Best Toddler Car Seat Reviews To Keep Your Little One Protected
In a time when car trips become frequenter and longer, a thing to pay attention to is the protection you provide for your little ones. Statistically, infants and toddlers are the first that suffer from injuries in the event of a car accident. If you don’t feel like reading our entire guide, check the best toddler car seats available on the market in the table below.
Studies also say that accidents could be less damaging for the little ones if they travel in their car seats. The use of a car seat for children is recommended up to an age of 10-12 years old, therefore it is easy to understand why investing in a car seat for your toddler is essential.
There are dozens of models available on the market and choosing the right one can be confusing. We hope that our best toddler car seat reviews will help you make a decision, but first let’s see what type of car seat is suitable for a toddler and how to choose it.
Car Seat Categories
Not all car seats are the same. Car seat manufacturers produce different models that are suitable for infants, toddlers or children up to 12 years old, depending on the weight and size of the child. These models can be divided into three categories or groups.
1. Group 0 and 0+
These car seats are very similar to the cradles, maintaining a newborn in a lying position. These car seats can usually be attached to a stroller, to avoid waking the baby if she’s asleep, and they are ideal for babies up to 6 months old. From 6 months onwards, it is indicated to use 0+ car seats that still maintain the baby in a nearly horizontal position but that can support up to 28 pounds of weight.
2. Group 1 and 2
Without a doubt, the car seats in this group are the ones the baby is going to use the most. The vast majority of these car seats can support up to 55 pounds of weight, meaning that an average child will be able to use them up to an age of about 6 years old. In other words, these car seats are perfect for toddlers and young children and they are designed to provide maximum comfort to the little ones.
3. Group 3
Often called “boosters”, these simple seats are used to allow children to seat at the right height and are recommended for use up to an age of 12 years or for children of any age that are less than one and a half feet of height.
How To Choose A Car Seat
Security and Compatibility
The most important thing to consider when choosing a car seat is the compatibility with your car and its security system. Almost all modern cars are equipped with a system called Isofix, a seat fastening system that is more secure compared to the belt systems but that is more difficult to install.
The Isofix system is based on a three-point anchorage system with two connectors that are attached directly to the body of the car and a third anchorage point that can be either a top tether belt or a support leg.
Although all cars are equipped with Isofix systems, not all car seats are manufactured to be compatible with the system. For this reason, apart from checking the characteristics of your car, you should also check the characteristics of the seat you want to buy. The car seats on the market can be:
Universal and Universal Isofix
- The universal type is compatible with all types of cars and it can be fastened to any rear seat. The Universal Isofix car seats are compatible with all the cars equipped with Isofix systems.
Semi-Universal and Semi-Universal Isofix
- These car seats are compatible with almost all car models but you will have to ask the manufacturer for the exact list of vehicles with which the seat is compatible. Regarding the semi-universal Isofix seats, they come with a support leg useful for positioning the seat in a rear-facing position.
- These car seats are compatible only with the specific vehicles indicated by the manufacturer. The positive part about these car seats is that their features have been studied and developed to provide maximum safety in a certain type of vehicle. On the other side, you will probably not be able to use them safely in different models of vehicles.
The second most important thing to consider when choosing a baby seat is the comfort factor. If you want to make sure your little one will travel comfortably, there are a few things you should check, such as the possibility to adjust the armrests and the backrest, the existence of a canopy, and the existence of a cup or toy holder.
Apart from these considerations, you should also pay attention to the construction of the seat. The interior trim of the seat, as well as the lateral structures, should be rounded and preferably soft. The fabric used should allow a proper airflow while the overall feeling of the seat should be robust.
Easy To Clean
A car seat should be extremely easy to clean. Ideally, the fabric should be waterproof or the outer cover of the seat should be removable and washable. If the fabric doesn’t possess any of the characteristics mentioned, you should check if it can be at least cleaned with a damp cloth or other instruments.
With these considerations in mind, let’s see what are the most popular toddler car seats available on the market.
Best Toddler Car Seat Reviews
1. Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
One of the most popular toddler car seats available on the market is the Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat by Evenflo. Besides an amazing design, this car seat is manufactured in compliance with the federal safety standards, being tested for structural integrity according to the federal crash standards.
Although considered one of the best toddler car seats, the Tribute LX is a convertible model, meaning that you will be able to use the same seat throughout the development stages of your baby, from infant to child.
The Tribute LX is compact and lightweight yet it is designed to provide maximum comfort to the toddlers. The fabric used to linen the seat is soft and breathable, while the seat is provided with 4 harness positions designed to accommodate growing children and with a convenient head pillow that provides additional comfort and support.
Apart from this, thanks to the compact dimensions, the seat can fit with ease in all types of cars and it is ideal for parents who switch between multiple vehicles.
Things We Liked
- Side-impact tested: the Tribute LX meets, and in many cases, it even exceeds all the applicable federal safety standards.
- Multiple colors: matching the car seat to the gender of your baby or to your personal preferences will be extremely easy, thanks to the multiple finishes available for this product. You will be able to choose from a whole gray seat or gray and another color of your choice between pink, magenta, red, and blue. The patterns also vary for more versatility.
- 5-point safety harness: the seat comes with an adjustable 5-point safety harness designed to keep your child safe and to make it easier for you to get the baby in and out of the seat.
- Detachable pad: this car seat has a detachable and washable pad, so keeping the seat clean is literally a piece of cake.
Things We Didn't Like
- Although it is advertised as extremely safe, some parents confessed that the seat doesn’t seem stable.
2. Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat
Graco is a renowned manufacturer of car seats and strollers, the company’s products impressing with their durability. Apart from being durable, Graco’s car seats are also designed to be comfortable, easy to use, and easy to maintain.
Considered one of the best toddler car seats on the market, Graco Nautilus 65 is a 3-in-1 harness booster that can be used throughout the whole growing period of the child, from when the baby is old enough to sit in a forward-facing seat until a booster is no longer needed.
For toddlers, Nautilus 65 boasts a 5-point harness system designed to keep the child safe during the ride. Suitable for babies weighing between 22 and 65 pounds, this car seat is comfortable thanks to the padded head rest and ergonomic design.
When the child is old enough, the car seat converts to a belt-positioning booster and then into a backless booster.
Things We Liked
- Sturdy construction: Nautilus 65 boasts a steel-reinforced frame designed to provide strength and durability over the years.
- Safe: apart from being tested for lateral impact and compliant with all the federal safety regulations, this car seat also boasts an EPS energy absorbing foam filling that provides a more efficient energy management in the case of an impact.
- Easy to clean: the seat, harness and buckle covers can be easily removed and machine washed with mild soap.
- Ergonomic: this car seat is designed with the comfort of the little ones in mind. Apart from a padded seat and headrest, this booster also has ergonomic armrests and a convenient cup holder.
Things We Didn't Like
- There are many negative points about this car seat, but some parents claim that the buckles and clips are somehow harder to operate compared to similar models.
3. Disney APT Convertible Car Seat
As parents, we all know that toddlers can be extremely fond of their favorite characters. Without a doubt, some of the most iconic characters in the world are the Disney’s Mickey and Minnie mouse. Therefore, investing in an excellent car seat that will certainly bring a smile on your baby’s face and make him travel more willingly is the best thing you can do.
This adorable car seat is designed to accommodate babies throughout their growing stages and it is suitable for babies between 4 up to 40 pounds of weight. For infants, the car seat can be easily used in a rear-facing position, the soft cushions and paddings keeping the baby safe into place.
For toddlers, Disney’s APT converts into a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness system and three buckle locations. In addition to this, the car seat is equipped with side impact protection and LATCH. Thanks to these characteristics, your little one will stay safe during the ride and the seat can be installed correctly with extreme ease.
Things We Liked
- Fashionable design: among the many car seats available on the market this one truly stands out thanks to the attractive design loved by both parents and toddlers. Various options are available, suitable both for boys and for girls. For girls, the manufacturer proposes two versions in two different shades of pink, while for boys the main character is Mickey.
- Convenient cup holders: compared with many other models available on the market, this car seat comes with two cup holders that can easily double as toy holder.
- Convertible: this seat suits almost all babies, being an ideal car seat to use from the first days of the baby until she reaches about 43 inches in height.
- LATCH equipped: the seat is equipped with a LATCH system designed to make installing quick and easy.
Things We Didn't Like
- Although equipped with a LATCH systems, some parents complained about the difficulty to install the seat. It also seems that the seat is rather bulky and takes up a lot of space in the car.
4. Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat
If you are looking for a slim and compact car seat suitable to be installed in a smaller car, then the Tribute Sport Convertible car seat by Evenflo might be the one you are looking for.
This car seat is ideal for toddlers and older babies and it is characterized by a sleek yet extremely simple design thought to be functional and easy to use. The seat can be positioned either rear or forward facing, responding in this way to the needs of smaller and older babies.
Apart from this, the seat boasts a five-point harness that can be easily adjusted to the various heights of the baby and accommodate her as she grows.
When it comes to safety features, the seat is compliant with all the federal standards and tested for lateral impact safety.
Things We Liked
- Compact design: perfect for small cars, the Tribute Sport is slim and sleek. The materials used for this seat are of high-quality, the soft padding providing ultimate comfort to the little ones.
- Multiple colors: easy to match with the gender of the child, this seat is manufactured in various colors including all gray, gray and pink or gray with red accents.
- Adjustable harness: to accommodate growing children, the seat is provided with a 5-point harness and 2-crotch buckle position.
- Affordable: compared to many similar models, this car seat provides supreme safety features and excellent comfort for a more than affordable price.
Things We Didn't Like
- The compact model is great for the small cars but the seat doesn’t have a cup holder, a useful feature when traveling with a small child.
5. Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat
The Contender 65 is a convertible car seat designed to protect your child for years, from when it is an infant to a toddler weighing up to 65 pounds. The padded interior, together with the adjustable harness system and head rest, make this car seat a trustworthy companion.
Thanks to the unique Simply Safe Adjust Harness system, adjusting the harness is easy and it requires only one hand. We all know how important it is to be able to keep the child in place while adjusting the harness, so this is, without a doubt, a great feature.
Apart from this, the seat is side-impact tested and it meets all the applicable federal safety standards.
Things We Liked
- 8-position adjustable headrest: the Contender 65 will grow with your baby thanks to the adjustable headrest that can easily adapt the needs of your growing toddler.
- Ergonomic design: everything about the Contender is designed to suit the needs of a growing baby. From the adjustable harness and headrest to the conveniently positioned cup holder, this seat will certainly be a comfortable place for your little one.
- Easy in and out: getting the baby in and out of the seat is a breeze thanks to the easy-to-use harness system.
- Smart Engineering: for extra peace of mind, this car seat is crash tested, lateral impact tested and equipped with EPS energy absorbing foam for an optimal impact management.
Things We Didn't Like
- The car seat is quite difficult to install and removing it from the car can also be tricky.
In our opinion, Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat is the best toddler car seat available on the market. This 3-in-1 booster car seat is designed to be used by small toddlers until the child is old enough to travel without a car seat.
Furthermore, it has excellent characteristics and it comes at a great price.