The 9 Best Convertible Car Seats of 2021

Keep your child comfortable and safe in the car

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When choosing the right convertible car seat for your child, it all comes down to fit, comfort, and safety. Weigh your options carefully, and be sure to take the size of your car and your child’s body type into consideration. 

Typically, a convertible car seat is used once your child outgrows their infant car seat. 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. 

Because the seat will be with your child for quite some time, it’s vital to ensure it’s easy to install just in case you’ll need to switch it to a different car or clean it. Additionally, check the seat’s different positions to determine how long it will be appropriate for your child as they grow. While all car seats in the United States have to adhere to federal safety regulations, keep an eye out for any additional features you may want to consider, like an anti-rebound bar, which protects a child’s head in the event of a crash.

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

Our Top Picks
This 4-in-1 car seat does it all, starting as a rear-facing seat and adapting to a forward-facing seat and two different boosters.
You can keep your little one rear-facing in this seat for longer than most others, even if your baby has a growth spurt early.
With plush padding and a 14-position adjustable harness, this seat is meant to keep kids comfortable on car trips long and short.
This budget-friendly car seat is tested for structural integrity at twice the federal crash test standard for more peace of mind.
This 3-in-1 convertible car seat works as a rear- and forward-facing harness, as well as a belt-adjusting booster.
One of the best all-in-one car seats available today, it comes with a host of helpful features to accommodate your growing kids.
This slim-fit car seat is perfect for families with smaller backseats or who have to fit multiple car seats side-by-side.
If you plan to fly with your baby or toddler, you'll need an FAA-certified seat, like this one, that can be used on the plane.
This seat has more legroom and headspace to fit kids who are growing quickly, but may not be ready to move to the next step.

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

graco-4-ever-car-seat
Pros
  • Can be used for up to 10 years

  • Easy to use straps

  • Quick installation

Cons
  • Tough to fit in small vehicles

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 between 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 then 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 with children up to 120 pounds and 57 inches tall. 

This versatile car seat also features a ten-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 

What Our Testers Say

"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." Katie Begley, Verywell writer and product tester 

Best Splurge: Nuna RAVA Flame Retardant Free Convertible Car Seat

nuna Rava
Pros
  • Modern, sleek design

  • Easy seat belt installation

  • Added legroom for comfort

Cons
  • Expensive

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, ten-position reclining feature, and a ten-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

Most Comfortable: Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

Pros
  • Easy to install

  • No rethread required

  • Comfortable

Cons
  • No booster seat option 

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.

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, and many customers say their children regularly fall asleep in this car seat. 

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

What Our Testers Say

"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." Katie Begley, Verywell writer and product tester 

Best Budget: Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat

Pros
  • Good for travel

  • Inexpensive

  • Easy to install

Cons
  • Not as comfortable as other options

  • Height allowance

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.

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

What Our Testers Say

"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." Katie Begley, Verywell writer and product tester 

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

Pros
  • Good value

  • Lightweight

  • Machine washable pads

Cons
  • Installation can be tricky

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, 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

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

Pros
  • Easy to use

  • Simple installation

  • Has recline options

Cons
  • Large in size

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

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

Pros
  • Good for small cars

  • No rethreading required

  • Easy installation

Cons
  • Straps are hard to tighten

  • Straps cannot be removed to clean

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 3-in-1 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. Customers say this is the ideal 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

Best for Travel: Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat

car seat
Pros
  • Easy to travel with

  • Inexpensive 

Cons
  • Not very comfortable

  • Lacking features

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. 

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 customers say it’s a perfect lightweight travel car seat. 

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 

What Our Editors Say

"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." — Dwyer Frame, VP of Commerce 

Best for Tall Kids: Diono Radian 3RXT Convertible Car Seat

Pros
  • Slim and narrow

  • 12 position headrest

  • Comfortable

Cons
  • Hard to install

  • Heavy

The best convertible car seat for tall kids is the Diono Radian 3RXT, which has extended rear-facing abilities that let you keep your little ones rear-facing for longer, even if they’re growing like a bean sprout. It can be used as a rear-facing harness and as a forward-facing harness. The Diono Radian 3RXT can also serve as a booster seat when your child reaches 50 pounds. 

This car seat fits three across in most family-sized vehicles, and it has a 12-position headrest, memory foam seat, and extendable leg rests. There are five shoulder and three buckle positions, and it even folds up flat for easy travel. Customers say this convertible car seat is compact and user-friendly, but keep in mind that because it’s designed for tall kids, the seat itself is tall and might not fit well in smaller cars. 

Rear: 5-40 pounds, up to 44 inches | Forward: 22-65 pounds, up to 57 inches | Booster: 50-100 pounds, up to 57 inches | Dimensions: 28.5 x 16 x 15 inches | Cup Holder: Single

Final Verdict

For a convertible seat that will last for years to come while not breaking the bank, the Graco 4Ever All-in-One (view on Amazon) is the perfect pick.

If you are willing to splurge on a higher-end car seat, the Nuna Rava (view on Nordstrom) allows you to keep your little one rear-facing for longer for a safer ride.

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Verywell Family / Katie Begley  

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 & Co-Founder of The Car Seat Lady, LLC, notes that parents should be mindful of strap design. She advises parents to, “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 US] meet the same federal standards and are safe when used correctly,” explains the UNC 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 towards 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 US 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 towards 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, “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 US 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 in the shelf below the back windshield of a sedan. Some vehicles are also equipped with anchors on the ceiling and/or the car floor behind the back seat. 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 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 US. There are two types of Rigid LATCH, True Rigid and Semi-Rigid, and you can learn more about them here

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 two 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 they] 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 Alisa Baer, MD Pediatrician & Co-Founder of The Car Seat Lady, LLC, kids can reach three or four 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 NHTSA 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 four to seven 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 five 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 six 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 completely. 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. 

For more information, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the NHTSA offer guidance on when to transition your child’s seat position. 

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

 Verywell Family / Katie Begley

FAQs

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 typically can 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 are 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. 

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Verywell Family / Katie Begley   

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 (view at Nordstrom) and travels with her Cosco Scenera NEXT (view at Walmart). 

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  1. Hoffman BD. New child passenger safety seat guidance advises kids to ride rear-facing as long as possible; drops age criterion. AAP News. Published online April 14, 2021.