What is a Convertible Car Seat?
A car safety seat is one of those essentials you need to have when preparing for your baby’s arrival.
It is even required that you give your baby their first ride home in a safety seat right from the hospital.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a rear-facing-only car seat is what you need for the first 2 years of your baby’s life.
How Do You Also Get to Choose a Convertible Car Seat?
As the name implies, ‘convertible,’ it is an infant safety seat that is designed to serve a dual purpose, that is, as a rear-facing car seat for newborns and toddlers, and as a forward-facing car seat for toddlers and preschoolers.
That means, a convertible car seat can first be installed at early age for a baby as rear-facing, and then turned around as forward-facing when your baby exceeds the limits in weight and height for the rear-facing.
However, choosing a convertible car seat, same way as choosing a car seat for a newborn, can be a dauting task due to the many factors to look out for like, installation features, size, ease of usage, compatibility and more that you need to consider.
Worry not, this comprehensive guide will walk you through on how to choose a convertible car seat easily and effortlessly, at least you get to understand all these factors and can now take a decision better.
Key Things To Look Out for in a Convertible Car Seat
1. Growing room space
Your kid’s size is the first factor you’d want to consider. You may not be due for birth yet, but knowing this ahead gives you the knowledge to consider within the few days you’ll have before leaving the hospital.
You want to take to consideration that the convertible car seat you are getting fits your child well and has some room to accommodate your child’s growth. The more the space between the top of your baby’s shoulder to the highest set of harness slots, the more the room space to accommodate for growth.
This also gives you the maximum value of money you get on the convertible car seat you’ll buy.
At the same time, some brand models already consider this and provide an adjustable headrest that covers some part of the harness slot. You want to check that the one you buy has this.
2. Installation process – ease of installation
Models vary greatly and so do the ease of installation and usage. Some models have features installed already that makes installation further easy and straightforward for you, while others have other features that make daily usage more convenient.
Having a convertible car seat that has enhanced installation features will make the process all the way easier and quicker for you.
First of all, check with your car that it comes with a LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) which allows for car seats to be installed easily and more securely. You’ll want to confirm that your choice car seat is compatible with the LATCH system.
Even without the LATCH, which is unlikely because cars from 2002 are designed with it, you can still make do with the vehicle’s seat belt.
You may also visit a car seat inspection station where a child passenger safety technician (CPST) can help you with the installation if it still proves technical.
It is also important installing your car seat in the best position in your car for adequate protection in the event of a car crash. The center rear seat is the safest position to install the safety seat.
Dealing with usage is also important. It determines how you’ll enjoy using your car seat on a daily basis.
Some features included in some models that enhances usage include, harness holders, enhanced harness system, chest clip, crotch buckle design and more. These features among others are important features that improves your ease of usage as time goes by.
The harness holders makes it possible to hang out the straps without getting in the way when carrying your baby out.
The enhanced harness system is a modified system that provides a 3-step fastening process which makes the buckling experience even smoother.
4. Size – the seat should fit well in your car
You first of all want to consider the size of your vehicle and then the size of the car seat you are getting. There is a comprehensive guide on best infant car seats for small cars.
Back on convertible car seats, to provide your baby the best optimal protection possible, you check with your car interiors that there’s adequate space that the car seat can fit in very well.
The best way to come off at this if you will not be buying from a physical store where you can have a test fix first, then you can make use of illustrative diagrams which are usually present among product pages.
But if you have a spacious car you have noting to worry about otherwise you can look in for models that fit for small cars, save you some stress, right?
5. Weight & height requirement
Considering that you are likely going for a convertible car seat which allows for a upper weight and height limit over an infant car seat, you may not need to worry much on this aspect but it is still worth knowing.
A convertible car seat with harness can accommodate up to 60 lbs. or more. This is up to the limit required before you transfer your child to a booster seat.
Safe to say, buying a convertible car seat from the first day saves you more before moving to the booster seat. An exception here is that it is not as convenient and flexible as the infant car seat that offers more of comfort for mobility.
In this regard, what then is the difference between the convertible car seat and the infant car seat?
Convertible Car Seat vs Infant Car Seat
Infant Car Seat
- It is smaller in size – weight range of 22 – 35 poundsand height of 26 – 35 inches
- More convenient to carry as it comes with carrying handles
- Have a separate base that can be fixed in your car while you detach the safety seat anytime
Convertible Car Seat
- It can be used as a rear-facing car seat and later converted to a forward-facing hence the name
- It allows for a higher weight and height limits (up to 40 – 50 lbs.) meaning your child can use it longer
- However, it is bulkier and doesn’t come with carrying handle or a separate base
- It has a 5-point harness strap system that attaches at the shoulders. Hips and between the legs.
6. Additional features
While the list can be inexhaustive, there are few additional features you may consider. While some convertible car seats offer even more safety features, some others have additional safety testing that exceeds the minimum standard carried out to ensure additional protection.
Some interesting features include side impact protection and energy absorbing technology. These are great features and if you are one to be very particular about absolute protection, then you may consider these.
However, you should also ensure that ease-of-use is not over-looked.
Which are the Safest and Best Brands of Convertible Car Seats
While all car seat models are made to meet the minimum safety standards, meaning all car seats sold in the United States are safe. Many brands still put in more effort to add other features that make their models stand out.
Some of these features are what we have looked at earlier such as ease of handling, ease of installation, ease of buckling and more.
Here, we will be looking into the safest and the best convertible car seats based on these features, and without ruling out pricing and budget.
What stands out with this brand in terms of safety are the additional safety features it has. They include;
- The ClickTight Installation System which allows installing a car seat to be as simple as buckling your seat belt. This system uses the vehicle’s seat belt which gets locked in the ClickTight Key hole making the car seat as secured as possible in that one click.
- SafeCell Impact Protection – this is a safety feature developed by Britax that forms a crumple zone around your baby in the event of a car crash to absorb crash energy and protect your baby.
- V-Shaped Tether – this is another safety feature that’s designed to secure the seat and minimize side-ways movement. In the event of a crash, it slows down forward movement keeping the car seat in place at that speed of movement (during the crash).
These features are one of a kind. Britax produces and tests their car seats in the U.S. to ensure they meet with safety standards before they are sold.
As claimed by Britax, they spend over 150 hours testing the individual safety features of each car seat produced to ensure it is safe to use before it is sold.
They additionally check that their seats don’t contain harmful chemicals in their fabrics and materials.
Graco uses a patented technology called Graco® ProtectPlus Engineered™ which is a combination of rigorous crash tests (carried out in a private testing facility in the US) that aims to protect against impact from any side (frontal, side, rear, or above) in the event of a car crash.
Evenflo makes use of a technology that is able to redistribute crash force within the material but away from your child without any impact. In addition to this, they have another technology, SensorSafe Technology which is able to send you an alert notification in the event you leave your child in the car, isn’t this great?
Their safety crash test also exceeds the standard test requirement where they test their seats in crash tests twice the required speed.
Even if this brand doesn’t include as much technologies as the others, they go beyond the federal safety standards in crash tests to ensure extra safety protection.
While this article aimed to provide you with step by step guide in choosing a convertible car seat, I hope you can now heave a deep sigh that you can easily make that decision and in addition be able to pick one from the best and safest convertible car seat.