Best Convertible Car Seat
As every parent knows, choosing the right car seat for your child is one of the most daunting and time-consuming tasks one faces during early parenthood. There are so many different types and brands out there that it is hard to even narrow it down to a manageable number of prospects. And then there’s still the vast mass of requirements each and everyone of us has for “the perfect seat”.
I do not claim to have all the answers, but as a devoted mum and aunt with vast experience in using different types of convertible car seats throughout the years, I think I could help you narrow your choices down to manageable size. I have not owned all of my favourite seats, but I’ve been dealing with all of them on a regular basis with the kids of my family and friends as well as my own. I tried them all on various occasions and under different circumstances and feel confident that I know what I am talking about.
How to Pick the Right Car Seat
Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind concerning car seats is their safety. While this should undoubtedly be the main concern of every parent, one should note that all of the major brands fulfill and nearly always exceed all official requirements and therefore you can be pretty confident that all your requirements in this regard will be met, whatever your choice might be in the end.
Using convertible car seats over the years I finally realized that rather simple aspects like usability and handling are rather more important than “just” my safety standards (as I said – those are met by all the major brands). Even the most secure seat will grate on your nerves sooner rather than later if you get a crick in the back every time you try to strap your little one into it. Trust me – if it starts getting on your nerve and you begin to dread using the seat, your kid will pick those vibes up pretty easily and the act of strapping your child in will become a nightmare for both of you. Your child won’t want to sit in the seat, will throw a tantrum or suddenly start crying inconsolably throughout the whole ordeal when he or she was perfectly content to go into the seat before, if they pick up on your own infuriation with it. Considering that I feel that a huge part of your choosing process should be concerned with the handling and your gut-feeling concerning what’s right for you and your child.
Top 4 Convertible Car Seats
As I said before, I am in no position to tell you “buy this one and no other”, but I want to present you my top 4 convertible car seats I used in the last few months and hope this will help you choose the right one for your family.
Evenflo Symphony 65 E3 All in One Car Seat
This particular seat caters to your every need concerning safety measures. It comes with an expanded zone of protection including a E3 Side Impact Protection and the so-called Sure LATCH connector which makes installation as easy as possible. The one-click installation can be done in less than 60 seconds which really is high up there in terms of needed time. The 65 E3 accommodates children ranging from 5 to 110 lbs – rear facing weight ranges from 5 to 40 lbs., front facing weight ranges from 20 to 65 lbs., and front facing booster mode weight ranges from 40 to 110 lbs. As you can see the recommended weights overlap enough to comfortably cater to your childs needs and development.
The Infinite Slide Harness is the feature that I liked best in this seat – the 5-point safety harness slides effortlessly to fit every time and you don’t need to rework the harness as your child grows. Other great features of the seat are the removeable head- and body pillow for additional comfort and support, the one-hand adjustable headrest that grows with your child and the multi-position recline to suit your child’s every need. Another added bonus for me was the fold-down cup holder (other seats usually feature a built in cup holder, but I liked the foldable one better).
In case of stains the seat pad can be easily taken off and is machine-washable.
For those of you who are frequent fliers and don’t want to cut back on this even with a child, the 65 E3 is certified to use in aircrafts and works equally well in this environment.
Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with Tiny Fit Convertible Car Seat
The Maxi-Cosi, which is the #1 convertible car seat-brand in Europe, is perfect for children from 4 to 70 lbs. The Tiny Fit allows rear facing use from 4 to 22 lbs., take out the Tiny Fit and it allows rear facing use for larger toddlers from 18 to 40 lbs., and then there’s the front facing option for children up to 70 lbs.
Safety-wise it features a flextech construction system for advanced crash energy management which immediately reduces impact forces through the precise release of air.
The Pria 70 has 3 recline positions, 3 buckle positions and spectacular 11 harness heights. The Perfect Fit Harness adjusts the harness shoulder height to your child’s need.
It also comes with a one-click LATCH system that makes it easy to use and install.
An added bonus is the gripping cup holder that securely holds all beverages and prevents spilling.
What makes this car seat my personal favourite is Maxi-Cosi’s excellent health ratings. While every convertible car seat should pass all necessary health tests, the ratings of Maxi Cosi surpass those of other brands on a regular basis and using the seats for longer trips pretty frequently I felt more at ease knowing that my child was surrendered by as little potential harmful substances as possible.
The seat also is FAA-approved for use in aircrafts and easy to handle even for mums or dads flying alone.
Graco SmartSeat All-in-One Car Seat
Graco’s All-in-One can be used for children from 5 lbs. up to 100 lbs. You can use it rear facing from 5 to 40 lbs., forward facing from 20 to 65 lbs. and as a belt positioning booster from 30 to 100 lbs. This seat, as all others, is side-impact tested and meets all safety requirements for childrens convertible car seats.
What sets this seat apart of all other brands is that the seat (and the seat base) is steel-reinforced to offer even more strength and durability.
The All-in-One has a unique LATCH-system that features a stay-in-car base with a seat belt lock off. Speaking of installing this seat, I particularly liked the locking indicators on the seat and the stay-in-car base to help insure proper installation. This system makes finding the right seat position considerably more easy and less time-consuming. Another feature I particularly enjoyed was the on-the-go recline which allows you to recline your child without having to reinstall the seat (there are 5 on-the-go recline positions to chose from). The All-in-One also comes with a one-hand height adjustable head rest that offers 6 different positions.
Yet the feature I personally loved the most on this seat (and missed dearly in all others) was the flip-up armrests that made it so much easier to strap my little ones into the seat. You wouldn’t believe how much easier your life can get with such a little gimmick!
A cup holder is built in the armrest with this seat, too.
The only downside I can see is that the All-in-One is a little on the heavy side – due to its steel-reinforced bars. But since the seat is not meant to be carried around (or rather to carry your child around in) this fact didn’t bother me overly much.
Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat
This second Graco seat is a little bit different than the others since its weight range starts from a little higher up the scale. It accommodates children from 20 to 100 lbs. The 3-in-1 converts from a five-point harness car seat from 20 to 65 lbs., to a high-back belt positioning booster from 30 to 100 lbs. and finally to a backless belt positioning booster from 40 to 100 lbs.
As the Greco All-in-One above this seat, too, is side-impact tested and equipped with reinforced steel for effective energy management. It comes with 3 possible recline positions and also with a one-hand height adjustable headrest.
The 3-in-1 scores some points with its plush comfort features, a cup holder, and (probably most important for the kids) some “hidden” storage compartments for toys, pacifiers, cookies and all the other bits and pieces children want to “hide” from their parents
The seat cushion is quite easy to remove and machine washable, which came in handy a few times.
I personally found the seat a bit challenging to install (but on the other hand I’m in no way, shape or form a technical genius… other users I talked to had no problems at all) and the harness is a bit hard to unbuckle until you figure out the right spot to press to make it work – on the plus side, however, this prevented even the most adventurous and creative of the kids I had in this seat to open the harness while no-one was watching (i.e. driving).