A convertible car seat is a car seat that can be positioned to be either forward- or rear-facing. Different states have different laws regarding children and car seats, however the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be rear-facing at least until two-years-old or until they reach the height and weight limit for their seat. This guideline is for safety reasons as the baby continues to develop and grow, since a rear facing car seat better supports the head, neck, and spine in the event of a collision. From age two to four years of age, the general recommendation is for children to remain in forward-facing car seats using a 5-point harness system until they outgrow the weight/height limits of these seats. This means that once you switch over from an infant car seat, you'll get at least a few years of use out of a convertible car seat.
When choosing a convertible car seat, safety is naturally a top priority. All car seats being sold in the US must meet certain standards put forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We also wanted to recommend car seats that are easy to install. Keep in mind that three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly, so you should consider having yours checked out by a Child Passenger Safety Technician (you can find one here). The car seat should be easy to use in terms of adjusting the straps and fastening the harness, but still be difficult for a toddler to be able to get out of on his own. Machine washable fabric is definitely a plus for messy snacks in the car and potty training accidents. Finally, budget will likely also play a role in your convertible car seat decision. Make sure that you always register your child's car seat on the company's website so they can contact you in event of any recalls.
Our Winner: Britax Boulevard ClickTight
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight is a convertible car seat that can work for children weighing up to 65 pounds. It measures 18.5 inches wide by 23.5 inches high by 23 inches deep, and it weighs 29.4 pounds. This Britax car seat can fit kids weighing between 5 and 40 pounds in the rear-facing position or between 20 and 65 pounds in the forward-facing position. Britax recommends that children in rear-facing position should have a seated shoulder height of 7.6-18.65 inches. In the forward-facing position, seated children should have a shoulder height of 12-18.65 inches. Child standing height should be no more than 49 inches. This car seat cover can be removed from the car seat without needing to remove the harness, and you can wash it by hand (it is not machine washable according to Britax, though some reviewers do say they machine wash their covers). NHTSA gives the Britax Boulevard ClickTight a 4 out of 5 for overall ease of use in the rear-facing position and 5 out of 5 stars for forward-facing ease of use. Britax offers a 1-year limited warranty on their products. You can also add a 2- or 3-year protection plan when purchasing from Amazon.
Runner Up: Graco Extend2Fit
The Graco Extend2Fit is a convertible car seat that grows with your child. This car seat measures 22.1 inches high by 25.2 inches deep by 19.2 inches wide, and it weighs under 24 pounds. It can be used rear-facing for babies weighing between 4 and 50 pounds and head at least one inch below the red handle. It can fit forward-facing toddlers weighing between 22 and 65 pounds and with a height of up to 49 inches. The no-rethread five-point harness is easy to adjust to fit your child though some reviewers note that it's difficult to tighten the straps at first before "breaking in." The Graco Extend2Fit attaches to your car via seatbelt or the LATCH system which is found in most car models after 2002. NHTSA gave it 3 out of 5 stars for ease of use in rear-facing and 4 out of 5 stars for ease of use in the forward-facing position. It is available in a number of different colors. Graco offers a 1-year limited warranty on their products. You can also add a 2- or 3-year protection plan when purchasing from Amazon.
Also Great: Chicco NextFit iX Zip
The Chicco NextFit iX Zip is a convertible car seat that is easy to clean. It measures 21 inches by 19 inches by 29.2 inches and weighs 25.1 pounds. It can be used rear-facing for children weighing between 5 and 40 pounds, and it can be used front-facing for children weighing between 22 and 65 pounds. Children should be under 49 inches in height to use this car seat. The removable infant insert is for infants weighing between 5 and 11 pounds, however we recommend getting a dedicated infant car seat to ensure the best and safest fit for your little one. The headrest can be adjusted to 9 different positions and the no-rethread harness to fit your child as he or she grows. Some reviewers note difficulty with pulling the straps to make adjustments, however. Perhaps one of the biggest selling points is that seat pad can be easily unzipped from its shell for machine washing. NHTSA rates it 4 out of 5 stars for ease of use in both the rear-facing and front-facing positions.
A convertible car seat is a necessity for your growing baby. For safety reasons, it is recommended to keep your baby in the rear-facing position as long as possible, at least until age 2. After that, a convertible car seat can be flipped to face forward. We reviewed convertible car seats on a variety of factors and our favorite is the Britax Boulevard ClickTight. It is suitable for children weighing up to 65 pounds, was easy to install, is safe, and offers many adjustments to grow with your child. Our runner up pick is the Graco Extend2Fit which also was easy to install. Reviewers like the four-position extension panel that can be used in the rear-facing position to give your child extra legroom as he grows. Finally, the Chicco NextFit iX Zip which has a seat pad that can be unzipped and thrown in the wash for easy cleaning. For infants, check out our review on the best infant car seats.