If you're in a hurry and just want to find out what the best all in one car seat is, I'd recommend the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat.
When you go to buy a car seat, there is no shortage of different types and options to choose from. With all of the choices out there, a lot of parents go with an all in one car seat because they are so versatile. If you get an all in one car seat, it might be the only one you ever need to buy, which has a lot of appeal considering the sheer volume of other products you need to buy for your little one.
In this article, I am breaking down the best all in one car seats, and in the end, I'll choose the winner.
Here are the car seats I will be reviewing:
The answer to this question is actually not quite as straight forward as you would think.
Some car seats only come with one mode. For example, there are plenty of infant car seats that are rear facing only.
Then, there are convertible car seats, 3-in-1 car seats, and 4-in-1 car seats. While some of these are all in ones, others are not.
An all in one car seat is one that functions in rear facing, forward facing, and booster seat mode. When you purchase an all in one, it can be the only car seat that you need to purchase for your child. Some of these will have two different booster seat modes (high back mode and backless). However, some will only come with one booster seat mode, and that's fine too.
While most all in one car seats are a bit more expensive than single purpose car seats, they can actually end up saving money over time. If you buy a car seat that works in rear facing mode only, you need to buy another one when your child is ready to face forward. You might then need to buy a booster seat when your child outgrows the forward facing seat. An all in one car seat handles all of these modes. So, while it's a larger upfront investment, it can save you money in the long run.
There are a number of things that you will want to consider when buying a car seat in general. Then, there are things that are particularly important for all in one car seats. I have included a few top considerations below.
The first thing that you will have to do when you get a new car seat is to install it. If you get one that is difficult to install, it will make a really bad first impression.
That's not to say that you should never get one that's hard to install. If all of the other features suit you, and the price point is right, it's certainly reasonable to compromise on this item. However, it is something that you should be aware of when you make your decision.
Take a look at the overall weight limit, as well as the limit for each mode. It's worth paying particular attention to the weight limit in rear facing mode, since this is the safest way for young children to travel.
You will want to find a car seat that has multiple recline options. This will go a long way to ensure that your little one is comfortable and secure.
To take things a step further, it's worth checking to see if a car seat can recline far enough on its own or if you will need to use a towel or pool noodle to get it into the right position.
If you have one child and a large car or SUV, this might not be a concern. However, if you have a small car or three kids in the back, you will want to make sure you pick a car seat that is small enough to meet your needs.
Some all in one car seats have both a high back booster mode and a backless booster mode. Others, will only have one booster option. Often times, the car seats with two booster modes have a higher overall weight limit as well. For me, this probably isn't a make or break feature, but it's worth checking.
I have taken a look at the different all in one car seats out there, and narrowed it down to my top five. I have tried to include some options that will appeal to different people, and also picked my favorite.
This is a remarkable car seat that has been really well designed. If you're interested here is a more detailed Diono Radian 3RXT Review.
When rear facing, it accommodates children weighing 5 - 45 pounds. The upper weight limit is a bit higher than most others. That's a nice feature considering that the safest way for young children to travel is in the rear facing position.
When facing forward, this one is suitable for kids weighing 20 - 65 pounds. In booster mode, it accommodates kids weighing 50 - 120 pounds.
This car seat has a small footprint. So, it's a great option for families with smaller cars or three kids in the back seat.
It looks quite stylish compared to a lot of other car seats on the market. This is pretty important to some people, considering it will be a mainstay in your car for years to come.
A cup holder ensures that your little one will always have a beverage within reach.
It's a little on the heavy side compared to other car seats. However, this is because it has a steel alloy frame, which makes it quite solid and safe.
In terms of installation, this one is not the easiest in the world but not the hardest either. It's somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Overall, the quality level is quite high and it's priced accordingly. If you are on a tight budget, this might not be the one for you. However, if this is in your price range, it's a great option to consider.
Graco has built a fantastic brand within the baby space, and it's well deserved. The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is no exception. In fact, I think it's the best all in one car seat for most parents.
This car seat accommodates children weighing 4 - 40 pounds in rear facing mode. When facing forward, it's suitable for kids weighing 22 - 65 pounds. In high back belt-positioning mode, it's suitable for kids weighing 30 - 100 pounds, and it backless belt positioning mode it works for kids weighing 40 - 120 pounds.
Since this may be the only car seat you need to buy, you are going to want to wash it from time to time. The cover is machine washable, and it's easy to undo without removing the harness. The fabric is also easy to clean in general. With all of the spills that will happen over the years, this is a big plus.
This car seat gets high marks for ease of installation. This is a particularly nice feature in an all in one model, since you will be uninstalling and reinstalling at times when you change modes.
A multi position recline will help ensure that your little one is comfortable.
It comes with two removable cup holders, so you there is plenty of space for beverages and snacks. Some parents wish that the cup holders were not removable, since kids sometimes take them off and throw them on the ground
This one is an interesting option with a few great features and a couple of drawbacks.
This car seat accommodates children weighing 5 - 40 pounds in rear facing mode. When facing forward, it's suitable for kids weighing 22 - 65 pounds. In high back belt-positioning mode, it's suitable for kids weighing 40 - 110 pounds.
One of the first things that you will notice when comparing this to other car seats is that it's fairly large. If you have a big car, that's not an issue. But, it could be an issue if your car is on the small side. That said, the larger size makes it particularly comfortable for kids.
Parents give it high marks for ease of installation. That's certainly not something to be taken for granted.
This one has two cup holders that have elastic on one side. So, they can easily fit different size beverages. This is a pretty nice feature since bottles and sippy cups come in a variety of sizes.
It is capable of reclining in multiple positions. However, some parents report that it does not recline back far enough. So, many people end up putting a towel or pool noodle underneath the car seat in order to get the angle right. While this is not a terribly uncommon thing to have to do with a car seat, it's certainly not ideal.
One other negative is that the straps don't come with any padding or covers. This is kind of a shame, because the seat on its own is so comfortable for little ones. However, the straps themselves can be a bit uncomfortable.
It's also worth pointing out that this is priced on the more affordable end of the spectrum. While it's not perfect, it does offer some nice features and could be a good option.
This car seat is priced at the affordable end of the range, and it delivers loads of value. If you're on tight budget, this might be the best option for you.
When rear facing, it accommodates children weighing 5 - 40 pounds. When facing forward, it's suitable for kids weighing 22 - 65 pounds. In booster seat mode, it works for kids weighing 40 - 100 pounds.
It's inevitable that if you use a car seat for several years, it's going to get dirty from time to time. There will be times when food or drinks spill, and possibly worse. This car seat comes with a removable seat pad that is both machine washable and dryer safe. That makes cleaning it a breeze.
There are two cup holders. So, it has plenty of space for drinks, snacks, and toys.
Parents report that this one can be difficult to install, which can be quite a drag. This might be something you are willing to put up with if you plan to keep the car seat in one vehicle. But, if you and your spouse are planning to switch it back and forth a lot, you are probably better off with a different option.
Some parents find it difficult to tighten and loosen the straps. This is kind of a minor annoyance, but something that will come up every day.
Here is another fantastic all in one car seat from Graco. The Milestone is a great option in general and also happens to by my favorite convertible car seat for small cars.
When rear facing, it accommodates children weighing 5 - 40 pounds. When facing forward, it's suitable for kids weighing 20 - 65 pounds. It also functions as a booster seat for kids weighing 30 - 100 pounds.
There are a couple of features that help ensure little ones are comfortable in this car seat. For starters, it reclines into 4 different positions. In addition, it comes with a removable insert that can be used for infants. This extra padding helps keep little passengers snug and secure. Then, when your child outgrows the extra padding, it can easily be removed.
Installation is reported to be quite easy compared to most other car seats on the market. So, your initial experience with this one should be a good one.
It comes with a removable cup holder, which is perfect for beverages and snacks. Some parents report that the cup holder can be difficult to remove and that it could be in a better positioned. However, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't too big of a deal.
This one is reasonably priced, and considering all of its strengths, it provides and excellent level of value.
When you're shopping for a car seat, there are a lot of different features to think about. Some parents prioritize style, while others prioritize price. Then there are things like car size to consider. While different options will appeal to different people, I think that the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is the best all in one car seat for most parents.
Cristin is a co-founder of SmartParentAdvice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.