluxe Convertible Car Seat Reviews
Chicco NextFit (Mammas List Tested and Approved)
Rear Facing: Infants with newborn insert 5lbs. to 11lbs. and toddlers between 5lbs. to 40lbs. Height is best used when the harness straps can be positioned at or below the child’s shoulders.
Forward Facing: Toddlers 22 to 65 lbs. Must be one year old and are 49” tall or less or when the top of the ears are below the top of the headrest
We have the most experience with the Chicco Nextfit and the Britax Marathon as we use these in our cars. The Chicco Nextfit comes with an infant insert which is easily removable when your child grows out of it. It’s incredibly convenient when using the seat with an infant as traditional convertible seats tend to dwarf babies. The SuperCinch Latch tightening system makes installation idiot-proof. When you go to install the car seat, just connect the two latches to your anchors located inside your seats and pull on the straps in the order they are marked. One says “pull first” and the other says “pull second”.
The Chicco NextFit comes with a nine-position recline system along with a six-position adjustable headrest. We have a NextFit Zip, which comes with an easy zip-off and machine-washable car seat pad. When you’re potty training or if you have a little one that gets car sick, this is invaluable.
Although this car seat is a little heavier than others, it’s very comfortable and we felt it provided a layer of extra protection for our little. One of the only downsides is that it’s sometimes hard to pull the tightening strap when rear-facing.
Amazon Reviews: 4.4 out of 5 Stars
Price: Luxury, from $240.00 to $300.00
Dimensions: 20.5 x 19 x 26
Britax Marathon (Mammas List Tested and Approved)
Rear Facing: Infants and toddlers from 5 to 40lbs. When the top of the child’s head is at least one inch below the top of the head pad
Forward Facing: Forward-facing toddlers from 20 to 65lbs. 49” or less and when the top of the ears are below the top of the head pad.
The big feature that changes when you start to reach the deluxe car seats is the padding and comfort of the seat. This particular car seat has a layer of side impact protection along with a steel frame that is designed to absorb impact in the case of an accident. We have not used this seat for forward-facing, but a key feature is the click tight system. This allows you to open the car seat up and put the belt in the middle, and then close the latch back down on top of the seat belt in just one click.
The other great feature you will see with most of these deluxe car seats is the adjustable harnesses that grow with your child. These can be handy as there is no real need to remove harnesses and reposition them manually. You just need to hold down the button above the headrest and pull up or down.
Amazon Review: 4.4 out of 5
Price: Luxury, from $230.00 to $280.00
Dimensions: 23 x 18.5 x 23.5
Grow-With-Me Convertible Car Seat
We also included grow-with-me convertible car seats reviewed for 2019 since these are options that you can use for even longer than a traditional convertible seat.
Graco Forever All-in-one
Rear Facing: Infants and toddlers from 5-40 lbs. up to 32 inches
Forward Facing: Toddlers from 22-65 lbs. up to 50 inches
Booster: Children 30-100 lbs. up to 57 inches
The Graco Forever All-in-one is like most convertible car seats in that it can go both rear-facing and forward-facing to adjust as your child grows. Unlike other convertible seats, it also can be used as a belt position booster for toddlers and children 30-100lbs. A great feature about this model is the safe adjust harness system, which allows you to adjust the harness and headrest together for the right fit every time.
Note: Please make sure that your child’s head is at least 1” below the handle on the car seat at all times. This car seat is side impacted tested and approved and has machine-washable cloth covers in case of accidents.
Amazon Review: 4.7 out of 5
Price: Mid-range, around $200.00
Dimensions: 21 x 17.5 x 21
Safety 1st Grow and Go Air
Rear Facing: Infants and toddlers from 5-40 lbs. 19 to 40 inches
Forward Facing: Toddlers from 22-65 lbs. 29 to 49 inches
Booster: Children 40-100 lbs. Up to 57 inches
The Safety 1st Grow and Go Air supports your child through three stages like the Graco Grow-With-Me above. Rear-facing from 5-40 lbs., forward-facing from 22-65 lbs. and belt-positioning booster for 40-100 lbs. This car seat also features the extra side impact protection like most of the Deluxe and Grow-With-Me types of car seats as well.
One of the main selling features of this car seat is the designed extra leg room this seat is going to provide the parents. It’s billed as needing 7 inches less space when it’s placed as a rear-facing seat, giving the parents more space up front.
Amazon Review:4.5 out of 5
Price: Mid-Range, around $190.00
Dimensions: 19 x 23.8 x 24
We did extensive research when choosing our Chicco NextFit, Britax Marathon, and the Evenflo Tribute as our travel car seat. I wouldn’t expect you to read one article and call it a day, so here are some additional links that may help you on your way.
Feel free to reach out with any questions, and don’t forget to measure the space in your car before you purchase!
Convertible Car Seat Review Roundup:
Best Car Seat Hub Convertible Car Seat Roundup: https://bestcarseathub.com/best-top-rated-car-seats/
Baby List’s Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews: https://www.babylist.com/hello-baby/best-convertible-car-seats
Mommyhood 101 Convertible Car Seat Reviews: https://mommyhood101.com/best-convertible-car-seats
Verywell Family Convertible Car Seat Reviews: https://www.verywellfamily.com/best-convertible-car-seats-4154913
Mommyhood 101 Best Cheap Convertible Car Seats: https://mommyhood101.com/best-cheap-convertible-car-seats
Although there are many different options and features on convertible car seats, you can rest assured knowing that they all pass the same safety standards – no matter what the price tag. Decide which features you’re looking for and know that your baby will be safe in any option as long as you install it correctly.