Best Inexpensive Convertible Car Seats

Best Convertible Car Seats for Under $225

January 23, 2020

Best Convertible Car Seats for Under $225

Best Convertible Car Seats for Under $225
Photo by @xicana_mama
Best Convertible Car Seats for Under $225

A convertible car seat can quickly eat up a pretty big chunk of your budget, and it’s easy to understand why. For parents who are in and out of the car a lot, a convertible seat is a must-have either from day one or once their little one outgrows their infant seat—and it’s critical to find a seat that’s safe, reliable and comfortable. But at what cost?

Turns out you don’t have to overspend to get a high quality convertible car seat. We sat down with Babylist team member and certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) Rebekah Kimmenah to talk all things budget when it comes to convertible seats. Our top five picks won’t break the bank and will safely take your little one from the baby days all the way through to the big kid years.

Looking for an affordable infant car seat? Head over to our guide on the Best Infant Car Seat for Under $250.

Expert Pick

The Scoop
  • Our CPST’s top rec for budget convertible car seat
  • High rear-facing weight limit
  • Easy install
  • Wider seat, not ideal for three-across
What Our Experts Think

The Graco Extend2Fit is Kimmenau’s top pick when it comes to more affordable convertible car seats and is the number one pick among many other CPSTs, too. That’s because of three main reasons: a high rear-facing weight limit, easy installation and a great fit in almost any type of car.

The Extend2Fit allows kids to rear-face until 50 pounds, an important feature since a growing body of research continues to prove that riding rear-facing is safer for babies and children than riding forward-facing. (Graco also added an extendable leg rest to this seat that gives kids an extra five inches of legroom to make extended rear-facing even more comfy.) Kimmenau also likes that this seat can sit almost upright when rear-facing, allowing taller parents or parents with smaller cars to still get a good fit. The Extend2Fit tends to fit all ages of kids well, from smaller newborns to larger school-aged kids, and features a six-position recline, easy LATCH install and a 10-position no-rethread harness.

What’s Worth Considering

This seat has two cup holders that are required to be attached. While that may be great news for your little one’s seemingly unquenchable thirst, Kimmenau notes that it does make the seat on the wider side, so it’s not a good choice if you’re looking for more room in your back seat or need to install three seats across. The Extend2Fit 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.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 4–65 lbs; up to 49”
Product Weight 18.4 lbs

Amazing Value

The Scoop
  • Extremely budget-friendly at under $50
  • Weighs only 10 pounds
  • Great for taxis/ride shares and travel
  • Tricky to get a secure install in some vehicles
What Our Experts Think

Known for their safe, no-frills car seats at unbelievably affordable prices, Cosco seats definitely deserve a spot on our best-of budget convertible car seats list—and the Scenera Next is one of our favorites. This rear- and forward-facing seat is a solid choice for many reasons, but the two standout ones are cost and weight. For the same price as a few weeks of Starbucks, you can buy a car seat that’s sturdy, safe and easy to clean. The Next features side-impact protection and a slim profile (three-across works in most vehicles) as well as an adjustable five-point harness and a removable cup holder.

The Next is also one of our favorite picks for travel. At just over 10 pounds, it’s much lighter than the average convertible seat, making it a great option for city families who regularly rely on taxis or ride shares. It’s also FAA-approved and is the perfect seat to take along on your next plane trip to keep your little one safe and secure.

What’s Worth Considering

There’s no LATCH install option for this seat—it’s seatbelt only. Installation can be a bit tricky depending on your vehicle, so we recommend watching this video before you get started. You’ll also need to rethread the harness each time you want to adjust the fit of the straps. If you don’t mind a slightly larger and heavier seat, check out the Cosco Apt 50; it has a higher weight and height limit than the Scenera Next, so will last a bit longer.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 5–40 lbs; up to 43”
Product Weight 10.4 lbs

Lasts for Years

The Scoop
  • Best all-in-one budget seat
  • Works from newborn up to 120 pounds
  • Five recline angles
  • High seat sides make it tough for older caregivers or for kids to climb in themselves
What Our Experts Think

Dubbed “the only all-in-one carseat under $250” that our CPST would recommend, Evenflo’s EveryStage seat is a great choice if you’re looking for a seat that will work from the newborn days all the way through the bigger kid years. This infant + convertible + booster seat all rolled into one fits children from 4-120 pounds. According to Kimmenau, it’s known for its extra-easy LATCH installation, no rethread harness and five comfy recline positions. We also love the machine-washable seat pad, included cup holders and extended rear-facing design for up to 50 pounds.

What’s Worth Considering

The sides of the seat are fairly high and, while this offers a comfy, cradled fit, it also presents a challenge for some caregivers when trying to get a child into and out of the seat. (The same goes for older kiddos who can get themselves in and out of the car on their own; the high sides can make this a bit difficult.) Kimmenau also notes that the EveryStage isn’t a great fit for smaller newborns, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on using a convertible seat from day one in lieu of an infant car seat.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 4–120 lbs; up to 57”
Product Weight 22 lbs

Lighter, Cheaper All-in-One

The Scoop
  • Well-priced all-in-one seat
  • Lighter weight makes it easier to switch between cars
  • Fits a wide range of babies and kids
  • Fewer recline angles than other seats
What Our Experts Think

This Safety 1st all-in-one seat is a lighter, cheaper alternative to its Evenflo counterpart. It doesn’t have quite as many features, says Kimmenau, but it’s a solid seat for the price and does have some impressive pros.

Our CPST notes that this seat fits a wide range of kids really well, from infants to older children. It’s also fairly lightweight for a convertible car seat—especially considering it’s an all-in-one that converts from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing one and eventually to a belt-positioning booster. At about 18 pounds, it’s about four pounds lighter than the Evenflo EveryStage, and although that may not sound like a lot, it makes a pretty big difference if you’re routinely switching this seat between cars or if you’re traveling with it.

What’s Worth Considering

Kimmenau doesn’t like that this seat has only three recline angles, two of which are used for rear-facing. She also notes that installation can be tricky, and that many school-aged kids outgrow the seat due to height before weight.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 5–100 lbs; up to 52”
Product Weight 18.6 lbs

Lots of Safety Features

The Scoop
  • Standout safety features, especially for the price
  • Good for smaller cars
  • Can be tricky to install
  • Heavy
What Our Experts Think

Safety is the standout with this Britax seat, says Kimmenau. The Emblem boasts what Britax calls SafeCell Impact Protection—an integrated system of safety components that go well beyond what’s required by federal safety standards. This includes things like an impact-absorbing base, an impact-stabilizing steel frame and two layers of side impact protection. These features are even more impressive when you consider the seat’s price point of under $200.

Other features to love include a no-rethread harness and lots of recline angles for a more accurate installation. And the Emblem is a smaller profile seat, making it a good fit for smaller vehicles.

What’s Worth Considering

Kimminau (along with many Babylist parents) note that this seat is on the more difficult side to install, whether you’re using your vehicle’s seatbelt or the LATCH system, so be sure to learn your way around the seat and read the manual carefully.

Additional Specs
Child Guidelines 4–65 lbs; up to 49”
Product Weight 19.5 lbs
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