When it comes to transporting your most precious cargo — we’re talking about your kids here — in your car, you want to make sure you’re doing it right. Car safety for kids is a non-negotiable for parents, and with good reason: Road injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths for children in the United States. But car safety, including proper car seat use and installation, can significantly reduce the risk of injury or death by as much as 71%.
Needless to say, car seats are one of the most important pieces of gear you can buy for your child’s safety. The bad news: They can be super-pricey. The good news: Unlike many other big-ticket items you may buy during your child’s first years of life, they’re an investment that can last for years. The best convertible car seats can keep your kid safe and secure from infancy all the way through elementary school. (Yep, the current recommendation is that children should stay in a booster seat of some kind until they’re around 4 feet 9 inches tall, or tall enough to wear the seatbelt normally.)
So consider these convertible care seat options for your growing child — and your peace of mind.
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1. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
Everything in this car seat is designed to grow with your kiddo, starting with the weight range: It can be used rear-facing from 5 pounds to 40 pounds; forward-facing from 22 pounds to 65 pounds; and then as a belt-positioning booster seat from 40 pounds to 100 pounds. Adjustable straps, head and neck support, and even incline level can be changed to best suit your child’s stage of life. The angle of the car seat also adjusts based on the angle of your car’s back seats as well, to keep kids comfortably positioned.
Beyond the important safety elements, kids will love small details like the soft padding and cup holders, and parents will appreciate that the padding is machine-washable and dryer safe. Another plus for parents: The QuickFit harness lets you adjust both harness and headrest at the same time, and harness holders help keep the straps in an open position, so it’s easier to wrangle a squirmy tot in and out of the seat.
2. Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
Unlike our top pick, this convertible car seat doesn’t have a booster setting for older kids. Instead, it goes from rear-facing to front-facing, for children up to 65 pounds. What it does have is a steel-reinforced frame and a unique feature called Extend2Fit: a 4-position, adjustable extension panel provides up to 5 inches of extra leg room, which allows children to comfortably stay in the rear-facing position longer — up to 50 pounds.
This Graco convertible car seat also boasts a 6-position recline (a handy guide on the side helps you pick the ideal level for your child) and a 10-position headrest so your little one can ride in comfort. Plus, the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System lets you adjust both harness and headrest with one hand, making it easier for parents to tweak on the go. Another handy harness feature: a storage pocket that holds the buckle out of the way, so getting your tot in and out is easier. (Thank you, car seat manufacturers, for figuring out that this is an issue!). Finally, like our top pick, this model boasts machine-washable padding and two cup holders for drinks or snacks.
3. Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
While you sacrifice some convenience for the price, this chair still meets or exceeds federal safety standards for rear-facing and front-facing car seats. The rear-facing setting accommodates babies and children between 5 and 40 pounds; the front-facing seating is for toddlers from 22 to 40 pounds.
Four shoulder harness positions allow it to accommodate a growing child, but the straps can’t be adjusted one-handed, like the Graco model allows. While there is no cup holder, the seat is padded for comfort. The compact design of this convertible car seat makes it a good option for families with smaller cars, families with multiple kids in car seats, or as a “second option” for families with babysitters or caregivers. And because it’s lightweight, it’s also good for families who travel.