While convertible carseats can be used rear-facing for babies and toddlers, only a few models are suitable for newborns. The benefit of finding one of these is that you can save some money by skipping an infant carrier altogether. Of course, the downside is that you lose the convenience of simply clicking the carrier into the base when leaving and simply removing it to bring inside when you arrive. What many parents don’t realize is that some convertibles also take up less room in the back seat when installed rear-facing, compared to the average infant carrier plus base. This means more legroom for mom or dad up front, especially in a small car or compact SUV.
So, here’s a look at a handful of models we feel are worth trying if you are looking to use a convertible from birth AND want to maximize the legroom for the driver and front passenger as well. We’ve sorted through a wide array of convertibles that not only have harness systems that should fit a newborn, but are also smaller in size or, for larger models, performed well in our survey of convertibles that fit in tight spaces. Some provide even more legroom up front when installed more upright for older rear-facing kids!
Keep in mind that even though a convertible may be rated from 5-65 pounds does not mean it will actually fit a 5-pound newborn or a typical 65-pound child. Many convertibles don’t even fit an average 7-pound newborn well, despite their claimed minimum weight rating of 5 pounds. Models rated up to 65- or 70-pounds are likely to be outgrown by height well before that weight limit is reached.
1) Combi Coccoro Perhaps the ultimate convertible carseat to fit both small spaces and newborns. Plus, its small size means you have a better chance to fit it next to another carseat in the back seat. The downside? That space you gain is precisely because it is a smaller seat. The tradeoff is that it will be outgrown much faster by height and weight (33 lbs., 36″ tall rear-facing limits) than the average convertible. It also offers a tether that can be used rear-facing to prevent rebound. You can find our full review of the Combi Coccoro here.
2) Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with Tiny Fit The Pria (model with the TinyFit insert system) is one of the best convertibles for preemies and low birthweight infants. It fits tiny babies as low as 4 pounds with the TinyFit insert. The Pria isn’t as compact as the Coccoro in terms of extra legroom for front seat passengers but it is the top performer for convertible seats with a higher-weight harness if installed in the semi-reclined #2 position (more upright) for an older baby or toddler. The Pria is also an excellent option for extended rear-facing. For all that you do pay a premium, though. Check out our full review of the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with TinyFit. Please note: the Pria 70 and Pria 85 models without tinyfit cannot be used for a newborn.
3) Cosco Apt 50 & Scenera NEXT. These are the budget-friendly choices for under $70. Apt 50 is available at Amazon and Target. Scenera NEXT is available exclusively at Walmart. Both of these models have very low bottom harness slots and multiple positions for the crotch strap/buckle that translate into a great fit for newborns who weigh at least 5 lbs. These are very basic seat with no bells or whistles but they get the job done and they’re budget-friendly. The Scenera NEXT is a smaller seat with a 40-pound weight limit (rear-facing and forward-facing), so it will be outgrown faster than the average higher-weight convertible. The Apt 50 adds a taller top harness slot so it will last longer forward-facing. The Apt 50 is rated to 40 pounds rear-facing and up to 50 pounds forward-facing. The Apt 50 is much wider than the Scenera NEXT due to the integrated dual cupholders.
4) Chicco NextFit. The NextFit is another great model overall for small babies in small cars. It’s rated from 5-40 pounds rear-facing and has very low bottom harness slots to help fit even small newborns quite well. The fact that it allows for a range of recline positions to be used when installed also helps this seat to fit well in smaller back seats. The NextFit is an excellent option for extended rear-facing. It installs very easily with LATCH thanks to its unique “SuperCinch” force-multiplying system. The Chicco NextFit is on our Recommended Carseats List. Check out our full review of the Chicco Nextfit.
5) Graco 4Ever All-in-One & Graco Milestone All-in-One. The 4Ever & the Milestone are similar in many ways but there are minor differences. Both seats can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and eventually as a booster. The 4Ever is better suited for smaller newborns because it’s rated down to 4 lbs. and has a more robust infant insert that will raise a smaller infant up so their shoulders will be at the level of the lowest harness height setting. The Milestone should be fine for an average 7-or-8-pound newborn. Both seats are good options for fitting in smaller back seats. s: Graco 4Ever All-in-One Review and Graco Milestone Review.
6) Graco Size4Me and its “Clones” Fit4Me/MySize/Head Wise. The Size4Me and all its clones are also good choices for fitting an average-sized newborn and also fitting well in smaller vehicles. These seats are also less expensive than many of the other models listed here which make them a good choice for many families trying to stay within a budget. The Size4Me and all the clones (Fit4Me, My Size & Head Wise) are rated to 40 lbs. in the rear-facing position and they are all excellent options for extended rear-facing. These seats are on our Recommended Carseats List. See our full review of the Graco Size4Me.
7) Britax ClickTight Convertibles. All Britax convertibles (Marathon CT, Boulevard CT & Advocate CT) fit newborns, even smaller newborns very well. The ClickTight installation system makes installing the carseat with seatbelt ridiculously easy and these seats will last a long time both rear-facing and forward-facing. An Anti-rebound bar accessory is available for use with at CT convertible models and can be purchased directly from Britax. All of the ClickTight convertibles are an excellent option for extended rear-facing. The Boulevard CT and Advocate CT models are on our Recommended Carseats List and we have a full review of the Britax Boulevard CT and the Britax Marathon CT.