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The 6 Best Convertible Car Seats

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by Steven Rowe and Cristina Sanza
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

If you want one car seat that you can use for years, a convertible seat is a great option. The best convertible car seats meet federal safety standards and can be positioned rear-facing and forward-facing so they’re able to adapt as your child grows. And while most convertible seats are heavier than infant car seats, some are more lightweight and easier to transfer than others, which is helpful if you regularly use cabs or rideshare services to get around.

What To Look For When Choosing A Convertible Car Seat

While you’ll have some choices when shopping for a convertible car seat, there are a few things that all options on the list have in common. First, all car seats sold in the United States must meet federal safety standards. Specifically, car seats for children who weigh up to 80 pounds should meet the criteria for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 213 (FMVSS 213), which ensures the car seat has been tested for “restraint crashworthiness, labeling and instructions, flammability, and buckle and release pressure.” With that in mind, each pick below meets FMVSS 213 standards. On a related note, some brands claim their car seats include side-impact protection, but according to Consumer Reports, side-impact testing means different things to different manufacturers, and it’s currently difficult to compare side-impact testing when shopping for a car seat.

Next, car seats can be installed using the seat belts in your vehicle, but to make the process easier, the car seats below can also be installed using the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system that’s built into cars made after September 1, 2002. And because you may need to make tweaks to ensure a proper fit during day-to-day use, each seat features adjustable headrests and no-rethread harnesses that can be adjusted easily without removing the baby from the seat. They also have multiple recline positions so you can find the best angle for your car.

Beyond those standard features, a few things set car seats apart from each other:

Car Seat Weight

Most convertible seats are designed for long-term installation, have steel frames, and weigh between 15 and 30 pounds on average. If you need a car seat that’s easier to move between vehicles, you might prefer one with a plastic frame. Though these are often more lightweight, they’re still designed to meet federal safety standards.

3-In-1 Designs

Some convertible car seats can be used as booster seats in addition to functioning as rear- and forward-facing seats. Using a three-in-one car seat may help you save money over time since you can keep using it until your child is ready to graduate to car seat belts.

Extra Features

You can also find some helpful extras such as removable cup holders and machine-washable seat pads. And if you want all the bells and whistles, you can opt for an app-enabled, swiveling car seat that makes it easy to get your child in and out of the vehicle and also sends safety notifications to your phone.

Shop The Best Convertible Car Seats

In a hurry? Here are the best convertible car seats:

1. The Overall Best Convertible Car Seat: Chicco NextFit Zip

2. The Slim 3-in-1 Car Seat: Graco SlimFit

3. The Best Budget Convertible Car Seat: Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Car Seat

4. A Car Seat With Soft Fabric In Lots Of Patterns: Britax Boulevard

5. The Car Seat For Disney Fans: Safety 1st Disney Baby Grow & Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

6. The App-Enabled Rotating Car Seat: CYBEX Sirona S 360° Rotating Seat

Whichever seat you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer's safety guidelines regarding height and weight limits, since these can vary between products. With all that in mind, read on for my list of the best convertible car seats on Amazon.

1. The Overall Best

Pros

  • Features nine recline and nine headrest positions
  • Easy-to-tighten harness straps
  • Durable construction

Cons

  • Does not evolve into a booster seat

Recommended by Consumer Reports and backed by an overall 4.8-star rating from Amazon reviewers, the Chicco NextFit Zip convertible car seat is a highly rated choice. It features a force-multiplying tightener and a belt-locking system that makes it easy to secure the car seat using seat belts or LATCH. The sturdy car seat has a steel frame and energy-absorbing foam. It also has nine recline positions and nine headrest positions so you can adjust for comfort and safety based on your child’s age. A leveling guide helps you find the right angle. Plus, this model includes a removable newborn positioner to help keep babies from 5 to 11 pounds secure.

While a higher-end model and a more baseline model are also available, the NextFit Zip offers some helpful features at a relatively affordable price. For example, there’s a removable, machine-washable seat pad that’s easy to clean. There’s also an easy-to-adjust, no-rethread harness with a one-pull tightener and a dishwasher-safe cup holder. This model is available in two colors. However, it does not function as a booster seat.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “It is super easy to install with the supercinch system. It takes less than 5 minutes to get an excellent and safe installation. The seat itself seems really comfortable and most importantly really sturdy. I like the high sides and the protection they seem to offer. Despite the high sides and having a small vehicle, I have had no issues getting an almost 2 year old in rear facing. The zip cover makes it really easy to clean, which is really nice.”

Recommended usage: Rear-facing (5 - 40 pounds and up to 43 inches tall), forward-facing (22 - 65 pounds and up to 49 inches tall) | Car seat weight: 25 pounds | Colors: 2

2. The Slim 3-In-1 Car Seat

Pros

  • Slim design
  • Weighs less than 20 pounds
  • 10 headrest positions

Cons

  • Some reviewers wished this car seat had more recline positions

The Graco SlimFit car seat is backed by a 4.9-star overall rating on Amazon after more than 37,000 reviews, and its three-in-one design allows you to use it for years. This car seat utilizes an InRight LATCH system that lets you click right into your car’s anchors for quick installation. You can also double-check the installation thanks to the seat’s built-in level indicator. In addition, the car seat is built with a reinforced steel frame, energy-absorbing foam, an adjustable 10-position headrest, and four incline positions, offering your little one comfort and safety while on the road.

For ease of use, the headrest and no-rethread harness can be adjusted in one motion. Plus, this car seat has a slimmed-down design to maximize room in the backseat (even the cup holders can be folded inward to create more space). Despite having a steel frame, this car seat weighs less than 20 pounds, making it easier to move between cars as needed. And according to the brand website, the seat pad is machine-washable and there are also removable head and body inserts to cradle infants. This model is available in three colors.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Recently installed this in my Ford Focus; needed something slim as there is not a lot of room in my compact car. Fits nicely in the reverse position and very easy to install. I love how the arms are low, which makes it easy to get my heavy 1 year old in and out.”

Recommended usage: Rear-facing (5 - 40 pounds and child’s head must be at least 1 inch below handle), forward-facing (22 - 65 pounds and up to 49 inches tall), booster (40 - 100 pounds and 43 - 57 inches tall; at least 4 years old) | Car seat weight: 19.47 pounds | Colors: 3

3. The Best Budget Convertible Car Seat

Pros

  • Features harness strap holders to keep straps out of the way when not in use
  • It’s the lightest car seat on this list

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a steel frame

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, this all-in-one car seat is a popular choice that’s less than $200 but still backed by an overall 4.7-star rating after more than 24,000 reviews — and it’s designed to use through three stages of childhood. It installs in the car using seat belts or LATCH, and you can make adjustments to the no-rethread harness and headrest at the same time. Plus, there are harness strap holders that keep the straps out of the way so you can easily lift your child in and out of the seat.

However, while this car seat meets FMVSS 213 safety standards, it does not have a steel frame like most other picks on this list (though this also makes it relatively lightweight). And while it offers three recline positions, that’s fewer than some other car seats. Still, this one is worth considering for its versatility, price, and helpful features such as a machine-washable seat pad and two dishwasher-safe cup holders.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “My now 5 year old has been in this seat since he was 4 months old. [...] This is his favorite seat, he tells me all the time how much more comfortable it is than the seat in my husbands car and MIL’s car. He likes that this one is big enough for him to pull his feet up and sit criss cross applesauce. He has spilled, puked, pooped and whatever else you can think of in this seat as all kids do. It is so easy to remove the cover and throw in the wash and then just spray down the frame/base. You don’t even have to remove the entire seat to get the cover off. [...] We love this seat and highly recommend it.

Recommended usage: Rear-facing (5 - 40 pounds and 19 - 40 inches tall), forward-facing (22 - 65 pounds and 29 - 49 inches tall), booster (40 - 100 pounds and 43 - 52 inches tall) | Car seat weight: 18.28 pounds | Colors: 8

4. A Car Seat With Soft Fabric In Lots Of Patterns

Pros

  • 14-position harness and headrest
  • Seven recline positions
  • Easy to clean, stretchy fabric

Cons

  • Does not evolve into a booster seat

The Britax Boulevard car seat is made with super soft, stretchy fabric that’s comfy and easy to clean. The car seat can be secured using your car’s seat belts or LATCH system, and with ClickTight installation, it can be set up very quickly. The 14-position no-rethread harness and headrest can be adjusted with one hand. There are also seven recline positions and a level indicator to help you find the right angle. In addition, this car seat has an alloy steel frame and a “crumple zone” that can absorb and reduce some of the force from a crash or impact. But while the car seat can be positioned rear- and forward-facing, there is no booster seat option.

There are 13 different styles and fabrics to choose from, including a playful cow print and this Amazon-exclusive “Spark” style.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “This car seat is fantastic! Great for moving from car to car. [...] This is by far the easiest to install and my son seems to be comfortable in it. Only downside is it’s kinda big so it’s tight in smaller cars.

Recommended usage: Rear-facing (5 - 40 pounds and child’s head is at least 1 inch below the top of the head restraint), forward-facing (20 - 65 pounds and up to 49 inches tall) | Car seat weight: 29.4 pounds | Colors: 13

5. The Car Seat For Disney Fans

Pros

  • Convenient harness holders for keeping straps out of the way while not in use
  • Features removable cup holders for easy cleaning

Cons

  • Does not have a steel frame

You and your little Disney fan will both love this stylish Mickey Mouse-themed car seat. The three-in-one car seat installs using seat belts or LATCH, and the no-rethread harness and headrest are easy to adjust in one step. Plus, there are harness holders to keep the straps out of the way as you’re getting your child in and out of the car seat. The seat pad is machine-washable, too. The downsides may be that this car seat does not have a steel frame — though it does meet FMVSS 213 safety standards — and it only has three recline positions. However, at less than 20 pounds, it’s a lightweight option.

This car seat includes two removable baby pillows that create a snug fit and two removable, dishwasher-safe cup holders. It’s available in a Minnie Mouse design, too.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “I really love this car seat and more importantly, so does our daughter! Took an 8 hour car trip about a week after recieving it and she stayed happy and comfortable the whole ride. Very soft padding and well built for safety. I'll be buying another one for our other vehicle.”

Recommended usage: Rear-facing (5 - 40 pounds and 19 - 40 inches tall), forward-facing (22 - 65 pounds and 29 - 49 inches tall; at least 1 year old), booster (40 - 100 pounds and 43 - 52 inches tall) | Car seat weight: 18.66 pounds | Colors: 2

6. The App-Enabled Rotating Car Seat

Pros

  • Swivels on a base, making it easier to get your child in and out and switch from rear-facing to forward-facing
  • Has an app-enabled chest clip that can send safety notifications
  • Features a “load-leg” to help stabilize the seat

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Doesn’t evolve into a booster seat

Most parents would agree that one of the hardest things about car seats is having to squeeze into the backseat with your child to buckle them in. This app-enabled rotating car seat can swivel 360 degrees so it’s easy to switch from rear-facing to forward-facing when the time comes, and it’s also easier to get your child in and out of the seat.

This car seat installs quickly thanks to an EasyLock bar that works with your vehicle’s seat belt and level indicators that help you find the right angle. You can also install using the LATCH system. Plus, a load leg extends to the floor of the vehicle to help stabilize the car seat and distribute force. What’s more, the car seat has a steel frame, anti-rebound design, 12-position headrest, and a no-rethread harness.

But what really makes this car seat stand out is the app-enabled SensorSafe chest clip. If your child ever opens the clip during the ride, you will receive an alert on your phone. Additionally, the SensorSafe app will send you safety notifications if the car’s interior is too hot or cold for your child, if they’ve been seated for two hours and could use a stretch break, and if they’ve been accidentally left behind in the car seat.

While this is the heaviest and most expensive car seat on the list, it may be worth spending more for the ease of use and extra features. However, there is no booster seat option and it’s recommended that the SensorSafe receiver not be moved after installation, so it’s best for use in one vehicle.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Obsessed with this car seat! So many amazing features, but the ability to swivel it has been incredible. It’s so much easier after a c-section. Love this car seat, can’t more highly recommend it!”

Recommended usage: Rear-facing (4 - 50 pounds and 17 - 49 inches tall), forward-facing (22 - 65 pounds and 28 - 49 inches tall; at least 1 year old) | Car seat weight: 30.4 pounds | Colors: 4

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