Should I choose convertible seats over single-mode car seats?

Manufacturers have started producing car seats in the early 1930s. However, they are not specifically designed for child safety. But as the years passed with technology continuously evolving, the number of features and modifications for the purpose of protecting and improving the comfort of children have risen as well.

These improvements vary from harness systems, LATCH connectors, recline indicators, impact-absorbing foams, and even spill-proof fabrics. But one of the most practical features that manufacturers have developed is car seats that can convert to another, or sometimes, up to 2 or 3 car seat types.

child safety

Credit: Syda Productions

Nothing speaks practicality than being able to get 2 to 4 car seat types in a single purchase. And if you are worried about the overall bulk, the market offers the best convertible car seats for small cars that you can choose from.

So far with everything we’ve said, convertible seats are winning over single-mode seats. But does this mean that you should ignore the latter when shopping for car seats? Let’s compare them in better detail.

Convertible vs. Single-Mode

Before we put the two in comparison, we want to clarify that we can refer to single-mode seats as infant-only seats, highback booster seats, or backless booster seats.

Convertible seats, on the other hand, are rear-facing to forward-facing seats, convertible booster seats (both modes), rear-facing to backless booster, rear-facing to highback booster, forward-facing to backless booster, and any conversion in between the car seat stages.

Round 1: Car to Park

When you install convertible seats, they are permanently attached to your car. They come in one piece, and you cannot detach the carrier from the base. This means that after the ride, you have to transfer your baby into the stroller. This feature may not be a disadvantage, especially if you are planning on wearing your baby on your body most of the time and you’ll only be using the seat for the sole purpose of car rides.

However, if you ask any parent with a newborn, they’ll do whatever it takes if it means not disrupting their child’s sleep. So even though transferring the baby to the stroller seems simple, if there’s a solution that offers not waking up the baby, then that’s going to be more attractive.

Single-mode seats, specifically infant-only seats, offer the function of stay-in-car bases. This feature means that you don’t have to wake your baby up if he/she is asleep because you can take off the carrier (that even has a handle) and put it in the stroller. Some manufacturers also offer travel systems (seat and stroller combo) for this sole purpose.

Another advantage that you can get from the detachable carrier is during the winter months; you don’t have to worry about your baby getting cold when you transfer him/her to a stroller. This is because you can bundle your child in the carrier when you take it off the base.

Round 2: Size, Portability, and Car Installments

Because of the convertibility factor, convertible seats will be bulkier compared to single-mode seats. They are going to be understandably heavier as well, which also plays a role in seat portability.

However, there are also models in the market that targets parents who prefer something lightweight and will not take a large footprint inside the car. This means, you can find convertible seats that you can install 3 across in compact SUVs and at the same time, doesn’t weigh too much that’ll make installation stressful.

Because you will be using convertibles for a long time, the added sense of familiarity that you and your child will have will the seat can also make the installations, transitions, and adjustments faster.

Another thing we should mention is smaller newborns might not fit well to some convertibles because of the seat size. But, some manufacturers have remedied this by offering newborn inserts to accommodate smaller babies safer.

What about single-mode seats? Single-mode seats measure less than convertible seats. They also offer less complicated car installations and adjustments. As we have mentioned earlier, it is more convenient, especially for a sleeping baby, to be in an infant-only seat.

But this is not just because you can leave the base in the car and transfer the carrier directly in the stroller. You can also install multiple bases (by LATCH connectors or seat belt) in all of your cars instead of carrying bulky seats from car to car.

However, some parents can still find carrying single-mode seats cumbersome since some models weigh around 10 pounds. Add in the weight of a newborn and suddenly, using a baby body carrier might seem the better idea.

Round 3: Height and Weight Limits

A convertible seat is obviously going to have a higher height and weight limits compared to a single-mode seat. Because it can transition to another seat stage, manufacturers have designed convertible to last a growing child for longer. On the one hand, a drawback that convertible seats have when they are in rear-facing mode is they can be difficult to adjust because of their overall bulk as we have tackled earlier.

But this doesn’t mean that single-mode seats do not allow continued usage. Some models, particularly rear-facing seats, have high weight and height limits since this car seat stage is the safest. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends keeping your child in rear-facing until he/she outgrows it (typically until age 4), so brands have developed sizes for extended usage. There are also forward-facing seats that have high shoulder harness slots to accommodate taller kids who are not mature enough to switch to a booster.

Round 4: Budget

If you think about it, convertible seats might cost more, but in the long run, you don’t have to buy a separate seat once your child outgrows the previous one. However, you can also buy single-mode seats like an infant-only seat that comes with a stroller (travel system) and still save money because the two comes in a single purchase.

The Bottomline

Should you choose convertible seats over single-mode car seats? The answer will depend on you and your baby. The truth is, both of these seats have their own strengths and weaknesses. What may be a disadvantageous feature to another family might actually be an advantageous quality to another. At the end of the day, choose the car seat type that will give both you and your child safety and comfort with minimal compromise and disruption.



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