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.
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.
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.
2) Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1 Harness Booster 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.
3) Graco Atlas 65 2-in-1 Booster Harness Car Seat
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
4) Evenflo Maestro Thunder
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
5) Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1
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