12 Best Car Seats for Toddlers in 2017

Still haven’t found the right car seat?

We’re not surprised. The car seat industry is huge and swimming through all of the options requires a lot of research.

As parents and car seat shoppers ourselves, we’ve learned quite a bit along the way and would like to share our findings with you in this easy-to-use guide.

We’ll be focusing on the best car seats for toddlers, so if you have a little one between the ages of 1-3 and want a seat that will keep them safe, continue reading.

You can compare the top 12 seats in our table and then head down to read our detailed reviews of the five seats that we feel are worth purchasing.

Top 12 Car Seats for Toddlers Ultimate Table

DesignNameTypeUse AsRating (1-5)
  1. Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat All-in-One Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
Booster
 4.7
  2. Chicco Nextfit Convertible Carseat Convertible Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
 4.6
  3. Graco Size4Me 65 Rapid Remove Convertible Car Seat Convertible Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
 4.6
  4. Diono Radian RXT All-In-One Convertible Car Seat All-in-One Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
Booster
 4.5
  5. RECARO Performance SPORT Combination Harness to Booster Harness to Booster Forward-Facing
Booster
 4.5
6. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat All-in-One Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
Booster
 4.5
7. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible Convertible Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
 4.5
8. Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Harness to Booster Forward-Facing
Booster
 4.4
  9. Evenflo Chase LX Harnessed Booster Harness to Booster Forward-Facing
Booster
 4.4
  10. Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat Convertible Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
 4.3
  11. Britax USA Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat Convertible Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
 4.3
  12. Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 3-in-1 Car Seat All-in-One Rear-Facing
Forward-Facing
Booster
 4.3

Car Seat Differences Explained…Simply

The terminology is a bit confusing for first-time car seat shoppers, so if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the options, we’ll give you a plain and simple explanation of the differences here in this section.

  • All-in-One – These types of car seats take you from rear-facing infant seat to forward-facing toddler seat to big kid booster seat. You will see them labeled as All-in-One, 3-in-One or even 4-in-One as is the case with the Graco 4Ever 4-in-One Convertible Car Seat.

The most appropriate time to buy one of these is when you’ll be welcoming a new baby to your home, and you want a seat that will grow with them. It takes them through all of the life stages.

While these are the most convenient options for families, keep in mind that safety regulations change constantly, and a seat that may be up to standards when you first purchase it for an infant may be outdated by the time they’re in pre-school.

  • Convertible – The convertible car seat can only be used two ways: as a rear-facing infant seat and as a forward-facing toddler seat. You cannot convert it into a booster seat later like you can with the All-in-One car seats.

We recommend these over the All-in-One seats simply because you’ll be using them for a shorter period and can upgrade to a booster seat that meets current safety standards once your little one reaches pre-school age.

  • Harness to Booster – If you’re ready to ditch the infant seat and want something that an older toddler can use as they grow into a preschooler, then seats that go from harness to booster are a great option.

Important Things to Consider When Car Seat Shopping

Now that you understand the differences between styles, there are still a few important things you need to pay attention to while car seat shopping.

Weight and Height Limits – Car seats aren’t categorized by age like most toys are but rather by the height and weight of a child.

Each manufacturer will list the height and weight limitations for each position of a seat, so make sure you double check before purchasing.

Never assume that the best toddler car seat is such because it is geared toward the toddler age range. Make sure you know your child’s weight and measurements to make sure that the fit is right. Their safety in the event of an accident depends on this.

Tether Strap – When car seats are forward-facing, you can make it even safer for your child by using a tether strap.

This strap secures the car seat to your vehicle (most modern vehicles are equipped with the anchor for you to hook the strap to) and can help prevent head injuries in the event of a crash since it will prevent both seat and child from moving as far forward.

Smaller Details

You don’t need to sweat the small stuff, but here are a few extra things to consider that can make your experience with a car seat that much better.

  • Cup Holder
  • Machine Washable Material
  • Number of Reclining Positions

Top 5 Best Car Seats for Toddlers Reviews

1. Graco 4Ever 4-in-One Car Seat

Graco’s 4Ever 4-in-One Car Seat is one of the highest rated seats on the market right now. Parents trust the design, love the convenience, and little ones feel comfortable sitting in it.

In the safety department, this seat has been side-impact tested and crash tested so that it meets or exceeds the US standard FMVSS 213 – which is the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards No. 213.

Use it first as an infant car seat for little ones weighing between 4-40 pounds, and then you can change it to the forward-facing position for toddlers that weigh 22-65 pounds. It has a five-point harness to use in this position, and the headrest has 10 different positions to choose from when you use it as a booster seat. There are six recline positions and installing it is a breeze thanks to Graco’s InRightTM LATCH system.

This seat has the potential to get you through 10 years of your child’s life if you purchase it for them from birth and on.

2. Chicco Nextfit Convertible Car Seat

Chicco is the next great car seat option for toddlers if you want one that will take them through the infant to toddler years.

You can use this as a rear-facing seat for little ones from 5-40 pounds and then as a forward-facing seat when they are between 22-65 pounds. The seat reclines to nine different positions, which make it just as comfortable as the previous seat, and we love that the cover zips right off so you can throw it in the washing machine. It also has a cup holder, too!

The headrest doesn’t adjust to as many positions as the Graco simply because it won’t be used as a booster. You can adjust the headrest on this seat to six different positions, which is plenty.

This is also an infant-friendly seat since it has an insert that you can use for babies that weigh between 5 and 11 pounds (to be used in the rear-facing position.

It, too, is very easy to install, and they also have a level on the side so you can make sure that it is sitting at the safest angle for your little one.

Want to see a demo? Chicco’s promotional video for the Nextfit will give you a visual of all the great features we have just described.

3. Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat

Moving back to another Graco, this model has a few of the features that we liked from the 4Ever model that we liked, but rather than functioning as a booster seat; this is only designed for the rear-facing and forward-facing mode for toddlers.

The level of safety is equal to the 4Ever since this seat has also been side-impact tested and it meets or exceeds all US safety standards. You also have the benefit of the InRightTM LATCH system that makes it easy to install, so what is different about this one?

Well, it has fewer headrest positions (eight instead of 10) and fewer recline positions (three instead of six), and as we mentioned, it doesn’t function as a booster seat.

We would recommend this one to most parents who are purchasing their first car seat ever because investing in one that will last from the infant years to pre-school is a bit of a risk since you don’t know what you’ll like or dislike about car seats.

Another reason is that safety standards change, so once you’re ready to change to a booster seat, it is easier to find one that meets current safety standards.

4. Diono Radian rXT All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Diono’s Radian rXT seat is a great alternative to the Graco 4Ever. You can use it for just as long (infant to big kid years), and it just happens to be more travel-friendly than the Graco.

Parents who fly love that this car seat folds flat can be worn as a backpack to make it easier to transport.

It has many of the features that we like to see: 12-position adjustable headrest, tether, machine washable cover, cup holder and infant insert.

The one area where this car seat doesn’t perform well is in the ease of installation. The other three car seats we tried were ridiculously easy to install, but this one required a bit more effort and was more time-consuming. It lost a few points for this, but in terms of safety, comfort and durability, it still deserves a spot in our top five.

5. Recaro Performance Sport

If you have a car seat for an infant that just isn’t working out and you’ll soon be needing a toddler car seat, Recaro has a great harness to booster model that you’ll love.

Toddlers love how comfortable it is thanks to the memory foam cushioning, and parents love the safety testing that it has gone through which offers a racing-inspired level of protection.

You can use this in harness mode for children weighing 20-65 pounds and in booster mode for children from 30-120 pounds.

Installation is easy with this one – unlike the Diono – and it has mesh storage pockets, various reclining positions, an adjustable headrest and a removable cover.

We’ve seen quite a few testimonials that vouch for this seat’s safety. People who have unfortunately been involved in accidents are lucky to say that their kids walked away with only a few bruises, which lets us know that it is one of the best car seats for toddlers in the event of an emergency.