Choosing a Convertible Car Seat

Choosing a Convertible Car Seat for an Infant/Toddler

If an infant seat doesn't meet your needs, the alternative is a convertible seat, which accommodates both infants and toddlers through a single purchase. That's because a convertible seat, which is required for children over 20 pounds, can accommodate infants from 5 to sometimes as high as 35 pounds when used in the rear-facing position.

Unlike infant seats, convertibles cannot be used as carriers or rockers, and are not compatible with stroller systems.

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics now advises parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat, which can be found on the back of the seat.

When your child outgrows her infant seat, the right car seat for your child is a convertible car seat. Convertible seats are so called because they can generally be used rear-facing for infants, then converted to a forward-facing position for use with toddlers. 

Features

Once you decide which type of seat you plan to purchase, your next step is to determine which features are important to you and your child. These basic features should be present on any convertible seat you choose:

  •  Up-front harness adjuster
  •  Up-front buckle-release button
  •  A minimum of two recline positions
  •  Plastic belt guides in the pad, to make harness adjustment easier.

Once you've considered the basics, you'll want to think about these aspects of the seat (more-detailed descriptions follow):

  •  Comfort, quality, and coverage of the seat pad
  •  Pillows and inserts
  •  Belt-track system for easy installation
  •  Seat-saver base
  •  Up-front recline adjuster
  •  Upgraded LATCH system

Comfort, Quality, and Coverage of the Seat Pad

Comfort is the most important aspect of the seat pad. Try prodding and poking various seat pads, and imagine yourself riding in the seat. Which seat would you prefer to sit in during an eight-hour trip to Grandma's? The quality of the seat's material will often vary depending on the cost of the seat. More-expensive seats generally have plusher, more durable fabric that will hold up to wear and tear better and will fade less. Finally, you'll want to check out how much of the plastic seat shell the pad covers. More coverage should offer more comfort for your child, of course, and will be more aesthetically pleasing. But the more material used in the seat, and the better the quality of the material, the higher the seat's cost.

Pillows and Inserts

Optional pillows and lumbar inserts also increase your child's comfort. A convertible seat must be big enough to accommodate up to a 40-pound child; therefore, lumbar supports and pillows are available on some models so that a toddler as small as 20 pounds also can be comfortable.

Recline-Adjustment Location

All convertible seats recline, but more-expensive ones have the seat-recline adjustment conveniently located at the front of the seat. Some even allow you to adjust the recline without releasing the seat belt. You'll also want to look for the number of recline positions (some seats offer more than two).

Belt-Track System for Easy Installation

Moving a car seat from car to car can be time-consuming, especially with the early-morning day-care crunch. A few seats, such as all harnessed Evenflo seats, offer the BeltTrac™ System which allows easy access to the vehicle's seat belt from the front of the car seat, eliminating the need for you to pull the vehicle's belt through the back of the seat. The best way to understand what a BeltTrac System offers is to install into your car a friend's car seat, or some store display models, then try a seat with a BeltTrac. You'll see that the difference is worth it.

Seat-saver base

When installed in the same position in a car for many months, some car seats leave indentations and wear marks. To avoid this, you'll want to look for a car seat that offers a seat-saving base, which reduces wear and tear on your auto seat cushions.

Your Budget

A key reason to consider a convertible seat for your infant is the monetary savings you will realize by purchasing only one seat. In order to expose yourself to options and features you otherwise might have missed, make price your last consideration when purchasing a convertible seat. After all, $10 or $20 extra could provide you and your child with features that will save you time and provide more comfort for your baby. (And since your baby could spend up to four years in this seat, time and comfort are important commodities.)