Most Safe Convertible Car Seats

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Car seats are an essential for any parent. Never mind that the law requires you to use them. They are important because you are, after all, ensuring that your most precious cargo remains safe while riding in the car. Now, there are quite a lot of car seats in the market for you to choose from. But not all of them are appropriate for your kid as he grows older. If you’re not so keen on replacing baby gear, then your best option is to go with a convertible car seat. The problem is, there are a lot of convertible car seats to choose from. Which one will you trust with your baby? We’ve got just the list for you – the safest convertible car seats in the market today.

Britax Boulevard Review

When it comes to easy installation, the Britax takes first place. Using the patented ClickTight Installation System, all you need to do is open the front of the car seat, buckle the seat belt across it, and close the seat.And when it comes to safety, no one does it better. Surrounding your baby is 2 layers of side impact protection, an impact stabilizing steel frame, an impact absorbing base, and an anti-rebound bar. The latter is used to reduce the forces in a crash by stabilizing the car seat when it is in the rear-facing position. This convertible car seat can be used in the rear-facing position up until the child reaches 40 lbs while the maximum weight limit of the forward-facing position is 65 lbs. While we love the easy-to-adjust 14-position harness as he grows bigger, we’d like it better if the crotch strap was longer. Also, this convertible car seat isn’t an option for parents on a budget since it’s very expensive. In addition, the fabric is not machine-washable. And we all know how kids like to make messes.

PROS
  • anti-rebound bar
  • extended rear-facing
  • easy installation
CONS
  • expensive
  • short crotch strap
  • fabric is not machine-washable

Britax Advocate Review

Just like the Britax Boulevard, this one also features the ClickTight Installation System. The rear-facing position has a max weight limit of 40 pounds while the forward-facing seat has a max weight limit of 65 pounds. Even better, the max height limit of the rear-facing seat is 27 inches – the tallest you’ll find in the market. One of the biggest advantages of buying from Britax is that it has the highest safety ratings among all manufacturers within the US. This particular car seat comes with an impact absorbing base, 3 layers of side impact protection, impact stabilizing steel frame, and an impact absorbing tether. However, the crotch strap is a bit short. There isn’t a cup holder which is an essential if you want your toddler happy. And, like the Boulevard, this one costs a pretty penny.

PROS
  • Easy installation
  • Highest safety ratings
  • Extended rear-facing
CONS
  • expensive
  • Crotch strap is short
  • No cup holders

Evenflo Tribute LX Review

If you have a strict budget, there’s no reason you can’t get a safe convertible seat for your kid. The Evenflo Tribute LX may be very inexpensive compared to other models on our list but it has a lot of the basics you want. The 5-point harness features a 4-position shoulder strap and 2 crotch buckle positions, allowing for extended use. The max weight in the rear-facing position is 40 lbs while the max height is 37 inches. As for the front-facing position, the max weight is 40 lbs and the max height limit is 40 inches. Compared to other models, this car seat definitely has a shorter lifespan. However, it is lighter and narrower which makes it ideal for smallish vehicles or for airplane travel. Plus, it’s very easy to use and clean. However, your kid will easily outgrow this car seat. And it isn’t quite as easy to install as high-end models.

PROS
  • great for travel; lightweight
  • very affordable
  • easy to clean
CONS
  • low max weight limit
  • not easy to install
  • short lifespan

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat Review

If you want a convertible car seat that will last throughout most of your little one’s childhood, then the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 convertible car seat is just the thing. Not only does this car seat have a rear-facing and forward-facing position, it can also be transformed into a booster seat with a high back and then into a backless booster seat. The rear-facing seat has a max weight of 40 lbs and the forward-facing seat has a max weight of 65 lbs. The booster seat, on the other hand, has a maximum weight of 100 lbs (high-back) and 120 lbs (backless). And the lifespan of this car seat is a good 10 years. Another great thing about this particular car seat is that it is so easy to install. Everything is color-coded (even the manual) to ensure that you install the seat correctly. As for safety, this car seat has been tested to meet all applicable US safety standards. It also features energy-absorbing EPS foam and a steel-reinforced frame. However, the straps do tend to get twisted a lot. And the cupholders pop out so easily which can be a source of extreme frustration for the parent and joy for the little one.

PROS
  • easy to install
  • “forever” kind of convertible car seat
  • 10-year life span
CONS
  • expensive
  • straps can get twisted
  • cupholders are easy to detach

Safety 1st Grow and Go Review

If you want a little bit of a bell and whistle but don’t have enough to go for a Britax, then this middle-of-the-road convertible car seat from Safety 1st should fit your bill. This is a 3-in-1 car seat is rear-facing (5-40 lbs), forward-facing (22-65 lbs), and a belt-positioning booster (40-100 lbs). One of the things we like about this car seat is the harness holders that ensure you never have to dig around the seat to while holding on to a squirming child. Adjusting the harness is easy with the QuickFit harness. This car seat meets or exceeds federal, ASTM, and JPMA safety standards. It even comes with lumbar and head comfort pillows for extra support. Plus, the lifespan of this car seat is a good 10 years. However, installation is not easy using the LATCH system. And it is not ideal for small cars despite the manufacturer’s claim that it gives the passenger seat an extra 7 inches of legroom. It does not when the seat is in the rear-facing position and fully reclined.

PROS
  • features harness holders
  • 3-in-1 car seat
  • comfortable
CONS
  • not easy to install using the LATCH system
  • takes up a lot of space; not for small cars

Graco Extend2Fit Review

The Graco Extend2Fit may not be in the same league as the 4ever model, but it has one of the highest max weight limits in the rear-facing position – 50 lbs. So your child can stay longer in the safest position possible. Good, right? It gets even better. It has a no-rethread harness height adjustment enabling you to easily adjust the harness with baby in the seat. Installation using LATCH is quite easy but using the seatbelt in rear-facing position is a challenge. One unique feature we saw with this model is the extended leg rest, making your child feel more comfortable in the seat. However, this is a wide car seat (almost 19 inches) so this is not a good choice if you want to install 3 in the backseat or 2 plus an adult. The cover is hard to remove for cleaning as well as to put back on.

PROS
  • max limit in rear-facing is 50 lbs
  • easy to use
  • extended leg rest
CONS
  • very wide
  • hard to remove cover
  • hard to install using seat belts

Evenflo Symphony DLX Review

The Evenflo Symphony DLX are for parents on a budget who want an all-in-one car seat. This model has a rear-facing position (5-40 lbs, 19-40 inches), a forward-facing position (22-65 lbs, 28-50 inches), and a harnessed booster seat (40-110 lbs, 44-57 inches). The SureLATCH makes installation a breeze (within minutes) and the infinite slide harness allows for easy adjustment and perfect fit. The Symphony DLX increases its safety measures by adding Evenflo’s proprietary e3 Side Impact Protection which reduces the forces of a crash by 50% through 3 layers of protection and the expanded zone of protection. However, this car seat is very bulky; it might be hard to have two of these in the backseat, especially if you have a small car.The straps doesn’t come with covers; you’ll need to buy some to prevent chafing.

PROS
  • SureLATCH system
  • comfortable
  • e3 Side Impact Protection
CONS
  • No strap covers
  • bulky

Chicco NextFit iX Zip  Review

One of the most important features of any convertible car seat is ease of installation. So, it’s no wonder that the Chicco NextFit iX Zip is on our list. Installing this baby using the LATCH system is super easy due to the SuperCinch tightener; no need to exert a lot of effort to ensure your baby is locked-in tight. The car seat also features LockSure which is a belt-tightening system for installing the seat using seat belts. The unit comes with level indicators (RideRight® bubble levels) which also ensures correct installation. It’s as fool-proof as it gets. Adjusting the 9-position headrest and the ComfortFlex Harness can be done with just one hand. And for increased safety, the seat has reinforced steel, side impact protection, and EPS energy-absorbing foam. Like a lot of really safe car seats, the Chicco NextFit iX Zip is quite expensive. It is also heavy and bulky (the better to protect your child with). Because of this, it is not an ideal choice if you have a small vehicle.

PROS
  • Lots of safety features
  • Easy installation
  • One-hand adjustments
CONS
  • Heavy and bulky
  • Not for small cars
  • expensive

Combi Coccoro Review

The Combi Coccoro is the perfect convertible car seat for parents with compact cars. It’s also a good option for parents who want three car seats across. This lightweight car seat has Tru-Safe side impact protection due to its deep side walls and a layer of energy absorbing foam, both of which are able to effectively distribute the forces of a crash and protecting your child’s head, neck, and spine. There’s even a tether connector strap that stabilizes the seat in the event of a crash. Unlike other convertibles, this one has a rear-facing position that can carry babies as light as 3 lbs. The max weight limit though is pretty low at 33 lbs. The forward-facing position has a weight limit of 40 lbs which gives this a shorter lifespan compared to most models on this list. It’s not as easy to install as other models.

PROS
  • compact, lightweight
  • Tru-Safe side impact protection
  • FAA certified
CONS
  • short lifespan
  • difficult to install

Diono Radian 3RXT Review

The Diono Radian 3RXT is another all-in-one option for parents. There’s a lot going on with this convertible car seat. It is narrow enough to sit 3 across most mid-sized vehicles or larger. It is an extended rear-facing car seat with a max weight limit of 45 lbs. The forward-facing position can be used by children weighing up to 65 lbs. And once they reach 50 lbs, they can use the car seat in booster mode which has a weight limit of 120 lbs. For your child’s safety, this car seat features a steel alloy frame, aluminum reinforced head support, memory foam, and energy absorbing EPS foam. However, this is still heavy and takes up a lot of space when rear-facing. While it does have a superLATCH system, tightening can be tricky. And it can be hard to clean

PROS
  • extended rear facing
  • can seat 3 across
CONS
  • not easy to install
  • still takes up a lot of space rear-facing
  • hard to clean

How to Choose the Safest Convertible Car Seat:

Now, it’s not easy to be a new parent. Aside from the fact that you’ll be responsible for taking care of another human being for at least 18 years, you need to load up on a lot (and we mean a lot, a lot) of baby gear. Some of which will only get several months’ worth of use. Fortunately, some baby gear can grow with your baby. We’re talking about convertible car seats. Since this baby gear is going to be ensuring your child’s safety in the car, there’s no room for error when making your choice. If you’re not sure how to figure out which convertible car seat is safest for your child, then we’ve got just the buying guide for you.

What is a convertible car seat?

We all know what a car seat is. But what exactly makes one “convertible?” Well, a convertible car seat is one that starts out as a rear-facing infant car seat and later on can be reconfigured into a forward-facing car seat once your child becomes a toddler. Some models will even go as far as convert into a high-back booster when he or she outgrows the forward-facing seat.

Should you buy a convertible car seat?

It’s not required. Some parents who have multiple children can opt to have one type of car seat for each child. For example, an infant car seat for the baby, a front-facing car seat for the toddler, and then a booster seat for the eldest child. Then the car seats are just passed down to the next sibling once they outgrow them. The beauty of getting a convertible car seat is that it allows you to invest in only one car seat (or a minimum of two – more on this later) that will accommodate your child as he/she grows.

When should you buy a convertible car seat?

Shouldn’t you buy it as soon as you have a baby who will be riding in your car? It actually depends. Technically, convertible car seats can be used for babies 5 pounds up to 40-80 pounds (depending on the seat). There are even inserts to ensure that your newborn will comfortably fit in the seat. And that’s fine. However, you need to make sure that the baby’s shoulders are even or above the lowest set of harness slots. Also, unlike infant car seats, a convertible car seat is typically bigger and heavier which makes it more difficult to transfer between vehicles. You also can’t carry it around like an infant car seat.

Some experts do recommend an infant car seat for newborns up to 9 months or when their height and/or weight reaches the maximum limit of the seat. Not only because the design is more suited to a younger baby, but also because some models provide additional protection for the little one such as anti-rebound features and side-impact protection. In either case, the important thing to remember is to make sure that the seat fits your baby and your car.

Let’s talk safety.

One good thing about the US is that all car seats sold here are required to meet or exceed Federal and ASTM Safety Standards. What that means is that any car seat you come across in this country can be considered safe.

The industry benchmark for checking how well a car seat will perform should a severe accident occur is the NCAP crash test. Any car seat that meets the strict crash performance standards can be considered safe as well. The NCAP also rates car seats based on their ease of use – the instructions of the manufacturer, installation, labels, and ease of securing the child.

For convertible car seats that can be transformed into a booster seat, you need to check the ratings given by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS tests boosters on how well the belt will fit over the lap and shoulder of the child.

The safest convertible car seat should have the following features:

Extended Rear-Facing

According to studies made over the years, your child is safest when riding in a rear-facing seat because, in the event of an accident, the force of the crash will be diffused by the shell of the seat, preventing any stress from impacting the neck and spine as well as the head from snapping forward. Children under 3-4 years of age may not have a strong enough spine to withstand the force on the head and neck if they were facing forward. If you’re going to purchase a convertible car seat, look for one that has a maximum of 40+ pounds for its rear-facing configuration. The longer the seat can be used in the rear-facing position, the safer your child will be. It’s safer for your child to remain rear-facing until he or she has reached the maximum weight requirements before you allow them to front-face. The Britax Advocate is a good option because it has a high max limit for weight (40 lbs) and height (27 inches). The Diono Radian 3RXT is even better with a max weight limit of 45lbs.

Extended Front-Facing

Your child will most likely reach the minimum height and weight for a booster seat before he or she is ready for it (either mentally or physically). A booster seat will require a child to be mature enough to sit quietly. That sudden freedom of movement can become too much for a young child, causing him to wiggle around which can make him vulnerable to injury.

Just like with the rear-facing seat, you need to let your child reach the maximum weight limit of the seat before transitioning to a booster. With this in mind, you should also look for a convertible car seat that has a front-facing weight limit of 70 to 80 lbs.

Expiration Date

Most car seats have an expiration date of 5 years because it’s more than likely that a child will have outgrown the seat before the end of its lifespan. However, convertible seats are designed to “grow” with your child. Because it will be used far longer than a regular car seat, you should look for a convertible car seat with a life span ranging from 8 to 12 years. The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, for example, has a 10-year lifespan.

Brand New

It can be quite tempting to get a used seat just to save money. After all, babies are expensive and you still have a lot of other stuff to buy. However, wear and tear, weather exposure, and other factors can compromise the safety features of a car seat. It could have been in a minor accident, for all you know. Since you can never really be 100% sure of the car seat’s history, it’s best not to risk your child’s safety just to save money.

5-Point Harness

This type of harness secures your child at the shoulders, hips, and between your baby’s legs. The harness ensures that he or she won’t be slipping or falling out of the car seat. Make sure that adjusting the harness is easy and the straps don’t get twisted around, possibly hurting your child. Some models like the Chicco NextFit iX Zip feature quick release buttons and allow one-hand belt adjustments.  

LATCH

This is short for “lower anchors and tethers for children.” All car seats and vehicles made since 2002 are compatible with this system. What is it? Well, it allows you to attach a car seat directly to the frame of the vehicle without using the seatbelt. Make sure to check the manual before installing the car seat and follow the instructions within. Some manufacturers do not recommend using the top tether strap when installing the seat in the rear-facing position.

Level Indicator

A car seat’s level indicator informs the parent if their installation angle is correct. There are different types of level indicators such as a bubble or a small ball. Whatever type is used, it is important that you follow as instructed to ensure your baby’s safety. The Chicco NextFit iX Zip has 2 level indicators – for rear-facing and forward-facing.

Is the car seat easy to install?

Statistically, 73% of car seats are not installed properly. Given that, it’s important that you find a model that you won’t have a problem installing and using. And since it can be quite easy to install a car seat incorrectly, you might want to have a professional check it out afterwards. In general, your local police officers are trained in car seat installation. The Britax Boulevard is our top choice for easiest installation system.

Despite the many, many choices available, finding the safest convertible car seat for your child shouldn’t overwhelm you too much. Armed with knowledge and detailed reviews, you should be able to make a decision sooner instead of later.

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