Last Updated: May 22, 2023 @ 2:18 pm.

What is the best convertible car seat? We rounded up 19 top models and then went to work—which was easiest to install? Most comfortable? Easiest to use? To find the best bets, we also asked our parent readers (3 million strong) for their favorites. Here are the best convertible seats on the market today.

FYI: We've been reviewing and rating products for the home and families since 1994. We don't take money or freebies from the brands we review. Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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Best Budget-Friendly

Safe, tight fit
"Easy" is the star feature here—this seat is easy to install, easy to adjust and easy to use. And yes, you have to love the cup holders. Narrow width is great for smaller vehicles.

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Best Budget-Friendly: Graco SlimFit

Let’s talk convertible car seats.

By convertible, we mean seats that convert from rear to forward facing. Safety advocates suggest keeping your baby rear-facing as long as possible (up to the seat’s limits). You turn around the seat after your child exceeds the rear-facing limits . . . then you use the seat forward-facing.

We looked at 19 current models to find the best bets in convertible car seats. Yes, we’ve been researching and writing about car seats since 1994! Good news: seats today have much better safety features than those in the past. 

Bad news: convertible seats can get rather pricey.

If you are looking for a budget-friendly seat that can last from baby to older kid, our pick is the Graco SlimFit. This seat scored well in third-party crash tests and overall ease of use in our research . . .  at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

This seat is a “3-in-1″—that is, it is used for infants (rear-facing to 40 lbs.), toddlers (forward-facing (22-65 lbs.) and older kiddos as a belt-positioning booster up to 100 lbs. Here are the pros and cons:

What We Liked

• Integrated harness and 10-position headrest. As you move the headrest higher, the harness adjusts with it—no need to rethread the harness and fit it through harness slots.

Narrow. The Graco SlimFit is just 17″ wide (with the cup holders folded in). Hence, this seat may work better in smaller vehicles—or if you need to install three seats across a back seat for a carpool.

• Affordable. With some new car seats priced like they are pulled from a hotel mini bar, it’s nice to find a safe, well-designed seat that is affordable.

What Needs Work

• Limited recline. There are just four total recline settings (two for rear-facing, two for forward-facing). While we found this acceptable in our testing, we realize some folks may want more recline positions.

• Doesn’t convert to a backless booster. Some “all-in-one” seats convert to backless boosters for older kids up to 120 lbs. The SlimFit only works to 100 lbs. as a belt-positioning booster.

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Best Gift Idea

Easy to install
The zip-off pad of this seat makes cleaning it a breeze. We love the premium fabrics and padding, as well as the numerous safety features. Also great: the nine-position deep recline for newborns.

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Best Gift Idea: Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat

If you are tasked with buying your friend (or grandchild) a new car seat, this model is a top-of-the-line gift idea. Yes, it is more pricey than other convertibles on the market, but the marquee features (nine-position recline, zip-off cover for cleaning) make it worth the investment. Here’s more:

What We Liked

 Roomy, comfy seat.

• Easy to clean with zip-off cover.

• Easy to adjust the straps.

• Super easy to install. We like Chicco’s “SuperCinch LATCH” system, which makes getting a tight fit a no-brainer.

What Needs Work

• Deep side wings can make it difficult to hoist newborn in and out of seat. Of course, the deep side wings are part of the side-impact protection, so that is a trade-off we think is worthwhile.

• No strap holders like those seen on other high-end seats. These keep the harness out of the way when baby isn’t in the seat.

• Pricey.

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Best Extended Rear-Facing

Machine-washable cover
We loved the headline feature for this seat—a panel that pops out for extra legroom, enabling longer rear-facing use. Budget-friendly AND a narrow profile that enables a good fit in smaller vehicles.

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Best Extended Rear-Facing: Graco Extend2Fit

Extended use of rear-facing car seats has been the recommendation for babies since 2011, when the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended all kids ride rear-facing until age 2 or longer if possible. That’s because crash testing shows young children are better protected in a crash when facing the rear of a vehicle.

Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, most seats are only rear-facing to 40 pounds. That’s why this seat is unique—it is rear facing to 50 pounds.

Here are more details:

What We Liked

• 10-position adjustable headrest. It grows as your baby does.

• Recline in six positions. It’s deeper for infants and less for napping toddlers.

• Adjustable harness without rethreading.

• Extended rear-facing use to 50 lbs! This seat has a special pop-out panel that provides five-inches of legroom.

• Machine washable cover.

What Needs Work

• May not work in smaller vehicles. When fully reclined with the leg rest extension, this seat takes up a significant amount of backseat real estate. It may require the front passenger seat to be moved to the most forward position.

• Cover. We like the machine-washable feature, but we found it challenging to put the cover back on the seat when cleaned.

• No premium features like harness strap covers.

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Best Tried & True Brand

Multiple-position headrest
Yes, the seat in this model opens to make belt installs super simple. We love this brand's safety reputation and this seat shines with excellent side-impact protection. Caveat: no cup holders!

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Best Tried & True Brand: Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

Yes, we’ve been writing and researching about car seats so long that we remember when Britax debuted on the market back in 1996. The brand was a much-needed addition to this car seat market, with an emphasis on safety (especially side-impact protection) that was sorely lacking at the time.

Fast forward to today and Britax still makes excellent car seats. We like their safety track record (both in third-party crash testing and product recalls). Their flagship model, the Boulevard, is a good example: super easy installation, excellent side-impact protection and premium fabrics that you’d expect at this price level.

Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Installation is super easy. The ClickTight system enables a rock-solid install with a seat belt or you can use LATCH.

• Comfy seat.

• Side impact protection.

• Great brand reputation.

What Needs Work

• Pricey.

• Not easy to move from vehicle to vehicle.

• No cup holders.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do extensive research, evaluating products with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability. When we purchase a product for hands-on testing, we do so with our own money.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

Baby Bargains: Your Baby Registry Cheat Sheet is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and its related sites. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.