As your child grows older, you need to think about using a different car seat. Picking one of the best convertible car seats will last up to ages four to six years old, depending on when you move your child to a high back booster. If the car seat converts to a booster, it may last beyond six years of age! Purchasing one will give you many years in one seat rather than purchasing several car seats. They can last for longer than an infant car seat and is more versatile than a typical car seat.
Features to Look for in a Convertible Car Seat
There are quite a few options on the market, making the ultimate decision even more complicated. With three children, I have made this decision a few times, each time I struggle to find the best choice for my kids. However, I have found some features that matter, making the process just a bit easier.
- Weight Limit: The first thing to look at is the weight limits. There will be a minimum and maximum weight recommendation. If you are selecting a convertible car seat that rear faces, you want it to rear face for as long as possible. The recommendation is to rear face until your child is two years old. If the weight limit is too low, this may not be possible.
For those who want to have a car seat with multiple functions, you want a high weight limit for forward facing and boosters. Ideally, the harness will last until 50 to 65 pounds, allowing you to wait for your child to mature before placing them in a seat belt. Most booster seats are useable until 100lbs, but more is a great feature!
- Comfort: Your child will spend quite a few hours in their booster car seat. It shouldn’t lack support. Extra padding, strap covers, and buckle covers are great features that you will want to be included in the car seat. Also, while a narrow car seat sounds appealing for those with compact cars, it could result in a less comfortable fit for your child. They need space to make themselves comfortable.
- Extra Features: What kind of extra features did the manufacturer include in the convertible car seat? Children need their cup holder. Some seats have small, added compartments for children to store small toys or snacks.
Adjusting the car seat should be easy. Complicated car seats take too much time, and there are plenty of options that are easy and straightforward to use. Some let you adjust the height of the seat with just one hand. A recline feature is ideal for high back boosters; children still like to take naps in their car seats, and reclining prevents their neck from slumping forward.
- Side Impact Tested: A majority of car wrecks are side impact, making it crucial for the car seat to be able to withstand this force. You want your child to be protected during any crash. If you notice a car seat lists that they are siding impact tested, it means they have added energy absorbing foam and other features that will significantly protect your child’s head and neck in the event of an accident.
- LATCH: Installing a car seat can be a total pain! LATCH is a vast improvement and allows car seats to be attached directly to the frame of your vehicle rather than relying on the motor vehicle seat When you select a convertible car seat, check to see if it has easy to use LATCH. Many manufacturers have made the process easier for parents to secure the position with latch.
- Easy to Clean: Let’s be honest; children aren’t known for their ability to stay clean. Even if you avoid giving your child snacks in their car seat, they are likely to vomit or have an accident. You want a car seat that lets you remove the seat pads and put them through the washer for easy cleaning.
Our Top 5 Picks
Britax is a leading brand of car seats in Europe and the United States. The Pioneer Harness-2-Booster is one of their top sellers, and it comes with their SafeCell Impact Protection. The
system is designed to provide the best protection for your child. The Pioneer is crafted with a steel frame, an energy absorbing base and impact absorbing tethers. These tethers have staged release stitches that will reduce any movement during a crash, keeping your child safe and secure.
The Pioneer has multiple functions. First, you can use the harness car seat for any child two years old and up, weigh 25 to 70 pounds. Next, it converts to a belt-positioning booster for older children weighing 40 to 110 pounds. One of the great features of the Pioneer is you don’t have to unthread the harness when transitioning functions.
You will find a great fit and comfort for your child. There are nine available harness positions, so the seat grows with your child. Adjustments can be made with one hand. The LATCH connectors are quick to use. The shell has additional foam, along with the body and headrest for protection during side impacts and comfort. Parents love how safe Britax keeps their children. With the NHTSA award in 2015, you can feel comfortable with this harnessed car seat.
- High weight limit – up to 110 pounds.
- Designed with maximum safety during side impact crashes.
- Can be used for ages two and up.
- Adjustable while the child
- Lower weight and height limits compared to other brands.
- No included cup holder
- It has a tighter fit than other brands.
One of the most popular options for a harnessed booster car seat is the Graco Nautilus. It receives a 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 4,000 reviews! Graco constructed this great car seat with safety as the top priority, but it doesn’t lack in additional features! First, the Nautilus has three functions. The harness booster works from 22 to 65 pounds. Then, you can switch your child to the high back booster; the weight capacity is 30 to 100 pounds. The high back booster is best for children older than four. The backless booster goes from 40 to 100 pounds. The 65-pound harness weight is great and lets you keep your baby safe for longer.
Moms love all of the additional features. You can adjust the headrest with one hand. There are five available positions. The contoured armrests are comfortable and provide the child with a storage compartment for small toys or snacks. There is a large cup holder attached. Graco added open loop belt guides to make sure the seat belt is correctly positioned across your child. These were one of my favorite features!
The seat pads are comfortable and machine washable. Children will spill something! The harness and buckle come with covers to provide additional comfort to the child. Parents can feel confident using the Nautilus. It comes with the InRight Latch to make sure it is installed correctly. Also, Graco made sure to test the car seat during a side-impact car crashes. They added EPS, energy absorbing foam for impact energy management, along with a steel reinforced frame for strength during a collision. Designed to meet the most rigorous of crash testing, you can feel safe placing your child in the Nautilus.
- It has three different functions; this is the last car seat you need for your child.
- There is a ten year warranty.
- The storage compartments are a great idea, along with a great cup holder.
- The material is durable and will last years without wear and tear.
- There is only two crotch strap adjustments, making it a bit uncomfortable for bigger children.
- Your child’s head is likely to slump while sleeping.
- The seat is only 12.5 inches wide.
Evenflo makes several varieties of car seats, including the Chase LX. It is highly rated, receiving a 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 1,100 customer reviews. Parents all over think this is an excellent, affordable choice for their child. There are some differences between the Chase and the two previous options. First, Chase LX is listed below $75, whereas the other two options are above $150. If you are on a budget, here is an excellent choice.
Evenflo designed this car seat for children weighing 22 to 110 pounds. You can convert it from a harness booster seat to a belt-positioning booster seat. It won’t become a backless booster seat, so you will eventually need to purchase one. Parents can adjust the harness with ease. There are four shoulder positions available as your child grows taller. Another great feature is the head pillow, and car seat pad is removable and machine washable. Plus, there are two integrated cup holders.
Once your child is old enough for a high back booster, Evenflo added belt positioning path guides to ensure the seat belt is accurately placed on your child. A secure fit is crucial when using a vehicle belt. The Chase LX meets and exceeds federal safety standards. It is side impact tested; a majority of crashes are a side impact, so it is crucial to find a select a car seat checked to ensure these wrecks.
- It is affordable and budget friendly.
- The pads are machine washable.
- Meets and exceeds federal safety tests, as well as side impact tested.
- Booster has a maximum weight capacity of 110 pounds.
- The harness is only rated to 40 pounds.
- It doesn’t fit well in vehicles without a straight back seat.
- There isn’t an option to convert to a backless booster.
Here is another great choice for a convertible car seat for your growing child. If you want a budget friendly car seat that meets test standards, you will love the Tribute LX. They tested it at 2X the federal crash test to guarantee the integrity of the car seat withstood the force. Even though this car seat is compact and lightweight, it is robust and durable enough to protect your child.
Parents can adjust the harness quickly. The adjustor is located in the front of the car seat. There are four shoulder harness positions, growing with your child. Also, two crotch buckle positions make the seat more comfortable, with a custom fit for extended use. Unlike the other car seats on the list, you can use the Tribute LX rear facing. It reclines, allowing you to use the Tribute for infants from 5 to 30 pounds. Then, it forward faces from 22 to 40 pounds.
The Tribute LX comes in four colors with removable, machine washable car seat pads. The head pillow can be removed as well. Older children tend to prefer to remove the pad for more space, but it gives support for young children. One of the great reasons so many people pick Evenflo is because it is made in the USA!
- The car seat is lightweight and perfect for switching between vehicles.
- Adjusting the shoulder strap and crotch buckle is very easy.
- The cover comes off and can be placed in the washing machine.
- There is extra padding for young infants.
- The included cup holder is flimsy and weak.
- It isn’t capable of switching to a high back booster.
- The weight limit is only 40 pounds and rear faces only to 30lbs.
The Recaro Performance is expensive, but fabulous, option for an exceptional convertible car seat. It was designed to meet new FMVSS standards, along with international standards, accommodating a higher weight limit. It can fit most children up to age nine! Their ne HERO system makes sure your child has plenty of protection around their shoulder, neck and head. The straps are less likely to twist, and the chest clip will be placed perfectly. The HERO system is an impressive feature.
The Performance can be used with the harness from 20 to 65 pounds, allowing you to keep your child in a harness much longer than normal. Then, you switch your child to a booster from 30 to 120lbs! The upper weight limit will last for years. Recaro designed the Performance to protect your kids during a side impact crash. The head wings will protect your child’s head and face that are metal reinforced side walls. The metal frame provides full body protection. The Performance is one of the narrowest car seats on the market. It is only ½ inches wider than the narrowest! You will be able to fit three Performances across in the vehicle, which is hard to find!
There are so many features to the Performance Sport! Parents love their push button LATCH system because it is easy to secure the seat. They also added a color-coded belt guide to make sure everything is secured properly. Recaro used easy-to-clean fabrics; the fabric is temperature balancing, offering comfort and a CoolMesh Air Ventilation, so your child is relaxed during the ride. Children also have storage pockets to hold snacks and drinks!
- It has the highest weight limit, at 120 pounds!
- The Performances meets some of the highest standards and is side impact tested.
- The fabric is easy to clean and will keep your children cool.
- There are pockets for drinks and snacks.
- It has the highest price point, coming in over $200.
- There is little recline, resulting in head slumping during long trips.
- The straps are difficult to tighten.
These five options are fantastic! There is something for every budget, whether you need something under $75 or for those who have a flexible budget. If you need a convertible car seat that lets you rear face your child, the Evenflo Tribute LX is the only option on our list that can fit this requirement. However, it is lightweight and a solid choice because of its high standard of safety and easy cleaning.
One of my favorite options is the Graco Nautilus. With the purchase of one seat, you never have to buy another car seat again. While it cannot rear face, you can use the Nautilus as a forward facing seat. Then, it converts to a high back booster and, finally, the back can be removed for a backless booster. You get years of use out of one car seat, making it a practical choice for parents.
For those with a higher budget, the Recaro Performance Sport cannot be beaten! It is designed with the ultimate safety features for your child. No matter what type of accident your experience, the Performance is meant to keep your child safe. It has the highest weight limit – 120 pounds. They used a unique fabric and provided a lot of storage for children.
We would love to hear about your favorite convertible car seats! Is there a brand you use for your kids? Let us know in the comments!