baby talk

Infant vs. Convertible Car Seats: How to Choose

Chicco Infant in Car Seat image

As new parents, one of the most significant decisions you'll face is choosing the right car seat for your child. It's a crucial choice for your child's safety and your peace of mind. The dilemma often boils down to two main options: an infant car seat or a convertible car seat. Both have their merits and understanding these can be the key to making an informed decision that suits your family's needs.

This guide will explain the differences between infant and convertible car seats. Here, we'll explore the specifics of each type, including their safety features, ease of use, and how they can fit into your family's lifestyle.

Whether you’re preparing for your baby’s first ride home from the hospital or planning for their growth, this information will help you navigate this important decision with confidence and clarity.

When it comes to ensuring the safety of your little one on the road, understanding the types of car seats available is essential. Let's compare the two primary options: convertible and infant car seats, each designed to cater to different stages of your child's growth and travel needs.

Infant Car Seats

Infant car seats are specifically designed for newborns and smaller infants. These seats are always used in the rear-facing position and are known for their convenience and portability. They attach to a base that is installed in your vehicle, allowing you to easily remove the seat with just the click of a button.

The carry handle on infant car seats is a game-changer for parents, providing a hassle-free way to transport your baby between the car and your home or anywhere else you need to go. Many infant car seats can be part of a travel system, integrating seamlessly with a compatible stroller. Travel systems allow you to transition the car seat directly onto the stroller, making outings with your baby more convenient and comfortable for both of you.

Pros and Cons of Infant Car Seats


  • Portability: The detachable design simplifies transporting your baby between the car and your destination without disturbing them.
  • Stroller Compatibility: Many infant car seats are compatible with strollers for seamless transitions.
  • Convenience for Newborns: Specifically designed for newborns, these seats provide a snug and secure fit, crucial for your baby's early months.
  • Ease of Use: Click-in and click-out functionality with the base installed in your car makes it easy to secure and remove the car seat. For added convenience, consider purchasing an additional base to make switching between vehicles easier–just make sure the base is specifically designed for your car seat.
  • Lightweight Design: Generally lighter than convertible seats, making them easier to carry.


  • Shorter Lifespan: Designed for infants, these seats can quickly be outgrown, usually by the time your baby is 1-2 years old.
  • Added Expense: Once your child outgrows the infant car seat, you'll need to purchase a convertible or all-in-one car seat causing an additional expense in the first 12-18 months

Convertible Car Seats

Convertible car seats are versatile and long-lasting. They start as rear-facing seats for infants and can switch to forward-facing as your child grows. Unlike infant car seats, which typically have a detachable base, convertible car seats are installed directly into the vehicle. This means that while you can carry your baby in and out of the car in their infant seat, with a convertible seat, your baby needs to be taken out of the seat each time you exit the vehicle.

One of the key advantages of choosing a convertible car seat is its extended weight and height limits for rear-facing use, making them ideal for larger babies and toddlers. Some convertible seats can safely accommodate children in the rear-facing position until they are 3 to 5 years old. Convertible car seats often come with inserts to ensure a snug fit for smaller babies but remember, it's crucial to use these as directed in the manual and avoid adding any non-approved accessories.

Pros and Cons of Convertible Car Seats


  • Longevity: Convertible car seats grow with your child, suitable from infancy through toddlerhood and beyond.
  • Higher Rear-Facing Limits: They accommodate higher weight and height limits for rear-facing, offering enhanced safety for older babies and toddlers.
  • Cost-Effective: Although your child will eventually need to transition to a booster seat, convertible car seats eliminate the need to purchase both an infant car seat and a forward-facing car seat.
  • Versatility: Can be used rear-facing for infants and then converted to forward-facing for older children.


  • Non-Portable: These seats are installed directly in the car and are not meant to be regularly removed, meaning you can't easily carry your baby in the seat outside of the vehicle.
  • Initial Bulkiness: These can be bulkier and heavier than infant seats, potentially making them less ideal for smaller vehicles.
  • No Stroller Compatibility: Unlike infant seats, they cannot be used as part of a travel system with a stroller.

Choosing the best car seat for your little one is about finding a balance that aligns with your lifestyle, ensures your child's safety, and offers the best value for your investment.

Starting with longevity, each type of car seat serves a unique purpose. Infant car seats, tailored for newborns, are a great initial choice but have a shorter usage span as they're quickly outgrown. On the other hand, convertible car seats are a long-term solution, growing with your child from infancy to toddlerhood. This adaptability can be a significant advantage, allowing you to purchase fewer seats over the years.

Convenience is another important consideration. The ease of transferring a calm, comfortable baby in an infant car seat from car to stroller can’t be understated. Infant car seats are designed for effortless transitions, ideal for parents on the go. However, while convertible car seats lack this level of portability, they make up for it in durability and longevity.

Finally, weighing the cost of each option is essential. Infant car seats might seem more budget-friendly initially, but remember you’ll need to upgrade as your child grows. Convertible car seats are more of an upfront investment; however, they can be more economical over time and serve your child for several years to come.

Is it better to buy an infant car seat or a convertible car seat?

We recommend parents do their research to determine what option will best fit their family. With a stay-in-car base and removable carrier, an infant car seat offers easy transition from home to car to stroller. An infant car seat is rear-facing only. A convertible car seat offers a longer duration of use since they can be used rear-facing for infants and toddlers then convert to forward-facing when height or weight requirements are met. Convertible car seats stay in the car as they do not click into a stroller.

When to switch baby from infant car seat to convertible car seat?

Once the baby reaches the height or weight limits of their infant car seat they can transition to a convertible car seat in the rear-facing position. Some parents might prefer to move to a convertible car seat sooner as the infant car seat may become heavy to carry.

Is a convertible car seat as safe as an infant car seat?

Every car seat sold in the United States must meet the same safety standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). All Chicco Car Seats meet or exceed the standards that are set. Once your child outgrows the infant car seat you will switch to a convertible or all-on-one car seat.

What age do kids outgrow convertible car seats?

Convertible car seats can be used in the forward-facing position until the child reaches 65 lbs or 49 in. This is usually around 4 or 5 years old depending on the child. Once a child reaches the height or weight limit of their current car seat they should transition to a new car seat such as the MyFit Harness Booster of KidFit Belt-Positioning Booster Car Seat.

What comes after an infant car seat?

After a baby outgrows their rear-facing infant car seat they will move to a convertible or all-in-one car seat starting in the rear-facing position.

What is the safest car seat for a newborn?

The safest car seat for any child is one that fits them properly and is installed correctly in the vehicle. It is important to read your vehicle owner’s manual as well as the car seat manual to understand how to properly install the car seat and secure your child.

Finding the perfect car seat can be a bit challenging. It's a decision that paves the way for countless journeys and adventures with your little one. Remember, whether you choose an infant car seat for its snug comfort and portability or opt for the long-term companionship of a convertible car seat, you're making a decision that puts your child's safety first.

Think about your daily routine, the size of your vehicle, and how the car seat will fit into your family's lifestyle. You know your family best, and this decision, like so many others in your parenting journey, is about finding what works best for you and your child.

Here's to safe travels and the joy of the journey ahead. For more helpful tips and ideas, check out the Chicco Baby Talk blog!