Car seats come in three main types which include rear-facing car seats, front-facing seats, and booster seats. As your child grows, you may need to swap out your old ones for safety and comfort reasons. You can avoid some of the expense related to changing them out by purchasing a 3-in-1 seat for your child. This model essentially grows with your child.
Infants and kids up to about 40 pounds need to ride in rear-facing car seats. Kids from nearly two years of age or around 30 pounds to 80 pounds require a front-facing car seat. Booster seats may accommodate kids from about 60 to 100 pounds. Eat seat serves a purpose and works for a specific age or weight.
Check your local and state laws to make sure you’re using the correct seat. States and some cities may have regulations that differ slightly. Make sure you follow the laws to help keep your child safe. As a general rule, and where the law permits it, you may stop using a car seat when your child:
Again, check the laws in your area. Some places may allow your child to ride in the vehicle without a car seat if the seat belt fits them correctly. However, for safety reasons, follow car seat best practices and recommended uses. Don’t take chances with your child’s safety.
If you do a quick search for the best 3-in-1 car seats on Google or Amazon, you may find the results a little overwhelming. At least a few hundred seats from several manufacturers always show up in the top results. Sadly, the marketing spin put on these car seats won’t protect your child if you have a car accident. Any seat that made it on this list needed to meet specific criteria first.
The first things we considered were independent studies and tests. Most notably, the rating given to the seats by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) helped us narrow down the list to almost a dozen car seats. The grade the Department of Transportation gives car seats is based on their tests along with results from independent studies.
Next, we looked at customer feedback and opinions of each seat. Owners use the seats, and while they may not be able to test them in crashes, users know which seats are comfortable and easy to use or install. A top-rated car seat is not much good if your child won't stay in the seat or cries from discomfort regularly. The seat also needs to be easy to move to another vehicle.
Car seats need to be made from high-quality materials so that they last through a few children if you choose to have another kid or pass the seat down to someone. The material the seat is made from also lets you know how easy the seat might be to keep clean as well. If you’re a parent, you know car seats can wreak after a couple of years on duty.
The cost of each seat didn’t play a significant role in the selection process because safety doesn’t have a bottom line. That said, we urge you to look at everything else about the car seats instead of letting your budget dictate the winner. However, we realize everyone must operate within their means.
Remember to evaluate each car seat based on your needs. Evaluate how much room you have to work within your vehicle and consider any future vehicle changes. If you plan to have one child and stop, you may not need the most durable or easy to clean car seat available. However, you will probably use the seat for two to ten years, so choose the one you think you can keep clean.
You can order this car seat on Amazon. It’s a budget-friendly option that may be all you need. If you’re concerned about facing your child forward, this car seat lets you keep them in a rear-facing position longer. It’s rated for up to 50 pounds while in the rear-facing position. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a rear-facing car seat for at least two years.
If you’ve done any research, you know the budget on this car seat is considerably lower than most brands. Don’t let that fool you; this car seat got packed with features including:
The extra legroom means your child won’t feel cramped as they grow even if you leave them in a rear-facing position until their second birthday. The headrest offers ten different positions, so you can keep them comfortable. The six position recline aids in comfort as well. The removable cup holders are easy to keep clean, so no more sticky cup bottoms.
The car seat weighs in at around 18 pounds. That may seem light, but it may be difficult to fit three of these onto the backseat of smaller cars. Some owners also noted that the headrest might obscure your view through the rear windshield. This seems only to be an issue with smaller vehicles as well. That said, these are common problems with many 3-in-1 car seats.
We like the extra rear-facing weight the seat allows, and the car seat is easy to install or remove. All the padding is removable and machine washable which is a bonus as well. Another bonus is the extra legroom which many rear-facing car seats fail to provide. In short, your child will be comfortable in this car seat.
The cover is a little annoying to remove when you get ready to wash it. He seat is too big for preemies, but most regular car seats are too big for them. Some owners reported issues installing the seat in its rear-facing configuration. The main complaint was that the buckles were hard to tighten, and the restraints were difficult to position for older kids.
You can order this car seat on Amazon. Safety 1st is the company behind the baby on board signs from the early 1980s. They made excellent car safety products for kids and parents then, and they haven’t slacked off any at all. This car seat is an affordable option that they built with safety in mind above all else.
It’s loaded with features that help keep your child safe and comfortable. The most notable features include:
It’s not as feature-rich as some of the seats on this list, but it comes from a respected brand with a long history of exceeding safety standards. We were unhappy to learn the cup holders are built-in which makes it more difficult to clean them. However, that’s the most significant flaw we found in the design of the car seat.
Some owners complained about the size of the seat and noted that is was difficult to remove without some help if you install it in compact cars. Some vehicles with narrow seats can’t accommodate the width of the seat which makes it difficult to get the seatbelt fastened without an extra set of hands. The chest clip is too broad and may cause discomfort for smaller infants.
We like the removable cover because it’s actually easy to remove and wash. Most covers will try the patience of even the most easy-going people when they need to remove them for washing. Aside from user-specific issues related to car size or child size, the most notable problem we found with this car seat is the built-in cupholders. It may be challenging to keep them clean and gunk-free.
You can order this car seat on Amazon. Britax offers several car seat options, but this is the best one among their 3-in-1 car seats. Frankly, all their seats are high-quality seats, but this one wins the top prize in our opinion. It’s loaded with excellent safety and comfort features like:
0We like everything about this car seat for the most part. It's easy to install and approved for use in aircraft as well. The rear-facing weight is a little lower than necessary to accommodate some kids all the way to their second birthday. However, this only applies to infants that are a bit larger than what might be considered average.
It comes in 18 color combinations if you want to make it match the interior of your vehicle. This isn’t a safety feature, but this seat is loaded with extra safety features as well. The steel-reinforced frame and side impact protection exceed recommended safety standards. It also sports 14 harness positions and seven recline positions to help keep your little one comfortable and safely strapped into the seat.
Like most 3-in-1 car seats, this seat is large and may not fit in some smaller vehicles. The headrest will probably get in the way of your view through the rear windows as well. The installation system is prone to get stuck and requires a lot of force to release the seat so you can move it. Crumbs and debris build up in the unprotected installation fasteners which makes it freeze up if not regularly cleaned.
You can order this seat on Amazon. You may find this model in several varieties. Evenflo put a lot of time and research into improving the car seat over the past few years. The result is a variety of models that are nearly the same car seat. That said, this is our pick from their lineup of 3-in-1 car seats for comfort and safety. It’s no slouch on features and includes several like:
It weighs around 25 pounds so that it may be a little on the heavy side. The weight is due to the steel-reinforced frame and extra impact resistances built into the car seat. However, the size may prevent the car seat from fitting securely in smaller vehicles or anything with narrow seats. Oddly, since aircraft seats tend to be tight, this seat is FAA approved for use in aircraft.
Most car seat covers can be removed, with some effort, and machine washed. This one speeds up the process because you can throw it in the washing machine then straight into the dryer. You don’t need to wait for it to air dry. This perk may seem insignificant, but it's essential for anyone that's on the go a lot or simply hates waiting. No one wants to deal with a frustrating car seat cover either way.
The cup holders are elastic, but you can’t remove them. You can fit large cups into them. We harp on cup holders because the bottom part of the car seat and the cupholders catch all the crud and debris your child creates. Every child is messy and being able to remove and clean the cupholders, and the car seat cover is essential. Car seats with fixed cup holders lose a few points with us.
Some owners claim the car seat is a little short and their child outgrew it before the recommended age or weight gets reached. This seems like a problem that specific to a few kids but not a complaint that all owners share. You may need to use a pool noodle or rolled up towel to support the seat if you choose to recline it fully. Keep in mind that this is a flaw shared by many car seats.
Buying a car seat to keep your child safe in the event of a car crash is more important than any budget. Luckily, most of the car seats on our list are budget-friendly, although they may not seem that way at first. High-quality car seats are not cheap in the first place. That said, if you consider that you’ll use it for nearly a decade and possibly use it with a second child, the budget seems more reasonable.
If you’re concerned with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation about keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat for at least their first two years, the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat is probably your best option. It comes with one of the highest weight ratings for a rear-facing car seat position, and the budget is lower than less optimal choices.
Our overall pick for the best 3-in-1 car seat is the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat. It’s hard to ignore the excellent safety record of every product the company produces. It also has all the features we want to see in a car seat to reassure us that the seat will last and is easy to use along with providing excellent protection if you’re involved in a car crash.
Related Post: The Best Convertible Car Seats
Frankly, every car seat on this list is an excellent choice. Visit a local department store or another retailer that carries car seats and test them out before you order one online. Check the straps and make sure you can work everything efficiently. Pay close attention to the installation method to make sure it will fit in your car quickly, and you can secure it without help.
Like we mentioned previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a rear-facing car seat for your child’s first two years. However, depending on what you read, some experts agree with the AAP but also recommend using a dedicated infant car seat for your child’s first years. However, there’s no research or evidence to suggest this practice is necessary.
Plan your choices around the size of your car and your child. A 3-in-1 car seat may not be the best choice for compact cars or vehicles with narrow seats. The seat will be too tall, and the seatbelt will always be under the seat.
Whether you choose the overall best from our list or one of the more budget-friendly options, you can feel safe strapping your child into any of these 3-in-1 car seats. We took the time to research every aspect of car seat safety and find the seats that provide the most protection while keeping your child comfortable. Since they’re 3-in-1 seats, they also remove the need to buy new seats as your child grows.