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Best Convertible Car Seats for Small Cars

Convertible car seats sound like something straight out of the Jetson's, which was a futuristic cartoon where everybody was flying around space).  Does it become a stroller? (which actually does exist)

Now that you've become a parent and are in on all the jargon, you know that convertible seats are usually the second stage of seats that your baby grows into.  But what if you have a small car?  Small cars are great! They are often more affordable than larger vehicles, have better gas mileage, and are better for the environment. Unfortunately, owning a small car does make finding a car seat more challenging.

Many car seats are large and bulky, especially the convertible ones. When you place the car seat in the back seat of your small car, you will quickly discover the car seems even smaller than you originally thought.

Suppose you're looking to travel light in a city or on an airplane, then you also need a compact convertible car seat.   Fortunately, car seat manufacturers do not want parents to have to give up their small cars for minivans or risk their precious child’s safety.  While your options will be more limited, this may actually work in your favor. You can  eliminate any of the larger car seats from the baby registry and focus your time deciding between the best convertible car seats for small cars.

There are also a few gems in here that can be used from infant sizes on, which means you don't have to buy another seat later!

Key Criteria For Compact Convertible Car Seats

When shopping for a car seat for a small car, the first thing to look for should be safety. Typically you will not need to lose sleep over this, as long as you don't have a second hand seat.  Car seats must pass rigorous safety tests before they even hit the market. If you want to check a car seat’s safety ranking, visit Consumer Reports Car Seat Ratings.  You can also check for recalls of a particular model.

Next, size matters when shopping for car seats for small cars. As we mentioned previously, you should go ahead and eliminate the bulkier car seats from your list. Pay attention to the size of your vehicle and the car seat dimensions. For instance, if you own a mini, then you will be much more limited when it comes to finding a car seat with dimensions small enough to fit.

Additionally, check for ease of use. This means looking for how the car seat is installed, how the belts and closures function, as well as cleaning and care instructions. When it comes to the best car seats for small cars, you need to make sure that the car seat not only fits but that it also is easy to put in and remove from the vehicle.

Finally, consider your budget. Car seats vary in costs. You should look for the best car seat for your small car within your budget. Thankfully, there are affordable car seats that will fit in small cars and are just as safe as their more expensive counterparts.

Chicco Next Fit Convertible Car Seat - "The Reclining Seat "

  • Removeable infant insert
  • Easy installation
  • 9 different angles
  • Car seat covering difficult to take apart

Price $$​$

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The Chicco Next Fit is a small car seat coming in at 20.5 inches front-to-back, 19 inches wide, and 26 inches tall. In addition to its small size, this car seat also passes the small car tests because it can be installed at nine different angles. When you need the extra leg space up front, you will be extremely thankful for these additional angles. As a convertible car seat, you can also use it rear facing or forward facing.

The car seat covering is thankfully machine washable, but quite difficult to take apart, at least the first time.  This video will show you how to take it off.  Otherwise it might take a few minutes to find all the spas etc.

Britax USA Boulevard Convertible Car Seat - "The Clicktight Strap Seat"

  • Well known, respected brand in the US
  • Clicktight strap feature
  • Machine Washable fabric
  • Supposed to be for 5lbs+ but in practice may not be suitable for newborns

Price $$​

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The Britax USA Boulevard is a compact convertible car seat that will grow with your child. In addition to using it rear facing and forward facing, it also includes multiple buckle and harness adjustments, so you can make it the proper fit for your child’s height and weight. Britax car seats are well-known for their ease of use. For instance, this car seat is easy to install, use, and clean.

When comparing the Britax Marathon to the Boulevard, the Boulevard has more padding.  It also has the click tight feature, which means you pull the strap until it fits, taking the guesswork out of securing your baby.

  • Includes an infant insert
  • Suits tall kids
  • Not as small as others

Price $$​

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The Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 works well for most small cars, but it is larger than others on our list. The seat measures 21.2 x 22.8 x 29.5, with weight range is 9-40 lbs rear facing, 22-70 lbs forward facing. However it does include a comfortable tiny fit insert for infants, which is removable.   Height up to 52 inches suits tall kids!

3 different recline positions are available, and when taking the seat pad off for cleaning there's no need to rethread the harness.  The seat is self described suitable for up to 7 year olds!  Not sure 7 year olds sit in car seats, but if they did, it could be for added safety, and this would be the one!

Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat - "Best All Around Car Seat for Small Cars "

  • Small and narrow
  • Low sides and deep recline, ideal for extended rear facing use
  • Folds flat for storage
  • Great for extended use, Converts to booster for children 50-120 pounds
  • Sometimes needs additional angle adjuster pad to fit because it's tall

Price $$​$

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The Diono Radian RXT is frequently chosen by small car owners because it is a smaller, narrower convertible car seat. Product dimensions are 16 x 17 x 28.5 inches. This car seat is pricier than other car seats, but comes with great functionality. It is an FAA approved car seat slim enough that 3 supposedly can fit across a mid size car.  Installation is based on the LATCH system.

Multifunctional, this car seat can be used on airplanes, and it can be used rear facing, forward facing, and as a booster. Plus, it also folds flat and can be worn as a backpack if straps or a carry bag are purchased  – talk about a space saver!  The item weight is 28lbs.

Infant head and body cushions (which come with purchase) allow usage of this car seat from birth.  For safety the Diono also allows children to stay rear facing for longer, from 5 lbs to 45lbs (44" in height).  The seat is engineered with a steel alloy frame and energy absorbing EPS foam.  Children can be forward facing from 20-65 lbs, or in booster mode 50-120 lbs, ensuring long lasting usage.

It will last 10 years, with a 1 year warranty.

A very narrow recall was announced for a specific profile: child over 65 pounds, forward facing, using 5-point harness, without using the top tether.  However if you buy a new seat you would not get a recall item.

The car seat also comes with a removable cup holder.  An angle adjuster pad (for additional purchase) allows extended rear facing use so that the seat takes up less air space.

$300

Cosco Scenera Next - Lightest weight Convertible Car Seat (Great for Air Travel)

  • Compact width and lightweight
  • FAA approved
  • Great for families with more than one car seat in the backseat
  • Downside is if your baby gets much bigger, easier to outgrow

Price $$​

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Rear facing from 5-40lbs (19" to 40") and forward facing from 22-40 lbs (29" to 43") or at least 2 years old.  The ideal travel carseat, this weighs in at only 7.5 lbs.  Certified for aircraft use, this is a n ideal travel car seat.  This needs to be front facing on the airplane, otherwise a person in front cannot recline.

Product dimensions are 17x22x23.5 inches.

Getting a rolling travelmate also converts this into a compact stroller the child can sit on.

 

Combi Compact Convertible Car Seat - Best Rear-Facing Convertible Car Seat

  • Compact width and lightweight
  • FAA approved
  • Great for families with more than one car seat in the backseat
  • Downside is if your baby gets much bigger, easier to outgrow

Price $$​

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If you're looking for the smallest rear facing car seat, you probably just want the seat to fit in your car.  Having your kid grow out of the car seat would require buying another, so we recommend looking at a convertible car seat instead.

The Combi Coccoro is compact (only 15.5 inches wide and 26 inches tall) car seat. The compact size of this car seat works well in small cars and for parents who will need to fit more than one car seat in the back seat. It is narrow and does not have anything sticking out on the sides to make it wider. Plus, the small size also helps when you use it rear facing because the driver or the front seat passenger will not have to push their seat forward leaving them with ample leg room.

Weighing in at 15.5 lbs, the Combi is also a great lightweight convertible car seat for air travel.  Whether you have a small backseat or looking not to lug a heavy seat, the Combi is a great choice.

Conclusion

Ultimately, go with the car seat that fits best in your small car and is in your price range. While the price tag may seem hefty upfront, keep in mind that this is one piece of baby gear that will get a significant amount of use. There are some ways you can try to get a subsidized or affordable car seat, if you really need the help.  One final suggestion – know the dimensions of your back seat before you head to the store!

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