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car seat installation

The Best Convertible Car Seats for 2021

While many parents choose to use an infant car seat for the first few months of their babies’ lives, convertible car seats are designed to be used for newborns through toddlers — and for some models, into the preschool and “big kid” years as well.

Convertible car seats are designed to be used rear-facing and then converted for forward-facing (and sometimes booster) use. This means that, in theory, you could buy a single seat to last through all of your child’s car seat years.

We selected our list of the best convertible car seats through a combination of product testing, real-parent input, and combing through ratings, reviews, and best-seller lists.

Here are our faves!

Nuna EXEC

if you have an unlimited budget to spend on a car seat, the Nuna EXEC is a splurge-worthy seat with all the bells and whistles. This seat can be used with babies beginning at 5 pounds, and all the way up through rear-facing to 50 pounds. It’s also 18.5 inches across in width, so you can fit three seats across in most vehicles.

Cosco Scenera Next

At well under $100, the Cosco Scenera Next is an affordable and versatile option for families that travel a lot — or if you just need a lightweight, easy-to-clean car seat.

While you can use this seat as a regular rear-facing car seat for children 5 to 40 pounds (you can use it forward facing for kids 22 to 40 pounds and 29 to 42 inches tall) it’s also aircraft certified and lightweight, making it our best choice for travel.

Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1

his seat is definitely pricey, but when you consider you can get 10 years of use out of it, it starts to sound like a pretty good bargain. You can easily spend more than $300 buying an infant carrier, a convertible car seat, and then an extended car seat to continue rear-facing for larger children. And don’t forget you may want a high-back or backless booster, but this seat does the work of all four.

As the name implies, it’s a 4-in-1 seat that can accommodate children from as little as 4 pounds, all the way up to 120 pounds. It’s designed for extended rear facing, for children up to 50 pounds. To keep them comfortable, it has a 4-position extension panel (basically, a fancy name for a foot rest) that provides an additional 5 inches of legroom for the rear-facing position.

Chicco Nextfit Zip

The Chicco Nextfit Zip is very highly rated, easy to install, and features innovative zip-off machine-washable padding that makes cleaning your baby’s car seat so much easier than dealing with straps. If you’ve ever faced a full-on vomiting incident in a car seat, you’ll know how life-changing zip-off car seat padding is.

And while the focus might be on the outside and its easy-to-clean convenience, don’t let that zip-off padding fool you — this car seat has a full-steel frame, so it’s built to last.

It also has a cinching tightener with simple-to-understand straps (they’re numbered to tell you which to pull) and a belt-tightening system that makes it easy to position, tighten, and lock the belt into place.

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The 3 Carseat Installation Must-Do Before Baby Arrives

baby in car with dreams in window

If you’re anything like many of today’s expectant mothers, the last few months of pregnancy are spent “nesting” — or the overwhelming desire to get your home ready before your new bundle of joy arrives home. As such, you’ve probably tackled everything from setting up the crib to safeguarding each and every electrical outlet — and your hospital bag has been packed for weeks.

But the last thing on your list — and arguably the most important — should be making sure your car is ready on a moment’s notice to head to the hospital. After all, before arriving home for the first time, it will be the first place outside the hospital where your baby will be transported and rest comfortably.

Trust me — you’ll want to make sure everything is in order, so you can buckle your precious cargo into the car seat, without having to worry about engine performance and tire tread. Here are three steps to make sure your new baby is safe, comfortable and happy on that first — and each subsequent — ride in your car.

1. Have Your Car Serviced

The first way to ensure your baby remains safe is to get your vehicle serviced and ensure it’s in perfect running order. Your best options include taking your car to a trusted mechanic or your dealership to get a full tune-up.

While ensuring the motor and battery are in tip-top condition, one other area to pay particular attention to is your tires. If the tread is low or the tires have signs of dry rot, you should replace them with a trusted brand like Falken, available on reputable websites like TireBuyer.com.

Now, if you find yourself apprehensive about buying tires online, you can rest assured knowing they will be shipped directly to your mechanic or dealership for proper installation.

2. Purchase and Install a Car Seat

The car seat is the most important piece of safety equipment you can buy for your child. For a newborn, you’ll need an appropriately-sized infant car seat. One surefire, trusted option includes checking out the website for Consumer Reports for up-to-date recommendations on top brands and models.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how great your car seat is if it isn’t installed properly. Case in point: A 2011 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that almost half of all car seats are installed or used incorrectly.

For tips and instructions on proper car seat installation and usage, consult websites like TheCarSeatLady.com. If you’re still unsure, schedule an in-person appointment with a trusted expert.

3. Stock Up on Accessories

There are a number of car accessories that will make car rides more enjoyable for you and your little one. Some of these top accessories include:

  • Mirrors. Your baby will be seatbelted into a rear-facing car seat for at least two years, which means you won’t be able to see their cute, little face unless you buy a small mirror from a company like Cozy Greens and 4U2C to attach to the backseat headrest. Plus, as your bundle of joy gets older, the mirror will also act as a source of entertainment; after all, babies love seeing their own reflections.
  • Sunshades. You’ll also want to protect your infant from the heat and harmful sun exposure with a window shade for their side of the car. Sunshades, like those sold by Munchkin and EZ-Bugz, come in two basic forms: static shades that stick to the window or retractable shades that can be pulled down while in use.
  • Seat Protectors. Your car will take a lot of abuse from both the car seat and your child over the years. However, purchasing a secure seat protector from a retailer like Brica, Munckin and Summer Infant will help save your backseat from any car seat pressure points — and from the many, many spills in your infant’s future.