Top 11: Ultimate Guide To The Best Car Seat for Toddlers
Careful driving cannot fully guarantee the safety of your precious cargo. In order to effectively keep your children safe on the road, you need a quality car seat that shields and secures them throughout the ride. To save you the trouble of going through multiple sites that offer a wide array of car seats, we have a compiled the best toddler car seats on the market into one ultimate guide.
What Is The Best Car Seat For Toddlers?
(Full Toddler Car Seat Reviews Below)
Why Does Your Toddler Need A Car Seat?
Child safety seats are mandatory for a good reason. The leading cause of injury and death for children is car accidents, and “child restraints, or car seats, reduce the risk of injury by 71% to 82% and reduce the risk of death by 28% in comparison to children in seat belts alone.” Furthermore, “booster seats reduce the risk of nonfatal injuries by 45% among 4 to 8 year olds when compared to the seat belt alone.”
You, therefore, need to be very deliberate when choosing the right car seat for your child.
How to Choose the Best Car Seat For Toddlers
When choosing the best car seat for toddlers, be sure to consider the following factors:
1. Your vehicle
Look for a car seat that will fit securely in your car, preferably in the center seat. “Children seated in the center rear have a 43% lower risk of injury compared with children in a rear outboard position,” making this the ideal place to position your car seat. Go over the specs provided by the car seat manufacturers to determine whether the seat is compatible with your car. The good news is that most car seats can fit well in different vehicle types.
2. Your child’s age, weight, and height
Your car seat should ALWAYS accommodate the height and weight of your child, ensuring that they are comfortable and secure at all times. Look at the height and weight limits that come with each car seat, and use them to determine whether your toddler fits within those limits. Convertible seats with high limits are an excellent option as they grow with your child.
Lucy has a 33lb toddler named Jonathan who is also 36-inches tall. Based on his current weight and height, he will fit perfectly in the Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1 Harness Booster Convertible Car Seat, which can accommodate his growing frame until he is ready to use a seat belt. The Nautilus has been built for toddlers between 22-100lbs and 27” to 57”, making it a perfect fit.
Additionally, if your child is below the age of 2, get them a rear-facing car seat for enhanced safety. If possible, extend their stay in the rear-facing car seat until the age of 4. After this, you can consider a forward-facing car seat, or in the case of convertible car seats, switch the seat from rear-facing to forward facing.
3. Your needs
While some parents buy car seats that remain stationary in their car, others like moving their car seats from car to car. If you fall into the second group, you need to make sure that you choose a lightweight option that can be installed and uninstalled quickly and efficiently.
Here are some great car seat safety tips:
Choosing The Best Car Seat For Toddlers Model
There are 5 main car seat models to choose from, with each one serving a different purpose.
1. Infant Car Seat
As you can deduce, an infant car seat is a rear-facing model that has been designed for newborns and infants between 4lbs and 40lbs. Select a model with a high weight limit so that your infant can make the most use out of the car seat.
How to secure your newborn in a car seat:
2. Convertible Seat
Convertible car seats have rear-facing and forward-facing capabilities, as they are designed to grow with your child. These seats can carry up to 100lbs in weight, allowing you to use them for several years. You should remember that all kids under the age of 2 should be in a rear-facing seat, thereafter you can install your convertible seat as a forward-facing seat.
Convertible car seats- Make the move now rather than later:
3. Toddler Booster
Once your toddler has met the requirements to sit in a forward-facing seat, they can use a toddler booster as opposed to a convertible seat (toddler boosters are a more affordable option). These car seats use a harness system for toddlers between 20lbs and 90lbs, before they switch to booster mode for toddlers between 30lbs and 120lbs.
4. Booster Seat
Initially, your toddler will use a harness system to secure them in their car seat. However, as they grow, they’ll need to transition to a booster seat that makes use of the car’s seat belt (belt-positioning booster). These seats will place them in an elevated position making it easier for the seat belt to fit correctly. Booster seats should only be used by children over the age of 4.
Last but not least we have all-in-one seats, which are meant to carry your child from the day of their birth to the day they are old enough to use a booster seat (5lbs to 120lbs). In this way you never have to buy more than one car seat. However, many all-in-one seats are too heavy to move from one car to another, and they might not be the safest option for your infant.
If you do choose this model, ensure that the car seat you choose can comfortably and safely secure your child at each stage of their life.
The Top 11 Toddler Car Seats on the Market
There are plenty of toddler car seats to choose from, and it will be time-consuming to go through all of them. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top 11 car seats on the market, based on brand, quality of construction, versatility, and durability. Use the following toddler car seat reviews to determine which product is best for your little one.
As for installing the 4Ever convertible car seat. It’s as easy as using the 1 second LATCH attachments. Then adjusting the leveling position. The seat does have a level bubble indicator and 6 different reclining positions to help with the process. In addition to the reclining adjustment. The 4Ever model has 10 different headrest positions as your toddler grows the seat can remain properly fitted near their head.
The 4Ever is designed with side-impact testing either meeting or exceeding all US safety standards. Additionally, the car seat has a steel reinforced frame to add strength and durability. You’ll also notice that the car seat has built-in pockets for the harness straps. this makes it very easy to strap in your child as they won’t be sitting on the straps. The cup holders are nice as well as your toddler grows and can hold a milk cup or some snacks. They are also removable in the event of spills or accidents. Lastly, the fabric is washable and very durable for any spills or added wear and tear that it may endure with your child.
- Leveling system allows for a perfect fit in different cars
- Straps are adjustable
- Harness is padded
- Easy machine washing
- Accommodates growing children
- Initial difficulty tightening the straps
The lightweight design of the Evenflo Maestro comes with built-in LATCH system belts to help secure the car seat to your vehicle. The simple LATCH system allows for an easy install and in the event you need to transfer it to multiple vehicles you can do it with the touch of a couple buttons. Engineered, tested, and designed in the United States the car seat is made to last and made to install into any type of vehicle.
The Evenflo combination car seat has dual cup holders for your toddler’s snacks and drinks. Each cup holder is built to not extend the size of the car seat. As a result, allowing for multiple car seats to sit next to each other. The upfront harness adjustment makes for a very convenient and easy means to get your child in and out of the car seat. Don’t forget the Evenflo has multiple harness and crotch buckle positions.
Therefore, as your child grows you can adjust where the belt sits on their chest and legs to ensure a safe and secure ride. Also as your child grows into the belt-positioning booster the Maestro has an auto-adjust belt path. correctly positioning the vehicle’s seat belt to properly fit over the shoulder of your child. For the low cost, this is the best car seat for toddlers from Evenflo.
- Fits children from 22-110 pounds
- Adjustable Harness & Buckle
- Trusted 5 Point Harness
- Easy machine washing
- Doesn’t level as easily as other models
- Fewer adjustments compared to other models
The 5-point harness offers a secure and safe belt system to ensure your child is protected while driving. In addition, the seat is side-impact tested to meet or exceed all applicable US safety standards. The car seat is also built with EBS foam that absorbs energy and impact in the event of a crash or accident. Making this car seat a top choice for safety.
Even though the car seat looks quite heavy. Its lightweight design is built to install in nearly any vehicle with the LATCH system straps. Allowing you to easily install in multiple vehicles. The Graco Contender even has an easy to read level indicator to ensure that the car seat is in a safe position while traveling. It’s also a great idea to be conscious of this indicator as your child grows and you convert the car seat from a front to a rear-facing car seat.
The Graco Contender has an 8 position headrest that can be adjusted to accommodate your growing toddler. Therefore, creating safe and secure head support while driving. The car seat also comes with convenient cup holders that allow for toys, drinks, or snacks to keep your child occupied. No need to worry about spills as the cup holders can be removed for cleaning. Since the car seat is a convertible seat you’ll notice that the head and body support can be removed once your child progresses from the rear-facing car seat style.
- Meet s or Exceeds All US Standard Testing
- Adjustable To Properly fit Vehicle
- 5-65 pound weight rating
- Easy machine washing
- LATCH equipped
- Doesn’t transition into a booster seat
- Fewer convenient features than other models
Whether you are installing as a rear facing, forward facing, or belt position booster the Grow and go is easy to install. It can be secured with the LATCH system belts or with a seat belt. The car seat is quite versatile and offers a simple and easy install. You’ll notice that once installed it provides an extra 7″ of leg room when placed in the rear seat as a rear-facing car seat. Therefore, providing more leg room in the front seat as a parent. some car seats can take up quite a bit of room, not the Grow and Go.
The Grow and Go is the best car seat for toddlers when it comes to overall design and cost. With built-in harness holders, you can easily get your child in and out of their car seat without them sitting or getting tangled up in the harness. You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to remove a harness underneath a toddler. As a result, with the Grow and go you won’t have to fish behind your child for the harness or clips.
Lastly, most infants or toddlers will eventually spill a drink or a bag of snacks. The Grow and Go is machine washable and dryer safe. You simply remove the car seat fabric and cover, and no need to remove the harness as the fabric is easily removable. Then you place it in your washer and clean the mesh out.
- Washable Fabric
- Meets or Exceeds All US Standard Testing
- Three reclining adjustments
- Harness Holders
- Extra Leg Room For Parents
- Adjustable Head Support
- Straps are a little harder to cinch tight
- A little wider than other models
The Evenflo is designed with LATCH systems for an easy installation. It’s as simple as clicking in two clips. As a result, you can move this from one vehicle to another with quite a bit of ease. This is perfect if you are planning on flying with your children, and renting a rental car. In the event, you have multiple vehicles, it’s usually best to buy a couple this way you won’t have to remove the car seat every time you use different vehicles.
The Evenflo LX has an upfront harness adjustment at the front of the seat making it easy to secure your child. This also is the single point of release allowing you to remove your child as well. With four harness positions, your child can grow in height and still remain secured safely. And as your child grows out of the secure 5 point harness system. It can be removed and this car seat can be used as a belt-positioning booster seat.
Therefore, extending the life of use as your child continues to grow. Even though the car seat is lightweight, it’s been tested for structural integrity at levels that are two times the federal crash test standard. In addition to that, it also goes through rigorous side-impact testing to meet or exceed all federal safety standards.
- Removeable Head Pillow
- Belt Positing Paths
- Four Harness Positions
- Washable Fabric
- Meets or Exceeds All US Standard Testing
- Doesn’t level as easily as other models
- Not a Rear-Facing Car seat
The best car seat for toddlers when it comes to installation is the Britax Marathon. The ClickTight installation system is worry free and takes just seconds. Just open the front of the car seat buckle the vehicle’s seat belt across the car seat and shut it. It’s as simple as that and will provide you with safety and security. The seat doesn’t even budge with this style of installation. As a result, you can have the confidence to travel where ever with your children.
One look at the Marathon and you’ll notice this isn’t your average car seat. It’s stylish and modern looking and rigorously safety tested. The SafeCell technology provides you with the confidence that you know your children are safe in the back seat of your vehicle. The features include a steel frame and energy absorbing base and tether with staged-release stitches to reduce the forward movement in the event of a crash. The Marathon offers superior protection, unlike any other car seat. However, even with all of the safety features built in.
The Seat has 12 harness adjustment positions. Therefore getting the right fit for your child is simple. It also has a headrest that is adjustable with the simple click of a button. The Britax is one of the best car seats for toddlers.
- SafeCell Impact Protection
- Steel Frame
- Comfort Shaped harness
- Safe Installation
- Heavier Than other Booster Models
However, as your child grows the seat can convert to a booster allowing it to be used all the way up to a 100-pound weight rating. One of the best features about this car seat is that it comes with dishwasher-safe cup holder that can detach in the event of spills or accidents. Therefore, no need to worry about that sticky mess your child will create.
Cosco’s Finale DX can be installed very quickly thanks to the lightweight design. Due to the car seat being so slim, it can be used three across inside a back seat. Therefore, if your family has multiple kids, no need to worry about getting that larger vehicle just yet. With numerous seat belt adjustments, this car seat installs quickly and will provide great safety and support for your growing toddler.
The Cosco Finale DX is one of the easiest car seats to clean thanks to the car seat pad being removable and machine wash safe. I know for our toddler after a month or two the car seat happens to get so dirty. We can just remove the pad and fabric and toss it in. It’s even safe to use in the dryer as well. Making clean ups super easy. The car seat is made in the USA with imported parts, which gives you a peace of mind that these are manufactured to last and withstand the wear and tear a child will put on the car seat.
- Slim Profile
- Cup Holders
- Superior Fabrics
- Made In USA
- Simple Features
- Non-Rear Facing
Giving the Britax Frontier one of the most robust weight ratings compared to any other model. This car seat can really grow with your child from 2 years old all the way until they no longer need a car seat. Making it the best car seat for toddlers if you are looking for one that can do it all.
Similar to the Marathon Britax series the Frontier has the same ClickTight technology. This allows for the car seat to be installed in just a matter of seconds. Simply just open the car seat and feed the vehicle’s seat belt through the car seat and close. This allows for a tight and secure fit for the car seat to attach to the vehicle.
With the Frontier, you’ll receive a heavy duty steel frame energy absorbing base that will be sure to absorb any shock during an accident. This also means that the car seat is built with extreme durability, ensuring that it will last for many years. As your child grows in height the car seat has a head seat extension that can move to 9 different positions. Providing your child with plenty of head support no matter their size or age.
Lastly, the Frontier offers superior protection as the shell of the seat is wrapped in energy absorbing material and the headrest is lined with multiple layers of protection in the event of a side impact. The car seat is a trusted and quality toddler seat that is designed and built in the USA. It’s hard to find a car seat that can outdo the Frontier.
- Easy Install
- Multiple Head Adjustments
- Slim Profile
- Wide Array of Weight Rating
- Non-Rear Facing Car seat
To install the Sonus car seat it’s as simple as using the LATCH system that is built into the car seat. You’ll notice with this type of system that it straps down tight and doesn’t move once secured. Once installed you’ll notice that the overall footprint of the car seat is quite small. Therefore, leaving plenty of room for additional passengers or car seats. Additionally, once you’re ready to use the chairs recliner feature it’s quite easy to engage and disengage.
For a great value, this car seat comes with premium features more commonly found on higher end car seats. For example, the car seat comes equipped with two cup holders that don’t add any additional side profile room to your vehicle. The Sonus has buckle pockets that one help to protect the buckles if your car is parked in the sun from heating up. Two the pockets help to keep the straps from going underneath your toddler as you place them in the car seat.It even has air flow vents incorporated into the car seat to help provide air-flow and a comfortable ride. The Sonus is the best car seat for toddlers for a great price.
- Air Flow Vents
- Buckle Pockets
- Convertible For a Low Cost
- Takes up a little more leg room in the rear seat.
- Little heavier than other models
To install the Maxi-Cosi car seat all you have to do is use the LATCH system that is built into the car seat. As a result, you’ll be able to install this car seat very quickly no matter what vehicle you are using. This is especially important if you travel with your car seats. Since you can put this one in any style rental car with the LATCH system.
The Pria Car Seat is a sleek and modern car seat designed to provide your toddler the comfort and safety to ride in your vehicle until they are 85 pounds. The car seat has some of the most comfort and padding for side impact protection. The headrest is equipped with Air Protection Technology in the event of a side impact crash. Aside from the superior safety the car seat has some additional design features that any parents will be sure to appreciate. The Car seat fabric can be removed and machine washed in the event of any spills, accidents, or leaks. It’s also dryer safe so no need to let this hang outside all day when you need to be using the car seat. The best feature this has is the ClipQuick chest clips that are auto-magnetic chest clips making it very easy to buckle your child in safely.
Lastly, the car seat has handy harness holders for when you need to place your child in the seat the straps will be sure to stay out of your way. The Pria 85 is the best car seat for toddlers from Maxi-Cosi.
- 2-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
- 85 Pound Max
- Excellent Side Impact Protection
- Little Wider than Other Models
- Padding Seems like it gets in the way
With the Evenflo AMP the seat is designed to be installed as a belt-positioning booster. As a result, the seat is very lightweight and easy to install with any vehicle. No need to worry as you transfer between vehicles, as long as you have a seat belt this car seat can be used safely.
Initially, the belt-positioning booster utilizes a backrest, but this will transition to a no-back booster as your child grows. The booster also offers 6 height adjustments so that your child is always safe and comfy, and the one-handed height adjustments are quick and easy so you don’t get too frustrated.The features I admire most about this car seat are the side and head support, which are consistently precise at each stage of your toddler’s development.
- Energy absorbing foam for comfort and safety
- 6 height positions
- Easy transitions
- Armrests do not lift up
As you’ve seen from the toddler car seat reviews above, each of these car seats excels in one or more areas, making my final pick extremely tough.
Based on the roundup above, my pick for the best car seat for toddlers is the Graco 4ever All-in-One convertible car seat.
The versatility, quality of construction, and safety features of the convertible Graco are what sealed the deal. Not only does this car seat accommodate your child from infancy to youth, it keeps your toddler in the rear facing position for a long time to maximize their safety.
Based on your budget and your toddler’s needs, you might decide to go with a different pick. If you choose to do so, I urge you to consider the factors outlined at the beginning of this guide to make your choice easy and efficient. This way you can be certain that you are getting the best car toddler seat for your little one.
What’s your personal experience with car seats? Have you witnessed amazing protection with the seats reviewed above? Share your story with us below.