Best Convertible Car Seats 2018
Looking for less expensive convertible car seat options? Check out our reviews here.
Not to bore you to death, but in the late 90’s Britax released the first convertible car seat in the U.S., the Britax Roundabout. Rather than having a separate rear-facing infant seat and then a different forward-facing little kid and “big kid” seat, the convertible offered the convenience of a car seat that parents could simply turn around when their baby was tall and heavy enough to be forward-facing. This idea was very new for parents and the car seat market, and people were somewhat slow to adopt the new idea. Fast forward 10 years and convertible car seats became the fastest growing section in the car seat market. Now, fast forward another 10 years and you’d have a hard time to find a parent who hasn’t considered or purchased a convertible car seat.
What is a convertible car seat?
The idea is great. Convertible car seats begin as rear-facing for your infant and then changed to front facing when your baby meets size and weight needed things. They also grow with your child, usually with adjustable shoulder strap height, crotch buckle position, recline, and head rest. If you’re not worried about losing the convenience of a carryable infant car seat with a folding handle, then this is definitely the option for you! Convertible car seats can save you a lot of time and money compared to buying an infant seat and then a separate little kid seat, and let you spend a bit extra on a nice wheeled baby carriage. But overall, our honest recommendation is to go with a dedicated infant car seat and then transit to a convertible at around 10-12 months of age, later as your baby’s weight and height command.
What to look for:
There are a few things you should look for when trying to find the right convertible car seat. First, because you buy a convertible car seat to last for many years, avoid the hassle of shoulder straps that need to be rethreaded. You will find that many well-rated convertible car seats require re-threading. Second, if you’re going to use the convertible car seat as an infant seat, then you want to make sure that it is capable of reclining far enough to make for comfortable rear-facing infant positions. If it does not, then your baby’s head will flop forward when they fall asleep. Third, get a convertible seat with a wide weight range so it will last your child for many years; a good start is from 4 pounds to over 100 pounds. Finally, always buy new and go with a respectable brand so you can be confident that the seat is safe. Never buy a used car seat. Even if the owner is being honest about having no accidents, sometimes smaller bumps can lead to cracks and weakness, so steer clear.
What we did:
To find the best convertible car seats of 2018, we got 9 experienced moms and dads together to review a set of 14 popular convertible car seats, and then conducted a large focus group to gather opinions from real moms without anything to lose from being honest. We did a thorough hands-on test of each unit, let our kids sit in them and give opinions, tested how stain-proof the fabric was, and gathered honest opinions, reviews, and ratings from fellow parents. What remained after this process was a group of 10 truly excellent convertible car seats that met and went beyond our expectations.
Here are the best convertible car seats of 2018:
- Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat.
This year’s best convertible car seat, and given its versatility and long life, we think it’s worth every penny! All of our reviewers agreed that this was the most versatile, comfortable, and functional convertible car seat available. It truly is an all-in-one seat, accommodating a weight range from 4 to 120 pounds. The secret is that it starts as a rear-facing infant seat (4 to 40 pounds) with a fancy and comfortable and removable infant insert. Then it transits to a front-facing little kid seat (20 to 65 pounds) without the infant insert. Then it transists to two different types of booster seats, one with the highback still on it to position the vehicle’s seat belt (30 to 100 pounds), and then finally you remove the back completely for a bottom-seat-only booster (40 to 120 pounds). Given how low the infant weight range goes (4 pounds), this can be a great option for early or soon babies. This is the most versatile convertible car seat on our list: not only does it convert from an infant to little kid seat, it also converts all the way to a bottom-only booster.
- Britax Wide street ClickTight Convertible Car Seat.
As you probably know, Britax is world-famous for making (in the USA!) the safest infant and convertible car seats available available to buy. They have a very long reputation of high quality, reliability, and product support. They have also been the subject of a few recent recalls, but in our opinion, don’t let that alarm you: it’s a sign of a responsible company taking care and pride in their products. Now on to the review of this excellent convertible car seat! Britax makes several of the best convertible car seats in the world, with a range of prices. As you increase in price, you increase in both convenience and safety features. The Wide street is right up near the top of the range, just under the Fighter (for something), and we consider it one of the best convertible car seats we have ever tested. It supports babies as little as 5 pounds, with 5-40 pounds rear-facing, and 20-65 pounds front-facing, so that’s an excellent range for a convertible car seat.
- Graco Milestone All-in-One Convertible Car Seat.
This is a truly awesome convertible car seat that is almost the same as our #1 seat, the Graco 4ever. There are a few first differences between the Milestone and 4ever. First, that this seat is nearly $100 less expensive, but doesn’t convert into a backless booster for use up to 120 pounds. The other difference is that it doesn’t support babies down to 4 pounds, only down to 5. So if you have a premie baby under 5 pounds you’ll need to look into the 4ever. Outside of those differences, this is nearly as versatile as the 4ever, supporting babies from 5 pounds up to 100 pounds, and has basically identical features. This convertible car seat converts from a rear-facing infant car seat supporting weights from 5 to 40 pounds, to a forward-facing car seat supporting weights from 20 to 65 pounds, and then finally to a belt-positioning booster from 30 to 100 pounds. It expires 10 years after the manufacture date, which is really fantastic if you want to use it for a long period. In addition to this versatility, that is second only to the 4ever, there are some added great features. First, we love the Simply Safe adjustable harness and headrest that adapts together by pulling up on the red handle at the top of the headrest. Super simple to adjust across 10 levels of height, and you will never need to rethread from the rear. Second, we liked the recline function: while it wasn’t quite as big as the 4ever. To make things easier, there is a clever ball level that shows you exactly how much recline you should have when positioned rear-facing. Third, the InRight LATCH system makes installation and swapping between vehicles super easy with the Graco-designed LATCH connector that is a snap to use. The fabric has a higher cost and soft-touch feel, and is easy to clean, completely removable for machine washing. We also thought the ventilation was pretty good, so little babies won’t get too hot with the black version
- Diono Radian RXT All-in-one Convertible Car Seat.
We would definitely put it higher on the list if it had a more reasonable price point! The Diono Radian series is well-known for making one of the narrowest and best convertible car seats available to buy. Looking to fit more than 2 car seats in the back some day? Then this is probably the best bet for you, coming in at only 17″ wide (if you take off the cup holder). This means that you can fit three across in the back seat of most cars. This is a no-compromise convertible car seat. It uses a full steel alloy frame with aluminum sides for super strength and stiffness, thick energy soaking up EPS foam side impact protection, a Safe Stop energy soaking up harness system for bigger kids (20-40 pounds, front-facing), and a top rope for rear-facing applications to decrease seat rotation in the event of a hit. It also uses the SuperLATCH system, which makes attaching and detaching the seat easy and secure, with a nice visual indicator so you’ll be confident that it’s attached correctly. With all that safety, it’s got a lot of bulk and weight, coming in at over 20 pounds heavy! One of the only steel frame convertible seats available to buy, we think that’s OK unless you plan to do a lot of air travel or constantly switch it between vehicles. We also thought the car seat was super versatile: rear-facing from 5 to 45 pounds, front-facing little kid from 20-80 pounds, and a highback (belt-positioning) booster from 50-120 pounds. That’s basically from birth until your child is a “tween”! For the smaller babies, down to 5 pounds, there is a comfortable removable infant insert that nicely supports the hips and head.
- Evenflo Symphony DLX Convertible Car Seat, in several colors.
This convertible car seat has a great weight range, accommodating babies, little kids, and big kids from 5 to 110 pounds! With an upper weight capacity like that, this might very well be the only car seat or booster you will ever need to buy. You can use it rear-facing up to 40 pounds, forward-facing for little kids up to 40 pounds, and then as a high-back booster up to 110 pounds. Note that the high back isn’t removable, so there is no option for a bottom-only booster (like with the 4Ever, above). The seat itself is heavy, coming in at about 25 pounds; it is made in the USA and is built tough to protect your baby and last your family for many years. We thought the Sure LATCH system was awesome, you no longer need to pull to tighten the latch, just simply push it down and you’ll see it self-tighten. This is a really helpful system. The adjustable height harness is very easy to adjust upward as your child grows, without any rethreading hassle. The shoulder harness adjustable strap is right up front, as is the recline handle to help you get it perfectly level in the back seat of your unique vehicle. It also has two built-in cup holders that can be used for bottles, sippy cups, and toys. However, we didn’t like how the cup holders were actually half of a cup-holder with an elastic strap on the outer side. In other words, you can’t put anything other than a steady object in there without it falling right out of the side. So, no snacks or small toys in there.
- Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat, many patterns and colors.
The seat supports newborn babies using the included infant insert, starting at 5 pounds and going up to 11 pounds. It supports up to 40 pounds in rear-facing mode, and then up to a very high 65 pounds in front-facing mode. There were certain things we really loved about this car seat. First, the easy to read recline indicators have an intelligent numbered system for recline levels appropriate for rear- and front-facing modes. They also included bubble levels to make sure you have things positioned appropriately. Second, the Zip-off washable cover was brilliant, we were really impressed with how easy it was to remove the cover and throw it into the wash. It was also easy to get back on. In our opinion, the Zip feature is worth every penny, and you will understand why the first time you have vomiting or a diaper explosion during a drive! Third, we loved how the lower straps of the harness automatically flared outward when unbuckled, to make it easier to slide your baby in and out. Fourth, the Super Cinch LATCH system made life much easier when attaching the seat; of course, it also can be attached using the ordinary back seat belts. Finally, we thought the side impact padding was big and the headrest was easy to adjust up and down. So there are really a ton of great features here. We also thought the fabric was soft, breathable, and comfortable, while also being easy to wipe clean with a cloth as needed. So why is it down here on our list? Well, if you compare it feature for feature to the Graco, Diono, and Britax options above, you understand that it doesn’t really stand out in any particular way except for the higher weight and higher price tag.
- Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible Premium Car Seat.
This is a newer edition of the excellent series of Peg Perego infant and convertible car seats. Much more expensive than the competition, but for some good reasons. First, we really liked the fact that the rear-facing weight limit of the Peg Perego goes all the way up to 45lbs. Not many car seats came close to this weight limit and this is very useful given the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that that children be rear-facing until at least 2 years of age. For maximum safety, they advise keeping your baby rear-facing for as long as the car seat allows, and this allows you to keep your baby in the safer position for a longer period of time. Front-facing it can support from 22 to 65 pounds. Second, this is a very safe car seat with great side impact protection; Peg Perego uses shock absorbing foam on the sides of the car seats as well as below the seat to protect your child’s head, neck, and spine in the event of an accident.
- Graco MySize 65 Convertible Car Seat with Fast Remove Cover, Multiple Patterns and Colors.
If you have a baby that’s below 5 pounds (but at least 4 pounds), this might be the seat for you. Like the Graco 4ever, this convertible car seat goes as low as 4 pounds with the included infant insert, but this model only goes up to 65 pounds. The seat itself is 19.2 pounds, which is, compared to other things, light on this list. It has special inserts that support even the tiniest of babies, and some of our tester moms thought this was awesome and seemed like it would be very supportive for even the smallest newborns. It uses a multi-position harness and headrest that adjusts using a lever to pull it up or down to fit your baby’s size. It also has 3 recline positions to suit most vehicle’s seat positions, and a little cup holder that will definitely be very useful, and collect crumbs through the little kid years! Like the Graco 4ever and Evenflo options, but unlike the RECARO, this Graco option has a machine washable cover that you can pull off really quickly; just take it off and throw it in the wash. The fabric is soft and breathable, but not quite as much as the Graco 4ever or the RECARO. So while it’s cushy and comfy, the fabric isn’t quite as soft as some others. The side impact protection seems big, though it does feel like it’s not quite as strong as other options. However, the somewhat smaller side hit/effect wings make it a bit easier to fit into more space-held back vehicles.
- RECARO Roadster Convertible Car Seat, many patterns and colors.
The Roadster is a truly excellent convertible car seat, with some great advantages over many other seats on the list. The design is, compared to other things, simple but with a flare for dramatic racing colors and style; it’s made by RECARO after all, which has a long history of making high-end racing seats for sports and luxury cars. We really loved the side impact protection on this seat, with really large pillow-like head wings to protect the head and face. All of our reviewers thought the seat felt very secure and supportive; there is nothing of poor quality about this seat, it feels very well built, including the frame and fabrics, and it is super comfortable. Not surprising really, given that it uses memory foam in the seat! The safety harness adjusts very easily. The seat itself weighs a bit over 20 pounds. There’s a rear-facing recline lever that allows you to adjust the seat to your vehicle’s seat position, a built-in LATCH system with lower straps and a top rope, and we loved the great mesh ventilation system along the sides that will keep your baby from getting too cold and wet. This seat is certified by RECARO for 6 years of use before expiration. Relative to the old ProRide model, this seat uses a high impact energy absorption seat, Cloud Comfort memory foam, and a new patented twist-resistant shoulder straps. And they weren’t kidding, those straps stay right in their meant position, no twists or other nonsense.
- Evenflo SafeMax Platinum All-in-one Convertible Car Seat.
This seat has an impressively wide weight range, supporting babies and kids from 5 up to 120 pounds: 5-40 pounds rear-facing, 22-65 pounds front-facing, and 40-120 pounds as a high-back booster. At its limits, it can support babies as small as 19″ tall, and as big as 57″ tall (usually around 11-12 years old). In our opinion, you’ll likely switch over to a bottom-only booster long before you’ll hit the age and height limits, so it’s probably a pretty small audience that will need this seat over about 80 pounds. With that huge range of height and weight support, the seat itself is also really huge, coming in at about 25 pounds heavy, and just under 23″ wide. If you’re thinking about putting the seat into a smaller vehicle, or thinking that you might eventually have a need for 3 in a row in the back seat, this is definitely not the seat for you! It also has a lot of great convenience features, including multiple recline positions, an easy-adjustable harness height, and two cup-holders. The cup-holders have removable inserts, the cover is easy to remove.
- Britax Long, difficult race G4.1 Convertible Car Seat, many patterns and colors.
It is rated for 5-65 pounds. The company never fails at appearing in our “best of” lists for infant car seats and convertible car seats. Britax does it well, and has been doing it for a long time. It prides itself in an extremely high quality safety record, quality construction, and comfort. This car seat has great side impact protection, 10-point quick-adjustable harness system, adjustable recline, and it feels very strong and comfortable. The fabric is also nice, but not machine washable. Overall it’s quite simple, doesn’t have a great weight range, and is not as comfy and fancy and comfortable as other options. We also found the crotch strap to be a bit short, resulting in the lower straps digging a bit into chubby baby thighs. Finally, we have a warehouse full of different used car seats, and have discovered that many of the Marathons have ripped cover fabric, especially along the seams. We don’t tend to see that with many other brands, especially ones as this price point.
- Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, many patterns and colors.
It’s called Maxi Cosi for a reason, this thing is really maximum coziness in a car seat. Definitely the softest one of the bunch, with the most comfortable padding and support. If you’re looking for the cushiest car seat out there, this is the one for you! The Maxi Cosi Pria isn’t the cheapest on our list, nor the most expensive. It’s not the most fully featured, nor the least. But one thing is for darn sure, it is one of the softest and most comfortable car seats your baby will ever sit in! With several different styles and colors, there seems to be something for everyone’s tastes. Note that while most of the convertible seats on this list cover from 5 to 65 pounds (or higher), this one covers from 9 to 70 pounds. If you want it to go higher, check out the Pria 85. So it’s sort of in an odd position: most newborns are less than 9 pounds, so unless you have a chunky monkey you’ll need to get the Pria 70 with the Tiny Fit insert that supports newborns (down to 4 pounds), but that seems to be very hard to find. The Air Protect side impact protection is a bit like the pillow of the RECARO and Evenflo, and the cup holder a bit like the Graco. The Maxi Cosi has 3 recline positions, a multi-position quick-adjustable harness and headrest, and super soft cloth that will make you smile every time you slide your baby into this little lounge chair.