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While many parents choose to use an infant car seat for the first few months of their babies’ lives, convertible car seats are designed to be used for newborns through toddlers — and for some models, into the preschool and “big kid” years as well.

Convertible car seats are designed to be used rear-facing and then converted for forward-facing (and sometimes booster) use. This means that, in theory, you could buy a single seat to last through all of your child’s car seat years.

Of course, convertible car seats are also designed to remain in the car. This is why some families opt to begin with an infant carrier seat (where you can keep your newborn in their “bucket seat,” click the bucket out, and carry them from the car to the house, for example) and then trade up to a forward-facing car seat.

That said, one reason why parents do opt for a convertible car seat is that they feature higher weight and height limits for the rear-facing position. This allows children to stay facing the rear for a longer period of time, which is safer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

All these factors make choosing a seat big decision — and a big investment. So how do you choose which convertible car seat is best for you?

Here is Healthline’s guide to helping you choose the best convertible seat to meet your family’s needs.

We selected our list of the best convertible car seats through a combination of product testing, real-parent input, and combing through ratings, reviews, and best-seller lists.

Price guide

  • $ = under $150
  • $$ = $150 – $250
  • $$$ = over $250

Cosco Scenera Next

Price: $

At well under $100, the Cosco Scenera Next is an affordable and versatile option for families that travel a lot — or if you just need a lightweight, easy-to-clean car seat.

While you can use this seat as a regular rear-facing car seat for children 5 to 40 pounds (you can use it forward facing for kids 22 to 40 pounds and 29 to 42 inches tall) it’s also aircraft certified and lightweight, making it our best choice for travel.

Our favorite feature? Both the seat pad and cup holder on this seat are completely dishwasher safe, so any spills or messes become truly as easy as throwing them in the wash. Genius.

Rear-facing
5–40 lbs. and 19–40 in. tall
Forward-facing22–40 lbs. and 29–42 in. tall
Fits three in a rowYes
Booster modeNo

Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat

Price: $$$

This seat is definitely pricey, but when you consider you can get 10 years of use out of it, it starts to sound like a pretty good bargain. You can easily spend more than $300 buying an infant carrier, a convertible car seat, and then an extended car seat to continue rear-facing for larger children. And don’t forget you may want a high-back or backless booster, but this seat does the work of all four.

As the name implies, it’s a 4-in-1 seat that can accommodate children from as little as 4 pounds, all the way up to 120 pounds. It’s designed for extended rear facing, for children up to 50 pounds. To keep them comfortable, it has a 4-position extension panel (basically, a fancy name for a foot rest) that provides an additional 5 inches of legroom for the rear-facing position.

This car seat has over 6,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. One mom who owns this car seat tells us that she is “incredibly impressed” with how well-thought-out its design is, and it has provided her peace of mind to know that her baby will be able to comfortably face the rear for as long as possible.

Rear-facing
4–50 lbs.
Forward-facing22–65 lbs.
Fits three in a rowNo
Booster modeYes: 40-120 lbs.

Chicco Nextfit Zip

Price: $$$

The Chicco Nextfit Zip is very highly rated, easy to install, and features innovative zip-off machine-washable padding that makes cleaning your baby’s car seat so much easier than dealing with straps. If you’ve ever faced a full-on vomiting incident in a car seat, you’ll know how life-changing zip-off car seat padding is.

And while the focus might be on the outside and its easy-to-clean convenience, don’t let that zip-off padding fool you — this car seat has a full-steel frame, so it’s built to last.

It also has a cinching tightener with simple-to-understand straps (they’re numbered to tell you which to pull) and a belt-tightening system that makes it easy to position, tighten, and lock the belt into place.

While the 9-position headrest and side impact protection make this a comfortable seat for your baby, they do make this car seat a little more bulky than some others, so keep that in mind if you’re limited on room.

Rear-facing
5–11 lbs. with newborn positioner; up to 40 lbs. for infants and toddlers
Forward-facing22–65 lbs., up to 49 in.
Fits three in a rowNot in most vehicles
Booster modeNo

Diono 3RXT

Price: $$

You can’t beat the Diono car seats if you need to fit three seats across or if you have a smaller vehicle. These seats are incredibly heavy duty, with an automotive grade full steel frame — but that means they’re also physically heavy, so if you transfer car seats a lot, keep that into consideration.

However, they have one of the narrowest profiles for car seats around, so they can comfortably fit three across or fit into smaller cars. And despite how sturdy this seat is, it’s also built for comfort, with a memory foam bottom and a removable nesting insert for small babies.

This car seat is made with safety in mind. One mom tells us that she will forever be a believer in this car seat, after seeing how it survived a driver running a red light and T-boning her car — directly into the side where the car seat was fastened. Her entire Chevy Traverse was totaled, but this car seat did not even budge an inch, and it emerged completely without a scratch.

The Diono 3RXT also packs in a lot of features for its narrow frame: It converts to a high-back booster for children up to 120 pounds, you can use it for extended rear facing, and it folds completely flat for transfer and travel. This seat is truly one of our favorites and with a mid-range price, you really can’t go wrong with it.

Rear-facing
5–45 lbs.
Forward-facing20–65 lbs.
Fits three in a rowYes
Booster modeYes: 50–120 lbs.

Cybex Sirona M SensorSafe 2.0

Price: $$$

Thanks to its built-in sensor technology, the CYBEX Sirona M SensorSafe 2.0 car seat has won several awards, for both safety and innovation. If you want a car seat that has the ability to monitor the temperature in your car and alert you to any potential problems, this is the car seat for you.

It works through sensors in the chest clips and an accompanying (free) app that will alert you of any potential unsafe situations, including:

  • if the car gets too hot or too cold
  • if your child somehow gets unbuckled while you’re driving
  • if the child has been left unattended in the car after you reach your destination, you will get an alert to your phone

With that kind of technology, the price does not seem unreasonable, although it should be noted that you can only face the rear up to 40 pounds with this seat.

Rear-facing
5–40 lbs.
Forward-facing40–65 lbs.
Fits three in a rowNot in most vehicles
Booster modeNo

Britax Boulevard ClickTight

Price: $$$

The Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible is one of the most expensive convertible car seats on the market, but parents rave about its ease of use. If easy install is your goal, it might be worth the money.

Installing car seats can be one of those tricky parenting moments (truly, they need to teach that in childbirth classes!), but this seat has its own patented installation system that makes it as easy as buckling a seat belt. And on top of that, it has a no-rethread harness system that makes an audible “click” to signal it’s been properly tightened.

For the safety features it packs, this car seat also features an impressively slim profile of only 18 inches across, so you can fit three across in some vehicles, and it’s good for smaller vehicles as well. While Britax is known for being a reputable brand for car seat safety, some users on Amazon have cautioned against using this seat for very small newborns.

Rear-facing
5–40 lbs.
Forward-facing 20–65 lbs.
Fits three in a rowYes, in most vehicles
Booster modeNo

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1

Price: $$

This Safety 1st car seat packs an impressive array of features similar to more expensive seats for its budget-friendly price–it’s three seats in one, so it can be used as a rear facing seat for children between 5 and 40 pounds, as a forward-facing seat for children 22 to 65 pounds, and then, as a belt positioning booster for children 40 to 100 pounds.

This option has all machine-washable seat padding that snaps on and off (it’s not zippered, but still pretty darn convenient). Safety 1st also clearly has some parents on its design board, because it makes a point of including two harness holders on each side that hold the harness in place to help you buckle in even the most resistant of toddlers.

You know that moment when your kid flops to the side and you have to dig under them to find the buckle? Yeah, that won’t happen with this seat.

Rear-facing
5–40 lbs., 19–40 in.
Forward-facing 22–65 lbs., 29 to 52 in.
Fits three in a rowYes, in most vehicles
Booster modeYes: 40-100 lbs.

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max 2-in-1

Price: $$$

The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Maxhas two main features that make it best for tall kids or children that have outgrown other seats: 1) it’s the only convertible car seat that can accommodate up to 85 pounds in the forward-facing position and 2) you can adjust the height of the seat for the harness with one hand to make it taller.

Accommodating tall children might explain the higher price of this seat, but it also has some convenient features, like fully removable machine-washable padding (with snaps) and harnesses, a magnetic chest clip to ease buckling, and those harness holders to keep straps out of the way as you buckle your child in.

It also has a “flip away” buckle, so the buckle isn’t stuck under your child. This would be especially helpful in warmer climates, as the metal buckles can tend to heat up and be uncomfortable for your child, ensuring they don’t touch their skin until you’re ready to fasten them in.

Rear-facing
5–40 lbs.
Forward-facing 22–85 lbs.
Fits three in a rowNo, in most vehicles
Booster modeNo

Evenflo Tribute LX

Price: $

For under $100, this highly rated car seat has all the basics you need for your child as they move out of an infant seat: It meets all safety standards, as well as Evenflo’s own safety testing for side impact. You can use this seat beginning at 5 pounds and rear-facing up to 40 pounds or 37 inches tall.

While comfortable, this seat does have a wider profile, so you may not be able to fit three car seats across using this model. However, it has four shoulder strap positions, making it easy to accommodate your child as they grow.

Although the 5-point harness straps can’t be removed to wash (you have to wash them using only soap and water, while still attached to the seat and make sure to let them dry completely so it doesn’t deteriorate or harm the buckles or frame), the seat pad is removable and machine washable.

For the price, this seat also comes in seven different colors, so if you’re looking to customize your child’s car seat, you can choose the color and look you want. It’s a small thing, but if you have more than one kid in car seats, it could be handy to have the option for different colors.

Rear-facing
5–40 lbs., 19–37 in.
Forward-facing 22–40 lbs., 28–40 in.
Fits three in a rowNo
Booster modeNo

Nuna EXEC

Price: $$$

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have an unlimited budget to spend on a car seat, the Nuna EXEC is a splurge-worthy seat with all the bells and whistles. This seat can be used with babies beginning at 5 pounds, and all the way up through rear-facing to 50 pounds. It’s also 18.5 inches across in width, so you can fit three seats across in most vehicles.

One of the biggest draws with fans of the Nuna line is its commitment to materials — this car seat has GREENGUARD Certification, which means it adheres to some of the world’s most rigorous third-party chemical emissions standards. It also has luxury features such as a machine washable quilted leg rest slip cover, Merino wool body and head inserts, and a certified organic cotton insert, crotch cover, and harness covers.

In addition to the luxury features, this car seat also has everything you’d expect from something with that price, including aircraft-certified washable covers, Aeroflex side impact protection pods, energy-absorbing EPP foam, an all-steel frame, and easy installation systems.

Rear-facing
5–50 lbs. with seat belt system; 5–35 lbs. with anchor system
Forward-facing25–65 lbs. forward-facing with seat belt; 25–40 lbs. forward-facing with lower anchor belt
Fits three in a rowYes
Booster modeYes: 40–120 lbs. or 38–57 in.

When choosing convertible car seat for your child, you’ll want to look for features that make sense for you, your family, and your lifestyle.

Consider factors such as:

  • your vehicle size
  • if you have other children in car seats and need to fit three across
  • if you’ll be transferring car seats from caregivers frequently
  • if the seat will be used for travel
  • any special accommodations your child may need, such as low-emission fabric for certain sensitivities or easy-off pads for babies who spit up a lot or toddlers who get car sick
  • your budget

Choosing a convertible car seat is an important step for your child, and there is no one right car seat for every baby, so find the one that makes the most sense for your situation.

Maybe you live in a rural setting and need to ensure comfort as a priority over bumpy dirt roads. Or maybe easy buckling is key for you as you make multiple stops a day.

Whatever your priorities, know that any of these seats will offer safety for your little one, both when rear-facing and forward-facing.

Regardless of the features and fabric, the best seat for your child is one that fits their height and weight, is properly installed in your car, and is used correctly every time.

Every family will have different needs, but we hope this guide will be a helpful start to you for choosing a reliable car seat that you can count on.