The Convertible Car Seat: A Shopping Guide (video)

The Convertible Car Seat: A Shopping Guide (video)

If your baby is closing in on their first birthday, you’ve probably started thinking about their next car seat.  As a mom of 3 and a CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician), I’ve realized there are a few must-have features. If you’re shopping for a new convertible car seat, I hope this helps your decision.

What is a convertible car seat?

A convertible car seat is the next seat after the infant car seat (“the bucket”).   The convertible car seat was originally designed for a toddler, rear-facing & front-facing. Today, some convertible car seats include a position for infants & an integrated booster seat.  These seats are called All-in-1’s and are advertised to fit your baby from birth to about 8 or 9 years old.

Does expensive mean safer?

Nope! All car seats sold in Canada must pass the Ministry of Transportation’s requirements.  It’s a pass or fail, so it’s either safe or it’s not.  The price tag reflects the “bells & whistles”, the types of fabric and the accessories.

My Fave 5 Features: (see video below!)

#1) Machine-washable Fabric.  I promise, this will save your sanity!  On average, kids are in the convertible car seat from about 12 month-ish until 5-ish yrs old (maybe until 8 or 9, if there’s a booster feature).  That’s a solid 4+ years, during the baby vomit/blowout, food pouches and potty-training phases.  That’s a lot of gross!  Machine-washable fabric is a game-changer and a sanity-keeper.

#2) Machine-washable Fabric

#3) Machine-washable Fabric.  I'm cheating, but seriously, you will thank me.  

Convertible Car Seat

#4)  Adjustable headrest.  This allows you to adjust the height of the harness (at the shoulders) without having to rethread the harness.  This is super handy when you realize that junior had a growth spurt and the height of the harness is too low.  In my case, sometimes my daughter would hop into her younger brother’s car seat and it was a cinch to adjust for her height.  

Rethreading the harness takes time, not to mention you’ll have to uninstall & reinstall the seat!  

#5)  Adjustable recline. Let me put my CPST hat on. The younger a baby is, the more recline (“lying down”) they should be.  The older they get, the more upright they like to be. The seats that don’t have an adjustable recline will only have one position 

Notable Mentions:

** The installation method.  Some manufacturers have created really interesting ways of installing the seat. The easier, the better, especially if you’ll be using the seat in multiple vehicles.

** Cupholders, as a mom, are a really nice feature.


Disclaimer #1) The seat needs to fit in your vehicle!  That’s a deal-breaker and maybe should’ve been mentioned at the top of this blog.  Depending on the size of your vehicle & the number of seats you have, it might not fit.  Obviously, the fancy features won’t matter in this case.  Tip; find a store that will allow you to try the floor model.

Disclaimer #2)  Consider your lifestyle & budget.   If the only time Junior uses his car seat is when you go to the grocery store once a week, you might not need all these features, especially if your budget is stretched.  Remember, the inexpensive seat is as safe as the expensive seat.  In our case, we do long trips regularly and a lot of highway driving.  For my family, it was worth the investment in comfort in our family vehicle.  We did however,  buy cheaper seats for our second vehicle.  

Well, I hope this makes shopping a little easier.




Natalie Therrien

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