Before we begin this post about Safe in the Seat’s recommended convertible car seats, don’t forget this important reminder: all car seats are safe when they’re installed and used correctly. Yes, even the ones that are on the list of seats we do NOT recommend! Just because you don’t see a car seat below or it’s not one we recommend, it doesn’t mean that it’s not safe; it just means that we like other seats better. If you’re in the market for a new car seat for your little one, read on so you can make the best purchase for your family.
Table of contents
- Car Seat Buying Process
- Convertible Car Seat Recommendations for Children:
Heads up! This is not a comprehensive list of all of our recommended convertible car seats. You can find a complete list with a full database in the Convertible Buying Kit. This list contains our top 5 picks for each child size. You may find it helpful to use the Notes app on your phone, or you can have some paper and pencil nearby to prioritize what features are important for you to consider when choosing a car seat.
Car Seat Buying Process
Child fit is one of the most important factors when choosing a car seat. The goal is to choose a car seat that is going to last you a very long time. Matching up your child’s growth trajectory with the specifications of various car seats will ensure you get the most bang for your buck. Is your child taller than average, or do they have a tall torso, or maybe they are a little higher percentile in weight? Or perhaps the opposite is true? There are some seats that will work better and last longer than others based on this information. This is why our recommended car seats vary depending on the child’s size.
Children are often in convertible car seats from the time they graduate from their infant car seat until 6-7 years of age! This is why considering their body type and growth is critical to purchasing a car seat that fits them now as a new toddler and for many years ahead. In addition, the recommendation is to rear face as long as possible so considering their height and weight growth trajectory is really important!
If you don’t already know where your child falls on a growth chart, check out this site and find your child’s height and weight percentiles. If you make an account, you can even use the project function in the top right corner to find out when they might reach certain weights and heights.
A note of caution: Car seat manufacturers are also really good marketers, and often times the weight limits they post will not actually fit a child of that size. For example, some convertible car seats state that they will fit a newborn baby, yet many don’t. Sometimes the seat doesn’t recline enough, sometimes, the lowest harness height is too high, or sometimes the seat’s no-rethread harness pushes babies’ heads forward. In the list of seats below, we have indicated our recommended convertible car seats that fit newborns well if you are planning to use this type of seat from the get-go.
If you used an infant seat and are now shopping for a convertible seat, this decision is a big one since this is the longest-lasting car seat stage once you make this transition. In addition to child fit, vehicle fit, convenience features, and added safety features are all important to factor into your final choice.
Your child’s size is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a car seat. But vehicle fit is equally important. This is why we can’t just tell you a car seat that we recommend without a lot of information. There are a few things you should consider. For vehicles with a smaller back seat and/or tall front passengers, you will want a car seat that is compact in rear-facing mode. Our top compact convertible car seats can be found here. If you will need to fit 3 people with comfort in your back seat now or in the foreseeable future (like if you are planning on having more kids), you will want a narrow car seat, ideally 17.5″ or less.
If your vehicle has non-removable headrests, that’s not a problem for rear-facing, but when you turn the seat forward-facing, you may find the car seat doesn’t work as well. Convertible seats made by Clek and Nuna work with these types of headrests without any exceptions that we have found. There are other options, which we note in the buying kits, but those are your best bets.
If you have a Ford or Lincoln vehicle that has inflatable seat belts, you have to consider that not many car seats can be installed with those kinds of seat belts. Typically, if there is a center seat in the 2nd or 3rd row, it would have a normal seat belt, so you may be able to install the seat there instead.
If you don’t own a vehicle and you use public transportation and taxis/Ubers, we would recommend a convertible car seat that is lightweight.
There are a lot of convenience features that are available on car seats now which are often a driver of the higher price points. The newest convenience feature is swiveling car seats. Some of them only swivel in rear-facing mode, while some of them can swivel in all modes of use. While there are a few swivel car seats that we do not recommend, we do have most of them in the convertible buying kit.
If you move seats around to different vehicles often, you would want to choose a seat that has an ease of installation feature if possible. Some car seats have easy seat belt installations, and some have been designed for easy lower anchor installation. In our list below, we have noted if the car seat has ease of installation features with a symbol of either a seat belt or lower anchors.
The weight of a car seat may be a factor you need to consider. For example, if you travel often via airplane, a lightweight seat may be your best option. You can find our top picks for airplane travel here. If you travel internationally, vehicles often don’t have locking seatbelts, so a car seat with a built-in lock-off is a must! You can check out our Wheels Up course and private Facebook group for more information about airplane traveling with kids and car seats. In the lists below, we have provided the weight of each seat.
There are other things to consider as well. If you are interested in a seat that is free of flame-retardant chemicals, you will have fewer choices as not all car seat manufacturers have seats that meet this criteria.
There are some convertible car seats that add extra safety features like anti-rebound bars, load legs, and rigid lower anchors.
If you are someone who plans to wash their car seats a lot or if you have a child who is accident prone (potty training, gets car sick often, etc), then you would probably want a seat that is machine washable instead of one that is hand wash only.
Car seat manufacturers have different crash policies as well that vary from replacing the seat after any crash to contacting the manufacturer, and they will decide on a case-by-case basis. Read more about crash replacement policies here.
Time to shop!
Now that you know your child’s fit information and have taken into consideration your vehicle fit, convenience factors, and added safety features, it’s time to start narrowing down the overwhelming world of convertible car seat choices. Below are our top five recommended car seats broken down by child fit information.
Convertible Car Seat Recommendations for Children:
At/below average for height and weight
Above average for height (tall!) and average for weight
Graco SlimFit3 LX $279.99
Review Coming Soon
This is currently the narrowest convertible seat on the market, so it’s one of the best options for 3 across. It has a seat belt lock-off for forward-facing, which helps you get a tight installation. It also tends to work well with non-removable headrests.
At/below 50th percentile for height (on the shorter side!) and above average for weight
Chicco NextFit Max $299.99
Review Coming Soon
This seat is easy to install with the lower anchors, but they have a 35 lbs weight limit for rear-facing and a 40 lbs weight limit for forward-facing. The version with ClearTex fabric is flame-retardant-free.
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.
Above the 50th percentile for height and weight
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. With Clek’s Infant Thingy insert, you can use this from birth. It also works well with non-removable headrests.
Nuna Exec $750.00
Review Coming Soon
This is one of the priciest convertible car seats on the market. It has an anti-rebound bar for rear-facing that turns into a leg rest for forward-facing kids. The fabric is flame-retardant-free. It works well with non-removable headrests and it’s pretty compact in rear-facing mode.
Shop the car seat sales like a pro!
When you know what you’re looking for, watching for car seat deals can be a low-stress process! We hope this post helps highlight that child fit is a critical component to consider when choosing a car seat where you will get the most bang for your buck. For a more detailed process of how to choose a car seat and all of our recommended car seats, head to the best-selling Car Seat Buying Kits that will lead you to the top recommended car seat for you in under 30 minutes! Once you know what car seats are best for you, shop the deals! You can find our car seat sales blog here which is updated daily.
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