There’s not one car seat that fits every child, every age, and every situation. Choosing the right car seat takes a lot of research and consideration. This is especially true when buying a seat for your newborn baby! To find the right seat, first, you need to consider the size of your car, the specifics of your lifestyle, and the differences between a convertible car seat and an infant car seat.
Infant Car Seat Vs. Convertible Car Seat
For a newborn, two car seat types are considered safe. That includes infant and convertible seats, which have very different features and functions. Since both keep your baby safe, how do you decide which is best? We’re dedicating our post today to answering that question!
We’ll highlight the pros of cons of both infant and convertible car seats to help you make the best choice for your child. A solid understanding of the differences between these car seats will help you pick a seat you won’t regret when your baby arrives! Here’s what you need to know:
What Is An Infant Car Seat?
An infant car seat generally comes in two parts, a base and a carrier. The carrier is the piece where your child sits and gets buckled up. The carrier is then connected to an installed base in a vehicle or it can be attached to a stroller since infant car seats are often compatible with strollers. These carriers are lightweight and include a handle for easy carrying, buckling, and transitioning from one vehicle to the next—which is the premier feature of the infant car seat for sure!
These seats are rear-facing only and they only fit infants until 22-35 pounds, depending on the model. There are more specifics on that we’ll get to later in this post. Infant car seats are meant to only be used with young babies, which is the reason it’s only a rear-facing car seat and has no forward-facing option. Most parents start with an infant car seat for their newborn!
Infant Car Seat Pros And Cons
- Can carry it around and usually attach it to a stroller
- Can buckle/unbuckle baby inside the house/destination
- Easy to move from vehicle to vehicle
- Easier installation in rideshares and public transit
- Fit smaller babies better than convertible car seats
- Only lasts 6-18 months
- Can be heavy to carry the baby around in
What Is A Convertible Car Seat?
A convertible car seat is a car seat that’s suitable for both infants and toddlers since it goes from rear-facing to front-facing. The word “convertible” describes how the car seat can adapt to different car seat types. Some can go from rear-facing seats up to backless booster seats, meaning they could fit your child from the newborn stage to late elementary.
The weight and height limits of convertible car seats vary widely, but they will last between 3 and 10 years typically. This can be cost-effective since you don’t have to purchase a new car seat every time your kiddo graduates from one stage in the car seat journey. However, not many of these seats fit newborn babies properly. And, preemies and low birth weight babies won’t get a good fit for sure. Here are the best car seats for preemies.
Additionally, you can’t carry a convertible car seat around like an infant carrier, and they aren’t as easy to move between vehicles.
Convertible Car Seat Pros and Cons
- Could last you 3-10 years
- Can be more cost-effective
- Many don’t fit newborns properly
- Do not fit preemies and low birth weight newborns at all
- No option to carry the car seat or attach it to a travel system
- May need multiple if you have more than one vehicle
Convertible Car Seats For Infants
As we mentioned, many convertible car seats don’t fit newborns well. This is because many car seats, even in the rear-facing position, don’t have recline and headrest settings suitable that allow for proper buckling and safe riding. Additionally, some of the ones with non-removable headrests can push the newborn’s head forward in a chin-to-chest position that puts the baby at risk of positional asphyxia.
However, if you’ve looked over the pros and cons list for convertible car seats and infant car seats, and you’ve determined a convertible car seat is right for you, here are a few convertible seats that work well for newborns. We’ve tested them all out to confirm they’re good for most average-sized newborns.
Cosco Scenera Next $59.98
This is the least expensive convertible car seat on the market, so it’s great for families who are on a tight budget! This is one of our favorite travel seats. It’s also great for 3 across configurations. It fits well from birth and will last most kids until around 3 years old.
Britax Boulevard $369.99
This seat is very easy to install with the seat belt, and it’s pretty compact front to back as well once the child can sit unassisted. It has a tall harness height, so it’s long-lasting and many kids can fit until around 6 years of age. The SafeWash fabric is flame-retardant-free.
Clek Fllo $419.99
Review Coming Soon
This is another narrow car seat option if you need to fit 3 across. This seat requires Clek’s Infant Thingy in order to use it from birth. It has an anti-rebound bar. There are some fabric options that are free of flame-retardants as well. This seat will last most kids until around 5 years of age.
Clek Foonf $549.99
This is the narrowest option for the higher percentile kiddos, in case you need to fit 3 across. It has an anti-rebound bar for rear-facing and rigid lower anchors for forward-facing. Some of the fabric are flame-retardant-free as well. This seat requires Clek’s Infant Thingy in order to use it from birth. This seat will last most kids until around 5 years of age.
Evenflo Revolve Slim $349.99
Review Coming Soon
This is one of our favorite swivel seats. It’s very narrow, so you could use it to fit 3 across, but you would likely be unable to use the swivel function. This seat is very easy to install with the seat belt, which is the preferred method. And the base has an anti-rebound bar built into it. This seat will last most kids until around 6 years of age.
Evenflo Revolve Extend $429.99
This is a swivel seat that can swivel in all 3 modes of use! It’s easy to install with the seat belt, has an anti-rebound bar built into the base, and there is even a version with flame-retardant-free fabric! This seat will last most kids until 9-10 years of age.
Graco Triogrow Snuglock $199.97
This is one of our favorite seats for international travel. But it works well in most vehicles because it’s compact front to back, has an easy seat belt installation, and works well with many non-removable headrests. It will fit most kids until 6 or 7 years of age.
Nuna Revv $650
Review Coming Soon
This is a swivel seat. All of the fabric options are flame-retardant-free. The limits for rear and forward-facing are the same. But do the the low harness height, this seat lasts longer rear-facing than forward-facing most of the time. It has an anti-rebound bar, which is an added safety feature. Most kids will outgrow this seat around 3-4 years of age.
When To Switch Infant Car Seat To Convertible Car Seat
If you choose to start with an infant seat, you’ll still need to move to a convertible car seat eventually. Remember, the infant seat is only functional for a smaller infant. Once your child hits certain milestones, you’ll have to graduate to a convertible car seat.
Of course, your infant will still ride rear-facing in the convertible car seat by the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). There’s also tons of research you can read that shows children are safest rear-facing as long as possible.
But, how do you know when your child is ready for the convertible car seat? Here are all the ways your baby may outgrow their infant seat:
- Your baby reaches the maximum weight OR height limit.
- There isn’t 1 inch of clearance at the top of the seat.
You can read more about when it’s time to graduate from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat here.
Both infant car seats and convertible car seats can be used for newborns.
There are lots of things to consider when buying a car seat. Before you make your first purchase for your new baby, make sure you understand your options and contemplate your specific needs. Either a convertible car seat or an infant car seat can work for your newborn! Just understand the pros and cons—and if you want a convertible seat, make sure you get one that will actually fit your small baby.
If you still want more help finding the right seat, try one of our car seat-buying kits. They’ll provide you with specific car seat recommendations to make the process super easy.
While you’re at it, take a car seat course to fully understand how to safely use your car seat. Car seat education is our #1 priority at Safe in the Seat, and we hope this article as well as all our other blog posts have helped you make smart, safe choices for your family.