Update 7/10/14: New car seats are always coming out, so I wanted to make sure to take a look at some of the new options out there. Diono has added three more seats to their lineup. You can see a handy comparison chart here. I’ve added the Ranier to the list below. Additionally, after doing a couple of checks on Graco MySize 65s, I’m adding it to the list below. I’m still irked with Graco, but this is a good seat.
I got an email from a mom asking about the kinds of convertible car seats I recommend. So, I’m going to finally write a post about it. This is the number one question I get asked when it comes to car seats, so I guess it’s time I addressed it.
First, though, some caveats and disclaimers:
There is no right right car seat for everyone. You need to pick a car seat that works for your budget, that will fit your child and, especially in the case of convertible car seats, will fit in your car. Additionally, I do not make any money on the sale of any brands that I will list below. This is just my opinion based off of 4 years of experience. These are not listed in any specific order, either.
I like the ProRide for a few reasons. It’s got some of the highest limits both forward and rear facing. This means it’s going to do a good job of keeping your child rear facing for a long time and allowing your child to stay forward-facing in a 5 point harness for as long as possible.
- Cost: $220-$260
- Rear-facing limits: 5-40lbs and 49″
- Forward-facing limits: 20-65lbs and 22.5″ when seated
- Dimensions: 27-29″H x 19″W x11″D
- Weight: 20lbs
- Expiration: 6 years from date of manufacture
- Other features: Side-impact protection, Adjustable head support, Recline level indicator, no-rethread harness adjustment
#2- Diono RadianRXT
Things I love about this car seat include it’s steel frame, that you can use the LATCH to anchor it to up to 80 pounds, that it’s also a booster, that it’s narrow frame means you can fit three into the back seat of many cars, and that you can tether it rear-facing. Yes, it’s a little pricey, but it’s the only car seat you really need to ever buy (in theory).
- Cost: $250-320
- Rear-facing limits: 5-45lbs and 44″
- Forward-facing limits: 20-80lbs and 57″
- Dimensions (HxWxD):28.5″H x 17″W x 16″D
- Weight: 26.15lbs
- Expiration: 8 years from date of manufacture in harness mode, 9 years in booster mode
- Other features: Side-impact protection, Adjustable head support, Expandable sides, Adjustable cup holder
While the two seats I listed above are FABULOUS at being able to be used for the long-term, if you have a smaller car or 2 kids in the back seat of your 4 door car (or, in a 2 door car), then you might need a seat that’s more compact so it’ll actually fit in your backseat rear-facing. This is also a really nice, lightweight seat.
- Cost: $175-$210
- Rear-facing limits: 3-33 lbs. and 40″
- Forward-facing limits: 20-40lbs and 40″
- Dimensions: 17″ L x 15.50″ W x 28.25″ H
- Weight: 11.75 lbs.
- Expiration: 7 years from date of manufacture
- Other features: Side-impact protection, Can be tethered rear and forward facing, starts at a very low birth weight, a very good seat for preemies, buckle has a visual cue to tell you it’s buckled correctly
For families looking for a cost-effective option, this is a good seat. It has some features of the more expensive seats above, like high height limits in the forward facing position. It does not have some of the nicer features of the other seats, and it can’t be tethered in a rear-facing position. Also, you’ll find it’s missing some of the “ease of use” features the other seats have. But I will say I do like Evenflo seats and was thrilled to find this seat.
- Cost: $85-$110
- Rear-facing limits: 5-40 lbs. and 40″
- Forward-facing limits: 22-65lbs and 54″
- Dimensions: 24” High x 18.5” Wide x 28” Long for rear-facing; 28” High x 18.5” Wide x 20” Long in forward-facing mode
- Weight: 10.5 lbs.
- Expiration: 6 years from date of manufacture
- Other features: Side-impact protection, made in the USA, fold-down cupholder
As much as I love the Radians, The new Rainier has a few things up on them. First, the lifespan of use is 12 years from date of PURCHASE, whereas the Radians are good for 10 years from date of manufacture. The Rainier is also a little more padded and has higher weight limits. The one downside is that the Rainiers are wider, so you can’t get 33 in the backseat of a smaller car.
- Cost: $290
- Rear-facing limits: 5-50 lbs. and 44″
- Forward-facing limits: 20-90 lbs and 57″
- Dimensions: 16 x 17 x 28.7 inches
- Weight: 28.4 lbs.
- Expiration: 12 years from date of purchase
- Other features: Also a high back booster, can be tethered rear-facing, folds for travel
OK, I do like this seat. I like that you can adjust the harness without un-installing the seat. I like that there are 2 separate sets of lower anchor straps so you don’t have to move the lower anchor straps when you go from rear-facing to forward facing. I like the recline settings. The infant insert is nice, too. The main downside is the lower height limit for forward facing.
- Cost: $180
- Rear-facing limits: 4-40 lbs. and 44″
- Forward-facing limits: 20-65 lbs and 49″
- Dimensions: Overall Height: 26″ x Width: 22.3″ x Depth: 19.3″
- Weight: 19.34 lbs
- Expiration: 6 years from date of manufacture (stamped on back)
- Other features: integrated cup holder, ease of install, upgraded LATCH connectors
I was originally going to write about 5 seats, until I realized… I couldn’t find a 5th to stick up here. That doesn’t mean that the other seats aren’t good seats. It just means that there might be certain things, like difficult installation instructions or obnoxious quirks that leave me feeling lukewarm about them. And remember, you DO NOT NEED an infant-only seat. You will absolutely need to buy a convertible car seat, period, end of story. Consider buying one really awesome convertible car seat and skip the expensive, limited-use infant seat.
So those are my thoughts, and they are only my thoughts. Do you have questions? Throw ‘em in the comment section below!
Veronica (a proud Child Passenger Safety Technician)