5 Best Toddler Car Seats of 2023

Child in car baby sitting in safety seat mother fasten belt family lifestyle travel vacation with kid.

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  • Convertible and all-in-one car seats can safely accommodate newborns up to big kids in different positions, eliminating the need to buy multiple car seats as your child grows. 
  • Experts agree that keeping children in rear-facing seats for as long as possible is the safest way for young children to travel in cars. 
  • Finding the right toddler car seat is important for your family’s safety, comfort, and budget, but you should only use car seats according to the height and weight limits set by car seat manufacturers. 

When it comes to car seat safety, parents want to choose the best toddler car seat they can find within their budget. 

Buying a car seat today means not only thinking about your immediate needs but also what you might need in the future since so many car seats now have features that can last your child until they age out of car seats completely. 

So making the right car seat choice is an essential money-saving decision in the long run and gives you peace of mind about your child’s safety. 

We’ve looked at the best toddler car seats on the market to help take some guesswork out of finding the perfect car seat for your smallest and most important passengers. Check out our guide below. 

Best Overall
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat, Cool N Dry
Best Extended Rear-Facing Car Seat 
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat, Rear-Facing and Forward-Facing, Extended Rear-Facing Seat Option, Redmond, Ideal for Newborns, Infants, and Toddlers
Best Budget Convertible Car Seat
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat:
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
Price not available
$199.99
$129.99
Best Overall
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat, Cool N Dry
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat
Price not available
Best Extended Rear-Facing Car Seat 
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat, Rear-Facing and Forward-Facing, Extended Rear-Facing Seat Option, Redmond, Ideal for Newborns, Infants, and Toddlers
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat:
$199.99
Best Budget Convertible Car Seat
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
$129.99

Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat: Best Overall

Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat
  • 10 Years of Use: One4Life convertible to booster car seat grows with your child from 5 – 120 lbs and up to 63” tall
  • Install Confidently: With ClickTight Installation, you’ll know it’s right in 3 easy steps: Open, thread & buckle, click it closed
  • One4Life: Coverts from a rear-facing infant car seat, to a forward-facing 5-point harness, to a high-back belt-positioning booster
  • Cool N Dry Fabric: improves air flow for a cooler ride; wicks away moisture to help keep your child dry
Pros 
Cons 
  • Suitable for children from 5 pounds up to 120
  • Easy to install
  • Expensive, but this could be your only car seat purchase
  • Heavy
  • Difficult to clean

The Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat is a favorite of parents. Safe, reliable, sturdy, and easy to install, this car seat should be the only one you have to purchase for ten years, according to Britax.

Britax is a trusted name in baby gear, and this car seat proves why. It has a high-strength steel frame and crumple zone to absorb impact. While some parents find it heavy, others feel that the solid weight and size make them feel more secure. 

One thing parents love the most about this seat is the ease of installation through the three-step ClickTight system. You just open, thread and buckle, and then click closed, without wrestling with the car seat as you do with so many other brands. 

This seat is one of the most expensive on this list. However, the price tag makes sense if it’s the only seat you have to buy your child until they grow out of car seats. In the long run, it’s cheaper than buying two or three seats plus a booster over your child’s lifetime. 

If you’re looking for an easy-to-install and reliable convertible car seat, Britax is definitely a good option. 

Material: Alloy Steel | Installation Type: Clicktight, Seat Belt | Maximum Weight Recommendation: 120 pounds
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Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat: Best Extended Rear-Facing Car Seat 

Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
  • Adaptable Growth: Converts to suit your child from rear-facing harness (4-50lbs) to forward-facing harness (22-65 pounds)
  • Solid Build: Steel-reinforced with dimensions of 21.5 D x 19.5 W x 23.5 H inches, and weighing 19 lbs
  • Extended Rear-facing: Offers up to 50 pounds rear facing, focusing on your child’s safety
  • Top Safety Standards: Graco ProtectPlus Engineered, ensuring protection in frontal, side, rear, and rollover crashes
Pros 
Cons
  • Gives children five inches of extra legroom
  • Fits children up to 50 pounds in rear-facing position
  • Reasonably priced
  • You’ll need to buy another car seat after your child reaches 65 pounds in the forward-facing position

Experts recommend that young children remain in a rear-facing car seat position for as long as possible before you switch to forward-facing mode. However, as your children grow and get bigger and stronger, a rear-facing car seat can start to get uncomfortable for them. 

Of course, you want to put safety first, but thanks to Graco, this doesn’t mean you have to plead with your fidgety toddler to get into their rear-facing seat.  

The Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat extends to give your child up to five inches of extra leg room and can be used by children in this position up to 50 pounds. This means your child can comfortably sit in the safest position in your car for longer. 

It also has removable head and body inserts to keep infants cradled and secure. 

At this price point, the Graco Extend2Fit is an excellent, safe, and sturdy choice for a convertible cart seat for your toddler. 

Material: Alloy Steel | Installation Type: Latch | Maximum Weight Recommendation: 65 pounds
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Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat: Best Budget Convertible Car Seat

Sale
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
  • BUILT TO GROW: The Safety 1st Grow and Go Convertible Car Seat is for extended use through 3 stages: Rear-facing 5-40 pounds, Forward-facing 22-65 pounds, and Belt-positioning booster seat 40-100 pounds.
  • SIDE IMPACT PROTECTION: The Grow and Go’s side impact protection helps keep your child safe through all of the 3-in-1 convertible car seat’s stages.
  • EASY IN, EASY OUT: Harness holders keep the harness in an open position so it’s easy to get your child in and out of the car seat.
  • QUICKFIT HARNESS: With the QuickFit Harness you can easily adjust both the harness and headrest in one simple step.
Pros 
Cons 
  • Budget-friendly priceWell-cushioned and comfortableWide choice of colors
  • Bulky
  • Can be tricky to install

A child’s car seat is one of the most important pieces of baby gear you’ll buy. It can also end up being one of the most expensive, especially if you consider that you may need to buy at least two car seats before your child outgrows them completely. 

The Saftey 1st Grow and Go All-In-One Convertible Car Seat is a safe and comfortable option with a budget-friendly price tag. 

This car seat is built for extended use and converts from rear-facing seat (5–40 pounds) to forward facing seat (22–65 pounds), to a booster seat for children up to 100 pounds. This is one car seat that can potentially see you through many stages of your child’s life. 

It comes in a wide variety of color choices with easy clean, removable and washable seat covers. 

Most importantly, it features side impact protection and a five-point, Quickfit harness. So you can be sure your child is safe and sound in the back seat. 

Parents are thrilled not just with the price but also with this affordable car seat’s comfort, cushioning, and overall quality. Although it may be a little trickier to install than more expensive seats and on the bulkier side, it’s a great toddler car seat option at a great price. 

Material: Polyester | Installation Type: Snaps | Maximum Weight Recommendation: 100 pounds
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Graco Slimfit 3-in-1 Car Seat: Best Slim Car Seat

Graco Slimfit 3-in-1 Car Seat
  • Convertible Design: Transforms from rear-facing harness (5-40 pounds), to forward-facing harness (22-65 pounds), to highback booster (40-100 pounds)
  • Slim Fit: Rotating cup holders and 10% slimmer design saves valuable backseat space
  • Safety Assured: Graco ProtectPlus Engineered for rigorous crash tests; frontal, side, rear, and rollover crashes
  • Effortless Adjustability: No-rethread Simply Safe Adjust harness system and 10-position headrest adapts to your growing child
Pros 
Cons 
  • Slimmer design saves space in the backseat, ideal for families with three kids
  • All-in-one car seat has great longevity and can be used with kids up to 100 pounds
  • May be too large for infants as a first car seat

If you have more than two children to fit in your backseat, or if you have a smaller car, a slim car seat is a must. 

Enter the Graco Slimfit 3-in-1 Car Seat, with a slimmer design and integrated cup holders. Graco says the design is 10% slimmer than comparable car seats, saving you space and aggravation if you’re trying to fit three kids in your back seat. 

This all-in-one car seat could potentially stay with your child for ten years. It converts from a rear-facing seat for children from 5 to 40 pounds to a front-facing toddler seat for children from 22 to 65 pounds. Finally, it turns into a high-back booster that you position with the vehicle’s seat belt. 

However, be aware that although it is advertised as a seat that can be used with infants, some parents have found that an infant car seat is a better first option because it is simply too large for young babies. 

Once you’ve graduated from an infant car seat, though, the Graco Slimfit might be the last car seat you’ll need to buy. 

Material: Foam, Alloy Steel | Installation Type: Latch | Maximum Weight Recommendation: 100 pounds
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Maxi-Cosi Pria Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat: Best for Comfort

Maxi-Cosi Pria Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
  • DESIGNED FOR KEEPING UP WITH YOUR GROWING FAMILY The Pria All-in-One Convertible Car Seat is all about quick and easy, comfy and secure. Pria will simplify your life and ease your mind as you and your child journey together in the years ahead.
  • TRANSITION THROUGH THE STAGES Pria is thoughtfully designed to support your child as they grow: rear-facing (4–40 lbs. and 19″–40″), forward-facing (22–65 lbs. and 29″–49″), and belt-positioning booster (40–100 lbs. and 43″–52″).
  • PURE + COZY = HAPPY KIDDO + YOU Our ultra-soft, yet durable, PureCosi fabrics and padding are made without wool or added fire retardant treatment, which is better for your child and our planet. Machine wash and dry. *Available in select color options.
  • FUSS-FREE IN-AND-OUT Pria’s easy in-and-out harness holders keep straps from getting in the way when you put your little one in the car seat and take them out. Eliminating the struggle means more time for fun.
Pros 
Cons
  • Comfy cushioning for kids
  • Two cup holders
  • Higher seat position
  • Machine washable car seat cover
  • Bulky and takes up a lot of space in the back seat

Maxi-Cosi is known for high-quality, safe, and comfortable baby gear essentials. This car seat is no exception. 

The Maxi-Cosi Pria Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat has a lot of cushioning and comfortable straps. Two cup holders accessible to your toddler are a nice touch. It also sits a little higher than other seats, so your toddler gets a better view outside. 

The Pria also has features that make it easier for parents and caregivers to use. It has a Clikquik magnetic chest clip, out-of-the-way spring-assisted harness straps, and a flip-away buckle to make getting your little one in and out of the seat easier and faster. 

The seat converts from rear-facing mode for 4–40 pounds, forward-facing mode up to 65 pounds, and up to 100 pounds in booster mode, so your investment in this seat should pay off over its lifetime. 

Be aware that this may not be the best car seat for smaller cars or for caregivers who might be taking it in and out of the car a lot, as parents report that it’s quite big and bulky. 

However, if you’re looking for a car seat you can trust, Maxi-Cosi is a good brand to turn to. 

Material: Polyester | Installation Type: Latch | Maximum Weight Recommendation: 100 pounds
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Recommended Accessories

Have you ever tried to walk through an airport with your child, your carry-on, their carry-on, and their car seat? Does the thought of it make you just want to stay home? 

This simple and clever Car Seat Travel Belt allows you to attach the car seat to your rolling carry-on suitcase, freeing your hands and making life traveling with a baby or toddler just that little bit simpler. Genius! 

Car Seat Travel Belt
  • This Car Seat Luggage Belt turns your rolling bag (handbag or suitcase) in to an ultra-portable travel solution that works for all car seats that have a top tether. No need to spend large amounts of money for a Car Seat Carrier or Cart
  • RELIABLE AND COST EFFECTIVE – Reinforced stitching and commercial grade belt ensures that this lasts for years to come. When compared to the carts or dollys, you’ll save a lot of time, money and headache each time
  • QUICK AND EASY – Attach to or remove Car Seat from your luggage in just a few seconds. When not in use, fold the strap and store it anywhere as its light and takes minimal space
  • COMPATIBLE – This belt works with most 13″- 56″ roller handbags and suitcases and forward facing car seats that have a top tether. Be sure to practice at home and look like a PRO at the airport

If you want to check your car seat rather than use it on the plane, this V Volkgo Car Seat Bag is another simple and practical must-have for traveling families. 

V Volkgo Car Seat Bag
  • Spacious design fits most major car seat brands, making it perfect as an airport car seat bag or car seat cover for travel
  • Crafted from water-resistant nylon material with padded straps for easy carrying as a car seat backpack
  • Durable construction provides complete protection as a car seat protector for airplane travel
  • Lightweight and convenient to carry thanks to shoulder straps that allow you to wear it as a backpack

Large enough to fit most car seats, zip your car seat inside and wear it like a backpack through the airport or at baggage claim. 

When Do I Switch to a Toddler Car Seat?

Adorable toddler boy sitting safely in a car seat.

You know your baby will eventually need a toddler car seat, but you might be wondering what a toddler car seat is and how it compares to the infant seat you may already have. 

Take a look at these differences: 

Infant Car Seats 
Toddler Car Seats 
  • Suitable from newborn up to 22 to 35 pounds and 26 to 35 inches.
  • Rear-facing only.
  • Have a carry handle.
  • May fit into a travel system with a stroller.
  • May have a base that can be left in the car for easy installation.
  • Suitable for older babies and toddlers up to 40 to 50 pounds.
  • Some convertible seats may even suit older children up to around 100 pounds when they are switched to booster seats.
  • May be switched from rear to forward facing.
  • Do not have a base for the car or a carry handle.
  • Are not made for use with a travel system stroller.
  • Have a five-point harness.

The American Academy of Pediatrics11. Car seats: Information for families. HealthyChildren.org. 2023. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx recommends that all infants and young children ride rear-facing for as long as possible until they reach the maximum rear-facing weight limit stated by the car seat manufacturer. 

Once your infant has outgrown their rear-facing only seat, they should continue riding in a convertible or all-in-one toddler seat installed in the rear-facing position. 

Okay, but what’s the difference between a convertible and an all-in-one car seat? 

Convertible car seats allow you to change your child’s position from rear-facing to forward-facing once they have outgrown the manufacturer’s rear facing limits. 

All-in-one car seats go one step further, converting into belt-positioning booster mode when your child is old enough. An all-in-one car seat grows with your child for years, but as a result, they do tend to be bigger. 

What to Look for in a Toddler Car Seat

Cute 6 months old baby in car child seat.

Now that you know your car seat options, here are a few features to look for when you’re shopping for a toddler car seat: 

Car seat positions 
  • Look for car seats that have both rear and forward facing positions.
Size of car seat
  • If you will have more than one car seat in your backseat, check the dimensions of what will comfortably fit.
  • Slimmer toddler car seats are available for smaller cars or if you need to fit three car seats in your car.
Your child’s age, weight, and height 
  • Check your child’s age, weight, and height against the minimum and maximum limits stated by the car seat manufacturer.
Practicality
  • Look for the following helpful features:
    • Toddler cup holders.
    • Washable, removable fabric seat covers.
    • Easy seat rotation for parents.
    • Recline feature for kids who nap.
Longevity 
  • How long will you need this car seat?
  • What is the maximum height and weight limit for use?
  • Does it convert all the way up to a belt-positioning booster seat for older children?
  • What is the car seat expiration date?
Safety 
  • Look for a five-point harness.
  • An anti-rebound bar absorbs some shock from a crash.

FAQs

Is it safe to buy a used a car seat? 

Car seats are expensive, and it may seem like a benefit to your wallet and the environment to purchase a used car seat rather than a new one. 

However, for the best car seat safety, experts recommend22. Consumer Reports. Are secondhand car seats safe?. Consumer Reports. 2017. https://www.consumerreports.org/car-seats/are-secondhand-car-seats-safe that parents do not buy secondhand car seats for several reasons. 

First, you can’t ever be certain the seat was not involved in a crash which could have weakened the structure and safety features. A used car seat might look fine on the outside, but unless you’re buying it from someone you completely trust, you can’t know whether it’s already been in a crash. 

Second, car seats come with expiration dates set by manufacturers. These dates confirm how long the car seat’s safety features are viable. You should never use a car seat beyond its expiration date. You would need to see all the attached tags and the owner’s manual to confirm a seat’s expiration. 

Finally, parents need to research whether the manufacturer has recalled a seat in its history. Some recall issues are fixable, but you must contact the manufacturer for accurate information.

References

  1. Car seats: Information for families. HealthyChildren.org. (2023, May 1). https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx
  2. Consumer Reports. (2017, January 28). Are secondhand car seats safe? Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/car-seats/are-secondhand-car-seats-safe
Best Toddler Car Seats


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