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What’s the most comfortable convertible car seat for long trips? (2021 reviews)

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If you’re a road tripping family like us, you know that nothing is as important as keeping your kids both safe and comfortable on your trips. We’ve unfortunately had the experience of driving a long distance with a kid whose back hurt because of her car seat and I don’t wish it on anyone! As you shop for your child’s next car seat, it’s important to pick the most comfortable car seat you can find – for their sake and yours.

In this round up, I’ll share feedback from our family’s experiences and real-world opinions from parents in our community – with pros and cons for each one. You’ll also find out what features make for the most comfortable convertible car seat for long trips. You won’t want to miss these suggestions!

(Thanks to Diono for the featured photo above!)

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Quick picks: Most comfortable convertible car seat options

You can read in-depth reviews below to help you decide for yourself, but if you’re in a hurry check out these top picks:

If you need something lighter weight for travel, find our top picks here.

Make sure you grab this accessory too!

Features of comfortable toddler car seats

The Chicco Nextfit convertible car seat is a wonderful padded car seat with great recline for car naps!

There are a few features to look for in a comfortable car seat, and if you’re shopping for a baby who has just outgrown their infant car seat it’s good to try to think ahead a few years. If you make the right choice now, a comfortable convertible car seat can last your family until your child is ready for a booster seat around 6 years old!

A nicely padded convertible car seat

It stands to reason that kids want to ride around in a padded throne. Wouldn’t you? The car seats on this list all have nice, thick padding. Some are more plush and others are more firm, but none of them will leave your child feeling like they’re sitting on hard plastic or feeling every lump and bump behind their backs. For our kids, this has been a really important factor in choosing the best car seat for long distance driving (which we do a lot).

A reclining toddler car seat

Pretty much all of the convertible car seats on this list offer multiple recline options. Why? Because they need to be able to safely rear-face a young baby and later forward-face a growing child. Some convertible car seats offer lots of recline options, which can be helpful for finding the sweet spot that helps them sleep on long trips while also being able to see out the window for those all-important games of “I Spy”.

Extra ventilation or wicking fabric for sweaty kids

Car seats can be sweaty propositions! They’re padded to keep kids safe, but that also leads to decreased airflow. Rear facing kids are especially susceptible unless they have a vent directly above them. Some car seats have sweat-wicking fabric, ventilated covers or other features to keep kids cool on long drives.

Want to up your road trip game? Get a Noggle. This innovative hose safely clips on to your front air vents and redirects air back to your kids. It’s especially helpful for rear facing kids and can even help those who are prone to car sickness. Even if your kid is riding in one of the most comfortable car seats, they’ll appreciate some AC in the back on those hot summer days.

The more cup holders the better

Some car seats have no cup holders, some have one, and some even have two. Consider that on a long drive your child may want a safe place to stow a water bottle and snacks or small toys. That’s a huge boon to you since you won’t have to constantly hand stuff back and forth.

Room to grow

There are lots of ways the car seat manufacturers can make their convertible car seats fit the needs of growing kids. Here are a few to look out for as you read these convertible car seat reviews:

  • Deep (or extending) seating areas for long legs
  • Wide seating areas
  • Shoulder harnesses that aren’t too narrow

What’s the most comfortable car seat for long trips?

Nuna Rava review

Nuna Rava Convertible Car Seat 2019/2020

Key stats:
-Weight 27lbs
-Shell height 25”
-Max harness height 17”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-50lbs, up to 49”
-Forward-facing size limits 25-65lbs, up to 49”, age 2+

✔ Generous rear-facing size limits
✔ Extremely cushy
✔ Easy seatbelt installation with Simply secure
✔ No-rethread harness
✔ 10 year expiration

✘ Very heavy
✘ Very expensive

Ever since the Nuna Rava convertible carseat hit the scene a few years ago, it became a fan favorite. In fact, in a recent discussion in our Facebook group it was the hands-down winner for kid comfort and parent convenience.

Kids praise the Nuna Rava for its padded seat, its soft cover, generous recline, roomy seating area, extra legroom and built-in double cup holders. Parents love how easy it is to install the Rava with the seatbelt (just remember you still have to lock the belt) and to adjust the fit to your children as they grow.

The Rava is also an amazing car seat for extended rear facing. With a 50lb weight limit and 49″ height limit, many kids could rear face in the Nuna Rava well past 4 years old. At that point it’ll still fit forward facing for several more years until kids are at a safe age to use a booster seat. It probably won’t be your child’s first car seat since the lowest shoulder harness setting is a little high for young infants – for that, check out Nuna’s excellent Pipa RX infant car seat or Pipa Lite LX infant car seat.

The Nuna Rava is also one of the best convertible car seat options for cars that are short on leg room. In its more upright settings, it’s the most compact car seat front-to-back.

Apart from the marginal fit on newborns, the only drawbacks of the Nuna Rava are the price and the size. At 19″ wide, it might be tough to fit three across in the smallest cars. And the price tag… well, for so many premium features you have to expect a premium price. Despite the price, the Nuna Rava is extremely popular among families who are willing to pay up for a seat they’ll love and use for years to come.

Chicco Nextfit Zip Air review

Key stats:
-Weight 25lbs
-Shell height 26”
-Max harness height 17.5”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-40lbs, up to 43” (50lbs for Max)
-Forward-facing size limits 25-65lbs, up to 49”

✔ Generous rear-facing size limits
✔ Very cushy but well-ventilated
✔ Built in lock-offs for easy seatbelt installation
✔ No-rethread harness
✔ 8 year expiration

✘ Very heavy
✘ High sides can make it hard for kids to climb in on their own

Ahhh, the Chicco Nextfit. I know it better than any other car seat since we owned three and used them happily for many years. The latest version, the Chicco Nextfit Max Zip Air, is a nice improvement over the original ones we had! You can save $30 here by buying direct.

The entire Nextfit line has excellent padding with just the right amount of “squish” to keep kids comfortable for long drives. In many years of rides, we never had a single complaint about comfort (note the sleeping child above). Not one. The Zip Air has two great improvements when it comes to the cover: first, you can zip off the cover for easy cleaning if there’s a spill; second, the cover has breathable mesh on the back that should keep kids less sweaty. It’s one of the most comfortable toddler car seat choices around.

One of our favorite features of the Nextfit is the huge range of recline options, many of which are available to forward facers as well. Between the recline options and the deep seat, it’s an amazing car seat for kids who like car naps. The egg-like shape also (in theory) provides some anti-rebound protection for rear facing kids.

There’s only one cup holder included, which you can attach on either side.

Our daughter rode in the Nextfit beginning at 1 week old and our son rode in it forward facing until 6 (with room to grow). This is one of the best convertible car seats for infants, and it can be used either with the included infant insert or by folding the bottom part of the back panel under so you can access the lowest headrest setting. The Chicco Nextfit Zip Air starts at 5lbs, while the Nexfit Zip Air Max goes down to an ultra-petite 4lbs!

If your child is on the heavier side or need more legroom (and your car has enough space), you can also look into the new Chicco Nextfit Zip Air Max. The “bones” are the same as the original, but with extra reinforcement to accommodate kids up to 50 pounds rear-facing and with a deeper seat pan to offer more leg room rear facing and more thigh support forward facing.

It’s extremely easy to install in either direction, whether you use the SuperCinch LATCH or the simple seatbelt lock-offs. That said, it’s not quite as easy as installing the Nuna Rava or Britax Marathon with a seatbelt.

The only major downside of the Chicco Nextfit is that the high sides and the high seating position can make it a bit of a nuisance to get kids in and out. That’s especially true when you have a big toddler who’s still rear facing close to the limits. We taught our kids how to climb in using the door frame, then the edge of the seat and finally throwing themselves over the side of the seat. They had no problem getting themselves out… when they were awake. When they were asleep, there was always plenty of head bonking.

It also has a maximum standing height of 43″ for rear-facing (older models were 49″, and hopefully they’ll consider returning to that). That’s the average height of a 5 year old boy, so it’s fine for most families. But if you have a budding NBA or WNBA star and you want to them rear-facing past 4, you might be better off with the Nuna Rava or Britax Marathon.

Clearly we couldn’t get enough of the Nextfit. We loved it so much we bought it three times over, and even though it’s been around for a few years now it still stands up well against the competition.

Chicco Fit4 review

Key stats:
-Weight 25lbs
-Shell height 27”
-Max harness height 18.5”
-Max booster height 21”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-40lbs, up to 43”
-Forward-facing size limits 25-65lbs, up to 54”
-High back booster size limits 40-100lbs, 38-57”

✔ One car seat from birth to (almost) seatbelt age
✔ Cushy, age-specific padding
✔ Built in lock-offs for seatbelt installation
✔ No-rethread harness
✔ Lower sides than the Nextfit
✔ 10 year expiration

✘ Very heavy
✘ Harness can be a little narrow for some forward-facing kids
✘ Padding can make seatbelt installation a nuisance for rear facing

If the Chicco Nextfit and the Chicco MyFit harnessed booster got together and had a baby, it would look a heck of a lot like the new Chicco Fit4 all-in-one car seat. And that’s a really good thing!

The Fit4 offers a great fit from newborns through booster seat riders by using different inserts for each weight range. Newborns use the Stage 1 and 2 inserts together, while rear facing kiddos over 16lbs only use the Stage 2 insert. All of the inserts come out once you switch the seat to forward facing, and booster riders have the option of a seatbelt pad for added comfort (I’m a little jealous of that!). Thankfully all of the pieces are clearly labeled to avoid confusion.

Just like the Nextfit, the Fit4 has 9 different recline position. The fantastic news is that you can use whichever one your child prefers as long as the bubble level on the side is in the correct position for that stage. They give you plenty of options for recline in forward-facing harness mode and even some in booster mode. It’s a great car seat for kids who like to sleep in the car!

The Chicco Fit4 comes with two of Chicco’s excellent “cupfolders”, cup holders than can fold in to make space if you have a tight squeeze. These work great for us and it’s so nice for kids to have two cup holders on a long drive! In case there’s a spill while you’re on the road, Chicco gives you the option to machine wash the fabric cover. Since you’ll be gradually peeling off the seat’s layers over a few years, it’ll have a better shot at looking new for the long haul.

One of the biggest downsides of the Chicco Nextfit is the high sides. They make it hard for parents to lift their rear facing babies in and for older kids to climb in themselves. Fortunately the Fit4 has lower sides to avoid that issue.

The biggest downside of the Chicco Fit4 is that it can be a nuisance to install with a seatbelt when rear facing due to the extra padding you’ll have in place. You can get around this by installing with LATCH until 35 pounds, but that’s only allowed in seats that have dedicated lower anchors – usually just the outboard seats rather than the middle seat.

There’s currently no “Air” option for the Fit4 fabric, which I understand because the Stage 1 and Stage 2 padding would make that tricky. Hopefully we’ll see that in the next version!

Diono Radian 3QX review

Key stats:
-Weight 26lbs
-Shell height 25”
-Max harness height 16.5”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-50lbs, up to 44”
-Forward-facing size limits 20-65lbs, up to 57”

✔ Great for fitting 3-across
✔ Nice fabric
✔ Low profile, fold-down sides to expand seating area
✔ Adjustable headrest makes newest version longer lasting than its predecessors
✔ 8 year expiration

✘ Complicated rules – be sure to read the manual closely
✘ Fit for newborns may not be ideal
✘ Very reclined for young babies, must add angle adjuster wedge for more upright installation
✘ Numerous extra parts

We had the pleasure of borrowing an older Diono Radian from a friend earlier this year and I confess: I wasn’t expecting to be a fan, but when my 5 year old declared it one of her favorite car seats ever that carried a lot of weight with me. She loved the cover’s cushy padding but also the soft-touch material.

I could tell she was especially comfortable when I folded down the sides of the seat and she could sit “criss-cross applesauce” instead of having her legs dangle awkwardly, a frequent issue for forward facing kids.

The latest Diono Radian 3QX tops out at 50 pounds and 44″ for rear-facing, which will get most kids to around 5 years old. While the stated height limit for forward-facing is 57″, many kids will outgrow the seat forward-facing when their shoulders hit the bottom of the headrest. The good news is that the 3QX (and its newborn-friendly cousin the Radian 3QXT) has a higher headrest than the Radian R series, so that should help with longevity – you can see its adjustability in the photo below (and check out the color selection!). If your kid is leggy, she’ll get more time than if she carries more height in her torso.

Diono 3QX adjusted to fit three very different size kids

While it’s not a huge deal for many families, if you’re looking for a pink or purple car seat for your toddler the 3QX is a great option! It also comes in yellow, red and blue in addition to the more standard black and gray options. Anything to get kids more excited about their car seats, amIright?

While we didn’t get a cup holder with the one we borrowed, if you’re buying a Diono Radian 3QX convertible car seat you’ll get one that can go on either side of the car seat if you have room. But if you need to fit three car seats (or even two car seats and an adult passenger), just leave that cupholder off and the Diono has your back.

The new Q series also features an anti-rebound bar to improve crash performance for rear-facing kids, an upgraded steel frame, additional side impact protection, and Diono subjects it to additional crash testing compared to its other seats. These area great improvements that should help performance in the worst crashes.

Diono recently launched their “Diono Difference” program. Direct purchases include free shipping over $200, an extra 2 years of warranty, free one-on-one virtual consultations to help you through installation and membership in their VIP club! Read more about it here. For first-time parents or those who aren’t sure about their “car seat skills”, this is the best convertible carseat customer support package around.

The biggest downside of the Diono Radian 3QX can be summed up simply: #ItsComplicated. If you aren’t extremely diligent, it’s easy to mess up the installation or usage (I’m 100% sure I did, despite my best efforts and being a CPST). In addition to all the usual car seat parts and rules to think about, the Radian also includes a detachable rear-facing base, a rear-facing tether connector, Safe Stop (used on the top tether if forward facing 20-40 lbs), a lap belt pad (used for lap belt only with no top tether)… and then you’ll probably want to buy the separate angle adjuster to make your rear-facing installation more upright. There’s also a weight-based angle adjustment for forward facing to consider.

The Radian can also be tricky to install in some cars, and it’s very car-dependent. Sometimes it’s even depends on where in the car you’re trying to install it. If you opt for the Radian because you need to manage lots of kids in a small space, definitely buy it direct from Diono so that you can get their free one-on-one installation help.

Is your head spinning yet? If not, just be glad it no longer comes with two different sets of harness pads with different rules. Yeah. In an era when every other car seat manufacturer is trying to make car seats easier to use, the Radian still has a lot of the same quirks that it did when Sunshine Kids released the original version back in 2006.

I should note that the Diono Radian 3QX is technically an all-in-one car seat because it can convert to a highback booster seat. However, the booster size range is so unrealistic that I don’t even have it listed. Kids have to be at least 40 lbs to ride in booster mode, which is on the low side given that kids are allowed to continue riding in the harness until 65 pounds.

Unfortunately once most kids are 5+ and mature enough to ride in a booster seat, they may not have much room to fit their shoulders under the head wings and to use the fixed-height belt guide. Fortunately the 3QX improves on its predecessors in this regard, but it’s definitely not the last booster seat your child will need before he passes the 5-step test to safely ride in an adult seatbelt. In between you’d need something like Diono Cambria 2 or Diono Monterey XT. But that’s ok and typical for most families.

So no, the Diono Radian 3QX isn’t perfect. But if you need a narrow convertible car seat that’ll keep your kids comfortable until around age 6 or 7, it may be a fantastic option for your family. Just be sure to review the manual with a fine-toothed comb to make sure you don’t miss any critical details at each stage.

Clek Foonf review

Key stats:
-Weight 36lbs
-Shell height 25”
-Max harness height 17”
-Rear-facing size limits 14-50lbs, 25-43”
-Forward-facing size limits 20-65lbs, 30-49”

✔ Great for fitting 3-across
✔ Nice, stain-resistant fabric
✔ Anti-rebound bar for better rear-facing crash performance
✔ Rigid LATCH for easy forward-facing installation
✔ Lock-offs for rear- and forward-facing seatbelt installations
✔ 9 year expiration

✘ Extremely heavy
✘ Extremely expensive
✘ Detachable rear-facing base

If you like the concept of a super narrow, very padded convertible car seat then it doesn’t get any fancier than the Clek Foonf.

First, let’s talk about kid comfort. The Foonf is very padded and lots of kids love it but Clek’s padding is pretty firm, so if your kid wants to feel like they’re sinking into an easy chair it may not keep them happy. Overall we’ve heard great feedback from Foonf owners about the comfort of the seat.

The Clek Foonf is just 17″ wide, making it one of the best convertible car seats for 3-across. If you’re squeezing three Foonfs in your backseat, naturally you won’t have space for cup holders for anyone – which can be tough when you’re road tripping. But if you have room for a cup holder, you’ll need to buy one separately. That’s kind of a bummer for such an expensive seat!

The Clek seat fabrics are really interesting. Their latest offers include soft-touch jersey knit, wipe-clean C-Zero Plus (which comes in fantastic colors!) and even a chemical-free merino wool knit.

The safety upgrades are where Clek really shines, which is so important for long drives. For rear facers, the Foonf comes with an anti-rebound bar to stabilize the car seat in a crash. As a bonus, it also provides a few extra inches of leg room for extended rear facing. You can up the ante with an optional rear-facing tether as well.

Once your child is forward facing, they’ll be protected by the Foonf’s crumple zones – the same way a car manages crash energy. As a convenience to parents, the forward facing installation uses fancy rigid LATCH so there’s no strap to tighten. Just click and go (and don’t forget to install your top tether).

For kids who like to sleep in the car, the Foonf offers three different recline positions. There are rules for when you can use each recline, so make sure you check the manual for details.

The Foonf does sit really high up rear-facing due to its base, so many families find that it’s not ideal for flying with a car seat. If you want lots of the awesome Clek features but a more plane-friendly design consider the Clek Fllo, its sister seat.

Overall, the Foonf is an excellent choice for safety-focused parents of kids who like a firmer ride.

Britax Marathon ClickTight review

Key stats:
-Weight 28lbs
-Shell height 27”
-Max harness height 18.5”
-Rear-facing size limits 5-40lbs, up to 49”
-Forward-facing size limits 20-65lbs, up to 49”

✔ Generous size limits
✔ Easy seatbelt installation with ClickTight
✔ No-rethread harness
✔ 10 year expiration

✘ Very heavy
✘ Expensive
✘ May not fit the tiniest preemies or newborns well

The Britax Marathon ClickTight is a great all-around choice for families, especially those with tall kids. It’s less expensive than many of the other premium car seats on this list, but it’ll last the longest thanks to its towering 18.5″ maximum harness height.

What makes the Britax Marathon a standout among convertible car seats? If you opt for the Dual Comfort fabric, your kids will enjoy a cooler ride thanks to extra ventilation and moisture wicking. Kids generally find it well-padded and it offers nice recline for car sleepers. The ClickTight technology makes installation a breeze whether you’re at home or on the road and the no-rethread harness makes adjustments easy.

The lowest harness slow (when you use the infant insert) also makes the Marathon suitable from birth for most full-term babies. That’s great news for families who want to use a convertible car seat from birth – you can use this from birth through roughly age 7, and then pass it along to another sibling or cousin.

Britax has a few other options worth considering. If you aren’t worries about your kids being sweaty, you can grab the Britax Marathon with an anti-rebound bar. You can also upgrade to the Britax Boulevard with anti-rebound bar, which adds another layer of side impact protection. For families who want to buy one car seat to last them all the way through, it’s hard to beat the new Britax One4Life; it works extremely well for rear-facing, forward-facing and boostering and is loaded with features for kid comfort and parent convenience.

One small but important detail is missing from Britax’s ClickTight car seat line up: a cup holder. Sadly, they don’t include one. You can buy it separately here, though lots of parents aren’t impressed with it. Hopefully Britax will fix this in the future!

Choosing the right convertible car seat can be stressful for many families. With any luck, the seat you buy now will be a comfortable car seat for your toddler as they grow into a big kid!

Have a big sibling in need of an upgrade? Check out our top picks for the most comfortable booster seats.

Convertible car seat FAQs

What is a convertible car seat?

A convertible car seat is one that can serve as a rear-facing harness and a forward-facing harness. Some “all-in-one” car seats also transition to a booster seat down the line.

When should I put my baby in a convertible car seat?

If you start off with an infant car seat, you’d generally move to a convertible car seat between 12 and 18 months depending on the limits of your infant car seat. If you plan to use a convertible car seat from birth, be sure to choose one that fits newborns well like this one.

Is a convertible car seat safe for an infant?

As long as it fits your infant properly, a convertible car seat is safe for an infant. There are a few important considerations. First, make sure that the harness straps come out of the shell below your baby’s shoulders. Second, make sure that the seat reclines enough to keep your baby’s airway open (some seats do this with a recline lever, while others change the seat shape with a newborn insert). Third, check that the car seat head rest doesn’t push your baby’s head forward so that chin and chest are touching.

Is a convertible car seat more comfortable?

Convertible car seats usually have more comfort features than infant car seats, as they’re intended to be used longer and toddlers are usually pickier about their car seats (and everything else) than they were as babies.

Does a convertible car seat need a base?

Convertible car seats do not generally have a base like an infant car seat, though some have a detachable portion to facilitate rear-facing installation.

How do I choose a convertible car seat?

Make sure that the convertible car seat you choose fits your child, fits in your car, fits your family’s budget and can be used correctly 100% of the time. The rest is icing on the cake! There’s no award for the “best convertible car seat of 2020” because every family’s needs are unique.

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2 thoughts on “What’s the most comfortable convertible car seat for long trips? (2021 reviews)”

  1. Do any of these car seats recline on the go? I’m first-time mom. I bought a Safety 1st car seat because of the price, and that it had three recline modes. You can’t recline it in forward-facing mode for sleeping on long car rides, after it has been installed.

    • Hi Paris,

      Thanks for stopping by! Sorry for the delay, we were out of town and I just saw your question.

      For a child who is already forward facing you’d want to buy a combination car seat. The best one for car sleepers is the Chicco MyFit. It’s extremely cushy and has several recline positions. You would potentially need to loosen it a little to recline and then re-tighten, but it’s not too hard to do on the fly. We had one for several years and absolutely loved it for road trips. If you buy direct from Chicco you can save $30 on your first purchase. Alternatively, if you’re new to the BuyBuyBaby email list you can get 20% off – see the full range of choices here.

      Safe travels,


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