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Best Convertible Car Seats

By: Kelly Burgess on October 10, 2017

Editor's note:
The Chicco NextFit and Diono Radian RXT are still the best convertible and compact convertible car seats on the market. For money-saving options, look to Safety 1st and Evenflo. In this update, we've added the Combi Coccoro to our recommendations for compact convertible car seats. The Coccoro is narrow and short-shelled enough to fit without issue in even the smallest cars.

Diono RadianRXT Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Weight capacity: 45 lbs. (rear-facing), 80 lbs. (forward facing), 120 lbs. (booster) Machine-washable cover: Yes Seat weight: 26 lbs.

Best compact convertible car seat

The Diono RadianRXT is a longtime standout that continues to fill an important niche: It's a very narrow car seat that can fit three across without sacrificing height or weight capacity. In fact, children as heavy as 80 pounds can still fit in the seat forward-facing, and then they can use it up to 120 pounds as a booster. Though it has a tall frame, an optional angle adjuster can help parents install the RadianRXT at a more upright angle, saving front-to-back space, too.

Buy for $233.99
Safety 1st Guide 65 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Weight capacity: 40 lbs. (rear facing), 65 lbs. (forward facing) Machine-washable cover: No Seat weight: 14 lbs.

Best cheap compact convertible car seat

Parents with a smaller car or smaller budget appreciate the Safety 1st Guide 65 for its small footprint and modest price. Unlike some other inexpensive convertibles, the Guide 65 still can accommodate children as heavy as 65 pounds forward-facing, and it gets good marks in independent crash tests. Not only is the Guide 65 narrow enough to fit three across, it's short-shelled enough to be a good candidate for compact cars without a lot of space behind the front seats.

Buy for $89.13
Chicco NextFit Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Weight capacity: 40 lbs. (rear facing), 65 lbs. (forward facing) Machine-washable cover: Yes Seat weight: 25.5 lbs.

Best convertible car seat

Bulky convertible car seats can be beasts to install properly, but reviewers say the Chicco NextFit bucks that trend. SuperCinch LATCH straps and nine built-in recline positions are among the features that make getting a rock-solid installation no problem. The seat also boasts a no-rethread harness and machine-washable cover. All this ease of use doesn't sacrifice safety -- deep head wings and a steel-reinforced frame help make the NextFit a standout there, too. The NextFit is also long-lived, accommodating kids up to 65 pounds.

Buy for $299.99
Evenflo SureRide DLX Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Weight capacity: 40 lbs. (rear facing), 65 lbs. (forward facing) Machine-washable cover: Yes Seat weight: 13.5 lbs.

Best cheap convertible car seat

Cheaper convertible car seats sometimes have lower height and weight limits, but the Evenflo SureRide DLX can keep big kids safe up to 65 pounds and 54 inches. At 13.5 pounds, it's lighter than many convertible car seats – a nice bonus for parents who may have to move it from car to car – and fairly easy to install despite basic features in that category. The SureRide also receives the highest possible safety ratings from independent testing organizations.

Buy for $89.99

Types of Convertible Car Seats

Convertible Car Seats

Convertible car seats are heavier than infant car seats and are designed to stay put in the car. They can be used rear-facing for smaller children, including infants, and forward-facing for older children. Many convertible car seats can accommodate children up to 40 pounds or more rear-facing, and 65 or 70 pounds forward-facing. Height limits vary widely among seats, but common rules include that rear-facing children have at least an inch of seat shell above their head and that forward-facing children's shoulders must be lower than the top slot used for the harness strap. In general, seats with taller shells have the longest life span, but they often hog more front-to-back room in a car. In addition, seats that accommodate bigger children are among the most expensive convertibles -- but the investment may pay off if you don't need to buy another seat before your child can use a booster seat, which we cover in a separate report.

Compact Convertible Car Seats

For parents used to infant car seats, the sheer bulk of convertibles can be a shock -- especially when they end up hogging half the backseat. Compact convertible car seats are designed with smaller frames, which can be especially useful if you need to fit two or three car seats in one row or must install a convertible car seat in a car where legroom is already limited for the driver or front passenger. But beware: A seat billed as compact may not save front-to-back room even if it has a narrow width, or vice versa. Some compact seats have lower height and weight limits, meaning they won't last as long. They also may feel confining for bigger kids.

Keep an eye out for car seat recalls

There have been a number of recent high-profile convertible car seat recalls. In May 2017, Graco announced a recall of more than 25,000 MyRide 65 convertible car seats because the safety-harness webbing could break in a crash. In July 2016, Combi recalled 39,000 Coccoro convertible car seats because they didn't provide sufficient protection from crash forces in a forward-facing position. In August 2015, Britax recalled about 200,000 of its Advocate, Boulevard, and Marathon ClickTight convertible car seats because the harness adjuster was staying in the "release" position, allowing harnesses to loosen.

Recalls are just one reason you should never buy a used car seat. Buy new and be sure to register it, and you will be notified of any recalls. You can check the current recall status of any car seat at the NHTSA website.

Finding The Best Convertible Car Seats
Our Sources
"Product Reviews: Car Seats"
"Best Convertible Car Seats of 2017"
"Convertible Car Seat Ratings"

There are a number of quality resources for car seat reviews. Most notable are sites such as ConsumerReports.org, BabyGearLab.com, CarSeatBlog.com and CarSeatsForTheLittles.org, which conduct thorough hands-on tests of car seats looking at a number of factors. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also rates car seats on overall ease of use. Reviews and ratings that fuse expert opinions and parent feedback, including resources from BabyBargains.com, LuciesList.com and BabyCenter.com, are also useful.

We also took into account parents' reviews from Amazon.com, Walmart.com and BabiesRUs.com in order to get a better handle on real-world use. These reviews can be a crucial source of information on what really matters to parents in a car seat, such as how easy it is to tighten the straps or whether children can nap in it comfortably.  While looking at these resources, we evaluated ease of use, safety and lifestyle factors to help us pick the best car seats.

Recently Updated
Convertible Car Seats buying guide

What every best Convertible Car Seats has:

  • Adequate height and weight limits.
  • LATCH system for easy installation.
  • Adjustable harness heights.

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