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Your baby is growing each and every day and is bound to eventually outgrow his or hers infant car seat. What then? The next step is the purchase of the convertible car seat, which is a very versatile piece of juvenile equipment and one that can be installed in both the rear-facing and the forward-facing position. It’s very likely that this seat will be the one that your kid will be using for the longest period of time, which means that selecting a quality model should be your primary concern. We’re here to help you – check out our reviews!
TOP RATED CONVERTIBLE CAR SEATS
Graco Extend2Fit – Editor’s Choice
The first convertible car seat we’re going to take a look at is also one of the best that the money can buy – Graco is well-known for their quality baby car seats, and we think that they did an amazing job with their newest convertible model. This seat has it all – it is compact, has a 50lbs weight limit for the rear-facing position, it’s easy to install and use, has some extra leg room for the child, and even comes at a reasonable price. It deserves a more in-depth look – so let’s do it together!
The primary reason behind this model’s durability is definitely its steel reinforced frame, which is, in our opinion, always the key component of a quality convertible car seat. This frame, of course, doesn’t have an adverse effect on Graco Extend2Fit‘s overall level of comfort, as the model provides enough padding for the child to feel as cozy as possible. We really liked the presence of the shoulder pads, as well as of the body and head inserts. When it comes to safety, this seat has an excellent harness system which will allow you to adjust its height in one simple motion (no rethreading here).
The presence of the dual cup holders is another convenient feature of Graco Extend2Fit, and its cover can be easily washed in a washing machine. The model also has the FAA approval, which means that you’ll be able to use it on an airplane, and Graco claims that you can use it for ten years before its lifespan expires. When we combine all of these features together, we can immediately notice why is this model so popular – not only it offers a great amount of safety for your kid, but it also provides him or her with a very comfortable riding experience and has some accessories that we’re always pleased to see on the models in this price category.
The Graco Extend2Fit has exceeded all of our expectations – it’s among the best convertible seats that the money can buy!
- Steel-reinforced frame
- Excellent cushioning
- Great weight limit
- Useful accessories
- No lock off device for the seat belt installations
- The cover is difficult to remove
Chicco NextFit – Safe, Secure and Comfortable
This has been one of the most anticipated convertible car seats ever since we’ve started writing reviews, and for a reason – its manufacturer is the famous Chicco, a company that has produced the much-loved KeyFit baby car seat. The NextFit is quite similar to its popular cousin in some areas, as it also has the same ease of use and the useful features that make the Chicco models so highly-praised by the parents. It is safe, secure, and truly comfortable, and it is time for us to take a more detailed look at it – join us!
One of the best things about the Chicco NexFit is how easy its installation is, especially when you’re using the lower anchors or the seat belt. The model features the so-called SuperCinch tightening system, making things as simple as possible. When you’re installing it with a seat belt, you’ll find that the NextFit has the seat belt lockoffs for both the rear-facing and the forward-facing position – you just have to simply pull the seat belt, place it in the lockoff and then clamp it closed.
This model reclines in nine positions, which is absolutely outstanding when it comes to convertible car seats – you will love this feature if you’re an owner of an SUV or a mini-van. The seat is also super comfortable, offering thick padding and the ability to adjust the headrest and the harness when needed. And when it comes to accessories, the Chicco NextFit has a nice thermal-insulated cup holder, which will prevent spilling during the long rides (a word of caution here – the generic sippy cups won’t fit into the cup holder). We should also mention that the Graco offers this seat in several different color combinations, giving the parents a certain amount of personalization.
Although not flawless, the Chicco NextFit stands as one of the best car seats of this type on the market right now, and you should definitely consider it for purchase.
- Easy installation
- The seat belt lockoffs
- Nine recline settings
- Very comfortable
- Quite large and heavy
- Seat fabric can get overly warm
Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 – Excellent Car Seat
Next up is another popular convertible car seat from Graco – the Nautilus 3-in-1. The most important thing about this model is the fact that it can be used only in the forward-facing position, which just might be the thing you’ve been searching for if you have a toddler who outgrew his infant seat. It comes with a number of excellent features – it has an extended 5-point harness, a machine-washable seat cushion, requires no rethreading, can be bought in several different colors, and comes at an affordable price. Let’s take a closer look!
The thing that puts the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 into the category of convertible seats is the fact that you can convert it from a harness booster to the high-back booster, and then to a backless booster, depending on the age, height, and weight of your kid. One thing to keep in mind here is that these three intervals overlap, and that means that you won’t have to adjust the model the moment your kid reaches the minimal height and weight. The safety features of the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 are plentiful – the model has a strong and durable steel-reinforced frame, and one of its primary build materials is the EPS foam, which is among the best impact energy absorbing materials in the world. The seat meets all the safety standards and has been crash-tested in all positions, and that’s always a huge plus.
The Nautilus is very easy to use – it’s as simple as it can get. The improved buckle makes it really easy to get the kid in and out of the seat, and the same could be said about the harness adjustment, as the chest clip closes and opens very easily. We also liked the fact that the included instruction manual is very easy to follow and has a plenty of illustrations.
The advantages of the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 are just stellar, and we can safely predict that this convertible car seat will become immensely popular in the coming months.
- Excellent safety features
- Converts to three different seat types
- Ease of use
- Thick padding
- A bit bulky
- Doesn’t come fully assembled
Evenflo Symphony DLX – Product Worth Your Money
The Evenflo Symphony series debuted all the way back in 2008, getting better with every generation and always introducing something new. We have decided to take a look at one of the newer entries, the Evenflo Symphony DLX, a convertible car seat that’s already highly popular with the parents. Just like we expected, it comes with plenty of useful features, with some of these features being exclusive to Evenflo, like the SureLatch function. The seat also has a very good design, and is highly comfortable – it surely deserves a more in-depth look!
The most important thing here is, of course, the safety, and Evenflo Symphony definitely delivers it. Its impact protection design provides excellent safety for your child, with its superior technology absorbing a massive amount of the forces that take place during a collision. The crash-test results of this model are, as expected, excellent! Another thing that deserves special praise is the previously mentioned SureLatch technology (exclusive to this company) that allows the parent to easily push and click the child into the seat, with the kid being safe and secure in less than a minute. The seat has the 5-point harness restraint system, and the experts agree that this is the safest one in existence.
We should also mention the Infinite Slide feature – it ensures that the kid always has a perfect fit when he or she is in the seat, removing the need for the parent to constantly adjust the restraint system as the child grows. There are also three reclining positions, two convenient cup holders, the FAA certification (the seat can be used on an airplane), the machine washable cover, as well as the outstanding 8-year lifespan guaranteed by the manufacturer.
As you can see, the Evenflo Symphony DLX excels in almost every field. It’s not a perfect convertible car seat, but it’s certainly the one that will make your child’s car rides safe, secure, and comfortable.
- Great safety features
- SureLatch technology
- 5-point harness
- Good lifespan
- Harness straps twist too easily
- A little wide when compared to other models
Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1
As you already know, the arrival of a new baby comes together with a long checklist of necessary gear. And one of the best ways to shorten this list is by investing into equipment that will grow along with your child – such as the convertible car seats. Is the Safety 1st Grow and Go one of those things?
This model comes with a very narrow profile, as it is only 19 inches wide, giving you some extra space on the vehicle’s back seat. This slim design can be particularly helpful if you’re an owner of a smaller car. The color palette looks quite sleek and modern, and the seat is soft enough to make every journey cozy and comfortable. Fortunately, the fabric is also easy to clean up – once your kid makes a mess, you can easily unsnap the pad and put it into your washing machine.
Since it is a convertible seat, the Safety 1st Grow and Go features an adaptable design that allows you to use it both in the forward-facing and the rear-facing position, as well as the booster seat. This lets the kid use it all the way from infancy to the toddler age. There are three different reclining positions here, adjustable with just one hand, as well as the removable body pillows. One thing we particularly liked is how easy it is to adjust the harness strap height and the headrest – that’s always a big plus in our book.
Installing this seat into the car is very easy, but the whole process isn’t exactly flawless. If you accidentally grip the top harness buckle in a wrong way, you’ll end up fighting your own fingers to open it correctly. One can easily get used to this, but we hope to see this fixed in the next revision of the model.
In conclusion, we think that this is a great convertible seat – it’s not perfect, but the number of advantages that it comes with easily beats the number of flaws. The Safety 1st Grow and Go certainly deserves our recommendation.
- Adaptable design
- Narrow profile
- Three reclining positions
- Washable pad
- Problematic top harness buckle
- Heavier than we expected
CHOOSING THE BEST CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT – BUYER’S GUIDE
Parents who are looking for quality convertible car seats for their kids usually have a very tough time figuring out what’s available. While you want the best model for your child, you certainly don’t want to pay an excessive amount of money or go overboard with the unnecessary features.
Some parents don’t even know if a convertible car seat will actually suit the needs of their kid, not knowing what such an object really is or what exactly to look for. Have no worries – we’re here to remove the mystery and confusion.
WHAT’S A CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT?
A convertible car seat is usually much heavier than the infant car seats, and also larger. It faces toward the back of the vehicle at first, and later you can turn it into the front-facing position. You can probably see what the main advantage here is – one doesn’t have to buy both the infant and the forward-facing model, just the convertible one. Depending on the brand, a convertible model can take the kid all the way from infancy to 40-80lbs of weight and 50″ in height.
Another type would be the 3-in-1 convertible seat, which allows you to use all three positions – the rear-facing, the forward-facing, and the booster one.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
The safety is, of course, the primary concern, and the good news is that almost all models have to meet the governmental regulations first in order to be available in stores and online. With that out of the way, you should see that the model fits both your child and the car. Remember, buying an expensive seat with lots of handy features doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t work for your kid and the vehicle. Also, a really cheap model that’s great for the household budget probably isn’t the best choice either.
Another important consideration is the easy installation. If it’s hard to set it right, you’ll need to have someone to show you how to do it or let the guys at the car seat safety inspection station do it for you.
The ease of use is also essential. The way to find out how easy it is to use a certain model is to check out its NHTSA rating – the higher it is, the easier it will be to use it.
THE PROS OF THE CONVERTIBLE CAR SEATS
Here are the main positives when it comes to purchasing and using a convertible car seat:
- You’ll need only one seat for a long time
- The convertible models are better for older kids
- Many parents claim that they’re easier to use
- They save money – you don’t need to buy an infant or a booster seat
CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT INSTALLATION – INSTRUCTIONS
Many parents will choose the convertible car seats, and the reason behind that is the fact that they can grow with the kid. This saves the mother and father from upgrading every time the child reaches a growth milestone.
These kinds of seats are designed to protect a broad spectrum of children – from infants to larger kids. When a child is small, a convertible car seat should be used in the rear-facing position. As he or she grows, the seat should be “converted” to the forward-facing position. This is the simplest description of how the convertible car seats work, but let’s have a look at some more detailed guidelines:
- Don’t forget to follow the info that’s in your car seat manual. We’re not saying that you can’t figure things out on your own – it’s just the safest way to install the seat in a correct way.
- Before installing, make sure to adjust the model to fit your kid. It’s much easier to do this before the seat is installed.
- For the rear-facing position, the shoulder straps need to be just below the kid’s shoulders. For the forward-facing position, the straps will have to be just above them.
- When fastening the harness on your kid, make sure that the harness is not twisted, keeping it flat. To check if it is tightened in a correct way, you could try pinching the strap material at your kid’s shoulder area. If your fingers aren’t gathering the material but are slipping away, the harness isn’t sufficiently tight.
- The experts agree that the back seat is, without a doubt, the best place for the car seat, especially its middle area. Don’t forget to check your car’s owner’s manual for the car seat’s most appropriate position.
- The LATCH is a system designed to make things easier. Most of the convertible car seats will allow you to install them with either the seat belt or the LATCH system – but not every position inside your car can provide for a proper LATCH install. Check your vehicle’s manual for this information.
- When it comes to rear-facing installations, most vehicle seats will have an indicator line that will help you with the proper horizontal installation. If your car is parked on a hill, the angle indicator line will need to be parallel with the angle of the hill.
- If you still can’t achieve a proper angle, you could try using a tightly rolled towel.
- To tighten up a rear-facing installation, get in the vehicle and try pushing the baby’s car seat into the back seat, while at the same time pulling up the on the belt’s end. A good installation won’t move for more than just one inch when it’s pulled and pushed with force.
- A wise decision would be to use the convertible car seat in the rear-facing position for as long as it is possible.
- Once you’re ready to change the position to a forward-facing one, you can use your knee to push down on the convertible car seat as you’re tightening the belt.
- Remember to periodically check the seat in order to make sure that it hasn’t loosened or shifted during the use. Make sure to check that the angle doesn’t move more than one inch when you’re applying force in the way we’ve mentioned above.
- Don’t forget to adjust the seat as your kid is growing up. The harness height will have to go up, and also take care of the buckle locations to provide your kid with a fit that’s more comfortable and safer.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CAR SEATS
Q: What are the NHTSA’s ratings?
A: The NHTSA is an acronym for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and they have the so-called Ease of Use ranking system, based on star symbols. This system helps parents find out how easy it is to use a certain car seat – the more stars there are, the better.
Q: Will there be anyone at the store to help me install my convertible car seat?
A: This is not guaranteed, but some stores might have technicians who have the Child Passenger Safety Certification. They should be able to help you out.
Q: Can my convertible car seat expire?
A: The convertible car seats usually expire after six to ten years. You can find information about this on the label that’s present on every model.
Q: Why do the car seats expire?
A: The reason behind this is the degradation of plastic that happens over time. This means that, after a number of years, the convertible car seats won’t work as initially designed.
Q: Can I use my model on an airplane?
A: The only way to be sure about this is to find out if your seat has the FAA certification. If it does, then yes, you can use it on an airplane.
Q: When can I move my child from the rear-facing to the forward-facing position?
A: Every child is different, but you should be able to do this once the kid is aged from 6 to 12 months and is able to hold his or her head up.
Q: What if my child is trying to escape from the 5-point harness?
A: Kids normally shouldn’t be able to get out of the 5-point harness restraint system. Tighten it fast enough (leaving at least 1cm of play) – if you do it correctly, the kid won’t be able to escape.
Through our reviews and articles, we have tried to explain and illustrate the conveniences of the convertible car seats. These types of baby car seats have a lot of good things about them, and the first of them is the fact that they’re real money savers. With a convertible car seat, you won’t have to buy a few different types of seats (infant or booster) as the child is growing, but only one. They are also a far better choice for the older kids, and many parents are even claiming that they’re much easier to use than any other types of car seats.
And even if you’ve finally decided to purchase one for your kid, choosing the right model can be a real chore, due to an overwhelming number of different brands and models. That is what our reviews and articles are here for – they should help you find the right convertible seat for your kid, car, and the budget. In our opinion, the best convertible seat on the market is the Graco Extend2Fit, as it is an outstanding model that’s definitely worth the money. But don’t forget to check out our other reviews – you’ll surely find a model that suits your needs!