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Buying a car seat used to be simple. Today there are so many choices it is really hard to decide on the best car seat!
One popular model is the 3 in 1 car seat, which grows with the child. In this article, we will review ten of the best 3 and 1 car seats to help you choose the best for your needs.
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Best 3 and 1 Car Seat FAQ
1. What is a 3 and 1 Car Seat?
A 3 in one car seat, or convertible car seat, is a seat that can be used in three different positions. Usually, the positions include a rear facing seat, a front facing car seat, and a high backed booster seat. Some include a backless booster seat.
2. What Are the Advantages of a 3 in 1 Car Seat?
It used to be that a car seat was only needed until a child reached about 2 years old. Today, children are expected to ride in car seats throughout elementary school.
Parents often like 3 in 1 car seats because they don’t have to purchase a new car seat every time their child grows out of the old one. The best 3 in 1 car seats often also have extended rear facing weight and height limits.
3. Why is an Extended Rear Facing Weight and Height Limit a Good Thing?
Pediatricians and other experts recommend that children remain in rear facing car seats as long as possible, as this is the safest possible postion in a car for a small child.
An extended rear facing weight and height limit allows for a child to remain rear facing until they are two or three years old, or even older.
4. What is the Difference Between a Front Facing Car Seat and a Booster Seat?
A front facing car seat uses a five point harness to keep a child secure. A high back booster seat uses the car’s regular seatbelt, but allows the child to be positioned in such a way that the seat belt keeps them safe.
It also usually has a guide that keeps the shoulder belt in place. A backless booster seat simply lifts the child a little higher in the seat so that the regular seat belt fits them correctly.
Experts suggest that children ride in the most restrictive type of seat that their height and weight allow, for maximum safety.
How We Reviewed
The following products were reviewed based on the following parameters Features, Pros & Cons, Budget, Where to Buy, and Warranty.
We looked at many of the best 3 in 1 car seats on the market, and chose the ones that stood out due to easy installation, extra safety features, added comfort, and other details.
Evenflo Symphony Elite All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
This seat can be used as a rear facing seat, forward facing seat, or high back booster seat. The seat uses Evenflo‘s auto-retracting Sure LATCH system, which makes it possible to install the seat in your car within 60 seconds.
It also has a five-point Infinite Slide Harness. Unlike some seats that require you to rethread it every time your child outgrows the current harness height, this car seat’s harness height can be adjusted by squeezing a handle and sliding it up to the correct height.
It has an adjustable headrest that should be moved up if your child’s head is above the top of the car seat, or if their shoulders are even with the head protection area.
One thing that puts this seat in the running as the best 3 and 1 car seat is the multiple forward facing reclining positions.
Toddlers who are used to rear facing seats may balk at the idea of riding sitting straight up in a forward facing seat. This seat can be reclined to a more comfortable position.
Another thing that makes it one of the best 3 and 1 car seats is that, in the booster seat position, it is rated Best Bet by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
This car seat has elastic cup holders instead of regular cup holders, and some parents complain about that.
- Great safety rating in booster mode
- Sure LATCH system
- Infinite Slide Harness
- Recline options in forward or rear facing positions
- Large and bulky, especially with the side head rests
- Elastic cup holders
- Shorter height limit than some other car seats
Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat
This seat can be a forward facing seat, a high back booster seat, or a backless booster seat. While this is one of the best 3 and 1 car seats, parents should note that this one does not have a rear facing function.
It features harness straps that are designed to be easy for parents to loosen as they transfer children in and out of the seat, and do not need to be rethreaded in order to adjust the height.
It also has an adjustable bottom buckle to accommodate growing children. Some users have mentioned that the bottom buckle is difficult to adjust.
Like many of the best 3 and 1 car seats, this one is large and heavy, and can be challenging to move around. While this seat meets federal safety guidelines, some independent crash tests have given it lower scores than similar car seats.
- Easy to loosen harness straps
- No rethreading harness straps to adjust height
- Adjustable bottom buckle
- Bottom buckle may be difficult to adjust
- Heavy and bulky
- Has gotten lower scores in independent crash tests
Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 Car Seat featuring TrueShield Technology
Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 Car Seat may be the best 3 and 1 car seat for parents who want their children to ride in the rear facing position for as long as possible, because children up to 50 pounds can ride rear facing. It can also be used as a forward facing seat or a high back booster seat.
Because the rear facing position can support heavier children, it also has a leg extension to accommodate them as they grow taller. The leg extension panel gives children up to five extra inches.
It uses the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System for both rear and front facing positions to adjust the harness and headrest at the same time. This seat uses the InRight LATCH system to make it as easy as possible to install.
The TrueShield technology provides extra side impact protection. The car seat meets or exceeds all federal guidelines.
- Rear facing up to 50 pounds, with leg extension
- Simply Safe Adjust Harness System
- InRight LATCH system
- TrueShield technology
- Heavy and wide
- Some users say the cover is difficult to remove for cleaning
Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
This seat can be used as a rear facing seat for children up to 40 pounds, and between 19 and 40 inches tall. It can be used as a forward facing seat for children between 22 and 65 pounds, who are between 29 and 49 inches tall.
It becomes a high back booster for children who are between 40 and 100 pounds, and who are 43 to 52 inches tall.
It uses a color coded system to make it easier to install. This seat has a Quickfit no-rethread harness system for growing children, but it uses a separate position for newborns that does need to be rethreaded.
Some parents say that this seat can be a little tricky to install at the correct angle and correct belt position.
This seat is narrower than many of the best 3 and 1 car seats, which means it will fit better for families who are using multiple car seats at once. Parents also liked the soft and comfortable padding on the seat.
- Quickfit no-rethread harness system
- Seat is narrow
- Comfortable padding
- Newborns do need harness to be rethreaded
- Newborn harness straps can be difficult to tighten
Diono Rainier All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
This is another one of the best 3 and 1 car seats for people who want to keep their children rear facing. Children can ride rear facing when they weigh up to 50 pounds, and are 44 inches tall. It can also be a forward facing car seat or a high back booster seat.
This seat’s shape is narrow, but tall. One unique feature is that it can be folded up and carried like a backpack during travel.
However, it is very heavy. Although it uses a SuperLATCH system that has an audible click and a visual indicator to let you know when it is installed correctly, getting it to that correct point can be difficult.
- Chidren can ride rear facing up to 50 pounds
- Can be folded up for travel
- Difficult to install
Evenflo EveryStage DLX All-in-One Car Seat
This car seat allows children to ride rear facing if they are up to 50 pounds, and 17 to 48 inches tall. After that, it becomes a forward facing car seat or a high back booster seat. The EasyClick lower anchor tightening system makes it especially easy and quick to install.
It has three reclining positions in the rear facing mode, and when the headrest is all the way down, it automatically corrects itself to the best recline position for newborns. The forward facing mode has two reclining positions.
When being used as a booster seat, the harness can be stored on the seat. Many users like that the seat is comfortably padded.
- Rear facing up to 50 pounds
- Easy to install
- Multiple reclining positions
- Harness can be stored on the seat
- Comfortable padding
- More expensive than other similar seats
- Manual may be confusing
Maxi-Cosi Magellan All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
Children can ride rear facing in this seat when they are up to 40 pounds and between 19 and 40 inches tall. They can ride front facing when they are between 22 and 65 pounds, and between 29 and 49 inches tall.
The seat can become a high back booster when children are between 40 and 120 pounds, and between 43 and 57 inches tall.
One thing that makes it one of the best 3 and 1 car seats is its three torso settings that raise and lower the shell of the car seat with the push of a button. This helps ensure that the car seat is the best possible fit for the child.
It also has an AirProtect headrest, which inflates and deflates as it’s squeezed, providing more protection and security for a child’s head.
The fabric cover and cup holders can easily be removed for cleaning. In addition, users report that the padding is very comfortable.
- Three torso settings
- AirProtect headrest
- Easy to clean
- Difficult to install
Diono Radian 3RXT All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
Children can ride rear facing in this seat if they weigh up to 45 pounds and are up to 44 inches tall. It can be used as a forward facing car seat or a high back booster seat. It has memory foam padding for extra comfort.
It also can be folded up for travel. It has a narrower frame than most of the best 3 and 1 car seats. However, it is still rather heavy and can be difficult to install.
- Rear facing up to 45 pounds
- Memory foam padding
- Folds for travel
- Can be difficult to install
Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
While the Safety 1st Grow and Go seat made our list of the best 3 and 1 car seats, the EX Air model has some added features.
While children can ride rear facing in the original Safety 1st Grow and Go when they are up to 40 pounds, they can ride rear facing in the EX Air until they are 50 pounds.
They also benefit from the AirProtect system, which provides extra cushioning for safety. In addition, there is a seat pillow on this model, instead of just head and back pillows.
- Rear facing up to 50 pounds
- AirProtect system
- Seat pillow
- All of the features of the original Grow and Go seat
- Some users still say it is hard to tighten the straps
Baby Jogger City View Space Saving All-in-One Car Seat
This seat can be used as a rear facing seat, a front facing seat, and a high back booster seat.
One thing that makes it one of the best 3 and 1 car seats is the SecureStop Anti-Rebound Bar for the rear facing position, which keeps the seat from moving around in a crash.
It is relatively easy to install using the push button LATCH system and easy to convert from one mode to another. The no-rethread harness system has ten positions which adjust along with the headrest.
It has a thick and comfortable cover that can be easily removed for cleaning.
This seat is also narrower than many. One complaint some users have is that the harness straps get tangled in the back of the seat and are difficult to tighten.
Another complaint is that the cup holder is made from a flexible material that doesn’t work very well at keeping drinks from spilling or falling out.
- Easy to install
- SecureStop Anti-Rebound Bar
- No-rethread harness system with ten positions
- Easy to clean
- Harness straps are difficult to tighten
- Cup holder doesn’t hold cups well
There are many benefits to having one of the best 3 and 1 car seats. Many of the seats on our list are easy to install, have great safety features, and grow with your child.
We were impressed with the Baby Jogger City View’s anti-rebound bar, which is a fairly new concept in the USA. Our top pick, though, is the Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air.
It has all of the features we look for in a 3 in 1 car seat, such as the 50 pound rear facing weight limit, no-rethread harness with an adjustable headrest, and comfortable padding.
We also love that it has the extra safety feature of the AirProtect system. It is a good car seat, at an affordable budget.
All families are different, though, so be sure to do your research to find a car seat you and your kids will love.