When traveling in a car, it’s important to keep your child safe in a car seat. In fact, you need to have one ready before the arrival of your unborn child. Since a car seat can save your child’s life in case of an accident, there’s need to buy the best one for optimal safety.
First, you’ll have to decide whether you want an infant safety seat or a convertible seat. Whereas infant car seats
are only rear-facing and have a capacity of 35 to 40 pounds, convertible car seats, just as the name suggests, convert from rear-facing to forward-facing.
Convertible car seats have capacities ranging from 40 to 80 pounds, and heights ranging from 40 to 57 inches tall. An all-in-one or 3-in-1 convertible seat doesn’t just convert from rear-facing to forward-facing, but also doubles as a booster seat
for children weighing a maximum of 120 pounds. There are also 3-in-1 car seats that only support forward-facing use, hence not ideal for babies.
Buying a convertible car seat your baby can use as he/she grows is more cost-effective than buying an infant seat then transitioning to a convertible seat. Although this is true, some experts argue that infants are safer in car seats designed specifically for infants.
Some parents have also reportedly said that convertible seats overwhelm their newborns. Therefore, when shopping for a convertible seat for a young baby, make sure it has a newborn insert or padding to comfortably fit your baby.
Unlike car seats for infants, convertible seats are heavier and usually require installation. Infant seats, on the other hand, are normally just clicked into a base kept in the car. You also can’t easily remove convertible seats once installed in a car or use them with your baby stroller
. Neither can you use them to carry your baby.
This review focuses on convertible car seats. We hope that this guide will help you make an informed buying decision for the best convertible car seat.
The amount you can pay for a convertible car seat depends on its quality, brand, materials used, and the features it comes with. Since car seats are meant to protect your child in case of an accident, you need to buy one of high quality. Cheap car seats might mean your child isn’t well-protected from the uncertainties ahead whenever you hit the road, so we strongly recommend staying away from such products, especially when the safety of your little one is at stake!
Used car seats can come in handy when you’re on a tight budget, but they might miss critical features, have a history of being involved in a crash (hence have unseen damages), or might not meet prevailing safety standards.
There’s also the possibility that a used car seat could have been recalled for faultiness. What’s more, the plastic components of a car seat get brittle with time, and might cause the seat to fail in a crash. For these reasons, experts don’t recommend used car seats.
If you must buy a used car seat, make sure it’s been used for not more than five years, has never been involved in a car crash, and has all the parts or features and the instruction manual.
Consider buying a travel system - a baby stroller that comes with an infant seat - if you need a good seat but don’t have much to spend. A premium car seat comes with a high price tag because it comes with additional features for extra comfort and safety.
You’ll find convertible car seats in the price range of $50 to $500. High-end models with more features and higher weight limits cost more.
Convertible car seats are designed to support your baby’s traveling needs from infancy to teenage years, depending on the features they’re built with. Whichever type of car safety seat you want to buy, it must be safe, comfortable, and easy to use. Therefore, there are specific features you need to look for in a car seat. But some features come at an additional cost.
Here are the important features you need to look for in a convertible car seat:
- Harness system for added safety
- Side-impact protection through padding, use of energy-absorbing foam, etc.
- A latch system to secure the seat to the frame of your car
- Adjustable harness system to accommodate your child as he/she grows
- Padding and baby inserts for comfort
- Detachable covers for easy cleaning
- NHTSA rating for ease-of-use
- Additional features such as anti-rebound bars, boots, and size of canopies
- An easy-to-use installation manual
With a strong, safe, and adjustable convertible seat, your baby can enjoy safe and comfortable rides whether you’re going shopping or visiting your family miles away.
Construction and Design
When shopping for a convertible car seat, look out for the following features in the construction and design of a safety seat:
Harness – these are straps that hold your baby firmly onto the seat. Opt for a 5-point harness with one strap for each of your baby’s shoulders, one strap that runs between the legs, and one strap for each of the hips. The straps will secure your child for safety, and they come with new car seats.
Side-Impact Protection – find a seat built with side-impact protection for your baby’s chest and head in case you get involved in a side-impact collision. Look out for special energy-absorbing foam and any other side-impact protection features in a convertible seat.
Latch – these are lower tethers and anchors for additional protection. Car seats manufactured since 2002 are built with latch systems. Unlike older seats that were designed to secure to the vehicle’s frame using seat belts, new car seat models attach to the frame of your car through the latch system. Convertible car seats come with lower anchor connectors and a top tether strap to secure the seat onto your car. However, some manufacturers recommend that the top tether strap shouldn’t be used if the seat is being used in the rear-facing position for your newborn. Latch systems also come with weight limits, usually on the seat label or the manual. If your baby surpasses the weight limit, you need to secure the seat using seat belts. Always read your seat’s user manual before installing it to ensure you get to use it properly.
Anti-rebound Bar - decide if you want a car seat with an anti-rebound bar for minimal movement of your baby if you’re involved in a crash. This feature usually comes with premium car seats.
Adjustability – choose a car seat with options for adjusting the harness as your child grows.
Comfort – a good seat isn’t just safe, but also comfortable for your baby. Find seats with sufficient padding to ensure your child travels comfortably and safely.
Covers – kids can be messy, so find a convertible car seat with detachable covers for easy cleaning.
Ease-of-Use – opt for a car seat that’s easy to install and use, with a manual you can easily understand and follow. Look out for a seat’s NHTSA rating for ease-of-use. The more stars there are, the easier it is to use.
Accessories - also look out for any accessories a car seat might come with. Look out for baby boots, large canopies, etc.
Performance and Ease of Use
Whichever type of convertible car seat you opt for, make sure it’s safe, comfortable, adjustable, and easy to use. An adjustable harness comes with straps you can easily adjust as well as the harness height to accommodate your baby’s growth. Look out for seats with adjustable belts built with quick-release buckles.
Baby inserts and padding offer support for your child. Choose a seat with head support for better rides for your baby. Since children create messes all the time, you can’t expect the car seat to stay clean all the time. Therefore, buy a car seat with covers that you can easily remove and clean; if it’s machine-washable, that’s even better.
You also need to make sure that the seat you’re buying is easy to install and use; ensure it has an easy-to-use manual for installation. The best convertible car seat is also made using high-quality materials for durable use. Finally, check out the seat’s NHTSA rating for ease of use.
Affordable car seats are designed for use by children of different ages, meaning the product you pick should be age-appropriate for your little one. When shopping for the best convertible car seat, look at the capacity, harness, comfort, protection, and extra features that the product comes with. These will ensure that the car seat is functional enough to protect your child from any problems while on the road. Find out if one of our recommended convertible car seats is what you need.
Whether you want a safe convertible car seat for your newborn, toddler, or small child, there’s a product out there designed specifically to meet their unique needs for safety and protection. We hope this comprehensive review of top car seats has given you a head start to pick the right product based on your working budget. You can also check out our reviews on booster and infant car seats for more information.