Trying to find the best convertible car seat? We are here to help. We considered over 20 possible choices and purchased 12 of the most popular convertible seats to find the best. We put all of the car seats through three months of rigorous testing comparing each option side-by-side for crash test performance, ease of installation, ease of use, and more, so we could provide you will all the details you need to find the right seat for your family and budget. As with all our reviews, we purchased every product reviewed here ourselves (just like you do), for results you can trust as honest and unbiased.
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB earned the highest score in our 12 car seat lineup. This product earned perfect scores for both styles of installation creating a practically foolproof car seat for parents worried about proper installation. Thanks to an innovative ClickTight process and strap tightening design, this seat practically installs itself with just a little help from you. We like the non-rethread harness with ten height options, the seamless fabric design, and the three layers of cushy padding for baby's comfort. This product may not be the best choice for parent's on a budget or those looking for the best crash test results, but it scored well in most metrics making it a good pick we'd recommend.
The Britax Marathon is an impressive car seat with the best crash test results in the group. This option brings two critical parts of car seat ownership together by combining excellent crash results with easy to install features. This Britax seat offers a lot of nice features that work well for a reasonable price that is significantly less than its bigger brother the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB and less than half the competition. The Marathon has EPP foam that doesn't off-gas, comfortable padding, and an easy to use harness height adjustment (equal to the Boulevard). We love the soft fabric, nice LATCH storage, and lighter weight. It is hard to find a flaw in this seat, and we feel it is a good potential option for just about every family.
The Britax Roundabout came in fifth place in this review. It is very similar to the Britax Marathon, but it has a lower price and uses some cheaper features and materials. But, don't let that turn you off, the Roundabout earned higher scores for both methods of installation, and it has an above average crash test score. The Roundabout is relatively lightweight and still offers enough in the way of comfort for a cozy seat even on a road trip. What it doesn't have is a non-rethread harness assembly, but its rethread method is one of the easier to use and an infrequent necessity. We really like this seat and feel its similarity to the Marathon makes it a great choice for parents that may not have the budget for the more expensive option. The Roundabout also features EPP foam that doesn't off-gas, has the same buckle and chest clip, same LATCH straps and clips, with only slightly less padding. This option is lighter than the Britax Marathon and significantly less expensive with a list price over $100 cheaper.
The Evenflo Tribute LX earned an 8 out of 12 rank, which makes it somewhat of a darker horse than our usual Best Value winner. But, this product is a standout in a way that makes it a worthwhile competitor for families on a budget or parents looking for a second seat. The Evenflo has a price tag of $70. Yep, you read that right only $70. This price is significantly less than the competition, but the Evenflo is more than just a pretty price tag. It has the second best crash test results in the group, an easy to clean cover, easy to use vehicle belt pathway, and one of the nicest buckles we tested. While it may not be what every family is looking for in a convertible option, we believe it is nice for the price and a great choice for parents on a budget. For us, it feels right to honor a product that provides an additional margin of safety that just about anyone can afford.
The Clek Foonf is an innovative car seat that earned top marks for ease of installation using the LATCH method thanks to a cool design with a forward facing rigid LATCH anchors that are so simple you'll think you did something wrong. The Foonf is also easy to install using the vehicle belt, and earned impressive marks for comfort and quality. This seat features a detachable angle booster, anti-rebound bar, steel frame, and an adjustable headrest. The Foonf is not the best choice for families on a budget thanks to a higher price tag than most of the competition, but it brings a lot to the table and provides additional safety features some parents want. This seat is a cool option we think parents will love and one our founder and Mom-in-Chief, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, chose for her children. She loves the Clek's quality, finds it easy to use, and her kids love it too.
In this review, we provide all the information you'll need to make an informed buying decision about which convertible car seat is the best choice for your child and wallet. The table above provides a comparison of the overall scores for the options we purchased and tested. The overall scores for each product were determined using performance test results in each metric.
Ten of the eleven top rated seats tested in our convertible car seat review (the Britax Boulevard ClickTight was absent on picture day).
We performed extensive tests on each seat over several months under the guidance and supervision of a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician. We developed a set of comprehensive tests derived from our infant seat testing process and used these in conjunction with the crash test data to determine how well seats performed in daily use, and in terms of the measured forces of impact recorded during crash tests.
Rear-facing Until at Least Age 2
Experts agree that you should keep your child rear-facing until at least age 2. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as well as the NHTSA, both recommend you keep your baby rear-facing as long as your seat allows, and at least until 2 years of age. A study published in Injury Prevention in 2007 showed that the rear-facing position resulted in a 5.3 times lower risk of death or serious injury in a car accident compared to a forward-facing position for children age 1-2 years old.
Each convertible car seat in our review was compared side-by-side in multiple metrics. They were all tested in an identical manner with every opportunity to shine if they had the ability to do so. While all seats available for purchase in the US have met the minimum safety guidelines outlined by the Federal government, not all of them are easy to install and use, or offered an additional margin of protection compared to the seat next to it in the store.
We contracted with the same crash test facility used by NHTSA to test the seats in this review. Here is the Clek Foonf getting ready for its crash test, complete with crash test dummy.
Crash Test Performance
BabyGearLab contracted with the same crash test facility that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses to perform convertible seat crash tests. The seats were all tested in compliance with the same protocol used by NHTSA and outlined in the FMVSS 213 standard.
We performed a detailed analysis of the crash test sensor data collected from each car seat's crash sled dummy to determine how each seat performed compared to the competition and the Federal safety standards. To help you understand a bit more about crash tests, we've included graphs that compare the actual crash test results in each product's individual review, and have summarized them below.
So, what is the most important information from crash impact tests when analyzing results?
All of the Tested Products Provide a Basic, Safe Level of Protection
All of the convertible car seats we tested have passed the Federal minimum safety standards. Therefore, every seat we tested provides at least the basic level of crash safety protection required by US Federal law. Our primary focus for crash test scores is to identify those seats whose crash test performance exceeded the Federal requirements by a wide margin. These car seats can be considered as providing an additional level of protection based on the data from their crash test sensors.
Understanding the Head Injury Criteria (HIC) Score
For each crash test, sensors are placed in the head and chest of a crash test dummy that is buckled into a car seat and placed on a sled to simulate the forces in an actual car crash. We used a forward-facing Hybrid III 3 YO Part 572 P dummy (3 year old test dummy) in our commissioned crash tests, because NHTSA crash injury studies have shown that the risk of injury is greater when children are forward facing, and the heavier 3 yr old test dummy provides a more strenuous test of the seat's ability. The Federal safety standard developed by NHTSA uses a factor for scoring called the Head Injury Criteria (HIC) score. This score is the likelihood of injury arising from an impact presented in a measurable way. All of the seats must obtain a HIC score of 1000 or lower to pass the Federal requirements. The further a score is below the Federal HIC maximum of 1000, the better it performed.
The G force results for head sensors in the Evenflo and Diono test dummies
Shown above is the percentage margin by which each seat exceeded the maximum Head Injury Criteria (HIC) score established by the Federal NHTSA standard. The higher the bar, the better the margin of protection. (Click on the chart to enlarge).
The chart shown above is the real crash test results for the HIC scores. It also displays the percentage each score is below the NHTSA maximum of 1000 HIC. We focused on analyzing how large a margin of protection each product offers below the Federal maximum 1000 HIC. One could consider the car seats represented by the taller bars on the left as providing an additional margin of protection.
Understanding the Chest (G) Clip Score
The same crash dummies also include sensors in the chest region to measure impact forces in that area. The results acquired from the chest sensors were used to calculate the Chest (G) Clip score, which is a second score that attempts to measure the likelihood of injury to the heart, lungs, and other organs located in the chest area. To pass the Federal safety requirements, all of the seats must achieve a score less than 60 for the Chest (G) Clip.
The G force results for chest sensors in the Clek and Diono test dummies
The chart shown above compares the data for the Chest forces of the Diono Radian (black line) to the best performing product for this test, the the best performing product for this test, the Clek Foonf (green line). The Clek has a max G force score of 33.4 G's; this is significantly lower than Diono's maximum of 53.2 G's.
Shown above is the percentage margin by which each seat exceeded the maximum chest injury score, Chest (g) Clip, established by the Federal NHTSA safety standard. The taller the bar, the better the margin of protection. (Click on the chart to enlarge).
The chart shown above is a graphic representation of the percentage below the Federal maximum Chest (G) Clip score of 60 achieved by each seat in this review. As we did with the HIC scores, we focused on how large a margin of protection each product provided below the score of 60, Federal maximum Chest (G) Clip score. The taller bars on the left of the chart are further below the Federal maximum chest score, and one could consider them as potentially providing an additional margin of protection.
The rear facing Clek Foonf has a recline adjustment attachment and a anti-rebound bar, as well as an under the seat belt pathway that includes a belt lock off. It is the most innovative seat in the review and includes a rigid forward facing LATCH system.
Additional Safety Features
Even though some of the seats have additional features that they claim improves their overall safety in the event of a crash, we chose not to include the presence of these features or claims in our crash test analysis. Because manufacturers do not publish side-by-side comparison test data that would allow us to analyze and test the claims, it is impossible to determine their real efficacy. We understand that some parents may be curious about seats that boast side impact protection (SIP) or an anti-rebound bar (ARB), but we encourage parents to proceed with caution when it comes to making a decision based solely on these features. At the end of the day, there is no way of knowing what each manufacturer means when they use terminology that doesn't have an agreed-upon meaning (like SIP). This makes it difficult or impossible to compare seats that make similar claims, especially when information is lacking to support or define the claims.
How well a seat performs in a crash test environment means little if it isn't installed correctly in your vehicle. Installing a car seat incorrectly, or a harness that is not adjusted to fit can potentially result in injury or death in the event of an accident. It is a good idea to seek professional helpcar seat inspection technician when you purchase a new seat or move a seat to a different vehicle. You can also read our article on How to Avoid Infant Car Seat Installation Mistakes for additional tips. While this article focuses on infant seats, much of the information applies to convertible car seats as well.
Best Seats Based on Crash Test Analysis
Using crash test report analysis, we rated each seat compared to the competition using a 1-10 scoring system. This scoring helps quantify the products that offer an additional margin of protection, in our opinion, over and above the basic level of protection found in all of the seats we tested.
The Britax Marathon earned our best crash test rating with a 9 of 10 score thanks to excellent Chest (G) Clip and HIC scores. While it did not have the best score in either category, it did have the best combined score when considering both Chest and HIC scores. The Evenflo Tribute LX has the best (lowest) HIC score for the group, but its Chest Clip score was average, these results helped it earn the second-best score in the group with an 8. The Clek Foonf has the best Chest Clip score in the group, but its HIC score is below average, which resulted in a third-place rank and an overall crash-test score of 7.
The LATCH system of installation was designed to help parents install car seats safely every time. In general, it is considered the quickest easiest method of car seat installation
The LATCH method of seat installation was created to make it easier for parents to install them correctly, with reduced mistakes. This assumption means the easiest way to install a car seat should be using your vehicle's Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH). We recommend the use of LATCH if possible, to increase the chances that the seat installation is correct. Nearly all convertible car seats have LATCH clips, and most vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002, offer the anchors on the left and right sides of the back seats. So the good news is you should be able to utilize the LATCH method. Around 60% according to NHTSA, place their car seats on one of the side rear seating positions.
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia produced the video below; it is an excellent overview of the LATCH system, and how to use it:
In our testing process, we discovered that some seats were easier to install with LATCH than the vehicle belt, but at least a third were easier to install using the vehicle belt over the LATCH method. Some testers had difficulty getting the straps on the LATCH anchors tight enough to secure the seat.
The Clek Foonf (above left) uses a rigid LATCH connection for forward facing installation that works more like a seat belt and clicks easily onto the anchor and releases by pressing a button. The Clek tied with the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB and the Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB for the highest score for LATCH install, and the Clek's rigid LATCH does not need tightening. The Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 has the clip style of LATCH connection (above right) that we found is harder to use; this clip is more complicated to remove than clip on and requires twisting to disconnect. The Safety 1st earned the lowest score in the review for LATCH installation with a 3. Both anchor styles are considered safe. However, we found the style on the left easier to use.
The Britax Marathon earned one of the highest scores in the review for installation using the LATCH system
Center Seat Issues
Studies show that the center of the vehicle rear seat is the safest spot to install your car seat — studies of injury data show a 43% lower risk of injury if the car seat placement is in the center of the back seat. Now combine that information with the fact that LATCH connectors should be the easiest and safest way to install a car seat. What's the problem? Here's the rub. Most motor vehicles do not offer LATCH anchors in the center location, and even if the inner LATCH anchors from the side positions are close enough to use, most vehicle and seat manuals do not allow the use of these LATCH anchors for the center position installation.
So if your vehicle doesn't allow the LATCH method in the center location, what is the best alternative? Should you use the center seat with a vehicle belt or the LATCH system on a side seat? One of the most important aspects of seat installation is that you ensure that the seat is securely and tightly anchored to the vehicle.
The questions on installation in the center seat are:
Should you make an effort to install the seat with the vehicle belt?
Is the seat as secure when anchored to the center seat with a vehicle belt as it is installed on the side seat using LATCH?
Using a vehicle belt to attach a car seat to the car is a perfectly safe and acceptable method of installation (and possibly the only option for center positioning), as long as you can get it secure and tight. If you can (and we were able to with many of the seats in this review), then use the center seat. However, if obtaining a secure fit in the center seat is difficult, then you should use the side seat location. It is far more important that the seat is correctly installed than it is that the seat is located in the center. If you have two children, you may not have a choice, but the side seat locations as most cars don't have enough room for a side and center installation at the same time. If your vehicle doesn't offer LATCH anchors for the center seat, but you are sold on center seat installation only, our next section on ease of installation with a vehicle belt can help you identify which seats are easier to install using a seat belt. Additionally, you can always locate an installation professional for assistance installing your seat using the vehicle belt.
This Chicco NextFit has what the manufacturer calls "SuperCinch", which is an alternative style of strap that uses a pulley type system that makes tightening the LATCH straps far easier than ordinary straps
The LATCH clips and anchors are just part of the LATCH equation. Whether or not the straps attached to the clips are easy to tighten and loosen are also factors for ease of install. As previously noted, part of why we loved the Clek Foonf is its lack of straps for forward facing installation, and the Chicco NextFit for its "SuperCinch" method with a 2 step tightening that is engineered to do the hard work for you.
The video above shows the installation of the Clek Foonf.
Alternatively, we had trouble getting the straps on the Safety 1st tight enough for the seat to feel secure. The LATCH straps on the Evenflo Tribute LX are relatively easy to tighten, but we had difficulty loosening the strap to uninstall the seat. For scoring, we gave more points to the products that didn't require any body weight to tighten or any significant struggling or trauma inside the car to achieve a secure fit.
The forward-facing installation of the Clek Foonf for kids over 2 years old using the vehicle belt is very secure feeling and easy to accomplish.
Ease of Install — Vehicle Belt
If you plan to install your seat in the center position of your vehicle or it doesn't have LATCH anchors, then you will need to know more about installing your seat with the vehicle belt so you can master the details to ensure a secure fit. Many center seats do not offer LATCH anchors, even though it is the safest location to place the seat. Even if you don't plan to do this, most of the options in this review have a limit on how large your child can be and still use the LATCH installation. Most have a limit of about 40 — 50 pounds of child weight before the seat will need to be installed using the vehicle belt. Given that many of the products have a weight limit from 50-80 pounds, you can see that your child could be using the seat for an extended period installed with the vehicle belt only.
Don't despair! We are going to tell you which seats were the easiest to install using the vehicle belt and give you information on installing them correctly or where to get help if you are unsure or something doesn't seem right.
Find a Child Car Seat Inspection Station or Professional in Your Area
There is a fantastic FREE resource for parents nationwide that can quickly help you learn how to install any seat in any car. There are certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technicians who are available by appointment or on call. We highly recommend this service for all parents, even if you feel like you have this installation business all dialed in, just to be sure. Finding an inspection station or technician near you is easy; all you need to do is enter your zip code on this website. You may even find that your local fire station or police department has a CPS technician on staff to help you.
The 2 part belt lock off on the Britax Roundabout required a screwdriver to pry open. It isn't as user friendly as some of the competition, but having a hard to use lock off is still better than not having one.
Simplicity is the Benefit of the Seat Belt Lock-Off
Some of the seats in the review are easier to install using the seat belt than others, and most of these seats have a little trick up their sleeve by way of the vehicle belt lock-off affixed to the seat itself. This feature is so useful, it is a game changer for installing car seats with a vehicle belt, and we think you'll feel significantly more comfortable installing a seat using the belt if it has one of these nifty lock-offs on board.
Five seats out of 12 in this review have a belt lock-off located on the seat. All of these have forward and rear facing lock-offs. Interestingly enough, all five of these seats ranked near the top and had the highest scores for installation using a vehicle belt. Only the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible scored as well without the help of an onboard lock-off. The Britax ClickTight car seats don't have a traditional lock-off, but the pressure of the seat bottom closure acts as a lock-off and prevents the creeping car seat problem often seen in products without a lock-off.
Coincidence? We think not.
Some lock-offs work a little better than others, but even those that are hard to manage still seem to offer a more secure installation in our tests than the seats that didn't have a lock-off. We found that the options with a lock-off were every bit as secure when installed with a belt as they were with the LATCH and some even more so. This can be a relief when you need to install the seat with a belt, which is highly likely given the weight limit already discussed for the LATCH system.
While we found that any lock-off would help a seat feel more secure once installed, some of the lock-offs are easier to use than others. The Britax Marathon and the Britax Roundabout both have the same lock-off, and it's hard to use. We had to use a screwdriver to open it, which isn't that handy. Alternatively, the Clek Foonf lock-off (above left) is super easy to use, even though you need to lift the seat bottom to access the rear facing lock-off. The Chicco NextFit (above right) is also easy and nicely located on the outside of the shell for open access. So, if you're looking for a seat that is easy to install using a vehicle belt, it is kinda cool that most will be high-ranking and award winners.
We needed a towel for the rear installation of the Evenflo Tribute to obtain the proper angle of the seat. This seat is not that easy to install, but it does offer higher than average crash test results.
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB and the Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB are the easiest options we tested to install using the belt thanks to the "ClickTight" design and installation method. With this method, all you need to do is lift the seat bottom, thread the belt across the bottom, take out the slack (do not tighten), and close the seat bottom until it clicks. The seat bottom does the tighten and secure for you. These products earned a 10 of 10 for installation with the belt, and it is easy to see why.
The Clek Foonf is the second easiest seat in our tests to install using the vehicle belt. The lock-off works smoothly, and the belt is easy to thread. It earned a 9 in the metric, which is almost as good as its LATCH score and is better than the LATCH score of much of the competition. The most difficult seat to install using the vehicle belt is the Safety 1st. It doesn't have a lock-off, and during our testing, we struggled to get the belt tight enough and the seat feeling secure.
The video above shows the installation of the Britax Marathon.
With the exception of the Peg Pergo Primo Viaggio Convertible, the seats lacking a lock-off did not score higher than 7. The Evenflo Tribute LX and the Graco MyRide 65 LX both earned just 6 in this metric, but interestingly they were still easier to install with the vehicle belt than using LATCH where they earned only 5s. The Britax Marathon, Britax Roundabout, Chicco NextFit and the Peg Pergo Primo Viaggio Convertible all earned 8s in this metric.
Having trouble finding the center seat belt?
Some SUVs, trucks, and wagons have a center seat belt located on the roof of the car. Given that many people rarely or never use their rear center seat you might not have used it before, and it will be fully retracted. This helpful video from The Car Seat Lady shows a center seatbelt located on the roof of the vehicle, and how you use it. Consult your car's user manual for more information about your center seat restraint belt.
The Britax Marathon earned the top score for ease of use by providing features and functionality that are easy to use on a day to day basis.
Ease of Use
At first glance, many of these convertible seats have the same look and overall design with few minor differences. Where they start to diverge is in their ease of use, with some being far easier to use than others, either due to extra features or better performance on standard features like buckles and chest clips.
The video below shows some of the features of the Clek Foonf. While not the highest ranking seat in ease of use, it does have some unique features.
The Ease of Use metric includes the features that you will use on a regular basis. These features include items like harness adjustment and buckles, ease of tightening or loosening the harness, and cover removal and cleaning. If your daily experience with a seat is frustrating, you might be tempted to avoid using it as described or you could end up unhappy with your seat choice.
The buckle on the Evenflo Tribute LX is one of the easiest in the group to use. The sides pop out on their own when the button is pressed
Buckles and Chest Clips
The buckle release buttons for the convertible car seats we tested were not all easy to use. While some buckles like those found on the Evenflo Tribute and Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 were easy to use one-handed with sides that pop out with the push of the button, others like the Diono Radian RXT were so hard you'll need two hands to operate it, and your fingers might hurt once it's complete. Most of the seats offer a middle of the road buckle that will be stiff when you push it but won't require cuss words and painful fingers.
The Chicco offers a unique chest clip that has two width settings. This feature made the chest clip harder to use, and didn't seem to improve its performance.
The buckle isn't the only aspect of securing the harness; the chest clip is a portion of this equation as well. The Graco MyRide 65 chest clip is the hardest to use in our testing, with a clip that requires excessive squeezing of small buttons that hurt some testers. The best chest clip in the group is interestingly enough the Diono Radian, but it also has the lowest buckle score. None of the seats offered great options for both the buckle and the chest clip, but the Britax products were okay for both, and the Safety 1st had scores of 7 and 5. Given that the buckles are harder to operate in general, it is probably best to focus on how well the buckle works over how challenging the chest clip is to use.
The Chicco NextFit offers a unique chest clip that has a two setting adjustable feature for fitting children of various sizes. While it is interesting, we aren't sure why it is necessary, and we think it makes using the clip a little harder because on occasion you might believe you unclipped it when you only changed the width.
The harness release button and tightening strap on the Graco MyRide 65 LX are both located near the foot of the seat and they are the easiest ones in the group to use.
Harness Tightening and Loosening
Tightening and loosening the harness is accomplished using the tightening strap at the foot of the seat and the release button that is sometimes located under fabric and padding and sometimes over, but also at the foot above the strap. Some of the straps were harder to pull than others and the buttons varied between those you press and those you lift. The Graco MyRide and Britax Boulevard CLickTight ARB earned the high scores for tightening and loosening with a score of 9. The Clek Foonf and the Evenflo Tribute both earned 8s making them second place options with very easy to use straps and buttons. The hardest in the group is the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with a button that is a little hidden and a strap that is harder to pull than the competition. That being said, none of the competition was impossible to use.
Adjusting the Harness
There are two primary ways of adjusting the harness height on the convertible car seats. The simpler method is a non-rethreading design that adjusts by moving a headrest/harness shoulder strap assembly up and down the back of the seat (above left). The more convoluted method requires detaching the shoulder straps from a back splitter plate and physically moving the straps from one level of slots to the next level (above right). While not necessarily challenging, the latter method takes more time, requires removing the baby from the seat, and if forward facing you will need to remove the seat from the car as well. Alternatively, the non-rethread option can be done with baby in the seat and as soon as you notice there is a need for an adjustment. We prefer the non-rethread version because it is simpler, and we think parents are more likely to adjust the harness as necessary instead of putting it off until they have more time. Our fear is parents will recognize the harness needs adjustment after their baby is in the seat and put off moving it until they use it again, then they will forget and the next time they put the baby in they will once again push off the responsibility to a more convenient time.
The harness height adjustment on the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio has an easy pull tab to operate with no rethreading of straps necessary. This is one of the easiest adjustment options in the review.
Half of the seats in this review offer the non-rethread harness height feature. The easiest options in the group to use are the Britax Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate with easy to squeeze handles and harness assemblies that move smoothly up and down, scoring 10 of 10. The hardest non-rethread version in the group to use is the Safety 1st product that has dual levers that need to be turned simultaneously before the assembly can be moved. Unfortunately, the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 assembly broke midway through the testing process and refused to engage automatically. This meant we had to engage it manually from the back, which resulted in it earning one of the lowest scores for the group with a 4. We don't know that they will all break, just that ours did with minimal use in a very short amount of time under controlled circumstances. The rethread options are all harder to operate because they take more time and effort.
LATCH storage on infant style seats is critical because the straps could get in the way of attaching the carrier to the base if their storage options aren't adequate. LATCH storage may not be as necessary for convertible car seats, but it is nice if the straps are not accessible by children and aren't flying around the back seat potentially causing injuries. Some of the seats had pockets or little cubby storage where the clips store out of sight. The standard storage option is attaching the clips to plastic loops on the back of the seat or clipping to each other.
The photos above show some of the different LATCH storage options in this review. From left to right the seats include the Evenflo Tribute LX, Britax Marathon, Chicco NextFit, and the Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65.
The Chicco NextFit has side pockets where the clips and straps tuck in with a pocket for the tether on the back. It is one of the few in the group that actually keeps the straps and clips out of the way. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible, Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARBBritax Advocate ClickTight ARB*, and the Clek Foonf also offer storage that keeps the clips out of the way. One of the least effective storage options in the group is the Safety 1st Alpha Elite** that has clip attachment points on the back of the seat that leave the straps to dangle.
The Evenflo Tribute LX is a very basic seat with the lowest price in this review. The low price translated to disappointing scores for comfort and quality, but the fabric is easy to remove and clean.
Cover Removal and Cleaning
Because children can be messy and car seats see a lot of action, we looked at how difficult it is to remove the covers of the seats and whether or not the covers can be machine washed or require a hand washing. We prefer the seats that have easy to remove covers and are machine washable. Certainly, hand washing is better than spot cleaning, but given that bodily fluids might be involved it would be great if they were all machine washable. The Clek Foonf earned the lowest score because it is the only seat that does not have a removable cover. It is spot clean only, and you can purchase a cleaning kit from Clek, but if there is a big mess, you'll be up to your elbows with a scrub brush or possibly a steam cleaner. The Evenflo Tribute earned the highest score in the group for both ease of removal and ease of cleaning. It is a simple cover that comes off without a hitch and can be machine washed and tumble dried. This is an improvement over most of the competition that lay flat to dry or hand wash only. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB has a unique cover that comes off easily in four pieces but is hand wash and line dry only.
The Peg Perego cover and padding envelope the seat and curl around the shell and frame for an overall nice fit and finish.
When it comes to comfort and quality, we compared each seat and the materials used to make them. We looked at the padding, fabric, foam and how well it all comes together to make the final product. We considered each factor and how it contributes to baby's comfort, parent use, and seat longevity.
The seats all share common construction with plastic shells, dense foams and some comfort padding and a fabric cover. However, some offer significantly thicker padding, nicer fabric, steel frames, or non-off gassing foam. This metric is somewhat subjective, so seats were compared side-by-side and judged against one another.
When it comes to comfort and quality, the Chicco NextFit (above left), Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB and Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB seats stood out. These seats have exceptional padding and a seamless fabric to shell designs with pockets and places for everything. We liked that the Chicco fabric is soft, the seat is self-contained, and it has an overall sleek look. The Britax Boulevard is similar, with additional padding around the head area. On the other hand, the Evenflo Tribute (above right) is a barebones seat that has the necessities without any of the extras that come with the other seats. Its lack of thick padding for comfort or advanced LATCH storage hurt its overall score in this metric, but it does get the job done, and the cover is machine washable. The Clek Foonf and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible came in second place with 8s, and the Britax Marathon and Roundabout both earned a 7.
The Maxi-Cosi weighs over 18 pounds and is the widest seat in the review at 21 inches. This makes it a bad choice if you want to sit multiple seats in one row or if you need to have 2 seats and one person in the row.
We checked the weight and width of each seat in the review. We considered their forward-facing and rear-facing total weight and their width at the widest point of the seat. While the weight of the convertible car seats is not as important as the carrier weight of the infant style seats, it might be important for parents who plan to travel with a seat or live in an environment where they will frequent taxi or Uber services. In short, if your seat will live in the car for most of its life, then you might not care how heavy it is. If you travel frequently or will need to lug the seat through town, then the weight takes on more significance, and you might not want one of the heavier options.
The Clek Foonf is the heaviest seat in the group whether it is forward or rear facing. For the rear-facing configuration, it is over 38 pounds thanks to the addition of the anti-rebound bar and recline angle attachment. The forward facing configuration isn't much better at over 33 pounds, and both are significantly heavier than the majority of the seats we tested. The Clek Foonf (below left) is narrow however at only 17 inches. This narrow width means you might be able to fit three seats across the typical back seat, or two seats and a person in the middle. The Evenflo Tribute (below right) is the lightest seat in the group at a little over 9 pounds, and it is also 17 inches wide. Together with the Clek Foonf, they are the narrowest in the group of products we tested. Unfortunately, the Evenflo required a towel for rear-facing installation in our tests, so it still might not be the best for travelers because you will need to carry a towel on the road as well as the seat. The Britax Roundabout is the lightest high scoring seat with a weight of about 16 pounds. While significantly heavier than 9 pounds, at least you won't need to carry a towel or lug a hefty monster. The majority of high scoring seats were on the heavier side, presumably thanks to increased padding and steel (or alloy) frame design that both add weight. The widest option in the group is the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 and we think it will be difficult to use this seat with more than two across and an adult might not be able to sit between the seats.
For most parents, the weight of the car seat is unlikely to be a deciding factor given that it normally remains in the car. However, the width might be something to consider if you have multiple children or a narrow back seat. If the car seat will live in your backseat for the majority of its lifespan, we urge you not to worry about weight and instead pick the highest rated model that will suit your needs.
Ten of the eleven top rated seats tested in our convertible car seat review (the Britax Boulevard ClickTight was absent on picture day).
Choosing a convertible car seat can be a daunting task. Our hope is that the information provided in this review, and our corresponding Buying Advice article will help you narrow down your choice to a top contender that meet your needs and price range.