Main photo credit: Britax

If you have a new addition to your family on the way, it’s probably time to research car seats. Convertible car seats are a great investment, as they’re designed to last for years since they can change from a rear-facing seat for infants to a forward-facing seat as your child grows. Not all parents will start with a convertible car seat however, although many can accommodate toddlers as little as 4 lbs, so they are capable. Other parents may want to start with an infant car seat before switching over to a convertible car seat, once their child reaches the seat’s minimum weight and height recommendations. Unlike infant car seats, convertible car seats are designed to be installed into your vehicle and aren’t ideal for portability and transport outside the car.

So how do you shop for a convertible car seat? There are several factors to consider, with the most important being safety. Start to make sure a seat meets or exceeds certain safety standards, although many of the options from reputable manufacturers have gone through all requisite tests. Observe the weight limits recommended by the manufacturer, especially the upper limit for rear-facing configurations. Many parents feel safer when their child is sitting rear-facing, so you will want a seat that can accommodate a rear-facing configuration for as long as possible.

You will also want to consider how adjustable a seat is and how easy it is to install in your particular vehicle. Every car out there is a different size and some are harder to enter and exit than others. Make sure you get a seat that is easy to adjust, so that you can get a good fit in your car. Fabric material is also another factor, since messes are inevitable when it comes to a child sitting inside a vehicle. You’ll want a seat that has machine washable and dryer-safe fabric.

For more information on the best convertible car seats, refer to our table of contents.

Updated 7/15/2020 with more information on convertible car seats.

1. Editor's Pick: Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

graco extend2fit convertible car seat

From an extremely reputable brand within the industry is this convertible car seat that can be used rear-facing from 4 lbs to 50 lbs, and forward-facing from 22 lbs to 65 lbs. It accommodates children up to 49″ and features a plush, machine washable seat pad. For additional comfort, the 4-position extension panel can be adjusted for an additional 5″ of legroom. This also allows your child to safely ride rear-facing for a longer period of time. Other adjustable features on this convertible car seat include 6-position recline, a 10-position headrest, and the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System, which allows you to adjust the height of your harness and headrest in one motion.

Rest assured that your child is safe, as this seat is engineered and rigorously tested to meet or exceed U.S. Standard FMVSS 213. It has been side impact tested for occupant retention solely with the built-in 5-point harness system. Installation is straightforward with the InRight LATCH system and easy-to-read level indicator. Other convenience features that contribute to making this seat our top pick include the Fuss Free Harness Storage, which holds the buckle out of the way so you can easily get your child in and out of the seat, as well as integrated dual cup holders.

Product features:

  • Extremely reputable brand
  • Can be used rear-facing from 4 lbs to 50 lbs
  • Can be used forward-facing from 22 lbs to 65 lbs
  • Accommodates children up to 49″
  • Plush, machine washable seat pad
  • 4-position extension panel provides additional 5″ of legroom
  • 6-position recline
  • 10-position headrest
  • Simply Safe Adjust Harness System
  • Meets or exceeds U.S. Standard FMVSS 213
  • InRight LATCH system
  • Easy-to-read level indicator
  • Fuss Free Harness Storage
  • Integrated dual cup holders
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2. Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat

evenflo tribute lx convertible car seat

If you’re a frequent flyer and prefer a lightweight convertible car seat, this recommendation is made for you. Tipping the scales at 9.29 lbs, this seat has a compact design that makes it ideal for small cars. It can be used rear-facing from 5 lbs to 40 lbs (19″ to 37″) and forward-facing from 22 lbs to 40 lbs (28″ to 40″). Making it durable and resistant to moisture and stains is its 100% polyester soft-goods construction.

An easy-to-access upfront harness adjustment and buckle release make adjusting the harness extremely simple and easy on this seat, while 4 shoulder harness positions ensures a proper fit for your child. The head pillow provides comfort and support for proper head positioning, which can also be removed as your baby grows and no longer needs it. This seat meets or exceeds several government testing standards, including FMVSS 213, FMVSS 302, CMVSS 302, and CMVSS 213.

Product features:

  • Lightweight—9.29 lbs
  • Compact design
  • Can be used rear-facing from 5 lbs to 40 lbs (19″ to 37″)
  • Can be used forward-facing from 22 lbs to 40 lbs (28″ to 40″)
  • 100% polyester soft-goods construction
  • Easy-to-access upfront harness adjustment and buckle release
  • 4 shoulder harness positions
  • Removable head pillow
  • Meets or exceeds government testing standards

3. Maxi Corsi Pria 85 Max Convertible Car Seat

maxi cosi pria 85 max convertible car seat

If you need an option with an extended weight range to keep your child safely harnessed longer, this convertible car seat accommodates 22 lbs to 85 lbs (29″ to 52″) forward-facing, and 5 lbs to 40 lbs (40″ or less) rear-facing. Whether your child is sitting rear-facing or forward-facing, its head will be protected thanks to safer side impact protection from Air Protect technology.

Convenience features on this seat include the ClipQuik auto-magnetic chest clip and the Flip Away Buckle, making it quick and easy to get your child buckled in or out of the seat. A deep rear-facing recline allows for a comfortable seating position, while the height of the harness can be adjusted with one hand, allowing you to easily get a customized fit for better safety. The seat pad and harness covers can be quickly removed thanks to simple snaps, making it convenient for when it comes time to washing.

Product features:

  • Extended weight range
  • Can be used rear-facing from 5 lbs to 40 lbs (40″ or less)
  • Can be used forward-facing from 22 lbs to 85 lbs (29″ to 52″)
  • Safer side impact protection from Air Protect technology
  • ClipQuik auto-magnetic chest clip
  • Flip Away Buckle
  • Deep rear-facing recline
  • Adjustable height
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4. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

safety 1st grow and go 3-in-1 convertible car seat

This 3-in-1 option is built to grow with your child, supporting infants from 5 lbs to 40 lbs when used as a rear-facing seat, 22 lbs to 65 lbs when used as a forward-facing seat, and 40 lbs to 100 lbs as a belt-positioning booster. The 3-position recline on the seat makes it easy to get the right fit in your car, while the QuickFit harness offers convenient adjustment of both harness and headrest in one step.

Cleaning the seat isn’t too much of a hassle, since it’s constructed from machine washable and dryer-safe fabric. You can take the seat pad off without removing the harness, saving you time and effort when it needs washing. Handy harness holders help parents get fussy children back into the seat, while children benefit from a pair of cup holders.

Product features:

  • 3-in-1 convertible car seat
  • Can be used rear-facing from 5 lbs to 40 lbs
  • Can be used forward-facing from 22 lbs to 65 lbs
  • Can be used as a belt-positioning booster from 40 lbs to 100 lbs
  • 3-position recline
  • QuickFit harness
  • Machine washable and dryer-safe fabric
  • Removable seat pad without having to remove the harness
  • Handy harness holders
  • 2 cup holders

5. Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat

britax one4life clicktight convertible car seat

Another recommendation that will grow with your child for up to 10 years comes from a popular brand in the market. This convertible car seat can be used rear-facing for infants weighing 5 lbs to 50 lbs, and offers several front-facing configurations to accommodate children 20 lbs all the way to 120 lbs and 63″ tall. It surrounds your child’s head, neck, and torso with 2 layers of side impact protection, while the company’s exclusive SafeCell Technology crumples to help absorb crash energy if there is an accident. Other exclusive features on this seat include a v-shaped tether, which helps slow and reduce movement during a crash, and a high strength steel frame that reinforces the seat structure to keep it stabilized.

Plenty of components can be adjusted on this seat, such as the 15-position headrest and harness. The 9-position quick-push recline makes it easy to find the most comfortable seating position for your child, as well as getting the best fit for your vehicle. The SafeWash cover is machine washable and dryer friendly. Lastly, the seat features built-in cooling channels and ventilated mesh to improve airflow, keeping your child comfortable on long rides.

Product features:

  • Can be used rear-facing from 5 lbs to 50 lbs
  • Can be used forward-facing from 20 lbs to 120 lbs and 63″ tall
  • 2 layers of side impact protection
  • SafeCell technology
  • V-shaped tether
  • High strength steel frame
  • 15-position quick-adjust headrest and harness
  • 9-position quick-push recline
  • SafeWash cover
  • Built-in cooling channels and ventilated mesh
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What is a Convertible Car Seat?

Designed to accommodate both infants and toddlers, a convertible car seat is a popular option with parents since it’s a single investment. Convertible car seats are used rear-facing for infants and then converted to front-facing for toddlers. While convertible car seats do offer a lot of convenience, growing with your child, they are not as portable and shouldn’t be used as an infant carrier. Generally, convertible car seats do not have bases, so they cannot easily be moved from one car to another. You can also expect them to be bulkier compared to an infant seat, but that also contributes to safety.

Why Should You Want a Convertible Car Seat?

If you don’t necessarily need a car seat that can be easily moved from one vehicle to another, you’ll want a convertible car seat mainly because it’s a single purchase. A quality purchase can be used to take your newborn baby from the hospital, all the way until they’re ready for a booster seat. It’s a budget-conscious option that is also convenient since it will last you for years.

What Should I Look for in a Convertible Car Seat?

There are several factors to consider when shopping for a convertible car seat. Pay attention to the weight limit of a particular seat, since the higher the limit, the longer you can use the seat. There are some differences when it comes to weight and height limits on our recommendations, so make sure you choose one that fits your needs. More importantly however, you’ll want a seat that is easy to adjust and install. Proper installation of the car seat is extremely important to keeping your child safe, and you’ll want one that’s easy to adjust as your child grows.

Also, keep in mind that these seats aren’t compatible with every vehicle in the world. Make sure your specific car can accommodate the seat you’re wanting to purchase. Another thing to consider is how easy it is to clean the seat when needed. Most of our recommendations make it straightforward to remove the fabric, and many are compatible with washing machines and are dryer safe. 

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