The Best Toddler Car Seats For Your Child. How To Choose Based On Age & Weight?
Just when you think you’re done after deciding upon, purchasing, and installing your child’s infant car seat, they’re ready for a toddler car seat. This is the next step in any child’s car seat journey but don’t worry as you’ve come to the right place.
The Best & Safest Toddler Car Seat should be a car seat that makes the transition from an infant to toddler car seat easy and stress-free for both you and your child.
We’re also here to help during this transition as we provide you with a list of our top picks, highlighting their pros and cons while also giving our final verdict, which is directly influenced by consumer experiences and opinions.
Short on time? We’ve created a list below of the best toddler car seats for your convenience (best to worst). Keep reading a detailed review for each model.
While reading our reviews below, here are the top things to consider before purchasing a toddler car seat:
- Ease of use – Any car seat you purchase should always be user-friendly and convenient, particularly when it comes to installation and adjustment.
- Value for money – Our top picks for the best toddler car seats are convertible car seats, which tend to be higher in price. However, it’s all about what the car seat offers compared to its competition as well as what suits your budget.
- Weight and height limits – Toddler car seats with higher weight and height limits will offer more years of usage and this is something we highlight in our reviews.
- Good belt fit – For toddler car seats that convert into either a belt-positioning or backless booster, keep an eye out for those that have been rated as a ‘Best Bet Booster’ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
- Car compatibility – Toddler car seats tend to be bulkier than other types of car seats so we recommend comparing your backseat dimensions to ensure the car seat works for your vehicle.
List Of The Best Toddler Car Seats For 12-24 Months Old
Best All-in-One Toddler Car Seat for Kids 12-24 months
Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 (Best Seller)
The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is one of the highest-rated car seats on the current market and is a particularly good choice as a toddler car seat for kids aged 12-24 months. The Graco 4Ever is as close as you’ll get to a perfect car seat so it’s no mystery as to why it is an ultimate favorite among American families.
The Graco 4Ever is an all-in-one type of car seat, meaning no other car seat will be required. It accommodates children from rear-facing (4-40 pounds) to forward-facing (22-65 pounds) as well as a highback booster (30-100 pounds) to finally, a backless booster (40-120 pounds).
It is also available in 2 different stylish designs, including ‘Matrix’, and ‘Studio’.
Why We Love It
- 4 different seating modes, including rear-facing, forward-facing, high back belt-positioning booster and backless belt-positioning booster.
- Years of usage with a 10-year expiration date.
- Includes a number of adjustable features including 6 recline positions, a 20-position headrest, and a Simply Safe Adjust 5-point Harness System, ensuring your child is comfortable and secure.
- Engineered and tested to meet or exceed the NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213 tested using the NCAP standards, with crash forces that are approximately 2 times the federal standard.
- Superior safety features, including a steel-reinforced frame and exterior to protect your child and give you peace of mind.
- Includes Graco’s exclusive InRight LATCH system with an easy-to-read bubble level indicator and click cue for simple and accurate installation.
- Convenient and user-friendly design with 2 built-in cup holders, a built-in harness storage compartment and a machine-washable seat cushion and cover.
- FAA approved for airplane travel.
Keep In Mind
- The biggest complaint from parents about the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 was the rattling sound of the headrest, particularly when the car seat was unoccupied. However, this does not pose a safety risk or compromise your child’s safety.
- If you live in a warmer climate with hotter summers, this may not be the best car seat for you as several parents commented on the car seat material’s lack of breathability and ventilation, which caused their children to sweat and become uncomfortable.
- The Graco 4Eever 4-in-1 is quite large and bulky and its size caused parents some difficulty in setting up and installing the car seat in their vehicle. Parents noted that they had even greater difficulty with vehicles that have bucket seats.
- When fully reclined in the rear-facing mode, tall front-seat passengers may feel a bit squashed due to reduced legroom.
- Unfortunately, the straps cannot be removed for machine washing and parents reported difficulty in tightening the safety harness, particularly in the rear-facing mode.
Our Verdict & Customer Opinions
The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is a fantastic all-in-one car seat for toddlers that leaves both children and parents satisfied thanks to the safety, comfort, convenience, and value for money it provides. However, keep in mind the rattling sound of the headrest and the lack of breathable material/fabric.
Best Convertible Toddler Car Seat for Kids 12-24 months
Graco Extend2Fit (Best Seller)
The Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat definitely earns this title of Best All-in-One Toddler Car Seat for offering convenience, safety, comfort, and ease of use. It is safe to say that this toddler car seat is not only a favorite of ours but also of parents and children alike.
The Graco Extend2Fit is designed to accommodate children within a 4 to 65-pound weight range and up to 49 inches tall. It is available in 7 different colors to suit your child’s taste and preferences, including ‘Gotham’, ‘Binx’, and ‘Spire’.
Why We Love It
- What sets apart the Graco Extend2Fit apart from its competition is its ability to ensure your child is kept in a rear-facing car seat past 2 years old. This is recommended by child car seat safety experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Its 50-pound rear-facing weight limit is one of the highest weight limits not only within the Graco family but also amongst other toddler car seats available on the market.
- To ensure your child is comfortable and secure there are a variety of adjustable features, including 6 recline positions, 10 headrest positions, and a 4-position leg extension feature.
- Features Graco’s Simply Safe Adjust Harness System, which requires no rethreading ever.
- A 10-year expiration date.
- This toddler car seat is Graco ProtectPlus Engineered, meaning its been crash tested to meet or exceed US safety standards and tested using the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) standards, with crash forces that are 2 times the federal standard!
- Convenient design featuring removable cup holders, a machine-washable seat cushion and a Fuss-Free Harness Storage compartment.
- FAA approved for use on an aircraft.
- Includes the exclusive InRight LATCH system for easy and quick installation.
Keep In Mind
- Unfortunately, the Graco Extend2Fit is quite large and bulky, meaning it may not be the best choice for small or compact vehicles and 3-across car seat configurations. In particular, parents reported that in the rear-facing position with the leg extension out, tall front-seat passengers were left with little legroom.
- While the seat cushion is conveniently machine-washable, it can be difficult to remove and replace.
- Some parents experienced difficulty in tightening the harness straps, while others found seat belt installation in the rear-facing mode tricky.
- We recommend keeping the user manual close by as there are some rules and guidelines regarding weight, recline, and the use of some features that differ depending on which seating mode the Graco Extend2Fit is in.
- Parents found the square-shaped cup holders difficult and frustrating to work with.
Our Verdict & Customer Opinions
The Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat is a great all-in-one car seat choice for toddlers aged 12-24 months, particularly when it comes to safety, security, ease of use, affordability, and comfort. It is a winner for its ability to keep your child in the rear-facing seating mode well past their 2nd birthday. However, its large and bulky frame does pose some space-related issues for parents with small or compact vehicles.
List Of The Best Toddler Car Seats For 24+ Months Old
Best Toddler Car Seat for Kids 24+ Months
Britax Frontier ClickTight (Best Seller)
The Britax Frontier ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat definitely earns a spot on this list as the best toddler car seat for children 24+ months as it is specifically designed with your child’s safety and protection as the first priority. It also has a durable, convenient, and user-friendly design to make parent’s lives easier.
This car seat comes from a reputable brand that is loved and trusted by families from around the globe. Britax has been designing and manufacturing safe, durable, and stylish baby products since the 1970s and the Britax Frontier is a reflection of this.
The Britax Frontier accommodates children from forward-facing to booster. The forward-facing harness is suitable for children weighing 20-90 pounds and measuring 30-58 inches tall. The booster mode is ideal for kids weighing 40-120 pounds and measuring between 42-62 inches in height. It is also available in 9 different colors and patterns, including ‘Vibe’, ‘Baxter’, ‘Spark’, and more.
Note: We’ve updated the link to the new Britax Highpoint Belt-Positioning Booster Seat which is located here.
Why We Love It
- Combination harness and booster seat, catering to toddlers up to young children.
- The Britax Frontier has higher height and weight limits compared to similar booster car seats on the market.
- Includes a number of adjustable features to keep your growing child both comfortable and secure, including a 2-position buckle, multiple recline positions, and a QuickAdjust 9-position harness, which requires no re-threading (ever!).
- Made in the USA!
- Includes a number of world-class safety features, including:
- 2 layers of side impact protection.
- The SafeCell impact protection safety system, which includes an impact-absorbing base, an impact stabilizing steel frame and a patented V-shaped tether.
- Rated as a ‘Best Bet’ Booster by the IIHS.
- It features a quick and simple buckle system.
- A 9-year expiration date from the date of manufacture and a 1-year warranty.
- Convenient design with integrated cup holders and a removable car seat cover for easy cleaning.
Keep In Mind
- While the car seat is removable, it is only suitable for hand wash and is neither machine-washable or dryer friendly.
- The Britax Frontier does come at a high price tag so it may not be ideal for families on a tight budget.
- Some parents experienced difficulty in tightening their child’s harness and found that the seat belt continuously became stuck.
- The Britax Frontier is definitely not lightweight at a hefty 24.9 pounds. This appears to be a common trait among Britax booster car seats. Due to its weight, this booster may not be an ideal choice for families who plan on transferring it between vehicles. We recommend that you install and leave this car seat.
Our Verdict & Customer Opinions
The Britax Frontier ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat is a top-rated car seat for a number of reasons, particularly for the overall quality and safety it provides thanks to its first-class safety technology and easily adjustable features. However, keep in mind both the Britax Frontier’s weight and size as well as its high price tag when deciding if it is the best car seat for your child.
Best Belt-positioning 2-in-1 Booster for Toddlers 4 and Up
Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 (Best Seller)
The Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Belt Positioning Booster is designed to make life with toddlers that little bit easier thanks to its stylish, convenient, user-friendly, and comfortable design. It is an overall great choice for toddlers 4 and up and is bound to please both parents and children.
This toddler car seat transitions from a high back belt-positioning booster that accommodates children between 30 and 100 pounds and 38-57 inches tall to a backless booster that is ideal for children weighing 40 to 110 pounds and 38-57 inches in height.
Why We Love It
- Features a higher weight range with a lower weight minimum of 30lbs and a higher maximum of 100lbs compared to other booster seats on the market.
- Includes a number of impressive features, including DuoZone head and shoulder side-impact protection, a 10-position adjustable headrest, and a 2-position backrest that adjusts to mimic vehicle seat position.
- Rated as a ‘Best Bet’ Booster by the IIHS, a rating that is not uncommon for Chicco booster car seats.
- To keep your child comfortable this toddler car seat has an ErgoBoost contoured seat with double foam padding.
- Conveniently designed for no-fuss cleaning with removable machine-washable seat pad, cushions and armrest covers.
- It is exceptionally lightweight at 10 pounds for the highback booster mode and 6 pounds for the backless mode. This means it is great for families on the go who are constantly transferring between vehicles.
- Features 2 flexible, removable and dishwasher friendly cup holders that fold away to save space.
- An 8-year expiration date from the date of manufacture and a 1-year limited warranty.
- Includes user-friendly vehicle belt guides for easy and secure installation.
- Side wings that are insulated with EPS energy-absorbing foam for better impact protection in the event of a collision.
Keep In Mind
- In order to prevent this car seat from becoming a projectile object during a collision, it is important to keep it in place via the LATCH system.
- Some parents found that the seat belt was prone to slipping out of the belt guide so be sure to double-check it is securely fitted before each ride.
- While the Chicco KidFit is lightweight, it is relatively bulky, particularly in width. This means that it may not fit well alongside other car seats and is not ideal for 3-across car seat configurations.
- Parents found that the Chicco KidFit is not as stylish and sleek as other Chicco car seat models.
- Unfortunately, vehicles with difficult to remove or non-removable headrests may prevent a secure installation.
- Some parents found that this toddler car seat produced a rattling sound, particularly when unoccupied.
Our Verdict & Customer Opinions
The Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Belt Positioning Booster Car Seat is one of those car seats that has a lot to love and is an overall great choice for toddlers 4 and up. However, keep in mind that it is a large seat so it will take up a fair amount of room in the backseat.
FAQs: Here Are Some Questions Parents Have About Todller Car Seats
After browsing these reviews you’re bound to still have some questions about toddler car seats and whether you’re a new parent or not, it is important to have all the background knowledge about toddler car seats prior to making a decision.
Here is where we come in as below we answer all your burning questions about toddler car seats, in which we cover all you need to know about them, including providing you with up to date information and tips regarding secure installation and safe everyday use.
Our answers will help guide you to make the best toddler car seat choice for your family and your child.
- What is a toddler car seat?
We’re certainly glad you asked! When it comes to what a toddler car seat is, there are two main types. In regards to what type of car seat would work best for you and your child, it really comes down to personal needs and preferences.
We take a closer look at the two main types of toddler car seats below:
Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats are a very popular option among families. This is mainly due to the exceptional value for money they offer as they can be used from the time your child is a newborn up until they are a young child and sometimes even until they can ride unassisted in a vehicle. Some convertible car seats are marketed as 2-in-1, 3-in-1, 4-in-1 or all-in-one models. Most convertible car seats will begin as rear-facing, then convert into a forward-facing seat and finally, some convert into either a high back belt-positioning booster or a backless booster (or both!).
These are designed to save you money in the long run and support your child until they can ride unassisted in a vehicle. There are also plenty on the market so you will be spoilt for choice.
However, there are a few negatives when it comes to convertible car seats as they tend to be heavy and large, they don’t come with a stay-in-car base as infant car seats do, which means uninstalling and installing each time you transfer between vehicles and finally, they cannot be used as an infant carrier.
Forward-facing Car Seats
Toddlers tend to have outgrown the rear-facing car seat and it is recommended that they use a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness for as long as possible or until your child reaches the weight or height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Very few car seats are only forward-facing and forward-facing car sets will normally be a mode of a convertible car seat.
- When should I be switching to a toddler car seat?
A toddler is broadly defined as any child who is 12 to 36 months old (1-3 years). However, when it comes to toddler car seats this definition is slightly different.
We recommend following the guidelines set by child car seat safety experts, including The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) who recommend keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. This has become possible with many car seat models having extended weight limits so it is possible for your child to be in the rear-facing mode up until they are 3 to 5 years old.
While it’s best for your child to remain rear-facing, every child is different in terms of height and weight. With the best toddler car seat being convertible car seats, you can easily switch to the forward-facing mode when they reach the maximum height and/or weight limit for rear-facing.
However, it is important to keep in mind that depending on your state, there are different age and weight requirements for car seat usage. We recommend checking your local state laws about car seat usage to ensure your child is ready to make the switch.
- What is the safest place for a toddler car seat?
When setting up and installing your child’s car seat you want to place it in the safest place possible. Studies have shown that positioning a car seat in the center of the backseat is safer than a side position and enhances side impact protection.
You’re probably thinking well what about LATCH? While some vehicles may only have LATCH connectors on the two side back seats you can install the toddler car seat in the center rear position via the vehicle seat belt system. Remember, that LATCH has not been shown to be any safer than seat belt installation.
If you’re unable to position the toddler car seat in the center of the backseat due to other car seats you can place the car seat behind the passenger side of your vehicle as this will allow you to easily check on your child.
However, regardless of the position of the toddler car seat in your vehicle, the most important factor is correct and secure installation. Remember that a car seat is only safe if installed and used correctly.
- Can I take a toddler car seat on an airplane?
If your car seat model is Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved for use on an aircraft then you can definitely take it on an airplane and this gives your child a familiar seat. Some toddler car seats are FAA approved while others are not so it is best to consult your user manual or visit the car seat manufacturer website to find out. If you’re still not sure, be sure to contact the car seat manufacturer directly prior to taking your convertible car seat on an airplane.
- What is the safest toddler car seat?
This is a question a lot of parents ask and we’re happy to say that the answer will give you peace of mind. All car seats, regardless if they are infant, convertible or booster, must meet or exceed Federal US and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) Safety Standards in order to be sold and purchased on the market.
Thanks to modern and innovative safety features and technology, most toddler car seats actually exceed these safety standards. This means that any toddler car seat you buy will be safe for your child.
Keep in mind that a car seat, regardless of what type, brand or model it is, is only safe when installed and used correctly. We recommend choosing a toddler car seat that is easy to install and secure properly. This is something we mention across our reviews.
- What is LATCH?
LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children and is a system or method for installation. It will be difficult to find a toddler car seat that cannot be installed via the LATCH system and it works by ensuring a secure connection with the built-in anchors and tethers in your vehicle.
The LATCH system not only helps to keep the seat sill and secure when your child is in it but also when it is unoccupied, preventing the toddler car seat from becoming a projectile object in the event of a collision. However, LATCH is not the only system for installation, remember that you can install a toddler car seat via your vehicle’s seat belt also for a secure and safe fit.
- How and when should I dispose of a toddler car seat?
This is a very important question and the answer to this question is even more important and crucial for your child’s safety.
The most obvious time to dispose of your child’s car seat is once it reaches its expiration date (around 7-10 years for most car seat models). Your car seat should also be disposed of once it has been involved in a collision. However, when it comes to car seats that have been involved in a minor collision, it becomes a case by case basis.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Admission (NHTSA) defines a minor crash as a crash that meets ALL of the following criteria:
- You can still drive your vehicle from the crash site.
- The door closest to the child safety car seat was undamaged.
- None of the vehicle occupants were injured.
- The vehicle’s airbags did not deploy.
- There is no visible damage to the child safety car seat.
- If something on the car seat breaks, contact the seller and request a refund or an exchange.
So if you were involved in a crash that meets all the above criteria, you are able to continue to use your child’s car seat.
In terms of how to dispose of a car seat, there are other options rather than just chucking it in the bin, placing it on the curb or taking it to the tip. Some stores like Target will have trade-in days where you can bring your expired car seat so they can dispose of it properly and they will normally provide you with a discount for your next car seat purchase. Some car seat brands also offer a similar trade-in scheme, so it’s best to keep an eye out for this and do your research.