Parents everywhere know that traveling with children can be a hassle. Having the right car seat can make all the difference. Fussing with tricky straps and buckles can turn a simple trip into a big headache. The right convertible car seat will provide a transportation solution for your child from their infant to their toddler years. Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to find a great car seat. We’ve put together a list of 5 budget-friendly convertible car seats to help you choose the right one for you.
How to choose the best car seat
What is a convertible car seat?
A convertible car seat allows you to transition your child from rear to front-facing as they grow. These seats start out rear-facing and can be turned around when your child is ready to face forward. Although this is at the discretion of the parents, it is recommended to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible.
When they are young, children should always ride rear-facing to protect them from potential injuries. Experts recommend leaving children in a rear-facing position until at least age two.
Convertible car seats are rated for their rear-facing and front-facing weight. Most will support a weight range around five to 40 pounds rear-facing and 20 to 60 pounds front-facing. Many experts recommend leaving your child rear-facing until they have reached the seat’s maximum weight capacity.
A convertible car seat will save you money in the long-run, as you won’t have to buy a new seat once your child outgrows their rear-facing position.
What to look for
A five-point harness is recommended for infants and young children riding in car seats. These harnesses have straps that are attached at five points to the car seat: one at each shoulder, one at each hip and one between the baby’s legs. Look for a harness that is easy to adjust as your child grows.
The LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system is present in all car seats manufactured since September 1, 2002. It was designed to make car seat installation easier and safer by incorporating a top tether strap and lower anchor into the seat. This allows the seat to be attached directly to the car’s frame instead of securing it with a seat belt.
Side impact protection
Many modern car seats have special features and padding designed to protect your baby’s head, neck and chest in the case of a side impact. Most modern seats have been specifically tested for side impact.
Your child will be probably be spending a significant amount of time in their car seat, so it’s important that they be comfortable. Most modern car seats are outfitted with plenty of padding for a comfortable ride. The straps should also be comfortable; they should be snug without being too tight.
Easy to clean
No matter how careful you are, kids will always find a way to make a mess. Look for a car seat that’s easy to clean in case of spills and spit-ups. Many feature removable, machine-washable pads for hassle free cleaning.
Easy to install
Most of us have struggled at one point or another with installing a car seat. Although it’s hard to know how difficult it will be to install until you’ve bought a car seat, there are plenty of resources that will help you to get an idea. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) has a 5-star rating system for ease of use. Check out the one specifically for convertible car seats to get a quick look at which ones were the easiest to install and use.
Since you’ll be using your convertible car seat for a few years, you want to pick one that’s made of durable material that will hold up through constant use. Look for durable, long-lasting fabric and high-quality buckles and straps. Ideally, you’ll never have to replace your convertible car seat; it should last from your child’s infant to their toddler years.
How to install a convertible car seat
Whether you are installing your car seat rear or front-facing, proper installation is essential for the safety of your child. Always consult your car seat’s manual and follow instructions.
Car seats should always be installed in the back seat of the car. There are a number of videos available to show you proper installation techniques.
If you’re unsure whether your seat is properly installed, there are professional services available to help. NHTSA offers services to inspect your car seat and install it (or check your installation), usually free of charge. You can find a technician in your location by checking their website.
Top 5 budget-friendly convertible car seats
Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat
From one of the top names in baby products comes an exceptional car seat at a surprisingly low price point. The Graco My Ride is designed to hold infants from four pounds all the way through toddlers up to 65 pounds.
Infants and small children can remain rear-facing in this seat up to 40 pounds, a higher rear-facing weight rating than many other car seats on the market today. When your child is ready, it can be easily converted to a front-facing seat.
The five-point harness is engineered for maximum security, and is easy to adjust from the front. It can be adjusted to many different sizes to grow with your child all the way up to their toddler years.
- Removable infant insert
- Suitable for infants through toddlers
- Two integrated cupholders
- Doctor-recommended five-point harness
- Somewhat bulky compared to smaller carriers
Eddie Bauer Convertible Car Seat
Eddie Bauer’s convertible car seat has all of the features you might find in a more expensive seat, all at a price point that’s perfect for parents on a budget. It’s suitable for infants from five pounds all the way to toddlers weighing 65 pounds, 19″ to 52″ in height.
Infants and small children can be put in the rear-facing position from five to 40 pounds. When switched to front-facing, the seat is suitable for children from 22 to 65 pounds.
The 5-point harness is secure and well-made, providing comfortable support for your child. It’s adjustable to five different height settings, so it adjusts as your baby grows into their toddler years.
Unlike many other car seats, the Eddie Bauer seat is compact enough to fit three across in the back seat of most vehicles. If you have multiple young children, it’s a perfect solution to transporting your family.
- Suitable for infants through toddlers
- Secure adjustable harness
- Compact enough to fit three in most back seats
- Removable infant head support
- Removable cupholder
- Somewhat difficult to install
Safety First Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat
Safety First’s convertible car seat is a budget-friendly option complete with all the features you need to transport your small children safely and securely. It’s suitable for rear-facing babies from five to 40 pounds as well as front-facing children up to 65 pounds.
The five-point harness can be easily adjusted with a button on the front of the straps. As your child grows, it’s easy to adjust to a snug but comfortable fit. The adjustable headrest can be extended as needed for added comfort.
If you’ve got a large or growing family, the compact size of the Guide 65 can make transportation easy. Three of these car seats can fit side by side in the back seat of most vehicles, making it easy to bring your whole family along.
It’s available in four colors, so there’s an option for almost any preference.
- Easy to convert between rear and front-facing
- Integrated cupholder
- Compact enough to fit three across
- Harness is difficult to adjust
- Difficult to install rear-facing
Cosco Comfy Convertible Car Seat
Suitable for babies and children from five to 50 pounds, the Cosco Comfy car seat is lightweight and easy to travel with. It’s certified for use on aircraft, so it’s a great option for families that travel often.
It’s rated for five to 40 pounds for rear-facing travel, and 22 to 50 pounds forward-facing. The adjustable five-point harness allows you to adjust the seat to your child’s ideal fit, although some users suggested that the harness was very difficult to adjust and tended to be too snug as their child got bigger.
The soft padding was comfortable for babies and children of all sizes. Many users said that it seemed like a memory foam material.
It’s available in two colors: granite and amethyst.
- Comfortable memory-foam padding
- Certified for use on aircraft
- Removable flex pillows
- Only suitable for children up to 50 pounds
- Difficult to adjust harness
Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
This super-lightweight convertible car seat is a great option for families that travel often. It weighs only nine pounds, making it easy to transport when needed.
It’s the most budget-friendly option on our list, but with a weight range of five to 40 pounds, it’s less versatile than the other car seats. Infants and children can ride rear-facing up to 30 pounds, or front-facing from 22-40 pounds.
The harness is front-adjustable to allow you to quickly and easily fit it to your child. A few users noted that the harness straps are unpadded and caused rubbing on their child’s necks.
- Very affordable
- Lightweight; easy to switch between vehicles or travel with
- Harness straps can cause rub marks
- Less weight range than others on our list
Graco’s My Ride 65 allows you to keep your child safely rear-facing up to 40 pounds, a much higher rear-facing rating than many of its competitors. It’s conveniently lightweight and most users found it very easy to install using the LATCH system. The five-point harness is easy to adjust, making it simple to adjust the seat to your baby as they grow.
I’m a woman from next door with problems and joys of her everyday life. I know that the more I give, the more I’ll be given, so this blog is firstly for helping more and more people and hopefully it will do good to me, too. As a working mother I’m usually faced with so many practical, everyday situations that make our lives harder, but it shouldn’t be like this.