The Quest for the Best Convertible Car Seats
A frustrating reality for parents is that whilst they anxiously strive to find “the Best Convertible Car Seats”, the truth is that no single seat can legitimately claim to be “the absolute best” convertible car seat.
This is post has now been updated for those seats that are available in 2017.
There is no independent organisation that conducts comprehensive side-by-side safety tests in a large array of vehicles using difference sized crash test dummies to enable a league table of seats to be compiled.
All of the seats mentioned within this post have passed the relevant federal safety tests and all of them come fitted with premium safety and convenience features that far exceed these minimum requirements.
Beware of people who direct you towards the NHTSA “Ease of Use” tests as evidence of which seats are safer than others. As the NHTSA repeatedly points out, their tests are NOT specifically designed to differentiate seats upon safety grounds. Instead, they consider factors that are relevant “ease of use”. Whilst this is useful information to consider, they do NOT evaluate each of the seats’ safety features and the do NOT publish a league table of seats from best to worst.
Children and vehicles come in different shapes and sizes (even if they are the same age) and so a seat that might be suitable for your 2 year old in your vehicle will not necessarily be suitable for your neighbor’s 2 year old in their vehicle. This is one of the reasons that I always advise parents to visit their local NHTSA centre or Fire Station after they have selected a seat to ensure that it is suitable for their child and their vehicle. The other obvious benefit of doing this is that the experts at these centres can fit the seats for you and show you how to do it yourself in case you need to remove and reinstall the seat at some later date.
Most premium convertible car seats have pretty similar safety and convenience features, and choosing between them often comes down to small differences. Since research suggests that as many as 75% of car seats are fitted incorrectly, the safest seat is often the one that is fitted correctly – there is not much point in spending $400 on a top-of-the-range car seat if it is not installed in a safe and secure manner.
One of the reasons that I love the Britax Clicktight Convertible Seats is that they are so easy to install using the seat belt. Although many parents will start off installing using LATCH connectors, the “February 2014 Law changes” mean that you will need to switch to belt-fitting at some point prior to your child outgrowing it (see individual car seat reviews and the instruction manuals for the applicable LATCH limits).
The main purpose of this post is simply to identify the latest premium convertible car seats and show you where to find out more detailed information about the ones that interest you. These are the seats that I would consider for my own children, but the list is not exhaustive and I am certainly not saying that there are no other convertible seats on the market that are good. The end of 2014 / start of 2015 has witnessed the release of a number of new convertible car seats and I intend to concentrate on these very latest models.
My Favorite Convertible Car Seats
So, here is my list of the best convertible car seats:
#1 Britax ClickTight Seats
Britax Convertible car seats have been popular with parents and car seat safety technicians for many years now. Although the older “G4” series of Britax Convertible car seats is still on the market, they have now been replaced by the new “ClickTight” seats.
The latest series of Britax convertible car seats has been branded “ClickTight” as opposed to the previous “G4″ series branding due to the fact that they have taken their revolutionary “ClickTight” installation system and added it to ALL of their newly released convertible seats.
These seats are suitable from 5 to 65 lbs.
Why Is ClickTight So Good For Parents?
There are 2 very important reasons why the introduction of the ClickTight installation system on all Britax convertible cars seats is such a great improvement:
- The 2014 LATCH Law changes mean that convertible car seats need to be re-installed using the seatbelt once your child reaches a certain weight (40 lbs for the Britax ClickTight seats);
- Standard belt-fitting systems can be confusing for parents and research suggests that about 75% of seats are incorrectly installed.
So, although the ClickTight installation method does not bring any “direct” safety benefits, there are likely to be some major “indirect” safety benefits for those parents that otherwise might find it difficult to install their child’s seat safely using more traditional belt-fitting mechanisms. Getting a proper installation is a huge part of child car seat safety and any technological development that makes this process easier is a very good thing.
There are 3 seats in the new series of Britax convertible car seats:
The Advocate is the most expensive option, followed by the Boulevard and then the Marathon.
In addition to the “ClickTight” installation system being introduced, the new Britax Convertible car seats also have some other improvements, including:
- Increased shell height means that the maximum seated shoulder height is greater than before
- 7-Position recline with automatic level indicator
Find Out More About the Britax ClickTight Convertible Seats …
You can read my comparison reviews of the new Britax ClickTight Seats here:
- Advocate ClickTight vs Boulevard ClickTight
- Advocate ClickTight vs Marathon ClickTight
- Boulevard ClickTight vs Marathon ClickTight
You can read my comparison reviews of the ClickTight and G4 models here:
- Advocate ClickTight vs Advocate G4
- Boulevard ClickTight vs Boulevard G4
- Marathon ClickTight vs Marathon G4
#2 Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Seats
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible is a very stylish car seat that comes with excellent maximum weight limits (5 to 70 lbs). It can also be used for an extended period in the rear-facing position (up to 45 lbs).
It has many additional safety features, including Side Impact Protection (SIP), EPS foam, Shock-Absorbing Foam Element (SAFE), and a contoured steel back plate.
Rather than list all of the specifications and features here, you can watch this very helpful review video created by “BabyGizmo”:
#3 Clek Foonf & Fllo Convertible Seats
The Clek Foonf and Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seats boast the highest rear-facings limit of 50 lbs!
However, please note that these seats are NOT suitable for newborns unless you use the Clek Infant Thingy Insert. Without the infant insert, the usable weight limits are 14 to 65 lbs.
They come with fairly high price tags, but for that you get some pretty impressive safety features, including a metal substructure, 3 layers of energy-absorbing foam, and an anti-rebound bar.
They are also very slim (just 17 inches across), which means that you would almost certainly be able to fit 3-in-a-row in a standard family-sized vehicle.
You can read all about the technical specifications, safety features, and weight/height limits here.
Here is a video review of the Clek Fllo by “Find Car Seat”:
Check the Latest Price of the Clek Fllo here.
Note: The Clek Fllo is the younger brother to the Clek Foonf convertible car seat. It does not replace the Foonf, but offers a lighter, more compact, and slightly cheaper alternative. You can check out the full specifications of the Clek Foonf here. There is a side-by-side comparison of the Fllo and Foonf here.
#4 Chicco Nextfit 65
The Chicco Nextfit 65 and Nextfit Zip Convertible car seats are rated as suitable for use between 5 to 65 lbs (rear-facing up to 40 lbs).
Since Chicco improved the length of the crotch strap and swapped the bulky shoulder pads for ones that are much easier to remove, the Nexfit 65 has become a real contender. Aside from some impressive safety features, one the main advantages of this seat is that it is quite compact, pretty easy to install, and has no fewer than 9 recline position with an easy to read level indicator. It looks pretty stylish too!
Other Seats to Consider?
There are a number of other models to consider when choosing a car seat for a child in the 5 to 65 lbs weight category.
I haven’t included them within the top 4 listed above either because they are not new to the market and/or they are not technically considered convertible car seats (eg. the Diono seats are probably best categorised as harness to booster seats).
The great thing about Diono seats is that many are rated as suitable for use from 5 to 120 lbs (or up to 57 inches in height), and so they could be the only ones that you ever need to buy for your child. You will read differences of opinion about whether or not they can really be used at the extremes of these ranges, but what is undeniable is that they can be used for much longer than a standard convertible car seat.
There are 2 series of Diono seats that remain on the US market today:
- Radian Series (older)
- post-2014 Series (newer)
Although I don’t propose to write in detail about the differences between the older and newer series of Diono seats within this post, there are significant differences between them in terms of width and suitability for certain types of children. It is not as simple as “the newer ones are better than the older ones”. Although the newer series of seats introduced some interesting new features, there are also reported to be some drawbacks.
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
Get in Touch
If you have any comments to share or questions to ask about my “Best Convertible Car Seats” post, please leave a comment in the box below or send me an email.