Best Convertible Car Seats

Britax Marathon Clicktight

Britax Marathon Convertible Car Seat

The Good

  • Easy Installation
  • SafeCell impact protection system
  • Safe for newborns

The Bad

  • Heavy
  • Velco straps can irritate child's skin

Specifications

  • Rear Facing Min Weight: 5 lbs
  • Rear Facing Max Weight: 40 lbs
  • Front Facing Min Weight: 20 lbs
  • Front Facing Max Weight: 65 lbs
  • Max Height (Standing): 49 inches
  • Seat Height: 23.5 inches
  • Weight: 28.5 lbs
  • Expiration: 6 years

Graco Contender 65 

Waste King 3200

Graco Contender 65

The Good

  • Harness System ensures proper fit
  • Easy Installation
  • Lightweight for easy transportation

The Bad

  • Seat doesn't recline
  • No padding on harness

Specifications

  • Rear Facing Min Weight: 5 lbs
  • Rear Facing Max Weight: 40 lbs
  • Front Facing Min Weight: 20 lbs
  • Front Facing Max Weight: 65 lbs
  • Max Height (Standing): 49 inches
  • Seat Height: 28 inches
  • Weight: 16 lbs
  • Expiration: 7 years

Chicco NextFit 

Waste King 8000

The Good

  • Lightweight
  • Sturdy design w/ side impact features
  • 9 recline positions

The Bad

  • High price
  • Shoulder strap make tightening a little difficult

Specifications

  • Rear Facing Min Weight: 5 lbs
  • Rear Facing MaxWeight: 40 lbs
  • Front Facing Min Weight: 22 lbs
  • Front Facing Max Weight: 65 lbs
  • Max Height (Standing): 50 inches
  • Seat Height: 26 inches
  • Weight: 15 lbs
  • Expiration: 8 years

What is a Convertible Car Seat?

A convertible car seat is a child safety seat designed to transition to different types as a child grows. Starting off as a rear-facing device for newborns through infancy, they can be converted into forward-facing for older children. It is extremely convenient as multiple safety seats do not need to be purchased as the child gets older. They differ from dedicated infant seats, which are strictly rear-facing and must be replaced as the child grows older. Most convertible seats are meant to cover between birth and 50 to 65 pounds, although some even transform into booster seats beyond that. Convertible seats come in a wide variety of styles, features, and prices, and ensuring you choose the right one early on is essential to maximizing not only your purchase value but in ensuring your child’s safety.

When Should a Convertible Car Seat Be Used?

Convertible car seats are effective throughout a child’s early years. From newborn months and toddlerhood, when safety laws mandate that seats be rear-facing, to older years when forward-facing seats become necessary, convertible car seats are an all-in-one solution. While highly convenient, it should be noted that they are not as easy to use as infant carriers. They tend to be heavier and require proper installation. However, Consumer Reports recently recommended that all children be transitioned to convertible car seats no later than age 1, as crash tests have indicated they are safer than traditional rear-facing infant seats.

As both convertible and infant car seats have pros and cons, knowing what to look for in a good convertible is key. But before you purchase one, what features should you consider?

Features to Consider Before Purchasing a Convertible Car Seat

As mentioned, there is a range of features to choose from when selecting a convertible car seat. Let’s take a look at some features to consider when making a purchasing decision.

Safety

Safety is paramount when purchasing a car seat, and it should be equipped at a minimum with a five-point safety harness. These restraints go over the shoulder and thighs, and through the child’s legs, ensuring the child is properly secured. They should be as adjustable as possible to fit your growing child, and come equipped with very low positioning for newborns to ensure they are properly restrained. All seats will publish their weight ranges, so if you do plan to purchase for a newborn, ensure that the car seat you choose is in fact rated for newborns.

Most models should also come equipped with side-impact protection. This consists of a specialized foam coating designed to absorb the energy of collisions. And while all car seats are mandated by law to meet safety standards based on a 30 mph crash test, some car seat models, in fact, exceed these, which should be taken into consideration.

Ease of use

All convertible car seats must be installed, and the ease of installation is a definite thing to consider. The LATCH system, consisting of a car seat bolt receptacle behind the back seat below the rear window, is a standard feature on most cars built since 2002, and generally makes installation a relatively simple affair. However, some seats are easier to use than others depending on certain factors. For instance, the weight of the seat and the degree to which it reclines may impede easy installation, operation, and transportation. Seats should be easy to clean and be made of spill-resistant materials. To that end, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a 5-star rating system which rates all convertible car seats based on their ease of use. When buying a car seat, look for a high NHTSA star rating.

It’s also important to get a feel for whether or not a particular car seat model will work with your car. While this may not be an issue for some, the sturdiness of the base versus the seat curvature of the vehicle may cause unsteadiness. Always plan ahead before you buy.

Price

The price range of convertible car seats varies based on the manufacturer, place of purchase, and features included. Having said that, higher cost does not always equal a better seat. In fact, many lower- to mid-range convertible car seats are just as effective as higher priced ones. So when buying a car seat, take into account the features and styles offered versus the price.

Convertible Car Seat Reviews

Britax Marathon Clicktight Review

  • Our Report

Packed with value and features, the Britax Marathon Clicktight convertible car seat will have your child riding in safety, comfort and style. The latest entry from Britax features its renowned Clicktight system for easy installation as well as a host of safety features making it one of the securest child restraint systems available. Let’s take a look at some of the features of this convertible car seat.

Safety:

Boasting an impressive range of safety features, the Britax Marathon Clicktight is one of the safest convertible child safety seats available on the market. Its SafeCell system consists of a host of safety features built into the unit. The steel frame is sturdy, offering durability in the event of a collision. Side-impact protection, as well as an impact absorbing tether, also fit into the equation, and the Clicktight installation ensures that the seat will remain securely in place. As well, the seat features “staged-release stitching” designed to absorb collision energies. The 5-point harness is padded for comfort and safety, earning 5 stars out of 5 by the NHTSA’s child seat rating system for how well it secures the child.

Ease of use:

The Britax Marathon Clicktight is heavy, a curse shared by many convertible child safety seats. Despite the weight, installation couldn’t be easier due to the Clicktight system. The seat features a LATCH-compatible upper tether, as well as a bottom tether that fits easily and quickly through a seatbelt.

Fitting your child comfortably is never a problem with this unit. Seven recline settings are available in order to maximize the child’s comfort, with no less than 14 head harness positions, allowing you to safely carry a child from newborn up to 65 lbs. The drawback to this design is that moving the position lever can be difficult from within the car. Hip harnesses also extend, perfect to accommodate children wearing bulky clothing, all with the push of a button. However, some have complained that the velcro straps holding the seat cover can cause irritation for some users.

Special Features:

– Compartments to house tethers, reducing clutter and making transportation easier
– Removable soft luxurious padding to make cleanup easy
– Automatic level indicators to let you know your child’s seat is positioned correctly

Having compartments to house the tethers is a real plus; no more do you have to worry about ungainly lines flopping and hanging about when you move the seat. The padding is soft and comfortable for the child, and it’s easily removable so spills and other messes can be cleaned up simply by throwing it into the wash. And the automatic level indicators are also a super handy feature to ensure that the seat is installed evenly and correctly.

Price/Value:

The Marathon Clicktight is a bargain considering its long list of safety features and ease of use.

Graco Contender 65 Review

Waste King 3200

Graco Contender 65

  • Our Report

Graco features the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System, which incorporates a 5-point harness design that automatically adjusts to the child’s size. This can be an enormous plus, allowing quick and easy adjustments with only one hand. Plus, it will ensure that your child is always correctly fitted into the seat.

Safety:

Graco features the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System, which incorporates a 5-point harness design that automatically adjusts to the child’s size. This can be an enormous plus, allowing quick and easy adjustments with only one hand. Plus, it will ensure that your child is always correctly fitted into the seat.

As well, this seat has been tested to twice the mandated crash safety standards and features side-impact energy absorbing foam for maximum security. Finally, a removable adjustable headrest ensures that the child’s head is properly supported at all time.

Ease of Use:

Installation is fairly easy, with both front-facing and back-facing LATCH tethers, and features a bottom tether that easily fits into seatbelts. There are no recline settings apart from front and back, although the labeling makes it easy to determine which way is which. One thing this unit does lack is a padded harness, which may be a comfort issue for the child. And although the lack of recline settings may be seen as a drawback, the overall weight of the seat benefits from having no recline mechanism and subsequently weighs considerably less than comparable units, making it ideal to use on airplanes and in alternate vehicles.

Special Features:

– Cup holder to occupy children during use

Let’s face it: children can be demanding. Having a cup holder within reach is a simple way to ensure not only that they stay properly hydrated, but occupied in doing so. It’s a little touch that makes a huge difference.

Price/Value:

This convertible car seat is a budget model. While lacking many of the safety features of the Britax Marathon, it’s a good overall car seat for the cost.

Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat Review

Waste King 8000

NHTSA Ease of Use Rating:

  • Our Report

Chicco’s NextFit Convertible Car Seat is a higher-end convertible car seat, incorporating style with substance. This is the first convertible entry from Chicco, but it seems that it was worth the wait. A host of features is on offer, although it’s debatable whether or not they justify the higher price tag. Overall, it’s a fine entry into the convertible car seat marketplace. Here are some of its features:

Safety:

Safety is in no way compromised with this seat, despite its ridiculously low 15 lb weight. The shell and headwings are solid, designed with energy-absorbing side impact buffering materials, and features a base that will grip any upholstery without damaging it, ensuring that the seat remains securely in place. Its 5-point harness is adjustable with one simple pull, and also comes with an infant insert for newborns. The unit also incorporates locking mechanisms to ensure the seatbelts are securely adhered to.

Ease of Use:

While not as easy as Britax’s Clicktight system, the Chicco NextFit is still incredibly easy to install. It features a simple LATCH system that easily tightens and dual levels to ensure proper positioning with Chicco’s “SuperCinch” tightening system, although some have complained of difficulty tightening the shoulder strap. The NextFit has no less than 9 recline positions, more than any other convertible car seat, and also incorporates a 6-position headrest, making it very simple to fit your child properly. Its overall design makes it compatible with most vehicle types.

Special Features:

– Compartment to house tethers, reducing clutter and making transportation easier
– Cup holder to occupy children while seat is in use

Moving the car seat to other vehicles, or bringing it on an airplane, can be unwieldy. With this seat’s housing compartments, you’ll never have to worry about tethers hanging down and getting in the way, as they fold quickly and easily out of the way. And having a cup holder for a child is such a simple idea that should be standard as it not only gives them something to do on car journeys but ensures you’ll never hear “I’m thirsty” again.

Price/Value:

This convertible car seat is a more expensive car seat but still well short of the upper limit. While it carries a very sophisticated, 21-century design, the features on offer are mostly available on lesser-priced seats.

The Final Verdict:

Britax Marathon Convertible Car Seat

All three models we reviewed are excellent convertible car seats overall, with a very close comparability when it comes to safety and features. All seats, for instance, offer 5-point harnesses and are certified to meet or exceed safety standards. However, there’s more to buying a good car seat than features alone, and it boils down to a mix of features and dollar value. For that reason, the nod goes to the Britax Marathon Clicktight. While more expensive than the Graco Contender, it offers all of the most important features, some of which are lacking by both the Graco and the Chicco NextFit. From the ease of installation with the Clicktight system through to its impressive array of safety features and durability, the Britax Marathon Clicktight is definitely a convertible car seat worth considering.