Choosing a Convertible Car Seat
Choosing a Convertible Car Seat for an Infant/Toddler
If an infant seat doesn't meet your needs, the alternative
is a convertible seat, which accommodates both infants and toddlers through a
single purchase. That's because a convertible seat, which is required for
children over 20 pounds, can accommodate infants from 5 to sometimes as high as
35 pounds when used in the rear-facing position.
Unlike infant seats, convertibles cannot be used as carriers
or rockers, and are not compatible with stroller systems.
Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics now advises parents to keep toddlers
in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height
or weight limit for the car seat, which can be found on the back of the
When your child outgrows her infant seat, the right car seat
for your child is a convertible car seat. Convertible seats are so called
because they can generally be used rear-facing for infants,
then converted to a forward-facing position for use with toddlers.
Once you decide which type of seat you plan to purchase,
your next step is to determine which features are important to you and your
child. These basic features should be present on any convertible seat you
- Up-front harness
- A minimum of two
- Plastic belt guides
in the pad, to make harness adjustment easier.
Once you've considered the basics, you'll want to think
about these aspects of the seat (more-detailed descriptions follow):
- Comfort, quality,
and coverage of the seat pad
- Pillows and inserts
- Belt-track system
for easy installation
- Seat-saver base
- Up-front recline
- Upgraded LATCH system
Comfort, Quality, and Coverage of the Seat Pad
Comfort is the most important aspect of the seat pad. Try
prodding and poking various seat pads, and imagine yourself riding in the seat.
Which seat would you prefer to sit in during an eight-hour trip to Grandma's?
The quality of the seat's material will often vary depending on the cost of the
seat. More-expensive seats generally have plusher, more durable fabric that
will hold up to wear and tear better and will fade less. Finally, you'll want
to check out how much of the plastic seat shell the pad covers. More coverage
should offer more comfort for your child, of course, and will be more
aesthetically pleasing. But the more material used in the seat, and the better
the quality of the material, the higher the seat's cost.
Pillows and Inserts
Optional pillows and lumbar inserts also increase your
child's comfort. A convertible seat must be big enough to accommodate up to a
40-pound child; therefore, lumbar supports and pillows are available on some
models so that a toddler as small as 20 pounds also can be comfortable.
All convertible seats recline, but more-expensive ones have
the seat-recline adjustment conveniently located at the front of the seat. Some
even allow you to adjust the recline without releasing the seat belt. You'll
also want to look for the number of recline positions (some seats offer more
Belt-Track System for Easy Installation
Moving a car seat from car to car can be time-consuming,
especially with the early-morning day-care crunch. A few seats, such as all
harnessed Evenflo seats, offer the BeltTrac™ System which allows easy access to
the vehicle's seat belt from the front of the car seat, eliminating the need
for you to pull the vehicle's belt through the back of the seat. The best way
to understand what a BeltTrac System offers is to install into your car a
friend's car seat, or some store display models, then try a seat with a BeltTrac.
You'll see that the difference is worth it.
When installed in the same position in a car for many
months, some car seats leave indentations and wear marks. To avoid this, you'll
want to look for a car seat that offers a seat-saving base, which reduces wear
and tear on your auto seat cushions.
A key reason to consider a convertible seat for your infant
is the monetary savings you will realize by purchasing only one seat. In order
to expose yourself to options and features you otherwise might have missed,
make price your last consideration when purchasing a convertible seat. After
all, $10 or $20 extra could provide you and your child with features that will
save you time and provide more comfort for your baby. (And since your baby
could spend up to four years in this seat, time and comfort are important