According to AAA, Americans spend approximately 300 hours driving each year—and as a born-and-raised Angeleno living in a city known for its obsession with cars, I can attest to this fact. Throw in being a parent in L.A. and it seems like I'm essentially doubling that driving time, thanks to the many playdates and appointments on our schedule. Now that my son has finally outgrown his infant car seat, I'm looking to find one of the best convertible car seats that'll give me peace of mind that he's safe and sound during our many escapades.
But first, it's important to know rules of the road when it comes to car seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains that children under 1 should always use a rear-facing car seat. The NHTSA also recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, usually up until 3 years old or when they reach the maximum height or weight limit of their car seat. Another thing to note? It's all about installing your car seat correctly—even a five-star-rated seat won't get the job done right if it's not secured or placed in the right location and position.
To be clear, convertible and all-in-one car seats tend to accommodate higher weight and limits because they can hold infants and toddlers. They typically begin as rear-facing for babies and toddlers up to 24 months and can be converted to a forward-facing seat once your child is 2 or even as old as 5, depending on their weight and height. For new parents who want to get the most mileage out of their gear, a convertible car seat may be an ideal option, as it won't need to be replaced when your baby inevitably outgrows their infant seat.
On that note, we've narrowed down the best car seat options for every lifestyle. Yep, we've done all the hard work for you—keep reading for the best convertible car seats approved by safety experts and parents alike.
Most Versatile Convertible Car Seats
If you're worried about proper installation, Baby Gear Lab calls this car seat "foolproof," thanks to its innovative design. This popular car seat has a sturdy steel frame (which includes an additional layer of side-impact protection), 10 height options, and safe and comfortable padding, to name a few features, which is why it's consistently named a top pick among experts and parents.
Ages: Infants and children up to 65 pounds or 49 inches tall
Parents swear by this long-lasting car seat, which can be used four ways: infant rear-facing, front-facing for toddlers, and as a highback or backless booster seat for older children. In fact, it's scored five stars from 1300 Amazon buyers due to its comfort, its adjustability, and its safety record.
Ages: Infants and children up to 120 pounds or 57 inches tall
You're paying slightly more for this car seat's sleek Italian design, but it makes up for the price with its easy latch and seat belt installation, quality, and comfort.
Ages: Infants and children up to 65 pounds
Best for Small Cars
Comfortable and eye-catching, Chicco's easy-to-install NextFit features nine recline positions and can fit in a wider variety of cars when compared to other car seats. If you don't mind spending a little more, the Zip version comes with an insulated cup holder and a removable seat pad that unzips conveniently for cleaning.
Ages: Infants and children up to 65 pounds or 50 inches tall
Parents with small- or mid-size cars will appreciate this narrow seat, which can also be folded flat and carried like a backpack, making it ideal for families who are frequent flyers.
Ages: Infants to children up to 120 pounds or 57 inches tall
Yes, you can drive a tiny car and still feel like your little one is protected safely in the back seat—and this compact convertible option by Combi is here to prove it. Similar to the other options on this list, it has side-impact protection, energy-absorbing foam, and a secure harness buckle. Unlike bulkier seats, this one can be installed in a three-person back seat and still allow for two other passengers.
Ages: Infants and children up to 40 pounds
Best for Those Looking to Splurge
The gadget-obsessed parents at Baby Gear Lab rave about this "innovative" car seat's design points across the board, from its easy installation, safe steel frame, adjustable headrest, detachable booster, anti-rebound bar, and extra cozy seating. It's also one of the best convertible car seats if you're looking for an eco-friendly option that's easy to clean and fits in smaller and mid-sized cars.
Ages: Babies 14 pounds to children up to 65 pounds
This convertible car seat's relatively higher price tag comes with an even more impressive safety rating, as Nuna went above and beyond American safety standards for this one. Luxe extras include an extra two inches of legroom, fold-out cup holders, 10-position recline, one-hand height adjustment, easy installation, and removable and washable covers.
Ages: Infant to children up to 65 pounds
Leave it to celebrity stylist-turned-designer Rachel Zoe to dream up the most fashionable car seat—which is not only stylish, but it's incredibly safe, too. Inspired by vintage luggage, this chic convertible seat features cognac leather accents, gold and white touches, and a cup holder alongside an advanced Air Protect cushion system that offers side impact and head protection.
Ages: Babies 14 pounds to children up to 85 pounds or 52 inches tall
Best for Tight Budgets
The experts at Lucie's List note that parents won't be sacrificing any safety points with this budget-minded option, which boasts plenty of padding for comfort, includes a folding cup holder, and is easy to install using the latch system. It's worth pointing out that this car seat is best when installed in the middle seat, as "there are no 'additional' side-impact safety features," says Lucie's List.
Ages: Infants and children up to 65 pounds
Although it doesn't recline and might be a slightly tighter fit in the back seat for more compact cars, this car seat is just as comfy and safe for kids, according to parents on Amazon. The Simply Safe Adjust harness system also won points with parents due to its ability to readjust easily when you push a button and lift or lower the head rest.
Ages: Infants to children up to 65 pounds
Another stellar option by Britax, this affordable car seat doesn't skimp on safety because of its price. With a good crash test score, comfortable seat padding, three recline positions, and ease of installation, experts agree that the Roundabout is a worthy alternative for parents looking for peace of mind and value.
Ages: Infants and children up to 55 pounds
What are the best convertible car seats that you recommend? Share your favorites in the comments.