A little boy sitting in a convertible car seat.

A convertible seat is a must for parents to stay in step with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation to keep a child rear-facing for as long as possible; she should stay there until she has reached the height or weight limit of the rear-facing seat.

Once a child outgrows her infant car seat, a convertible seat is the next step up. This seat can be installed in both rear- and forward-facing configurations, and it’s likely to be the one a child sits in for the longest period of time. 

Most kids will outgrow an infant or rear-facing-only seat because of their height first, rather than their weight. Based on our recent tests, Consumer Reports recommends that parents transition their children to a rear-facing convertible seat by age 1.

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That’s because of a key potential safety benefit. We found that in more than half of the infant seats we tested, the head of a 12-month-old-child dummy came into contact with the simulated front seatback. That type of impact could result in injury to a child.

By contrast, in almost all the rear-facing convertible seats, the head of the 12-month-old dummy avoided contact. (Learn more about how we test car seats.)  

The shell of a convertible model provides additional space above a rear-facing child’s head that allows room for the head to move while still avoiding contact with the back of front seat. In addition, most rear-facing-only infant seats have maximum weight limits of 35 pounds or less, but convertibles in most cases have maximum weight limits of 40 pounds or more when used rear-facing.

The top convertible car seat models we’ve identified offer balanced performance in three test areas: how they fit in a vehicle, ease of use, and performance in a crash test.

The top-rated models have features that help in getting a secure installation, particularly when using a vehicle’s seat belts. Some models, such as the Nuna Rava, indicate that using the seat belt is the preferred installation method.

Below are the convertible models with the highest Overall Scores in CR’s testing.

Using CR’s Car-Seat Ratings

Consumer Reports’ crash test evaluates the ability of a child seat to reduce the risk of injuries in conditions that simulate the inside of a car, and the forces that would be encountered in a crash. Each convertible seat is crash-tested in all its configurations and installation methods with age-appropriate child-sized dummies.

Our fit-to-vehicle ratings reflect the differences between using LATCH (the anchors that are built into a car) and using the standard three-point seat belt, with separate ratings for the different orientations and installations. Overall Scores take into consideration regulations regarding the 65-pound weight limit (seat plus child) for LATCH lower-anchor use. This means that with heavier seats, you may be limited as to how long you can keep the seat installed using LATCH connectors and when you must switch to installing with a seat belt.

Bottom Line

Most children will need to move from an infant seat to a convertible seat to remain rear-facing. All convertible seats meet at least the minimum requirements for safety, and our ratings and recommendations will help parents differentiate which seats provide a greater margin of protection and increase your chance of getting the seat securely and correctly installed. See CR’s recommended car-seat use to determine whether your child should be in a convertible seat.

The highest-scoring convertible car-seat models below cost from $45 to $450. A higher price doesn’t necessarily reflect greater quality or safety—you can buy a safe, top-performing seat without breaking your budget.

Full details and ratings can be found on the seats’ individual model pages.

Top Picks

1

Ease of use
Forward belt

2

Ease of use
Forward LATCH
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