You want the best for your kids in terms of safety and comfort, but car seats seem to come a dime a dozen. We found the top 10 car seats (that our staff actually uses) and put them in one place. Price, safety, installation – it’s all here. The number one thing to remember is this: don’t let your kiddos pick your car seat. Trust us, it’ll be a fight. Make an informed decision here, and they’ll get adjusted in no time.
Best Rated Convertible Car Seats 2018:
1. Graco Extend2Fit
A car seat that your kids will love, and your wallet will adore. Rear-facing this car seat will support your child up to 50lbs, front-facing up to 65lbs. The high limits give you the option to keep your child rear-facing until they are two, which can be comforting for their safety, and depending on where you live, it may be required by local law.
Six-recline positions allow your child to feel comfortable for the entire trip, ensuring that they will be napping and cozy during your trip. One simple motion adjusts the headrest area recline, while also putting their safety harness exactly where it’s supposed to be.
One-second latch makes it easy to just hop in and go. Installing car seats is one thing, but you shouldn’t have to spend more than ten seconds strapping your children in. Crash safety ratings appeal to, and exceed the minimum standards, so you can drive with assurance that your little ball of joy is as safe as possible.
Weight Range: 4-50lbs for infants, 22-65lbs for toddlers
0 Comfort Positions for headrest
Above standard crash protection testing
- Weight23.6 pounds
2. Evenflo Tribute LX
Evenflo is one of America’s go-to brands for car seats. Between attractive pricing (this is one of the least expensive models on our list), safety ratings that uphold their brand standard, and an all-in-one strap to make it easier getting them in and out of the car, parents of multiple small children go crazy over these.
One of our product researchers has twin boys, and as you can imagine, purchasing two car seats at once can be a bit daunting. He bought two, and paid less than most single car seats, all while retaining proper comfort and safety for the little ones. Budgeters, you may have just found your dream come true.
Weight capacity gives you up to 40lbs, usually usable up to 18 months old. The physical weight of these car seats hovers around 9lbs apiece, come with a five-point harness, and fit perfectly for your little one, even if you want to keep the gender a secret. Unisex design makes it a perfect fit for everyone.
Weight Range: 5-40lbs
Ultra comfortable interior for children
All-in-one strap for easy buckling
- Weight9.1 pounds
3. Evenflo Tribute
Similar to the Tribute LX, you get the same weight restrictions, while having an easier time adjusting your child’s straps as time goes on. Side impact testing provides you with additional peace of mind, driving Evenflo’s brand safety standards even further. This design’s structural integrity exceeds the federal crash safety rating two times over.
This car seat is also perfect for air travel, fully FAA approved. Use the tether system and two separate latches for maximum support in your minivan or car – this model works well with compact vehicles, so you won’t have to worry about transferring from a truck to a sedan, or vice versa. Includes a cup holder for their sippy.
Weight Range: 5-40lbs
Perfect for small/compact vehicles
- Weight24 pounds
4. Graco 4Ever 4-in-1
Graco is all about exceeding your expectations, and they truly delivered with this fantastic car seat. From the time you hook this up, you can use it for up to a decade before it would need to be replaced. If your child doesn’t meet the height and weight requirements for your municipality, you can support them for up to 120lbs in this car seat.
It comes with beloved features, like a double cup holders (drink + snacks), as well as a one-second latch system to make getting out of the house a little less hectic. Graco’s safety ratings rival that of their competitor, Evenflo, by coming close to exceeding the federal crash safety rating two fold.
Safety is important, but comfort is also a big aspect. This seat breaths fairly well, so your children won’t wake up sweaty after a long car ride, even if they’ve been asleep for thirty minutes or more. 4-in-1, ten years of use – how can you beat that?
Weight Range: 30-100lbs for infants, 40-120lbs for toddlers
Dual cup holders
Ten solid years of use, guaranteed
- Weight23 pounds
5. Safety First Grow-and-Go
Designed for the little princess of the family, this car seat will support her all the way up to 100lbs in her late toddler stages – more than enough time to get her from the infant car seat to a regular seatbelt (or at the very least, a booter).
Side impact test ratings for this car seat, much like the others we review, are above federal safety regulations for maximum safety assurance. The QuickFit harness is perfect for strapping them in quickly, which is a blessing when you have multiple kids to strap in at once.
One of the biggest benefits to this car seat is the comfort it provides your child. Numerous users report their children – who never fell asleep in the car before – leaning back and nodding off, even on short 15-minute grocery store runs.
Weight Range: 5-65lbs for infants, 40-100lbs for toddlers
Extremely easy to clean with mildew-resistant material
Superior side impact protection
- BrandSafety 1st
- Weight18.7 pounds
6. Graco Milestone
Exhibiting their fantastic attention to detail, Graco’s Milestone model was designed for a smooth, easy ride, without being too bulky and aggravating to install. The four-position recline option allows your child to lean back and relax, even on bumpy roads or otherwise unpleasant drives.
Thanks to Graco’s specific fabric textures, your child won’t sweat profusely (it’s unavoidable for them to sweat, but this makes them heat up less). Their InLatch design makes it simple to install this car seat, which is excellent if you switch it out between vehicles on a semi-regular basis.
Specific fabric meshes that Graco uses are easy to clean; when you take the car seat cover off and see the parts underneath, you’ll release a bated breath – it’s easy to sweep out food and wipe out spilled liquids.
Weight Range: 5-65lbs for infants, 30-100lbs for toddlers
4-Position reclining capabilities for maximum comfort for your child
Comfortable five-point harness
- Weight20 pounds
7. Evenflo Symphony Elite
Evenflo does another fantastic job ensuring that they’re the only car seat you’ll ever need to buy for your child. With a sixty-second installation, thanks to superior latching systems and equipment, you’ll actually have a good time installation this (weird, right?).
If you’ve already gone the rodeo before, and you’re had car seats for your other kids, you remember one thing: adjusting the straps is an absolute nightmare. Infinite Slide Straps take all the headache out of it, so you get the perfect adjustment every time. No more uneven straps, no more aggravated children.
Weight Range: Supports 5-110lbs from infant, toddler, and child stage
Sixty-second installation for ultimate ease
The only car seat you’ll ever need to purchase for your child
- Weight24 pounds
8. Chico NextFit
The baby brother of the car seat world, Chico comes up with few – but extremely high quality – car seats. This one comes with some really unique features that you won’t find on most car seats on the market, including a built-in one-pull latch tightener, so you’re fumbling around with numerous T-brace metal pieces to adjust straps.
Nine recline positions makes this comfortable for your little ones, which coincide with dual levelers on each side, so you can ensure perfect balance no matter what reclining position. A unique belt-latch system allows you to adjust the position of the belt with ease, so your child’s car seat isn’t being tilted one way.
Fantastic side impact protection coupled with a ComfortFlex harness means your children will be safe as can be, and wrapped in Chico’s famous comfort, while still providing ridiculously-overdone safety with a steel interior frame.
Weight Range: 6-65lbs
Easy converting base; no headache
Built-in latch tightener
- Weight25 pounds
9. Britax USA Marathon
Britax focuses on impact absorption and other key safety features, while making user experiences a breeze. With a simple ClickTight installation, you’ll be able to install this and move wish ease. You get advanced gel-based shock absorption built into the base, stabilized and kept sturdy by the interior steel frame.
12 quick adjust headrest positions leave your little one in the lap of comfort, while remaining safe and secure. Users have reported that, post-accident, their children were left completely unharmed thanks to the solid construction and dynamic design.
This design fits into most compact cars with ease, making it simple to transition from one vehicle to another should you need to. Simple strap adjustment makes it easy to keep your children comfortable, even as they begin to grow – you won’t have to uninstall and readjust this just because they got taller.
Weight Range: 6-65lbs
ClickTight installation makes it a breeze
EZ-buckle system for rapid harness closing
- Weight28.4 pounds
10. Britax Advocate
Britax is serious when it comes to safety. They’re able to retain high levels of comfort while coming with numerous adjustable parts to ensure optimal safety. With a full steel frame and harness strap adjusters throughout, your child will be safe with over two times the necessary crash resistance protocol as required by the federal safety commission.
All that safety doesn’t come without comfort – 3 layers of side impact protection also aid in keeping your children feeling snug. The two position buckle with an audible “click” gives you immediate peace of mind that they were strapped in properly, and are ready to drive.
Installation is a breeze, from affixing the base to securing the seat belt – you’ll have an easy time getting started. This is the perfect model if you plan to transfer it between cars; this car seat is so secure that even after you double check it, you’ll still be certain of just how sturdy it is.
Weight Range: 5-65lbs
Safe Cell impact technology in base
14-position harness for maximum comfort
- Weight30.1 pounds
Convertible Car Seat Buying Guide
There’s a bunch of factors that go into making any informed decision, but when it comes down to your child’s safety, you want every little detail. We’re enthusiasts, and we’re parents, so we know a thing or two about child safety and car seats. Let’s get started.
Do You Actually Need a Convertible Car Seat?
Convertible car seats are designed to face the rear in the beginning, and turn around when the time is right. Take this basic problem into account:
You purchase an infant’s car seat for $150.00, and when they hit the one-year mark (two years, in some municipalities), you end up having to replace it. Then, you drop another $180.00. Then, your little one still needs a “big kid” car seat when they hit three or four, and it becomes a long-term investment.
Don’t get us wrong; there’s nothing more important than your child’s safety, but you don’t have to hemorrhage money to acquire it. A convertible car seat takes care of the rear-facing and front-facing phase, so you’ll only have to upgrade their car seat one more time when they hit a certain height/weight.
When Do You Need a Convertible Car Seat?
You need one when your budget isn’t blown wide open for baby items, and you need one when your kid hits a certain height and weight. Take it from a father who knows; you can only keep a one-year-old in a rear-facing position for so long. Eventually, their legs will get bunched-up on the seat and they will be uncomfortable.
The One-Two Installation
Car seats will always be a headache to install. It’s just how it is. Installing it once and being done (minus cleanings) is the goal, so you need to follow the one-two installation method.
Every car seat is going to come with an annoying hook-like clasp. These hook into the metal bars built into your seats (which are specifically designed for this) to secure the car seat to the seat.
Then comes the standard seatbelt strap. This usually goes through the bottom of the base, weaves throughout, and comes out on the other side to clip into the red-button clasp. In some cases, the belt buckle may go behind the car seat in a designated divot (though those models are mostly being phased-out for safety concerns).
Your Child’s Comfort Matters
Most of the time, we look at the safety rating, feel good about a purchase, and then our kid hates what we’ve picked out. They might even whine about it if it’s not comfortable. Crash protection and alignment are all well and good, but the last thing you want is a cranky kid.
Yes, there are car seats out there that are a hybrid of comfort and safety. That’s where this handy little list comes in.
Car Seats Get Nasty; Here’s How to Clean Them Properly
Cars are a breeding ground for harmful bacteria as it is, but when you throw in a child with a sippy cup and crumbly snacks, it gets a whole lot worse.
Take these steps into consideration when you go to do a deep cleaning of your car seat:
- Remove It Entirely
Beneath the car seat is going to get absolutely awful. It’s just a fact. If you can stick to a strict no-eating-in-the-car policy, then we oblige you to do so. Take out the entire car seat, including the base and buckles. You’re going to need to clean under it so you don’t put a clean car seat back on a dirty space.
- Scrub With a Gentle Bristle Brush
Mos car seats should be cleaned once a month (if you have the time, that is), and as a result, you don’t want to wear it down and make it appear ratty as time goes on, especially if you regularly transfer it to another person’s car. Scrub it with a teaspoon’s worth of laundry detergent, and don’t just rub it into darker or stained areas. The entire bed of cloth is filled with bacteria.
- Avoid Washing Machines
It may sound a little old-world, but fill up your tub and submerge this in lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes. Washing machines will destroy the fabric and torture the covers, making them basically useless.
- Don’t Forget the Creases
Bring back that bristle brush and look for all the creases in the car seat cover. You’ll have to do your best to pop them out, so you can access any (and that will be some) yuck that’s trapped between the stitching. Brush it out, drain the water, and fill the tub up one more time.
- Don’t Forget the Base
The goal is the fabric, but there’s going to be food particles/dried juice located in the weirdest spots. The strap? Yeah. Slide the harness pieces down and you’ll find a whole new world in there. Those little traps when you take the cover off? Yup. Those too. You’ll do well to spray this down with a hose outside or use a detachable shower head and clean it off in the tub (easiest method without showing the neighbors all about your business).
This might sound like the same old song and dance, but make sure you dry it in a well-ventilated area. The fabric is subject to molding and mildew, unless you’re careful and you know what you’re doing. Dry it throughout the morning, and flip it inside out, hangin it over the same spot to dry it for the rest of the day. It will usually take a full day to dry, so plan it for a house day where you won’t be running out for anything.
Convertible Car Seat FAQ
All the things you want to know, right on down to safety inspections on your child’s car seat and laws in every state. You want to know your child is safe; so do we.
How do I know if my car seat choice is safe?
All car seats manufacturer for use in the United States come with standard safety ratings. They can’t hit the market unless they undergo rigorous safety protocol, so you get a base level of safety even with poor-quality brands (if you were to go into the grocery store and buy their model, that’s a poor-quality brand).
How do I know when/if a car seat gets recalled for safety concerns?
Any reputable company will have a way for you to register your car seat via email. Just be certain to whitelist emails that come from their domain name so it doesn’t end up in spam.
Is it safe to transfer car seats to another person’s car?
Let’s say your little ones are going to see Grandma for the weekend; it’s safe for you to put the car seat into her car, but you should be the one to install it. You know how it should fit, how it should feel, etc., but you have to remember that car seat laws change rapidly - Grandma might not know the logistics of how to ensure they’re properly installed.
If you’re putting their seat into another car, just make sure it’s as secure as can be before they go.
When should I change out and buy a new car seat?
In most cases, your car seat will have an expiration date of two years, which is usually when you should be transferring them to a larger seat anyway.
However, if you get into a car accident (it’s recommended that even a mild fender bender should be followed up with action), you’ll need to throw that car seat in the trash. You can’t even donate it, because they’re a safety risk. One car accident can ruin their structural integrity, meaning tha the next car accident could completely total the car seat.
How can I find the laws for my state?
There is an amazing resource that lists every state and their car seat laws, recently updated in January of 2018. If you follow through to The Spruce, they’ll have thorough information on each state.
How do I know if my car seat is installed properly?
Most fire stations in the United States will have a set day of the week/month where they will personally inspect your car seat arrangement to determine its safety. They’re the authority on vehicle safety, as they’re often the first ones to arrive to any car accident.
How do I avoid my kids sweating in the seat?
It’s inevitable, I’m afraid. Certain models will have more breathable fabric/materials, so you children won’t wake up in a puddle of their own sweat. If you notice a constant issue with it, consider purchasing some blinders for the window to reduce sunlight, thereby reducing how much/often they sweat.
Do leveling bubbles really work?
Most car seats are going to come with some form of leveling bubble adjusters on the side, and for the most part, they do work. The reason that most parents have issues with these, is because they don’t check to make sure the car is on a flat surface first.
Get an external leveler, and make sure your car (both front and back tires are a good place to measure) is completely flat on the ground. Sometimes your driveway may have a minor slope, and that negatively impacts how you install your car seat. This issue is easy to avoid if you’re careful.
Are “One-click” models for installation really safe?
The difficulty of installation isn’t what determines how safe it is. Some models make it easy to connect to in-seat buckles and strap the seatbelt throughout it, and that’s okay. They all still undergo a minimum amount of crash resistance testing, so either way, your children will be safe.