The best convertible car seats on the market have passed all federally mandated safety tests and provide passengers with a sturdy, secure, and convenient mode of travel.
Ease of use and other features make some models more appealing to those who frequently travel with children.
Our pick of the top convertible car seats accommodate passengers' growth from infancy to pre-adolescence, and include the below contenders.
We do not accept products directly from manufacturers; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do. And when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.
First and foremost, all convertible car seats on our list have passed or exceeded the minimal safety standards mandated by the federal government. That being said, different brands go to different lengths when it comes to the quality and degree of their safety and security features.
Ease of Use
How easy a car seat is to install, remove, and navigate inside a vehicle are all important considerations when making a purchase. Other important factors include harness reliability, the weight/bulk of the seat, and how much space the seat takes up in various car models.
All seats on our shortlist provide a supportive transition from rear-facing to front-facing mode as the child grows. The amount of body weight a car seat accommodates in both modes is an important consideration, as is the seat's ability to recline, its portability, and its cup holder system.
Convertible car seats range in price from under $100 to over $800. Seats at the higher price end tend to offer a glossier look with more bells and whistles, while seats at the lower end tend to zero in on basic functionality and safety without the extra frills.
Tiffany is a practicing OB/GYN. She’s extremely well-versed in the diagnosis and treatment of developmental and medical issues concerning infants and babies. In her spare time, you might find Tiffany kayaking or rock climbing.
The Evenflo Tribute is padded with energy absorbing foam and is specially tested for side impact stability. Some owners note that the installed seat wiggles from side to side a bit, even when latched properly, but this slight movement has no effect on the seat's federal safety rating.
We like the degree of safety you get for the low price of the Graco MyRide 65. The seat is lined with EPS foam for impact absorption in the event of a crash. The buckle on some MyRide models was recalled before July 2013; but all models sold after July 2013 are not subject to the recall. Like the EvenFlo, this seat is sometimes “wiggly” in spite of correct usage of the LATCH system, but this has no bearing on the product's federal safety rating. Parents of newborns appreciate the removable insert and reclining options that prevent the child's head from slumping.
The Chicco NextFit does a phenomenal job keeping the child securely anchored in the seat. Deep head-wings lined with EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam protect from side impact, and a removable infant insert provides even more protection. Our research indicates that the Chicco NextFit'x strap-tightening process requires a bit more elbow grease in rear-facing mode, but overall, we give this seat a high rating for the stability and security it provides.
The Advocate is brilliantly engineered to compress in the event of a crash, lowering the child's center of gravity to keep him/her safe. Side impact cushions reduce crash impact by up to 45 percent. This model is lined with durable, eco-friendly EPP (expanded polypropylene) foam. An Energy-Absorbing Versa Tether further restricts movement during a sudden stop. One satisfied customer remarked that using the Britax is like “surrounding your kid with airbags.”
The remarkably sturdy Diono Radian is the only convertible seat on our shortlist that comes with a full steel frame. This structure includes aluminum reinforced sidewalls and is padded throughout with shock-absorbing EPS foam. Some owners note a slight off-gassing odor emanating from the padding, and at least one owner experienced an incident in which their child ripped some of the padding and chewed on it. These issues notwithstanding, we give the Diono kudos for its strongest quality: impact protection. One customer we surveyed, who also happens to be an emergency responder, remarked that the seat seems as if it were “designed for NASCAR.”
The Evenflo Tribute is easy to install, whether with the LATCH system of newer cars or with the seat-belt system of older cars. Although the cushioning is thinner than that of some other car seat models, most children are comfortable enough in it to fall asleep while riding. The Evenflo Tribute Sport is less bulky than the other seats we've reviewed and works well in smaller cars. This model's weight limit is lower (40 pounds) than the other seats we've reviewed which may be a drawback for some customers. However, we find that most owners who selected the Tribute for its low price are satisfied with their choice.
The Graco My Ride installs with the LATCH system found in newer cars and the seat-belt system found in older cars. In our customer surveys, we learned that this model can be a bit difficult to install and even more difficult to remove. The harness can be a bit tricky to tighten, especially in its rear-facing mode where it is harder to access. However, most customers indicate that these issues are minor when compared to their satisfaction with the Graco MyRide's affordable price, comfortable padding, and safety rating.
Customers love how easy the Chicco NextFit is to install. Chicco's SuperCinch LATCH system works with LATCH in newer cars for children up to 40 pounds. According to the manufacturer, children over 40 pounds are better protected by seat belt installation, but most customers find this a fairly easy task to complete. We like the fact that the NextFit does not take up as much room in rear-facing mode as many other models, making it a great choice for families with smaller cars. The seat looks stylish and sophisticated and can be easily spot cleaned/laundered as needed.
The Britax Advocate scores major points with us because it is one of the easiest convertible seats to install. Latch connectors make the process simple and quick, and the seat can be just as quickly uninstalled with the push of a button. The Britax is a larger seat that takes up quite a bit of space in rear-facing position; potential buyers should note the size of their backseat bench before purchasing. We give the Britax Buckle System a thumbs up for how tight and stable the seat becomes when locked in place. One owner who got in a rollover accident was surprised and pleased at how easily she was able to remove her firmly anchored child in an emergency situation.
Installation of the Diono Radian RXT is quick and easy in newer vehicles with the LATCH system but is more time-consuming in older vehicles with the seat-belt system. Parents absolutely love how the Radian sits low in its seat, making it easy for smaller children to climb aboard. Occasionally the Radian RXT harness does not tighten to its maximum potential; this is a known defect that can be resolved by uninstalling and reinstalling the seat with a factory-issued harness replacement. Because of the seat's bulk and weight, we note that moving the seat between two different vehicles can be a hassle. Before purchasing, customers should evaluate whether the dimensions of this larger seat would fit in their car.
The Evenflo Tribute Sport supports 5 to 40 pounds in rear-facing position and 22 to 40 pounds in front-facing position. The Tribute's weight cap is lower than the other models on our list, but the seat's extremely low price and high safety rating make it a worthy contender. The seat comes with a separate cup holder which many owners choose not to use due to its “flimsy” nature. It doesn't offer numerous positional reclining options like some other seats on the market, but it does offer a recline for infants in rear-facing mode. Padding is on the thinner side, and our research suggests that a small percentage of riders have issues with getting comfortable/falling asleep in this seat. The Tribute Sport is more “bare bones” than luxury, but we think it's great option for those on a limited budget.
The Graco My Ride accommodates children 5 to 40 pounds in rear-facing mode and 20 to 65 pounds in front-facing mode. It features a removable body support that adjusts to the needs of a growing child. One issue we discovered is that not all MyRides come with the same type of fabric covering: the Sonata, for example, comes with a plush microfiber covering whereas the Asbury features a vinyl covering which can get hot and sticky. We absolutely love the convenience of the MyRide's dual cup holders, and parents of fidgety toddlers appreciate the fact that the strap is situated just out of the child's sight and reach - unlike on some of the car seat other models.
The Chicco NextFit accommodates children from 5 to 40 pounds in rear-facing mode and 22 to 65 pounds in front-facing mode. A removable insert snuggles in newborns, protecting them from danger and keeping parents at ease. Some users note that the strap pads are too large for smaller children, but these pads come equipped with a Velcro strip for easy removal. The add-on cup holder can be conveniently attached to either side of the seat, although some owners report disappointment with its inability to hold a 12 oz. sippy cup. We give this seat high ratings for its ReclineSure 9-position Leveling System, which keeps young travelers comfortable and ensures the best fit in the backseat of the car.
The Britax Advocate accommodates children ranging from 5 to 40 pounds in rear-facing position and 20 to 65 pounds in rear-facing position. Loyal Britax customers are particularly enamored with the extra two inches of strap sported by the over its predecessor the G3, as the extra material allows pre-adolescents to fit in the seat that much more easily. The Advocate does not have a built-in cup holder like some other top model car seats do, although it does come with a clip-on. Most children find this seat comfortable and “sleep-worthy,” a valuable benefit to families during longer car rides.
The Diono Radian RXT accommodates children from birth to 120 pounds and is designed to last a decade. Rear-facing, the seat holds 5 to 45 pounds. Front-facing, the car seat holds 20 to 80 pounds and then converts to a booster for kids up to 120 pounds. Users have the option of expanding the single cup holder to a four-cup holder, but owners have warned us that it is not “toddler proof” and can be prone to spills. Though this car seat is on the bulkier side, one of its greatest assets is that it folds flat for travel and fits three across in most mid-sized vehicles.
For $49, the Evenflo Tribute Sport provides adequate protection in a bare bones package. We find this choice to be adequate for families on a budget and those who need a car seat only occasionally.
At a price of $95, the Graco My Ride is a step up from the EvenFlo in terms of comfort. The harness and strap require a bit of elbow grease, but customer satisfaction is high in spite of this minor inconvenience. You'll potentially get more months out of this seat than the EvenFlo due to its higher weight limit.
For a middle-of-the-road price of $299, the Chicco NextFit is a strong anchor and a reliable product with a few known peculiarities, such as the cup holder that won't accommodate a 12 oz. sippy and the mandatory seat belt installation in front-facing mode. For the price, we admire this seat's quality but wish it came with LATCH convenience in both riding modes.
For $330, the Britax Advocate ClickTight is a trusted product that has proven its worth in at least one owner's crash experience. The Britax scores major points for its easy ClickTight Installation System. We love that it comes equipped with durable and environmentally friendly EPP foam (as opposed to the less durable and less â€œgreenâ€ EPS foam in some of our other models) and the fact that SafeCell technology actually lowers a child's center of gravity in the event of a crash.
For a price of $287, the Diono Radian RXT has a few bothersome features we wish it didn't, like the slight off-gassing foam odor, a cup holder that is not â€œtoddler proof,â€ and a known defect in some harnesses. Nevertheless, this steel-framed seat offers excellent impact protection and peace of mind.
At $330, we give the Britax Advocate our “Best of the Best” award. Britax rates high with families for lots of great reasons, including SafeCell technology that lowers a child's center of gravity in the event of a crash, a buckle system that makes it incredibly easy to secure precious cargo, and the extra two inches of strap that allow children to use the seat even longer than they could with the Britax G3. This is a larger seat with an extremely impressive ability to anchor and secure young riders, granting peace of mind to adults and swaddling little ones in comfort and safety as they ride. Priced far lower than many high-end convertible car seats on the market, the Britax is a favorite among families who seek quality and scientifically engineered protection in the event of a crash. This product earns our highest marks for its moderate price, scientifically backed safety features, and laser-focused dependability.
At $95, the Graco MyRide provides the same basic safety features as its competitors for a much lower price. We prefer it over the EvenFlo, our other budget contender, because it accommodates children up to 65 pounds as opposed to only 40 pounds, extending the life of the car seat that much longer.
The MyRide's installation and harness-tightening procedures require a bit more elbow grease than some other models, but this is a solid, sturdy seat nonetheless, and satisfied customers find the extra effort to be worth its weight in dollar savings. Parents of newborns like the reclining option and body-nestling insert offered by the Graco. We especially love the dual cup holder, a convenient family feature you don't find in all car seat models.
Graco is a trusted manufacturer of baby products that has received consistently high ratings over its decades-long tenure. All in all, we award the Graco MyRide the blue ribbon for affordability, safety, basic functionality, and price.