Finding a Car Seat For a Compact Car
Has your baby outgrown their infant car seats? Are you searching for a convertible car seat to add to your baby registry or feeling the need to buy one because you’ve heard good things about its versatility?
Before you add that car seat to your cart, wait! Did you check the width, depth, height of seat plus the height and weight limits? If you are a compact car owner you may be surprised.
But before you go Googling on an endless journey in search of the best convertible car seat for small cars, check out our list! We have scoured the specs and dug deep into the reviews to find a selection of great car seats that fit in smaller cars.
- Best Overall: Diono Radian 3RXT (2019)
- Best Affordable: Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX
- Best Long Range: Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1
- Best in Comfort: Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One
- Best Luxury: Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat
Why You Need a Compact Convertible Seat
Convertible car seats are game-changers. It is no surprise why many parents are using them in place of stage-by-stage car seats, be it first time parents or experienced ones.
What is a convertible car seat you ask?
A convertible car seat is one that can fit your child through many stages. In most cases, the convertible car seat refers to the fact that it can be used rear-facing or forward-facing. Unlike infant car seat, convertible car seats can often fit a child from the newborn stage through young child, around 50 pounds to 60 pounds. They can be more budget-friendly as just one seat can last through your child’s entire car seat stage.
While convertible car seats are great, they are typically bulkier than standard car seats. This is so that they can grow and expand to fit your little one. Additionally, they do not have removable bases. The base is permanently attached to the car seat, adding to their bulk.
Small convertible car seat for small cars
Due to the bulkiness mentioned above, if you have a compact car you will probably need to consider smaller car seats so that it fits nicely front to back.
Standard convertible car seats might make it impossible to get your child in and out in a compact car. They may also make it tricky for other passengers to enter and exit the vehicle. Finally, regular-sized convertible seats may make it impossible for anyone to sit in the seat in front of where they are installed. This is especially true if the car seat is rear-facing. To save space, consider compact convertible car seats.
How To Choose A convertible car seat for smallER cars
When looking for a convertible car seat for compact car, size is obviously the most important thing to consider. But there are a few other factors to look out for.
Dimensions of the car seat and your car. Consider all aspects of the car seat; the height, depth, width, and weight. Check what they are when the car seat is in its most compact form (infant mode) and also fully expanded. Then, determine the dimensions of your car.
It is important to determine how much room you will need to install it rear-facing and forward-facing. If you have a very tight space, consider a slim type of car seat. These are made to be more narrow and compact front to back and may forgo certain features like cupholders that add bulk.
Car seat age/weight limit. It is always important to know the car seat’s age and weight limits to cater the right one to your child. This is often a must for car seats like an infant car seat or the booster seats but thankfully, with convertible car seats, this isn’t usually too much of an issue.
These seats are made to grow with your child. Most fit newborns through toddlerhood but pay close attention to the upper weight and height limits.
Product weight. These car seats are undoubtedly heavier. This is because of their transition features and the attached base. However, if you plan on moving this seat from car to car, check the product weight. Some models are lighter than others, like the Graco SlimFit model.
Frame material. The frame material of the car seat is very important in the case of a car crash. Steel is more sturdy, but it is also heavier and more expensive. Aluminum is lighter and more affordable but it may not hold up as well in a severe impact.
Direction of use of the car seat. Not all convertible car seats can face both rear and forward. Most can, but not all. If you plan to use your convertible car seat for an infant or young child (under the age of two) then you need a rear-facing seat. Check that it has this capability. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat is one model that has the convertible feature.
Installation method. Compact cars may not have a LATCH system. Or, they may not have more than one LATCH system. Before you purchase a seat make sure that its installation method is compatible with your car. That means making sure that your best car seat can use LATCH and/or a seat belt when secured.
Safety feature(s). There are a variety of safety features available, like a steel frame or side impact protection, like the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite that features a Safety Core system. Perhaps the most vital is a 5-point harness. This type of harness is necessary when using a car seat with young children and infants.
Car seat expiration date. Most convertible car seats have a lifespan of around six years, though it may vary. The long lifespan is so that it can last your child throughout all of their car seat years. Be sure to check the exact expiration date as listed by the manufacturer, especially if you are not buying it new.
Car seat comfort. The final piece is car seat comfort for the rider. Compact convertible car seats may cut down on comfort features to save space. This can include things like seat adjustability/recline and seat booster support like padding and inserts, as seen in Evenflo SureRide DLX. Try to find a balance between comfort and space conservation when picking your best convertible car seat for small cars.
Sixteen Space Saving BEST convertible CAR seatS for small cars
#1 Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat, 2-in-1
First up is the Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat, 2-in-1. This budget-friendly car seat can be either rear-facing or you can put the seat forward-facing. It ranges from 5 pounds to 40 pounds in capacity.
This car seat that is best for small cars has been rigorously crash tested, included side-impact testing, but its sturdy frame is not bulky. Multiple harness positions mean your child will be kept safe and comfortable in this compact seat. The integrated body cushion provides further comfort without all the bulk of the infant insert.
- Only 9 pounds
- Rear-facing or forward-facing
- Compact and light for travel
- Easy to clean
- Difficult to get a secure install
- Harness straps prone to twisting
- Side Impact Tested, Meets or Exceeds All Applicable Federal Safety Standards and Evenflo's Side Impact Test Standard
- Designed and Tested for Structural Integrity at Energy Levels Approximately 2x the Federal Crash Test Standard. Rear Facing Fit Tip is Top of Child Head is at Least 1 Inch Below the Top of the Child Restraint Seat Back
- Multiple Shoulder Harness Positions for Better Fit and Longer Use. Age at Least Two Years of Age
#2 Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat
The Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat is a convertible that transitions between rear and forward facing and is suitable for kids up to 65 pounds. It has awesome space-saving features, like a removable cupholder and a narrow frame. But it is still exceptionally safe and easy to use.
A deep rigid shell and energy-absorbing foam provide parents with peace of mind apart from the ease of use. The Super Cinch LATCH system and Lock Sure seat belt system help you achieve a secure install no matter your method. Parents will also appreciate the zip-off machine washable cover of this compact seat.
- Removable dishwasher safe cupholder
- Zip-off machine washable cover
- Includes LATCH and seat belt install system
- Steel reinforced frame
- Removable newborn positioner
- Loosening harness is difficult
- Zip-off padding is soft and machine washable for comfort and convenience
- Remarkably easy installation with a 9-position ReclineSure leveling system, SuperCinch LATCH tightened and lock sure seat belt tightening system
- Superior Duo Guard protection with a deep rigid shell and EPS energy-absorbing foam, plus a steel-reinforced frame.To clean harness, sponge clean using warm water and mild soap; Air dry
#3 Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat
Next up is the Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat. This compact car seat has been gaining popularity due to its extremely narrow footprint. It is only 17 inches wide, perfect for parents with multiple car seats. It has multiple advanced safety features such as the REACT safety system, crumple aluminum honeycomb technology, and a steel anti-rebound bar.
Children from infant (with the insert) to 65 pounds will enjoy this comfortable seat. Parents will enjoy the fact that it is nearly effortless to install and adjust.
- Extremely narrow
- Includes steel anti-rebound bar
- Performance fabrics resist stains and odors
- Three recline options
- LATCH equipped
- Difficult to assemble
- Fabrics are spot-clean only
- Flame retardant free: tailored in 100% Merino wool to help naturally regulate the child's body temperature keeping them cool in the hot summer.
- Revolutionary forward-facing performance: The Clek foonf's react system uses aluminum honeycomb Crumple Technology to absorb energy in a collision and reduce the forces transmitted to the child.
- Built like a tank: the Clek Foonf is built on a solid metal substructure with inner and outer energy-absorbing foam layers and an adjustable headrest for maximum side impact protection.
#4 Graco SlimFit 3-in-1
The Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 is a popular option when it comes to small car seats. It is actually three car seats in one, a rear-facing seat, a forward-facing seat, and a high back booster. Its impressive life span ranges from infant (5 lbs) to an older child (100 lbs).
This best convertible car seat for small cars is a breeze to transition thanks to the smooth four-position reclines, the no-rethread harness, and the ten position sliding headrest. Install it using the LATCH system, make your adjustments, and you’re ready to go!
- Three seats in one
- Includes rotating cupholders
- No-rethread harness and sliding headrest for simple adjustments
- Steel-reinforced frame
- Removable and washable seat cover
- Still wider than other compact car seats
- Long when installed rear-facing
- 3-in-1 car seat grows with your child from rear-facing harness (5-40 pounds) to forward-facing harness (22-65 pounds) to highback booster (40-100 pounds)
- Slim design with dual integrated cup holders that rotate away, making the seat 10% slimmer to save valuable back seat space
- Graco ProtectPlus Engineered: A combination of the most rigorous crash tests that helps to protect your little one in frontal, side, rear and rollover crashes
#5 Diono Radian 3R (2020)
Moving on to the Diono Radian 3R (2020), a recent model that tailors to parents trying to or need to fit three seats across. It is suitable for newborns (5 pounds) up to older children (120 lbs) as a high-back booster. It has an impressive rear-facing weight limit of 50 pounds.
Its automotive-grade steel core protects your child. Plush padding and an optional newborn insert keep kids comfy. This FAA-approved car seat is ready to travel wherever your family ventures.
- Narrow at 17 inches wide
- Steel core
- Rear-facing longer at the limit of 50 pounds
- FAA approved
- Transitions to a high-back booster
- The newborn insert is expensive
- Crotch strap position is shallow
- REAR-FACING FOR LONGER: This slimfit convertible car seat is designed and engineered to keep your child rear facing even longer up to 50 lb/ 22. 7 kg, approx. 4 years old
- HIGH BACK BOOSTER: Keep your child safe and comfortable with the high back booster seat mode now up to 120 lb, 54 kg. The high back booster adds an extra layer of protection and comfort for any child transitioning into booster mode.Shell and Components: Spot clean
- 10 YEARS ONE CAR SEAT: With 4 ways to travel safely from birth to booster, the Radian 3R adapts as your child grows to offer a custom adjustable fit from birth to 120 lbs
#6 Britax Boulevard ClickTight
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight is a 2-in-1 convertible seat. It can accommodate children from five pounds to 65 pounds and transition from rear-facing to forward-facing. The click tight safety features help ensure parents get a secure latch every time.
Cool fabrics, plush padding, and a quick-adjust 14 position harness results in a cozy and comfortable fit. All of this in a seat that is just over 18 inches wide.
- Click tight safety feature
- 7 position recline
- Cool ventilated fabrics
- 14 position no-rethread harness
- Auto-leveling bubble indicator
- LATCH is difficult to uninstall
- Easy installation: Patented ClickTight makes car seat installation as simple as buckling a seat belt
- No rethreading, ever: Quick adjust 14 position harness with Click and Safe Snug Indicator gives a click sound when the harness is tight
- Ride comfortably: Cool flow ventilated mesh fabric improves air flow to ensure added comfort. Care & cleaning: Hand wash
#7 Safety 1st Grow & Go 3-in-1
Next up is the Safety 1st Grow & Go 3-in-1 is awesome because it can cover your child for their entire car seat stage, from birth to booster. It transitions from rear-facing to forward-facing and then to a belt-positioning booster. The harness and the headrest move together for effortless adjustments.
Children will appreciate the dual cup holders. Parents will appreciate the snap-on car seat cover that is completely machine washable. This compact seat has a lot to offer in the way of comfort and convenience.
- Three-position recline
- Harness holders for easy in and out
- snap-on/off machine-washable car seat cover
- Dual cup holders
- Converts from car seat to a belt-positioning booster
- The harness is difficult to tighten
- Tricky to get level in the vehicle
- Built to grow: the 3 in 1 car seat built to grow for extended use through 3 stages: Rear facing 5 to 40 pounds, forward facing 22 to 65 pounds, and belt positioning booster 40 to 100 pounds
- Side impact protection: The grow and go's side impact protection helps keep your child safe
- Easy in, easy out: Harness holders keep the harness in an open position so it's easy to get your child in and out of the seat; Rear facing height is 19 to 40 inches; Forward facing height is 29 to 52 inches
#8 Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One
If you’re looking to purchase a car seat for small car that will be the only seat you will ever need, consider the Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One. It can be used from the day you take your child home (5 pounds) to 110 pounds as a booster seat. Unlike other convertible seats, installation is easy and secure thanks to the ratcheting SureLATCH system.
The infinite harness that adjusts in conjunction with the headrest makes it simple to achieve a perfect fit. Its slim cupholders are both functional and compact. As are the pillows that can be removed if necessary.
- Dual cup holders
- 3-in-1 (rear-facing, forward-facing, booster)
- Machine-washable seat pad
- Removable infant pillows
- No-rethread infinite slide harness
- Short LATCH tethers
- Difficult to achieve proper recline for infant
- RIGHT AND TIGHT IN SECONDS: EasyClick LATCH system easily ratchets to achieve a 3xtighter*, rock-solid installation and a wiggle-free car seat for toddlers
- ONE FOR ALL: Designed for children 5–110 lb and features 3 modes—rear facing, forward facing harness and belt-positioning booster
- GOESTHE DISTANCE:5-point harness is tested to a 65 lb weight limit and can be used until your child is ready for a belt-positioning booster
#9 Graco Extend2Fit
The Graco Extend2Fit has one of the lowest weight limits at 4 pounds. It can grow with your child up to 65 pounds. The extend-to-fit leg panel provides more legroom for rear-facing children. The 50-pound rear weight limit keeps them rear-facing longer and in turn safer. Its compact base is perfect for compact cars.
- Two cup holders
- Extend-to-fit panel for extra legroom
- 4 pound lowest weight capacity
- Six-position recline
- 10 position headrest
- Cupholders flare out making it wide
- Harness difficult to tighten
- Convertible car seat grows with your child from rear-facing harness (4-50lbs) to forward-facing harness (22-65 pounds)
- Made of Steel reinforced, Product dimensions – 20.75” D x 19” W x 24.5” H, Product weight – 19.25 lbs.
- Up to 50 pounds rear facing, allowing your child to safely ride rear-facing longer.Do not use bleach
#10 Britax Advocate ClickTight
The rear to forward-facing Britax Advocate ClickTight can be used from 4 to 65 pounds. It is one of the safest seats with its steel frame and 3 layers of impact absorbing protection. It is simple to install and easy to adjust. The ClickTight installation makes securing it as easy as buckling a seatbelt. The clicking Safe Snug Harness will alert you when the harness is tight enough.
- Removable washer and dryer safe seat cover
- Audible alert when the harness is tight enough
- Steel frame
- ClickTight easy installation
- Safe-cell impact absorbing base
- Long when rear-facing
- The harness is hard to tighten
- Easy installation: Patented ClickTight makes car seat installation as simple as buckling a seat belt
- No rethreading, ever: Quick adjust 14 position harness with Click & Safe Snug Indicator gives a click sound when the harness is tight
- Adjust accurately: Harness indicator gives an audible click when you’ve pulled to the proper tightness
#11 Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX
A lightweight convertible car seat, the Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX sports a slim design, making it perfect for travel. Its plush padding is comfortable and a cinch to clean but it doesn’t add a lot of bulk.
Another convertible car seat best for small cars, this seat is designed to fit three across in the back seat of a vehicle. Even while rear-facing the seat is designed not to be lengthy so as to provide parents more legroom. For a great price tag, parents having a tight budget will want to consider this option in their car seat shopping list.
- Five harness heights and 3 buckle positions
- FAA approved
- Designed to fit three across and provide ample parent legroom
- Hard to get a secure install
- The headrest pillow is too supportive for some
- With 2 modes of use, this extra comfortable LATCH equipped Cosco car seat accommodates infants from 5 pounds up to toddlers weighing 40 pounds in rear facing mode and kids up to 65 pounds in forward facing mode. Its compact design also makes it easier to manage through airport security checks
- The 5 point harness adjusts easily from the front of the seat and features 5 heights and 3 buckle locations
- Built in side impact protection keeps your little 1 extra secure; Designed to be just the right size, the seat takes up less space while rear facing so parents can have more leg room
#12 Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1
The Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 has an impressive lifespan, accommodating children from 4 pounds to 120 pounds. It converts from a rear/forward-facing car seat to a highback booster and finally a backless booster. Multiple adjustability features like recline and headrest positions keep your child super comfortable. Rapid remove seat covers that are washing machine safe are a huge bonus for parents hunting for the best convertible car seat for small cars that is easy to clean.
- Converts to high back booster then backless booster
- Rapid remove washable seat cover remove in 60 seconds
- Headrest and harness adjust together
- Dual cup holders
- True Shield side impact protection
- Support pillows may be uncomfortable for young infants
- 4 in 1 car seat gives you 10 years of use: seamlessly transforms from rear facing harness car seat (4 40 pounds), to forward facing harness car seat (22 65 pounds), to high back belt positioning booster (40 100 pounds), to backless belt positioning booster (40 120 pounds)
- Graco protect Plus engineered helps to protect Your little one in frontal, side, rear and rollover crashes
- Simply safe adjust harness system adjusts the height of your harness and headrest to 10 positions in one motion to ensure that Your child is always properly secured.Do not use bleach
#13 Diono Radian 3RXT (2019)
The Diono Radian 3RXT (2019) is perhaps the best convertible car seat for compact cars. It is ideal from birth to 100 pounds as it grows from rear-facing all the way to booster. This car seat is extra slim yet comfortable with plush padding and an ingenious design. Both lightweight and slim it is designed to travel and with the whole family, allowing three seats to be effortlessly installed side-by-side. And if you have tall kids, no worries – this seat is just perfect for them.
- Ten-year lifespan
- Automotive-grade steel frame
- Memory foam padding
- FAA approved
- Secure LATCH installation with an audible click
- Difficult to assemble
- The harness is not no-rethread
- JOY OF THE JOURNEY: From birth, keep your little one rear-facing longer to 40 lbs., and as they grow to 100 lbs. (10 years approx.) our long-range lifespan protects your child facing-forward.
- THREES NOT A CROWD: For safety that fits 3 across the Radian 3RXT packs all our innovative safety features into a sleek and slim design that allows you to fit three across (in most mid-size vehicles). Now the whole family can travel, together
- LOVINGLY ENGINEERED: The Radian 3RXT is built with automotive-strength steel, engineered into a dual spine, which manages and dissipates energy with an unyielding structure to protect your baby. Our audible click SuperLATCH system makes installation easy.
#14 Graco Milestone 3 in 1
Next up is the popular Graco Milestone 3 in 1, it is a more affordable option of their 4-Ever seat as it converts to three seat options instead of four. This seat transitions from rear-facing, to forward-facing, and finally a highback booster, accommodating a child up to 100lbs.
The headrest has ten possible positions, and moves in conjunction with the harness for simple adjustments. Four reclines and plush padding keeps the seat comfortable, while features like a removable cup holder offer convenience without taking up space.
- No rethread harness adjusts with headrest
- Removable cup holder
- Four recline positions
- Transitions to high back booster
- inRight LATCH system for painless installation
- Difficult to tighten harness
- Upright position of back may bother some children
- 3-in-1 car seat helps to protect your child from rear-facing harness (5 - 40 pounds), to forward-facing harness (22 - 65 pounds), to highback booster (40-100 pounds)
- Graco ProtectPlus Engineered to help protect your little one in frontal, side, rear, and rollover crashes.Do not use bleach.Do not use soap, detergents or lubricants
- No-Rethread Harness: Simply safe adjust harness system adjusts the headrest and harness in one motion, to ensure proper fit
#15 Britax One4Life ClickTight All-In-One
Ten years of life, from 5 to 120 pounds, the Britax One4Life ClickTight All-In-One may just be the only car seat you will ever need. The steel frame and the honeycomb crumple zone base make this seat extremely safe. The ClickTight system makes this car seat pretty easy to install.
Performance fabrics are both cool and comfortable while being easy to clean. Two cup holders are designed in a way to keep the seat compact. 15 headrest positions and 9 optional reclines allow you to customize the seat to achieve the perfect fit!
- Steel frame and SafeCell technology
- Built-in cooling channels and ventilated mesh
- Three seats in one
- Easy clean performance fabrics
- Simple ClickTight seatbelt installation
- Does not work with rebound bar
- 10 YEARS of use: One4Life convertible to booster car seat grows with your child from 5 - 120 lbs and up to 63" Tall
- PREMIUM, SOFT TOUCH FABRIC: 4-way stretch athleisure fabric is comfortable and easy to clean
- INSTALL CONFIDENTLY: with ClickTight Installation, you'll know it's right in 3 easy steps: open, thread & buckle, click it closed
#16 Maxi-Cosi Magellan Xp 5-in-1
Finally, we have the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Xp 5-in-1. This seat works for children from 5 pounds to 120 and has a wide range of reclines and headrest positions. Ultimately, you can keep your child safer and comfortable for longer in this best convertible car seat for small cars.
The comfort-adjust torso position provides three different positions to suit your growing child. Two cup holders, soft-touch pillows, and wicking fabrics are ideal for long trips in the cars.
- Three-position torso adjustments
- 14 position headrest
- 7 position recline
- Removable self-wicking car seat cover
- Cupholders are dishwasher safe
- Cup holders are small
- Crotch buckle position is not adjustable
- Designed to be the only car seat you'll ever need for your child, the Maxi-Cosi Magellan XP comfortably seats your child from birth to 10 years old and from 5 to 120 pounds.
- With plush, full-featured European design, it protects with a seven-position recline, the only adjustable torso side-impact protection with three torso height positions, and 14 headrest heights that raise the harness automatically for best fit.
- Easily transform the seat to booster mode with the HideAway harness. Integrated belt lock-offs for easy and secure installation, and One-click LATCH connectors install and release easily.
Safety Tips When Using best convertible car seatS for small cars
Where To Install a Car Seat
The safest place for your car seat is in the back seat in the center of the row. This is often the most practical place if you have a compact car. You should never install your car seat in the front seat of your car. The back seat is the safest as the car seat will be away from expanding airbags in the case of a crash.
Securing Your Convertible Seat
There are different ways to install your car seat. Some seats have the LATCH system which uses tethers and anchors. Other seats use your vehicle’s seat belt and a routed belt path for installation. Some seats may have a combination so that you can choose which method best suits your vehicle. Don’t use both forms of installation at once.
It is important to choose the installation method that leads to the safest and most secure installation. Be sure to read your car seat instruction manual for proper installation procedures and check all level indicators and restraints for correctness.
Know the Weight Limits
Convertible car seats grow with your child, but they still have lower and upper weight limits. Be cognizant of the weight and height limits for your specific car seat and the various positions. Your child must be within the specified weight limits in order to safely use the seat
Additionally, these car seats have weight guidelines for each seat type to which they transition. For example, you should only transition your child from rear-facing to forward-facing, and similarly from forward-facing to booster, when they have exceeded the seat’s upper weight or height limits. Transitioning your child too early can be dangerous.
Car Seat Lifespans
Convertible car seats are made to last a long time. Some of them strive to be the only car seat you will ever need. Because of this, they have long lifespans, varying from six to ten years. Still, you should never use an expired car seat, even if it’s the best convertible car seat for small cars. You can find your seat’s specific expiration date on the manufacturer’s label.
The Best Space Saver Car Seat
The Diono Radian 3RXT (2019) is our winner for the best space saver car seat. This seat is built to fit into tight spaces while providing a comfortable and secure fit.
It is even travel-ready, being lightweight and FAA approved. It even folds flat to further conserve space when on the go. Parents will love that it is effortless to install and achieve a secure fit with the adjustable harness. This is truly the overall best convertible car seat for small cars in our opinion.
What do you think about our best pick? Do you have a favorite convertible car seat for small cars that you swear by? Let us know in the comments below!
Last update on 2021-10-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API