Our Top Pick for 2018: Graco 4ever All-in-One Car Seat
Read our full review.
Car seats are a required piece of baby equipment but that can be a big investment. Because they can convert from rear facing to forward facing your investment can last for years. While expense is a consideration, safety is always a top priority with baby equipment.
When you put your child in a car seat, you should be able to trust that they will be kept safe. Choosing a car seat requires examining many features like price, size, installation and accessories. There are also features that will make the seat easier to use and adjust, making it more convenient. Finding the right combination will lead to the right model for you and your child.
Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:
|Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Studio, One Size||2,149 Reviews||from $239.45||Buy on Amazon|
|Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, Everest Pink||2,238 Reviews||from $110.50||Buy on Amazon|
|Britax Roundabout G4.1 Convertible Car Seat, Silverlake||542 Reviews||from $259.99||Buy on Amazon|
|Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat, Maxwell||1,222 Reviews||from $43.20||Buy on Amazon|
#1. Graco 4ever All-in-One Car Seat
The Graco 4ever All-in-One (4ever)Car Seat has the ability to work for your child for the entirety of their car seat years. It will work from the time they are a newborn until they have reached the upper limits of requiring a booster seat. The usage specifications and dimensions are as follows:
- Rear-facing from 4 – 40lbs
- Forward-facing toddler seat from 20 – 65lbs
- Booster seat in high-back, belt positioning from 30 – 100lbs
- Backless belt positioning from 40 – 120lbs
- 24 in. H x 20 in. W x 21.5 in. D
- Weighs 23lbs.
Car seats can be difficult to adjust, which for parents can be the difference between getting to work on time and showing up 10 minutes late. The 4ever has the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System that allows you to adjust the height of the headrest and harness in one motion using only one hand. This system does not require rethreading the straps, saving you time and frustration. Correct adjustment is a key feature in the safety of your child. Additionally, when adjustments are easy, you aren’t going to try to skip them to save time.
A convertible car seat needs to be able to accommodate a growing child. The headrest system found with this car seat features 10 headrest positions to allow for a proper, comfortable fit . The needs of a newborn are different than those of a toddler and to meet those needs you will need several different headrest positions. The high number of headrest positions will mean you child can be comfortable no matter their age or size.
There are six recline positions so that you can keep your child in the correct position at all times. Keeping the angle of recline adjusted correctly is particularly important in the newborn period. Until the spine and muscles become stronger, newborns must be kept in a reclined position to keep their airways open. As your child gets older, the recline adjustment can be used to keep them comfortable while traveling.
Newborns require extra head support until their muscles and bones mature. When riding in a car seat, it can be necessary to stabilize a newborn’s head to keep it from flopping. The 4ever has inserts for head stabilization. You will not have to roll receiving blankets to use as stabilizers. However, some parents have noted that the fabric on the inserts is not as soft as they would have liked for a newborn.
Installing a car seat can make even the most athletic parent break into a sweat. The 4ever can be installed using your car’s LATCH system or seatbelt. Getting the correct angle of the seat is important for young babies that cannot hold their heads up. A newborn’s chin should not touch their chest. This seat has an audible click when the seat is adjusted to a safe angle. It also has a visual indicator so you can see when you’ve got it properly adjusted.
The 4ever also comes with the InRight LATCH system. This system has a hook that does not require you to put your hands between seats to secure the car seat to the anchors. Press a button and the hook opens. Releasing the latch is as simple as pushing the button again. This can speed up the installation and removal of the car seat. When not using the LATCH system, you can store the straps used for the LATCH system in the integrated harness storage compartment. These extra straps won’t be flapping around in the car.
Eating in the car seems to be an unavoidable hazard of having children. Water, juice, jelly, crackers and fruit snacks tend to find their way into the car seat, especially all the little cracks and crevices. The 4ever has a removable seat cover for easy cleaning. It does not require you to rethread the straps to remove or reattach it. The seat cover is machine washable making it even more convenient for you. Some parents prefer to have an extra seat cover that they can use when washing a soiled one. Straps and buckles may be cleaned a damp cloth.
To hold all those snacks and drinks, it also has two cup holders. Cup holders provide a place to stash food and drinks so that they don’t end up dumped in the child’s lap or tucked behind them. They can keep their snacks and drinks easily accessible, making both you and your child happy.
While the 4ever has many convenient features, safety is still the first concern. It is made with energy absorbing EPS foam and a steel reinforced frame. It has also been side-impact tested using only its 5 point harness system and passes or exceeds all U.S. requirements for a child safety seat.
As your child grows, you can remove parts of the car seat to keep it appropriate for their current stage of development. For example, once you child has reached the correct height and weight you can remove the back to convert it to a booster seat. Once converted, it puts the child at the correct height to use the seatbelt and keeps the seatbelt in the correct position across the lap.
The 4ever can be used by your child until they weigh 120lbs., giving it the longest use of any car seat.
#2. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat
The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat (Grow and Go) has some unique features that set it apart and add convenience for parents and caregivers. Usage specifications are as follows:
- Rear-facing 5 – 40lbs.
- Forward facing 22 – 65lbs.
- Belt-positioning booster 40 – 100lbs.
- 24in. H x 19in. W x 23.8in D
- Weighs 18.7lbs.
Getting your child securely adjusted in the car seat each time you get in the car can be time consuming and frustrating. Winter months can be difficult because of bulky coats that require harness adjustments. While you busy adjusting the harness your child is exposed to cold temperatures. The Grow and Go uses a Quick Fit Harness that allows you to adjust the headrest and harness in one step. The Quick Fit Harness works in both the rear and front-facing positions.
A feature unique to the Grow and Go are the harness holders found above the armrests. They hold the harness straps in an open position to make it easier for you to get your child into the car seat. This convenient feature means you don’t have to push or roll your baby around to get the straps out from underneath them. It can save you time and keeps things comfortable for your baby.
The challenge of creating an all-in-one car seat is meeting the unique needs of each stage of childhood. With the Grow and Go, you can use their grow-with-baby pillows to keep your newborn’s head safe and secure. The pillows can be removed once your child has outgrown them.
Getting the appropriate recline angle is important for the safety of your infant. With three recline levels, you can keep your baby safe and comfortable. The Grow and Go is also designed to give more space between the front of the car seat and the seat in front of it. Depending on the recline level, it can provide up to seven inches of added leg room to adults riding in the car. Many users liked the extra leg room, but would have preferred to have more than three recline levels.
Keeping a car seat clean is no easy accomplishment. Babies and toddlers leave water, milk, juice, crackers, and fruit snacks on their car seats. Not to mention diaper leaks and the occasional accident once they start potty training. With the Grow and Go, you get the ultimate in cleaning ease. The seat cover is removable without having to rethread the straps. It can be cleaned in the washing machine and is safe to use in the dryer. This car seat can save parents from the frustration of trying to wipe out their child’s latest mess.
Another convenient feature that can help manage snacks and drinks is the dual built-in cup holders. Kids are always looking for a place to stash their drink and crackers. Two cup holders provide a place for both. When kids have a place to put their food and drinks they are less likely to stuff it behind them in their seat or try to manage both at the same time which can result in spills.
Installation is simple. The Grow and Go weighs less than the 4ever by five pounds. A lighter weight, easy to install car seat will work well for families that need to frequently transfer the car seat from one car to another.
The Grow and Go passes all safety requirements.
#3. Britax Roundabout G4.1 Convertible Car Seat
The Britax Roundabout G4.1 Convertible Car Seat (Roundabout) provides good protection with convenient features. The usage specifications are:
- Rear-facing 5 – 40lbs.
- Forward-facing 20 – 55lbs.
- 18.5in.W x 26in. H x 21in. D
Getting your child in their car seat can quickly become complicated as you untangle straps while holding your child and diaper bag. Once you get your child in the car seat, adjusting the straps becomes another puzzle to solve. The Roundabout has a tangle-free 5 point harness to make this difficult process easier. With a quick-adjust, 2-position buckle that adjusts outward as your child grows, you can quickly get your child strapped safely into the car seat.
Accommodating the needs of an infant all the way up to preschooler or older requires special design considerations. One of those considerations is how to keep an infant, snug and safe in the same car seat as a 55lbs. child. The Roundabout uses a removable body pillow to provide the extra support needed for infants. Once your child has out grown the pillow it can easily be removed.
Some children like to ride in the car, while others hate getting into their car seat. You cannot always control which your child prefers, but you can provide a comfortable place for them to ride. The more comfortable you can make it, the more likely they are to enjoy their car seat. Plush fabrics, that users report is soft on a baby’s skin, and foam padding are used in the Roundabout to make a well-cushioned ride for your child.
The padding lies atop the deep foam-lined shell that fills the car seat. This foam absorbs the shock of an impact. A steel frame works in conjunction with the foam for maximum impact absorption and protection. There is extra padding around the head for added safety and protection of debris during a side impact.
The LATCH system revolutionized the ease of installing car seats. But even the LATCH system has proven to be difficult at times because parents have to reach in with a hook and get it attached to the anchor. All of this is done while being unable to see the anchor because of its location deep between the seat cushions. Then to remove the car seat, parents had to reach and blindly unlatch again.
The Roundabout incorporates technology that makes this process easy and simple. The mechanism used to attach the car seat has a button that can be pressed to open the hook, allowing you to connect to the anchor without putting your hands between the seats. When it’s time to remove the car seat, press the button and the anchor is released for simple removal. An audible click can be heard when the connectors are secured properly.
The Roundabout has a few other unique safety features that set it apart, such as the tethers used to attach the car seat. They use a unique v-shaped design to minimize the amount of seat rotation while driving. Britax uses patent-pending, stage release stitches that slow down forward motion during impact. The base is also designed to absorb the force of the impact.
#4. Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat
The Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat (Tribute) has the basic features you need at a price that makes it extremely affordable. The specifications are as follows:
- Rear-facing 5 – 40lbs.
- Forward-facing 22 – 40lbs.
- 25.2in. H x 18.5in. W x 22in. D.
- Weighs 9.11lbs
This car seat is designed to be lightweight and compact while still providing the safety that you need for your child. It is, by far, the smallest model reviewed. The compact size works well for small vehicles, families that require multiple car seats, and those that may not use a car seat every day such as grandparents or occasional caregivers.
The Tribute’s harness adjustment is placed upfront, making it is simple to get your child in the seat and adjust from the front. This is especially nice in the winter months when children have thick, warm layers. It also incorporates four different harness positions, with a standard five-point harness, so that the harness can grow with your child. There are also 2 crotch buckle positions to allow further adjustment as your child grows.
Evenflo goes above and beyond the standard safety requirements by making the Tribute strong enough to absorb twice the levels of energy required by law. They use an energy-absorbing foam liner to reduce the effects of impact. Their testing also includes the integrity of the car seat under high and low temperatures.
The car seat can recline while backward facing. However, there is only one level of adjustment. Because of its small size and lightweight, it gives more options to those that travel frequently or need a smaller convertible seat. But that convenience comes at a price. There are not the convenience features such as cup holders or extra padding for an infant. To use safely with a newborn you may need to roll receiving blankets to place on either side of the head to prevent too much movement.
For easy cleaning, the seat pad can be removed, machine washed, and tumble dried on low. All other parts can be wiped clean with mild soap and water.
A car seat is the ultimate in baby safety equipment. Your number one concern for a car seat must be the protection and safety of the child. It goes without saying that any car seat you consider should pass all required U.S. safety tests. This may eliminate used or older models, which aren’t recommended anyway.
The 5 point harness should be adjustable to give the appropriate fit for the child. The harness straps should sit at the same level as your child’s shoulder. In a convertible seat, there should be several adjustment levels as the seat is designed to fit from a newborn up to at least 40lbs child.
Side impact features are fairly new to the car seat scene but are not standard in car seat design. Extra side impact protection is always a good idea to have in a car seat.
Another aspect of car seat safety is the ability to get the seat adjusted to the right angle while both rear facing and forward facing. The car seat needs to be at the correct angle while rear facing so that your baby’s chin does not touch their chest or sit uncomfortably backward. Take notice of what features are included to help with this sometimes difficult task. Some car seats have a level on the side that shows when the seat is correctly angled and others have an audible signal.
Ease of Adjustability
Adjusting harness straps, head rests, and buckle location may happen more often that you might realize. Depending on your children’s clothing you may have to adjust the harness straps every day. Because you will have to adjust often, it is more convenient to have an easy adjust system.
Some car seats have to be removed from the vehicle and the harness straps detached to move the straps to a higher or lower hole. This is not only inconvenient and time consuming, but must be done properly so that the harness is reattached correctly. Car seats that can be adjusted from the front will be the easiest to use. There are some models that allow you to adjust harness position and headrest at the same time for added convenience.
The ability to recline is another adjustability factor to take into consideration. Safety is always the first concern, so the car seat should be able to recline so that a newborn’s chin does not fall to their chest. Having multiple recline positions will also allow you to better adjust the car seat for your child’s comfort. The seat of your car may require you to have the car seat at a certain angle to fit properly as well. So the more recline positions you have, the more comfortable your child will be and the more flexible the car seat will be to use.
Ease of Installation
Installing a car seat can sometimes feel like you’re in a wrestling match. It can be difficult to get a large car seat correctly installed, especially if you have a child waiting beside you to get in the car. It makes sense to look for a seat that comes with features that make installation easier.
Car seats come equipped to use a car’s LATCH system or seatbelt. A nice feature is a LATCH tether that can be attached without struggling to find the anchor between the seats. By pressing a button it opens a hook, which you can then slide between the seats and attached to the anchor. The hook can be released by pressing the same button again.
The way in which you plan to use the car seat can help you narrow down your choices. Those with smaller vehicles or who need to fit several car seats in the back seat should look for a smaller, narrower model. The same rule applies to families that may often need to transfer a car seat between vehicles. A seat that is lightweight and easy to attach and remove will be the most practical. If you plan to leave the car seat in the same vehicle for the duration of its use, comfort, styling, and size will be largely based on personal preference.
There is no way around it, car seats get dirty. Food, drinks, sunscreen and whatever else your child plays with in their car seat gets on the lining, straps, and buckle. Car seats with a removable seat cover will be the easiest to keep clean. Look for a seat cover that can be machine washed and dried. The most convenient covers can be removed without having to rethread the harness. It may also be worth purchasing a second seat cover to use while the other is being cleaned.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
A quality convertible car seat will save you money over the course of several years as you won’t have to buy multiple car seats to meet your growing child’s needs. There are good models in every price range. It is always a good idea to check user reviews before purchasing a seat to get a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the car seat.
As you examine your lifestyle and your preferences you will be able to narrow down the search to a model that will work best for you.