Expert Recommended Forward Facing Combo 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 forward-facing from a 5-point harness to booster mode. These are generally not appropriate for children under two years old. 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.
Combination seats are forward-facing only seats that can be used initially with their 5-point harnesses and then converted to a belt-positioning booster seat after the harness is outgrown. Most of these seats are designed for kids who are at least 2 years old.
Features: Forward-facing 25-65 lbs. and at least 2 years old; booster mode 40-120 lbs.; innovative ClickTight installation system; 9-position no-rethread harness; 3 buckle positions; SafeCell technology in base; “rip stitch” energy management versa-tether; dual integrated cup holders; “Safe Wash” covers are available for the GWY ClickTight PLUS models – All Britax “Safe Wash” covers are naturally flame retardant so they are free of added flame-retardant chemicals.
Drawbacks: Heavy & bulky; LATCH installation is limited to kids who weigh less than 40 lbs. – but who needs LATCH when you have the awesomeness of ClickTight? The new naming scheme is awful and confusing. Be aware that there are 3 versions of Grow With You and the least expensive version lacks the amazing clicktight installation system. For this reason, we do NOT recommend the base model Grow With You.
Our comments: The 65-pound harness weight limit combined with VERY tall top harness slots means kids are likely to fit in this seat for a long time. ClickTight installation system makes it a dream to install properly with seatbelt and acts as a lockoff. 9-year lifespan before expiration. Made in the USA! See our Britax Grow With You ClickTight Review here.
BEST NARROW COMBINATION SEAT
Features: 5-point harness from 25-65 lbs. AND at least 2 years old; booster from 40 to 100 lbs.; 9-position no-rethread harness; 2 crotch strap positions; 4-position adjustable base, lockoffs for seatbelt installation, EPS foam; dual integrated cup holders, Zip Air version features SuperCinch LATCH tightening system.
Differences between MyFit & MyFit Zip Air: MyFit Zip Air offers all the features of regular MyFit but also includes SuperCinch force-multiplying system on the LATCH strap (same as NextFit convertible), a convenient 3D AirMesh breathable zip-off top layer that is easily removable for machine washing, comfort waist belts (these are pads that attach to the hip straps on the harness and make loading child easier by keeping the buckle tongues from sliding all the way down into the seat) and a kid console (storage pod that inserts into cup holder).
Drawbacks: Challenging or incompatible installations in some vehicles (this is less of an issue if you have the Zip Air model and are installing with SuperCinch LATCH system), seatbelt lockoff can be problematic in some vehicles but you can always lock the seatbelt at the retractor if you’re having issues with the lockoff and that will solve the problem.
Our comments: Finally, a narrow seat with very tall top harness slots! Ease of use is spectacular but the ease of installation varies from vehicle to vehicle – sometimes the installation is quick and painless (especially if you have the Zip Air model with SuperCinch and you are installing with LATCH), other times you have to really work at it to get a solid installation. And sometimes it’s just completely incompatible with some vehicles or seating positions. You definitely want to “try before you buy” or order from a retailer with free returns in case it doesn’t work out in your vehicle. See our Chicco MyFit Review here.
BEST VALUE COMBINATION SEAT
Features: 5-point harness from 22-50 lbs. AND at least 2 years old; booster from 40 to 100 lbs. AND at least 4 years old; 4 sets of harness slots; EPS foam; 2 crotch strap positions; dual integrated cup holders; lightweight
Drawbacks: Not height-adjustable; basic hook-style LATCH connectors; lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations
Our comments: A nice, lightweight seat for kids at least 2 years old that is also budget-friendly. Tall top harness slots combined with the 50 lbs. weight limit on the harness is enough to get many kids to the size/age/maturity to safely transition to a booster. You can install with LATCH up to the maximum harness limit of 50 lbs. 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. The Maestro Sport has a Best Bet booster rating from the IIHS. See the Evenflo Maestro review here.
Features: 5-point harness from 22-65 lbs.; converts to a highback booster and backless booster; no-rethread harness; 3 buckle positions; several recline positions; EPS foam; integrated cup holders.
Differences between original Nautilus 65 & newer Nautilus SnugLock models: SnugLock version has tensioning lockoff device that works with LATCH or seatbelt installations to facilitate an easy and secure installation; SnugLock LX model adds removable armrests and premium push-on LATCH connectors.
Drawbacks: Original Nautilus 65 model lacks a lockoff for easier seatbelt installations.
Our comments: Both Nautilus models offer a no-rethread harness. Both are generally easy to install and use correctly although the new Nautilus SnugLock model has a nifty tensioning and locking feature that makes it super easy to achieve a secure installation. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 45 lbs. Since the original Nautilus models lack a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install that model with seatbelt. The original Nautilus models and the Nautilus SnugLock DLX have a Best Bet rating from the IIHS when used in highback mode. See our Graco Nautilus SnugLock Review here.