Is baby ready to make the move from an infant seat to a convertible car seat? Learn about the safest, least toxic, and most versatile convertible car seats.
Whether you’re baby is graduating from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat or you’re wondering if you can jump right to a convertible car seat (Hint: Yes!), you’re in the right place.
In this post, we’ll cover:
The Best Convertible Car Seats
The safest convertible car seat
Safest-in-Tests – The Best Convertible Car Seats for Natural Mamas baby post by Mama Natural
- The Britax Marathon: The National Highway Traffic Safety Association ranks the Britax Marathon as one of the safest car seats. This convertible seat features an energy-absorbing base, an impact-absorbing tether, and a steel frame.
Did you know the earliest “car seats” were burlap sacks secured to the headset to contain baby in one spot. (source) And even in the 60s, parents often rode with their children in their laps. Yikes! Clearly, there was a need to keep baby safely in one spot while driving, and thankfully, we’ve developed much safer—and much more comfortable— car seats for babies.
All modern car seats, whether an infant seat or a convertible car seat, must meet certain safety regulations, including:
- A five-point harness (includes chest clips and harness straps)
- LATCH, the seamless clip-in system for car seats (required in all cars as of 2003, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association)
- A car seat base, usually padded with a proprietary hard foam material
So why does it seem like some seats are “safer” than others? Certain car seats go above and beyond the minimum requirements and offer additional safety features, like:
- Lateral headrests (to protect the sides of baby’s head)
- Side wings, the extra padding on the side of baby’s head
- Additional impact protection
- Pitch control (to keep your baby’s head from jerking during sudden stops)
- Load leg, a metal support that extends from the bottom of the car seat to the floor for extra stability
Bottom line: Any car seat available for purchase has passed the minimum safety regulations, but it’s up to you if you’d like to take advantage of additional safety (and comfort!) features.
The least toxic convertible car seat
Least Toxic – The Best Convertible Car Seats for Natural Mamas baby post by Mama Natural
- Clek Fllo Non-Toxic Convertible Seat with Anti-Rebound Bar: While this convertible car seat does not convert into a booster seat, it does check off many other boxes. It’s non-toxic and free from both brominated flame retardants and fluorinated flame retardants. It’s stylish in charcoal gray and slender enough to fit three seats across.
Other great options:
The idea to treat car seats with a flame retardant is a pretty sound decision, since many car accidents do pose a risk of igniting a fire. That being said, brominated flame retardants have many health risks. Research from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors reveals that brominated flame retardants are linked to breast cancer and thyroid hormone disruption. (source) To make matters worse, those chemicals can leech into the air when the car seats sit in a hot car during the summer months. (source)
Look for a seat that is treated without brominated flame retardants. Luckily, car seat manufacturers are beginning to produce these safety devices with fabrics, like merino wool, that are naturally flame retardant.
Best value for a convertible car seat
Best Value – The Best Convertible Car Seats for Natural Mamas baby post by Mama Natural
- Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Seat: Although this seat is heavy, it is by far the most versatile convertible car seat. It can accommodate every stage of childhood, from a tiny four-pound newborn to a 120-pound child. This seat does transition into a booster, too, so you’ll never need to purchase another car seat for your child if you choose this convertible option.
Price is the third deciding factor when it comes to choosing a new car seat. Prices range from $100 to $400, or even $500. It’s tempting to think that the most expensive is the safest, but that’s not necessarily true. Remember, all car seats must meet the same rigorous safety laws.
Remember: Choosing a less expensive seat doesn’t mean that you are compromising your babies’ safety.
That being said, sometimes the value seats seem like a great deal—you’ll get tons of use out of them over the years—but longevity isn’t always best. Sometimes these seats are perfectly suitable, but don’t have any standout features, and you might prefer to spend a little more over the cost of a few years to get a little more. Also keep expiration dates in mind—car seats do expire. The normal lifespan of a car seat is approximately six years from the manufactured date.
How to Choose the Best Convertible Car Seat
Here are a few tricks for evaluating all of the convertible car seats you’re interested in.
- Size: Not all car seats are the same size. If you have a small car or if you have multiple children in car seats and boosters, size will be a major factor for you. It’s tricky to fit three car seats in a row!
- Style: This is a personal preference, but some models are sleeker than others.
- Longevity: How long will you use the car seat? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, children need to remain in a forward-facing seat until at least four years and as long as seven years (usually the age when a child meets the height and weight requirements listed on the car seat). After that, kids transition to a booster seat. Because a child will be in a convertible seat for years, it may be worth spending the additional money for a premium seat. If your convertible car seat also converts into a booster seat, this adds to the value of your seat.
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What’s the Difference? Infant Car Seat vs. Convertible Car Seat
Are you still teetering between an infant car seat and a convertible car seat? There is no right or wrong choice; this is largely a personal preference based on your lifestyle and needs. Keep in mind that there are benefits to starting with an infant seat before moving to a convertible car seat. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Will I be babywearing? If so, you may not need the removable feature of adding an infant seat to a stroller. If so, go with a convertible car seat.
- Will baby be in and out of multiple cars? If so, you may like the option to just move the infant seat and keep multiple bases in your family cars.
- Is my baby on the bigger/taller side? He may do well starting in a convertible seat as this may be more comfortable for him.
Read more about infant car seats before making your decision.
When to Switch to a Convertible Car Seat
Is your baby already in an infant seat? Eventually, he’ll need to move to a bigger car seat—a convertible car seat. Before you make the transition, check your infant car seat model for weight and height restrictions. Once baby gets close to the maximums, it’s time to switch to a convertible car seat. Just because your baby outgrows the infant seat doesn’t mean he can move up to any convertible seat. You’ll have to check the minimum requirements on your new seat, too.
No matter what seat you choose, always read the instruction manual carefully, install your seat according to the guidelines, and have it professionally inspected. Many police or fire stations will be able to inspect your car seat installation for you.
There are dozens of choices available to you, and there are no bad decisions when it comes to car seats, since they’re all tested for safety. Don’t stress—focus on choosing one that’s right for you and your lifestyle.