Expert Recommended Convertible Carseats for 2023
CarseatBlog helps you find the best carseat for you! Below you’ll find the complete list of our recommendations for 2023 for car seats that are convertible from rear-facing to forward-facing use. The selection criteria are based on multiple factors, including our extensive hands-on experience installing and using each seat as well as the competition in each category and price point. We do not separate this list by price; however, our top picks in each budget category can be found in our Editors’ Picks section. This article gives you some background to these recommendations for what we feel will be the safest all-in-one car seats in many situations. If you’ve found this resource to be helpful, please consider purchasing through our affiliate links or from our exclusive DEALS TRACKER page. This supports CarseatBlog’s mission to deliver the most professional carseat reviews and child passenger safety resources.
Convertible seats can be used either rear-facing or forward-facing. These types of seats are generally the next step after the infant seat. However, many models will fit average-sized full-term newborns well and some parents choose to skip the infant seat altogether and use a convertible right from the start. Weight and height limits vary depending on the specific model.
Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing; 20-65 lbs. forward-facing; Marathon is the base model; Boulevard has deeper headwings for enhanced side-impact protection; Advocate has “3-layer” side-impact protection which features the deeper headwings plus external energy-absorbing cushions. These models all have ClickTight installation system which also acts as a lockoff device for the seatbelt; headwings with EPP foam and energy-absorbing headrest; no-rethread harness with 14 height positions; 2 buckle positions; non-twist harness straps; energy-absorbing HUGS harness pads; “rip stitch” energy management tether; anti-slip base with impact-absorbing technology and 7 recline positions; optional newborn insert and optional harness strap covers. Otto “Safe Wash” cover is free of added flame-retardant chemicals. Optional anti-rebound bar accessory (ARB) sold separately.
Drawbacks: Very heavy; LATCH installations are limited due to LATCH weight limits; if car seat is installed with LATCH the hook connectors can be very challenging to disconnect from the lower anchor bars in the vehicle; grippy rubber HUGS pads on the harness straps can be bulky and annoying if you are using the seat for a small baby but they are optional for rear-facing so you can remove them if they get in the way more than anything else – just remember to put them back on before using the seat forward-facing. Rubber HUGS pads are required for forward-facing.
Our comments: To make your life easier, always use the seatbelt to install seats with the ClickTight system. Very easy to install properly rear-facing or forward-facing with ClickTight. Very easy to use correctly. Marathon and Boulevard are narrow seats that tend to fit well in 3-across situations. All models are excellent options for extended rear-facing for kids under 40 lbs. Fits newborns well but you may need to shorten the harness straps to get a snug fit with the harness (read the instruction manual for info on shortening the harness straps before you try to use the seat for a newborn). If you don’t need the maximum recline angle for a very young baby, these seats do not take up a lot of space when installed rear-facing so they are a good option for smaller vehicles. You may also purchase the ARB separately if desired. Made in USA! See our full Britax Marathon CT Review, Britax Boulevard CT Review, and Advocate CT with ARB Review.
Sport Features: 12-40 lbs. rear-facing (lacks infant insert so not suitable for use with newborns), 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; no-rethread harness; 2 buckle positions; SuperCinch LATCH tightening system; premium push-on LATCH connectors; 9 position base; energy-absorbing EPS foam; non-twist straps; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations.
Zip Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing (includes infant insert cushion for babies 5-11 lbs.), 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; no-rethread harness; 2 buckle positions; SuperCinch LATCH tightening system; premium push-on LATCH connectors; 9 position base; energy-absorbing EPS foam; non-twist straps; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations plus a zip-off cover for easy washing.
Drawbacks: Heavy and bulky; must switch to a seatbelt installation once child weighs more than 35 lbs. rear-facing or more than 40 lbs. forward-facing (not a big deal since you have lockoffs for easy seatbelt install but not quite as easy as using SuperCinch).
Our comments: One of the easiest convertibles to install correctly with either LATCH or seatbelt. Installing with SuperCinch is so quick and easy that it’s downright revolutionary. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. NextFit Zip model fits newborns well. Doesn’t take up a lot of space when rear-facing so it’s a good option for smaller vehicles. Generous rear-facing height and weight limits. Almost all kids will be able to rear-face in the NextFit until they reach 40 lbs. Well-padded and very comfortable. We love the extra convenience of the zip-off cover found only on Zip models. See full review of Chicco NextFit.
Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing; 22-40 lbs. forward-facing and at least 2 years old; 4 sets of harness slots; 3 crotch strap positions; fits newborns well; narrow; generally easy to install; lightweight; budget-friendly.
Drawbacks: No EPS or EPP foam; very low top harness slots; sparse padding; basic hook-style LATCH connectors; no lockoff for seatbelt installations but you can use LATCH up to the maximum weight limit of 40 lbs, requires tethering when installed forward-facing.
Our comments: The Scenera NEXT is a good budget-friendly seat for babies and small toddlers. Just don’t expect it to fit many kids over age 3. Also nice for traveling since it’s so lightweight. If installing with LATCH isn’t an option then you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install this carseat with seatbelt. Made in USA! See our full review of the Cosco Scenera NEXT. Also, check out our Comparison of Convertible Seats Under $100.
Features: 4-50 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; 4-position legrest extension panel for rear-facing only, no-rethread harness with 10 height positions; 2 buckle positions; base has 6 positions; EPS foam; push-on LATCH connectors; harness storage pockets to hold harness out of the way during loading/unloading; infant insert; dual integrated cup holders (cupholders are required to be attached).
Drawbacks: Lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations; seat takes up more space rear-facing when the legrest panel is extended; harness is more difficult to tighten properly as compared with all other Graco seats; moving LATCH belt from RF beltpath to FF beltpath is challenging because the cover is difficult to detach at the bottom; recline position #4 is required when the seat is installed forward-facing for a child weighing less than 40 lbs. Cup holders are required to be attached when seat is in use.
Our Comments: We jokingly refer to Extend2Fit as the “Shut Up and Take My Money Seat” because it’s a home run for Graco! A top choice for extended rear-facing. Reasonably easy to install in most vehicles but discontinue installation with lower LATCH connectors and use seatbelt (plus tether if forward-facing) to install if child weighs more than 45 lbs. Since this seat lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install the E2F with a seatbelt. Should fit average-sized full-term newborns well but may not be a good fit for smaller newborns. See our full Extend2Fit review.
Features: 5-50 lbs. rear-facing; 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; 10-position headrest with no-rethread harness; 2 buckle positions; innovative “true tension doors” for ease of installation with seatbelt (preferred installation method); 10-position base; energy-absorbing EPS foam & side impact protection (SIP) pods; smooth harness adjustment; extension panel that can be used rear-facing for increased legroom or forward-facing for additional thigh support.
Drawbacks: Heavy and bulky; may not fit newborns well; top harness slots not as tall as many other convertibles; “true tension door” is not a lockoff so parents must remember to lock the seatbelt at the retractor if installing Rava with seatbelt.
Our comments: Excellent seat overall if you are planning to use an infant seat from birth and then transition to the Rava when your baby is bigger/older. The 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit gives parents the option to keep their kids rear-facing longer but the maximum harness height is only 16″ so it will be outgrown by height in the forward-facing position long before the 65 lbs. weight limit is reached. Rava is one of the most expensive convertibles on the market but the quality and features are all top-notch and the styling and fashions are luxurious. LATCH weight limits are 35 lbs. in the rear-facing position and 40 lbs. forward-facing but Nuna recommends installation with seatbelt so you don’t have to remember to switch from one installation method to another when your child reaches a certain weight. See our complete Rava review here.