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Best 3-in-1 (aka Convertible) Car Seats for Your Baby

You don't want to compromise when shopping for a car seat for your child, but you may also not want to have to buy a brand new one in a year when they outgrow it. That's the advantage of 3-in-1 seats - they can be used rear-facing, forward facing, and even as a booster seat. Here are our top picks for convertible car seats.

A 3 in 1 car seat is a smart investment for a savvy parent. The seat will have three operational modes that grow with a child from the time of infancy with the rear-facing position, to the forward facing, and finally, the booster position. 

Picking a good seat may be a little daunting to a first-time buyer who has to choose among the various styles, such as the seat position, weight limits, and legroom. It is essential to ensure that you get one that fits well into your car as well as accommodates the baby’s weight and age.

How much should I expect to spend on a 3-in-1 car seat?

An excellent comfortable 3 in 1 car seat will be priced under $400.


What features should I consider in a budget 3-in-1 car seat?

  • Weight restrictions: There are a few conditions one may consider while examining the weights. The rear-facing seat supports between 5-40 pounds, and the front-facing position allows a weight between 20-65 pounds. The booster mode supports an average weight of 100 pounds.
  • Adjustable headrest: 3-in-1 budget seats have adjustable headrests. Focus on the good percentage of seats that have thick cushions for the side impact. A shoulder harness system that does not require re-threading is a bargain for budget seats, but not entirely impossible.
  • Adjustment of straps: Look out for straps that adjust at the top of their length or along the headrest. In some cases, one may not need to re-thread them as the baby grows.
  • Ease of use: The best budget seats are easy to buckle and unbuckle, reasonably sized (so are easy to get into and out of the car), and not too heavy to carry without extra support. Some tightening features include a knob or a button, which are convenient to prevent straps from jamming. A reasonable budget 3-in-1 seat has a removable cover that eases the cleaning sessions.
The most important things to take into account when choosing a convertible car seat are safety and comfort within your available budget.

What are the more advanced features that I should consider in a high-end 3-in-1 car seat?

  • Latch connectors: A perfect latch system has a quick attachment process. It is easy to install and reinstall. This allows you to move the seat to another car effortlessly.
  • Washable covers:  Spit-up, food stains, accidents - let's face it, babies can get messy. Most people should be washing their seat covers every two or three weeks. Shop for a seat that has a light, high quality cover that dries fast. While some are not machine washable, you still want it to take a short time to dry out, so that you can keep using it right away.
  • Handles: Handles are a basic necessity for baby car seats. They can help you to move the seat from one car to another, or from the car to indoors, without waking a sleeping a baby. New and experienced parents alike can appreciate how important it is to keep an infant from waking while being moved.  
  • Cushions: Cushioning systems can help to shield the child’s head from side impacts in car accidents. They can also support their heads from falling to the side too far when they fall asleep. 
  • Recline adjustment: High-end car seats should have multi-leveled reclining systems that grow with a child. Several headrest positions retain their comfort as the child grows over the years.

Frequently asked questions

  • How will I know the car seat was well installed?

    Put your hand on the belt path and try moving the seat around in all directions. A tight installation will ensure that the seat does not move an inch in any direction.

  • How do I maintain the seat’s condition for a long time?

  • Make sure you clean the seat covers according to the manual. Ensure that you also follow the correct installation procedure every time. Store the seat in a cool, dry place when it is not in use. Avoid cleaning pads and harnesses with the washing machine. Most importantly, read the manufacturer’s manual about the seat’s expiration date to avoid using a faulty utility.

  • Why is rear-facing safer than forward-facing, and when is the best time to switch to a forward facing seat?

    The design of rear-facing car seats absorbs the impact of a crash to protect the child’s head and spine. The distribution of the force lessens the effect that would otherwise be felt in a forward facing position.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to continue keeping their kids in the rear-facing position until they exceed the outlined height and weight. Two years of age is the average point at which parents switch the seats to the forward facing mode.

1) Safety 1st Grow and Go available for $147 on Amazon

Key features
  • Built-in side protection
  • Meets the State's safety standards
  • 3 level recline system

Safety 1st Grow and Go brand began operating in 1984 and maintains a high volume of customers. The average market price of the seat is below $200, and it classifies as a budget model.

The rear-facing mode has a minimum carry capacity of 4 lbs and a maximum of 40 lbs. The forward facing mode allows 22 lbs to 65 lbs, while the booster mode capacity is between 40 lbs and 100 lbs. It has a thick side impact, and pads for each necessary part of the seat. The modes have a smooth transition process as the child grows from a baby to a toddler. 

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

The 1st Grow and Go seat has an A-level line that guides positioning. It has two built in cup holders, a system that automatically adjusts the headrest and harness simultaneously, and a ten year lifespan.

The seat’s price range is not nearly worth its ‘Good Bet’ rating by the IIHS.

The Safety 1st Grow and Go manufacturer brand has the Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One car seat, which meets all the necessary safety measures. The Evenflo seat is slightly pricier than the Safety 1st Grow and Go. It has a higher booster limit and weight limit. It is also easier to install the rear faced position.

Evenflo is lighter in weight and offers a more comfortable harness strap. The seat’s sides have a strong withholding power to absorb impact. It has three recline positions and fits into the car quickly. It is especially comfortable for smaller cars.

What's not so good about it?

Fixing the three recline positions might be a tricky experience for first time users. The multi-leveled recline system will prompt the parent to check the installation manual every time until they fully understand the installation requirements. Newborns will normally use the first position in the rear facing mode, while toddlers will be okay with either positions 2 or 3. Alternatively, you can ask the manufacturer to guide you towards picking the most convenient position.

Pros:
  • It has a wide age and size range
  • The harness has five changeable positions
  • A removable cover for quick washing and drying
Cons:
  • The seat cover material is not breathable
  • It is difficult to latch the car seat to the back of a car
  • The top of the car seat is heavy

2) Graco 4ever available for $159 on Amazon

Key features
  • Easy installation process
  • Proven safety during a crash
  • Removable cup holders
  • Extended rear facing position

Graco 4Ever is a highly reputable company that manufactures and distributes quality baby products, including car seats. The brand has a specific focus: to offer parents with practical and innovative solutions that cater to children within a wide age gap, between a newborn and a toddler.

The rear-facing position carries between 4 and 40 lbs, and the forward facing's capacity is 22 to 65 lbs. The high back belt booster capacity is 30 to 100 lbs, and the backless booster position allows between 40 and 120 lbs.

The convertible car seat costs no more than $200.

 It has quality materials and flexibility for an extended shelf life. Graco car seats meet the FAA standardization.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

Graco 4Ever has a five-level safety harness strap and a headrest with ten positions. It has three forward facing and three rear-facing positions, two booster modes, and a bubble level indicator.

The seat’s steel-framed reinforcement is one of the high-value features of the item. It has a storage compartment for the harness straps in booster mode.

The 4Ever seat is a better bargain than its counterpart Extend2Fit. Extend2Fit only has the rear facing and forward facing modes. It, however, offers a longer usability life for the rear-facing position. It accommodates an extra ten pounds in the rear position. Both seats have good safety ratings and steel framed reinforcements.

What's not so good about it?

The Grace4Ever convertible car seat receives an amount of remarks about the headrest that are worthy of notice. Customers report that it rattles a lot despite its high safety standards. Another issue is that the seat is not convenient for smaller cars which do not accommodate its leg extension panel.

Pros:
  • Easy to install
  • The harness does not need rethreading while in the booster position
  • A wide range of weights
Cons:
  • The seat cover is not breathable
  • The seat is bulky in the rear facing position
  • The harness is not removable for cleaning

3) Evenflo Tribute LX available for $49 on Amazon

Key features
  • Side impact tested
  • Certified for aircraft use
  • Certified under CMVSS and FMVSS regulations

Evenflo began operating practically a century ago (1920, Ohio USA) and maintains high safety standards for its clients within and without the United States. The brand’s car seats offer stable security to children of all ages from infants to walking toddlers. The rear-facing position carries 5 to 40 lbs, while the forward facing position carries 22 to 40 pounds. The product’s weight is 9.29 lbs.

The seat provides ultimate comfort with ease of installation and maintenance. It has a protective cushion for impacts from the side, and that passed all the required tests. Evenflo Tribute LX is priced at an affordable value of under $100, which is well within the budget car seat price range.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

Evenflo’s Sonus Convertible car seat has two operational modes. The rear faced position carries up to 40 lbs while the forward facing position carries between 22 to 50 lbs. The wide sitting base allows children of more varied body sizes to fit in. It has front faced harnesses and airflow vents that keep the air surrounding the child clean.

Evenflo Tribute LX has a removable head pillow, a four shoulder harness position, and an upfront harness. The removable cushions make it easy to wash. The LATCH system is 45 pounds and higher than those in most seats.

Evenflo Tribute LX has a unique adjustment feature: the button at the bottom of the base that easily adjusts the recline.

What's not so good about it?

The lock system does not help with easy installation. It does not have harness strap covers. Another concern is that the sitting base is sometimes wider than most car seats.

Pros:
  • Easy to install
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Affordable
Cons:
  • Lacks the booster position
  • The seat may be slightly wider
  • Insufficient padding
  • Recline system does not fit all cars

4) Graco SlimFit available for $179 on Amazon

Key features
  • Affordable
  • 3 recline system
  • Seat space
  • Tested for safety

The Graco SlimFit convertible car seat earns its name from its capability to allow the child to grow with the seat with the minimum available seat space in a car. Graco has been providing practical and worthwhile constructions in car seats for six decades.

The seat’s price is around $200.

Graco SlimFit carries between 5 and 40 pounds in the rear mode, the forward position carries between 22 and 65 lbs and the booster mode accommodates 30 to 100 lbs. It has a flexible lifespan that grows with a child from infancy to the toddler stage.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

Apart from its unique sizing and car fitting, Graco SlimFit has a rotating cup holder that allows the child to reach for their drink easily.

It has a safe harnessing system that is easily adjustable and a one latch attachment mode. The four recline adjustment allows the child to have a comfortable and safe ride. The washable seat cover offers easy maintainability.

Graco’s Size4Me Convertible seat has a similar latch system that gives one second attachments. The seat has a shock absorbent system that takes up impact energy through a special designed foam, unlike the Slimfit which uses pads. Both seats have washable seat covers and surpass the FMVSS standardization rules.

What's not so good about it?

The seat is slightly wider than most products that are specially developed and marketed as a slim fit. It may not, however, be suitable for bigger cars.

Pros:
  • The width fits in most small cars
  • An easily convertible recline system
  • A simultaneous harness and headrest system
Cons:
  • The booster carries a maximum of only 100 pounds
  • The rear-facing position carries a limit weight of 65 pounds

5) Safety 1st Continuum available for $118 on Amazon

Key features
  • Affordable
  • 3 recline system
  • CMVSS certifies

Safety 1st takes great care of its customers by implementing suggestions that further protect a child’s life. The brand insists that kids should use the forward facing position for at least two years. Safety 1st continues to expand its business into producing high-quality products like the Safety 1st Continuum car sear. Its rear-facing position has a weight capacity between 5 and 40 lbs, the forward facing position allows 22 to 50 lbs, and the belt booster mode allows 40 to 80 lbs.

Safety 1st Continuum is a budget seat that does not cost more than $100.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

The seat has a 3 level recline system. The harness storage is ideal for keeping the straps out of the child’s way while getting strapped or loosened from the seat. The removable cup holder is safe for normal dish washing. Safety 1st Continuum has a ten-year lifespan and its certification from the FAA. The seat’s price range is a bit lower for the seat’s unique features such as the no rethreading harness system and the adjustable headrest.

This car seat has the same weight variables as the Safety 1st Guide 65 convertible. The 65 convertible is suitable for small cars and allows the child to grow through the forward facing and rear facing positions. It is, however, a fitting car seat for a wide age gap of children.

What's not so good about it?

The harness is challenging to set up for the lower slotting portion. This makes the seat unsuitable for newborns. 

The harness straps lack covers that may be suitable for a certain age of kids.

Pros:
  • Easy installation
  • Easily adjustable harness
  • Fits well into most cars
  • Removable covers
Cons:
  • Latch is not usable in the booster position
  • Children with large torsos may not fit into the backless booster mode with much ease.
  • The booster mode is not sufficient for the child to shift into an adult seat belt

6) Evenflo Symphony 65 DLX available for $194 on Amazon

Key features
  • FAA  certified
  • Plenty of legroom
  • Easy to tighten the harness straps
  • Easy to install

The Evenflo Symphony 65 DLX is a high-quality model with the SureLatch connectors. The rear-facing position accommodates a maximum of 40 lbs. The forward position allows a weight between 22 and 65 lbs. The booster mode allows a maximum of 110 lbs.

The Evenflo Symphony 65 DLX costs around $200. 

The seat is particularly helpful for parents looking for high-quality seats for a high level of comfort, safety, and ease of use.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

The seat has buckle storage that protects the latch system. The latch becomes tighter with an automatic security in all car positions.

The seat has a five-level position for the headrest. The two cup holders and doubly integrated to ease access of drinks by the child. The seat has protection against side impacts with the thick and absorbent EPP foam lines.

Evenflo’s Symphony car seat has a maximum booster weight accommodation of 120 lbs. The seat is rollover tested and has a comfortable head rest position.

What's not so good about it?

The seat’s lock off system does not have a seatbelt installation system. 

The harness straps lack cover and may sometimes twist easily, making it hard to detangle while setting it up.

Pros:
  • Latch is usable in the booster position.
  • Comfortable sleeping from the thick EPP foams
  • Flexible strap adjustment
  • Washable cover
Cons:
  • Wide seat for some cars
  • Slightly shorter in the booster mode
  • Non-removable harness
  • Does not have strap covers

7) Graco Nautilus Elite

Key features
  • Usable only in forward facing
  • 3 booster positions
  • Best for older kids
  • FAA approved

This car seat is well known as the last car seat that a parent uses to wean their child into an adult seat belt. It is firm and slightly bigger than the average car seat. Its recline system supports children from nine months to around 12 years in age.

The seat only has the forward facing position, which carries between 20 and 80 lbs. It’s three booster modes are the harness booster which holds a maximum of 80 lbs, the high-back booster that carries 100 pounds, and the backless booster which accommodates 120 lbs. 

The seat is available for around $150.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

The seat’s design to carry older children is enabled by its steel framework reinforcement. The seat has plenty of room, making it comfortable for a wider age group and size of children.

The Naulitius Elite has a five-level headrest system and two options reclining setup. It has a built in cup holder, storage pockets, and a removable, machine washable cover.

The major difference between the Naulitius and Graco’s Milestone seat is that the Naulitius is only suitable for children above nine months old while the Milestone is usable with newborns. The Naulitius is also heavier and broader than the Milestone.

What's not so good about it?

The Graco Naulitius's removable cover is a little tricky to remove. Upon purchase, the seat does not come pre-assembled, making it a nuisance for a first-time buyer. The manufacturer, however, includes a detailed manual that describes the five-step procedure to put together the seat.

Pros:
  • Strong frame
  • Ten-year lifespan
  • Washable covers
  • Adjustable harness
Cons:
  • Heavy
  • Tricky to install
  • The cover is difficult to remove
  • Is not pre-assembled

8) Eddie Bauer Deluxe

Key features
  • Rear-facing up to 31 pounds
  • 3 levels of recline
  • Extra leg room
  • Removable wash covers

The Eddie Bauer Deluxe car seat is a product of Dorel Juvenile Group. The brand manufactures and sells high-quality car seats that meet all the safety standards and quality regulations. The Deluxe seat has a convertible feature that grows with a child from infancy to the toddler stage. The rear-facing position allows a weight of 5 to 35 pounds. The forward facing mode carries a maximum of 50 pounds, while the belt-positioning booster position allows up to 100 lbs.  

The seat is available for under $200.

The Eddie Bauer Deluxe seat offers ultimate comfort with extreme ease of use. 

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

This car seat has a five-point harnessing system and a three-level reclining system. The adjustable head pillow offers comfort to the child as he or she grows from infancy. The latch system is easily installable, making it easy to for a first-time parent. It also has a built-in cup holder that makes it easy for the child to place and pick up their drink.

Eddie Bauer’s SureFit Infant car seat offers extra leg room for children between 4 to 35 pounds. The harness is especially suitable for small babies. The weight is slightly less than the Deluxe car seat’s weight, making it easy to carry from one car to another.

Both car seats have removable wash covers and tested side impact protection.

What's not so good about it?

The harness is slightly difficult to tighten but secures just fine after a few trials. The seat covers are hard to remove and are not machine washable. You need tools to remove the cover from the seats without incurring damage.

Pros:
  • The harness does not need rethreading
  • Has a cup holder
  • Easily attachable latch hooks
Cons:
  • Hard to remove seat cover
  • Cover can only be hand washed
  • The harness is slightly difficult to tighten

9) Graco Milestone available for $159 on Amazon

Key features
  • In right latch system
  • 3 operational positions
  • 3 level recline system

The Graco Milestone is famous for its sturdy structure. This car seat maintains its expounded benefits as a child grows from the forward facing position to the booster. The harness does not need rethreading. It has an in-right latch system, a four position recline, a movable cup holder, and machine washable padding.

The Milestone is one of the most affordable car seats by Graco Baby.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

The Graco Recline N Ride car seat is a Graco counterpart of the Milestone car. The seat is also fit for bigger cars due to its larger size and bulkiness. It has a four-level recline system that is adjustable in the forward facing and rear facing positions. It has two cup holders and an easily adjustable headrest and harness for the child’s comfort. The Graco Recline and the Milestone are both safe and easy to install and use.

What's not so good about it?

The Graco Milestone car seat is only a 3-in-1 car seat, so will lack the backless booster feature that is available in the 4-in-1 convertible. The seat is not very convenient for early newborns because it is slightly bigger than a traditional infant seat. The reclining system cannot go too far back despite its easily adjustable system and comfort.

Pros:
  • Moveable cup holder
  • Easy installation
  • Affordable
  • Washable seat covers
Cons:
  • Difficult to clean the tension latch
  • The back lacks a backless booster
  • Too big for some cars
  • A bit bulky to move to another car

10) Graco Extend2Fit available for $146 on Amazon

Key features
  • Extra leg space
  • High rear-facing weight limit (50 lbs)
  • 10 level headrest system
  • 6 recline positions

The seat offers extra leg space, making it a highly revered car seat. It is a great budget car seat that offers maximum benefits and safety for kids for more than two years in the rear facing position. This is the only seat that a newborn will need until he or she graduates to using the adult seat belt.

The seat has a rare rear facing weight limit, at 50 pounds. The forward facing position supports weights from 22 lbs to 65 lbs.

Extend2Fit is a budget car that costs around $150.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other 3-in-1 car seats?

Extend2Fit is perfect for extra legroom, hence its name. It has a ten level headrest system and a six position reclining system. The harness does not need rethreading. The cup holders are removable and easy to clean.

In comparison to its Graco counterpart, 4Ever, Extend2Fit lacks the booster mode but costs less due to the missing positions. Extend2Fit beats the 4Ever seat by providing extra leg room. It is generally an upgrade from the 4Ever seat because it allows the child to stay in the rear facing position until the 50 pound limit.

What's not so good about it?

The headrest is a bit too tall and may block the outside viewing in some cars. The belt will need a little extra strength to pull. Some of the padding is thicker than in other areas, and so may feel a bit tougher against the body.

Pros:
  • Easily adjustable latch
  • Two removable cup holders
  • Washable seat covers
  • Extra legroom
Cons:
  • The cover is easy to remove
  • The ease in removing the covers slightly increases the price
  • The harness is slightly tougher to tighten
  • Leg extension not available in the forward facing position

In conclusion...

While you're looking to purchase a car seat, always take into consideration the seat’s price range, operational modes, reclining system, and maintenance requirements. This will help you in deciding the best seat option for either the budget or high-end bracket. 

The child’s age will also determine which car will serve for a longer duration. A suitable car seat will follow the necessary safety standards and have a valid certification to assure you of your child’s safety. Lastly, it is essential that you look for the best 3-in-1 car seat that fits within your budget. We hope this list will help you in your decision.