Choosing and using the right convertible car seat can be a matter of life and death. Literally.
Car accidents are one of the leading causes of preventable child deaths and injuries. And that means you can’t afford to compromise on the safety of the seat, or on its quality.
So in this article, we’ve done the legwork for you.
Table of Contents
- The 8 Best and Safest Convertible Car Seats
- #1. Britax One4Life Clicktight All-in-One (best overall)
- #2. Graco 4Ever DLX All-in-One (best for low-weight babies)
- #3. Evenflo Symphony DLX All-in-One (best value for the money)
- #4. Cosco Scenera Next (best for budget)
- #5. Diono Radian 3RXT All-in-One (best for travel)
- #6. Chicco NextFit (best belt tightener and zip-off fabric)
- #7. Britax Marathon ClickTight (best without booster)
- #8. Clek Fllo (best fit for narrow spaces)
- Want to see how the technical details compare?
- What is a convertible car seat?
- What else do you need to know?
- Which is the best convertible car sat for newborns? Which is best for toddlers?
- Which is best for tall kids?
- Which is the safest?
- Which seat is best for airline travel?
- Which is best for parents on a budget?
- Which is the most compact? Which is best for small cars?
- Which is the most lightweight?
- How do you choose a convertible car seat?
- The bottom line?
The 8 Best and Safest Convertible Car Seats
We’ve analyzed each of the best seats for safety standards and easy installation, to present you with the 8 best convertible car seats of 2020…
including the exact information you need in order to decide which car seat is the best and the safest for your child and for your specific needs.
Our priorities, in order, were:
- How it installs in a vehicle
- Ease of use
- And the seat’s height and weight limits
Let’s get to it right away.
Here are the 8 best and safest convertible car seats, in descending order:
#1. Britax One4Life Clicktight All-in-One (best overall)
Britax’s One4Life convertible car seat – like several other convertible car seats – can be used from birth until your child can use a regular seatbelt. But unlike most car others, Britax’s One4Life has a unique advantage: The company’s ClickTight installation system, which is foolproof and practically guarantees correct installation.
The good: The Britax One4Life can be used for babies and children from 5-120 lbs, and up to 63” tall. It also has a 15-position headrest and harness, and nine recline positions.
You can also purchase (separately) an anti-rebound bar, to add to this car seat’s safety when using it rear-facing. It has a one-year warranty.
The not-so-good: Though this seat can be used for children up to 63 inches tall, it doesn’t offer a backless booster option – just rear-facing, forward-facing, and high-back booster.
The best: The One4Life offers Britax’s unique ClickTight technology, plus its cover is machine washable, can be put in the dryer, and is naturally flame-retardant. Also, you can rear-face to 50 lbs.
Is it for you? If you want an all-in-one car seat with a high rear-facing weight limit and failproof installation, Britax’s One4Life is the car seat for you.
#2. Graco 4Ever DLX All-in-One (best for low-weight babies)
True to its name, Graco’s 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 car seat suits children from tiny preemies weighing just 4 lbs to grade-school kids weighing up to 120 lbs. Its four modes – rear-facing car seat, forward-facing car seat, high-back booster, and backless booster – mean that you’ll probably never have to buy a second car seat for your child.
This car seat grows with your child by offering six different recline positions, and ten different headrest positions.
The good: The 4Ever DLX is a newer version of the 4Ever 4-in-1, with the main difference being extra crash protection and an easier-to-remove fabric cover.
Another benefit of this car seat is the one-step LATCH installation, which helps guarantee proper installation in most newer vehicles.
The not-so-good: This car seat’s rear-facing weight limit is 40 lbs – not low, but not great, either. In addition, it only has a year-long warranty.
The best: The 4Ever DLX also features an integrated seatbelt lock-off system and Graco’s SimplySafe harness adjustment system, which helps prevent mistakes common when adjusting a convertible car seat.
Plus, its fabric cover is machine washable.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for an all-in-one car seat, and you’re okay with only rear-facing to 40 lbs (this might not matter for taller kids), Graco’s 4Ever DLX is the all-in-one for you.
#3. Evenflo Symphony DLX All-in-One (best value for the money)
This three-in-one convertible car seat converts from a car seat capable of keeping a five-pound newborn safe, to a forward-facing car seat and then to a harnessed booster.
The good: Evenflo’s Symphony offers cup holders and has a sleeve to cover the buckle so it won’t get too hot. Plus, the seat has shoulder strap indicators to aid you in adjusting the straps properly, both to fit your child and the seat’s orientation, and its Infinite Slide harness adjusts easily.
The not-so-good: This seat doesn’t have seatbelt lock-offs, and it only has a 90-day warranty.
The best: The seat is relatively easy to install and includes an automatically retracting “Sure LATCH” system which tightens the seatbelt around the car seat – so you don’t have to. And third, the harness is easily adjustable, saving you the hassle of rethreading it every time you need to adjust for a growth spurt.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for an all-in-one car seat but can’t afford to spend a lot, and you don’t mind a super-short warranty, Evenflo’s Symphony is the one for you.
#4. Cosco Scenera Next (best for budget)
Cosco’s Scenera Next is a slim, lightweight convertible car seat boasting the ability to fit three-in-a-row in most vehicles. And, for the patriots, Cosco stresses the Scenera Next is produced in Indiana, USA.
The good: The seat’s fabric is both washer- and dryer-safe, and the seat comes with a detachable cup holder. Like most of the other car seats listed here, the Scenera Next has a one-year warranty.
The not-so-good: With a forward-facing weight limit of just 40 lbs, and no booster option, this car seat probably won’t fit your child past preschool.
The best: The Cosco Scenera Next is certified for use on aircraft, and at just over 10 lbs, it’s one of the lighter convertible car seats on the market.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for a convertible car seat on a budget, and don’t mind a low forward-facing weight limit, Cosco’s Scenera Next is the car seat for you.
#5. Diono Radian 3RXT All-in-One (best for travel)
A slim seat like the Clek Fllo, Diono’s Radian 3RXT All-in-One allows parents to fit three car seats in the back row. Unlike the Clek, this seat can be used as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, and a high-back (no harness) booster.
The good: The Radian can rear-face up to 45 lbs, and its cover is machine washable. It has a one-year warranty. Unlike the Clek, this seat is suited for infants as well.
The not-so-good: Many parents have complained that the seat is hard to install, and the angle may not be good for smaller babies. Also, some kids may outgrow the seat early – and the seat itself is relatively heavy, at over 27 lbs.
The best: The Radian 3RXT has color-coded belt paths designed to ease installation, as well as an easy-adjust harness. It’s FAA-rated for use on airplanes, and folds flat for travel. It also has high safety ratings.
Is it for you? If you need a slim seat that can be folded for travel and used on an airplane, Diono’s Radian 3RXT is the all-in-one car seat for you.
#6. Chicco NextFit (best belt tightener and zip-off fabric)
Rated Consumer Report’s top pick, the Chicco NextFit is a convertible car seat given a crash protection of “best,” and its SuperCinch easy-installation feature makes LATCH installations easier.
Though this is a popular and well-loved car seat, it does not convert to a booster seat – something reflected in its forward-facing weight limit.
The good: When it comes to comfort, there’s no question this seat is a good pick: The padding is comfortable, kids like the seat, and it’s easily adjustable. The NextFit seat also offers nine reclining positions and a zipper feature allowing you to easily remove the fabric for washing – and it can be washed in the machine.
One of the other benefits of the NextFit is that it can rear-face a child up to 49 inches – by which time he will probably have outgrown the weight limit as well.
The not-so-good: It was slightly difficult to find solid information on the safety of Chicco’s NextFit car seat – despite the seat’s popularity and high ratings. And, it’s not clear what the warranty is.
The best: The NextFit’s SuperCinch system helps tighten the straps so the seat doesn’t move – whether you use the car’s seatbelt or the LATCH tether system. And considering how hard it is to properly tighten a car seat’s belt so the seat can’t move – the SuperCinch is pretty revolutionary.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for a convertible car seat with a system to help you tighten the car’s seatbelt and easy-to-remove fabric, this is the car seat for you.
#7. Britax Marathon ClickTight (best without booster)
As a car seat that can rear-face or forward-face (but doesn’t convert to a booster), Britax’s Marathon ClickTight has everything going for it: easy installation for both forward- and rear-facing positions, an anti-rebound bar which can be bought together with the seat, a no-rethread harness, and a crash protection rating of “better.”
The good: The Marathon is comfortably padded and shaped, so kids are comfortable sitting in it for long rides. It also uses the least amount of flame retardant chemicals, offers easy cleanup, and is just 1.5 inches wider than the Clek seat, making it one of the easier car seats to fit in a three-car seat back row.
The not-so-good: This car seat can’t be used as a booster, and it rear-faces only to 40 lbs, not 50. Also, its fabric isn’t machine washable.
The best: The Marathon ClickTight’s main advantage over competitors’ products its its super-easy installation, no matter what position, no matter what car. This is because the ClickTight series has a unique seatbelt threading system and a very clear indicator showing when the car seat is properly installed and when it is not. It’s not just fail-safe – it’s practically impossible to mess up the installation.
You can also purchase an anti-rebound bar, for use when the Marathon is rear-facing. In addition, Britax’s Marathon offers a “no-rethread” harness, so you won’t have to rethread the entire belt every time your child grows and you need to adjust the straps. This is a huge advantage, because many parents rethread the harness wrong, twist it, or simply leave it too loose.
Is it for you? If you’re looking for a convertible car seat with foolproof installation, but you don’t need it to convert to a booster, the Marathon ClickTight is the car seat for you.
#8. Clek Fllo (best fit for narrow spaces)
The Clek Fllo convertible car seat offers several important safety features: An anti-rebound bar for the rear-facing position, seatbelt lock-offs, easy installation, and a Consumer Report crash protection rating of “better.”
When it comes to convenience, this Clek is also a star: Even though the seat is relatively heavy, it’s narrow and can fit easily into a back row with another booster or car seat. Plus, the Fllo is easy to clean, soft, and very comfortable to the touch.
The good: Clek’s anti-rebound bar is a unique feature which adds stability during a crash, lessening the impact of the rebound and reducing the seat’s rotation and movement during and immediately following the impact. And, its fabric is naturally stain-repellant.
The not-so-good: This seat is relatively heavy, doesn’t have a no-fail installation system, and it needs a special insert – which is sold separately – before it can be used for a newborn. Its fabric is also not machine washable.
The best: When used forward-facing, the Fllo offers an easy installation system which holds the seat tightly and requires minimum effort to install properly. Plus, the seat includes seatbelt lock-offs, which not all seats have. (A lock-off is a little clip which prevents the seatbelt from moving or adjusting due to pressure.)
The seat also offers longer extended rear-facing, since it has a weight limit of 50 lbs instead of the standard 40 lbs – so even slightly heavy children will be able to rear-face until about age five. Another bonus: Clek doesn’t use toxic flame retardants on its car seats.
Is it for you? If you’re looking to fit three car seats in the back, or you’re looking for a car seat for your older infant, Clek’s Fllo is the one for you.
Want to see how the technical details compare?
It’s true that we’ve gone over the safety and comfort features of each seat – but there’s more to choosing a convertible car seat than just words.
In the table below, you’ll see the “specs” of each seat, including child height and weight, seatbelt lock-of info, and a summary of what we wrote about installation.
|Car Seat||Rear-facing weight range:||Forward-facing weight range:||Height limit:||Installation method:||No-fail installation?||Seat weight:||Seatbelt lock-off?||Good from birth?|
|Clek Fllo||14 – 50 lbs|
(6.4 – 22.7 kg)
(from 5 lbs with infant thingy)
|22 – 65 lbs||25 – 43 in |
(64 – 110 cm)
30 – 49 in
(76 – 127 cm)
(infant thingy supports rear-facing from 19”)
|Rear facing using base |
Both seatbelt and LATCH capable
LATCH and seatbelt installation are not mutually exclusive
|No, but if you watch the video, you're not likely to mess it up.||25 lbs,|
28 lbs with anti- rebound bar
|Yes.||Yes, but needs their "infant-thingy" insert.|
|Britax Marathon ClickTight||5 – 40 lbs||20 – 65 lbs||49” or less||Seatbelt installation and LATCH (using lower anchors only)|
Both Australian and Swedish tethers are supported
|Yes, proprietary ClickTight installation.||28.5 lbs||Yes - the ClickTight button.||Yes.|
|Chicco NextFit||5 – 40 lbs||22 – 65 lbs||Up to 49 “ rear facing||Complete support for both LATCH and seatbelt||Claims to be easiest and simplest, but users have reported failures.||25.5 lbs||Yes.||Yes.|
|Diono Radian R100||5-40 lbs||20 – 65 lbs|
Converts to booster for up to 100 lbs
|Rear facing < 44”|
Forward facing < 57”
|Seatbelt and Latch||Unique super latch system “that makes installation easy.”||~26 lbs||No.||Yes.|
|Evenflo Symphony DLX||5 – 40 lbs.|
(2.3 – 18 kg)
|22 – 65 lbs|
(10 – 29.4 kg)
As booster 40 – 110 lbs
(18 – 49.8 kg)
|19 – 40 in|
(48 – 102 cm)
28 – 50 in
(71 – 127 cm)
as booster 44 – 57 in
(112 – 145 kg)
|Both Seatbelt and latch||No, but has an automatic retract system.||~21 lbs (9. 53)||No.||Yes.|
What is a convertible car seat?
Convertible car seats convert from rear-facing infant car seats to forward-facing car seats for toddlers. Rarely, the same seat will convert to a high-back booster. These seats will have detailed guidelines on how tall and heavy your child must be in order to use the seat in a forward-facing position, and will have instructions for both rear- and forward-facing installation.
It’s important not to confuse convertible car seats with combination seats:
While convertible car seats can safely restrain newborns (check your seat’s minimum weight), combination seats are forward-facing only. These seats convert from forward-facing car seat to high-backed (and sometimes backless) booster seats.
What else do you need to know?
While some of the car seats listed here are rated on Consumer Reports, it’s not clear if those scores should be a deciding factor.
The reason is this: Consumer Reports writes “crash protection” and rates each car seat with a score of “best,” “better,” or “basic” – but doesn’t tell us what those scores mean. The Car Seat Lady said it perfectly when she pointed out that each of these crash tests was done rear facing, forward-facing, with a seatbelt, with LATCH, etc., but Consumer Reports don’t provide us with all the information.
Consumer Reports also doesn’t tell us if the dummies that faced forward were simulating children under or above age two.
Why does this information matter, anyways?
Even though infants can technically be placed in a forward-facing seat from about the age of nine months, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends leaving your child rear-facing *at least* until age two, or until they outgrow their safety seat.
Convertible seats have an inherent advantage over infant car seats when it comes to rear-facing children. This is because they’re made to accommodate taller children and are usually able to accommodate heavier children rear-facing longer than a regular infant seat.
However, Consumer Reports doesn’t give us any of the specific info which could help us decide on an appropriate safety seat.
Their general “better,” “basic,” or “best” rating does not tell us if a specific car seat works well rear-facing but is not worth using forward-facing, or if it flunked the test rear-facing but is great as a forward-facing seat or as a booster.
The other issue is that even “basic” crash protection will properly protect your child. However, even the “best” crash protection will ONLY protect your child if the seat is installed correctly.
Statistics show that 73% of car seats and 95% of parents make at least one mistake when using car seats. So it’s safe to say that the most important aspect of buying a car seat is not what Consumer Reports rated its crash protection as – but how easy it is to correctly install and use it.
That’s why easy installation is so important.
Which is the best convertible car sat for newborns? Which is best for toddlers?
That depends on what you need. If you’re okay with using an infant insert, you can choose pretty much any of the convertible car seats listed for your newborn. However, if you prefer to avoid inserts, you’ll want to choose Britax’s One4Life, Chicco’s NextFit, or Britax’s Marathon ClickTight.
If your baby was born slightly early (or if you’re at risk for delivering a preemie), you’ll want a seat with a minimum weight limit of 4 lbs, not 5. For that, choose the Graco 4Ever.
Toddlers will enjoy the extra legroom offered by Safety 1st’s Grow and Go.
Which is best for tall kids?
Parents of tall children will want to go with Chicco’s NextFit, which can rear-face children up to 49″ tall.
Next in line for tall toddlers is the Diono Radian R100, since it has a forward-facing height limit of 57″. For tall babies, the Diono has a rear-facing height limit of 44″, and the Clek Fllo’s limit is 43″.
Which is the safest?
If you’re looking for the safest convertible car seat out there, the prize would have to go to either Britax’s One4Life (or the Marathon Clicktight or their Advocate or Boulevard ClickTight seats), to Clek’s Fllo, or to Chicco’s NextFit.
It’s worth mentioning, though, that Chicco’s seat is slightly harder to install than the Britax and Clek seats.
Which seat is best for airline travel?
The easiest car seat for airline travel would be the Diono Radian 3RXT, since it folds flat. However, another good option – which is somewhat safer in general – is the Clek Fllo.
Bear in mind that you don’t need to buy a special car seat for airline travel – all you need to do is ensure that the seat you buy (or the one you already have) is approved for air travel.
If your child is big enough for a booster, there are inflatable backless boosters which are safe, lightweight, and convenient.
Which is best for parents on a budget?
Parents on a budget are in a tight spot: On the one hand, you don’t want to skimp on safety. On the other, you really do need to choose the best car seat for the least amount of money.
If you’re tight on cash, choose either the Evenflo Symphony or the Cosco Scenera Next.
Which is the most compact? Which is best for small cars?
For parents who need to fit three safety seats in the back row, each additional inch of width is crucial. If you’re looking for a compact convertible car seat, Clek’s Fllo wins hands down, at less than 17″, followed by the Britax Marathon ClickTight at 18.5″ .
If your vehicle is small in general, go for the Clek Fllo.
Which is the most lightweight?
If you’re looking for a lightweight, portable car seat, you’ll want to choose Cosco Scenera Next. At just over 10 lbs, it’s about 11 lbs lighter than its runner-up – the Evenflo Symphony DLX.
How do you choose a convertible car seat?
Choosing a car seat, especially a convertible car seat, is complicated. Here are some points to take into consideration before making a purchase:
1. Easy installation: As we mentioned earlier, the vast majority of children use car seats which aren’t properly installed. The best way to prevent improper installation is by buying a car seat with a fail-safe installation system.
2. Safety: Be sure your car seat meets or exceeds safety guidelines. Register your seat with the company, so that you’ll be aware of any recalls or “fix it” kits the company provides.
3. Easy adjustment: Harness adjustment can be tricky! Try to find a seat with easy harness adjustment, and be sure you can’t pinch the harness between two fingers when your child is strapped into the seat.
4. Side impact protection: Be sure the seat you choose has proper side impact protection. It doesn’t have to be cushy, but it needs to be there.
5. LATCH: Most cars today are equipped with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). LATCH makes it significantly easier to install safety seats properly. Whether or not your current vehicle is LATCH-equipped, be sure the car seat you choose offers that option.
6. Expiration: Many seats today expire after 10 years, but some expire after only 7 or 8. Never use a car seat which has passed its expiration date, even if it looks perfectly fine. And, check how long you have before the seat expires: If you plan to have only one or two kids, you should be able to buy each of them a single convertible car seat, to last from when they’re born until they’re ready for a backless booster or a seatbelt.
If you’re looking to buy a car seat, make a list of your priorities first. What do you *need* to have, and what can you do without?
If you need to fit three safety seats in your back row, you’ll want to choose the Clek Fllo, Cosco Scenera Next, or Diono Radian 3RXT. And if you’re looking for a seat to travel with, choose the Radian 3RXT or Cosco Scenera Next.
If you’re for no-fail installation, choose a Britax car seat – either the One4Life or Marathon – or Graco’s 4Ever DLX. For extra-long rear-facing capacity, you’ll want the Diono Radian 3RXT or Clek’s Fllo.
Need something with a machine washable cover? Choose the One4Life, the 4Ever DLX, Chicco’s NextFit, or the Radian 3RXT. Looking for an all-in-one, but on a tight budget? Go with Evenflo’s Symphony DLX.
If all you want is the best of the best, we recommend the Britax One4Life