If you are like many other new parents, one of the most confusing questions you’ll come across when shopping for your baby is what is a combination car seat?
- How does it differ from other types of child safety seats?
- What’s special about a combination car seat? Is there money saved in the long run? Or is it particularly safer?
- How do you find the best combination car seat?
The best definition of a combination car seat is that of a front facing car seat multi group that comes with a 5 point internal harness.
This car seat can later be converted and used as booster seat for older children meaning that they can be used for an extended period, saving you money in the long run.
Best Combination Car Seat: Britax G1.1
Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight
Out of the combination seats on my list, the Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight is the best child safety seat with its small size, adjustable headrest, side impact protection and 5 point harness, easy and safe recline, and ease of installation.
The Britax G1.1 will last you a long time – all the way from when you child is a older infant up to an older toddler(provided you can keep it functioning and clean for that long!)
Toddler in Five Point Harness Seat
Most car seat guides mistakenly refer to combination car seats as booster seats or convertible seats. However, while they have some features of both, the combination seat cannot be used in the rear facing mode.
This is an important distinction to make – combination seats will always be FRONT facing, even when they’re used with infants.
“Unlike your normal booster seat, the combination car seat comes with a harness that you will use on children that are below a recommended weight & later used in booster mode.”
Given that you can only use the safety seat as a forward facing car seat only, these seats are best for big kids or older toddlers.
Children under the age of two need to ride in light weight infant car seats or rear facing child seats.
If you feel that your child is not old enough for a combination car seat or that you prefer something more portable check you can go for infant seats.
However you need to make sure that you go for the best lightest infant car seats which will offer both of these advantages
The advice of having the child in the rear facing mode for as long as possible still applies when it comes to combination seats, so only go with combination car seats if you’re looking for something for a slightly older infant.
Comparison of the Best Combination Car Seats
Evenflo Maestro Thunder
How to Buy Combination Car Seats
Cheap combination child seats will typically come with a harness weight of approximately 40 pounds.
Nonetheless, since it is always advisable to have your child ride in a 5 point harness for as long as possible, you should go for a combination seat with a harness weight of 80 pounds or greater.
This is additional safety, security, and can also fit a taller or bigger child. Not all children grow with the same weight and height curve, so some kids may be quite big compared to others their age.
When you are looking to buy a combination seat, try to find one with high weight limits, high harness strap slots and a reasonably tall shell.
(We’ve listed our favorites down below in case you don’t wish to go scouring the web!)
“The harness offers enhanced safety since in the instance of a crash, it spreads the impact of the crash over a greater proportion of the kid’s body than a shoulder seat belt or a lap belt would.”
The high harness and tall shell will ensure that the child will use the seat for an extended period given that they will have the harness traps above their shoulders and the ears below the top of the shell for longer, which is the recommended way for a child to ride in the forward facing car seat.
I always advise that you go for a foam lined safety seat as these usually offer the best side impact protection. Check that the liner is comfortable and sturdy enough for maximum safety of your child.
Harness Features to Look Out For
Given that you will have to move the harness straps in tandem with the age of your child and how they fit in the safety seat, it is important to check that the harness height of your combination car seat is appropriate.
Most modern models allow you to adjust the harness without needing to uninstall the child safety seat given that they are not designed with a no re thread harness.
An ideal child safety seat is one that will not require you to adjust the height of the harness through un-latching or unbuckling.
You also need to find a combination child seat with wide and thick harness straps which will be safer as the are not easily twisted hence ensuring maximum safety of the child in the event of a crash.
You should also be advised to smooth out the straps whenever you use it to ensure that it is not twisted.
The wide straps are there for a reason: they distribute the force of the restraint on the body so it is not felt quite as much. Thinner(such as twisted) straps can dig into your child’s skin and be very painful.
Important features of combination car seats
It is important to go for seats with wide shoulder belt guides as these allow the shoulder belt to slide freely thus minimizing any dangerous slack in the installation and use of the seat belt.
Shoulder Belt Guide
LATCH is a feature that you want on your seat in booster mode as it allows you to use lower anchors that ensure a tighter installation.
With a tighter installation, the child seat will not move around so much during a crash, thus enhancing the toddler’s safety.
If your combination car seat does not support LATCH in booster mode, always make sure you re-buckle each time the seat is used.
Harness Weights to Take Into Consideration
Most of the combination child seats reviewed here can be used with harnesses until your child is between 40 and 50 pounds(18 to 23 kg).
After that you can change the combination car seat into the best booster seats by getting rid of the harness straps and shifting to belt positioning mode where you will use the vehicle seat belts until the child is between 80 and 100 pounds(36 to 46 kg).
Often times the maximum harnessed weight does not apply to the maximum weight listed for the seat and hence you need to check for maximum weight for internal harnesses and maximum weight from the car safety seat manual.
Combination Car Seat Demo and Use
Reviews of our 5 favorite Combination Car Seats
1) Britax G1.1 Frontier Combination Child Seat
Its clicktight installation systems and the safecell impact protection make it the best car seats that have won an award from the NHTSA for exceptional safety standards.
- The Britax g4.1 clicktight is the best combination car seat by a mile as it combines a harness that has the highest weight and height limits to ensure your child rides in utmost safety for the longest time possible
- You will find this one of the easiest car seats to install even if you are a first time parent as it comes with the Clicktight installation system which many parents have asserted to be the easiest installer rivaling even LATCH.
- Your child gets to ride in comfort even as they grow given that this is an adjustable car seat that comes with a 9 position adjust harness making it a breeze to adjust the height of the harnesses as the child grows up
- Given that it has earned a name as combination car seat catering for children of all ages, the Britax Clicktight is a versatile safety seat that will take your child from as little as 25 pounds right up to 90 pounds
- To protect the child from crashes the Britax is built with an energy absorbent tether, energy absorbing shell and a foam lined headrest which is the most robust protection from side impacts you could expect of any top class combination seat
- High and weight limits
- Easy to install with Clicktight
- Adjusts and grows with the child
- Excellent safety standards
- Harness adjusters are set too far back
2) Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1 Harness Booster Seat
Graco Nautilus 65 Harness Seat
The Graco nautilus harness seat is a top of the range 3 in one safety seat from the most trusted child safety seat manufacturing company.
Graco’s top-rated Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 combination harness booster will take your child from the time they are toddlers until their early teen years when the seat turns into a backless booster seat and until the child transitions to seat belts.
It will keep the child safe at all stages of growth from harness car seat to backless booster.
With parent- and child-approved comfort and safety features, the Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 is the 5 point harness booster seat for over 40 lbs and an all-around family favorite!
The Graco seat comes with steel reinforced frame and energy absorbent foam for maximum safety and comfort for your child. The child car seat has also been engineered and rigorously tested and exceeded Federal Crash Safety Standards by up to two times.
- The Graco Nautilus is tan extended rear facing car seat that you will use for a long time period as the wide weight limits allow use as a harness booster from 65 pounds and as a backless and high back booster up to 100 pounds
- Installation and positioning of the toddler booster seat is snug and smooth given that you have access to open loop belt guides that make it easy even if you are installing the safety seat for the first time
- The child will be as safe as they could be as the Graco Nautilus is a car seat that combines installation and in seat safety systems through the Simply Safe Adjust harness system
- The best 3-in-1 harness booster is not only about the child’s convenience as the Nautilus also provides you with some great convenience as it has a machine washable cover that you can easily remove to clean when the car seat gets dirty
- Extended use car safety seat
- Safe and comfortable seat
- Easy installation
- Machine washable pad
- LATCH connectors are basic hook style
3) Graco Atlas 65 2-in-1 Booster Harness Car Seat
Graco Atlas 65 2-in-1 Harness Seat
Simply Safe & Simply Easy
If you are done with the harness booster, bucket seat and convertible then you should definitely check out the Graco Atlas 2-in-1 which Graco declares that the Atlas 2-in-1 harness seat is the last seat you will ever need.
The Graco will accommodate your baby from 22 pounds and go all the way to act a high back belt positioning booster between 30 and 100 pounds making it also a great alternative for an all in one car seat if that is what you are looking for
With great safety features and testing that has exceeded most of federal safety standards, this is the best harness booster seat for your toddler and older children
- The child car booster seat provides an easy ride for the child as it comes with a ten position headrest, 3 position incline, and the Simply safe adjust system which is the best safety system as can be evidenced by the safety reputation that Graco has built over the years
- If you are like me who hates installing the car seat, then you will love the Graco Atlas that comes with a belt lockoff which makes seat belt installation of the safety seat a breeze
- Never worry about spills as the car seat comes with integrated cup holders and also machine washable fabrics which makes it very easy to clean in case they get dirty. In addition to your cupholders, the kid can also bring their toys in the storage
- Given how easy it is to use, the Graco is an excellent combination seat for that toddler that wants to buckle themselves in.
- Excellent safety ratings
- Easy safe ride for the kid
- Easy for the toddler to buckle themselves in
- Machine washable pad
- Only has a 3 position recline
4) Evenflo Maestro Thunder
Evenflo Maestro Booster Seat
The Evenflo is made by Evenflo a company that asserts that its products are designed to provide your infant toddler with comfort and safety. This is achieved through a range of innovative products and product testing that far exceeds federal standards
In this regard the Evenflo Maestro Booster is the top combination seats that has met the most rigorous safety standards in manufacture and testing so that you can be certain that your child is riding in utmost safety
It has exceeded Federal Crash Safety standards and has a Best Bet accreditation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The evenflo maestro best exemplifies the company’s commitment to produce an ultimate car seat that offers ease of use comfort and safety, and this has been evident in the thousands of parent reviews who think the seat is an excellent combination booster car seat
- The Evenflo is a small car seat that will not take up too much space in the backseat of your car making it an excellent choice if you have quite the large family or are tired of car seats that cramp up your legs as they force you to move the driver seat forward
- This is one car seat that you can use for an extended period of time given that it comes with multiple harness buckle and multiple crotch positions making it easy to adjust the car seat to fit the growing child
- You do not have to worry about hard to install car seats as the Evenflo makes it easy to install the seat with an auto adjusting belt path making it a breeze to position the shoulder belt which also enhances the safety of the installation
- You will love this car seat if you frequently change your child safety seats from car to car given that it provides ease of installation through LATCH and it is the best lightweight combination car seat you could buy.
- Manufactured to rigorous safety standards
- Provides safety and comfort
- Small and portable car seat
- Easy to install with LATCH
- Terrible colors
5) Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1
Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Combination Seat
Fit 3 Across in Most Vehicles
The Cosco Finale DX is made by Cosco Kids a company that affirms that its mission is to provide baby products for smarter living. In this regard they provide cool but practical products that we have grown to love over the years
The Cosco Finale DX is Cosco Kids latest iteration of the ultimate combination seat that you can use in both the harnessed seat and belt positioning mode. This means you can use the car seat for toddlers from 30 pounds in the harness booster seat mode and up to 100 pounds as a belt positioning booster.
As a company committed to smarter living the best thing about the Cosco Finale DX is that, it has a very small footprint which makes it a great car seat for three car seats in the back seat of your car
- Enjoy your time out with your kids as the Cosco Finale comes with dishwasher safe integrated cup holders for your infant and toddlers who may need to drink while you are out and about
- It is an excellent car seat if you are a frequent traveler given that at only 11.5 pounds, it is lightweight and portable making it easy to carry across the airport or to move from car to car
- Even as it is made for smarter living, it is not only about the cool as this safety seat is comfortable and safe, providing high end deluxe fabrics which makes this child seat great for long journeys with your child
- If you are one for carpooling then there is no better car seat than the Cosco Finale DX, given that its small footprint means it can take three car seats in the back with no problem.
- Besides the cool, the Cosco Finale DX is a safe car seat for your kids given that it has won some of the best awards for safety including a Best Bet Rating from the IIHS
- Made for smarter living
- Lightweight portable car seat
- Fits three seats in the back
- Premium fabrics
- Flimsy padding
Best Combination Car Seat: Britax Frontier Clicktight
Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight
Out of the Combination car seats on the list the Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight is the best child safety seat with its small size, adjustable headrest, side impact protection and 5 point harness, easy and safe recline and ease of installation.