9 Best Convertible Car Seats of 2020
Best Convertible Car Seats of 2020
May 18, 2020

Best Convertible Car Seats of 2020

These seats get bonus points for safety, style and ease-of-install.Best Convertible Car Seats of 2020

Choosing the right car seat for your baby or toddler is a big decision. This is especially true when you’re shopping for a convertible car seat. Convertible seats last for years, which is great (yay for less baby gear!), but that’s exactly what makes the decision all the more important—this seat’s going to be around for a long time, and you want to make sure you make the right choice.

We asked thousands of Babylist parents about what convertible car seats they loved and why. We also consulted our own team of Babylist experts and a Child Passenger Safety technician (CPST) to make our best convertible car seat picks so you have everything you need to make an informed decision.

In this article:

What is a Convertible Car Seat?

A convertible car seat is a car seat that can be used with children of various sizes and can change from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat. A convertible seat starts in a rear-facing position for babies and toddlers and is then turned forward-facing as your child gets older. (Some convertibles even turn into a booster seat for school-age kids.) A convertible car seat can take you from day one through the preschool years and beyond.

When Do You Need a Convertible Car Seat?

You’ll need a convertible car seat at some point—it’s just a matter of when.

Some parents use a convertible car seat from day one. Others choose to use an infant car seat initially and then transition over to a convertible car seat when their little one has reached the seat’s height or weight maximum, usually around their first birthday. This is because convertible car seats aren’t nearly as portable (or as light) as infant seats.

Unlike infant car seats that are installed directly into a base and are designed to click in and out of your car for easy portability, convertible seats are installed directly into your vehicle using either the car’s LATCH system or seat belt. (Keep in mind that using LATCH to install a car seat is predicated on meeting certain weight limits. Once you exceed those limits, you’ll need to switch over to using your car’s seat belt for installation. You can read more about this here.) Most convertible seats are heavy and bulky and definitely can’t be carried around like an infant seat.

If you do opt for a convertible car seat from day one and your little one will be frequently riding in more than one vehicle, we recommend purchasing a convertible seat for each car as these seats frequently take a bit of time to install.

What Should You Look for in a Convertible Car Seat?

The good news is all car seats must meet the same government safety standards, but some car seats come with extra goodies or can be used for longer. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a convertible car seat:

  • Safety indicators: Some car seats come with built-in leveling systems and indicators to signal they’ve been correctly installed.
  • Ease of installation: Many car seats can be installed using the regular seat belt or the LATCH system, which is an easier way to secure the car seat using built-in anchors and tethers (available in cars made after 2002). Just be sure you’re still within the weight limits of your car seat’s LATCH restrictions and remember to switch over to a seat belt install once you exceed them.
  • How it fits in your car: Car seats range in size and shape. Some are wider or narrower than others.
  • Higher rear-facing weight limits: There’s a growing body of research that proves riding rear-facing is safer for babies and children than riding in a forward-facing car seat. If possible, always choose a convertible seat that has a high rear-facing weight limit so you can extend the opportunity to rear-face for as long as possible.
  • Fabric: Besides looking for a style of fabric that suits your taste, consider its durability and how easy it’ll be to wash when messes happen.
  • Safety extras: Some car seats include additional shock absorption, padding and materials that are higher quality.
  • New vs used car seats: Used car seats might be damaged and may not be up to snuff when it comes to current safety regulations. While we recommend new car seats, if you do end up selecting a used car seat, get it from someone you trust. Be sure to look up the seat’s expiration date and research if that particular model has ever been recalled. If the seat is dirty, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s strict rules around how to clean it. Each car seat has a specific set or rules around how to clean it while maintaining its safety and integrity.

For more tips about car seats, check our How to Choose a Car Seat guide.

Babylist’s Best Convertible Car Seat Picks

These are Babylist’s picks for the best convertible car seats.

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Best Convertible Car Seat with Extra Protection

The Scoop
  • Easy installation
  • Lots of extra safety features
  • Designed, tested and built in the US
What Our Experts Say

Safety is the standout feature of this popular convertible car seat from Britax. Two layers of side-impact protection, a durable steel frame and an impact-absorbing base that compresses to reduce the force of a collision are just a few of the safety extras we love about the Boulevard. We also love how easy it is to install—you know when the harness is just right thanks to a trusty click sound it makes when it’s been properly tightened. The no-rethread harness is easy to adjust and has 10 positions that grow with your kiddo.

What’s Worth Considering

All those extra safety features mean extra weight, so this isn’t the seat you want to lug from car to car. Your backseat will most likely only fit the Boulevard and one other person or car seat.

What Babylist Parents Say

“Love the no-rethread harness and how easy install is with ClickTight. It’s super heavy but that makes me feel it’s safe. It’s easy to clean, and my 39” daughter is still comfortably rear facing.” -Emily G.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing: 5-40 lbs; forward-facing: 20-65 lbs and up to 49”

One and Done

The Scoop
  • Popular choice for all-in-one seat
  • Works from birth through big kid years
  • Can be a tough fit in smaller cars
What Our Experts Say

One car seat that works from birth to the big kid years? Yes, please. The Graco 4Ever starts out as a rear-facing seat that can be used when your baby is just four pounds. When they hit the maximum limits for rear-facing, the seat turns forward and works from 22 to 65 pounds. It then converts to a highback booster and finally a backless booster that pairs with your car’s seat belt until your child is up to 120 pounds and 57”. Other great features include a six-position recline, 10-position no-rethread harness and two attached cup holders.

What’s Worth Considering

The 4Ever doesn’t fit newborns very well, and some parents find it difficult to install. It’s also a very long seat, which may be a concern if you have a sedan or smaller car. (It’s usually fine in most SUVs though.)

And although the Graco 4Ever seems to be a popular choice among parents, lots of car seat experts also love a different all-in-one seat: the Britax One4Life. It also grows with your little one from birth to about ten years old and features a host of strong safety features as well as an easy install.

What Babylist Parents Say

“I’ve used this car seat since we brought my little 6 lb son home from the hospital! I love that it will fit him for the length of his car seat-sitting days, which makes this the economical choice. The no-rethread harness makes changing the size of the headrest super easy.” -Katie R.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing: 4-40 lbs; forward-facing: 22-65 lbs and up to 52”; highback booster: 40-100 lbs and up to 57”; backless booster 40-120 lbs and up to 57”

Easy to Clean

The Scoop
  • Good for extended rear-facing
  • Zip-off seat pad for easy washing
  • High sides make it tricky to get kids in and out
What Our Experts Say

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest weight or height limit allowed by their car seat manufacturer. With a higher rear-facing weight limit (50 pounds) and 25% more legroom than other Chicco seats, this seat allows for rear-facing longer than many other convertible seats, a huge plus.

The NextFit Max has a “Super Cinch” strap, which makes installing using the LATCH system easy (no tug-of-war with straps and seats). Bubble levels indicate when you’ve nailed the correct seat angle in rear-facing and forward-facing modes. And nine recline positions allow this seat to fit in a wider range of cars. The bonus? A zip-off seat pad you can throw in the washing machine a diaper blowout or a car-sick kiddo.

What’s Worth Considering

The NextFit convertible seat has very high sides. While some people don’t find this to be an issue, others do, especially older caregivers who may not have the strength to lift a child easily in and out of the seat. This seat also is on the bulkier side and may not be the right choice for smaller cars.

What Babylist Parents Say

“It’s super easy to unzip and wash the cover of the car seat. The harness is simple to buckle and secure. I love the material of the seat, it’s soft and smooth.” -Lori L.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing 4-50 lbs; forward facing 22-65 lbs and up to 49”

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Modern, Stylish and Safe

The Scoop
  • Good for extended rear-facing
  • Clean, modern design
  • Easy to install with seatbelt
What Our Experts Say

It’s not often that you can describe a car seat (most likely covered in Cheerios) as chic. But here goes. The Nuna RAVA is beautifully designed and packed with thoughtful features for optimum safety and ease of use. It has a high rear-facing limit of 50 pounds and an extendable calf rest that adds two extra inches of legroom for extra comfort. Installation with your car’s seat belt (Nuna’s preferred method) is really easy, and there’s also retractable cup holders, a no rethread harness and breathable knit fabric with ventilation panels.

What’s Worth Considering

Many parents surveyed say this seat gives front-seat passengers more legroom, which is especially important for a taller parent who doesn’t enjoy being crunched up in the front seat. Car seat experts say it can be tough to get a good fit for newborns.

What Babylist Parents Say

“It will last us several years, it is extremely safe and was very easy to install.” -Robin

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing: 5-50 lbs and up to 49”; forward-facing 25-65 lbs and up to 49”

Great for Extended Rear-Facing

The Scoop
  • Safe, affordable choice
  • Easy install
  • Wide seat, not ideal for three-across
What Our Experts Say

The Extend2Fit is an affordable convertible car seat that’s a consistent favorite for three main reasons: a high rear-facing weight limit, easy installation and a great fit in almost any type of car.

The 50-pound weight limit means that kids can stay rear-facing for longer than many other convertible seats. There’s also an extendable leg rest (as the seat’s name implies) that gives kids an extra five inches of legroom to make extended rear-facing more comfortable. Since the seat can sit almost upright when rear-facing, it allows for taller parents or those with smaller cars to still get a good fit. It also tends to fit all ages of kids really well, from smaller newborn to school-aged kiddos,

What’s Worth Considering

The seat’s cup holders are required to be attached, making the seat on the wider side and not a great choice if you’re looking for more room in your back seat or need to install three seats across. This seat is also not a great choice if you plan to forward-face your child before they reach 40 pounds thanks to a strange rule that requires the seat to be at a specific incline setting, resulting in an install that’s almost impossible to get right.

What Babylist Parents Say

“Love how you can use it as they grow! Plus, it is super comfy.” -Victoria

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing: 4-50 lbs; forward facing: 22-65 lbs and up to 49”

So Many Safety Extras

The Scoop
  • Tons of extra safety features
  • Built for extended rear-facing
  • Slim lines, modern look
  • Expensive
What Our Experts Say

“Built like a tank” is probably the most common thing parents note about the iconic Clek foonf convertible car seat—and that’s exactly what they love about it. The foonf is packed with safety extras. It features everything from a steel and magnesium substructure and two layers of energy-absorbing foam for side-impact protection to an anti-rebound and an aluminum crumple zone in the base to absorb energy in case of a crash.

The foonf is built for extended rear-facing for up to 50 pounds and has a nine-year lifespan. Install is easy using either LATCH or your vehicle’s seat belt, and the seat’s fabrics are Greenguard Gold certified. And despite the seat’s incredible features, it’s actually on the slimmer side—you can fit three across in a back seat.

What’s Worth Considering

There’s no getting around the fact that the foonf is a beast; it’s not a seat you’re going to want to be taking in and out of your car a lot. It’s also a high seat, so if you’re on the shorter side, it may obstruct your view out whichever back window it’s installed near. And it’s expensive. For a lighter and cheaper option, check out the Clek fllo.

What Babylist Parents Say

“Great safety features and it can rear face until four—comfortably! It’s a great car seat. We travel (airplane) with it, our kids are growing with it and it checks all the boxes. Expensive but worth every penny. We have three!” -Val

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing: 14-50 lbs and 25-43”; forward facing: 22-65 lbs and up 30-49”

Best Budget Convertible Car Seat

The Scoop
  • All-in-one-seat at a great price
  • Lighter weight than many similar all-in-ones
  • Fits a wide range of babies and kids
What Our Experts Say

It’s definitely possible to get a safe, all-in-one convertible car seat at a great price. The Grow and Go works as a rear-facing, forward-facing and eventually a belt-positioning booster seat. It has three recline positions, two cup holders and a seat pad that snaps on and off for when you need to throw it in the wash. You can easily adjust the harness and headrest in one step, and built-in harness holders keep annoying straps from getting in the way when you’re trying to pull your little one out of the car seat. Lots of parents choose this as an affordable secondary car seat for a caregiver or grandparent’s car too.

What’s Worth Considering

Some parents don’t like that the headrest on this car seat doesn’t go as high up as other brands. There are also less recline positions than lots of other seats. And the Grow and Go can be difficult to install, so watching a few videos on how to do it might help.

What Babylist Parents Say

“I like the low price for a high-quality car seat. The seat is durable and easy to use and clean.” -C.W.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing: 5-40 lbs and 19-40”; forward facing: 22-65 lbs and 29-52”; belt-positioning booster: 40-100 lbs and up to 52”

Slim Profile

The Scoop
  • Slim profile, great for three-across
  • Can be used from birth, converts to booster
  • Tough to install
What Our Experts Say

The Diono Radian car seat is most well-known for its slim profile. This narrow seat fits three across a back seat, a big plus if you have children close in age or do a lot of carpooling with other families. The RXT can be used starting at birth and eventually converts to a big-kid booster. It’s made with a steel alloy frame, aluminum reinforced sidewalls, energy-absorbing EPS foam and a reinforced adjustable head support that has 12 positions.

What’s Worth Considering

Car seat techs we spoke to about this seat have one major complaint: installation. It can be tough to get a good one, so be sure to pay special attention to your instruction manual and watch some installation videos. It’s also a really heavy convertible car seat.

What Babylist Parents Say

“I love this car seat! It’s very comfortable for my daughter and also narrow, plus you never have to buy another one for the rest of your child’s car-seat years.” -Maggie N.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing: 5-45 lbs; forward facing 20-65 lbs; converts to a booster for children from 50-120 lbs and 57”

Most Innovative Convertible Car Seat

The Scoop
  • First (and only) 360° rotating car seat in the US
  • Load leg for extra stability
  • Sensor alerts you if child is unbuckled or left in car
What Our Experts Say

Rotating car seats—seats that swivel from rear- to forward-facing with the touch of a button—are fairly common across Europe but have never been available in the US. Until now! Enter the Sirona S: the first rotating car seat to hit the US market.

What’s so great about a swiveling seat? So many things. What we love the most is how easy it is to get your little one in and out of this seat, especially when it’s rear-facing. (The seat swivels to the side and eliminates the awkward reach that’s needed for standard rear-facing seats.) The easier this is, the more likely you are to keep your kiddo rear-facing (and safer) even longer. We also love that you don’t have to reinstall the seat when it’s time to make the rear- to forward-facing switch.

Other features to brag about here include lots of safety features including a load leg for added safety and stability, a smart-tech harness clip with a built-in sensor that alerts you if your child becomes unbuckled or the car temperature gets too warm, 12 recline positions, magnetic seat buckles and so much more.

What’s Worth Considering

There isn’t much to dislike about this innovative seat, but it is worth pointing out that it’s pricey and on the bulkier side due to the swiveling base.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines Rear facing: 4-50 lbs; forward facing: 22-65 lbs and up to 49”

Choosing the Right Convertible Car Seat for You

Once you select a convertible car seat, be sure to test out how well it fits in the backseat of your vehicle as soon as you get it. That way, if it ends up not working out you can exchange it and get a new one installed before your baby arrives.

Some questions to consider once you place the seat in your car include:

  • Is there legroom left in the front?
  • Are you able to easily adjust the harness straps from the rear-facing position?
  • Do you feel confident that you’ve properly installed it? If not, you can get it checked.

Any issues that arise can be addressed by choosing a different car seat model. Give yourself enough time and patience, and you can make sure all your travelers—big and small—have a comfy ride.

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