Looking for a great convertible car seat? So were we! We researched over 20 possible products to include in our testing and purchased the 12 top convertible seats to determine which is the best. We put each car seat through several months of in-depth testing comparing them side-by-side for crash test performance, ease of installation, ease of use, and more, to provide you with all the information you need to choose the right seat for your needs and wallet. We purchased each seat reviewed here (just like you do), for results you can trust to be unbiased and honest.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Update: February 2018
Britax recently made vast changes to their convertible car seat lineup and have retired the Britax Boulevard G4.1, Marathon G4.1, and the Roundabout. You can still find some leftover stock for sale online and in stores, but we suspect it won't be long before those are sold out. Britax has launched a new sub-brand of products called Essentials™ by Britax® and it currently includes two convertible car seats that are similar to the retired seats. The Allegiance and Emblem are both less expensive than the retired options with a similar look and features. We intend to purchase and test these seats in the near future.
Best Overall Convertible Car Seat
Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB
So easy to install
Easier to use
Average crash test results
Clip LATCH style
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB earned the highest overall score in our tests. The Boulevard earned perfect scores for both types of installation creating a practically foolproof car seat for any parent concerned with or worried about proper installation. Thanks to the innovative ClickTight and strap tightening design, this product practically installs itself with only a little help from you. We love the non-rethread harness with ten height variations, seamless fabric design, and three layers of soft padding for baby's comfort. This product is not the best choice for parent's on a budget or those looking for the very best crash test results. However, it scored well in most metrics making it a good seat we recommend if your budget allows.
Read review: Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB
Crash Testing Champion
Easy to install LATCH
Best crash test results
Easy to use
Hard to install using vehicle belt
The Britax Marathon is an impressive car seat with the best crash test results in this review. The marathon brings two critical parts of car seat ownership together by combining excellent crash results with easy installation features. This Britax option provides a lot of nice features that work well at a reasonable price point that costs significantly less than its bigger brother the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB and less than half the competition. The Marathon has EPP foam which doesn't off-gas and is less brittle, comfortable padding for cozier napping, and an easy to use harness height adjustment (equal to the Britax Boulevard ClickTight). We love the soft fabric, useful LATCH storage, and lighter weight. It is difficult to find a flaw in this product, and we think it is a good option for almost every family.
Read review: Britax Marathon
Best Bang for the Buck
Easy LATCH installation
Harder to use
The Britax Roundabout came in fifth place and is similar to the Britax Marathon. However, it has a lower price and uses some cheaper features and lower grade 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 offers enough features for comfort to provide 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 it is an infrequent necessity you won't be doing on a regular basis. We like this seat and feel its similarity to the Marathon makes it an excellent choice for parents who lack the budget for a more expensive option. The Roundabout is similar to the Marathon with 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.
Read review: Britax Roundabout
Best for the Tightest Budget
Evenflo Tribute LX
Better crash test results
Harder to install
The Evenflo Tribute LX only came in 8th place, 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 only $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-combined crash test results in the group, an easy to clean cover, easy to use vehicle belt pathway, and one of the best buckles we tested. While it may not be what every family is looking for, we believe it is good 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 almost anyone can afford.
Read review: Evenflo Tribute LX
Top Pick for Innovation
Additional safety features
Harder to use
The Clek Foonf is an innovative car seat that earns top marks for ease of installation using the LATCH method with a cool forward facing rigid LATCH anchors that are so simple you'll think you missed a step. The Foonf is also easy to install using the vehicle belt, and it earned impressive marks for comfort and quality compared to the competition. This seat features a detachable angle booster, anti-rebound bar, steel frame (similar to a vehicle seat), and an adjustable headrest for comfort. The Foonf is not the best choice for parents on a budget due to a higher list price than most of the competition, but the Foonf brings a lot to the table and offers additional safety features many parents are looking for. This seat is a cool option we think parents will love and one our founder and Mom-in-Chief, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, uses with her children. Dr. Spurrier loves the Clek's quality, finds it easy to use, and her kids love it.
Read review: Clek Foonf
Analysis and Test Results
In this review, we provide all the information you need to make an informed decision about which convertible car seat is the best choice for your child and your wallet. The rating table above provides a comparison of the overall scores for every product we purchased and tested. The overall scores for each seat are determined using performance test results in the individual metrics with an emphasis on ease of installation and crash test results.
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 everyday use, and in terms of the measured forces of impact recorded during structured crash tests.
Rear-Facing Until at Least Age 2
Experts agree that you should keep your child rear-facing until at least 2 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as well as the NHTSA, both recommend keeping your baby rear-facing as long as your car seat allows, and at least until at least age 2. 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 the forward-facing position for children age 1-2 years old.
Each convertible car seat in our review is compared side-by-side in multiple metrics. Each product is tested in an identical manner with every opportunity to shine if possible. While all of the seats for sale 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 on the shelf.
Crash Test Performance
BabyGearLab contracted with the same crash test facility that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses to perform our convertible seat crash tests. The seats are 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 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 compared to the top performing products 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?
An analysis of auto crash injuries for children show that head and chest injuries are the two greatest risks of fatal or serious injuries.
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 measurably. 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 graph above shows the actual G forces recorded on the head of the crash test dummy for the Evenflo Tribute LX (green line) and the Diono Radian RXT (black line). Both the Evenflo and the Diono results are under the NHTSA safety HIC score requirement of 1000. However, the Evenflo is the seat in this review that offers the highest margin of protection with a HIC score of 251 — this is the lowest HIC score for the 12 seats we tested. The Evenflo also shows lower G forces (with a max G force of 42.7 G's vs. 53.2 G's for the Diono).
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 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.
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.
Additional Safety Features
Even though some of the seats have additional features that manufacturers claim improve their overall safety, we chose not to include the presence of these features or claims in our scoring or crash test analysis. Because manufacturers do not publish side-by-side comparison test data for us to analyze and test the claims, it is impossible to determine their 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 to tell what each manufacturer means when they use terminology that lacks 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 the car. Installing a car seat incorrectly, or a harness that is not properly fitted can potentially result in injury or death in the event of an accident. It is an excellent idea to seek professional help from a car seat inspection technician when you purchase a new seat or move a seat to a different vehicle. You may also want to read our article on How to Avoid Infant Car Seat Installation Mistakes for additional help. While this article focuses on infant style car seats, much of the information applies to all safety seats.
Best Seats Based on Crash Test Analysis
We rated each seat compared to the competition using a 1-10 scoring system using crash test report analysis. The 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.
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 scores 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 is 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 a crash-test score of 7.
Ease of Install Using LATCH
Studies show that more than 7 out of 10 car seats are not installed correctly, or the harness is not properly fitted. Because of this, we consider ease of installation and the ease of use to be critical metrics to consider.
The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) method for 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 LATCH. We recommend the use of LATCH if possible, to increase the chances that the seat is installed correctly. Nearly all convertible car seats have the LATCH 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, we discovered that some seats were easier to install with LATCH than the vehicle belt, but surprisingly at least a third were easier to install using the vehicle belt instead of LATCH. Some testers had difficulty getting the straps on the LATCH straps 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 Foonf tied with the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB and the Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB for the highest score for LATCH installation, and the Clek's rigid LATCH does not need tightening at all. 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.
Our favorite seat to install using LATCH is the Clek; the unique rigid LATCH for forward facing installation has no straps to tighten, and this makes it relatively foolproof with no extra strength required for installation or clip release. This LATCH style is part of why the Clek Foonf earned a Top Pick for Innovation. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB is also easy earning a 10, while the non-ClickTight Britax seats and the Chicco NextFit were almost as easy to install earning 9s for this metric. The Chicco NextFit has a unique LATCH with a 2-step strap tightening system that is very easy to use and tighten with little strength required.
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 is placed 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? 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.
An excellent overview of this issue can be read on The Car Seat Lady's article on using LATCH in the center of the back seat.
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:
Using the 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.
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.
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 lbs 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 of 50-80 lbs, 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 to 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Harness Tightening and Loosening
Tightening and loosening the harness uses 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 usually 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 is 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.
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 ARB, Britax 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.
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.
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 foam for impact absorption, 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 stand out. These seats have exceptional padding and seamless fabric to shell designs with pockets and places for everything. We like 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 bare-bones product that functions well without the extras that come with much of the competition. The Evenflo lacks thick padding for comfort or advanced LATCH storage which hurt its overall score in this metric, but it gets the job done, with a machine washable cover. The Clek Foonf and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible came in second place with 8s, and the Britax Marathon, and Britax Roundabout both earned a 7.
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 probably don't care how heavy it is. If you travel frequently or will need to carry the seat through town, then its weight is more significant, and you might want to look for a lighter choice.
The Clek Foonf is the heaviest seat in the group. For the rear-facing configuration, it is over 38 lbs thanks to the addition of the anti-rebound bar and seat angle attachment. The forward facing configuration isn't much better with a weight over 33 lbs. However, the Clek Foonf (below left) is narrow measuring only 17 inches. This width means you may be able to fit three seats across a 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 slightly over 9 lbs, and it is also 17 inches wide. Together with the Clek Foonf, they are the narrowest options in this review. Unfortunately, the Evenflo required a towel for rear-facing installation in our tests, so it may not be the best for travelers because you likely need to carry a towel in addition to the seat. The Britax Roundabout is the lightest high scoring seat with a weight of about 16 lbs. While significantly heavier than 9 lbs, at least you won't need to carry a towel or lug a hefty seat. The majority of high scoring seats were on the heavier side, presumably thanks to increased padding and a steel (or alloy) frame design that 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 may not be able to sit between the seats.
For most parents, the weight of the convertible seat is unlikely to be a deciding factor because it normally remains in the car for the majority of its lifetime. However, the width of the seat bottom might be something to consider if you have multiple children in safety seats or a narrow back seat. If your car seat will stay in the back seat the majority of the time, we suggest you worry less about weight and instead pick the highest ranked option that suits your needs.
Choosing a convertible car seat doesn't have to be a daunting task. We hope that with the information provided in this review, and our corresponding Buying Advice article will help families narrow down the competition to a top option that meets your needs and budget.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.