Best Convertible Car Seat with Crash Tests of 2021
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|Pros||Easy to install and use, cozy comfort, nice quality||Great crash test results, easy to use, attractive price, lighter||Great crash test results, easy to install, high quality and comfy||Best crash test results, rear-facing till 50 lbs, price||Price, easy to use, best head sensor crash test|
|Cons||Average crash test results||Harder to install using the vehicle belt||Expensive, heavier, stiff buckle||Not the best quality, harder belt installation||Less padding, somewhat harder to install using vehicle belt|
|Bottom Line||Impressive option with quality features and super easy installation parents will love||A lightweight, easy to use seat with excellent crash test result and price||Comfortable with better crash test results but this quality option comes with a higher price||Best crash test results on a budget-friendly seat that lets little ones sit rear-facing for longer||Better crash test results make this easy to use, inexpensive seat a winner|
|Rating Categories||Britax Boulevard Cl...||Britax Emblem||Nuna RAVA||Graco Extend2Fit||Britax Allegiance|
|Crash Test (35%)|
|Ease Of Install LATCH (20%)|
|Ease Of Install Belt (15%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Comfort Quality (10%)|
|Weight Size (5%)|
|Specs||Britax Boulevard Cl...||Britax Emblem||Nuna RAVA||Graco Extend2Fit||Britax Allegiance|
|Min/Max Rear Facing Passenger Weight||5 - 40 lbs||5 - 40 lbs||5 - 50 lbs||4 - 50 lbs||5 - 40 lbs|
|Min/Max Forward Facing Passenger Weight||20 - 65 lbs||20 - 65 lbs||25 - 65 lbs||22 - 64 lbs||20 - 65 lbs|
|Max Rear Facing Passenger Height||Childs head must be at least 1 in. below the top of the head restraint||Childs head must be at least 1 in. below the top of the head restraint||Not Listed||Childs head must be at least 1 in. below the top of the head restraint||Childs head must be at least 1 in. below the top of the head restraint|
|Max Forward Facing Passenger Height||49" and the child's ears must be below the top of the head restraint.||49" and the child's ears must be below the top of the head restraint.||49"||49" and the child's ears must be below the top of the seat shell.||49" and the child's ears must be below the top of the head restraint.|
|Measured Rear Facing Seat Weight||29.5 lbs||18.8 lbs||25.8 lbs||18.7 lbs||18.5 lbs|
|Measured Forward Facing Seat Weight||28.4 lbs||18.8 lbs||25.4 lbs||18.7 lbs||18.5 lbs|
|Recline Positions||7||1 Rear Facing
2 Forward Facing
|5 Rear Facing
5 Forward Facing
|4 Rear Facing
3 Forward Facing
|1 Rear Facing
2 Forward Facing
|Max Recline Angle||51°||42°||40°||51°||42°|
|Shoulder Harness Positions||14||10||10||10||10|
|Crotch Strap Positions||2||2||2||2||2|
|Built in Lock Off||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|No Rethread Harness||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Onboard Manual Storage||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Level Indicator On Seat||Ball in Tube.||Line on Decal||Indicator on base||Ball in Tube.||Line on Decal|
|Seat Lifespan||10 yrs||7||10 yrs||7 yrs||7|
|Warranty||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year|
We take convertible car seat testing very seriously because the stakes are so high. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that "car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13."
Our testing process begins with buying two units of each car seat. We send one to the same certified crash testing lab used by NHTSA for compliance testing, and we share the detailed crash testing results with you to help you make an informed decision. Then we buy a second unit of each car seat to put through our own rigorous hands-on testing process. The combination of certified crash testing and hands-on testing allows us to make a complete evaluation of car seat performance, from both a safety perspective and a day-to-day use perspective.
Our in-house convertible car seat test protocol development was led by Certified Passenger Safety Technician, Bob Wofford. Bob assesses proper seat installation for the highest level of safety. We also consulted with experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about their protocol and crash test results. Last, but not least, we consulted with, and contracted with, MGA Research, the same national testing facility that has the compliance contract for FMVSS 213 assessing the safety of car seat in the US. Our panel of experts also includes Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a Board-Certified Pediatrician, mother, and founder of BabyGearLab with a background in pediatric urgent care.
We suggest you keep your baby in their infant car seat until they transition in the 9-12 month age range or as their height starts to push the infant seat's maximum length. You should check weight capacity too, but more often than not, it is the height limit that will force the switch to a convertible seat.
If you are looking for a convertible car seat, then your baby is at the age range where many parents are also thinking about a baby backpack to make it easier to walk longer distances, and if you live in a bike-friendly town, then a bike trailer can be a fabulous addition for both you and your baby. Other products that might be relevant for you now, or soon, include overnight diapers, a portable high chair, and a travel crib.Editor's Note: this review was updated on June 13, 2021 to update information on when to transition from infant car seat to convertible.
Best Overall Convertible Car Seat
The Britax Emblem is a quality convertible product with easy to use non-rethread shoulder strap adjustment, a push-button LATCH, and better comfort padding and fabric. This option has impressive crash test results that indicate a higher potential margin of safety. It is also easier to use than most of the competition. The Emblem's overall look and feel are better than much of the competition, and its self-contained design translates to easy to clean and sharp looking.
The Emblem has a manual LATCH strap, unlike the popular ClickTight models. This means it requires increased effort to install by comparison. However, unless you have limitations that prevent strap pulling, this shouldn't be a deal-breaker. We believe the Emblem is an impressive contender, sporting better crash test results with a reasonable price that includes easy to use features and a nice look and feel. Overall, the Emblem is an excellent choice and one we'd recommend to a friend.
Read review: Britax Emblem
Best Crash Test Result
The Graco Extend2Fit earned the highest result in the group for crash test analysis with a combined head and chest sensor result that beats the competition. This Graco also has excellent results for LATCH installation, which can translate to better safety as studies indicate that many real-world injuries are related to installation errors. These combined results mean the Extend2Fit may potentially provide an additional margin of protection over the competition in this review. This information makes it a great option for those who want top safety indicators. The Extend2Fit can also potentially stay rear-facing for longer than most of the competition (up to 50 lbs), creating a wonderful combination of features that potentially translates to a safer riding experience.
The Extend2Fit didn't offer the highest quality, and compared to the competition; it lacks the same level of comfort offered by competitors in its price range. However, despite this, the Extend2Fit is an excellent option for anyone who wants the very best crash test results and finds value in the safety potential of a rear-facing seat.
Read review: Graco Extend2Fit
Best Bang for the Buck
Evenflo Tribute LX
The Evenflo Tribute LX is sort of a dark horse compared to our usual selections for best value as it doesn't really rank very high in the competition. So, why did it get an award? This convertible option earned the second best-combined crash test results in the competition we tested for this review and it has one of the lowest prices. This combination makes it a worthwhile contender for anyone on the tightest budget or potentially as a secondary or travel seat. The Evenflo has a price significantly lower than the other contenders, a machine washable cover, easy to use vehicle belt pathway, and one of the nicest buckles we've seen in testing. This seat is also super lightweight at around 9 lbs and narrow at only 17 inches, making it one to consider if you need to carry it regularly or fit multiple safety seats in a row.
While this option doesn't meet every families' needs, given the lower quality and lack of comfort features, we still believe it is a remarkable option for the price and an excellent choice for anyone with a tight budget who still longs for something with better crash-test results. It also requires more attention to installation to ensure it is secure, given our experience during testing. For us, it feels right to honor a seat that provides an additional margin of safety suitable for almost any budget.
Read review: Evenflo Tribute LX
Best for Easy Installation
Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB
In our tests, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB earned one of the highest overall results with perfect LATCH and belt installation scores, creating a virtually foolproof car seat anyone can install. As a result of the innovative ClickTight and strap tightening system, this Britax practically installs itself with only a little help from you. We love the non-rethread harness height adjustment with ten levels, seamless soft fabric, closed outer shell, and three layers of padding for comfort.
This convertible seat is not the best option for families on a tight budget as it is one of the most expensive seats in this lineup. It also isn't your top contender if you want the absolute best crash test results, as its results are average. However, the Boulevard provides impressive performance in most test areas, making it a potential option if your budget allows. Given that some injuries result from an incorrectly installed car seat, this Britax is a contender for parents concerned with proper installation, thanks to the stupendously easy ClickTight design.
Read review: Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB
Best for Narrow Seat Width
The Clek Foonf is a steel frame car seat that earns top results for LATCH installation and has innovative forward-facing rigid LATCH anchors. The Foonf is relatively easy to install using the vehicle belt, and it offers impressive comfort and quality in its design. This seat has a detachable angle booster, anti-rebound bar, steel frame (similar to your car), and an adjustable headrest, making it a convertible seat parents and babies will love.
The Foonf is a little spendy, so those with a tighter budget must plan or consider a different option. The seat is also a beast, and it's unlikely you'll want to move it often or use it for travel. Despite these minor hiccups, the Foonf offers a lot and includes other safety features. This seat is a unique choice; we think many families will love. It is the one our founder and Mom-in-Chief, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, uses. Dr. Spurrier's kids love it, and she likes the quality and ease of use.
Read review: Clek Foonf
Quality at a Good Price
The Britax Allegiance is an affordable convertible choice that provides quality for a reasonable price. The Allegiance has the second-highest score for crash test results with one of the group's best head sensor results. It offers easy LATCH installation, creating a seat with a potential added margin of safety compared to the competition in this review. This seat is also easy to use, so it is a great product for those looking for a straightforward and safe convertible seat.
With a 7 of 10, the Allegiance is somewhat harder to install using the vehicle belt compared to some of the competition. It isn't challenging, but it requires additional attention to detail. It also isn't the most comfortable, with less padding and an unbolstered headrest. In our opinion, despite these concerns, the Allegiance is a seat we believe parents will love for everything it offers and its wallet-friendly price. The Allegiance failed to win an award because of its similarities to the Britax Emblem and the small price difference. However, we feel it deserves a nod and is a worthwhile option that can save you money.
Read review: Britax Allegiance
Best for Quality
The Nuna RAVA is a very high-end convertible car seat with deep comfort padding, super soft fabric, and a sleek look with quality construction and impressive attention to detail. The Nuna offers top performance for comfort and quality and is easy to install no matter which option you prefer. We like that it is easy to use and the better than average crash test analysis that indicates a potential margin of safety over the average option in this review.The Nuna is fairly expensive compared to some contenders, making it a possible no-go for those with a smaller budget. It is also heavy, which means it may not be the right option for traveling or carpooling, as we believe most parents won't want to carry this heavy option for very long. Overall, the Nuna is a quality seat with impressive scores in most metrics, and for families where budget is less of a concern and quality is number one, the Nuna is one for your shortlist of contenders.
Read review: Nuna RAVA
Analysis and Test Results
We include the details parents require to make an informed decision about which convertible car seat is the best option for their child and budget.
Experts agree that children should remain rear-facing until at least two years old. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and NHTSA, recommend keeping your baby rear-facing as long as your chosen car seat allows, and at least until age 2. A study published in Injury Prevention in 2007 shows that the rear-facing position results 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. The Clek Foonf and the Graco Extend2Fit can remain rear-facing until the passenger weighs 50 lbs. So, no matter how tempted you are to turn your little one around, we encourage you not to, so you can retain the potential safety bump facing backward offers.
There are budget-friendly options to be had in this group with winners and lower-priced options to meet your needs and safety goals. With several award-winning seats offering reasonable prices and better than average crash results, you can even find a convertible car seat with a potential additional margin of protection without draining the bank. The Evenflow Tribute LX and the Britax Allegiance earned 8s for crash test results and are among the least expensive in this review. The Graco Extend2Fit also has a reasonable price, the highest crash-test result analysis in the group, and can stay rear-facing longer (potential safety +). The Britax Emblem is also a good value. While it does cost a little more than those already mentioned, it is still less spendy than the average car seat in our tests and is one of the better options.
Crash Test Performance
BabyGearLab contracts with the same crash test facility that the NHTSA uses to perform our convertible seat crash tests. We purchase two of each seat, and one is sent to MGA, where we pay for crash tests to be completed. The seats are tested using the same protocol that NHTSA uses based on the FMVSS 213 safety standard.
After we receive the crash test data we commission, we perform a detailed analysis of the sensor data from each car seat's crash dummy to determine how they compare to the competition and the federal standard.
While you might think that a more expensive seat will be safer, this isn't necessarily true, according to our test results. An example of this are the Britax ClickTight seats that provide easy installation features with higher prices but didn't perform as well during repeated crash testing as some of the other contenders. The cheaper Britax Emblem and Britax Allegiance both have better crash test sensor results than the ClickTight options proving the price isn't indicative of potential safety. Another example is the Graco Extend2Fit with the best-combined sensor results and a list price significantly lower than the ClickTight options.
So, what is the most critical information from crash impact tests when analyzing results?
- The risk of head injury related to the HIC result
- The risk of chest injury related to the chest clip (g clip) result
This chart includes the % below the maximum allowed HIC result of each seat we tested in this review. The further below the Federal HIC maximum of 1000 indicates a better result, so a taller bar indicates potentially better protection.
This chart is a review of the percentage below the Federal maximum Chest (G) Clip result (60) achieved by the seats we tested in this review (above). Taller bars indicate better results and a potentially higher margin of protection.
We pay MGA to perform crash tests on each seat in our review. We purchase and send the seats directly to MGA, and they supply us with the sensor data after testing is complete. We do not use data from other companies, such as Consumer Reports, as they perform their own tests, and any information they divulge would not allow for a side-by-side comparison of test results. Occasionally, we use test data supplied by NHTSA to supplement our tests. NHTSA also uses the MGA testing facility, and we utilize the same testing process as NHTSA to make an apples-to-apples comparison.
An analysis of auto crash injuries for children show that head and chest injuries are the two most significant risks of fatal or severe injuries.
All of the car seats we test passed the Federal minimum safety standards. Therefore, every seat has at least the basic level of crash safety protection required by US Federal law. Our primary focus for crash test scores is to identify seats whose crash test performance exceed 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.
Additional Safety Features
Some seats have additional features that manufacturers claim will improve the seat's safety; we did not consider these features or claims in our crash test score analysis. Because manufacturers do not publish comparison test data to analyze, it is impossible to determine their efficacy. We understand parents are curious about side impact protection (SIP) or an anti-rebound bar (ARB). Still, we encourage you to proceed with caution when making a decision-based solely on these features. In the end, there is no way to tell what each manufacturer means when they use terminology that lacks an agreed-upon meaning (like SIP). This lack of information makes it impossible to compare seats with similar-sounding claims, especially without a universally agreed-upon language to describe what the claims genuinely mean.
We can confirm that our crash test results indicate that anti-rebound bars often, but not always, improve the crash test dummy sensors results in comparison to not using the anti-rebound bar. We like them as a safety feature, but we feel actual crash testing data is more important than stated features or claims.
How well a seat performs in a crash test environment means little if you don't install the seat according to the manufacturer's instructions. Poor installation or a poorly fitted harness can potentially result in injury or death in an accident.
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 Graco Extend2Fit earned our best crash test rating with 9 of 10 thanks to excellent Chest Clip (g) and HIC scores. The Nuna Rava has similar sensor results earning an 8 of 10. While neither have the best score for either sensor, they do have the best combined scores of both Chest and HIC results. The Britax Allegiance has the best (lowest) HIC result for the group with a slightly better than average result for the Chest Clip; these results help it earn the group's second-best score with an 8. The Britax Emblem, Evenflo Tribute LX, and Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 also earned 8s. The Clek Foonf has the best Chest Clip score in the group, but its HIC result is below average, which results in a crash-test score of 7.
Ease of Install Using LATCH
Studies show that more than 7 out of 10 car seats are installed incorrectly, or the harness is not fitted properly . As a result of these statistics, we feel ease of installation and ease of use are critical metrics when selecting a car safety seat. Both can potentially impact overall safety.
The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) installation method should make it easier to correctly install car seats, with fewer mistakes. For this reason, we recommend using the LATCH method whenever possible, to increase the chances of installing a seat correctly. Nearly all convertible car seats have the LATCH connectors, and most vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002, offer the anchors on the left and right sides of the back seat. So, the good news is you should be able to utilize the LATCH method until your child outgrows the LATCH connectors' weight limit (please see your safety seat user manual).
We determined that some seats are easier to install using LATCH instead of the vehicle belt in our tests. However, surprisingly, about a third of the options are easier to install using the vehicle belt not the LATCH. The main problem? Some testers struggle to tighten the LATCH straps to secure the convertible car seat to the vehicle properly.
The Clek Foonf (above left) uses a rigid LATCH connection for forward-facing installation. It is ridiculously easy and requires NO strap tightening. You push the rigid LATCH connectors onto the anchors, and that's it! The Clek Foonf is tied with the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB for the highest LATCH installation score as both products do not need manual strap tightening. The Britax Boulevard connectors (above right) are a clip style of LATCH that we feel is more challenging; the clip itself is harder to remove and requires twisting to remove them. The Evenflo Tribute LX has the lowest score in the group for LATCH installation with a 6 of 10.
Our favorite seat LATCH installation is the Clek because of the forward-facing rigid LATCH installation. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB is also super easy, while the Britax Emblem (above) and Allegiance, and the Chicco NextFit are almost as straightforward. The Chicco NextFit has a unique LATCH design with a 2-step strap tightening system that is very easy to tighten, requiring no extreme strength.
The safest spot to install your car seat is in the center of the vehicle rear seat — studies of injury data show a 43% lower risk of injury if the car seat is in the center of the back seat. Combine this information with the knowledge that LATCH connectors should be the easiest and safest way to install a car seat. What's the problem? Most vehicles do not offer LATCH anchors in the center location. 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.
If your vehicle doesn't allow the LATCH method to be used 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 critical aspects of seat installation is ensuring the car seat is securely and tightly anchored to the vehicle.The questions on center seat installation include:
- Should you 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 in the side position using LATCH?
Using the vehicle belt to install a car seat is a perfectly safe and acceptable installation method (and potentially the only possibility for center seats), assuming you can ensure that the installation is secure and tight. If you can get a tight fit (and we did with many seats in our tests), use the center seat. However, if obtaining a secure fit in the center seat is challenging, you should move your safety seat to the side seat location. It is far more important that the car seat installation is correct than the installed seat's actual location. If you have two children, you may not have a choice as many cars don't have enough room for a side and center installation simultaneously, and/or little ones often fight if they can reach each other. If your vehicle doesn't offer LATCH anchors for the center seat, but you prefer center seat installation, our tests on ease of installation with a vehicle belt can help you identify the options that are easier to install using the vehicle belt. Also, you can locate an installation professional for assistance using the vehicle belt if you feel unsure.
The LATCH connectors and anchors are only part of the LATCH equation. Whether the straps are easy to tighten and loosen is also something to consider. As previously noted, the Clek Foonf doesn't have straps for forward-facing installation, and the Chicco NextFit has its "SuperCinch" method with a 2-step tightening system engineered to do the hard work for you.
The LATCH straps on the Evenflo Tribute LX are relatively easy to tighten, but we had some difficulty loosening the LATCH strap when trying to uninstall the seat. We gave more consideration to options that didn't require extreme strength or bodyweight to tighten the strap or struggle for a secure attachment.
Ease of Install — Vehicle Belt
No matter how or where you hope to install your new car seat, at some point, you must install it using the vehicle belt as LATCH connectors have weight restrictions that most children will outgrow. Also, many center seats don't have LATCH anchors, even though it is the safest location for seat installation. Most LATCH use weight limits are about 40 - 50 lbs of child weight before the seat requires installation using the vehicle belt only. Given that many of the products have a weight limit of 50-80 lbs, it is clear that most children will utilize the vehicle belt at some point.
Don't despair! We will tell you which seats are the easiest to install using the vehicle belt and provide information on correct installation or where to get help if you are unsure or something doesn't seem right.
There is a fantastic FREE resource in the US that can help you learn how to install any seat in any car. There are certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technicians available by appointment or on call. We highly recommend this service, even if you feel like you have installation dialed in.
The Benefit of the Seat Belt Lock-Off
Some seats are easier to install using a seat belt than competitors, and most of these seats have a trick by way of a belt lock-off located on the seat. This feature is so useful, it is a game-changer for installing seats with a vehicle belt, and we believe you'll feel significantly more comfortable installing a seat using the belt if it has one of these nifty lock-offs.
In this review, several seats have a belt lock-off located on the seat, all with forward and rear-facing lock-offs. Interestingly enough, all of these seats ranked near the top and have the highest installation scores 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 traditional lock-offs, but the pressure of the seat bottom closure acts as a lock-off and prevents the car seat from sliding back and forth on the vehicle belt, something we often see in lock-off free seats.
Coincidence? We think not.
Some lock-offs work a little better than others, but even those that are challenging, still provide a more secure feeling installation in our tests than seats without a lock-off. We found that options with a lock-off were every bit as secure feeling when installed with a belt as they were with the LATCH (some even more so). This fact can be a relief when you need to install the seat with a belt, which is highly likely given the weight limitations of LATCH systems.
We believe lock-offs can help a seat feel more secure, but some lock-offs are more straightforward. 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 with a lock-off conveniently located on the outside of the shell.
In our tests, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB is the easiest option to install using the belt, thanks to the "ClickTight" installation method. All you need to do is lift the seat bottom, thread the belt across, remove the slack (don't tighten), and close the seat bottom until it clicks. The seat bottom tightens and locks the seat in place for you. The Boulevard earned a 10 of 10 for this installation.
The Clek Foonf is one of the easier seats 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, which is better than the LATCH score of most competitors. The Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB is also easy to install using the vehicle belt, earning a 9.
Except for the Peg Pergo Primo Viaggio Convertible, the seats lacking a lock-off did not score as well as those with a lock-off. The Evenflo Tribute LX earned just 6 (the lowest result), but interestingly is still easier to install with the vehicle belt than using LATCH. The Chicco NextFit and the Peg Pergo Primo Viaggio Convertible earned 8s.
Some SUVs, trucks, and wagons have a center seat belt located in the car's ceiling.
Ease of Use
Convertible car seats have similar designs with few obvious differences that are not cosmetic. However, the options do diverge in ease of use, with some being significantly easier to use than other contenders, thanks to extra features or better functionality of features like buckles.
The Ease of Use metric includes the functionality of everyday features, including harness adjustment and chest clips, ease of tightening or loosening the harness, and fabric cover removal for cleaning. If using your chosen option is challenging, you may not use it as the manufacturer advised, or you could end up chronically frustrated.
Buckles and Chest Clips
None of the buckle buttons in this lineup are easy to press with a simple thumb push. While buckles like the Evenflo Tribute and Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 were straightforward with sides that pop out with a push, others are so challenging you'll need two hands. Other buckles are stiff, but at least they don't require cussing to use.
The chest clip is where the harness comes together above the buckle, across the chest. The Graco chest clips are the most challenging to operate during testing, with clips that require excessive squeezing of buttons that hurt to operate. None of the seats provide exceptional buckles and chest clips, but the Britax seats are average for both and are easy to use, which is a good combination. Because buckles are more challenging, it is best to focus on buckle use over the chest clips.
The Chicco NextFit has a unique chest clip with a two-setting adjustment for a more customizable fitting. While this design is interesting, we think it makes the clip's operation significantly more challenging. The Cybex Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0 also has a unique chest clip that includes SensorSafe technology that relays various information to a device connected to the car and your smartphone. While also an intriguing device, it emits EMF, and each parent will need to decide if this feature is compelling enough to expose your child to EMF.
Harness Tightening and Loosening
Each seat has a harness tightening strap and a harness release button to loosen the straps. Some of these were harder to pull than others, and the buttons also vary in style and ease of use. The Britax Boulevard CLickTight ARB has the highest score for tightening and loosening. The Clek Foonf and Evenflo Tribute are also easy to use. None of the seats in this review have straps or buttons that are impossible to use.
Adjusting the Harness
There are primarily two methods for adjusting the harness height on convertible car seats. The simplest method is a non-rethread style that involves moving the headrest/harness shoulder strap assembly up and down (above left). The more convoluted design includes removing the shoulder straps from a splitter plate on the back and physically moving the straps from one slot height on the seatback to thread them through different slots (above right). While this method isn't particularly hard or frustrating, it takes more time, requires you to remove your child from the seat for access, and if the car seat is forward-facing, you may need to remove the seat from the car to reach the splitter plate. Alternatively, the non-rethread method adjusts quickly with your little one in the seat as soon as you notice a need. We prefer the non-rethread style because it is simple, and we think busy parents will be more likely to keep the harness properly fitted if they can accomplish this quickly without removing their child from the seat. With the rethread style, we worry parents will put off adjusting the harness when it needs it because it requires an empty seat and takes more effort. Given that injuries can occur when a harness is not fitted properly, we prefer non-rethread assemblies.
Almost half of the car seats in our review have non-rethread harness adjustment methods. The simplest are the Britax Marathon ClickTight, Britax Boulevard ClickTight, Britax Advocate ClickTight, Britax One4Life ClickTight, Nuna Rava, and Cybex Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0 which all have smooth moving harness assemblies. The Britax Emblem and Britax Allegiance are also straightforward and simple. Unfortunately, during testing, the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 height assembly broke and would no longer engage on its own. We had to manually engage the assembly during testing. However, in the real world, any seat would need replacing if something breaks. We aren't saying they all break, just that the seat we purchased did with minimal use in a short period. The rethread style takes more time and is more involved.
LATCH storage isn't as crucial for convertible seats as it is for infant carriers, where they can inhibit carrier connection to the base. However, it is useful if the straps aren't readily accessible to the passenger and can't result in potential injuries floating loose around the car seat. Some options have designated pockets for LATCH clips, while the most common storage method includes attaching the clips to points on the shell or each other.
The Chicco NextFit (above left) has useful pockets to stow LATCH components and the tether. It is one of the few seats we tested that actually retains the straps and clips. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible, Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB, Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB, and the Clek Foonf also feature clip storage retention that works well. The least useful storage type is clip attachments on the seatback (above right) that leave straps dangling and accessible to children.
Cover Removal and Cleaning
Kids' car seats undergo a significant amount of messy action and require regular cleaning in one way or another. For this reason, we test how difficult it is to remove the fabric covers for washing. We prefer covers that are machine washable and easy to remove. We like handwashing methods over spot cleaning only, but because there is a high potential for throwup, spit-up, and poopy blowouts, it is ideal to have a machine washable cover you can remove quickly. The Clek Foonf is the only option in our review that doesn't provide a removable cover; it is spot clean only, and while you can purchase a cleaning kit from Clek, you will likely require a steam cleaner for bigger messes. The Evenflo Tribute LX is a top-performer for removing the cover and straightforward, parent-friendly cleaning. This straightforward cover removes quickly, is machine-washable and dryable, and fits back on the shell without a hiccup. This clean-up process is far better than most contenders that often include handwashing and air drying, such as the Britax ClickTight four-part cover.
For comfort and quality, we consider materials and overall construction. We compare padding, fabric, foam, and how well they come together. We consider how each seat's design contributes to a baby's potential comfort, parent use, and durability.
The seats all have similarities like a plastic shell, impact foam, comfort padding, and a fabric cover. However, some offer significantly thicker padding, softer or more durable fabric, steel frames, or foam that doesn't off-gas. Because this is somewhat subjective, the seats are compared side-by-side and ranked in relation to the competition.
The Chicco NextFit (above left), Nuna Rava, Britax One4Life ClickTight, Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB, Britax Marathon ClickTight ARB, and the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB are top for comfort and quality. They each offer additional padding with well-fitted fabric and considerations for everything. The Chicco fabric is softer, and the seat is sleek without a lot of useless nooks and crannies. Alternatively, the Evenflo Tribute (above right) is basic and functions well despite the lack of additional features and details with a more unfinished look overall. However, it has a machine washable cover and better crash-test analysis than many competitors. The Clek Foonf, Clek Fllo, Britax Emblem, and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible also offer impressive features for comfort and quality.
We measure the weight and width of each car seat in the group, including the forward-facing and rear-facing configuration weight and the width at the widest point, as these can vary. While the seat weight is potentially not as critical as an infant seat's carrier weight, it can be important if you regularly travel or need to use public transportation (like Uber or Lyft). If your car seat remains in your car for the most part, then weight may not be an issue.
The Clek Foonf is the heaviest option in the review, with a rear-facing configuration of over 38 lbs using the anti-rebound bar and angle attachment; the forward-facing version is over 33 lbs.
However, the Clek Foonf (above left) is one of the narrowest options at only 17 inches, which means you might be able to use three safety seats across your back seat or two and an adult. The Evenflo Tribute is also only 17 inches wide, but it is the lightest seat in the review at just over 9 lbs. The Evenflo, Clek fllo, and the Clek Foonf are the narrowest options in our tests. Unfortunately, the Evenflo required a towel in our rear-facing tests in at least one of our test vehicles, so you'll need to bring something to use as a bolster depending on the car when traveling (see the user manual). Most of the top seats are more substantial, presumably due to increased padding and steel (or alloy) frames. Many of the top-scoring seats weigh over 20 lbs. The widest option in the group is the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70, and we think it will be impossible to use it with more than two car seats in a row in the majority of vehicles.
Selecting the right convertible safety seat for your growing child doesn't need to be frustrating or a random purchase based on looks. Our review includes the information, details, and crash test analysis you need to determine which seats are the best options for your family and wallet. Whether you're looking for the ultimate in crash test safety results or want a combination of impressive installation and crash test analysis, we believe you can find the information you need in this review to narrow the field and pick your best seat.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz