The 8 Best Convertible Car Seats of 2022

The Graco 4-Ever can grow with your child safely for up to 10 years

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Verywell Family

When choosing the right convertible car seat for your child, it all comes down to fit, comfort, and safety. Typically, a convertible car seat is used once your child outgrows their infant car seat (although most are also safe to use as infant car seats from birth). It can convert from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat, and eventually, in some cases, to a booster seat. It’s the car seat you’ll use the most and is designed to grow with your child. 

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Because the seat will be with your child for quite some time, it’s vital to ensure it’s easy to install in case you need to switch it to a different car or clean it. Additionally, check the seat’s positions to determine how long it will be appropriate for your child as they grow. While all car seats in the United States must adhere to federal safety regulations, keep an eye out for any additional features you may want to consider, like an anti-rebound bar. Alisa Baer, MD, pediatrician and co-founder of The Car Seat Lady, LLC, tells Verywell Family the anti-rebound bar "is designed to prevent the rear-facing car seat from moving toward the back of the vehicle in a crash, preventing the child’s head from hitting the back of their own vehicle seat."

Below, we weigh the pros and cons of the best convertible car seats to see which are worth the investment and which ones are better for certain situations like small cars or travel.

Best Overall: Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

4.8
graco-4-ever-car-seat

Courtesy of Amazon 

Pros
  • Can be used for up to 10 years

  • Easy-to-use straps

  • Quick installation

Cons
  • Tough to fit in small vehicles

  • Heavy

  • Infant insert and shoulder pads easily lost

Who else recommends it? What to Expect also picked the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat.

What do buyers say? 91% of 7,400+ Amazon reviewers rated it 5 stars.

With the aptly named Graco 4Ever, you’ll only need to buy one car seat for your child—which is why it's the best convertible car seat on the market. This 4-in-1 seat does it all, starting as a rear-facing harness and adapting to every stage of your child’s growth. 

When used as a rear-facing harness, the Grace 4Ever can accommodate children up to 40 pounds, as long as their head is at least 1 inch below the handle. When you switch it to a forward-facing harness, your child should be between at least 22 and 27 inches tall. Once they outgrow this stage, the car seat transforms into a high-back booster seat, which is appropriate for children up to 100 pounds and 52 inches tall. Finally, it can be used as a backless booster for children up to 120 pounds and 57 inches tall. 

Testing Notes: "The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 is one of the most popular car seats on the market because it has such a long life. We’ve used the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 for a little more than two years with our oldest child. We like that he stayed in a familiar seat through that transition and that we didn’t have to keep buying new gear and equipment as he grew."

This versatile car seat also features a 10-position headrest, a five-point harness, a six-position recline, a steel-reinforced frame, and integrated cup holders. It comes with the LATCH system for easy installation. 

Rear-Facing Limit: 4-40 pounds | Forward-Facing Limit: 22-65 pounds, up to 52 inches | Booster Seat Limit: 40-100 pounds, up to 57 inches | Backless Booster Seat Limit: 40-120 pounds, up to 57 inches | Dimensions: 24 x 21.5 x 20 inches | Cup Holder: Double  | Price at time of publication: $330

Best Splurge: Nuna RAVA Flame Retardant Free Convertible Car Seat

nuna Rava

 Nordstrom

Pros
  • Modern, sleek design

  • Easy seat belt installation

  • Added legroom for comfort

Cons
  • Recline too upright for some children

  • Difficult reassembly after washing

  • Certain colors may fade over time

Parents can’t say enough good things about the Nuna RAVA convertible car seat, and many are adamant that this high-end model is worth every penny. This car seat is recommended for children 5 to 50 pounds and 49 inches or less in rear-facing mode and little ones 25 to 65 pounds and 49 inches or less when forward-facing. That means you can keep your little one rear-facing for longer than most other seats, even if your baby hits their growth spurts early.

The Nuna RAVA has a five-point harness, a 10-position reclining feature, and a 10-position headrest, as well as a two-position buckle. It’s aircraft-certified if you need to travel by plane, and there are both head and body inserts that you can remove depending on how much space your child needs. Customers call this model the “Rolls Royce of car seats,” writing that while it’s on the heavier side at 27 pounds, it’s incredibly sturdy and secure.

Rear-Facing Limit: 5-50 pounds, up to 49 inches | Forward-Facing Limit: 25-65 pounds, up to 49 inches | Dimensions: 25 x 19 x 16 inches | Cup Holder: No | Price at time of publication: $500

Most Comfortable: Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

4.8
Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Easy to install

  • No rethread required

  • Plush foam padding

Cons
  • No booster seat option 

  • Difficulty cleaning in cracks/crevices of seat

  • Heavy

You can keep your kids comfy on long rides (and short ones) with a car seat like the Britax Marathon. This popular convertible car seat works as both a rear and forward-facing model, and it has a variety of features that ensure your kids are comfortable at every turn.

Testing Notes: "Our favorite design components are the 14 different harness settings and seven recline positions. If you’ll be using this car seat with multiple children, this can save a lot of time and frustration. Cheaper car seats don’t come with a steel frame, side-impact protection, or many of the other design features that set this car seat apart."

The Britax Marathon ClickTight excels in its adjustable features—it has a 14-position easy-adjust harness, seven recline positions, and two buckle positions to ensure a comfortable fit as your child grows. It’s lined with plush foam padding as well. 

Rear-Facing Limit: 5-40 pounds, up to 49 inches | Forward-Facing Limit: 20-6 pounds | Dimensions: 23.5 x 18.5 x 23 inches | Cup Holder: No | Price at time of publication: $340

Best Budget: Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat

3.8
Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Good for travel

  • Body cushion for extra support

  • Four shoulder strap positions

Cons
  • Not as comfortable as other options

  • Height allowance

  • Low weight limit

If you’re on the hunt for the best inexpensive convertible car seat, you'll find luck with the Evenflo Tribute LX, which works as both a rear- and a forward-facing seat. This budget-friendly car seat is tested for structural integrity at twice the federal crash test standard.

Testing Notes: "If you’re looking for a travel-friendly infant car seat or have an upcoming trip in mind, you may get more use out of this car seat. But if your child is already nearing 40 pounds, you should probably look for a model with a longer lifespan. There aren’t as many customizable settings as more high-end models, but if all you need are the basics to keep your child safe, this car seat has them."

It has four shoulder strap positions, as well as an adjustable front harness. There’s an integrated body cushion for added comfort, and you can remove the head pillow once your child gets older.

Rear-Facing Limit: 5-40 pounds, up to 37 inches | Forward-Facing Limit: 22-40 pounds, up to 40 inches | Dimensions: 25.5 x 22 x 18.5 inches | Cup Holder: Single | Price at time of publication: $150

Best 3-in-1: Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Amazon

Pros
  • Budget-friendly

  • Lightweight

  • Machine-washable pads

Cons
  • Installation can be tricky

  • Buckle difficult to unbuckle for some

  • Not much cushioning

You won’t have to worry about upgrading your car seat when you get the highly-rated Safety 1st Grow and Go Car Seat. This 3-in-1 convertible car seat works as a rear- and forward-facing harness, as well as a belt-adjusting booster seat, so it will serve your family well for years. 

You can use this car seat as a rear-facing harness up to 40 pounds and 40 inches tall; then, you can transition it to forward-facing when they’re at least 22 pounds and 29 inches tall. Once your child outgrows these stages, the Grow and Go can be used as a belt-positioning booster seat for kids 40 to 100 pounds. 

This 3-in-1 car seat has three reclining positions to help ensure a proper fit in your car, and it comes with a QuickFit harness that lets you adjust the harness and headrest in one easy step. Plus, the seat pad is easy to remove and is machine-washable, and it includes two convenient cup holders for snacks and sippy cups. 

Rear-Facing Limit: 5-40 pounds, up to 40 inches | Forward-Facing Limit: 22-65 pounds, up to 49 inches | Booster Seat Limit: 40-100 pounds, up to 52 inches | Dimensions: 24 x 23.75 x 19 inches | Cup Holder: Double | Price at time of publication: $180

Best All-in-One: Evenflo Symphony DLX All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Evenflo Symphony DLX All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Easy to use

  • Simple installation

  • Has recline options

Cons
  • Large in size

  • Some sippy cups won't fit in cup holder

  • Harness straps may move easily

As the name suggests, all-in-one car seats do it all, keeping your little one safe from the day they come home until they outgrow their final booster seat. One of the best all-in-one car seats available today is the Evenflo Symphony Elite, which comes with a host of helpful features to accommodate your growing kids. 

It has a five-point harness for a more accurate fit, as well as a multi-position recline to keep your little one comfortable when they're growing quickly. There are removable head and body pillows, a machine-washable pad, and an integrated cup holder, too. 

Rear-Facing Limit: 5-40 pounds, up to 40 inches | Forward-Facing Limit: 22-65 pounds, up to 50 inches | Booster Seat Limit: 40-110 pounds, up to 57 inches | Dimensions: 19.5 x 21.5 x 28 inches | Cup Holder: Double | Price at time of publication: $250

Best for Small Cars: Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Car Seat

4.9
Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Amazon

Pros
  • Good for small cars

  • No rethreading required

  • Easy installation

Cons
  • Straps are hard to tighten

  • Straps cannot be removed to clean

  • Not all cups will fit inside cup holder

If you have a compact car, big, bulky car seats might not fit properly. In this case, you’ll want a model like the Graco SlimFit, which serves as a three-in-one car seat. This model features rotating cup holders that can be tucked away to take up less space in your back seat. It has four recline positions, as well as integrated harness storage, the InRight LATCH system, and rotating cup holders. This is a great solution for small cars, or if you need to fit three car seats in the back seat

Rear-Facing Limit: 5-40 pounds | Forward-Facing Limit: 22-65 pounds | Booster Seat Limit: 40-100 pounds | Dimensions: 25.5 x 19.9 x 21.5 inches | Cup Holder: Double | Price at time of publication: $176

Best for Travel: Cosco Scenera Next Harness Convertible Car Seat

4.9
Cosco Scenera NEXT Harness Convertible Car Seat

Walmart

Pros
  • Easy to travel with

  • Three buckle locations

  • Available in variety of colors/patterns

Cons
  • Not very comfortable

  • Lacking features

  • Rear- and forward-facing have same weight limit

When you travel with your children, you’ll need to bring a car seat along with you, and one of the best aircraft-certified seats on the market is the Cosco Scenera, which can be used as both a rear- and forward-facing car seat. The rear-facing mode is for little ones 5 to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches tall, while the forward-facing alignment is for children 22 to 40 pounds and 29 to 43 inches tall. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns, and it has a compact design that’s ideal for plane travel. 

Testing Notes: "A car seat is a must for my family when flying because it keeps your child contained and safe. This option is so light and affordable that I recommend it to every family. It is also comfortable and easy to install in an unfamiliar rental car."

The Cosco Scenera Next has a five-point harness with an easy front adjustment, and there are three buckle locations and five harness heights. The convertible car seat is LATCH equipped and certified for use on airplanes and lightweight enough for travel.

Rear: 5-40 pounds, up to 40 inches | Forward: 22-40 pounds, up to 43 inches | Dimensions: 30.25 x 15.75 x 17.63 inches | Cup Holder: Single  | Price at time of publication: $50

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Verywell Family / Katie Begley  

How We Rated the Convertible Car Seats

4.8 to 5 stars: These are the best convertible car seats we reviewed. We recommend them without reservation.

4.5 to 4.7 stars: These convertible car seats are excellent—they might have minor flaws, but we still recommend them.

4.0 to 4.5 stars: We think these are great convertible car seats, but others are better.

3.5 to 3.9 stars: These convertible car seats are just average.

3.4 and below: We don't recommend convertible car seats with this rating; you won't find any on our list.

What to Look for in a Convertible Car Seat

Additional Safety Features

While all car seats sold in the United States are required to meet federal standards, there are additional safety features that can be helpful when buying a seat.

Strap Design

While every car seat includes a five-point harness, Alisa Baer, MD, pediatrician and co-founder of The Car Seat Lady, LLC, notes that parents should be mindful of strap design. She advises parents “look for straps that don’t twist and pull smoothly,” because properly buckling your child into their seat for every ride is just as important as installing the seat correctly.

Additionally, if you plan to install the seat using a seatbelt, she recommends looking for one that has a built-in locking device because “[it] will typically make it easier to get the car seat tight and will typically prevent the tilting that can happen when using the seatbelt’s own locking mechanism." 

“It’s important to remember that all car seats [sold in the U.S.] meet the same federal standards and are safe when used correctly,” according to the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. That being said, choosing the right one for your family, whether it’s because of a different design in order to fit your child or vehicle properly or one with additional safety features, is also very important. 

Anti-Rebound Bar

Another feature to look for is an anti-rebound bar, which Dr. Baer explains “is designed to prevent the rear-facing car seat from moving toward the back of the vehicle in a crash, preventing the child’s head from hitting the back of their own vehicle seat."

Australian-Style Rear-Facing Tether or Load Leg

Finally, similarly to the True Rigid LATCH system, a few select car seats in the U.S. have the capability to add an Australian-style rear-facing tether or a load leg to rear-facing seats to limit motion in a crash. These additional safety features “prevent the car seat from moving toward the front of the car or reclining any more during a crash,” she explains. “By preventing this motion, the car seat is able to absorb more of the crash forces into its shell and reduce the forces on the child’s head and neck by about half.” 

Ease of Installation

“When it comes to all car seats, the most important safety consideration is to make sure the seat is installed and used correctly,” the UNC Highway Research Center explains. “Every car seat is different, so it is important to read the owner’s manual to make sure you are aware of any requirements specific to your seat.” While every car seat model will have its own unique installation process, the vast majority of U.S. car seats connect to the car using either the seatbelt or LATCH system, and many offer both options.

Seatbelt Installation

Car seats with the seatbelt installation option will have a belt path that the seatbelt will route through to secure the seat to the vehicle. In order to do this properly, the car’s seatbelt needs to be in the locked position (which typically activates when you’re in an accident) at all times to ensure the car seat does not move more than one inch from its position. Most seatbelts have a manual lock option specifically for car seat installation, but some car seats also feature built-in locking devices for extra security.

LATCH System

Both the car seat and your vehicle have to have their respective components in order to use the LATCH system. Any vehicle made in the year 2000 or later will have tether anchors. One set can be found in the backseat tucked between where the seat and backrest meet (some are easy to find, others take a bit of digging). You will always find two anchors on both the passenger and driver-side seats, and vehicles with only one row of seats in the back also have anchors for middle-seat installation.

Additionally, there will be at least one more anchor, which can usually be found on the back of the vehicle seat in SUVs and minivans or on the shelf below the back windshield of a sedan. Some vehicles are also equipped with anchors on the ceiling or the car floor behind the backseat. You can find out exactly where the anchors in your vehicle are located by looking in the owner's manual. 

Both forward-facing and rear-facing car seats will come equipped with two lower anchor connectors that are attached to a belt (made of material similar to a seatbelt) and clip on to the lower seat anchors. Once you clip them in securely, you will tighten the belt as much as you can to ensure the car seat does not move around. Whether your car seat is convertible or not, once it is forward-facing, there is a third tether hook on a strap that fastens to the anchor found behind or above the seat (look at your car’s owner manual to locate it). After you’ve placed the hook, you’ll tighten the strap so that the backrest of the car seat does not move. 

Rigid LATCH

There is also a lesser-known installation category, according to Dr. Baer, and it is called the Rigid LATCH. It is the strongest and most secure installation, but unfortunately, it’s only found in four different car seat models in the U.S.

Remember, the only way a car seat will keep your child safe is when it’s properly installed. “If anything is unclear, don’t hesitate to reach out to a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in your community or call the manufacturer’s customer service line,” the UNC Highway Safety Research Center tells Verywell Family. “Many manufacturers have certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians in their customer service department specifically to help parents with questions."

Seating Positions

Rear-Facing

If you purchase a convertible seat that is back-facing only, you can expect it to last until your child is at least 2 years old (the earliest the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests turning children around) or later, depending on their size. The University of North Carolina (UNC) Highway Research Center tells Verywell Family, “Kids should ride rear-facing as long as possible [because rear-facing car seats] protect the head, neck, and spine. It is recommended that kids stay rear-facing until they reach the maximum height or weight limit allowed by their seat.”

According to Dr. Baer, kids can reach 3 or 4 years old before they reach one of the limits for their car seat. Additionally, she notes, “A child’s feet touching the back of the vehicle seat is not an indication that they are too big for rear-facing.”

Forward-Facing

Once you turn your child around, they will transition to a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness (which many convertible seats include). A representative from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells Verywell Family, “Parents should keep their kids in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until [the child] reaches the top height or weight limit by the car seat’s manufacturer.”

This can happen when the child is anywhere from 4 to 7 years old, depending on the car seat model, but you may want to look for a seat with limits on the higher end because meeting a height or weight requirement doesn’t necessarily mean your child is ready to use a highback booster. 

The absolute earliest Dr. Baer recommends transitioning a child out of a forward-facing seat is 5 years old, assuming they also weigh at least 40 pounds and are mature enough to use a seatbelt. The maturity milestone is typically what pushes this transition back. According to the UNC Highway Research Center, “Many kids can’t handle this responsibility until they are 6 years old or older.” They further explain, “Booster seats…[require] the child to be mature enough to stay in the correct position at all times so that the seat belt can do its job. If they can’t sit properly at all times (even when sleeping), then they are not ready to use a booster seat.”

Booster Seat

Once a child is in a highback booster seat, that may be the last configuration they need before transitioning out of a car seat. However, there are some instances where a child has maxed out their height and/or weight limit for the highback booster, but they still aren’t quite ready to go without a boost, and this is when a backless booster seat comes into play.

According to Dr. Baer, kids should pass every part of the 5-Step Test before going booster-free, so if they’ve maxed out the height and/or weight limit of their highback booster but haven’t passed this test yet, then a backless booster is appropriate. At this point, you can expect your child to remain in the booster until they are between 10 and 12 years old. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I switch from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat?

    Once your baby has exceeded the height or weight limitations of an infant car seat, it is time to transition to a convertible car seat. Since convertible car seats can typically accommodate newborns, you can choose to skip the infant car seat and opt for a convertible option from the start.

  • When should a convertible car seat be forward-facing?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you keep your child in a rear-facing position for as long as possible. For most children, that is until the age of 4.

    A general rule of thumb is once your child has reached the height or weight limitations set by the manufacturer in rear-facing, you can safely move them to the forward-facing option.  

  • When should my child move from a convertible car seat to a booster?

    Once they have outgrown the forward-facing height or weight restrictions (ideally at 5 years old) and fit the measurements for the booster seat, you can transition them safely. It is best to keep the child in the car seat for as long as possible as there is a maturity aspect to the booster seat where they need to be able to sit properly with no slouching or leaning over. 

  • How much does a convertible car seat cost?

    Convertible car seats have a fairly wide price range, with some available for under $50 and others costing several hundred dollars. You can expect to pay about $150 to $300 for a convertible car seat; while expensive, they do tend to have extended service periods.

    Our least expensive pick is the Cosco Scenera at $50, which was our favorite for travel. Our splurge pick, the Nuna RAVA, was our most expensive at $500.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Deanna McCormack is a content director and freelance writer who specializes in parenthood and lifestyle products and reviews. She is a mom to two kids under the age of 3 and owns three convertible car seats. She loves the Nuna RAVA and travels with her Cosco Scenera Next

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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