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Best Toddler Car Seats

We tested top brands to determine which toddler car seat stands out above the competition.
Written and Tested By:
Will Moore
Written and Tested By: Will Moore Senior Writer – Motor1 Review Team

Will has written for several major auto sites including Motor1 since 2020, logging hundreds of hours researching and testing products ranging from child car seats to torque wrenches. Will is also Certified by Safe Kids Worldwide as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (#T836339).

Last Updated 01/09/2024

Motor1 Reviews Team Take:

  • The best toddler car seat in 2024 is the Chicco MyFit. The MyFit from Chicco is an easy toddler car seat in every sense of the word. It’s easy to install, easy to adjust—and above all—it’s easy to clean.
  • Toddler car seats can vary greatly in price. We found that you’ll spend anywhere from $80 to $360 depending on the brand, how much of your child’s lifecycle it will cover, and overall build quality.
  • There are federal regulations about car seat safety, but these aren’t always the most robust and companies are actually responsible for self-testing their own car seats. Some brands have proven themselves over the years and even perform testing beyond what is legally required. A toddler car seat must also be properly installed to be as safe as possible.
Best Toddler
Car Seat
Chicco MyFit

A quality-made car seat that’s easy to install and adjust.

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Best Travel
Car Seat
For Toddlers
Britax Grow With You

A durable car seat with comfortable padding.

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Toddler Convertible
Car Seat
Graco Nautilus 65

An adjustable all-in-one car seat for young children.

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Toddler Booster
Car Seat
Graco Tranzitions

A mid-priced car seat for comfort and safety.

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Budget Toddler
Car Seat
Evenflo Chase

A low-cost yet very safe toddler car seat.

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While infants require a rear-facing car seat, the best toddler car seat is forward-facing. As toddlers grow, they’ll eventually need a booster seat configuration to ride in your car safely.

For these reasons and more, parents need to research the car seat they choose for their child. We’ve considered dozens of models and read through thousands of parent testimonials to select our seats for testing to help with this process.

The perfect car seat for your child depends on their weight and height. We’ve researched and tested several top brands and here suggest some of the best car seats for toddlers. We’ll also explain what to look for in a car seat.

What Is The Best Toddler Car Seat?

The best toddler car seat is the Chicco MyFit according to our team’s in-person testing experience and expert judgment. However, the Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus, Graco Nautilus, Graco Tranzitions, and the Evenflo Chase round out our team’s picks for the best toddler car seats on the market in 2024.

Toddler Car Seats

Top-Rated Toddler Car Seats

Each toddler car seat in this review was thoroughly tested and evaluated based on several categories, including ease of installation, adjustability, and quality of materials. You can find more specifics regarding our rating system here.

The scores in each category are compiled into a single overall rating that ranges from 1.0 to 5.0 stars. Each toddler car seat’s ratings, including their overall ratings and awards from our team, are highlighted below:

Chicco MyFit4.7Best Toddler Car Seat$210
Britax Grow With You4.3Best Travel Car Seat For Toddlers$360
Graco Nautilus 654.3Best Toddler Convertible Car Seat$189
Graco Tranzitions4.0Best Toddler Booster Car Seat$139
Evenflo Chase3.8Best Budget Toddler Car Seat$80

*Because cost data fluctuates, the prices in the table above are approximate values that our team regularly updates.

For those interested in learning more, we’ve provided a detailed review of each of the best toddler car seats in the sections below:

1. Chicco MyFit: Best Toddler Car Seat

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  • Cost: $210
  • Amazon review score: 4.8 out of 5.0 based on over 5,900 reviews
  • Child weight range: 25.0 to 100.0 pounds (lbs.)
  • Child height range: Up to 57.0 inches (in.)
  • Car seat weight: 25.0 lbs.
  • Machine-washable padding: Yes
  • FAA-Approved?: Yes, in harness mode

Chicco MyFit Review

The Chicco MyFit Toddler Car Seat.

The Chicco MyFit is an easy-to-install, adjustable toddler vehicle seat made from high-quality materials. It features a deep, rigid shell, triple foam padding, and breathable mesh fabric.

Based on the ease of installation and superb craftsmanship, we believe the Chicco MyFit is the best toddler car seat. It comes at an average price for car seats of this type and features metal buckles and anchor connectors.

Here’s how the Chicco MyFit performed in each category:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Installation5.0
Quality of Materials5.0
Overall Rating4.7
Chicco MyFit: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Chicco MyFit:

Pros FAA-approved Steel-reinforced frame Machine-washable seat padding
Cons Heavy Some concerns with longevity

Chicco MyFit Harness Booster Car Seat: What Customers Are Saying

A few customers have experienced wrecks with this car seat and say the Chicco MyFit kept their child safe, so they plan to repurchase the same model car seat. Other customer praises highlight the sturdy quality of the seat materials, the light weight (which makes for easy installation), and the substantial headrest padding. Many users are also happy with how easy it is to adjust the MyFit’s straps and positioning.

“My oldest has had her [MyFit] for 3 years and at a very petite age 6.5, she has a few more years of fitting in the harness. They are slim, easy to fit three across in our Ford Expedition and my kids love them.” – Stewartt via Amazon

Some negative reviews claim this seat doesn’t work as well with larger children. If your children are growing out of the toddler stage, a bigger car seat may be necessary. One reviewer complains that the cupholders were too far from the back of the seat and their toddler couldn’t reach them.

“[T]he little glove box holder is a pain and has since been removed. Which doesn’t matter anyway because the cup holders are the worst and get knocked off constantly.” – S@HD via Amazon

Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat: Our Experience

This was the easiest to install among the car seats we tested. The anchor and top strap clip in seamlessly, and it’s simple to adjust the position of the Chicco MyFit to be level with the ground (aided by a built-in bubble level). Every adjustable lever and button is easy to find and use.

Removing the seat from the car was just as straightforward as installation. The instructions aren’t hard to follow, and explanatory stickers attached to this car seat help ensure you have it situated properly for your child.

The Chicco MyFit Toddler Car Seat installed in a testing vehicle.

2. Britax Grow With You: Best Travel Car Seat For Toddlers

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  • Cost: $360
  • Amazon review score: 4.7 out of 5.0 based on over 3,000 reviews
  • Child weight range: 25.0 to 120.0 lbs.
  • Child height range: 34.0 to 64.0 in.
  • Car seat weight: 26.5 lbs.
  • Machine-washable padding: Yes
  • FAA-Approved?: Yes, in harness mode

Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus Review

The Britax Grow With You Clicktight Plus Toddler Car Seat.

Accommodating children between 25.0 and 120.0 lbs., the Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus is a solidly built toddler car seat. It features a strong steel frame, a nine-position headrest, and machine-washable fabrics. It can transform into a backless booster car seat to accommodate your child for several years, even as they grow past the toddler stage.

We believe the Grow With You is a solid pick if you’re looking for a durable car seat that won’t need replacing after a couple of years. Packed with safety features such as flame-retardant materials and three layers of side-impact protection, it’s a reliable and safe toddler car seat.

Here’s how the Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus performed in each category:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Installation3.5
Quality of Materials5.0
Overall Rating4.3
Britax Grow With You ClickTight: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Britax Grow With You ClickTight car seat:

Pros Durable Comfortable Easy-to-clean, removable padding High-quality straps and buckles
Cons Harder to install Difficult to adjust straps

Britax Grow With You ClickTight: What Customers Are Saying

Most people who rate the Grow With You highly say that they like this car seat for its many safety features. The sturdy construction seems to provide peace of mind to parents. Children enjoy this car seat too, as many parents say their kids find it comfortable for long drives.

“When it comes to finding a car seat for long road trips, this is a gem. There are zero complaints riding and sleeping in this for hours” – Red Roadster via Amazon

One recurring complaint is that the straps are difficult to adjust and tighten. Also, some less-than-positive reviews say the instructions are unclear and that the seat takes time to install.

“I just wish this had a quick latch system. However, both the tether and the latches have to be hand tightened. It is tough to get it super tight.” – USAF Veteran via Amazon

Based on our experience, we can see why some people are frustrated with the installation process. It didn’t take us more than 15 minutes to install the Britax, but we found the straps harder to adjust than other toddler car seats.

Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus: Our Experience

We were most impressed with the high quality of the straps and buckles on the Britax Grow With You. While the steel construction makes the car seat a little heavy, it also gives this seat a solid and safe feel.

We had some difficulty installing this car seat compared to the others we tested. The instructions aren’t especially clear, and it took us a bit to figure out how to deploy the anchor straps. However, installation isn’t impossible or even frustrating. It’s just not as easy as some of the other best car seats for toddlers.

Our biggest complaint (and it’s a minor one) is that the straps are difficult to tighten. However, you can easily adjust the Grow With You seat to accommodate children of various sizes.

The Britax Grow With You Clicktight Plus Toddler Car Seat installed in a testing vehicle.

3. Graco Nautilus 65: Best Toddler Convertible Car Seat

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  • Cost: Currently unavailable
  • Amazon review score: 4.7 out of 5.0 based on over 470 reviews
  • Child weight range: 22.0 to 120.0 lbs.
  • Child height range: Up to 57.0 in.
  • Car seat weight: 21.8 lbs.
  • Machine-washable padding: Yes
  • FAA-Approved?: Yes, when used with harness system

Graco Nautilus 65 3-In-1 Harness Booster Review

The Graco Nautilus Toddler Car Seat.

The Graco Nautilus is installable in three configurations: as a five-point harness booster car seat, a high-back belt-positioning booster, or a backless belt-positioning booster. These multiple configurations allow the Nautilus to accommodate children up to 120.0 lbs. and a height limit of 57.0 in.

This seat is further adjustable through the five-position headrest and four-position adjustable base. As with all the best car seats for toddlers, the Nautilus is safe, featuring extra side-impact protection.

Here’s how the Graco Nautilus 65 performed in each category:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Installation4.0
Quality of Materials4.0
Overall Rating4.3
Graco Nautilus: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Graco Nautilus:

Pros Three seat configurations Durable construction Easy-to-clean, removable padding
Cons Harness strap can be hard to adjust

Graco Nautilus: What Customers Are Saying

Many users praise the Nautilus toddler car seat for its comfortable seat pad and sturdy design. Adjustability is also a selling point, and many reviewers used this seat for several years as their child grew.

“It is sturdy, easy to install, and super easy to clean.” – KJ via Amazon

One semi-frequent complaint concerns the strap’s ability to adjust the seat belt restraints. Several users say it’s difficult to adjust, but we didn’t have any issues with this strap during our testing. Another common complaint pertains to the anchor straps. While we didn’t have difficulty attaching the anchor tether, we did notice the design of the clips isn’t as user-friendly as other car seats.

“The straps are horrible to adjust. Very difficult and frustrating.” – Miriam E Gasparotto via Amazon

Graco Nautilus 65 LX: Our Experience

While the cushion materials aren’t quite as soft and well-stitched as the Britax Grow With You or the Chicco MyFit, the straps are of the strongest quality. Installing the Graco Nautilus is fairly easy, in part because of the no-rethread harness. On the downside, the lower anchors can be finicky to attach.

Most notable when handling the Nautilus during our test installation was the car seat’s adjustability. The product has a broad range of configurations, though adjusting between each could be a little easier. Some of the adjustment levels don’t click perfectly into place.

The Graco Nautilus Toddler Car Seat installed in a testing vehicle.

4. Graco Tranzitions: Best Toddler Booster Car Seat

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  • Cost: $140
  • Amazon review score: 4.8 out of 5.0 based on over 22,800 reviews
  • Child weight range: 22.0 to 100.0 lbs.
  • Child height range: Up to 57.0 in.
  • Car seat weight: 17.3 lbs.
  • Machine-washable padding: Yes
  • FAA-Approved?: Yes, when used with harness system

Graco Tranzitions Review

The Graco Tranzitions Toddler Car Seat.

The Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 harness booster seat is an all-in-one lightweight car seat with eight adjustable height positions. It has two cup holders and machine-washable padding. This forward-facing car seat is adjustable and comfortable, designed to work as a toddler car seat and a high-back booster seat.

We believe the Tranzitions is one of the best booster seats (once your child is old enough for that configuration). The open-loop belt helps guide your car’s seat belt to the perfect position for safety and comfort.

Here’s how the Graco Tranzitions performed in each category:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Installation4.0
Quality of Materials4.0
Overall Rating4.0
Graco Tranzitions 3 in 1: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Graco Tranzitions 3 in 1:

Pros Durable Easy to clean, removable padding Lightweight Has five-point harness mode, highback booster mode, and backless booster mode No-rethread, simply-safe, adjust-harness system
Cons Anchor and harness straps can be difficult to tighten

Graco Tranzitions 3 In 1: What Customers Are Saying

Several users who crashed while using this car seat say the seat protected their child, working as intended. Customers are generally happy with the quality of the car seat at its price range (which is around average for a car seat).

“Seat material holds up so good[…] This is my second one. The first one is well over a year old and it still looks new.” – LB MCA via Amazon

Like us, several users experience difficulty tightening the straps on the Graco Tranzitions seat. Some users don’t like the anchor latch system, which can be hard to secure.

“It is also very hard to install with the anchor straps tight enough. It’s impossible to tighten without the straps twisting, which then prevents them from getting as tight as they should be.” – Shea LaFountaine via Amazon

Graco Tranzitions 3 In 1 Harness Booster: Our Experience

While some of the other car seats we tested impressed us more when it came to quality of materials and ease of installation, the Graco Tranzitions is nonetheless an excellent toddler car seat.

We had few problems installing the Tranzitions, though tightening the straps is somewhat of a hassle. Compared to other strap systems, the Tranzitions is not the smoothest to install. Once you’ve installed it, though, the Tranzitions is quite adjustable, and the padding material is plush and soft.

The Graco Tranzitions Toddler Car Seat installed in a testing vehicle.

5. Evenflo Chase: Best Budget Toddler Car Seat

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  • Cost: $80
  • Amazon review score: 4.6 out of 5.0 based on over 12,000 reviews
  • Child weight range: 22.0 to 110.0 lbs.
  • Child height range: 28.0 to 57.0 in.
  • Car seat weight: 11.0 lbs.
  • Machine-washable padding: Yes
  • FAA-Approved?: Yes, when used with harness system

Evenflo Chase Car Seat Review

The Evenflo Chase Toddler Car Seat.

Despite being a low-priced toddler car seat, the Evenflo Chase sports modern safety features such as side-impact cushions and a reinforced metal frame.

The light weight of this car seat makes it easy to install and handle. Like many of our recommended best car seats for toddlers, the Evenflo Chase can also serve as a front-facing booster seat, making it both a toddler and a youth car seat. Even at the seat’s low cost, customers can expect to use it for several years.

In 2020, a report from ProPublica revealed that Evenflo had been misrepresenting its side-impact crash testing to consumers. At the time, federal regulators did not require side-impact crash testing, though this has since changed.

While we think this incident undermines the reliability of the Evenflo brand, it doesn’t disqualify their more recent car seats from consideration. For a car seat under $100, the Evenflo Chase is worth a look, though don’t expect it to last as long as more expensive brands.

Here’s how the Evenflo Chase performed in each category:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Installation4.0
Quality of Materials3.5
Overall Rating3.8
EvenFlo Case: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Evenflo Chase:

Pros Inexpensive Durable construction Lightweight and easy to maneuver Easy-to-clean, removable padding
Cons Less comfortable than other models Fewer recline positions

Evenflo Chase Car Seat: What Customers Are Saying

Most users laud the Chase for its durability and ease of use. Some reviews come from people who were involved in a crash while using this seat, and in these cases, the seat protected their toddler. Other positive comments mention the seat being easy to install and adjust.

“I purchased four of these car seats for twins, for two vehicles three years ago. The twins are now 5 years old and are still using the harness system, haven’t even made it to the belted feature yet.” – Laura M. via Amazon

Some reviewers say the Evenflo is less comfortable than more expensive alternatives, and others claim the angle of the seat (upright with little to no recline) can be uncomfortable for children after some time in the car.

“The kids liked the seats just fine for short trips. We took one 4-hour drive where our 2-year-old just couldn’t get comfortable and fall asleep.” – Plutarch via Amazon

Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster: Our Experience

At only 11.0 pounds, the Evenflo Chase is easy to handle. Despite its low cost, this car seat comes with quality materials: sturdy nylon straps and strong metal clasps secure your toddler.

Even so, the materials aren’t quite as soft and comfortable as more expensive car seats, so this may not be the best car seat for long journeys. The Chase also uses the harder-to-install metal clamp style of anchor clamp.

The Evenflo Chase Toddler Car Seat installed in a testing vehicle.

Toddler Car Seat Buying Guide

When shopping for a toddler car seat, you’ll want to consider safety, sizing, and comfort. It’s also important to know exactly when to switch to a toddler car seat from an infant car seat as size requirements are a vital component of car seat safety.

When To Switch To Toddler Car Seat

Your car seat choice should be dependent on your child’s size and weight, and you should switch to a toddler car seat after your infant outgrows a rear-facing car seat. Any car seat will list maximum height and weight recommendations. Once your child outgrows these limits, it’s time to switch.

For children between the ages of two and seven, forward-facing car seats are typically the most appropriate. Some all-in-one car seats can be installed in both forward- and rear-facing positions, making them suitable for infants as well as toddlers.

Toddler Car Seat Safety

Any car seat eligible for sale in the United States must meet federal safety standards, which involves crash testing. However, second-hand car seats may not be safe if they are expired or have been in a crash.

Is It Safe To Buy A Used Car Seat?

It is generally not recommended to purchase a secondhand car seat. This is because that seat could have been damaged or have parts missing and you might not know. Some secondhand sellers may also offer untested, counterfeit, or showroom-only car seats.

Used car seats are not inherently unsafe, however, and may be a good option if you can verify the following:

  • Expiration date. Most car seats expire after 10 years. Check the label to insure your car seat is not expired.
  • Recall information. Buckle Up NC’s recall list is a handy tool for determining which seats have been recalled and is regularly updated.
  • Crash history. Once a car seat has been in an accident, the impact forces can damage the seat rendering it no longer safe for children, as critical parts may be compromised.

If you can afford to buy a new car seat, this is the safest option. However, if you must use a secondhand car seat, it is much safer to get it from someone that you know and who can verify the seat’s history.

In addition to choosing a safe car seat, it needs to be properly installed to ensure passenger safety. If you are unsure about your own installation, you can have it inspected by a professional. The NHTSA website features a handy locator tool to help caretakers find nearby inspection sites.

Before installing your car seat, also be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions. We had a chance to speak with Petra Stanton, the Safe Kids Supervisor at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, and she strongly encourages parents to read their owner’s manual.

“I feel like reading the manual has never been people’s favorite thing to do, but in this case it should be. Because the manufacturer created the product, they were there from the beginning stages. They ruled out everything that did not work in safety testing, that might have malfunctioned in a certain way, they fixed it, went back to testing, spent thousands of dollars to create a manual on how this product will work.”

Toddler Car Seat Safety Ratings

When considering any car seat, safety should be a top priority. Various experts and researchers in the automotive industry are responsible for ensuring that car seats go through rigorous testing and multiple stages of approval prior to being put on the market for the public. 

NHTSA Car Seats

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was established in 1970 as part of a national effort to reduce auto-related fatalities. As part of this effort, the NHTSA website offers a number of resources, including an ongoing list of car seat safety issues and recalls.

Another good resource is the NHTSA’s information on car and booster seats. This guide includes recommended car seat types based on age and height as well as instructions for proper car seat installation.

The NHTSA also conducts research on the effects of a car crash on the human body. NHTSA researchers employ various test dummies of different weights and sizes ranging from an adult male to a newborn infant.

Safe Kids Worldwide

Safe Kids Worldwide is an organization dedicated to reducing child injuries. Safe Kids Worldwide works with the NHTSA to operate the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Training Program (CPS certification program). This program certifies technicians to inspect car seat installations and educate parents on the proper way to secure their children.

The Safe Kids Worldwide website also offers information regarding car seat selection and installation.

FAA-Approved Car Seats

It’s recommended that children use specialized seating in planes as well as automobiles. Those who plan to travel with small children might consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) guide on flying with children. This resource provides tips on installing a child restraint system (CRS) and explains the rules for traveling with children under two.

How Should A Toddler Fit In A Car Seat?

Simply purchasing a qualifying car seat doesn’t ensure safety. You must use the right type of car seat based on your child’s height and weight. This sizing chart, developed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), clearly outlines the type of seat to use. Kids around toddler age typically need a forward-facing car seat like those suggested in this review.

Toddler Car Seats: Terminology

Certain terms appear frequently in descriptions of car seats, but their meanings are not always obvious. Many manufacturers also use brand-specific terms that can be confusing. The following list describes common car seat terms:

  • No-rethread harness: As your child grows, you will need to reposition the shoulder straps in your car seat. With a rethread harness, straps must be removed and rerouted through different slots in the car seat. A no-rethread harness only has one slot for shoulder straps, and strap height is adjusted by raising and lowering the headrest.
  • EPS Foam: Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam is essentially Styrofoam™. EPS foam is excellent at dissipating the force of high-speed impacts and so is a standard material for crash safety devices like helmets and car seats.
  • Five-point harness: A five-point harness is a seatbelt design that is secured at five points (over both shoulders, at each hip, and between the legs). This strap system provides increased safety over a three-point strap system typical in passenger automobiles.
  • SuperCinch® (Chicco): The SuperCinch system is a specialized pulley that Chicco attaches to the anchor straps that connect the car seat to your vehicle. This pulley makes it easier to tighten the anchor straps by requiring less force on the user’s part.
  • ClickTight® (Britax): ClickTight is Britax’s system for securing a car seat to your vehicle. Rather than connecting via lower seat anchors, the ClickTight system is a series of guides through which the car seatbelt is threaded. The result is a self-tensioning system that doesn’t require adjustment or guesswork from the parent.

Best Car Seat For Toddlers: Bottom Line

The toddler car seats in this review are generally recommended for children between 20.0 and 100.0 pounds and under 60.0 inches tall. Each seat meets federal crash test safety standards and performed well in our in-person testing process. While the best seat will depend on your needs and budget, these are great options to begin your search for the right toddler car seat for your little one.

Here are our team’s picks for the best car seats for toddlers in 2024:

  1. Chicco MyFit: Best Toddler Car Seat
  2. Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus: Best Travel Car Seat For Toddler
  3. Graco Nautilus: Best Toddler Convertible Car Seat
  4. Graco Tranzitions: Best Toddler Booster Car Seat
  5. Evenflo Chase: Best Budget Toddler Car Seat

Toddler Car Seat: FAQ

Below are some common frequently asked questions about toddler car seats:

What is the best car seat to buy for a toddler?

The best car seat to buy for a toddler is typically a forward-facing car seat, but this depends on your toddler’s size. Because kids grow quickly, it’s also a good idea to find an adjustable seat that can transition into a booster seat. You’ll want a seat that’s durable with machine-washable fabrics for easy maintenance.

Five car seats that we recommend for toddlers are the Chicco MyFit, Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus, Graco Nautilus, Evenflo Chase, and Graco Tranzitions.

Which car seat is safest for a toddler?

The car seat that is safest for a toddler is usually a forward-facing seat, but this depends on your child’s height and weight. Refer to the owner’s booklet of a car seat to learn its height and weight limitations. Any of the car seats we recommend are safe for a toddler between 22.0 and 110.0 pounds.

What size car seat do I need for a toddler?

The size of a toddler car seat isn’t as important as its adjustability. The best car seats for toddlers are adjustable and note in the owner’s manual which configuration is best for your child based on their height and weight.

To avoid buying multiple car seats, we believe it’s wise to buy an all-in-one convertible car seat that can change between a five-point harness seat and a backless booster. While a toddler shouldn’t use a standard booster seat, safety experts recommend that children under the age of 12 use them.

What kind of seat should a two-year-old be in?

A child two years of age should be in a rear-facing car seat, according to the NHTSA. In our review of the best infant car seats, we recommend several of this type, including: the Graco Snugride, the Bugaboo Turtle Air, the Baby Trend EZ Ride, the UPPAbaby Mesa, and the Chicco Keyfit. Many of these seats are compatible with a stroller for easy transportation.

Can my child ride in the front seat?

It is typically not a good idea for a young child to ride in the front seat. Wait until your kid is at least twelve before allowing them to ride up front.

How old should my child ride in a rear-facing position car seat?

Most children should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they turn four. However, this can depend on height and weight. Young children should ride rear-facing because the back of the car seat will take the brunt of the impact in the event of a crash, better protecting the neck, head, and spine.

How long do kids stay in toddler car seats?

Most safety experts recommend your child stay in car seats as long as they can physically fit in one. This could be until about age nine or twelve, depending on the child.

What is the weight limit for toddler car seats?

Even the best car seats for toddlers, while similar in functionality, have different height and weight requirements. Our review team tested car seats for toddlers that could carry between 100.0 and 120.0 pounds, although only one model could support a child over 5.0 feet tall once attached to the vehicle’s seat belt.

Toddler Car Seat Reviews: How We Tested

To test each toddler car seat, our review team installed each product into the back seat of a sedan. In addition to inspecting the materials of each seat in person, we noted how easy each seat was to install.

We attached the car seats by using the car’s built-in infant seat anchors or the seatbelt. We then adjusted each seat to its multiple configurations. Our review team gave the highest marks to car seats that featured intuitive design elements and durable materials.

Ease of Installation

To be sold within the U.S., a car seat must pass federal safety standards. However, even the best-designed car seat is unsafe if installed improperly. For this reason, the simplicity or difficulty of installing a car seat is an important consideration when selecting the right product.

A car seat’s lower anchor clips can make a big difference with ease of installation. While testing car seats, we encountered two types of anchor clips: a simple metal anchor and a buckle anchor (both displayed below). The buckle LATCH is much easier to attach and release. Seats with this type of lower anchor scored higher in the ease-of-use category.


Plain Metal Anchor, car seats hooks

Buckle LATCH

Buckle Anchor, car seats hooks

Toddlers develop quickly, so it’s important that a quality car seat be adjustable in order to comfortably accommodate children as they grow. This is not only a comfort, but it’s a safety consideration. Some toddlers may require a booster seat configuration while others don’t.

Car seats with the most points of adjustment and that are most easily adjusted scored best in this category. The inclusion of a no-rethread harness helps seats score better in this category.

Quality of Materials

The best car seats for toddlers each include strong and secure straps for safety. However, some car seats have more adjustable straps and more robust buckles. Fine construction and durable materials are not only safer, but they last longer.

Seats that scored highest in this category feature metal (rather than plastic) buckles and easy-to-use cinching mechanisms.

How We Score Car Seats

Every car seat we test is given a score between 1.0 and 5.0 stars in each category. Here’s what those star ratings mean in concrete terms:

  • 5.0 Stars: A 5.0-star rating means a car seat is among the best in a category. It is lightweight, can be installed in minutes, includes buckle anchors, can be adjusted to accommodate children in a 100-pound range, or uses the most durable materials.
  • 4.0 Stars: A 4.0-star rating means a car seat performs better-than-average in a category. It can be installed with little difficulty, features multiple points of adjustment to accommodate children within a 70-pound range, or uses mostly comfortable, high-quality materials.
  • 3.0 Stars: A 3.0-star rating indicates what is average or typical for a car seat, based on our testing experience. It can be installed in half an hour, has adjustable mechanisms that might be difficult to use (does not have a no-rethread harness), or uses padding that is safe but not especially comfortable.
  • 2.0 Stars: A 2.0-star rating indicates the car seat performs poorer than the average. It is difficult to install, has very few points of adjustment, or uses cheap materials that won’t last more than a few years.
  • 1.0 Star: A 1.0-star rating indicates that the car seat performs well below expectations in a category. It is impossible to install, has no points of adjustment, and practically disintegrates upon touch.

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Each year, we test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab. Our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and puts our hands on each component, and tests the items on real vehicles before making recommendations to readers.

We publish hundreds of product and service reviews to bring car enthusiasts detailed guides on automotive tools, detailing kits, car seats, pet products, and much more. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.

*Data accurate at time of publication. Products subject to availability.