What is a Combination Car Seat and Do I Need It?

There are stroller car seat combos and then there are combination car seats. But what really is the difference between these two? When I entered “combination car seats” in the search bar, what surfaced is a vast sea of “Best stroller car seat combos” rather than information about combination car seats.

I wrote this post to clear up every shred of confusion that surrounds this forward-facing car seat and perhaps make you a better-informed shopper.

What is a Combination Car Seat?

A combination car seat is a forward-facing ONLY car seat with a harness. It’s NEVER installed rear-facing, and it’s best suited for children who’ve outgrown their convertible car seat but aren’t not big enough to move into a booster car seat. Many combination car seats switch to a high-backed and sometimes to a backless booster when the young passenger reaches the required weight limit. Combination car seats are sometimes referred to as booster car seats, but strictly speaking, a combination car seat isn’t a booster seat. And a dedicated booster seat isn’t a combination car seat.

Best Combination Car Seat?

Best for Fit 3 Across Scenarios
Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat

Premium LATCH for anchoring the seat while in booster mode

Forward-faces up to 100 pounds, not the highest but still decent

Reasonably easy install

Has armrests and 2 removable and dish-washer safe cupholders

Decent padding, also removable and washable

No re-thread 5-point harness and adjustable headrest

A narrow design that works for most seat 3 across situations (17″, could get wider with the 2 cupholders on)

Difference Between a Convertible Car Seat and a Combination Car Seat

What’s the difference between a convertible car seat and a combination car seat? Both combination car seats and convertible car seats have a safety harness for securing little passengers and keeping them safe during crashes. However, a combination car seat ONLY allows forward-facing seating WHILE a convertible car seat allows rear-facing and forward-facing seating.

You can remove the 5-point harness from a combination car seat and convert it to a high-backed or backless booster car seat. Can you do the same with a convertible car seat? It depends on whether the convertible car seat in question offers the booster seating mode.

When a convertible car seat offers the booster seating mode, it’s referred to as an all-in-one car seat. For example: the Evenflo Revolve 360 Gold (a comparison post between the Evenflo 360 Gold and Cybex Sirona S) is an all-in-one car seat (it also rotates 360 degrees!) that rear-faces, forward-faces, and also converts to a high-backed booster.

To use this seat on the booster mode, you MUST remove the harness as you would if it were a combination car seat. In other words, convertible car seats and combination car seats aren’t one and the same thing. However, there are similarities between various models in both camps as far as functionality.

*Dedicated/real convertible car seats don’t have the booster mode. Which means you NEVER should remove the harness from such a seat. But with all-in-one car seats (which are also convertible options), you can remove the harness when the time comes to switch to the booster mode.

This is the most important difference between a combination car seat and a convertible car seat to remember: A combination car seat NEVER rear-faces BUT a convertible car seat does rear-face up to a specified weight and height limit and installs forward-facing at this point.

What Are the Different Types of Car Seats?

The most basic kind of car seat is the infant car seat, also known as a bucket seat. This is a rear-facing-only car seat meant for newborns and infants up to around age 2. It has a handle that enables you to tote baby around while outside of the car, which means the car seat shell is detachable from the base.

The second type of car seat is a convertible car seat. Unlike the bucket seat above, this one rear-faces and ALSO forward-faces, and they can be used from birth through preschool years. Usually, the base is detachable, and moving the car seat to a different vehicle requires uprooting the entire contraption and re-installing it in the second vehicle.

Next are all-in-one car seats, a kind of convertible car seat with a harness that’s removable to use the seat as a booster.

Most are heavy and bulky, and most people prefer to just leave this type in the car. However, there’s such a thing as a lightweight convertible car seat.

Then there are travel systems. You can buy a complete travel system, or you can create your own. If you choose to build out a customized ride for your little one, it helps greatly to know which car seats are compatible with which strollers.

Read this post if you have time to learn the most common stroller/car seat combinations (NOT to be confused with combination seats!).

Next is the combination car seat, which is what this post is all about.  Then there’s the booster car seat which is the final car seat type before the child transitions to the adult seat belt.

In list form, here they are:

  • Infant car seats/buckets
  • Convertible car seats
  • All-in-one car seats
  • Travel systems/stroller-car seat combos
  • Combination car seats
  • Dedicated booster car seat/belt-positioning car seats.

Here’s a detailed post on all different kinds of car seats if you’re interested.

What Are the Best Combination Car Seats?

Let’s get right down to it:

1. Chicco MyFit Harness & Booster Seat: Best for Fit 3 Across Situations

Best for Fit 3 Across Scenarios
Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat

Premium LATCH for anchoring the seat while in booster mode

Forward-faces up to 100 pounds, not the highest but still decent

Reasonably easy install

Has armrests and 2 removable and dish-washer safe cup holders

Decent padding, also removable and washable

No re-thread 5-point harness and adjustable headrest

A narrow design that works for most seat 3 across situations (17″, could get wider with the 2 cupholders on)

This is one of the heavier options out there, but it does feel like a solid and sturdy bet. It weighs 25 pounds, which is quite on the heavier bulkier side of things. But it’s not like too bad.

It’s designed for kids not shorter than 38″ and not taller than 57″. As for the weight limits, the range stretches from 25 pounds to 65 pounds for harnessed forward-facing seating. For the booster mode, the limit extends all the way to 100 pounds.

Well, 100 pounds isn’t like the best it ever gets, but it’s still a decent number. Sme all-in-one seats such as the Evenflo Revolve 360 Gold offer comfort and protection to kids up to 120.

The fabric is washable and feels like decent quality, and the padding is comfy enough and machine-washable. Installing it is as difficult/as easy as installing most similar options.

It comes with Premium Latch, which anchors the seat when in the booster mode. In booster seating,  the harness isn’t there, and the child uses the seat belt for safety. LATCH comes in handy in this situation, preventing the seat from becoming a dangerous projectile.

It features 2 cupholders, and my little tester didn’t knock them off at any time. However, the cupholders did make the seat somewhat wider. Good news! You can easily detach the cupholders and make your fit 3 across project more of a success.

2.Graco Nautilus 65 LX Car Seat

Most Versatile Pick
GRACO Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat, Conley

A mid-range option that looks nice, feels sturdy, has armrests, but the cupholder could have a wider diameter

A nice modern look and feels nice and solid

Starts as a 22-65 pounds forward-facing seat, then becomes a 40-100 pounds high-backed booster, and finally an up to 120-pounds backless booster; a pretty versatile choice. Height limits: 27″-49″ harness mode, 38″-57″ high-backed, and 40″-57″ backless booster mode

Removable body support for increased passenger comfort

Headrest adjusts, but upper harness length requires quite a bit of effort to tackle

Reclines, but it does so to a pretty limited extent

No-rethread harness, a really nice feature

Pretty heavy at 22+ pounds

Easy-to-store harness that makes strapping baby in and out quite easy


This comes with the base unlatched from the base, so it’s a pretty HUGE package that comes to you. Recline? What recline? They say it’s 3 recline positions, but pretty limited movement in this respect. Adjusting upper harness length does take some work, but a watching a good YT video should solve the problem. There’s a cupholder, but it could have a wider diameter; it doesn’t work very well for shorter, wider cups.

It starts out as a 22-65lbs forward-facing seat, then converts to a high-backed booster up to 100 pounds, and eventually to a 120-pound backless booster. Clearly the most versatile choice on this little list.

3.Evenflo Maestro Sport 2-in-1

Feature-rich Choice
Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat

At slightly under 10 pounds, the lightest choice on this list

19″ wide, which is moderately wide

Shoulder seatbelt guide for proper belt placement for safety

LATCH and top tether

2 deep cupholders that stay in via screws

Converts to a 110 pounds  high-booster mode at 44″-57″

Fairly easy install and stays tight

It measures at 19″ width-wise: not super narrow but not too wide either. But it’s lightweight, weighing in at just 9.6 pounds. It’s even lighter than the Cosco Finale Dx 2-In-1 Booster Car Seat below.

Boasts 2 pretty deep cupholders, and I really love that these cupholders need you to work in screws to hold them in place. Which means it’s quite hard for even the clumsiest and busiest hands to knock off the contents stored in the cups.

It lets you harness the child forward-facing up to 50 pounds (22-50lbs), which is 15 pounds less than the standard 65 pounds harnessed weight limit forward-facing limit.

The height limit in the 5-point harness is 28″-50″ while the limits in the high-backed booster mode are 44″-57″ (height) up to 110 pounds.

It’s not the most expensive choice, but it comes with a shoulder belt guide which makes positioning the seatbelt and holding it in place that much easier.

And yes, it comes with LATCH (hook and strap not rigid LATCH) and top tether for securing it when you use it as a high-booster seat.

BTW, don’t worry about the lower LATCH limits for this option or any other here (in the booster mode) since this mechanism serves to hold the seat in place rather than the seat plus the passenger.

4. Evenflo Evolve Platinum 3-in-1 Combination Booster Seat

A Colorful, Big-kid Combination Car Seat
Evenflo Evolve Platinum 3-in-1 Combination Booster Seat, Dreamer

A reasonably priced, colorful, well-made choice

Heavy but not too heavy at 20 pounds, and at 19.5″ not very wide

2 pretty deep cupholders for snack-y fun

Harness covers

Works as a 22-65lbs/28″-50″ forward-facing harnessed seat, 40-120lbs/44″-57″ high-backed choice, and a 40-120/44″-57″ backless booster

Great head support (not removable) and body wedge (removable)

Great side-impact protection

Looks like a big-kid seat, the ultimate transitioning option

No quick-release buttons parents have come to expect from Evenflo car seats

Not the easiest install but not too hard (watch YT videos)

If you’re seeking out a versatile combination car seat that looks nice, has great features (including 2 cupholders, LATCH, and harness covers), consider the Evenflo Evolve Platinum.

It looks nice, feels super sturdy, nicely padded, and it’s not the hardest install out there though also not the easiest.

It’s versatile: forward-facing with harness, high-backed, and no-back mode.

Its side wings add side-impact protection, and removable body wedge adds comfort.

2 crotch buckle positions helps you dial in a better fit

5. Cosco Finale Dx 2-In-1 Booster Car Seat

Best Lightweight Combination Car Seat
Cosco Finale Dx 2-In-1 Booster Car Seat

Measures 19″, not the narrowest but not too wide

At 11.5 pounds, super light, one of the lightest; super easy to switch between cars. Also, aircraft approved and installs reasonably easy.

Costs under $60 (at time of writing), clearly a budget option

Great user reviews: rating of 4.7 from 8K+ customer reviews

3 Harness height adjustment slots


1 dish-washer safe cupholder that installs on either side (awesome!)

An incredibly attractive price point yet still safe and protective

If you’re looking for a super lightweight, cheap combination seat for bringing on a plane or doing international travel, consider this pick. It’s  easy enough to install in vehicles, but I can’t say the same about installing on plane seats. Not like too hard, though. But the harness straps aren’t no-rethread, which isn’t suprising at all given the incredibly low price.

How to Choose a Combination Car Seat

How do you pick out the best combination car seat for your and your child’s travel needs? In this quick and dirty buying guide, you’ll learn everything you should know when shopping for a forward-facing-only car seat.

Ease of Use and Cleaning

Definitely get something that’s easy to install and switch between seating modes. If it features LATCH/ISOFIX or whatever you call LATCH in your country, pick an option whose seat securing mechanism isn’t a pain to handle.

Harness straps, headrest adjustments, and crotch buckle adjustments shouldn’t be hard at all. Of course, cleaning the seat cover, harness, and every other should feel like the labor of Hercules.

Versatility: This matters a Lot

If it changes from a forward-facing option with a harness to a high-backed booster and finally a backless option and it’s not battle after battle transitioning between modes, grab it!

LATCH System Equipped

If the seat converts to a seat-belt positioning mode, you want it to be LATCH-friendly. Don’t obsess about LATCH weight limits BTW. Because the LATCH system isn’t there to hold your kiddo. Rather, it’s there to make sure the seat stays anchored to the vehicle during use as well as when empty.

While it’s not a must to have LATCH for the booster mode, it HELPS keep things nice and safe. How?  By ensuring that the seat never turns into some heavy plastic missile that forcefully flies right out of the windshield during a crash and causes mayhem!

Padding Quality, Comfort, and Washability

Fabric quality definitely matters. You want it nice and soft and deeply padded, otherwise your little won’t enjoy seating in it very much. Also, the fabrics needs to be easy to clean (harness) and machine-washable (seat cover). I’m not saying it MUST be machine washable, but it diminishes drudgery in your life when it is.

Extras: Kids Love Cupholders

Yes, kids love cupholders. And they want them nice, deep, and sturdy. If they’re too easy to knock off, that’s not great. And if they’re too shallow that they spill drinks, that’s not awesome either.

If they’re removable, rotatable, or collapsible so that they get out of the way whenever needed, that’d be amazing. On some combination car seat models, cupholders may increase the width at the widest point of the seat. And this can make fitting 3 across in a compact car a tad harder. Removable ones work best.

Price: Paying Too Much Doesn’t Always Guarantee Quality

As long as the thing is approved for use in motor vehicles, it’s safe no matter what the price tag says. I’m not saying it’s impossible to land the worst deal from the worst-possible third-party sellers online though. I’m just saying that if you stick to trusted car seat brands especially when buying online, you’re less likely to make mistakes.

For an OK budget option, expect to part with $60-$100, up to $200 for a mid-priced one, and over $200 for a premium quality pick. I’ve found that past $250, there isn’t much improvement in pretty much any aspect of the purchase.

Did you find any combination car seat above that really spoke to you? Get it and let’s transport that big kid in style, comfort, and safely.

Author: Joe Waweru

As a medical professional practicing in the United States, Joe Waweru medically reviews every piece of relevant content at, but nothing he says here should be construed as medical advice of any kind.

Joe Waweru

As a medical professional practicing in the United States, Joe Waweru medically reviews every piece of relevant content at, but nothing he says here should be construed as medical advice of any kind. He's also an entrepreneur of some sort, but he prefers to keep this under wraps. <a href="Visit Joe's Facebook Profile here

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