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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 the newborn through toddler years — 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.

A convertible car seat can be used at different stages in a child’s life. For instance, many convertible car seats can be used as a newborn and infant car seat, a toddler car seat, and a car seat for older kids.

The same car seat will convert to different types of car seats that can be safely used to accommodate the child at different ages and stages. These car seats may have adjustable heights, straps, and even layers of padding that can be removed at different stages.

Many types of convertible car seats can also be converted into a high-back booster and seat booster for school aged children as well. Some convertible car seats can be used for kids up to 10 years old.

If your car seat lasts for years, or you want to use it for more than one kid, make sure it’s within the manufacturer’s expiration date. Car seat expiration dates are often between 6 and 10 years after manufacture. Some companies, like Britax and Graco, publish car seat expiration dates online.

Convertible car seat vs. infant bucket car seat

A convertible car seat is different from an infant bucket seat because convertible car seats must stay installed in the vehicle in one piece. The child is fastened into the seat and later taken out, but the seat itself is not removed.

An infant bucket seat, on the other hand, has a base that remains in the vehicle, while the actual car seat fastens into the base, so it can be easily clipped into the car, or taken out.

You’ve likely seen parents carrying their young babies in at grocery stores and restaurants in this style of seat. As the name implies, infant bucket seats can only be used for the first few months of a child’s life.

Because a convertible car seat is designed to accommodate a child up to 10 years old, they are heavier and larger than infant seats. That means that they are not as easy or convenient to move — but they’re not really designed with routine movement in mind, as they’re meant to stay put in your vehicle, anyway.

Pros and cons of a convertible car seat

There are benefits and downsides to convertible car seats that will vary based on your family’s needs, and help determine whether this type of car seat is right for you.

The pros of convertible car seats are:

  • they can be used through different ages and stages, and have more longevity than other styles
  • you don’t need to purchase multiple car seats
  • the seat requires installation just once
  • depending on the cost of the model you choose, you could save money in the long run

But before you’re sold, know that the seats have a few downsides, too:

  • they may not be as convenient as infant bucket seats for the first few months
  • these are larger and heavier than infant seats
  • convertible options usually have an expensive initial cost
  • they aren’t as easy to move as other options
  • cleaning may be more challenging, especially if you don’t want to remove and reinstall the car seat

Is a convertible car seat right for you?

As with many parenting questions, there’s no definitive answer here. Instead, you’ll have to weigh all the pros and cons to decide if this style of car seat is the best option for your family.

Families that won’t need to switch car seats between vehicles frequently, prefer a car seat that can be used for a long time, or do not want to purchase multiple car seats may find that a convertible car seat works well for their needs.

People that need to move the car seat between cars or fit multiple car seats may find these aren’t the best choice given their bulky size.

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.

Pricing guide

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

Best convertible car seat for travel

Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX Convertible Car Seat

  • Price: $
  • Size: 12.76 pounds, 17 by 22 by 23.5 inches

At under $100, the Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX Convertible Car Seat is an affordable and versatile option for families that travel a lot — or for those looking for a lightweight, easy-to-clean car seat.

This two-mode convertible car seat packs some super convenient features for travel: Not only can it accommodate children 5 to 40 pounds (rear-facing), but it’s also safe for kids up to 65 pounds (forward-facing).

However, one downside is that it’s not adjustable when positioned for rear-facing travel — which may make it less than ideal for prolonged trips in this position.

The Cosco Mighty Fit is also aircraft certified and incredibly lightweight at just over 12 pounds, making it an easy choice for families that are regularly on the jetway.

Our favorite feature? The entire fabric covering is completely machine washable and dryer safe, so you can toss the whole thing in the laundry when your travels are done.

Pros

  • This lightweight car seat weighs just over 12 pounds, making it easy to lug through security checkpoints.
  • It can accommodate kids from 5 to 65 pounds in different configurations (front- and rear-facing).
  • The outside is covered in fully machine-washable and dryer-safe fabric, making it easy to clean.

Cons

  • There are not adjustable positions for rear-facing travel, so it may not be the best option for vehicle travel or extended rear-facing travel.
  • It doesn’t have a lot of head support, so it may not be the most comfortable on long flights.

Best convertible seat for lasting use

Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 24 pounds, 21 by 19 by 23 inches

This car 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 deal. 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 footrest) 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.

Pros

  • Can be used in children from 4 pounds up to 120 pounds.
  • Features a 4-position extension footrest panel for comfortable extended rear-facing mode.
  • Good for up to 10 years of use.

Cons

  • This is a heavier car seat, so it’s not something you’ll want to move in and out of multiple vehicles.
  • Multiple layers may be difficult to clean.

Best easily washable convertible car seat

Chicco Nextfit Zip

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 25.1 pounds, 21 by 19 by 29.2 inches

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.

Pros

  • Features NextFit Zip technology to “zip” off layers and convert to the next stage.
  • Can be used for children up to 65 pounds.
  • Has machine-washable fabric for easy clean-up.

Cons

  • Can’t covert to a high-back booster.
  • Can’t accommodate children over 66 pounds.

Best narrow convertible car seat

Diono 3RXT

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 28.1 pounds, 16 by 17 by 28.5 inches

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. In fact, the Diono can safely be used for children as light as 5 pounds.

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.

Pros

  • Can be used for children 5-120 pounds.
  • Fits 3 across in narrow vehicles.
  • Folds flat for travel and transfers.

Cons

  • A heavier car seat at 28 pounds.
  • The headrest may not accommodate taller children.

Best convertible car seat with hot car technology

CYBEX Eternis S with SensorSafe

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 26 pounds, 25.3 by 20 by 25.5 inches

Thanks to its built-in sensor technology, the CYBEX Eternis S with SensorSafe car seat is a good choice for parents or caregivers looking to add an extra layer of security. If you want a car seat that can monitor the temperature in your car and alert you to any potential problems, it might be the choice for you.

The technology works through sensors in the chest clips and an accompanying free app that will alert you of any potentially unsafe situations, including:

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

The SensorSafe technology isn’t this car seat’s only impressive feature. It can be used in the rear-facing mode for children from 4 pounds to up to 50 pounds, in forward-facing starting at 22 pounds, and it can convert to a high-back belt-positioning booster for children up to 120 pounds.

When used from the infant stage through a high-back booster, this car seat has the potential to be used for up to 10 years.

Plus, the CYBEX Eternis S with SensorSafe features a patented three-position European reclining headrest for ultimate comfort and security.

Last, but not least, parents rave about the magnetic straps that make buckling your child while the straps stay out of the way almost magical. “[It’s] a feature you never knew you needed until your hands are full while carrying baby and all the essentials, it’s like an extra pair of hands holding the seat belt out of the way,” one reviewer commented on Amazon.

Pros

  • The smart chest clip syncs to an app on your phone to alert you of potentially unsafe situations, such as an unbuckled child or extreme temperatures.
  • The car seat can be used for up to 10 years, starting when a child is 4 pounds all the way up to 120 pounds.
  • It features a reclining headrest.

Cons

  • The price of this car seat is on the higher end.
  • Some reviews mention issues with the software giving false alerts.
  • The size and frame may not be comfortable for tall children, according to reviewers.

Best convertible car seat for easy install

Britax Boulevard ClickTight

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 29.4 pounds, 23 by 18 by 23.4 inches

The Britax Boulevard ClickTight is one of the most expensive convertible car seats on the market, but parents rave about its ease of use. If easy installation 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. In fact, Britax says this car seat won’t require rethreading.

When it comes to features, the car seat has a lot to offer. Safety-wise it’s a great choice, as it has a full steel frame. But the car seat is also impressively slim, with a profile of only 18 inches across, and it’s good for smaller cars as well.

The Britax can be used rear-facing for babies from 5 pounds to 40 pounds and in forward-facing mode from 20 and 65 pounds.

While Britax is known for being a reputable brand for car seat safety, some users on Amazon caution against using this seat for very small newborns.

Pros

  • A steel frame makes this car seat an excellent choice in terms of safety.
  • It’s designed for easy installation, with no rethreading and audible click tightness indicators.
  • The removable cover can be machine washed.
  • It has a narrow profile, at just 18 inches wide.

Cons

  • This car seat can’t accommodate children larger than 65 pounds.
  • At just over 29 pounds, this is the heaviest car seat on our list.

Best user-friendly convertible car seat

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 18.4 pounds, 24.5 by 19.2 by 24.2 inches

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 includes two harness holders on each side of the car seat. This holds 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.

Pros

  • The car seat features three-position recline for more comfortable seating.
  • It can accommodate children from 4 to 100 pounds in different stages.
  • The seat pad is removable and machine washable.

Cons

  • This car seat can be challenging to clean.
  • Some reviewers say it’s tough to secure using the anchor.

Best convertible car seat for tall kids

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max 2-in-1

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: ‎22.9 pounds, 25.25 by 24 by 19.88 inches

The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max has two main features that make it best for tall kids or children that have outgrown other seats: It’s the only convertible car seat that can accommodate up to 85 pounds in the forward-facing position, 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 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.

Pros

  • This car seat can accommodate kids up to 85 pounds forward-facing.
  • It’s equipped with one-handed height adjustment.
  • The padding is machine washable.

Cons

  • Some reviews mention difficulty with getting comfortable and correct positioning in rear-facing mode.

Best budget-friendly convertible car seat

Evenflo Tribute LX

  • Price: $
  • Size: 9.29 pounds, 18.5 by 22 by 25.5 inches

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 five-point harness straps can’t be removed to wash — you’ll have to wash while still attached to the seat using only soap and water and make sure to let them dry completely so as not to 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.

Pros:

  • The Tribute 5 is made in the United States.
  • At under $80, this car seat comes at an affordable price.
  • This car seat weighs less than 10 pounds, making it relatively lightweight and a great choice for travel.

Cons

  • It can only be used for children up to 40 pounds.
  • There is no adjustable recline on this seat.

Best splurge-worthy convertible car seat

Nuna EXEC

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 26.6 pounds, 22.5 by 18.5 by 26-33 inches.

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 the commitment to materials: This car seat has Greenguard certification, which means it adheres to 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.

Pros

  • This is a luxury car seat with top-tier comfort and safety features, such as all-steel frame and side protection pods.
  • The car seat’s 18-inch width means not only will it fit most vehicles, but you could fit three of the seats across in some cars.
  • The seat can convert to a booster to be used for children that weigh up to 120 pounds.

Cons

  • The Nuna Exec, while luxurious, comes with a luxury price tag, too.
  • Some reviews mention the crotch buckle cover falls off in rear-facing mode.

Car seatPriceSeat weight (pounds)Weight limits (pounds)Dimensions (inches)
Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX Convertible Car Seat$12.765–4017 x 22 x 23.5
Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1$$$244–12020 x 21.5 x 24
Chicco Nextfit Zip$$$25.15–6521 x 19 x 29.2
Diono 3RXT$$28.15–12016 x 17 x 28.5
CYBEX Eternis S with SensorSafe$$$264–12025.3 x 20 x 25.5
Britax Boulevard ClickTight$$$29.45–6523 x 18.5 x 23.5
Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1$$18.415–10031.75 x 19.25 x 28.75
Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max 2-in-1$$$22.94–10025.25 x 25.25 x 24
Evenflo Tribute LX$9.295–4019 x 17 x 25
Nuna EXEC$$$26.65–12022.5 x 18.5 x 26-33

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 if 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.

What is the difference between a car seat and a convertible car seat?

Car seats are designed to secure young children in the car with a seat belt. Infants, toddlers, and some older kids under a certain height must ride in a car seat or booster seat, as it’s not safe for them to ride in a car with just a seat belt. Convertible car seats attach to a car seat to allow infants, toddlers, and some older children to ride safely in a vehicle.

The main difference between convertible car seats and other car seats for infants, or boosters for older children, is that convertible options are designed to work as children grow. By adding or removing padding, adjusting the height of the seat, or changing its orientation from rear-facing to front-facing, you can adjust the way the car seat fits your child.

Of course, it’s important to follow manufacturer instructions and guidelines to use products safely.

How do convertible car seats work?

All convertible car seats work a little differently, but in general, they convert to accommodate different sized-children throughout the infant, toddler, and big kid stages. For instance, a convertible car seat may require the back to be raised for an older child or come with built-in layers that can be removed at different stages. Again, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer guidelines.

What age is a convertible car seat for?

Convertible car seats can be used starting with newborns through toddlerhood. Some convertible car seats even convert into boosters that can be used with older children. You should always check the exact height and weight specifications of an individual convertible car seat to ensure it’s safe for your child.

What is a convertible infant car seat?

A convertible infant car seat can be used in the newborn and infant stage and then adjusted so it can be used for the child as they grow. These aren’t to be confused with infant bucket car seats, which only work when babies are very young and small.

What is the difference between a convertible car seat and an infant car seat?

An infant car seat can only be used in the first few months of a baby’s life and can be removed easily in and out of a vehicle via a secure, separate base that’s installed on a seat.

Convertible car seats, on the other hand, remain in the car at all times and can be used for newborns and older children because they can convert to accommodate different sizes. Of course, it’s important to read the instructions and convert the car seats yourself.

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 help you choose a reliable car seat that you can count on.