LAST UPDATED: November 23, 2020

The Best Car Seat For 3-Year-Olds (Review and Buying Guide) in 2021

Best Choice The Best Car Seat For 3-Year-Olds (Review and Buying Guide) in 2021 Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat
Best Value The Best Car Seat For 3-Year-Olds (Review and Buying Guide) in 2021 Graco Affix Highback Booster Seat with Latch System
Premium Pick The Best Car Seat For 3-Year-Olds (Review and Buying Guide) in 2021 Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus Harness-2-Booster Car Seat

Choosing a car seat for your child is not an easy task. There are hundreds of different car seats on the market, and each one offers different benefits, suits kids of different weights and ages, and is made with different materials. Plus, every parent has to consider the safety and security of each car seat. As your child grows older, progressing from baby to toddler, you have to decide which car seat will suit him or her best — and protect him or her well. Do you want a car seat that grows with your toddler? Do you want a car seat that’s designed for specific ages and stages only? We’re here to help make the choice easier and your search simpler with our picks for the best car seats for 3-year-old kids.

The Best Car Seat For 3-Year-Olds

The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat is a fantastic overall pick if you need a car seat that’s suited for a 3-year-old. This car seat is meant to grow with your kid as he or she gets older, taller, and heavier. It can be used not only before he or she reaches the age of three as a rear-facing seat but also as a forward-facing seat and a booster. It’ll suit, support, and protect kids from five to 100 pounds, offering different configurations for many ages and weights. As a forward-facing car seat, it’s great for 3-year-olds — it can support 22 to 65 pounds, heights from 29 to 52 inches, and offers a comfortable harness. In fact, the QuickFit Harness can adjust with the car seat’s headrest to offer more space and up to seven inches of additional room.

Key Features
  • Rated for kids weighing 5 to 100 pounds
  • Can be used as front- or rear-facing
  • Suits heights from 19 to 52 inches
  • Seat pad is machine-washable
Specification
  • Brand Safety 1st
  • Model CC138DWU
  • Weight 18.7 pounds
PROS

Offers three different configurations to grow with children

Keeps kids safe with side impact protection

QuickFit harness allows you to easily adjust the belts and headrest simultaneously

CONS

Car seat may shift in certain vehicles

Installation can be challenging

Car seats aren’t cheap, and you don’t want to skimp on safety — which is exactly why the Graco Affix Highback Booster Seat with Latch System is a great pick. With an affordable price, this car seat is within most parents’ budgets, and it’s well-suited for 3-year-olds. It can safely and securely transport kids weighing between 30 and 100 pounds and up to 57-inches tall. It’s easy to use, and older kids can even control the latches themselves; it’s a one-handed front-adjustable latch system, which secures the booster to your vehicle’s seat. A multi-layer headrest offers comfortable positioning, and EPS energy-absorbing foam keeps kids comfortable even on long rides. There are even accessories like a cup holder and a hideaway storage compartment where toys, snacks, and drinks can be kept secure while on the road.

Key Features
  • Suitable for kids between 30 and 100 pounds
  • One-handed front-adjust latch system makes buckling and unbuckling easy
  • Cushioned with EPS energy-absorbing foam
  • Fully adjustable headrest
Specification
  • Brand Graco
  • Model 1852665
  • Weight 9.8 pounds
PROS

Full coverage back support for children at any age

Latches easily enough to allow kids to self-buckle as they get older

Converts from car seat to backless booster as children grow

CONS

The adjustable back can become loose and move

Headrest can slide down and fail to stay in place

Self-buckling can allow kids to unlatch the harness while in motion

The Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus Harness-2-Booster Car Seat is a fantastic premium pick if you need a car seat for a 3-year-old. It does come at a higher price, but it offers impressive protection and security for kids. And it’ll even be an investment you can use as your child grows older, taller, and in weight. This car seat will grow with your child, switching from a five-point harness to a booster seat. No matter what position it’s used in, the car seat can suit kids from 25 to 120 pounds and from 34 to 63 inches tall. It offers three layers of side impact protection that surround your child’s head, neck, and torso, and Britax SafeCell Technology ensures the seat crumples to absorb energy in a crash. Premium, soft-touch fabrics like four-way stretch athleisure fabric keep the seat comfortable for your child, and soft padding prevents rubbing.

Key Features
  • Transitions from forward-facing harness to belt-positioning booster as children grow
  • Made with premium soft-touch fabric
  • Suitable for kids weighing between 25 to 120 pounds
  • High-strength steel frame offers stabilization
Specification
  • Brand Britax
  • Model E1C207N
  • Weight 26.5 pounds
PROS

Features three layers of side impact protection

Britax SafeCell Technology causes the seat to crumple to help absorb crash energy

Grows with your child from toddler to big kid

CONS

Headrest can squeak on bumpy rides

Straps, latches, and buckles can be tough even for adults

Hard to tighten the straps

The Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster is a great option if you need a car seat for a growing 3-year-old who’s ready to upgrade. This front-facing booster seat is great for kids weighing anywhere from 22 to 110 pounds, and it’ll keep them secure whether they’re three years old or older. It features a five-point harness that’ll convert to a belt-positioning car seat when your child is ready. The upfront harness is easy to adjust for a snug fit, and the lap buckle offers two positions that can be adjusted as your child gets bigger. Two integrated cup holders are perfect for drinks and snacks, and the removable head pillow and seat pad offer both comfort and adjustability. Even more importantly, this car seat for 3-year-olds is side-impact tested and meets or exceeds all federal safety standards.

Key Features
  • Fits children from 22 to 110 pounds
  • Five-point harness converts to belt-positioning booster
  • Two lap buckle positions adjust for growing children
  • Integrated cup holders
Specification
  • Brand Evenflo
  • Model 30611847
  • Weight 11 pounds
PROS

Four harness positions adjust and adapt with your child

Removable head pillow and pad are machine washable

Meets or exceeds all federal safety standards, including side-impact

CONS

Lack of shoulder pads can leave sleeping kids uncomfortable

Can be difficult for adults to tighten the LATCH system straps

Padding lessens as children get older and seat configuration changes

The Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat is very versatile, with multiple harness options and configurations. This car seat will suit small kids as a rear-facing seat for weight between 5 and 40 pounds, and it can be switched to a front-facing seat at 22 to 50 pounds. With six harness heights, three buckle locations, and a five-point center harness, this car seat can be adjusted and customized to perfectly suit your 3-year-old. It’s safe, with side impact protection and certification for use on aircraft, and lightweight enough to move around or carry. This car seat also features a machine-washable seat pad, which is ideal for kids who might spill or make a bit of a mess while on the go.

Key Features
  • Lets kids ride rear-facing up to 40 pounds
  • Allows kids to ride front-facing up to 50 pounds
  • Includes six harness heights and three buckles
  • Car seat pad is machine washable
Specification
  • Brand Cosco
  • Model CC147DFM
  • Weight 11 pounds
PROS

Easy to install and remove 

Approved by airlines for convenient travel

Lightweight and perfect for switching between vehicles

CONS

Achieving tight installation can be difficult

Even when tight, the seat may wander while driving

The Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat is a convenient and capable car seat that’ll grow with your 3-year-old over time. Designed to fit and protect your child from 2 years old and beyond, this car seat meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards, including side-impact testing. It keeps your 3-year-old secure with multiple shoulder harness positions, which offer a comfortable yet safe fit that can be adjusted as your child grows taller and heavier. An upfront harness adjustment and an easy buckle release make it convenient to fit your child, and an integrated body cushion keeps kids comfortable. There’s even a removable head pillow that can be added as your child gets older. If you’re looking to invest in a car seat that’ll suit your family for years to come, this is a great option.

Key Features
  • Meets or exceeds all federal safety standards
  • Integrated body cushion and removable head pillow
  • Multiple harness positions can be changed with upfront harness adjustment
  • Easy buckle release
Specification
  • Brand Evenflo
  • Model 38111190
  • Weight 9.29 pounds
PROS

Ideal for smaller cars or smaller seats

Easy to clean messes off the seat and its padding

Very lightweight and easy to move

CONS

Does not have neck or shoulder pads

Takes up a lot of space when used rear-facing

Cup holder doesn’t hold drinks securely

What three-year-old doesn’t love seeing their favorite characters on their most important items? The Disney Baby Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat combines famous Disney faces with critical car seat safety. It’s meant to grow with your child — it’ll fit infants who need to sit rear-facing, and the seat can then be adjusted to suit your 3-year-old. It can be used rear-facing for kids weighing 5 to 40 pounds and front-facing for kids weighing 22 to 50 pounds. It includes a five-point harness with upfront adjustment, six harness heights for kids of all heights, and three buckle locations you can use over time. Even better, this car seat is extra lightweight, which makes it almost effortless to transport whether you’re switching cars or heading on vacation.

Key Features
  • Suits kids from five to 50 pounds as a rear-facing and forward-facing seat
  • Five-point harness includes upfront adjustment
  • Six harness heights to choose from
  • Three buckle locations adapt as children grow
Specification
  • Brand Disney Baby
  • Model CC171CLJ
  • Weight 11 pounds
PROS

Side impact protection built into the car seat

One-Click Latch makes installing the car seat easy

Pad is machine washable and dryer-friendly

CONS

Seat may become too small quickly for taller children

Installation can be difficult

Buckle release button can be hard to press even for adults

The KidsEmbrace 2-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat looks fun at first glance, but it’s also a great option for parents who want a car seat that can suit a child at age 3 and well into the future. This car seat, which features Marvel’s Spider-Man, does a lot more than simply look cool. It has a contoured seat and padded seat cover for comfort, and it’s approved for forward-facing use for kids weighing 22 to 65 pounds and standing 29 to 49 inches tall. As your child grows, the car seat can be converted into a booster seat that’ll be perfect for kids weighing between 30 and 100 pounds and standing between 38 to 57 inches tall. With three harness positions that’ll adjust as your child grows, five-point harness security, and an adjustable headrest as well as energy-absorbing EPS foam cushioning, this car seat is comfortable and convenient.

Key Features
  • Five-point harness for solid security
  • Three harness positions to adapt as children grow
  • Suitable for children between 22 to 100 pounds and 29 to 57 inches tall
  • Three-position adjustable headrest
Specification
  • Brand KidsEmbrace
  • Model 40000SPD
  • Weight 11.62 pounds
PROS

Cushioned with EPS energy-absorbing foam

Exceeds federal car seat safety standards

Can be used as rear- or front-facing

CONS

Cushioning can be a bit light in some areas

Can be difficult to install securely

Installation straps can be weak

The Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Booster Car Seat is a great choice for 3-year-old passengers who are growing fast. When your child is ready to make the jump from a car seat to a booster seat, this car seat will adapt with ease. It works both as a forward-facing harness for kids weighing 22 to 50 pounds and converts into a belt-positioning booster seat for kids weighing 40 to 110 pounds. An upfront harness adjuster helps you achieve an accurate and snug fit at any age, and a shoulder belt guide automatically positions the seat belt in the right position for your 3-year-old. And when it comes to comfort, your child will enjoy dual cup holders to keep drinks and snacks handy as well as a wipeable, machine-washable pad that can be removed.

Key Features
  • Suits children from 22 to 110 pounds
  • Converts from forward-facing harness to belt-positioning booster as the child grows
  • Shoulder belt guide automatically positions the belt correctly
  • Machine-washable car seat pad
Specification
  • Brand Evenflo
  • Model 34912258
  • Weight 9.6 pounds
PROS

Upfront harness adjuster makes it easy to achieve a snug fit

Includes cup holders, which snap and lock into place

Shoulder belt guide keeps the harness in place even as the child gets bigger

CONS

Cup holders require screws for installation

Straps can dig into kids’ necks

The material feels a bit flimsy

The Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat is one seriously secure car seat for 3-year-olds. Built with premium LATCH connectors, a Super Cinch tightener, and a Lock Sure belt-tightening system, you’ll have no problem snapping and locking your child into place. This car seat is perfect for growing 3-year-olds, as it converts from a five-point harness to a belt-positioning booster seat. It includes Duo Guard side impact protection for little heads and torsos, and a steel-reinforced frame adds extra security. The car seat has four recline positions, a nine-position headrest, and a deep Ergo Boost seat that’s padded and contoured for comfort. There are even removable head and body support pieces for smaller riders made out of reversible knit and mesh fabrics to add extra cushioning.

Key Features
  • Grows with kids, converting from five-point harness to belt-positioning booster
  • Four recline positions
  • Nine headrest positions
  • Ergo Boost seat is padded and ergonomic for comfort
Specification
  • Brand Chicco
  • Model 04079783780070
  • Weight 25 pounds
PROS

ReclineSure adjustment system allows for adjustments so kids are comfortable at any age

Padded with EPS energy-absorbing foam

Car seat shell features two layers of sturdy protection

CONS

The car seat is heavy and can be difficult to transport

Cup holders can stick out and take up extra room

Best Car Seats For 3-Year-Olds Buying Guide & FAQ

Parents have so many choices to make. And as your kids get older, those choices don’t get any easier. Growing kids need new car seats as they make the jump from rear-facing to forward-facing. But which car seats are the best for three-year-old passengers? Some car seats can be used for just a few years, while others will grow along with your child. And each car seat offers different comfort and safety benefits.

Every car seat offers something different, but safety is always the forefront of any parent’s mind. To keep your 3-year-old safe and secure on the road, you’ll want to choose one of the top car seats on the market today. If you’re wondering where to start as you consider all of the different car seats available for your 3-year-old, our buying guide can help you find the best options.

Why Do You Need a Car Seat For a 3-Year-Old?

A car seat is an absolute necessity for any 3-year-old who’ll be riding in a vehicle. Whether your 3-year-old is riding in your car, a grandparent’s car, or even on an airplane, they need to be secured in a car seat to stay safe. Because kids of this age are too small for a car’s basic seatbelts, they are only safe when riding in a car seat. Depending on their weight and height, they may ride rear-facing or forward-facing in their car seat in your vehicle’s back seat.

In the event of an accident, your three-year-old needs to be riding in a car seat. A car seat offers more protection, more security, and more peace of mind. And it’s the law — you need to have little ones riding in a car seat that’s appropriate for their age, weight, and height. Of course, there are additional benefits that can come with choosing a quality car seat.

  • Offers a sturdy, protective frame around your child in the event of an accident. 
  • Keeps kids comfortable with padding and pillows.
  • Secures small passengers with age-appropriate harness, straps, and buckles.
  • Provides age- and size-appropriate seat belt positioning.
  • Can include handy accessories like cup holders for drinks and snacks.
Luxury baby car seat for safety with happy kid
Car Seat For 3 Year Olds

Popular Types of Car Seat for 3-Year-Olds

Different car seats might all serve the same purpose of keeping your 3-year-old safe, but no two car seats are the same. In fact, car seats for 3-year-olds can vary from their base to their construction and beyond. It’s important to understand what your options are once your child reaches age three, or the height and weight of a 3-year-old appropriate car seat.

After your child outgrows his or her rear-facing car seat, it’ll be time to switch to one that faces forward. However, you have a lot of options — and a few different types — to choose from. From simple and straightforward to more complex and adjustable, there are a number of car seats you can consider. The following are some of the most common and popular car seats for 3-year-olds.

Convertible Car Seat

Convertible car seats are models that are designed to grow with your child. They can be used as rear-facing car seats when your child is an infant, then switch to forward-facing car seats once your child reaches the appropriate height and weight. They offer great value for your investment since you won’t have to frequently replace the car seat as your child grows.

A convertible car seat is a great option if you’re looking for a product you can use for years to come. You’ll likely get a lot of use out of this type of seat, as your child will be able to ride once they reach age two and beyond. The one drawback is that these types of car seats aren’t meant to be portable and transferred between vehicles. 

Forward-Facing Only Car Seat

A forward-facing only car seat is a fantastic in-between choice for any 3-year old. At this age, most kids are riding facing forward — and they’ll continue to do so for a few more years. Many forward-facing only car seats can accommodate kids weighing up to 65 pounds or more, giving you plenty of years of use.

Keep in mind that forward-facing only car seats can only be used in one way. These car seats may not be able to be adjusted or adapted over time, and you’ll have to consider your child’s height as they grow taller. However, a forward-facing only car seat is a great option if you need a portable seat that you can take anywhere with your 3-year-old.

Combination Car Seat

A combination car seat is one of the most versatile and flexible types you can choose. And with a 3-year-old who’ll grow rapidly, a combination car seat can offer plenty of perks. These car seats are almost customizable — they work like a traditional forward-facing only seat, but as your child gets older they convert into a belt-positioning booster seat. They offer two-in-one functionality that can last until your child reaches a weight of 100 pounds.

Combination car seats are ideal for anyone who wants a lot of bang for their buck. You can invest in one car seat to suit your 3-year-old, then convert it into a booster as they get older. It’s great for using over a number of years.

Teddy Bear in a Car Seat For 3 Year Olds
Best Car Seat For 3 Year Olds

Features to Look for in Car Seats for 3-Year-Olds

When it comes to a 3-year-old’s car seat, you’ll want to prioritize safety above all else. When you’re considering different car seats, make sure to look at the safety information. You want a product that meets or exceeds federal safety requirements. It’s also a good idea to look for a car seat that’s well-rated to protect children from side impact. A car seat with a strong structure, like a steel frame or energy-absorbing material that’ll crumple on impact, is also important.

You’ll also want to look at comfort. Your 3-year-old will spend a lot of time riding in the car seat you choose, so make sure to consider materials, padding, and cushioning. Many car seats include removable pads, cushions, and pillows so your child is comfy on every drive. You can also consider machine washable materials for easy clean up of any accidents, spills, or other messes. Some car seats even include accessories like cup holders or seat trays for extra comfort and convenience.

Best Car Seat For 3-Year-Olds FAQ:

There’s a lot to consider when you’re picking out a new car seat for your 3-year-old. With many different car seats in different styles, safety levels, configurations, and even comfort levels, there’s something for every family and every toddler’s needs. We’re answering some of the most commonly asked questions below.

Q. What is the safest car seat for a 3-year-old?

A. There are many safe car seats for 3-year-olds. To find the safest, you’ll want to compare the safety ratings and see which car seats meet or exceed federal requirements. 

Q. How long can a 3-year-old stay in a car seat?

A. It depends on the type of car seat you choose. Some car seats can transition with your child, changing from forward-facing harness to belt-positioning booster seat to offer years of use.

Q. How much is the best car seat for a 3-year-old?

A. There’s a wide range of different price points for the best car seats for 3-year-olds. Whether you’re shopping for under $100 options or want to spend upwards of $200, there’s a quality choice within your budget.

Our Top Pick

The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat is our top pick when it comes to car seats for 3-year-olds. It’ll truly last you a long time, as it’s rated for children weighing anywhere from five to 100 pounds. You can use it for 3-year-olds of any weight and height, and then you can convert the seat as they get older and bigger. A QuickFit harness system ensures your child is always secure and safe, and each configuration provides enough room for kids to rest and relax comfortably on every car ride.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for the best car seat for 3-year-olds, the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat is tough to beat. It can be used as rear-facing, forward-facing, or even as a belt-positioning booster seat to suit your child from age 3 and beyond. However, the Graco Affix Highback Booster Seat with Latch System is another excellent option if you want great value. This affordable car seat keeps 3-year-olds safe and secure with adjustable latches and EPS padding.

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Sources:

  1. Child Safety Seat – Wikipedia