- 1 Factors to consider when buying a convertible car seat
- 2 Other Common Convertible Car Seat Options
- 3 Convertible Car Seat Reviews
- 4 Best of the best
- 5 Best Budget Convertible Car Seat
A convertible car seat was created to make it easier for parents to save money by allowing them to use the same car seat from infancy past the toddler years. Even though each one has their own height and weight limits, they can be different. It can save you a bit of money, but the truth is that a convertible car seat will be a lot bulkier which can make it quite hard to maneuver during the initial installation. They are also created to stay in the car, so you would have to carry your child from various locations to the car and vice versa, unlike the normal infant car seats which will allow you to detach for carrying. They vary from infant car seats and booster seats. Click the following links to find the best infant car seat and the best booster car seat.
Convertible car seats are made so they grow with the child. We’ll help you choose the best convertible car seat for your needs. Convertible car seats can be used rear facing with newborn babies from five pounds until 40 to 45 pounds, depending on the seat, and forward facing until they reach the weight limits of the seat, usually quite a bit higher than the rear facing limits.
The law in many states mandates that babies ride rear facing until they are at least a year old and 20 pounds, though new AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that children remain rear facing until they are at least two, while some individuals keep their babies rear facing until they reach the rear facing height or weight limits for their car seat. Studies have shown that babies who are rear facing in a crash are significantly less likely to be seriously injured or killed in a crash than babies who are forward facing.
The straps on convertible car seats are adjustable to provide a snug fit around baby’s shoulders from birth until they outgrow the seat, about 65 pounds for many seats.
One of the main advantages to convertible car seats is that they can be used longer than most other seats. Infant seats generally have a weight limit of about 20 pounds, then must transition to a toddler car seat. While the average convertible car seat costs a little more than the average infant seat, convertible car seats can be used from birth until baby is ready for a booster seat. Some convertible car seats can even be used as boosters until the child reaches 100 pounds.
A few things to consider when shopping for a convertible car seat:
- Newborns typically need inserts to cushion and support their heads. Most car seats have these, but if not, you may need to shop for one separately.
- Convertible car seats are much larger than infant seats and may not fit in some vehicles well, especially rear facing. The concern isn’t always about small cars, either. For example, I have a convertible that fits rear facing in a tiny little Chevrolet Metro by simply moving the front seat forward an inch or so. It does not fit rear facing at all in our extended cab pickup truck.
- Convertible car seats are typically difficult to remove from the vehicle once installed. This can make buckling baby into the seat and removing baby from the seat inconvenient, especially when sleeping. This may be less of a concern if you do not plan on carrying baby in the seat, even when sleeping, though it can still be difficult to get baby in and out, especially if you have to climb into the back seat of a small car to do it.
Despite the potential disadvantages, convertible car seats are still a great option for many parents. Most convertible car seats are less expensive than buying two or three separate seats.
Factors to consider when buying a convertible car seat
Buying a car seat is a major investment in your child’s safety, so it’s important to evaluate a variety of car seats to decide which one will best meet your needs. You should do your research to ensure that any seat you choose will protect your baby, though all car seats sold new must meet certain minimum safety standards.
You should never buy a used car seat as you never know whether it has been in an accident or subjected to extreme temperatures that may have weakened its structure, making it less safe.
While safety is priority, there are a few other things you should keep in mind for ease of use and your baby’s comfort.
It’s a little known fact that car seats have an expiration date and it is inadvisable to use a car seat more than about five or six years old. This is because safety standards are updated periodically, and a car seat more than a few years old may not meet current standards.
You may be tempted to use a car seat that you had for an older child, or save your car seat for a future child. Besides potentially not meeting updated safety standards, extreme temperatures such as those found in a vehicle, can weaken the structure of the seat over time, making it unable to adequately protect your child in the event of a crash.
If you happen to be in a crash, it is important to stop using your car seat and buy a new one. Even if there is no apparent damage, structural damage may not be visually apparent.
Other safety features that should come standard with most convertible car seats are a 5-point harness, side impact protection, and a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system.
A 5-point harness is just what it sounds like, it secures baby in the seat at five points, specifically over each shoulder, both thighs, and between the legs. A plastic chest clip ensures that the straps are properly positioned. It is vital that the clip be positioned at armpit level and that the straps be snug and not twisted. When properly buckled, the child’s movement is limited in the event of a crash.
The LATCH system is an alternative method to seat belts for securing the seat in the car. All car seats made after 2002 (and any that you are likely to find in stores) are equipped with LATCH systems, though some older vehicles may not be made to accommodate the system. The LATCH system lets you anchor the car seat directly to the car without using the seat belt. If you have an older car that doesn’t accommodate LATCH, the car seats can still be used with a seat belt.
LATCH connectors come in either hook-on or push-on types. The push-on connectors are typically easier to use than the hook-on type. Most LATCH systems come with two tethers on the bottom and one on the top. In most cases, it is not recommended that you use the LATCH system and seat belt together, but check the seat’s manual as well as your vehicle owners manual.
Side Impact Protection
Unfortunately, side impact protection isn’t a minimum required safety standard, but most car seats do have them. Side impact protection consists of a foam that absorbs impact in the event that baby’s head strikes the side of the seat in a crash.
Other Common Convertible Car Seat Options
Because all car seats must meet minimum safety guidelines, it’s reasonable to assume that any new car seat will protect your baby in the event of a crash. However, safety isn’t the only thing you want to consider when purchasing a car seat.
You want your baby to be comfortable in the car seat, otherwise every time you leave the house, you’re going to have battles and tears. Look for a seat with plenty of padding, especially in the seat and around the head. Padding around the straps can help avoid rubbing baby’s neck, especially if you drive a lot. If you buy a seat without sufficient padding, you may find yourself tempted to use towels or blankets in the seat for comfort. This is inadvisable, as it can affect how securely the straps are able to hold baby in place.
Even if you don’t allow eating or drinking in the car, there is still a possibility of baby getting car sick or blowing out a diaper. Look for a car seat with a removable cover that you can throw in the washer if needed.
Easy to Adjust
Convertible car seats are made to grow with your baby, which means the straps will need to be adjusted periodically. Many car seats have a way of adjusting the straps from the front of the seat, so the seat doesn’t have to be removed from the car or taken apart.
Convertible Car Seat Reviews
Best of the best
Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat $250
- Five point harness keeps your child securely in the seat in the event of a crash.
- Steel alloy frame ensures the seats strength.
- Sides of the seat are reinforced with aluminum to reduce seat movement in a crash.
- Sides are padded with EPS energy absorbing foam to protect baby from impact with the sides of the car seat in a crash.
- Can be used rear facing to 45 pounds, forward facing to 80 pounds, and as a booster to 120 pounds.
- Small enough to fit three across the back seat of most standard sized vehicles.
- Rated for ten years, so it truly lasts as long as your child can use it.
The Diono RadianRXT ensures the safety and comfort of your baby when you travel. It fits in most vehicles and runs less than $300, a great price for a car seat that will last until your child is old enough to ride without a car seat. Full Review.
Britax Pavilion G4 Convertible Car Seat $213
- Integrated steel bars add strength to the car seat and reduces movement in a crash.
- The base of the car seat has Safe Cell technology which is designed to manage energy from a crash and minimize forward movement.
- Harness holder keeps straps snug to minimize baby’s movement in the seat in a crash.
- No rethread harness is easily adjusted to fit as baby grows without removing the car seat from the vehicle.
- 10-position quick-adjust harness adjusts shoulder height as baby grows, also without removing the car seat from the vehicle.
- Extra layer of energy absorbing foam in the sides of the seat helps keep the spine in alignment and distribute the force of a crash.
- Easy buckle system and harness holder keep straps out of the way when placing baby in seat. No more digging straps out from under baby to buckle them in.
The Britax Pavilion G4 may well be one of the safest and most comfortable car seats on the market. It can be used from birth to 65 pounds at a price that is quite affordable. Full Review.
Peg Perego Convertible Premium Infant to Toddler Car Seat $330
- Side Impact Protection System protects the child’s head, neck, and spine. The system adjust to 10 different positions while baby is in the seat, so you are ensured the safest fit.
- Contoured steel plate adds stability.
- Top tether hook reduces movement when forward facing.
- The shell of the seat is lined with EPS foam to protect baby from impact.
- Shock Absorbing Foam element crumples on impact to reduce strain on baby’s neck and shoulders.
- Straps are wide and made of soft fabric for maximum comfort.
- Wide seat has specially designed removable cushion keeps baby securely in place until 22 pounds.
The Peg Perego Convertible Premium Car Seat is a little pricey, but if you are an active parent on the go, it’s worth the investment. It’s easy to use, easy to clean, and safe and comfortable. Full Review.
RECARO ProRIDE Convertible Car Seat
- No rethread harness allows you to easily adjust the straps to fit your child.
- Inspired by race cars and made by a company known for making high end race car seats, this car seat is designed to protect baby’s head, neck, spine, torso, and pelvis in the event of a crash, even at highway speeds.
- This seat can be used rear facing until the child reaches 49 inches or 40 pounds, and forwarward facing until the child reaches 49 inches or 65 pounds.
- Ergonomic shell structure molds to your child, making the car seat ultra comfortable, whether you’re going just up the road, or traveling for miles.
Designed by a company known for high end seats used in race cars and luxury planes, this is one of the safest and most comfortable car seats you can buy. Full Review.
Best Budget Convertible Car Seat
You can convert this seat from rear facing to forward facing quickly just by using the Latch system. There isn’t any type of adjustments that are needed. You can easily secure your child in with the harness that is easy to use and it has 2 built in cup holders and it comes in 10 different colors.
The First Years True Fit Premier
This will let you use the latch system, but when you install with a seat belt it can be a bit more difficult. It tends to be an easy to use car seat, even though the cover on the seat is a hand wash only. It comes in three different colors, while black seems to be the go to color. It is easy to adjust the angle of the car seat and it is very easy to secure your child in the adjustable harness.
Safety 1st Complete Air
This lightweight seat is easy to maneuver, and it is easy to secure your child in the seat with the harness. The cover is only allowed to be hand washed and it comes in 8 different colors. The height is easy to be adjusted and there isn’t any need to re-thread the harness. It comes equipped with the latch system and it even has a cup holder.
The Priori will allow you to lock off to go into the forward facing mode which makes the installation for seat belts a lot easier. It does come with the latch system which is very simple to use. The one thing that people say can be a real pain is re-threading the harness straps. It comes in 4 different colors and it is really easy to secure your child into the harness without a lot of fuss.