Best Convertible Car Seats [2021]

Best Convertible Car Seats 2021

A car seat is likely to be the most important safety product you will purchase for your child. With the most precious thing in your world using it daily, you want to make sure to choose the best convertible car seat to fit your child, your car, and your budget. 

Your convertible car seat will be the safety seat you will use for the longest duration in your child’s car seat years, usually until your baby is at least 5 years old or older. Picking the perfect convertible car seat can be overwhelming for parents because of its importance, and because there is so much information out there. 

Don’t worry, I am here to help you make the best choice!

Convertible car seats have had some major advances in the past several years in terms of safety technologies, installation methods, and convenience features. The top rated car seats available will have a combination of ease of use, ease of installation, and advanced safety technologies which go above the minimum standards. Oh yea, and they have to fit in your car!

In this article, I'll go over:

The 7 best convertible car seats

What is the safest convertible car seat?

Every seat on the market passes a minimum standard of safety. Now, raise your hand if you want your child in a seat that just meets the minimum standard?

Anyone?

I didn’t think so. 

Having worked in the baby industry for more than 15 years, I have had the privilege of putting my hands on a LOT of car seats. 

While they all must pass federal safety standards, all car seats are not created equal. As the lead buyer for car seats and baby gear, I look for the following things in the seats I choose to sell at the store:

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 Would I use it? I have a daughter whom I love more than anything in this world. If I would not use a particular car seat for her, or would be uncomfortable with someone else using it, I WILL NOT SELL IT to you. That’s the #1 rule.
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 Advanced safety technologies - All of the seats listed below have advanced safety technologies to add layers of protection in multiple crash types. These include anti rebound bars which stabilize your rear facing car seat in a crash, multiple levels of side impact protection, and even more advanced technologies like Clek Foonf’s REACT system.
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Ease of CORRECT installation - If your car seat is installed incorrectly, I won’t consider it safe no matter what seat it is. My team and I have installed thousands of seats into just about every vehicle you can think of. I love installing at no charge if you buy here at the store, but I also want the parents to be able to get it in by themselves when they need to.
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Convenience features - If it’s easy to use and easy to clean I have happy customers. Simple as that. 
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Will it fit in my car? - Not every car seat fits in every car as well as the next. It always helps to try it in your car before you buy. Most independent baby stores have technicians on staff who can help you fit a car seat before you buy. This is definitely worth doing before committing to a seat. 

A few quick notes before I get to the list:

Shows measurement of rear facing leg room

Rear facing legroom 

Shows measurement of rear facing seat length

Rear facing seat length

  • Although a car seat may technically allow forward facing sooner, I strongly advise to keep your child rear facing to a MINIMUM of 2 years old. Consumer reports research found children 75% less likely to sustain serious injury or worse when rear facing up to 23 months. Set a goal for longer than 2 years and get there if you can. 
  • Most seats have an upper limit of 49” and 65 lbs, whichever comes first. It is far more likely that your baby will reach the height limit before weight. Please do not exceed either of these limits as the seat is not made to keep larger kids safe.
  • Rear facing seat length and legroom are estimates measured on our in store demo seat. This number can change based on your particular vehicle. 
  • Rear facing seat length is the distance from the point of contact to the
    vehicle seat back to the end of the car seat. This is a measure to help determine which seats allow for the most legroom for the person in front of the car seat.
  • Rear facing legroom is measured from the vehicle seat back to the point
    where the car seat back meets the seat pan which the child sits on. It estimates how long your child can comfortably sit rear facing.
  • Product weights are measured by Baby’s 1st, and are taken in a rear facing setup, but they do not include infant pads because most parents use an infant car seat and will not use these pads.

Here are the 7 best convertible car seats you can buy in 2021.

Nuna Rava

Price: 
$449.95
Rear faces:
5 to 50 lbs
Forward faces: 
at least 2 years and 25lbs to 49” or 65 lbs (whichever comes first)
Rear Facing seat length:
28-30"
Rear Facing legroom:
15.5-16"
 Layers of Side Impact Protection:
3
Car Seat Weight:
26.5 lbs
Child rear facing in Granite Rava

What we love about it:

Thumbs up  Great fit in almost every vehicle
Thumbs up  Premium, flame retardant free fabrics
Thumbs up  Very high user friendliness

    Parents with children growing out of the ultra popular Nuna Pipa series of infant car seats are generally so happy with them that the choice of moving next into the Nuna Rava is usually very easy. Honestly, it’s a pretty easy decision for lots of parents with children coming out of any infant car seat. 

    The Rava ranks very high on all of the things we look for in a convertible car seat. It is one of the easiest convertible car seats to install with a bubble-free, muscle-free, and hassle-free belt installation method. It’s also one of the easiest to use correctly every time. 

    One of the things that really sets the Nuna Rava apart from the competition is that it fits incredibly well in just about every vehicle. Rava strikes a near perfect balance of plenty of rear facing legroom for the child with a shorter overall length that allows for great installation even behind taller drivers in most cars.

    Nuna’s design team did a great job of packing in safety and fit features, yet still giving it an appealing look as well. You can also tell very quickly when you see the seat that Nuna uses  premium fabrics. All fabrics are also flame-retardant free, so you can’t find a less toxic seat for your child.

    If you are looking for an easy choice for a seat that you and your baby are highly likely to be happy with, one that checks all of the safety boxes, and more than likely fits perfectly in your car, the Nuna Rava is for you!

    Britax One4Life Clean Comfort with Anti Rebound bar

    Price: 
    $439.99
    Rear faces:
    5 to 50 lbs
    Forward faces: 
    at least 2 years and 22lbs to 49” or 65 lbs (whichever comes first)
    Forward faces booster mode:
    40-120 lbs
    Rear Facing seat length:
    31-33"
    Rear Facing legroom:
    17"
     Layers of Side Impact Protection:
    2
    Car Seat Weight:
    30.5 lbs8

    Cute girl in Britax One4life Clean comfort

     

    What we love about it:

    Thumbs up  Best installation ever!
    Thumbs up  Becomes a high back booster
    Thumbs up  Cool, comfy, and easy to clean

      I have used a lot of car seats over the years, and to be perfectly honest, I find that the easiest convertible car seat to install correctly is the Britax One4Life. Britax introduced the Clicktight installation method several years ago used in the Boulevard, the Grow With You CT, and others, but the One4Life has become the new gold standard for easy flawless installation.

      While I was busy being a car seat nerd about the install I almost forgot to mention that along with the Nuna Exec, the One4Life is one of 2 seats on this list that actually transforms into a belt positioning booster after your child outgrows the harness height of 49”. This means you save money by not having to purchase a booster seat after your convertible. 

      The regular Britax One4Life car seats (starting at $364.99) could easily make this list, but for this “best-of” list I am sticking with the flagship Clean Comfort with Anti Rebound Bar version. The additional rear facing safety feature of the anti rebound bar, the moisture wicking (think cooling) back fabrics, and the stain, odor, moisture resistant Clean Comfort fabrics make the upgrade to the premium version a very easy decision.

      The most unique safety feature on the One4Life is Britax exclusive Safe Cell Technology. That is the red honeycomb shaped part of the base of the seat. This actually compresses to absorb crash force impacts. It is very effective at counteracting forward movement during a crash, putting the child’s head at a lower risk of contacting the vehicle seat in front of her.

      After all of the wonderful things I just listed, I still have to say it: The One4Life is not, in my opinion, the best looking car seat on our shelves. But I am so willing to get past looks when it comes to performance. Who are we kidding? Most of these seats end up covered in crumbs at some point anyways!

      Clek Foonf

      Price: 
      $459.99-$509.99
      Rear faces:
      25"-43"; 14 to 50 lbs
      Forward faces: 
      at least 2 years and 30" to 49” and 22-65 lbs (whichever comes first)
      Rear Facing seat length:
      33-34"
      Rear Facing legroom:
      20"
      Layers of Side Impact Protection:
      2
      Car Seat Weight:
      38.5
       

      What we love about it:

      Thumbs up  Safety, Safety, Safety
      Thumbs up  Narrow enough for 3 across
      Thumbs up  Family-owned company and made in North America

        If you come in and tell me that you are shopping for convertible car seats, and you want the conversation to start and end with safety I will walk you right over to the Clek Foonf and ask you to pick a color. Clek may be the smallest company with a seat on this list, but they are very big on safety.

        Car seat manufacturers actually self-certify, meaning they do not have to have to publicly release crash test results. Clek does, however. That is because they are extremely proud of these results. This speaks volumes to me about where the priorities are in the design process.

        In fact, Clek is so safety obsessed that they have intentionally foregone sellable features on their seats, like a no-rethread harness, in order to make the seats optimally safe. In that case it allows you to adjust the side impact head support independently of the harness height so the seat will always optimally protect your baby.

        The Foonf is Clek’s flagship convertible car seat. It is very similar to the look and

        Foonf React System

        feel of their other convertible, the FLLO, however there is one major difference: The REACT System. This is what equates to a true crumple zone being put into your car seat itself. The REACT System actively reduces crash forces in a forward facing collision to the point where the safety performance forward facing rivals that of a rear facing seat.

        The anti rebound bar allows for the most rear facing legroom of any car seat out there, and the Foonf is built with a magnesium alloy sub structure. This, along with the REACT Safety System make the Foonf one of the heaviest car seats I have ever used - weighing in at 38lbs.

        Although the install is relatively straight-forward on the Foonf once you get it down, you will want to strongly consider purchasing additional car seats for any car you are using on a regular basis due to the weight of the seat.

        Somehow, the Foonf manages to pack all of the above (and more!) into a modernly designed beautiful seat that looks great in any vehicle. For whatever it’s worth, my baby girl rode in Foonfs for years!

        Cybex Sirona S

        Price: 
        $499.99
        Rear faces:
        5 to 50 lbs and at least 17"
        Forward faces: 
        at least 2 years, 30" to 49,” and 22-65 lbs (whichever comes first)
        Rear Facing seat length:
        31.5-32.5"
        Rear Facing legroom:
        15.5"
        Layers of Side Impact Protection:
        3
        Car Seat Weight:
        30
        Sirona S 360 degree rotation

        What we love about it:

        Thumbs up  360 degree rotation makes it easy to get baby in and out
        Thumbs up  Only convertible with load leg
        Thumbs up  Did I mention the car seat rotates!

          One of the main reasons even the best parents turn their kids forward facing earlier than they would like to is that it becomes very challenging to get your baby into that rear-facing car seat. The innovative rotating convertible car seat completely eliminates this challenge. There is not an easier seat to get your growing child into or out of.

          You just install the seat one time, and the whole top portion rotates from facing the back of the car to face you at the door. No more back aches getting that big baby into the car seat day after day. Also, when  you are ready to go forward facing it is the exact same installation method, only you add a top tether. It is so cool!

          Now, before I go any further, I will address the installation of this seat. The Cybex Sirona S has, in my opinion, the toughest install to get right of any car seat I have ever sold at Baby’s 1st. If you want this seat it is absolutely worth buying it in person from a store with competent car seat technicians who can install it for you and show you how to do it.

          Pro tip: To find a specialty store near you who may have certified car seat techs on staff, search for a Brixy store.

          The Sirona even has a tag on it that offers live video chat from Cybex as well, which tells you that this is not an ordinary install! 

          But that swivel makes it all worth it!

          Aside from the swivel, this seat is loaded with safety tech as well. It is the only convertible car seat with a load leg which reduces rotation in a frontal collision. There is also anti-rebound technology, 3 levels of side impact protection, and an exclusive Sensor Safe chest clip.

          The Sensor Safe technology provides alerts when unsafe situations arise including if a child unbuckles themselves while the vehicle is in motion; if the back seat has become too warm or too cold, if a child has been seated for too long, and if the driver accidentally leaves the child behind after the vehicle has been switched off. This is all controlled by an app on your phone, and utilizes the diagnostic plug in of your vehicle.

          There is so much to love about the Sirona S, just be sure to have help if you have any doubts installing this one!

          Nuna Exec

          Price: 
          $649.95
          Rear faces:
          5 to 50 lbs
          Forward faces with (Harness Mode): 
          at least 2 years old, 25 lbs-65 lbs, and up to 49" (whichever comes first)
          Forward faces (Booster Mode):
          40-120 lbs, 38-57", 4 years +
          Rear Facing seat length:
          29.5-31"
          Rear Facing legroom:
          15-18"
           Layers of Side Impact Protection:
          3
          Car Seat Weight:
          26 lbs
          3 Execs installed in a row in different stages

          What we love about it:

          • Birth to Booster - you only need this
          • Looks so comfortable!
          • Surprisingly narrow and a great fit in your car

          At $650, the Nuna Exec hits the top of our price points on car seats, so is it worth it? If you could see the rate of sale on this thing you would know that a lot of parents believe it is!

          The ultra-premium Nuna Exec gives you everything that you love about the Nuna Rava and somehow takes them all to the next level! The Exec has the same effortless installation as Rava, and it has the same harness capacities. The biggest difference is that Exec can become a seat belt positioning high back booster as well.

          Again like the Rava, Exec has fit incredibly well in every car I have installed it into so far. It also somehow has 3 levels of premiere side impact protection while still managing to be narrow enough to fit 3 across in many vehicles. There is also a fully adjustable rear facing anti rebound panel for additional rear facing legroom.

          3rd layer of side impact protection closeup

          3rd layer of side impact protection

          Exec slipcover closeup 

          Machine washable slipcover

          I cannot get through a quick review of the Exec without getting into what may be the ultimate differentiator - this seat looks so comfortable that I want to ride in an adult sized version! Ventilation panels in the shell and breathable knit fabrics help keep it cool, and the leg rest extends while forward facing, essentially turning the car seat into a recliner!

          Nuna doesn’t skimp on the extras with this one either. There are extra harness and crotch buckle covers, merino wool baby inserts, and even a machine washable slipcover for the leg rest.

          This all in one seat has been a hit from the first day it hit the shelves!

          Peg Perego Kinetic

          Price: 
          $379.99-429.99
          Rear faces:
          5 to 45 lbs
          Forward faces: 
          at least 2 years and 25lbs to 65 lbs or up to 49”(whichever comes first)
          Rear Facing seat length:
          30-33.5"
          Rear Facing legroom:
          16-18"
          Layers of Side Impact Protection:
          3
          Car Seat Weight:
          23 lbs
          Kinetic Car seat in Licorice with ARB

          What we love about it:

          • Familiar rear facing latch installation
          • Extended rear facing legroom
          • Lightest of the most premium convertibles 

          The Peg Perego family began making strollers more than 70 years ago in a small town in Italy. Today, the family still owns and are very hands on operators of the company, they have just gotten a little bit bigger - as in sold in dozens of countries across the globe, bigger. Still today, all baby gear made by Peg Perego is produced by the family in Italy.

          This includes the next seat on the list of 2021 top car seats, the Peg Perego Kinetic.

          The Kinetic is an all around awesome seat. It allows for extended rear facing legroom, allowing parents to keep their babies facing the back for a long time. There are also 3 layers of side impact protection, including Kinetic pods which move crash forces away from your baby in a crash from the side.

          This seat is also very convenient to use. It is the lightest seat available that gives you extended legroom, and it uses the familiar latch installation while rear facing. This makes it a great option for travel or a seat that is shared between vehicles.

          I have been selling Peg Perego for more than 15 years, and one thing has Kinetic car seat shell with ventillationremained consistent from the beginning - they make extremely comfortable products for your baby. The Kinetic has soft comfy fabrics that you have to touch to believe. One of my favorite things about it is that there is ventilation along the child’s back to keep them cooler in the car.

          The only challenge with this car seat is that it can be one of the longer seats, so legroom for the person in front the seat may be smaller than you would like. This is why it’s always advisable to try these seats in your car before you buy them.

          Britax Emblem

          Price: 
          $199.99
          Rear faces:
          5 to 40 lbs
          Forward faces: 

          at least 2 years old, 20-65lbs, and up to 49” (or less)

          Rear Facing seat length:
          29"
          Rear Facing legroom:
          13"
          Layers of Side Impact Protection:
          2
          Car Seat Weight:

          18 lbs

          What we love about it:

          • Best value
          • Light and easy
          • Great for secondary car or for travel

          I have had so many parents over the years asking for a car seat that they can use for a secondary vehicle, a nanny’s car, or travel that will not break the bank. I am thrilled to offer them the best budget convertible car seat out there, the Britax Emblem.

          I do understand that some of you may look at this and say $200 is hardly a “budget” car seat price, but remember my 1st rule - if I wouldn’t use something for my children I won’t sell it. This seat is the most affordable option that I would feel great having my baby ride in.

          Many people may not realize it, but the Britax Emblem design has been on the market for years. In fact, it used to be their best selling seat under the name “Boulevard,” and it commanded a retail price of more than $300 every day.

          Britax has since changed the installation method to a seatbelt friendly “Clicktight” system, and the popular Boulevard went that route. They have reintroduced the older Boulevard, renamed it “Emblem,” and shaved the price to a very attainable $200.

          The Britax Emblem gives you many of the safety technologies as the seats above at about half the price. There are two layers of side impact protection, an energy absorbing base, and a no rethread harness for ease of use.

          It is also a compact seat, and is the lightest weight seat on this list.

          Why wouldn’t everyone just save the money and go with the Emblem?

          Good question. While I there are a ton of safety benefits to the Emblem over other seats in its price range, I think there are still some big benefits to the seats listed above for your everyday car seat. 

          The main ones would be that it has far less rear facing legroom, and actual overall room in the seat itself.  While this seat is tested to babies up to 49” and 65lbs I feel it is unlikely that you would be able to actually use it that long.

          Overall, this is still the best car seat you can buy on a tighter budget.

          Which one should you buy?

          It is tough to make a bad choice given the options above. You will want to take into consideration what the right combination of safety technologies, ease of use and installation, convenience features, and fit in car looks like to you.

          Of course, it’s always best to come to the store and try it out in your car before you buy. If you are in Houston, you should come see us! If not, here is a great resource to find the best independent baby shops near you!

          Have a specific car seat question? Reach out and let us know!


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