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Boy demonstrates best convertible car seats.

5 Best Convertible Car Seats

The seats that provide the best balance of safety and ease of installation

Once a child outgrows his infant car seat, a convertible seat is the next step. This seat can be installed in both rear- and forward-facing configurations, and is likely to be the one a child sits in for the longest period of time. Featured below are the convertible models with the highest Overall Scores in our testing.

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.

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.

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 nearly 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 top convertible car seat models we’ve identified, from manufacturers such as Chicco, Evenflo, and Graco, have the highest Overall Scores, representing balanced performance in three test areas: fit to vehicle, ease of use, and crash performance.

Using CR’s Car Seat Ratings

Consumer Reports’ crash test evaluates the ability of a child seat to reduce the injury risk in conditions that simulate a car’s interior environment, and the forces encountered during 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 installation methods. 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 a seat belt installation. 

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 requirement for safety, and our ratings and recommendations will help you differentiate which seats provide a greater margin of protection and increase your chance of getting the seat securely and correctly installed. See our 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 between $45 and $300. 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.

Chicco NextFit
Chicco NextFit

    Chicco NextFit

    A solid performer in crash protection, the NextFit also scored highly for ease of use and fit to vehicle. With push-on LATCH connectors and SuperCinch tensioning technology, this seat makes LATCH installations easier to navigate. It’s easy for parents to adjust the height of the harness for a growing child. One challenge could be the seat’s weight, but it isn’t so heavy that it detracts from the NextFit’s easy-to-use features.

    See the ratings for the Chicco NextFit and similar Chicco NextFit Zip.

    Britax Marathon ClickTight
    Britax Marathon ClickTight

      Britax Marathon ClickTight

      The Marathon ClickTight performed well overall. One reason is Britax’s ClickTight technology, which eliminates the need for a parent to use extra force or their full body weight to get a tight installation. Rather, parents can route the belt or LATCH strap into the proper belt path and the ClickTight tensioner does most of the work.

      ClickTight is not the only feature that makes installation easier. The no-rethread harness eases the burden on the parent when adjusting harness height to accommodate their growing child. While a bit heavier, overall this is a great seat. One tip: When opening the ClickTight feature, parents should take care to press down on the seat, releasing some of the tension so that the ClickTight can open. Parents should also be careful to keep the belt flat and not twisted.

      See the ratings for the Britax Marathon ClickTight.

      Evenflo Sure Ride
      Evenflo Sure Ride

        Evenflo Sure Ride

        The SureRide demonstrated the best potential for limiting injury based on our simulated crash-test results. It’s a lightweight model, making it easy to install and convenient for parents to carry around. Forward-facing installations are easier than rear-facing because the recline indicators are difficult to read. This seat is a CR Best Buy, based on its combination of price and performance.

        See the ratings for the Evenflo SureRide and similar Evenflo Titan 65.

        Cosco Scenera NEXT
        Cosco Scenera NEXT

          Cosco Scenera NEXT

          This CR Best Buy has a maximum weight capacity of 40 pounds. While it isn’t loaded with fancy features, this seat is straightforward to use, and it scored well in forward-facing fit to vehicle and crash performance. It is a great seat at a bargain price. 

          See the ratings for the Cosco Scenera Next.

          Graco Contender 65
          Graco Contender 65

            Graco Contender 65

            The Contender 65 features an eight-position external harness adjuster and has a lower price than most competitors that have a similar feature. It had impressive crash-test performance, and it scored very well in both ease of use and fit to vehicle. The correct recline angle may be difficult to achieve for rear-facing installations, but placing a rolled towel underneath the seat may help.

            See the ratings for the Graco Contender 65.

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            Emily A. Thomas, Ph.D.

            At Consumer Reports, I've found the perfect blend for my love of injury biomechanics, forensics, and kids as an automotive safety engineer for child passenger safety. For me there's no greater reward than helping families keep their little ones safe and coming home to put my advice into practice with my own precious little boy. Between church activities, my big Indian family, and exploring new places with the hubby and baby—my life and my heart are full.