7 Best Car Seats For 3-Year-Olds To Travel Safely & Comfortably In 2024

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When traveling in a car with your toddler, you must take every precaution. A car seat is a must-have if you often travel with a baby or toddler. The best car seat for a 3-year-old lets you comfortably strap the baby in place, thus removing the risk of fall or impact in case of a sharp turn or sudden brake.

Car seats for toddlers come in different varieties, and often, you’ll have to check if they would fit your car. Read on as we have listed some of the best car seats with various safety features that you can bring home and install in your car for your three-year-old. We also tell you the benefits of toddler car seats and how to select the best car seat for your 3-year-old. So, keep scrolling.

In This Article

Types Of Car Seats

You will find different types of toddler car seats available in the market. Here are some common ones

  • Rear-facing car seats are suitable for infants and toddlers up to 40 pounds. This provides the safest seating position for babies and toddlers.
  • Forward-facing car seats come with a three-point or five-point safety harness. These are suitable for children up to 65 pounds.
  • Booster car seats are suitable for children older than five years or exceeding the weight and height limit of a forward-facing harness seat. There are back support booster seats that are safer and more comfortable than the backless booster seats.
  • Convertible car seats or combination car seats are convertible from one face to another or booster seats. These seats can last longer as they grow with your child.

Benefits Of Using Car Seats For Three-Year-Olds

Using a car seat for a three-year-old can provide the following benefits:

  1. Saves your child during an accident
  2. Helps reduce the risk of severe injuries up to 80% and fatality by 28%
  3. Positions your child during the long rides and helps them take a quick nap
  4. Makes them independent and active in the car
  5. Helps reduce their movement and is safe for them when sudden brakes are applied

7 Best Car Seats For A Three-Year-Old

1. Best Convertible: Safety 1st Grow And Go All-In-One Convertible Car Seat

4.6
: Safety 1st Grow And Go All-In-One Convertible Car Seat Image: Safety1st

Safety 1st grow and go convertible car seat can keep your child in the rear-facing position up to 40 pounds, front-facing position up to 65 pounds, and in booster position up to 100 pounds. This safety-tested convertible and adjustable car seat grows along with your child. In all three positions, the padding is comfortable for your baby to sit and rest the head.

The harness is easy to buckle your child in front and rear positions and will keep your child safe. Provides seven inches extra room in the front as it occupies less space. The two cup holders in the car seat make on-the-go feeding easy and comfortable. The height recommendations for the rear-facing is 19 to 40 inches and for the forward-facing is 29 to 49 inches. If you want to find out more about this mom-approved car seat, make sure to check out this reviewer’s experience on YouTube.

Color: Everest Pink | Item Weight: ‎18.7 pounds | Product Dimensions: ‎24 x 19 x 23.8 inches

Pros

  • Exceeds federal safety standards
  • Side impact protection
  • Adjustable harness and headrest position
  • Five-point safety harness with open adjustment
  • Easy in and out with the held-back harness holder
  • Three-position seat recliner
  • Easy to clean the machine-washable seat pad
  • Dishwasher-safe cup holders

Cons

  • Could be difficult to install in some smaller vehicles
  • Doesn’t fit three across the back seat

protip_icon Do remember
It is best to avoid buying used car seats, as their durability can be questionable.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

The product has garnered more than 24,496 positive reviews on Amazon.

2. Best With Adjustable Headrest: Graco Atlas 65 Two In One Booster Car Seat

4.7

When your child is ready to shift into the forward seating position, this car seat from the trusted brand Graco will make the transition easy with safety features, making it count in the list of safest car seats for 3-year-olds. This is a two-in-one convertible seat that can convert to a high-back booster seat from the forward-facing seat. It has a five-point safety harness to keep your child safe during a ride.

This travel-friendly and expert-approved car seat includes two cup holders to serve an easy on-the-go drink for your little one. The weight recommendations for the forward positioning is 25 to 65 pounds and for the high-back belt-positioning booster, it is 30 to 100 pounds. The design meets the US safety standards. If you need further convincing, check this YouTuber’s review out.

Product Dimensions: 19"D x 22"W x 25"H | Color: Glacier | Item Weight: ‎16.6 pounds

Pros

  • No-rethread adjustable harness and headrest with one hand
  • Ten positions adjustable headrest
  • Inbuilt harness storage
  • Machine-washable seat pad, harness, and buckle covers
  • Two-position seat recline

Cons

  • No rear seating position

My Personal Experience

"This seat has been the perfect combo of functionality and practicality. While features like the dual cup holders are a boon, its recline function could have been better. However, its installation is straightforward and has accommodated my growing child very well."


3. Best Travel-Friendly: Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat

Guide 65 convertible car seat from Safety 1st is convertible to two seating positions based on your child’s safety requirement. Trusted by moms and dads, this sturdy yet lightweight car seat can hold your baby in the rear-facing mode until your baby reaches 40 pounds. It can be converted to a front-facing position when your child is ready to shift and reaches the height and weight limit, making it one of the best car seats for 3-year-olds.

The travel car seat comes with an inbuilt removable cup holder for easy maintenance. The height specifications for the rear-facing position are 19 to 40 inches and for the front-facing is 29 to 49 inches. The adjustable headrest and removable body pillows of this side-impact protection car seat can keep your growing child comfortable with no compromise in safety. Check out the review of this product on YouTube to know why it is one of the best out there.

Color: Seaport | Material: Foam | Item Weight: ‎14 pounds | Product Dimensions: ‎27.25 x 18.5 x 20.25 inches

Pros

  • Five-point safety harness
  • Open front easy harness adjustment
  • Meets safety standards
  • Ease of installation
  • Travel-friendly

Cons

  • Not convertible to a booster seat
  • Non-adjustable seat recline

Our Tester's Experience

"Switching my old car seat with this has been a wise decision. It's easy to clean, durable, and compatible with multiple vehicles. However, the placement of the cup holder could have been better. Nonetheless, its spacious build and safety features have made it reliable."


protip_icon Do remember
Always check the car seat for any cracks, defects, or missing parts. Do not use even mildly defective car seats, and inform the manufacturer immediately to have the seat replaced.

4. Best Easy-To-Install: Maxi Cosi Pria Three In One Convertible Car Seat

4.6
Maxi Cosi Pria Three In One Convertible Car Seat Image: Maxi-cosi

Pria three-in-one convertible car seat from Maxi Cosi can be used right from birth until your child reaches the weight of 100 pounds. You can place your baby in the rear-facing position up to 40 pounds and then you can shift to the forward-facing position. When your child exceeds the height and weight limit of the harness seat, you can shift them to a booster seat. This easy-install, tried-and-tested car seat for toddlers comes in the list of best car seats for 3-year-olds since it meets all the safety standards and can keep your child safe and comfortable through the years.

Color: Moonstone Violet | Item Weight: ‎17.6 pounds | Product Dimensions: ‎25.25 x 24 x 19.88 inches

Pros

  • Easy-to-install one-click latch system
  • Gcell foam side impact protection
  • One hand headrest adjustment to five positions
  • Adjustable harness
  • Harness holders keep the buckles out of your way
  • Three-position seat recline
  • Durable material
  • Soft baby-friendly cushioning
  • Dishwasher-safe cup holders

Cons

  • Occupies more space
  • Difficult to clean

Our Reviewer's Experience

"Having used this seat for a few months, I can vouch for its durability and adaptability. Not only does it keep my baby strapped in secretly, but it has also grown well with him. The only issue was the unique straps that posed a learning curve, but that was also manageable with some online help."


Why We Think It's Worth Buying

Over 3,619 customers on Amazon have opined that this is one of the best products in its category.

Safety 1st Grow And Go All-In-One Convertible Car Seat
Best Convertible
Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat
Best Travel-Friendly
Maxi Cosi Pria Three In One Convertible Car Seat
Best Easy-To-Install
Color Everest Pink Seaport Moonstone Violet
Weight ‎18.7 pounds ‎14 pounds ‎17.6 pounds
Dimensions ‎24 x 19 x 23.8 inches ‎27.25 x 18.5 x 20.25 inches ‎25.25 x 24 x 19.88 inches
Material- Foam-
Rating
Reviews24,4964,9433,619
Price$179.99$86.99$269.99
Buy NowBuy NowBuy Now

5. Best Stylish Design: Kidsembrace Combination Booster Car Seat

4.7
Kidsembrace Combination Booster Car Seat Image: Kidsembrace

Kidsembracecar seat is made of a pretty Minnie mouse design. This expert-approved convertible car seat is perfect for children who are ready for a forward-facing position. It can be trusted by moms and dads as its five-point safety harness will keep your child safe and comfortable in the 22 to 65 pound range.

When your child outgrows the limit, you can shift them to a booster seat until 100 pounds. The height range for harness mode is 29 to 49 inches and for booster-mode is 38 to 57 inches. Its headrest is made from energy-absorbing EPS foam to protect your child from side impact.

Product Dimensions: 19"D x 20"W x 30"H | Color: Minnie Mouse | Item Weight: ‎15 pounds

Pros

  • Ease of installation
  • Two cup holders
  • Adjustable headrest to three positions
  • Stylish design
  • Meets the safety standards

Cons

  • No rear-facing position

Our Reviewer's Experience

"Thanks to the Mickey design, my kid no longer throws a tantrum when I strap him into the seat. Despite featuring an extended back and neck support, it still feels very light. I wish its fabric were softer, but the option to wash it in the machine is a boon."


protip_icon Quick tip
Experts recommend children be seated in the rear seat until they turn three years old (2).

6. Best Colorful: Kidsembrace Cinderella Combination Booster Car Seat

4.7
Kidsembrace Cinderella Combination Booster Car Seat Image: Kidsembrace

The Kidsembrace Cinderella car seat for toddlers aged 3 is a combination booster car seat available in multiple other prints and colors. This car seat is perfect for children ready for a forward-facing position and can easily convert to a booster seat as they grow.

The height and weight specifications for the forward-facing position are 29 to 49 inches and 22 to 65 pounds, respectively, and for the booster seat, they are 38 to 57 inches and 30 to 100 pounds, respectively. The travel car seat comes with a five-point safety harness and three harness positioning slots for safety and comfort.

Product Dimensions: 19"D x 20"W x 30"H | Color: Cinderella (Pink) | Item Weight: ‎15 pounds

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Detachable cape doubles as a blanket
  • Inbuilt cup holders
  • Three-level headrest adjustment

Cons

  • No rear-facing position
  • Uncomfortable for chubby kids

7. Best Side-Impact Protection: Graco Milestone Three In One Car Seat

4.7

Graco offers a convertible car seat that grows with your child. This reclining car seat can keep your little one safe through the years as it converts from rear- to forward-facing and then to high-back booster mode. You can buckle up your baby in a rear-facing position up to 40 pounds. Gradually you can shift your child to the forward-facing harness up to 75 pounds and then to the booster seat. The five-point safety harness with headrest and padding will keep your baby safe on a ride. It also comes with a removable cup holder to help your baby have a drink on the go.

Color: Gotham | Material: Metal | Item Weight: ‎19.8 pounds | Product Dimensions: ‎19.7 x 16.25 x 25.5 inches

Pros

  • Easy to install with latch system
  • Four-position seat recline
  • Headrest and harness adjustment at one go
  • Ten-position adjustable headrest
  • Inbuilt harness storage compartment
  • Side impact protection

Cons

  • Occupies more space

Our Reviewer's Experience

"After experimenting with many car seats, I have settled on this one as it is compatible with all kinds of cars. It's also easy to install, and the removable covers make maintenance a breeze. It is a little heavier than expected, but that only assures me that it will last long."


Why We Think It's Worth Buying

The product has earned its stripes, with over 1,210 reviews on Amazon.

*The prices provided in this article are based on the latest available information. However, they may vary due to changes in pricing by the seller and/or promotional offers.

How To Choose The Right Car Seat For A Three-Year-Old?

Consider the following points before you pick a car seat for your baby.

  1. Harness: Car seats either come with a three-point harness or a five-point harness. A five-point harness is safer than a three-point as it can spread the force during an impact and keeps the child safe.
  1. Impact protection: Look for a car seat with side impact protection to protect your child from a side crash or a hard collision. The cushions around the head and body and the strong seat frame with foam padding will act as shock absorbers and keep your child safe. Opt for car seats tested against crashes for enhanced protection.
  1. Head and neck support: Choose a car seat that has an adjustable headrest and harness. This helps you to adjust the padding according to your child’s height and will support the head and neck as they grow.
  1. Padding and cushion: Choose the well-padded car seat as it will let your baby sit happily during long rides.
  1. Size: Choose a car seat that is compact if you have space issues; otherwise, look for more spacious car seats as they can accommodate your child better.
  1. Durable and convertible: Look for a car seat that is sturdy and will last longer. It is advisable to choose a convertible car seat so that you don’t need to buy a booster seat in later years.
  1. Design and style: Choose vibrant colors with characters to attract your child. It makes them happy and comfortable.
  1. Easy maintenance: Choose a car seat with dark colors and removable cup holders, to keep the car seat clean and easy to maintain. Opting for washable car seat covers and pads could also be a good option.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long should a child be in a five-point harness?

A child should be in a five-point harness until they reach the maximum weight and height limit. It is recommended to use the harness as long as possible or until the child reaches the limit of the harness seat.

2. Is a five-point harness safer than a booster?

Yes, the five-point harness is safer than a booster. The booster seats use the seat belt as a restraining system and will have no extra protection and support for the head, neck, and spine.

3. Can I put my three-year-old in a booster seat?

Your little one might look like they are ready for a booster seat at three years, but it is a big no. It is safe for your children to be harnessed as they reach five. So, it is recommended to use either a rear-facing car seat or a forward-facing harness seat for a three-year-old.

4. At what age should I change car seats?

If you are using an infant car seat, you should switch to a convertible car seat once your baby reaches the maximum height and weight limit of the infant car seat. This happens anywhere before two years of age. A three-year-old should be placed in a rear-facing seat position as long as possible until at least four years or when they exceed the limit of height and weight.

5. Does the car seat go behind the driver or passenger?

The car seat should be placed in the back seat and can be placed either behind the driver seat or the passenger seat.

6. When can a child use a three-point seat belt?

It is safe to move the child to a three-point seat belt between the ages of eight to 12 years or when the child reaches the maximum height limit of four feet nine inches (1).

Why Trust MomJunction?

After checking the durability, dimensions, and other important features, we have compiled this list of the best car seats for three-year-olds. The list includes detailed descriptions and features to ensure the car seats are safe, durable, made of high-quality materials, and have various accessories for your convenience. We also included a buying guide and an FAQ section to help you choose the right product. These car seats for toddlers are chosen based on user reviews to offer you an unbiased opinion.

The Bottom Line

When traveling with a toddler, their safety is the biggest concern for parents. Getting the best car seat for 3-year-olds will relieve stress as your child is safely seated when you drive. It helps when you look for a car seat with a harness and a secure locking system to stay locked as the baby is seated comfortably. The car seat should also provide impact protection with good neck and head support for a bump-free ride. You can check out the feature-rich Safety 1st Grow And Go All-In-One Convertible Car Seat, which can support your baby for a long time. If your little one is fond of Minnie Mouse or other Disney characters, the Kidsembrace Combination Booster Car Seat might be suitable, offering ample safety and convenience.

Infographic: Advantages Of Using A Car Seat For 3-Year-Olds

Using a car seat for your three-year-old is an essential safety measure that a parent should take. Car seats help save lives and protect your child if you meet with an accident. Choosing an appropriate car seat and installing it correctly can keep your child safe and comfortable. Read further to learn more about the benefits of using car seats for three-year-olds.

Benefits Of Using A Car Seat For 3 Year Olds (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get the high-quality PDF version of this infographic.

Download Infographic in PDF version


References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. When Can a Child Switch to a Regular Seatbelt?
    https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/seatbelt.html#:~:text=Usually%2C%20this%20happens%20when%20kids
  2. Car Seat Recommendations for Children
    https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/documents/carseat-recommendations-for-children-by-age-size.pdf

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