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In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

Best Convertible Car Seats with Crash Tests

We contracted with the same crash test facility used by NHTSA to test the seats in this review. Here is the Clek Foonf getting ready for its crash test  complete with crash test dummy.
Thursday December 12, 2019
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Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Are you looking for a top-notch convertible car seat for your growing baby? We researched more than 40 contenders before picking 17 popular car seats for testing side-by-side to determine the best options. We take each car seat through months of in-depth testing that includes crash test performance, installation, ease of use, and more to give you the details you need to find the right car seat for your baby's needs and your budget. We purchased two of each car seat in this review, one for crash testing and one for in-house testing, so you can trust that our results are honest and unbiased.


Top 17 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 17
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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award  
Price $380.00 List
$364.99 at Amazon - 4% off
$240.00 List$500.00 List$200.00 List
$139.99 at Amazon - 30% off
$200.00 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Easy to install and use, cozy comfort, nice qualityGreat crash test results, easy to use, attractive price, lighterGreat crash test results, easy to install, high quality and comfyBest crash test results, rear-facing till 50 lbs, pricePrice, easy to use, best head sensor crash test
Cons Average crash test resultsHarder to install using the vehicle beltExpensive, heavier, stiff buckleNot the best quality, harder belt installationLess padding, somewhat harder to install using vehicle belt
Bottom Line Impressive option with quality features and super easy installation parents will loveA lightweight, easy to use seat with excellent crash test result and priceComfortable with better crash test results but this quality option comes with a higher priceBest crash test results on a budget-friendly seat that lets little ones sit rear-facing for longerBetter crash test results make this easy to use, inexpensive seat a winner
Rating Categories Boulevard... Britax Emblem Nuna RAVA Graco Extend2Fit Britax Allegiance
Crash Test (35%)
10
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6
10
0
8
10
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8
10
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9
10
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8
Ease Of Install LATCH (20%)
10
0
10
10
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8
10
0
8
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8
10
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8
Ease Of Install Belt (15%)
10
0
10
10
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7
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8
10
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7
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7
Ease Of Use (15%)
10
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8
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7
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8
Comfort Quality (10%)
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9
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6
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Weight Size (5%)
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Specs Boulevard... 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
Width 18" 18.9" 19" 19.6" 18.8"
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 51กใ 42กใ 40กใ 51กใ 42กใ
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
Anti-rebound Device Yes No No No No
Head Support Yes No Yes No No
Newborn Insert Yes Yes Yes Yes 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
Foam Type EPP EPP EPS EPS EPP
Seat Lifespan 10 yrs 7 10 yrs 7 yrs 7
Warranty 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year

Best Overall Convertible Car Seat


Britax Emblem


Editors' Choice Award
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$240.00
List Price
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Crash Test 8
  • Ease Of Install - LATCH 8
  • Ease Of Install - Belt 7
  • Ease Of Use 8
  • Comfort / Quality 8
  • Weight / Size 6
Seat Bottom Width: 18.9 in | Rear-facing Passenger Weight Limit: 40 lbs
Better crash test results
Easy to use
Comfy
Harder to install using the vehicle belt
Pull to tighten LATCH

The Britax Emblem is a quality convertible seat with non-rethread height adjustment, push-button LATCH connectors, and better padding and fabric for comfort. This seat earned impressive crash test results indicating a higher potential margin of safety and is very easy to use compared to the competition. The overall look and feel are better than most of the competition, and its self-contained design means it is easy to clean and looks sharp.

The Emblem has a manual LATCH strap unlike the ClickTight options, so it requires more effort to install than other Britax products. Unless you have physical limitations that prevent you from pulling a belt, we don't think it's a big deal. We believe the Emblem is a top contender that provides better crash test results for a reasonable price with easy to use features and an overall nice look and feel. Overall, the Emblem is an excellent convertible seat and one we'd recommend to a friend.

Read review: Britax Emblem

Best Crash Test Result


Graco Extend2Fit


Editors' Choice Award
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$139.99
(30% off)
at Amazon
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Crash Test 9
  • Ease Of Install - LATCH 8
  • Ease Of Install - Belt 7
  • Ease Of Use 7
  • Comfort / Quality 6
  • Weight / Size 5
Seat Bottom Width: 19.6 in | Rear-facing Passenger Weight Limit: 50 lbs
Best crash test results
Rear-facing for longer
Reasonable price
Average quality
Harder to install with the vehicle belt

The Graco Extend2Fit has the best score for crash test results with combined head and chest sensor results that surpass the competition. This seat also earned impressive results for LATCH installation, which could translate to increased safety as many injuries are related to installation errors. These results mean the Extend2Fit potentially provides an additional margin of protection over the competition in this review, making it an excellent choice for those looking for top safety results. Add to this that the Extend2Fit can stay rear-facing for longer than the majority of seats (up to 50 lbs), and you have a delightful cocktail of factors that creates a potentially safer environment for a baby that makes parents smile.

The Extend2Fit isn't the highest quality, and it feels like it doesn't offer as much for comfort as similarly priced seats, so it might be less cozy for long distances. However, despite this concern, the Graco is an excellent choice for parents who want the very best crash test results and see value in the rear-facing safety potential over style and padding.

Read review: Graco Extend2Fit

Best Bang for the Buck


Evenflo Tribute LX


Best Value Award
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$69.99
at Amazon
See It

68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Crash Test 8
  • Ease Of Install - LATCH 6
  • Ease Of Install - Belt 6
  • Ease Of Use 7
  • Comfort / Quality 3
  • Weight / Size 10
Seat Bottom Width: 17 in | Rear-facing Passenger Weight Limit: 40 lbs
Super inexpensive
Better crash test results
Narrower width
Lower quality
Harder to install

The Evenflo Tribute LX is not a top-ranked seat, which makes it a dark horse compared to our usual Best Value choices. So, why the award? This car seat has the second best-combined crash test results and the lowest price making it a standout that proves it is a worthwhile competitor for those on a strict budget or looking for a second seat. The Evenflo has a price significantly lower than the competition, a machine washable cover, easy to use vehicle belt pathway, and one of the easiest buckles in the business. This option is also the lightest seat in the review at just over 9 lbs and is narrow at 17 inches. These factors make it one to consider if you need to carry a car seat regularly or need to fit multiple safety seats in a row.

While it may not be what every family wants, given the lower quality and lack of additional comfort features, we believe it is a good product for the price and an excellent choice for parents with limited funds. You may need to pay more attention during installation to ensure it is done correctly, given the installation performance we experienced. But, for us, it feels right to honor any product that provides an additional margin of safety that almost anyone can afford.

Read review: Evenflo Tribute LX

Best for Ease of Installation


Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB


The Britax Boulevard ClickTight
Top Pick Award
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$364.99
(4% off)
at Amazon
See It

80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Crash Test 6
  • Ease Of Install - LATCH 10
  • Ease Of Install - Belt 10
  • Ease Of Use 8
  • Comfort / Quality 9
  • Weight / Size 5
Seat Bottom Width: 18 in | Rear-facing Passenger Weight Limit: 40 lbs
Foolproof installation
Easiest to use
Comfortable
Average crash test results
Higher Price

The Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB earned the highest overall score in our tests with perfect scores for both installation methods creating a practically foolproof car seat for installation, which is how it earned a Top Pick for Ease of Installation award. Thanks to the innovative ClickTight and strap tightening design, this product practically installs itself with only a little help from you. We love the non-rethread harness with ten height variations, seamless fabric, closed-shell design, and three layers of padding for baby's longterm comfort.

This product is not the best choice for parent's on a tight budget as it is one of the most expensive options we tested. It also isn't the one if you are looking for the absolute best crash test results, as they are only average. However, the Boulevard has impressive performance in most metrics, making it a good seat if your budget allows. Given that many injuries result from an incorrectly installed car seat, this seat is a contender for parents worried about installation, thanks to the ridiculously easy ClickTight technology.

Read review: Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB

Best for Narrow Seat Width


Clek Foonf


Top Pick Award
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$449.99
at Amazon
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Crash Test 7
  • Ease Of Install - LATCH 10
  • Ease Of Install - Belt 9
  • Ease Of Use 5
  • Comfort / Quality 8
  • Weight / Size 5
Seat Bottom Width: 17 in | Rear-facing Passenger Weight Limit: 50 lbs
Easy installation
Comfortable
Additional safety features
Harder to use
Heavy
Expensive

The Clek Foonf is an innovative car seat that earns top marks for ease of installation using the LATCH method with cool forward-facing rigid LATCH anchors. The Foonf is also easy to install using the vehicle belt, and it offers impressive comfort and quality you can see and feel. This seat features a detachable angle booster, anti-rebound bar, steel frame (similar to a vehicle seat), and an adjustable headrest for comfort, which makes it a product parents and babies enjoy.

The Foonf is not cheap, so parents on a budget will need to plan ahead or consider other options. It is also cumbersome, and you probably won't want to move it regularly or plan to travel with it. Despite these issues, the Foonf brings a lot to the table and offers additional safety features. This seat is a unique option we think parents will love and one our founder and Mom-in-Chief, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, uses with her children. Dr. Spurrier loves the Clek's quality, finds it easy to use, and her kids love it.

Read review: Clek Foonf

Quality at a Good Price


Britax Allegiance


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$200.00
List Price
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Crash Test 8
  • Ease Of Install - LATCH 8
  • Ease Of Install - Belt 7
  • Ease Of Use 8
  • Comfort / Quality 7
  • Weight / Size 6
Seat Bottom Width: 18.8 in | Rear-facing Passenger Weight Limit: 40 lbs
Budget-friendly
Better crash test results
Easy LATCH installation
Slightly more challenging to install with belt
Less padding for comfort

The Britax Allegiance is an affordable car seat that brings Britax quality together with a lower price. The Allegiance earned the second-highest score for crash test results thanks to the best head sensor result; it is also easy to install using LATCH, which creates a seat with an additional margin of protection compared to the competition. This car seat is also easy to use, making it an all-around great option for families who want a straightforward, safe, easy to use choice.

The Allegiance is somewhat harder to install using the vehicle belt over the LATCH system. With a score of 7 of 10, it isn't challenging, but it will take more attention to ensure a secure fit. It also isn't the most comfortable with less padding and unbolstered headrest. Despite these minor hiccups, the Allegiance is one we think parents will love for everything it offers and its budget-friendly price. The Allegiance failed to win an award because of its similarities to the Britax Emblem and the small price difference. However, we think it is a notable and respectable option that can potentially save you money.

Read review: Britax Allegiance


Regular updates include new additional convertible seats ensure you get the latest information on the most popular car seats.
Regular updates include new additional convertible seats ensure you get the latest information on the most popular car seats.

Why You Should Trust Us


With five years and over 400 hours of convertible car seat analysis and crash testing under our belts, BabyGearLab is uniquely qualified to relay detailed information on convertible car seats and how they compare to the competition and the Federal safety guidelines. Our panel of experts was pulled from our Infant Car Seat review to leverage the knowledge obtained during that testing for this review of convertible car seats. Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a Board Certified Pediatrician, mother, and founder of BabyGearLab once again led the team to create a comprehensive testing and analysis plan. Dr. Spurrier has a background in urgent pediatric care that helped inform her about crash-related injuries and the safety risks of commonly occurring car seat installation mistakes, which has been shown to influence the potential for injury significantly. Because of this, our process encompasses professional convertible car seat crash testing, in-house installation testing in a variety of vehicles, and ease of use to create an analysis of every factor that impacts both safety and everyday use.

The development of our in-house testing was led by Certified Passenger Safety Technician, Bob Wofford. Bob assesses first hand how to install each seat properly (or improperly) for the highest level of safety. In the beginning, we consulted with experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about their protocol and crash test results. We contracted with MGA Research, the same national testing facility that has the compliance contract for FMVSS 213 assessing the safety of every car seat in the US. Each convertible car seat included in our review was crash tested according to the same crash test protocol used by the US Federal Safety Standards. We analyze the crash test data to create our crash test scores, and we also share the actual data from each seat's crash test, so you get the real data to help you make a decision.

Senior Review Editor, and mother of two, Wendy Schmitz, once again leads the analysis of the convertible car seat results as she has for the last five years examining, comparing, and rating each seats specific performance against the competition.

Testing for the best convertible car seats of 2020 starts by purchasing two units of each product, one for crash testing with MGA, and another for extensive testing with over 200 hours of abuse and observations on seats from real-world parents and our in-house testers. We have a rigorous testing process that includes installing each seat in at least three different vehicles using both installation methods with multiple testers. We review each product's padding, covers, harness adjustments, and more.

Ten of the eleven top rated seats tested in our convertible car seat review (the Britax Boulevard ClickTight was absent on picture day).
Ten of the eleven top rated seats tested in our convertible car seat review (the Britax Boulevard ClickTight was absent on picture day).

We perform extensive tests on each seat over several months under the guidance and supervision of a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician. We developed a comprehensive set of tests based on our infant car seat testing process. We use these methods in conjunction with the crash test data, to determine how seats perform in everyday use and impact force measurements recorded during structured crash tests.

Several new convertible options were added to this review giving you more information on potential competitors than ever before.
Several new convertible options were added to this review giving you more information on potential competitors than ever before.

Each convertible car seat in this review is compared side-by-side in multiple metrics. While all of the safety seats for sale in the US meet the minimum safety guidelines outlined by the Federal government, not all of them are easy to install or offer an additional margin of protection compared to the competition.

Related: How We Tested Convertible Car Seats

The belt path for the Extend2Fit forward-facing configuration is harder to use because you can't see what is going on. Removing the cover for visibility is also challenging.

Analysis and Test Results


In this review, we include the details you need to make an informed decision about which convertible car seat is the right choice for your baby and your budget.

Rear-Facing Until at Least Age 2
Experts agree that your child should stay 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 the 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 both remain rear-facing until your child weighs 50 lbs.

Related: Buying Advice for Convertible Car Seats


Value


There are good deals in this lineup with Best Value winners and lower-priced options. With several award-winning seats sporting relatively affordable prices and higher crash test results, you can buy a seat with an additional margin of protection without breaking the bank. The Evenflow Tribute LX and the Britax Allegiance both score 8s for crash test results and are among the most inexpensive. The Graco Extend2Fit is also affordable, has the highest crash-test result analysis in the review, and can remain rear-facing longer. The Britax Emblem is also a good value. While it may cost a little more, it is less expensive than the average and is one of the best seats in the group.


Crash Test Performance


BabyGearLab contracts with the same crash test facility that the NHTSA uses to perform our convertible seat crash tests. The seats are tested using the same protocol as NHTSA based on the FMVSS 213 standard.


We performed 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.

More Money Doesn't Equal Safer
While you may think that a more expensive seat should be safer, this isn't necessarily true according to our tests. A great example are the Britax ClickTight seats that provide easy installation features with higher prices but didn't perform well during repeated crash testing. The cheaper Britax Emblem and Britax Allegiance both have better crash test sensor results than the ClickTight options proving price isn't indicative of potential safety. Another example is the Graco Extend2Fit with the best-combined sensor results with a list price significantly cheaper than the ClickTights.

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

Shown above is the percentage margin by which each seat exceeded the maximum Head Injury Criteria (HIC) score established by the Federal NHTSA standard. The higher the bar  the better the margin of protection. (Click on the chart to enlarge).
Shown above is the percentage margin by which each seat exceeded the maximum Head Injury Criteria (HIC) score established by the Federal NHTSA standard. The higher the bar, the better the margin of protection. (Click on the chart to enlarge).

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.

Shown above is the percentage margin by which each seat exceeded the maximum chest injury score  Chest (g) Clip  established by the Federal NHTSA safety standard. The taller the bar  the better the margin of protection. (Click on the chart to enlarge).
Shown above is the percentage margin by which each seat exceeded the maximum chest injury score, Chest (g) Clip, established by the Federal NHTSA safety standard. The taller the bar, the better the margin of protection. (Click on the chart to enlarge).

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 incidate better results and a potentially higher margin of protection.

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 Products We Test Provide a Basic, Safe Level of Protection
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.

The rear facing Clek Foonf has a recline adjustment attachment and a anti-rebound bar  as well as an under the seat belt pathway that includes a belt lock off. It is the most innovative seat in the review and includes a rigid forward facing LATCH system.
The rear facing Clek Foonf has a recline adjustment attachment and a anti-rebound bar, as well as an under the seat belt pathway that includes a belt lock off. It is the most innovative seat in the review and includes a rigid forward facing LATCH system.

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 for us 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 will say that preliminary test results indicate that anti-rebound bars can potentially improve the crash test dummy sensors results in comparison to not using the anti-rebound bar.

Safety Reminder
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.

Related: How to Avoid Infant Car Seat Installation Mistakes

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 result. 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 second-best score in the group 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 third-place rank and a crash-test score of 7.

The LATCH system of installation was designed to help parents install car seats safely every time. In general  it is considered the quickest easiest method of car seat installation
The LATCH system of installation was designed to help parents install car seats safely every time. In general, it is considered the quickest easiest method of car seat installation

Ease of Install Using LATCH


Studies show that more than 7 out of 10 car seats are installed incorrectly, or the harness is not correctly fitted . Because of this, we consider ease of installation and ease of use to be critical when choosing a safety seat as they potentially impact overall safety potential.


The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) installation method was created to make it easier to install car seats correctly, with fewer mistakes. We recommend using LATCH, if possible, to increase your chances of a correct installation. 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.



In our testing, we discovered that some seats are easier to install using LATCH over the vehicle belt, but surprisingly about a third are easier to install using the vehicle belt not LATCH. The main culprit? Some testers have difficulty tightening the LATCH straps enough to secure the seat correctly.

The Clek is the only seat in this review to offer a rigid LATCH system that makes installation very easy with no straps to tighten
The LATCH clips on the Boulevard are the simpler version that is somewhat harder to remove than the push button type that mimics a seatbelt.

The Clek Foonf (above left) uses a rigid LATCH connection for forward-facing installation. It is stupidly easy and requires NO strap tightening. You push the rigid LATCH connectors onto the anchors, and that's it! The Clek Foonf tied with the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB for the highest score for LATCH installation as both seats do not require manual tightening. The Britax Boulevard connectors (above right) and the Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 are both the clip style of LATCH connectors that we find harder to use; this clip is more complicated to remove and requires twisting to the side to disconnect. The Safety 1st earned the lowest score in the review for LATCH installation with a 3 of 10. While both anchor styles are considered equally safe, we find the button style more natural to use.

The LATCH connectors on the Emblem have a one sides tightening strap which in our experience takes more strength to use than some of the unique LATCH straps with center connectors or self-ratcheting features.
The LATCH connectors on the Emblem have a one sides tightening strap which in our experience takes more strength to use than some of the unique LATCH straps with center connectors or self-ratcheting features.

Our favorite seat to install using LATCH is the Clek because of the forward-facing rigid LATCH installation. This design is part of why the Foonf earned a Top Pick award. The Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB is also super easy, while the Britax Emblem (above) and Allegiance seats and the Chicco NextFit are almost as easy. The Chicco NextFit has a unique LATCH with a 2-step strap tightening system that is very easy to use and tighten with little strength required.

Center Seat Issues

Studies show that the center of the vehicle rear seat is the safest spot to install your car seat — studies of injury data show a 43% lower risk of injury if the car seat is in the center of the back seat. Now combine that information with LATCH connectors that 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 in the center location, then 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 that you ensure the car seat is securely and tightly anchored to the vehicle.

The questions on installation in the center seat are:
  1. Should you make an effort to install the seat with the vehicle belt?
  1. Is the seat as secure when anchored to the center seat with a vehicle belt as it is on the side seat using LATCH?

Using the vehicle belt to attach a car seat to the car is a perfectly safe and acceptable method of installation (and possibly the only option for center positioning), as long as you can get it secure and tight. If you can (and we were able to with many of the seats in this review), then use the center seat. However, if obtaining a secure fit in the center seat is difficult, then you should use the side seat location. It is far more important that the installation of the seat is correct than the location of the seat is in the center. If you have two children, you may not have a choice but to use the side seat locations as most cars don't have enough room for a side and center installation simultaneously. If your vehicle doesn't offer LATCH anchors for the center seat, but you prefer center seat installation, our next section on ease of installation with a vehicle belt can help you identify the seats that are easier to install using a seat belt. Also, you can locate an installation professional for assistance using the vehicle belt.

This Chicco NextFit has what the manufacturer calls "SuperCinch"  which is an alternative style of strap that uses a pulley type system that makes tightening the LATCH straps far easier than ordinary straps
This Chicco NextFit has what the manufacturer calls "SuperCinch", which is an alternative style of strap that uses a pulley type system that makes tightening the LATCH straps far easier than ordinary straps

LATCH Straps


The LATCH connectors and anchors are only part of the LATCH equation. Whether or not the straps are easy to tighten and loosen is also a factor. As previously noted, the Clek Foonf lacks 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.



Alternatively, we had trouble getting the straps on the Safety 1st tight enough. The LATCH straps on the Evenflo Tribute LX are relatively easy to tighten, but we had difficulty loosening the LATCH strap to uninstall the seat. We gave more points to products that didn't require body weight to tighten or struggling for a secure attachment.

The forward-facing installation of the Clek Foonf for kids over 2 years old using the vehicle belt is very secure feeling and easy to accomplish.
The forward-facing installation of the Clek Foonf for kids over 2 years old using the vehicle belt is very secure feeling and easy to accomplish.

Ease of Install — Vehicle Belt


No matter where or how you plan to install your seat, at some point, you will need to install it using the vehicle belt as LATCH connectors have weight restrictions. Also, many center seats do not offer LATCH anchors, even though it is the safest location to install the seat. Most LATCH use weight limits are about 40 - 50 lbs of child weight before the seat will require vehicle belt installation. Given that many of the products have a weight limit of 50-80 lbs, you can see that your child will likely utilize the vehicle belt at some point.


Don't despair! We are going to 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.

Find a Child Car Seat Inspector
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 2 part belt lock off on the Britax Roundabout required a screwdriver to pry open. It isn't as user friendly as some of the competition  but having a hard to use lock off is still better than not having one.
The 2 part belt lock off on the Britax Roundabout required a screwdriver to pry open. It isn't as user friendly as some of the competition, but having a hard to use lock off is still better than not having one.

The Benefit of the Seat Belt Lock-Off


Some seats are easier to install using a seat belt than others, and most of these seats have a trick by way of a belt lock-off on the seat itself. This feature is so useful, it is a game-changer for installing seats with a vehicle belt, and we think you'll feel significantly more comfortable installing a seat using the belt if it has one of these nifty lock-offs.

Several seats in this review 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 scores for installation using a vehicle belt. Only the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible scored as well without the help of an onboard lock-off. The Britax ClickTight car seats don't have 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.

The forward facing belt path and belt lock off on the Clek are easier to use than the rear facing design
The Chicco belt lock off has two parts that overlap to secure the vehicle belt in place

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.

We needed a towel for the rear installation of the Evenflo Tribute to obtain the proper angle of the seat. This seat is not that easy to install  but it does offer higher than average crash test results.
We needed a towel for the rear installation of the Evenflo Tribute to obtain the proper angle of the seat. This seat is not that easy to install, but it does offer higher than average crash test results.

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. The most challenging seat to install using the vehicle belt is the Safety 1st. It doesn't have a built-in lock-off, and during our testing, we struggled to get the belt tight enough to feel secure.

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 and the Graco MyRide 65 LX both earned just 6, but interestingly they are still easier to install with the vehicle belt than using LATCH. The Chicco NextFit and the Peg Pergo Primo Viaggio Convertible earned 8s.

Having trouble finding the center seat belt?
Some SUVs, trucks, and wagons have a center seat belt located in the ceiling of the car.



The Emblem angle adjusts with an under seat handle that is easy to use but can be tricky one it is installed rear-facing.
The Emblem angle adjusts with an under seat handle that is easy to use but can be tricky one it is installed rear-facing.

Ease of Use


At first glance, convertible seats have a similar design with few minor differences, most of which are cosmetic. Where they diverge is in ease of use, with some being far easier to use than others, thanks to extra features or better performance of standard features like buckles.


The Ease of Use metric includes everyday functionality, including features like harness adjustment and chest clips, ease of tightening or loosening the harness, and cover removal and cleaning. If your daily use is frustrating, you might not use it as described by the manufacturer, or you could end up unhappy.

The buckle on the Evenflo Tribute LX is one of the easiest in the group to use. The sides pop out on their own when the button is pressed
The buckle on the Evenflo Tribute LX is one of the easiest in the group to use. The sides pop out on their own when the button is pressed

Buckles and Chest Clips


None of the buckle buttons are easy to use. While buckles like the Evenflo Tribute and Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 were straightforward with sides that pop out with a push, others such as the Diono Radian RXT are so hard you'll need two hands. Most of the buckles are stiff but won't require cuss words or steel fingers.

The Chicco offers a unique chest clip that has two width settings. This feature made the chest clip harder to use  and didn't seem to improve its performance.
The Chicco offers a unique chest clip that has two width settings. This feature made the chest clip harder to use, and didn't seem to improve its performance.

The chest clip is part of the harness above the buckle. The Graco chest clips are the most difficult to use in our tests, with clips that require excessive squeezing of buttons that hurt to operate. The best chest clip is the Diono Radian, but it has the worst buckle. None of the seats offer great buckles and chest clips, but the Britax seats are average for both. Because buckles are more challenging, it is best to focus on buckle ease over chest clips.

The Chicco NextFit has a unique chest clip with a two-setting adjustment for a customizable fit. While interesting, we think it makes the clip harder to use. The Cybex Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0 also has a unique chest clip that includes the SensorSafe technology that relays a variety of different information to a device connected to the car and your smartphone. While interesting, it does emit EMF, and you'll need to decide if the feature is compelling enough to expose your child to EMF.

The harness release button  and tightening strap on the Graco MyRide 65 LX are both located near the foot of the seat and they are the easiest ones in the group to use.
The harness release button and tightening strap on the Graco MyRide 65 LX are both located near the foot of the seat and they are the easiest ones in the group to use.

Harness Tightening and Loosening


Tightening and loosening the harness utilizes the tightening strap and release button at the bottom of the seat. Some of the straps are challenging to pull, and the buttons are either press or lift. The Graco MyRide and Britax Boulevard, CLickTight ARB, earn the high scores for tightening and loosening. The Clek Foonf and Evenflo Tribute also have easy to operate straps and buttons. The worst is the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with a somewhat hidden button and a strap that is hard to pull. While some are harder to tighten than others, none are impossible.

The Boulevard has an easy to adjust  non-rethread harness height adjustment that work smoothly and is easy to operate.

Adjusting the Harness


There are two ways to adjust the harness height on convertible car seats with slight variations. The more straightforward method is a non-rethread design that adjusts by moving a headrest/harness shoulder strap assembly up and down (above left). The more convoluted process requires detaching the shoulder straps from a back splitter plate and physically moving the straps from one slot height to the next level (above right). While not challenging, the latter method takes more time, requires removing the baby from the seat, and if forward-facing, you will need to remove the seat from the car. Alternatively, the non-rethread method can be done immediately with the baby in the seat. We prefer the non-rethread version because it is simple, and we think parents are more likely to adjust the harness when necessary. We worry parents will realize the harness needs adjustment after their baby is in the seat and will put off changing rethread straps given their time-consuming design. Given that injuries can occur when harnesses don't fit correctly, we prefer non-rethread functionality.

The harness height adjustment on the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio has an easy pull tab to operate with no rethreading of straps necessary. This is one of the easiest adjustment options in the review.
The harness height adjustment on the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio has an easy pull tab to operate with no rethreading of straps necessary. This is one of the easiest adjustment options in the review.

About half of the products in our review have non-rethread harness adjustment. The easiest to use are the Britax Marathon ClickTight, Britax Boulevard ClickTight, Britax Advocate ClickTight, Nuna Rava, and Cybex Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0 with harness assemblies that move smoothly. The Britax Emblem and Britax Allegiance are also easy to use. The most challenging non-rethread version is the Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65, which has dual levers you turn simultaneously before the assembly can move. This process isn't straightforward, and the plastic levers fall off. Unfortunately, the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 height assembly broke during testing and would not engage automatically. We had to manually engage it from the back, which is not safe in the real world (you should replace the seat). We aren't saying they all break, just that ours did with minimal use in a short time. The rethread options take more time and effort, which inherently makes them more challenging.

LATCH Storage


LATCH storage isn't as crucial for convertible car seats as it is for infant seats, but it is helpful if the straps are not accessible by children and can't cause potential injuries. Some seats have pockets to contain clips, while the typical design includes attaching the clips to back loops or each other.

The LATCH storage are hard plastic pockets on the each side of the Chicco seat base. They are a little awkward to get the anchors into correctly  but they work well once they are properly in place
The LATCH anchors on the Safety 1st stow by connecting to each other

The Chicco NextFit (above left) has nifty pockets to stow LATCH components and tether. It is one of the few products in this review that keeps the straps and clips out of the way. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible, Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB, Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB, and the Clek Foonf also offer storage that keeps clips contained. The least productive storage method is clip attachments on the seatback, such as those of the Safety 1st Alpha Elite (above right) that cause the straps to dangle.

The Evenflo Tribute LX is a very basic seat with the lowest price in this review. The low price translated to disappointing scores for comfort and quality  but the fabric is easy to remove and clean.
The Evenflo Tribute LX is a very basic seat with the lowest price in this review. The low price translated to disappointing scores for comfort and quality, but the fabric is easy to remove and clean.

Cover Removal and Cleaning


Because car seats see a lot of action and will need regular cleaning, we test how challenging the fabric covers are to remove and wash. We prefer easy to remove covers that are machine washable. We like hand washing over spot cleaning, but given the potential for vomit and diaper blowouts, it is best if the cover is machine washable. The Clek Foonf is the only seat without a removable cover. It is spot clean only, and while you can purchase a cleaning kit from Clek, you may need a steam cleaner if the mess is big. The Evenflo Tribute LX is the top scorer for ease of fabric removal and ease of cleaning. This simple cover comes off quickly, is machine washable, can be thrown in the dryer, and goes back on the shell without a hiccup. This process is a significant boon over competitors that require handwashing and air drying, such as the Britax ClickTight four-part covers.

The Peg Perego cover and padding envelope the seat and curl around the shell and frame for an overall nice fit and finish.
The Peg Perego cover and padding envelope the seat and curl around the shell and frame for an overall nice fit and finish.

Comfort/Quality


For comfort and quality, we compare each seat and its materials. We look at the padding, fabric, foam, and how well they come together in the final product. We consider how design contributes to a baby's comfort, parent use, and longevity.


The products share commonalities like a plastic shell, dense impact foam, and comfort padding with 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 Advocate ClickTight ARB, Britax Marathon ClickTight ARB, and the Britax Boulevard ClickTight ARB are standouts for comfort and quality. They offer exceptional padding with seamless fabric and a place for everything. The Chicco fabric is soft, and the seat sleek and self-contained. Alternatively, the Evenflo Tribute (above right) is bare-bones and functions well despite the lack of extras and an unfinished looking shell. However, it has a machine washable cover and a higher crash test analysis than some competitors. The Clek Foonf, Clek Fllo, Britax Emblem, and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible also impress in this metric.

The Maxi-Cosi weighs over 18 pounds and is the widest seat in the review at 21 inches. This makes it a bad choice if you want to sit multiple seats in one row or if you need to have 2 seats and one person in the row.
The Maxi-Cosi weighs over 18 pounds and is the widest seat in the review at 21 inches. This makes it a bad choice if you want to sit multiple seats in one row or if you need to have 2 seats and one person in the row.

Weight/Size


We check the weight and width of each seat we review, including forward-facing and rear-facing weight and the width at the widest point. While the weight is not as important as the carrier weight of an infant car seat, it might be important if you travel frequently or utilize public transportation. If the seat primarily stays in your car, then the weight is less important.


The Clek Foonf is the most substantial seat in the group, with a rear-facing weight over 38 lbs with the anti-rebound bar and angle attachment. The forward-facing configuration is over 33 lbs.

The Clek weighs over 38 pounds in the rear facing configuration and closer to 33 for forward facing. The weight difference is the angle adjustment pad and the anti-rebound bar
The Evenflo is the lightest seat in the group and one of the most narrow at just over 9 pounds and 17 inches

However, the Clek Foonf (above left) is one of the narrowest at 17 inches. This width means you may be able to fit three seats in your back seat or two and a person. The Evenflo Tribute (above right) is the lightest seat at slightly over 9 lbs, and it is also 17 inches wide. The Evenflo, Clek fllo, and the Clek Foonf are the narrowest products in this review. Unfortunately, the Evenflo required a towel for rear-facing installation in our tests, so it may not be the best for travelers. The majority of top-scoring seats are more substantial, presumably thanks to increased padding and steel (or alloy) frames. Several top-scoring seats weigh around 18 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. An average-sized adult will not be able to sit between the two seats.

Conclusion


Purchasing a convertible car seat doesn't need to be a challenge. Armed with the details from this review, we believe you can narrow the field to one or two contenders that meet both your budget and needs.


Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz