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Best Convertible Car Seats Buying Guide
Buying a convertible car seat is a must and may be the only seat you will have to buy if you decide not to buy an infant car seat adapter. In fact, convertible seats can be used from birth and offer the option of rear-facing and front-facing installation. Rear-facing installation is safe for the newborn baby until he or she reaches a certain weight and height depending on the seat model.
As part of this review, 6 of the most popular models on the market were selected. The functionalities of each one are compared and an inventory of the pros and cons of each seat has been made.
4 main criteria were evaluated: Safety, representing the results of the crash tests; Ease of use, for installing the seat in the car and the child restraint; Comfort, for the quality of the materials and the comfort of the seat; and finally, Overall Appreciation for reliability and overall performance.
My top pick is the Britax Marathon ClickTight. This high quality car seat is frequently found at the top of the charts for the best convertible car seats. The Britax company has built a solid reputation for safety and quality while maintaining reasonable prices. Moreover, the Britax B-Safe 35 infant car seat is also Ovalem’s pick in its category. The ClickTight installation system will help you avoid problems when it’s time to install the seat in the car and the 10-position strap adjuster will provide an optimal fit for your child. User-friendly front and rear facing, this seat offers the performance you are looking for.
Graco also offers an interesting product for smaller budgets with its Contender 65 model. This seat does not offer the same quality as a Britax seat, but will provide comfort for your child with soft padding that is easy to clean. Also, it is compatible with most vehicles; you probably won’t have any difficulty installing it. You are definitely making a good value purchase with this model.
The installation of a seat may differ from one car model to another. I recommend that you have your seat installation checked by a certified body. Remember that the safety of a seat depends above all on the quality of its installation.In fact, read and keep the instruction manual for your seat at all times.
In addition, many health organizations recommend using your rear-facing car seat at least until your child reaches the age of 2 years in order to avoid major injuries in the event of a collision.
Our Opinion on the Britax Marathon ClickTight
- High performance in crash tests
- Ease of installation
- Quality of materials
- Short crotch strap
- No cup holder
Why We Love It
The Britax Marathon offers one of the best safety performances in its category, which is significant when choosing a car seat for our children. Its steel frame and expanded polypropylene foam padding offer optimum resistance in the event of an accident. Note that the latter material is more environmentally friendly compared to expanded polystyrene foam.
At a more reasonable price than its higher-end model, the Britax Boulevard, it’s frankly worth it and there’s no need to pay more. The only advantage of the Boulevard model is that it offers more adjustment options, which can make it more comfortable. On the other hand, the Britax Marathon performs better in crash tests, especially for side impacts.
The ClickTight system, developed and patented by Britax, makes installing this seat a breeze. Simply lift the seat, put on your car’s seat belt, tighten it and close the seat again. Even grandparents will find it just as easy to use for a walk with their grandchild. It is probably the safest and easiest installation system on the market.
Also, the buckle of the straps can be hooked and unhooked very easily. The straps are soft and very comfortable for the child. The Britax Marathon seat harness system has 10 adjustment points to ensure an optimal adjustment to the child’s height. However, the crotch straps may be a little short for children with plump thighs.
The fabric of the Britax Marathon washes very well with a cloth in case of a mess. However, several parents have noticed a degradation at the seams, which makes the cover more fragile to tears. However, Britax does sell a separate seat cover that can provide protection against this type of inconvenience.
At 28.5 pounds, it may not be the lightest model on the market, but it’s probably the price to pay for high-quality materials to prevent shocks.
Also, the Britax Marathon comes without a cup holder, which is not ideal for long trips. You can buy it separately, but the many negative comments about the product discourage buying it. Indeed, many mention that the cup holder does not hold in place and is of poor quality.
Still, the Britax Marathon is an excellent pick for parents who want to purchase a safe and easy-to-use convertible car seat. This model certainly stands out from its competitors. It is important to note that the easier it is to install a car seat, the safer it is because the most common cause of injury in an accident is due to improper seat installation.
Our Opinion on the Graco Extend2Fit
- Affordable price
- Optimal use rear-facing
- Difficult to wash
- Poor quality of materials
- Straps that are difficult to tighten and tend to twist
Why We Love It
Graco excels once again with its Extend2Fit car seat at a more than affordable price and unprecedented reliability. This seat is named in the safest models during crash tests.
The Graco Extend2Fit is relatively light and compact compared to other convertible car seats on the market. However, even with a sport utility vehicle, you’ll have a hard time putting 3 seats of this model in the back or 2 seats and a rear passenger.
This model is much easier to install in rear-facing mode than in front-facing mode. In addition, it is perfectly suitable for a car seat from birth (from 4 pounds) if you decide not to buy an infant car seat. Your child must weigh between 22 and 65 pounds to use the forward-facing seat, but you can use it rear-facing up to 50 pounds, which is rare for a convertible seat.
The biggest advantage of this seat is its leg rest which stretches to 3 different positions below the seat. It is recommended to leave the child rear facing as long as possible (at least up to 24 months). The main reason why parents install the seat early forward-facing (from 12 months) is the lack of space between the backrest and the seat. Fully extended, the Graco Extend2Fit’s leg rest provides up to 5 inches of additional leg room for the child’s legs while providing a safe and comfortable head and neck rest. This option alone is worth a great deal of appreciation to this model. However, if you have a compact vehicle, the front passenger will have less space with a fully extended leg rest.
The Graco Extend2Fit offers 10 different positioning options for the head and neck rest and 6 tilt options. Parents mentioned that it was easier to install the seat with the UAS system than with the seat belt.
The buckle on the chest is sometimes difficult to use due to a lack of flexibility. Some would argue that it is a good thing in terms of safety since there is no chance that the child will be able to come off. Several users mentioned that the belt straps were easily twisted and that their stiffness hampered their tightening.
The cover is machine washable, but must be dried flat. However, the seat cover is difficult to remove for washing. The buckles and straps are difficult to remove from the cover, wasting valuable time and causing serious annoyance.
The Graco Extend2Fit has a beautiful design and is available in several colors. It competes greatly with the Graco 4Ever model, the brand’s most popular model sold at a higher price. The main differences between these two seats lie in the possibility of transforming the 4ever into a booster seat as well as its higher size limit facing the front.
This seat is definitely a safe pick with its ability to be used in a rear-facing position for a long period of time. Offered at a reasonable price, the Graco Extend2Fit is a tribute to the brand’s great reputation.
Our Opinion on the Diono Radian 3rXT
- High-end seat
- Narrow width
- High price
- Difficult installation
- Difficult to adjust adjustment loop
Why We Love It
Many call this seat the Cadillac of car seats. However, at the high asking price, a savvy consumer could demand more user-friendliness and comfort from this seat.
First, the 3-in-1 formula of the Diono Radian 3RXT is interesting. This seat will accompany your child from birth until he or she reaches the legal weight and height to safely sit directly on the bench of your vehicle. Using the rear-facing seat involves adding a base included with the purchase that allows for a better angle for an infant. This rearward-facing mode is possible for a child between 5 and 45 pounds. The forward-facing mode is possible for a child between 20 and 80 pounds. Finally, the Diono includes a booster mode up to 120 pounds, allowing you to use the car seat belt directly.
The Diono is renowned for its narrow width, which allows the installation of 3 seats in the majority of vehicles on the market. This seat is narrow but very heavy. This is probably the price to pay for quality steel framing. However, this steel frame allows a regulated useful life of 10 years as opposed to 5 years on average for a plastic frame. Convenient for a seat that accompanies the child from the moment he or she leaves the hospital until the start of school!
The Diono will be difficult to install for some people. Many have indicated a complication to ensure proper tightening of the seat and to avoid movement of the seat, even with the UAS system. Also, it’s convenient to be able to put 3 seats in a row, but the child’s installation is more difficult under these conditions, given the limited space.
The Diono Radian 3RXT seat does not offer much padding, which does not suggest an optimal comfort for the child. The fabric covering the seat is still very soft to the touch and seems comfortable, especially at the memory foam underside. Also, the pads of the straps are interesting for their longer length than what we can generally see in this type of seat. The cover covering the seat can easily be removed, thus making it easier to wash in the event of a mess or simply for maintenance. Also, a cup holder is included with the purchase, but it is possible to add 3 others, sold separately.
The Diono Radian RXT is distinguished by its folding function, allowing a more compact and practical transport. However, it should not be forgotten that this is one of the heaviest seat models on the market, so it’s best not to move it repeatedly. Nevertheless, it is the preferred model for parents who wish to travel with their children by plane and carry their own seat (in countries where this is possible).
This seat is very high, which will interfere with the parent’s view of their child when used in the rear-facing position. The Diono also takes up a lot of space when used in the rear-facing position. Diono sells an angle cushion separately for better orientation of the bench to reduce the space between the seat and the front bench. However, this cushion cannot be used for a newborn baby, it is necessary to wait until the child is able to support his head without help.
Many consumers find that the Diono’s headrest is difficult to move. In addition, the belt straps can sometimes be stiff and hard to buckle.
With the purchase of a Diono Radian 3RXT, you are undoubtedly making a lasting investment. Its price discourages many, but its compact nature also charms many. If your main buying criteria is narrow size, this seat is definitely for you, don’t hesitate any longer.
Our Opinion on the Graco Contender 65
- Good value for money
- Easy to install
- Rigid strap buckle
- Forward-facing tilt
- 40-pound limit when used rear-facing
Why We Love It
Graco has wonderfully designed an affordable convertible car seat that is compatible with most vehicles, including compact sedans, which is a feat in itself.
You can install baby rear-facing up to a maximum weight of 40 pounds, which is not ideal for parents of strong children. Indeed, the recommendations stipulate that a child must be installed rear-facing at least until the age of 2 years. The installation of a child front facing is possible from 22 to 65 pounds.
As with other Graco seats, installing the Contender 65 from the UAS system is very easy and the level indicator is very user-friendly. You will have no difficulty installing this seat very tightly, avoiding shaking, both in front and rear facing.
Adjusting the Contender 65 to your child’s height is really easy. The headrest with 8 possible adjustments is connected with the shoulder straps, making it easier and faster to fit properly. The 5-point harness is very easy to use. Tightening and loosening the straps is a breeze! However, some parents have mentioned that they had more difficulty with the strap buckle, which is not very long.
Some parents also mentioned that the seat, when used in a forward-facing position, could be slightly reclined, affecting the child’s comfort.
The Contender 65 comes with an insert and an additional comfortable and removable cushion for young children. The seat cover can also be easily removed and machine washed. The seat is also equipped with a cup holder.
You certainly make a good pick with this model. Its price is not at the expense of its quality and comfort. The Graco Contender 65 can be safely installed in most vehicles without compromising the front seat.
Our Opinion on the Evenflo Triumph Lx
- Good value for money
- Good result in security tests
- Strap support
- Difficult cleaning
- Difficult adjustment
Why We Love It
The Evenflo Triumph Lx impresses with its low price and some features that set it apart from its competitors.
Compatible with the UAS system, this seat can be used rear-facing from 5 pounds up to 40 pounds and up to 65 pounds front-facing if your child weighs a minimum of 22 pounds at 1 year of age. The seat offers 3 different recline levels.
The company has demonstrated that this seat exceeded all safety standards during crash tests. The Evenflo Triumph Lx is without a doubt a safe seat offered at a more than affordable price. This is the best pick if your main criterion is price.
Several parents noted difficulty in installing the seat using the UAS system, mainly forward-facing. The short anchor straps of the SAU make it difficult to access for optimal tightening.
The Evenflo Triumph LX stands out with its strap tightening mechanism. When your child is in the seat, simply turn the tightening mechanism located on each side of the seat to allow you to tighten the straps equally on both sides. The mechanism can sometimes be difficult to turn and the straps can sometimes twist, but it works most of the time. A great innovation! Note that the button to unlock the straps sometimes locks, making it difficult to loosen the straps.
Another distinction: the Evenflo Triumph Lx infinite slide harness makes it easy to adjust the straps to the right height for your child’s height.
When you remove your child from the seat, you can insert the buckles of the straps into two small pockets located on each side of the seat. This feature makes it easier to install your child in the future and avoids exposing the metal buckles to summer heat.
The Evenflo Triumph Lx is offered with very comfortable padding to support newborns and a headrest for the little ones. However, the fabric is of low quality. Prolonged use and lots of friction will prevail on this seat. The seat cover can be easily removed and is machine washable.
The cup holders have an elastic band to allow compatibility with any cup or snack container.
The Evenflo Triumph Lx is quite wide, without, however, preventing it from being installed in some compact cars.
It is the perfect seat for low-budget families who don’t want to compromise on quality. It has interesting features that differentiate it from the competition, but these distinctions would benefit from being further perfected in order to rise to the top of this review.
Our Opinion on the Safety First Grow and Go
- Affordable price
- Ease of washing
- Good padding
- Difficult adjustment of the straps
- Lack of stability during installation
- Very wide
Why We Love It
Safety First Grow and Go offer parents on a small budget an interesting product. The company has built a strong reputation in baby products worldwide. At this price, don’t expect a top-of-the-line model, but the Grow and Go meets the minimum criteria that parents are looking for in a convertible car seat: safety, comfort and user-friendliness. However, this model is very wide, especially when used in rear facing. Therefore, it may not be compatible with your vehicle for a safe installation. Please do the necessary checks before purchasing.
Your little one will be thrilled during transport by car thanks to the comfortable cushions on this seat. The head support adapts to your child’s morphology throughout his growth. The fabric of the cushions is comfortable, even during a heat wave. However, the buckle on the chest is quite wide and can be uncomfortable for smaller babies when the seat is used from birth.
In addition, cushion covers are easily removed to make washing easier. You won’t have to remove the straps to remove the covers, which will save you a lot of time. With this seat, you no longer fear the mess from milk or other unwanted substances.
When it comes to the installation, you won’t have the same ease as with other similar but more expensive models. The SAU system of the Grow and Go is difficult to use to ensure the stability of the seat. You may have to do it several times before you succeed. In addition, the attachment straps are difficult to adjust. Considering that you have to adjust them for each use, this is a major drawback for this model. However, the Safety First Grow and Go is a better pick than its lower-end model, Alpha, which poses an even greater installation challenge.
You will appreciate the 2 cup holders that easily detach from the seat so that you can put them in the dishwasher. Also, the strap holder is easy to use, so you don’t have to look for the straps under your child.
Large, but fairly light (you won’t have any trouble carrying it from one car to another), the Safety First Grow and Go is available in several colors. Its design is interesting and easily hides its low quality materials. As mentioned above, expect this seat to be imposing when used rear-facing.
In short, although comfortable for your child, this seat disappoints with its more difficult installation and with its rigid straps that make installing your child a real nightmare. You can definitely find a better seat at a better price.