Whether you are looking to buy a convertible car seat for use from birth or transitioning your baby from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat because they have reached the maximum height or weight limits, you will want to find out which seats are the best within your budget.
The prices of convertible car seats vary enormously and can range from under $100 all the way up to the $500 mark.
Although there are some perfectly respectable convertible car seats at the lower end of that price bracket, the undeniable fact is that the more you are prepared to spend on a convertible car seat, the more safety, comfort and convenience features you are likely to get.
But, how do you find out which are the best of the best? Is there a list of convertible car seats that have been ranked in order of their performance in universally accepted independent crash tests? If so, where can you find this information?
Unfortunately, the answer to that perfectly sensible question is “No, there are no such test results”.
There are no such lists of convertible car seats to consult and the federal safety tests that all seats must pass do no more than to issue a “pass/fail” certificate. They do not in any way provide you with data that can be used to say definitively that Seat A is safer than Seat B.
Not only do the federal safety tests not permit seats to be ranked according to their performance, but there aren’t even any comprehensive side impact tests as part of those federal safety tests, despite the fact that side impact collisions cause some of the most serious injuries to children on the roads.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been actively lobbying for the Government to introduce comprehensive side impact crash testing for all convertible car seats but, as yet, there are no signs of any such tests being introduced in the foreseeable future.
Before you get too despondent, there are some ways in which you can try to differentiate convertible car seats and begin the quest to find the best one for your child.
One potential starting point is to look at the NHTSA’s “Ease of Use” test results for convertible car seats.
It is important that you understand that these are not safety tests as such. They are not a measure of how a seat performs in a collision. Instead, they are a measure of how easy the seats are to use.
Why is “ease of use” so important?
A commonly cited statistic is that as many as 75% of car seats are incorrectly installed in vehicles, That’s right, 75%. The reasons that car seats are commonly installed incorrectly range from confusing instruction manuals, to hard to understand belt-fitting mechanisms, to simple ignorance and human error.
An incorrectly fitted convertible car seat creates a serious risk of injury to your child. Your child is actually probably much better off in a cheap convertible car seat that is installed correctly than that $500 seat that is installed incorrectly.
So, although the NHTSA’s “ease of use” ratings don’t allow you to say that a particular seat has specific features that make it perform better in a collision, they do enable you to say that a particular seat has indirect safety benefits because it is much easier to install correctly into your vehicle.
For the purposes of this post, the top rated convertible car seats are those that have the best NHTSA “ease of use” ratings.
So, using that method of assessment, which are the top rated convertible car seats of 2017?
The NHTSA’s Top Rated Convertible Car Seats
1. The ClickTight Seat Installation System
There are only 3 convertible car seats that are currently on sale in 2017 that have received the NHTSA’s top “5-star” ease of use rating.
The main reason that they have been awarded “5-stars” when used in the forwards-facing mode is that they come fitted with a unique and foolproof seatbelt installation system, called “ClickTight”
Yes, you may well have LATCH anchors fitted to your vehicle and it is indeed correct that LATCH installation is generally much easier to get right than belt-installations but, unfortunately, LATCH anchors have maximum child weight limits (often in the 35 – 40 lbs range).
Once your child has reached the LATCH weight limit for the specific convertible car seat, you must re-install the seat using the vehicle’s seatbelt. So, there is quite simply no way to avoid the fact that at some stage you are going to have to learn to install your child’s seat correctly using the seatbelt.
How does the ClickTight Installation system work?
There are 3 simple stages to installing a seat using the Britax ClickTight Installation system:
- Open the compartment
- Feed the seatbelt through the correct path
- Close the compartment
There are different seat belt routes for forwards-facing and rear-facing and you must make sure to use the correct one.
The ClickTight installation system is genuinely foolproof and this alone makes it safer than many of its competitors, by pretty much removing all risk of installing the seat incorrectly.
2. The Britax ClickTight Range of Convertible Seats
The 3 seats in the Britax ClickTight range have many features in common.
The ClickTight installation system is not the only good thing about these seats. In many other respects they are considered to be excellent premium convertible car seats and often find their way to the top of “recommended convertible car seat” lists.
They do, however, come with different side impact protection systems and a couple of other special features that you will need to consider.
Here is the range of seats and you will find links to my in-depth reviews of these seats further down the page.
Britax Advocate ClickTight
Britax Boulevard ClickTight
Britax Marathon ClickTight
3. My Reviews of the Britax ClickTight Seats
You can find my 2017 reviews of the Britax ClickTight seats here:
- Advocate ClickTight ARB
- Boulevard ClickTight ARB
- Marathon ClickTight
- Advocate ClickTight v Boulevard ClickTight
- Boulevard ClickTight v Marathon ClickTight
- Advocate ClickTight v Marathon ClickTight
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.
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