Car Seats

Convertible Car Seat Crash Test 2024

Ashley Davis

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Searching for the best convertible car seat with the crash test results is such an uphill task. This is because, although all manufacturers claim that their seats are safe, they do not provide actual crash test results conducted on their car seats(except Clek).

When it comes to the safety of a car seat, the only requirement by law so far is that the car seat should meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213. Although we were limited in the number of tests we could conduct ourselves, our dedication to providing the most comprehensive analysis and comparison of the safest convertible car seats remained unwavering.

To ensure accuracy, we compiled crash test results from reputable organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Association of American Pediatricians (AAP). We also considered insights from BabyGearLab (accessible without a paywall in the US) and Consumer Reports (CR) over the years. These comprehensive analyses have allowed us to refine our 2024 recommendations.

Car seat convertibility as a feature is one of our favorite mobility product innovations that makes it possible to provide enhanced baby safety while also offering exceptional value to parents. More details after the crash results overview on the reviews below.

7 Safety Features of the Safest Convertible Car Seats:

Contents (Show)

Side-impact protection is crucial since side collisions can be particularly dangerous, lacking the crumple zones found at the front and rear of vehicles. Convertible car seats often feature:

  • Energy-absorbing foam layers: These layers absorb crash forces, reducing the impact on the child. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) or Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) are common materials that dissipate energy efficiently.
  • Deep side walls: Structurally reinforced side walls provide a barrier between the child and the door or intruding objects, also helping to contain the child within the protective shell of the seat.

A 5-point harness system is the gold standard for securing a child in a car seat. It consists of straps that go over each shoulder, across each hip, and meet at a buckle in the seat’s shell. This configuration:

  • Distributes forces over the strongest parts of the body: the shoulders, hips, and pelvis.
  • Minimizes movement during a crash, keeping the child’s alignment with the protective shell of the seat.
  • Prevents the child from being ejected from the seat.

The base of a convertible car seat is designed to absorb and dissipate energy away from the child. Some bases are engineered with materials or mechanisms that compress or crumple upon impact, significantly reducing the crash forces reaching the child.

A reinforced steel or aluminum frame provides structural integrity and durability to the car seat, ensuring it maintains its shape and effectiveness in protecting the child during a collision.

Proper alignment is crucial for protection. Adjustable recline positions ensure that the child is seated at the safest angle, particularly important in rear-facing configurations to keep the airway open and support the head, neck, and spine. An adjustable headrest helps maintain the child’s head within the protective zone of the car seat and enhances side-impact protection.

The LATCH system allows for easier and often more secure installation of the car seat directly to the vehicle, bypassing the need to use the vehicle’s seat belts. A secure fit is critical for the car seat’s performance in a crash.

Some seats include an anti-rebound bar attached to the foot end in rear-facing configurations. This bar limits the amount of rebound movement in a frontal crash, reducing the risk of injury.

How the Safest Convertible Car Seats Achieve High Safety Ratings:

To assist you in identifying the safest convertible car seats and understanding their ability to achieve high safety ratings from crash test simulations, the following outlines nine key crash test metrics commonly applied in evaluations. I have highlighted how the top-performing convertible car seats leverage a range of features to outperform their competitors in these tests:

1. Head Injury Criterion (HIC)

  • Utilization: High-quality, energy-absorbing foam like Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) or Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) surrounds the child’s head and body, reducing the forces transmitted to the child’s head during a collision.
  • Benefit: Minimizes the risk of head injury by dampening impact forces.

2. Chest Acceleration

  • Utilization: A five-point harness system evenly distributes crash forces over the strongest parts of the child’s body, away from the fragile chest area.
  • Benefit: Reduces the intensity of forces reaching the chest, lowering the risk of internal injuries.

3. Submarining

  • Utilization: Anti-submarining features such as crotch buckles and pads, along with properly positioned and tight harnesses, prevent the child from slipping under the harness during a crash.
  • Benefit: Enhances the protective positioning of the child, ensuring the harness remains effective.

4. Side-Impact Protection

  • Utilization: Deep side walls and additional side-impact protection systems with energy-absorbing materials shield the child from crash forces and intruding objects.
  • Benefit: Offers superior protection in side-impact collisions by absorbing and redirecting crash forces away from the child.

5. Seat Integrity and Durability

  • Utilization: Reinforced steel or aluminum frames ensure the car seat maintains its structural integrity and stays anchored to the vehicle seat during a collision.
  • Benefit: Prevents the seat from breaking or detaching, keeping the child securely in place.

6. Rebound Measurement

  • Utilization: Features such as anti-rebound bars (for rear-facing seats) or tether anchors (for forward-facing seats) limit the seat’s movement during and after a crash.
  • Benefit: Reduces the risk of injury caused by the seat rebounding into the vehicle seatback or other objects.

7. Harness Reliability

  • Utilization: Strong, durable materials for the harness and a reliable locking mechanism ensure the harness stays in place and maintains its adjustment during a crash.
  • Benefit: Ensures the child remains securely positioned within the safest part of the seat.

8. Fit to Child

  • Utilization: Adjustable harness heights, headrests, and insert pads accommodate a wide range of child sizes, ensuring a snug and proper fit.
  • Benefit: A better fit enhances the protective capabilities of the seat for children of various ages and sizes.

9. Ease of Use

  • Utilization: Clear labeling, intuitive design, and features like the LATCH system simplify the installation process, helping ensure the seat is installed correctly.
  • Benefit: Correct installation and use are critical to the seat’s performance in a crash, so easier use leads to safer outcomes.

That said, below is our list and reviews of the Best Convertible Car Seats with crash tests.

Reviews of the Best Convertible Car Seats Crash Test

Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB

In this 2024 update, our aggregate crash test ratings on convertible car seats showed that the Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB is one of the top-performing car seats in terms of safety. It scored high in both front and side-impact crash tests, earning it our top recommendation for parents looking for a car seat with advanced safety features.

CR rated this Advocate brand at the top with an 85% rating with a ‘Best’ score when it comes to safety rating.

The Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB is lauded for its advanced safety features, including the ClickTight Installation System, which simplifies the installation process, ensuring the seat is securely and correctly installed. The Anti-Rebound Bar (ARB) adds an extra layer of protection in rear-facing mode by minimizing the seat’s movement in a collision. It also features three layers of side impact protection, SafeCell Technology in the base to absorb crash energy, and an impact-absorbing tether to minimize seat rotation.

It features an impact-absorbing base, steel frame, and V-shaped tether that work together to reduce crash forces by up to 40%. This system also keeps your child securely in place during a collision, further minimizing the risk of injury. Read more about the 5 benefits of ARB with pros and cons to consider.

It is also designed with strong steel frames to stabilize and minimize seat rotation in the event of a side-impact collision, as well as an energy-absorbing base to reduce crash forces. Featuring a convenient 14-position quick-adjust harness system, this product allows you to effortlessly customize the fit as your child grows, eliminating the need for re-tethering. Avoiding re-tethering not only saves time but also decreases the chances of incorrect installation. This feature is especially important for parents who frequently switch car seats between vehicles.

Advocate stands out and gains an advantage over Marathon and Boulevard by incorporating three comprehensive layers of side impact protection. These include an energy-absorbing shell, side cushions, and a quick-adjust headrest, providing enhanced safeguarding for the head and neck.

Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB exceeds federal safety standards as it has been tested and approved for use on aircraft, making it a versatile choice for families that travel frequently. The ClickTight installation system ensures a secure and tight fit every time, eliminating guesswork and the potential for incorrect installation. The design also offers ease of use with an audible click sound that confirms when the seat is properly installed.

While some users found it to be heavier and not as easily portable compared to the Emblem brand, the superior safety features make it safer than Emblem and all other ClickTight line of products.

In NHTSA’s ease of Use Safety Ratings, Britax Advocate Clicktight, Britax Boulevard Clicktight and Britax Marathon Clicktight all 5-star rating in the metric on securing baby.

Here’s a table that outlines the key differences between the three Britax ClickTight Convertible Car Seat models: Advocate, Boulevard, and Marathon.

FeatureBritax Advocate ClickTightBritax Boulevard ClickTightBritax Marathon ClickTight
Weight Limit65 lbs max65 lbs max65 lbs max
Width and Weight20.5 in. wide, 30.1 lbs18.5 in. wide, 29.4 lbs18.5 in. wide, 27 lbs
Side Impact Protection (SIP) Layers3 Layers:1. Energy-absorbing shell.2. Interior foam-lined headrest3. External side impact cushions2 Layers:1. Energy-absorbing shell2. Interior foam-lined headrest1 Layer:1. Energy-absorbing shell
Best Feature3-Layers of SIP, including Side Impact Cushion Technology2-Layers of Side Impact ProtectionCompetitive cost
ConsiderationWider profile may not fit two side-by-side in most vehiclesMore compact than Advocate, but still tight for side-by-side installation in some vehiclesOffers basic SIP, fewer safety features than the other models
Installation SystemClickTightClickTightClickTight
FabricSafeWash (machine washable and dryable)SafeWash (machine washable and dryable)SafeWash (machine washable and dryable)
PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

Britax Emblem

Britax Emblem crash test results
Britax Emblem

Britax Emblem is among the best in class when it comes to your child’s safety. It was given outstanding crash test scores by the Baby Gear Lab, even more than Britax high-end models. NHTSA gave it a four-star rating for overall ease of use and for better comfort, this seat has adjustable non-rethread shoulder straps and comfort padding.

This car seat is a valuable investment that your child will use from 5 to 40 pounds in the rear-facing mode and 20 to 65 pounds forward-facing. It’s comfortable with high quality and super soft fabric, generous foam padding, and two recline positions.

The Britax Emblem stands out for its SafeCell Impact Protection, an integrated system of safety components including an impact-absorbing base, an energy-absorbing foam-lined shell, and side impact protection. This system works together to protect beyond the federal safety standards. The seat is also designed for easy installation, with push-button LATCH connectors and built-in lock-offs to ensure a snug and secure fit.

Britax Emblem 3 Stage Convertible Car Seat, Dash


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Other great features include 10 headrest positions, a no-rethread harness, lower anchors and built-in lock-off for LATCH and seatbelt installation, and a removable machine washable cover.

Unlike Britax Boulevard ClickTight model that costs almost $150 more, Britax Emblem has a manual LATCH strap and required much more effort to install. The process itself isn’t long or complicated but if you prefer an easy-to-install option with Latch hooks and clips, you can get the ClickTight model with average crash test results, rated lower than Britax Emblem.

We have a full comparison of Britax Emblem and other Britax models such as Marathon, Allegiance, and Boulevard.

Graco Extend2Fit 

Graco Extend2Fit is the number one top option for families in the US, and with good reasons. The top one is that it is one of the few seats that offer an extended rear-facing weight range. The APP recommends kids face the rear as much as possible, beyond 2 years. Graco accommodates kids – up to 50 pounds rear-facing and forward-facing from 22 to 65 pounds. It is also a favorite among parents because it provides 5 inches for extra legroom with its 4 position leg extension.

The Extend2Fit is constructed with a steel-reinforced frame that provides strength against impact. It provides side impact protection that has been crash-tested and found to exceed federal standards. It was among the top-ranked by Baby Gear Lab for excellent crash test results. It got 4-star ratings from NHTSA for overall ease of use in rear-facing and forward-facing modes. It also got an excellent rating for its ease of installation using LATCH in the rear-facing by Consumer Report.

The Extend2Fit has lots of user-friendly features. It has an InRight LATCH system that makes installation quick and easy. Moreover, it includes an easy-to-read level indicator to ensure you install the seat correctly every time. And, a Fuss Free Harness Storage to keep harness straps out of the way, so it’s easy for you to get the baby in and out of the car seat.

The Graco Extend2Fit features a 4-position extension panel that provides up to 5 extra inches of legroom, allowing children to ride safely in the rear-facing position longer. It is equipped with the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System, which automatically adjusts both the harness and headrest height. The seat also has a 6-position recline, ensuring your child’s comfort, and is reinforced with a steel frame for durability and safety.

The seat has 10 headrest positions that provide a great fit as your child grows. The harness and headrest move along in one motion, and no rethreading of straps is needed. It has 6 recline positions, 2 crotch strap positions, dual cup holders, and machine washable covers.

Evenflo Tribute LX

You might doubt how reliable Tribute LX convertible is when you learn of its low pricing, but it is a solid and safe car seat for kids up to 40 pounds-5 to 40 pounds rear-facing and 22 to 40 pounds forward-facing. The car seat has been crash-tested using two times the amount of force the Federal Crash Test Standard for side structural integrity to ensure your little one is surrounded in safety.

NHTSA gave the seat a two-star rating for overall ease of use both in the forward and rear-facing modes. Consumer Report gave it moderate to low ranking for ease of installation and overall ease of use after conducting its crash tests. Baby Gear Lab crash tests gave the seat high ratings for having additional safety features than the competition.

The Tribute LX is super lightweight and compact, making it an excellent choice for those looking for a travel car seat that can easily be lugged, switched between cars, and air travel.

The car seat is comfortable even for long trips with sufficient padding and a head pillow, and it’s easy to install using Latch anchors. Moreover, it comes with a removable cup holder to keep drinks close and machine washable seat pads.

Pros

  • Great for travel; ultra light and compact
  • Structurally solid built for safety
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to clean
  • Low pricing

Cons

  • Your child will outgrow it fast; the max weight limit is only 40 pounds
  • Cheap quality straps, no padding, and they get twisted
  • Has some sharp plastic edges that may make installation uncomfortable
  • You may need to place a rolled towel when installing in rear facing mode in some cars.

Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB

Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB may be pricey, but it’s one of the best convertible seats in the market. It has shining results on Consumer Reports for easy installation, overall ease of use, comfort, and quality. It was ranked highly after Baby Gear Lab crash tests, and NHTSA gave it 4 stars on the overall ease of use in rear-facing and 5 stars in forward-facing mode.

This is one of Britax’s premium models and is flashy; it comes in tons of creative color and pattern options that set it apart. It accommodates kids in the rear-facing mode from 5 to 40 pounds and forward-facing mode from 20 to 65 pounds/ up to 49inches tall.

In terms of safety features, it is engineered using a steel frame, has two layers of side impact protection, and uses a V-shaped tether to minimize seat rotation, which is all part of Britax’s unique SafeCell impact protection. And that’s not all; it also has a steel anti-rebound bar to minimize crash force.

The car seat provides superior comfort with plush padding and premium quality fabrics and 7 recline positions. It comes with Quick-Adjust 14 position headrest that easily adjusts without rethreading the harness.

For a secure, fool-proof installation, the Boulevard ClickTight has an automatic level indicator that ensures correct seat installation at the proper angle. The seat also comes with a smooth, non-skid base to prevent marks or damage to your car, unlike some other car seats.

Pros

  • High quality and durable
  • Has two layers of side impact protection
  • Easy to use, ClickTight Installation system
  • Straps are easy to adjust and fasten
  • Superior comfort
  • Keeps your car free of damage or marks with its smooth non skid base
  • Classy colors and pattern designs

Cons 

  • Very heavy and bulky
  • Not easy to clean, has removable covers but require to be hand washed
  • Expensive

Clek Foonf

The manufacturer describing Clek Foonf says it’s designed like a tank with advanced side impact protection formed by multiple layers of energy-absorbing foam EPP, adjustable headrest, deep side wings, and steel and magnesium substructures. Additionally, it is also equipped with an anti-rebound bar to provide enhanced stability and minimize force during a frontal or side-impact collision.

Concerning crash testing results, Clek Foonf received an average result from Baby Gear Lab. Consumer Report also gave it an average score, while NHTSA gave it 2 stars on the overall ease of use in the rear-facing mode and 3 stars forward-facing.

The Clek Foonf is known for its robust safety features, including an aluminum-reinforced frame and energy-absorbing foam layers for side impact protection. It employs a Rigid-LATCH installation system for secure attachment and a smooth recline function for comfort. The Foonf also features a patented REACT (Rigid-Latch Energy Absorbing Crumple Technology) safety system, designed to reduce the forces transmitted to a child in a collision.

The Clek Foonf seat is made using superior fabrics that are stain, water, and odor-resistant, which is easy to maintain. Plus, it’s GreenGuard certified as free of harmful chemicals, including flame retardants. It has a narrow profile and sits higher than the standard seat, making it a great option for those with small cars or who want to fit three seats across the back seat. It also features a Rigid-LATCH system that makes installation easy and accurate.

Clek Foonf is another seat with impressive rear-facing limits (14 to 50 pounds), allowing your child to rear face until 4 years of age. Recommended forward-facing limits are from 22 to 65 pounds/ 49 inches tall. You can also use the car seat with an infant, but you buy the insert separately.

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Extended rear facing weight range
  • Provides advanced side impact protection
  • Narrow dimensions; can fit three across
  • GreenGuard certified
  • Easy to clean and requires minimal maintenance

Cons 

  • Heavy
  • Shoulder height strap adjustments require unhooking and rethreading
  • Difficult installation using the Latch system
  • Very expensive

Britax Allegiance

Another affordable Britax brand called Britax Allegiance with 4 crash test rating by NHTSA. It is safe because of high-impact protection, foam filled sheel,

If you value the quality construction and safety of the Britax brand but don’t want to spend a lot, you might want to consider Britax Allegiance, which is their most affordable version.

The Allegiance had outstanding results from Baby Gear Lab testing. The Consumer Reports gave it an average score with ratings for ease of installation while the NHTSA gave the seat four-star ratings on the overall ease of use.

Like all other Britax models, Allegiance is designed with a steel integrated frame and foam-lined shell (one layer, higher-end models have more layers) for side impact protection. It is also constructed with an impact-stabilizing steel frame and an impact-absorbing base.

The seat fits kids weighing between 5 to 40 pounds rear-facing and 20 to 65 pounds forward-facing. It features 10 headrest positions adjustable without rethreading the harness, a three-position recline, and removable covers.

The Allegiance can be installed using both vehicle seat belts and LATCH. The built-in lock-off and lower anchors make installation quite easy and simple.

Pros

  • Superior quality and durable
  • Lightweight
  • Britax patented safety system that exceed federal standards
  • Cover comes off easily for cleaning without rethreading the harness
  • Most affordable compared to other Britax models

Cons 

  • Cover is not machine washable
  • Not easy to install, no level indicators

Nuna RAVA

Nuna Rava is perhaps the fanciest car seat in the market today. It is known for being incredibly easy to use and super comfy for the little ones. Regarding crash testing, it had impressive high ratings by the Baby Gear Lab. The NHTSA also gave it a four-star rating for overall ease of use in both rear and forward-facing modes.

The car seat is constructed using a steel frame and has a steel-reinforced belt path to prevent twisting. Additionally, it has Retractable Side Impact Protection “pods” for your child’s head and neck protection. The other aspect that makes the Rava safe is that it has an extended rear-facing weight capacity of up to 50 pounds. 

Again this seat has premium comfort and style. Its fabrics are not only super soft to the touch but also breathable, free of flame retardants and chemicals, hypoallergenic, and antibacterial as well. The padding is plush. This makes the Rava luxurious and safer than your average car seat.

For the hefty price, it comes with all the convenient features that make parents’ lives a lot easier. It has LATCH connectors, Reveal +Open True Tension door for the easiest installation, no-rethread harness, two crotch buckles that shorten or lengthen by sliding, dual flip cup holders, and machine washable fabrics.

The car seat serves children from 5 pounds with insert up to 65 pounds. It has 10 recline positions and 10 different headrest heights that easily adjust as your child grows for a perfect fit and comfort.

Pros

  • Premium quality
  • Side impact protection
  • Extended rear facing weight limits
  • No-rethread harness
  • Five recline levels at the touch of a button
  • Easy seat belt install
  • Retractable cup holders

Cons 

  • It’s one of the most expensive convertible seat on the market
  • Since the True Tension Doors are not lock-offs, they may confuse parents who are not used to locking seatbelt in other cars’ seats.
  • It’s a bit hard to put covers back on the seat after cleaning

Safest Convertible Car Seats from Consumer Reports Crash Tests:

Consumer Reports conducts various tests to evaluate the safety of vehicles, including crash protection tests. These tests are designed to assess how well a vehicle protects its occupants in the event of a crash. Consumer Reports crash protection evaluation involves several aspects:

  1. Analysis of Crash Test Data: Consumer Reports reviews crash test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). These organizations conduct crash tests that simulate front, side, and rollover crashes. They provide ratings based on how well vehicles protect occupants in these scenarios.
  2. Safety Features: The presence and effectiveness of safety features such as airbags, electronic stability control, automatic emergency braking, and others are also considered. These features can significantly affect the outcome of a crash and the overall safety rating of a vehicle.
  3. Child Seat Compatibility: For families, the ease of installing child seats is evaluated since proper installation is crucial for protecting younger passengers.
  4. Owner Feedback: Consumer Reports also collects feedback from vehicle owners about their experiences, including any safety issues or accidents. This real-world information can provide additional insights into a vehicle’s safety.

Consumer Reports has two classes of car seat crash protection categories; Best and Better.

  • Best: The “Best” category signifies that a car seat offers exceptional crash protection compared to others on the market. This rating is given to car seats that not only meet but exceed standard federal safety requirements. Car seats in this category typically feature advanced materials, design elements, and construction techniques that contribute to superior crash performance. They may offer additional side-impact protection, more robust harness systems, and enhanced stability. Essentially, a “Best” rating indicates that the car seat provides the highest level of protection available, according to Consumer Reports’ testing.

Below are all the convertible car seats rated ‘Best’ by CR:

NameOverall ScoreCrash Protection Rating
Chicco NextFit Zip86Best
Britax Boulevard ClickTight84Best
Britax Advocate ClickTight84Best
Britax Marathon ClickTight84Best
Chicco NextFit MAX84Best
Baby Jogger City Turn81Best
Baby Trend Trooper68Best
Clek fllo57Best
  • Better: The “Better” category indicates that a car seat provides good crash protection that meets federal safety standards and possibly includes some additional safety features or design elements that improve upon the basic requirements. However, these car seats may not incorporate as many of the advanced safety features or materials found in those rated as “Best.” A “Better” rating still signifies a safe and reliable choice for consumers but suggests there are other options available that could offer enhanced protection in certain crash scenarios.
Name of Car SeatOverall ScoreCrash Protection
Rating
Nuna Rava81Better
Nuna Revv76Better
Cosco Scenera NEXT74Better
Graco Extend2Fit73Better
Britax Emblem73Better
Britax Allegiance73Better
Graco Contender 6571Better
Safety 1st Jive69Better
Safety 1st Guide 6567Better
Safety 1st Guide 65 Sport67Better
Cosco MightyFit 6567Better
Graco Contender Slim67Better
Evenflo Sonus 6563Better
Cybex Sirona M61Better
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 5-65 Convertible58Better
Maxi-Cosi Pria Sport57Better
Cybex Sirona S51Better
Evenflo Tribute50Better
Clek foonf50Better
UPPAbaby Knox38Better

Safest Convertible Car Seats as per NHTSA Ratings:

Below is an overview of the 5-star rated convertible car seats as per Ease of Use testings done by Consumer Reports. The following car seats achieved excellent 5-star rating as well on the securing baby metric which shows that they have superior protection features. I have shared some of the features in the summaries below;

Cybex Sirona S

  • Innovative Rotation: Features a 360-degree rotation system that makes switching between rear-facing (RF) and forward-facing (FF) positions easier, and also facilitates easy entry and exit from the car.
  • SensorSafe Technology: Integrated into the chest clip, it provides alerts to the caregiver if a child unbuckles, the car becomes too hot or cold, or the child has been seated for too long.
  • Linear Side-impact Protection System (L.S.P.): Offers increased safety in the event of a side-impact collision by systematically absorbing the force of a side-impact collision in a linear series of reactions.

Britax Advocate ClickTight

  • ClickTight Installation System: Allows for easy and secure installation with just a buckle and a click, ensuring the car seat is correctly and securely installed.
  • 3 Layers of Side Impact Protection: Includes a deep energy-absorbing shell, foam-lined headrest, and external cushions that together protect the child from the most severe types of collisions.
  • SafeCell Technology: Features in the car seat base to absorb crash energy and reduce the force transferred to the child.

Britax Boulevard ClickTight

  • ClickTight Installation System: Ensures that anyone can install the car seat securely and confidently by just buckling the seat belt.
  • 2 Layers of Side Impact Protection: Features a deep foam-lined shell and head protection to shield from side impacts.
  • SafeCell Impact Protection: An integrated system of safety components that work together to protect well beyond the federal safety standards.

Britax Marathon ClickTight

  • ClickTight Installation: Simplifies the installation process, reducing the risk of incorrect installation.
  • Side Impact Protection: Includes a deep energy-absorbing shell to shield the child from side impacts.
  • Impact-absorbing Base: Compresses to absorb crash energy and counteract forward movement, keeping your child clear from the seat in front.

Graco Milestone

  • 4-in-1 Seat: Grows with your child from rear-facing harness (4-40 lbs) to forward-facing harness (22-65 lbs) to highback belt-positioning booster (40-100 lbs) to backless belt-positioning booster (40-120 lbs).
  • Simply Safe Adjust Harness System: Automatically adjusts both the harness and headrest height, ensuring that your child is always properly secured.
  • ProtectPlus Engineered: Helps to protect your child in frontal, side, rear, and rollover crashes.

Safety 1st MultiFit EX Air

  • Air Protect Side Impact Protection: Advanced air cushion system protects your child’s head in a side-impact crash.
  • QuickFit Harness: Easily adjusts the harness and headrest in one simple step without uninstalling the car seat.
  • 3-in-1 Convertibility: Designed to grow with your child from rear-facing to forward-facing, and eventually to a belt-positioning booster.

What to consider when purchasing a Safe Convertible Car Seat:

Choosing a convertible seat is an important undertaking, and a lot has to be taken into consideration. Here are some factors to consider:

Safety: Ensure that your car seat meets and exceeds federal safety and crash performance standards. All NHTSA-rated car seats are safe. The convertible car seats listed here have also been tested by credible independent bodies and also have great safety ratings by parents.

Ease of installation: a car seat may have all the best safety systems in place, but if you can’t install it correctly or secure your child properly, it will not provide desired safety for your child. To prevent improper installation, buy a car seat with a fail-safe installation system. Today, most cars are equipped with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), which makes it a lot easier to install car seats properly.

Ease of use: check features that make it easy to install, adjust to other modes, and get your child in and out. You can gather this info from sites like NHTSA, and Consumer Reports, and also by reading reviews of parents who have had experience using the seat.

Check out NHTSA Ease of Use Ratings for 92 Car Seats(list & table). For safety, go for the seats that scored 5/5 on the ‘Securing a Child’ ranking feature.

Car compatibility: car seats will fit differently in different cars. So, measure your backseat dimensions and compare them to the seat dimensions to see if it will fit. This is especially important if you have a small car.

Height and weight limits: Every car seat model has its own limits. The best convertible car seats are those that allow extended rear-facing weight range. The APP recommends the past 2 years; up to 4 years is even better.

Longevity: Convertible cars are designed to last for years. The best ones expire after 10 years, but some also go for only 7 or 8 years. The rule is never to use a car seat after the expiration date, even if it seems in perfect condition. So, check how long you have before the seat expires.

Lifestyle: most people buy a convertible seat to keep in their car seat, but if you are a frequent traveler, the seat’s dimensions and weight will be an important factor for you.

How Crash Tests are Conducted:

NHTSA (United States)

  • Focus: Primarily evaluates car seat installation and the ease of securing a child, in addition to compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for crashworthiness.
  • Testing Protocol: Tests involve simulated frontal collisions to assess car seat performance, with a strong emphasis on crash force limits at critical points like the head and chest.
  • Public Information: Provides ease-of-use ratings for car seats, focusing on installation, clarity of instructions, and securing the child, rather than direct safety performance ratings.

Euro NCAP (Europe)

  • Focus: Provides a broader assessment that includes vehicle safety features, adult and child occupant protection, pedestrian protection, and more recently, safety assist technologies.
  • Testing Protocol: Uses a more comprehensive set of tests, including frontal impact, side impact, and pole tests, and evaluates the effectiveness of both the vehicle’s and car seat’s protective capabilities.
  • Public Information: Offers detailed safety performance ratings, including star ratings for child occupant protection, helping consumers compare the overall safety of vehicles and the effectiveness of integrated or separate car seat systems. Get more details on NCAP’s website here.

ANCAP (Australia and New Zealand)

  • Focus: Similar to Euro NCAP, ANCAP assesses vehicles for their ability to protect occupants and pedestrians in crashes and evaluates safety assist technologies.
  • Testing Protocol: Conducts an array of crash tests similar to Euro NCAP, including frontal, side, and pole impacts, with a focus on child occupant protection using child dummies.
  • Public Information: Provides star ratings for overall vehicle safety, including specific assessments of child occupant protection, offering a clear indication of a vehicle’s safety performance.

Transport Canada (Canada)

  • Focus: Concentrates on ensuring car seats sold in Canada meet the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) for crashworthiness and are properly labeled and instructed for use.
  • Testing Protocol: Focuses on compliance testing with CMVSS, including dynamic crash testing for car seats to ensure they provide adequate protection in frontal impacts.
  • Public Information: Does not offer a rating system like NHTSA or Euro NCAP but provides extensive guidance and resources on choosing, installing, and using car seats safely.

Key Differences

  • Scope of Testing: Euro NCAP and ANCAP have a broader scope, evaluating entire vehicles for overall safety, including adult and child occupant protection, whereas NHTSA and Transport Canada focus more specifically on car seats or vehicle compliance with safety standards.
  • Information and Ratings: Euro NCAP and ANCAP provide comprehensive safety ratings, including star ratings that help consumers understand the safety performance of vehicles and car seats in various domains. NHTSA offers ease-of-use ratings for car seats, focusing on the installation and securing of the child, while Transport Canada focuses on compliance and safety standards without a public rating system.
  • Regulatory vs. Non-Regulatory: NHTSA and Transport Canada are government regulatory bodies enforcing compliance with national safety standards, whereas Euro NCAP and ANCAP are independent organizations providing consumer information on safety performance beyond regulatory compliance.

Additional Tips on Safest Convertible Car Seats:

You should be cautious when interpreting the crash test results by these different organizations such as Consumer Reports and BabyGearLab. In the latest reports, you’ll realize that some brands ranked as ‘excellent’ by BabyGearLab such as  Graco Extend2Fit has been rated in the 70s by CR which gave Graco Extend2Fit a ‘Better’ status and not Best as it scored 75% below 4 of Britax’s brands.

On the other hand, CR awarded Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB ‘Best Rating’ scoring 85% while BabyGearLab gave it an ‘Above Average’ rating which is pretty confusing.

Be Cautious with Confusing Non-Aligned Ratings

There are no Federal guidelines on what to follow or on how to test various car seats and each organization has its subjective criteria to rank the car seats. For example, CR does not do side-impact protection testing and this does not feature in their overall scores.

Therefore, it is vital to consider more than one source of information when deciding on which convertible car seat to purchase.

I have found forums that are moderated by certified baby car seat experts such as Car Seats for Littles with over 290k members to be very helpful.

I also believe the NHTSA can do better than it currently does with its 5-star system. Imagine how frustrating it is to have to decide between 5 brands rated 4 stars by NHTSA with no specific score such as 75 or 77 to differentiate all the 4-star brands.

Why Installation Matters in Convertible Car Seat Safety:

Regardless of the car seat’s crash test results, the installation of a convertible car seat is equally crucial for ensuring the safety of your child. Improper installation can significantly decrease the effectiveness of the car seat in case of a crash. According to NHTSA, three out of four car seats are not installed correctly, leaving many children at risk.

In this 2024 update, we took a bold step and considered ease of installation is a key safety factor and you’ll realize that ClickTight technology by Britax brands such as Marathon, Boulevard and Advocate made them the Top 3 out of 23 brands tested.

But what makes ClickTight technology so special?

ClickTight allows for a quick and easy installation process by utilizing vehicle seat belts instead of the LATCH system. This not only makes it easier for parents to install, but also ensures a secure fit without any margin of error. This is especially important for convertible car seats, as they are used for a longer time and could potentially be moved between different vehicles. Graco Extend2Fit which was ranked top by BabyGearLab uses LATCH installation and is known to be complicated to install compared to ClickTight technology.

ClickTight technology has been praised for its ability to prevent installation mistakes that are common with the LATCH system. This includes not installing the car seat tightly enough, or using the wrong anchors or weight limits. With ClickTight, these issues are eliminated, providing an extra layer of safety for your child.

Other notable features to consider in a convertible car seat:

  1. Side-impact protection: This is crucial as side-impact crashes are responsible for one-fourth of all fatal accidents involving children. Look for a car seat with a sturdy shell and energy-absorbing foam to protect your child’s head and body from impact.
  2. Adjustable harness: As your child grows, the harness will need to be adjusted accordingly to ensure a proper fit. Look for a car seat with an easy-to-adjust harness that can be changed without having to rethread the straps.
  3. Recline options: Convertible car seats are used from infancy to toddlerhood, so having multiple recline options is important for your child’s comfort and safety. Make sure the car seat has clear indicators to guide you in adjusting the recline correctly.

Factors that Determine Convertible Car Seat Safety Ratings:

  1. Anti-rebound bar: This feature is attached to the foot of a car seat and helps reduce rotation in case of an accident. It also prevents the car seat from sliding forward. Studies have shown it to reduce impact force by up to 1/3, although some sources claim that it can reduce body, neck, and leg injuries by 40%. Read the pros and cons of ARBs here. Our top recommendation on this 2024 update, is Graco Extend2Fit which achieved excellent seat and baby stability rating in the event of front collision thanks to its ARB.
  2. Steel frame and reinforced structure: In a collision, car seat frames made of steel can absorb energy better compared to plastic frames. Additionally, a reinforced structure with built-in shock absorbers can also help reduce the impact force on your child in case of an accident. Britax One4Life ClickTight was our top recommendation for this feature as it scored high in both front and side-impact crash tests.
  3. Five-point harness: This type of harness is designed to distribute the impact force evenly across your child’s body in case of a collision. It also keeps your child securely fastened to the car seat, reducing their chances of being ejected from the seat.
  4. Side-impact protection: Car seats that have energy-absorbing foam or air pads, expendable wings, and deep headrests have been proven to be effective at minimizing the impact of side collisions on a child’s head and neck.
  5. Steel Frame: A strong steel frame provides better protection in the event of a crash by absorbing and distributing impact forces. This also allows for more stability and less movement during an accident.

Are Convertible Car Seats Safer?

Consumer Reports conducted crash test simulations to evaluate the safety of convertible car seats compared to infant car seats. The findings revealed that for children aged 1 year and older, rear-facing convertible car seats offer superior head protection than rear-facing infant seats.

This is attributed to the longer shells and design of convertible seats, which create more space between the child’s head and the simulated seatback, thus avoiding direct head contact. This safety advantage has been consistently validated in subsequent rounds of testing on both convertible and infant car seats.

Convertible vs Infant Car Seat Safety Features:

Here’s a table that outlines the key safety features differences between infant and convertible car seats:

FeatureInfant Car SeatConvertible Car Seat
Age/Size SuitabilityNewborns and infants up to about 12-24 months old, depending on the model. Usually has a weight limit of 22-35 lbs.Can be used from newborn stage up until the child reaches the seat’s maximum height/weight limit, often through toddler years and beyond. Some models support children up to 65 lbs or more.
OrientationRear-facing only.Can be used rear-facing initially, then turned forward-facing as the child grows.
PortabilityHighly portable; often part of a travel system and can be easily removed from the car and attached to a stroller.Not designed for portability; remains installed in the car once fitted.
InstallationTypically uses a base that remains in the car, allowing the seat to be clicked in and out. Can also be installed without the base using the car’s seat belts.Installed directly into the car using the car’s seat belts or LATCH system. Installation may vary when switching from rear-facing to forward-facing.
Head ProtectionAdequate protection; designed with newborn and infant safety in mind.Superior head protection for older infants and toddlers, due to longer shells and shape that provide additional space preventing direct contact of the head with the seatback.
Lifespan/Usage DurationLimited to the infant stage, until the child outgrows the seat in height or weight.Longer lifespan; can be used from infancy through toddlerhood and sometimes beyond, offering better long-term value.
AdjustabilityFewer adjustable features; mainly harness adjustments.Highly adjustable with features like recline positions, headrest heights, and convertible configurations to accommodate a growing child.
Comfort FeaturesComes with infant inserts for extra support and comfort.May include more padding, adjustable headrests, and recline positions for increased comfort as the child grows.

What Makes Convertible Car Seats Safer than Infant Car Seats?

Drawing on the insights from Consumer Reports’ crash test program, here are compelling reasons why convertible car seats are considered safer than infant car seats, particularly for children around the age of 1 and older:

  1. Enhanced Head Protection: Consumer Reports’ crash tests simulate more realistic conditions of a vehicle’s rear-seat environment, especially concerning potential head contact with the vehicle’s front seatback. Convertible seats have shown to provide better head protection by preventing direct contact of the child’s head with the simulated seatback, a scenario more likely to occur with rear-facing infant seats.
  2. Longer Shells and Design Benefits: The design of convertible seats, featuring longer shells, offers additional space between the child’s head and the seatback in front of them. This design minimizes the risk of head strikes during a collision, providing an extra layer of safety not as prevalent in infant seats.
  3. Height and Growth Considerations: Although many infant seats have generous weight limits, children often outgrow these seats in height long before reaching the weight limit. Convertible seats accommodate taller heights, allowing children to remain in the safer rear-facing position for longer, as recommended by safety experts and pediatricians.
  4. Compliance with Safety Recommendations: The American Academy of Pediatrics and various state laws recommend that children stay in rear-facing seats until they exceed the seat’s rear-facing height or weight limits. Convertible seats support this guideline more effectively by accommodating children in a rear-facing position for a longer duration than most infant seats.
  5. Safety Over Convenience: While infant seats offer the convenience of portability, the primary concern is safety. As children grow, the combined weight of the baby and the infant seat becomes less practical to carry. Moreover, pediatric recommendations advise transferring a sleeping child from the car seat to a safer sleep environment, such as a crib or bassinet, rendering the portability feature of less importance compared to the safety benefits of convertible seats.
  6. Timely Transition: Given the superior head protection and the accommodation for growth, transitioning to a convertible seat by age 1—or sooner if the child has outgrown the infant seat in height—is advisable. This transition not only aligns with safety guidelines but ensures continuous protection as the child grows.
  7. Optimal Use of Resources: Switching to a convertible seat doesn’t necessarily increase the number of car seats you’ll need; it’s about making a strategic transition to enhance safety. By moving to a convertible seat at the right time, parents can ensure their child is getting the best possible protection at every stage of growth.

5 Key Benefits of Top Convertible Car Seats:

Extended Rear-Facing Use

  • Enhanced Protection: Rear-facing seats are the safest option for young children, as they better support the head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash. Convertible car seats allow children to remain rear-facing for a longer period, often until at least 2 years of age, as recommended by safety experts and pediatric organizations. This extended use in the rear-facing position provides increased protection during the most critical stages of spinal and neurological development.

Adaptability and Long-Term Use

  • Growth Accommodation: Convertible car seats can adjust to accommodate growing children, transitioning from rear-facing to forward-facing, and sometimes even to booster seat modes. This adaptability ensures that the car seat can provide optimal fit and protection as the child grows, from infancy through toddlerhood and beyond.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: By serving multiple stages of a child’s development, convertible car seats eliminate the need to purchase multiple car seats, making them a cost-effective solution for parents and caregivers.

Safety Standards and Features

  • Advanced Safety Features: Many convertible car seats are equipped with the latest safety innovations, such as side-impact protection, 5-point harness systems, and energy-absorbing foam. These features offer comprehensive protection beyond the basic requirements, adapting to the latest research and safety standards.
  • Improved Installation Techniques: Convertible seats often come with features that simplify installation, such as easy-to-use LATCH systems and clear belt paths. Proper installation is crucial for maximizing the protective benefits of any car seat, and features that make installation more straightforward can significantly improve overall safety.

Education and Compliance

  • Promotes Best Practices: The availability and promotion of convertible car seats support educational efforts to keep children rear-facing for as long as possible, aligning with best practices recommended by child safety and medical organizations.
  • Increased Compliance: As parents recognize the benefits of extended rear-facing use and the versatility of convertible car seats, compliance with recommended safety guidelines improves. Better compliance leads to safer travel habits and reduced risk of injuries in accidents.

Environmental and Practical Benefits

  • Reduced Waste: From an environmental perspective, using one car seat for multiple stages of a child’s development means fewer products are consumed and disposed of, reducing waste.
  • Versatility and Convenience: For families with multiple cars, convertible car seats can provide the flexibility needed to ensure the child is always riding in a seat that offers optimal protection, regardless of the vehicle.