Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat | Baby Journey

A Simple Guide to Resolving The Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat Dilemma

Getting the appropriate car seat for the baby is a task you need to complete even before the baby is born. So, you can transfer the baby safely from the hospital to your home.

Future parents face a tough dilemma: infant car seat vs convertible car seat! I’ve been in your shoes, so I am here to help you pick the right car seat for your baby.

Today, we are going to take a closer look at both car seat types, and discuss in which situation one beats the other.

Infant Car Seat or Convertible? A Short Overview

Essentially, both car seats are suitable and safe for newborns, but these two car seat types differ vastly in features, ease of use, installment, and other aspects.

Here are both seats in a nutshell.

What is an Infant Car Seat?

An infant car seat is designed to be used only in the rear-facing position, and installed with or without the base in most cases. These seats can be attached to the strollers and become a part of a travel system. They often come with convenient newborn inserts and can be used as a carrier without the base.

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat | Baby Journey
The infant car seat is a safe, comfortable, and practical piece of baby gear.

Pros:

  • Comfortable for newborns and preemies
  • It can be used without the base as a carrier
  • Lightweight
  • Compact and a better fit for smaller cars
  • It can be attached to the stroller

Cons:

  • Baby outgrows the seat soon
  • No cup holders

What is a Convertible Car Seat?

Convertible car seats can be used in both rear-facing and forward-facing positions, so they have prolonged use. Because of that, they have a larger weight range. These seats are heavier than infant car seats and sometimes not comfortable for tiny or premature born babies.

The convertible car seat can be used from birth until four or five years of age. - Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat | Baby Journey
The convertible car seat can be used from birth until four or five years of age. Source: Babylist.com

Pros:

  • Excellent value – the seat supports baby for years
  • Enable both rear and forward-facing installation
  • Often includes additional safety features to protect babies and children of all ages
  • The baby gets used to the seat and rides in the same car seat for years

Cons:

  • Heavier
  • You might have to purchase infant inserts separately

Convertible Car Seat vs Infant Car Seat Features Face to Face

Let’s confront the two seat types in all essential categories, and determine the winner after a brief analysis.

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat for Newborns and Preemies

In most cases, infant car seats are suitable for babies from birth to 22 pounds of weight, or more, which depends on the car seat model. Compared to convertible car seats, infant seats are genuinely a better fit for newborns, as they support babies from four pounds.

Infant car seats have specially designed removable inserts, for head and side protection. These padded inserts ensure a snug fit, keep the baby comfortable and secure. Even though convertible car seats are suitable for babies from birth as well, they are wider and larger, so tiny babies might not be comfortable.

Therefore, in the first couple of months, the infant car seat is a better option for newborns and prematurely born babies.

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat Safety

The ultimate purpose of the car seat is to ensure safety during the ride. Therefore, analyzing the safety aspects of these two types of the seat is highly important.

Models of both car seat types need to pass federal tests and comply with national traffic safety standards. Both types can be installed in appropriate recline positions suitable for infants.

However, it can be challenging to find the appropriate angle with convertible car seats for newborns. If the baby sits too upright, it can have trouble breathing.

To sum up, I vote for an infant car seat as a safer option for newborns. As the baby grows, both seats become equally safe, and the safety features depend on the chosen car seat model and brand.

Weight & Height Limits

Convertible car seats are manufactured to be used for longer from newborn to toddlerhood, hence they can support older and heavier babies. The average weight range for these seats is from five to 40 pounds in most cases, but some seats support up to 60 or 65 pounds of weight. There is a specific weight range for use in the rear-facing position, on average 22 pounds.

On the other hand, infant car seats are limited with weight range, and in most cases are suitable for babies from four to 22 pounds. Some can even support babies up to 35 pounds.

When it comes to height range, most infant car seats are suitable for babies with a maximum height between 28 and 35 inches. Convertible car seats have an average height limit between 35 and 40 inches.

However, some manufacturers such as Graco or Diono have extended height ranges. For example, Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit Car Seat supports babies up to 49 inches, in a forward-facing position.

Therefore, in the infant vs toddler car seat limits, convertible seat wins!

Car Seat Size

When deciding which seat is right for you, infant car seat or convertible, the size of the seat is another factor to consider. Infant car seats are smaller and lighter, and a better fit for smaller cars. Moreover, if you have children riding in a booster or convertible car seats on the backseat, some convertibles for your newborn might not even fit.

Because they are designed to support older children than an infant car seat, convertibles have wider seating parts. As the baby grows, some paddings might be removed, about the same width.

Also, these seats are much heavier than infant car seats. For example, some of the lightest infant car seats such as Nuna Pipa Lite weigh around 5 pounds without the base. On the other hand, one of the lightest convertible car seats Cosco Mighty Fit 65, weighs 11 pounds. However, most convertibles, such as Chicco Next Fit and Britax Marathon, weigh between 25 and 27 pounds.

Therefore, in terms of size, the infant car seat wins!

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat | Baby Journey
Infant car seat ensures a safe and comfortable ride for the baby, and doesn’t take too much space or require heavy lifting! Source: Babylist.com

Convertible Car Seat vs Infant Carrier and Stroller Compatibility

Infant car seats are practical because they offer more than just a safe way to ride the baby from one place to another.

Therefore, an infant car seat is a multi-functional piece of baby gear. You can use the seat as a carrier, and as a temporary bassinet. If the baby falls asleep during the ride, you can lift it from the base without disturbing it.

Another thing that is great about infant car seats is that they can be used with strollers as a travel system. Modern infant car seats are compatible with strollers of different brands using adapters. Therefore, the infant car seat is practical and compact, you only have to carry the lower part of the stroller and adapter, which easily fits into the trunk of all cars.

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat | Baby Journey
The base of the infant car seat doesn’t have to be detached from the backseat, you can only take the seat and use it as a carrier. Source: Verywellfamily.com

Convertible car seats only serve their basic purpose – to keep the baby safe during the ride. The seats are heavy and don’t have the handle to be used as a carrier, and aren’t compatible with strollers. Once you install the convertible car seat in your vehicle, you won’t have to uninstall it until you are ready to switch the cars.

With mobility and versatility of use, I vote for the infant car seat for simple reasons. As a mum, I have to carry a lot of things with me whenever I go, and the infant car seats reduce the need for bulky items, such as an additional carrier or full-size stroller.

Overall Costing & Longevity of Use

The infant car seat can be used until the baby outgrows the height and weight range, which is around the age of two. Once that happens, you need to switch to the convertible car seat. In that sense, a convertible car seat is more cost-effective.

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat | Baby Journey
Instead of buying two car seats in the first several years of a baby’s life, you can get only one convertible and use it for years. Source: Verywellfamily.com

Seat Conversion

Another obvious difference between infant car seats and convertible car seats is the seat conversion. An infant car seat is a rear-facing use only, and convertible supports rear and forward-facing use.

Pediatricians agree that rear-facing orientation is safer for babies in traffic. Convertible car seats enable prolonged use in the rear-facing orientation, and some can even support babies up to 40 or 50 pounds in rear-facing installation. Therefore, convertible car seats allow you to ride the baby longer in a safer position than in an infant car seat. After that, you don’t have to switch seats, keep using the seat in forward-facing orientation.

Other Features

When it comes to other useful features, I must mention the canopy in the infant car seats. Canopy is a practical item that protects the baby from weather conditions – provides shade and rain protection.

On the other hand, convertibles often come with cup holders, so the baby will have its bottles within a hand reach.

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat | Baby Journey
Cup holders might not make a difference for newborns, but once the baby is old enough to hold the bottle itself, they make a great thing for long rides. Source: Nytimes.com

Another thing worth mentioning is that an infant car seat is more practical for parents who own multiple vehicles. You can have one car seat and two bases to keep in the vehicles and move only the seat as you need it.

Unfortunately, this is not an option with the convertible car seat. If you own two vehicles, you will have to buy two seats, or manually uninstall and install the seat each time you want to switch cars.

All things concerned, I vote for an infant car seat, as it seems more practical for modern parents.

Infant vs Convertible Car Seat Summary Table

INFANT CAR SEAT
CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT
Orientation
Rear-facing
Rear-facing & Forward-facing
Maximum weight limit
35 pounds
65 pounds
Newborn inserts
Included
Sometimes included
Can use as carrier
Yes
No
Installation method
LATCH, Seat belt
LATCH, Seat belt
Average weight
5-15 pounds
25-35 pounds
Additional features
Canopy
Cup holders
INFANT CAR SEAT
Orientation
Rear-facing
Maximum weight limit
35 pounds
Newborn inserts
Included
Can use as carrier
Yes
Installation method
LATCH, Seat belt
Average weight
5-15 pounds
Additional features
Canopy
CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT
Orientation
Rear-facing & Forward-facing
Maximum weight limit
65 pounds
Newborn inserts
Sometimes included
Can use as carrier
No
Installation method
LATCH, Seat belt
Average weight
25-35 pounds
Additional features
Cup holders

Convertible VS Infant Car Seat FAQs

Let’s cover more questions about the infant and convertible car seats to help you pick the seat for you!

Can you leave the hospital with a convertible car seat?

Yes, you can as long as the seat offers the right support for the baby via newborn inserts and offers a snug fit. Also, you can use any seat you prefer as long as you install it properly and the baby meets the lower weight and height standards.

Can you skip the infant car seat?

Yes, you can opt for a convertible car seat from birth. It can be an excellent option to save money because babies outgrow infant car seats soon.

Do you need a convertible car seat for each car?

Convertible car seats might require some time to be installed properly. Unless you don’t mind installing the seat from scratch every time you switch between cars, you need to purchase a convertible car seat for each car you ride the baby in often.

Can you take a baby in a sling in a taxi instead of an infant or convertible car seats?

The state regulations differ, and while some states allowed babies to ride without car seats in taxis, others strongly prohibit that. The safest method for riding in a taxi or any other vehicle is to use an appropriate car seat.

Taxis are exempt from laws in some states, but the safety of your child might be compromised, if you use a sling or baby carrier instead of a car seat in a taxi or Uber. You can check each state’s regulations here.

What are some of the recommended infant car seats and convertible car seats?

There are numerous models of infant and convertible car seats. For example, if you are looking for a budget-friendly infant car seat, you can check Safety 1st infant car seat, following by an excellent, medium price range Graco Extend2Fit convertible seat, or Safety 1st Grow and Go Convertible Car Seat.

On the higher end side, the UPPABaby Mesa infant car seat is made from premium materials, lightweight, and easy to install. Excellent convertible higher-end car seats include Britax Boulevard convertible seat and Nuna RAVA, with additional safety features such as load leg and steel frame.

Conclusion

Hopefully, by now you know which seat is a better match for your needs.

An infant car seat is a better option for most parents. It ensures safe and comfortable rides for newborns; it is compatible with strollers and lightweight. If your budget allows you, I recommend starting with an infant car seat. Parents who worry that their baby will overgrow the seat too soon can choose convertible car seats.

But, let’s sum up.

Use infant car seat if you:

  • Travel often and need a practical travel system
  • Own multiple vehicles
  • Want lightweight seat to use as a carrier
  • Are expecting a smaller baby

Check the selection of infant car seats here!

Use convertible car seat if you:

  • If you’re looking at affordability and want to save some money in the long run
  • You don’t need more than one car seat or don’t install it frequently
  • If you want your baby to ride in a rear-facing position for longer

Find your convertible car seat here!

Which one is a better match for you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Infant Car Seat vs Convertible Car Seat | Baby Journey

Last update on 2021-04-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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