Written By
Published Nov. 21, 2020

Having a 4-year-old child means that you have to make room for his or her emotional and physical progress. It’s the critical age where your child starts to make new friends, play make-believe games, and most importantly, develop his or her language. You can expect him or her to talk a lot and ask many questions, and this can quickly turn into complaining, especially if the child is not comfortable. 

Riding with a preschooler who is not comfortable in the car can make for a long and frustrating ride. Therefore, it’s easier to get him or her a comfortable car seat so the child can concentrate on games or even get a some sleep before you get to your destination. We guide you through getting the best car seat for your 4-year-old in the buying guide below. 

The Best Car Seats for 4-Year-Olds

Keep your 4-year-old safe and secure in the vehicle with the Graco Tranzitions Booster Seat. It’s a three-in-one booster seat that can be used as a forward-facing seat, a high-back booster, and lastly, a backless booster seat. It can accommodate children weighing between 22 to 100 pounds. This is because it is designed with an eight-position adjustable headrest that can accommodate the height of a growing child. 

Graco’s No-Rethread Simply Safe Adjust Harness System lets you adjust both the harness and headrest in one swift motion. It may be difficult to install in some vehicles, but you will get the hang of it after a few tries. Also, you can easily position your vehicle seat belt with the help of the open-loop belt guides on the booster seat. For optimal comfort, this car seat is designed with armrests and two cup holders on either side for storing your child’s drink or snacks.

Key Features
  • Three-in-one booster seat 
  • Eight adjustable height positions
  • Two cup holders
  • 22- to 100-pound carrying capacity
Specification
  • Brand Graco
  • Model 1947464
  • Weight 22 pounds
PROS

Ideal for kids between the ages of 3 to 12 years 

Reasonably priced 

Narrow design

Light enough for travel 

Washable seat pad, body pillow, and harness covers

CONS

Back and base may separate when being transported

May be tough to install in some vehicles

Limited colors to choose from

Evenflo offers an affordable solution to driving around with a growing child. It’s a high-back booster seat that accommodates children weighing between 40 to 110 pounds or children who are at least four years of age and are less than 57 inches tall. The headrest can be adjusted by up to six different height positions as your child grows. Also, the unit features sufficient padding around the head and body to keep your child comfortable.

If your child grows taller and only needs a little boost to use the vehicle’s seat belt, it can be transformed into a backless booster by removing the back support. An integrated belt guide on the car seat will help you properly position the vehicle’s seat belt. In addition, the car seat is made of polyester, which is easy to clean. It’s also integrated with two cup holders, and though fragile they can be used for storing drinks or snacks.

Key Features
  • Two-in-one booster seat
  • 6 adjustable height positions
  • 40 to 110 pounds carrying capacity
  • Two cup holders
Specification
  • Brand Evenflo
  • Model 31911432
  • Weight 40 pounds
PROS

Affordable 

Provides head and side impact protection 

Attaches easily to the vehicle’s seat

Meets federal safety standards

CONS

Limited colors to choose from 

Fragile cup holder 

Packs quite some weight

Designed for children weighing between 50 to 120 pounds or children who are at least 63 inches tall, the Britax One4life All-In-One Car Seat is a great booster seat for 4-year-olds and will serve as a decent hand-me-down for an infant. It’s pricey but worth it since it offers 10 years of use. You first use it as a rear-facing seat and then convert it to a forward-facing seat and later a high-back booster seat. 

The seat is designed with a high-strength steel frame, two layers of cushioning on the sides for enhanced comfort, and a breathable mesh fabric for a cooling effect. It’s also built for safety with a crumple zone featuring SafeCell Technology that helps to absorb crash energy and a V-shaped tether at the back that helps to reduce movement during a crash. You can recline the seat to nine different positions and lift the headrest and harness to 15 different positions for a comfortable and secure fit as your child grows.

Key Features
  • Four-in-one car seat
  • Nine position recline
  • SafeCell technology
  • 5 to 120 pounds carrying capacity
Specification
  • Brand Britax
  • Model E1A385R
  • Weight 27 Pounds
PROS

Heavily padded 

Easy to install 

Machine washable cover 

Can last for up to 10 years 

Features double protection against side impact

CONS

Expensive 

Somewhat bulky 

Only available in dull colors

Offering the function of a high-back booster seat and a backless booster seat, the Chicco Kidfit is an ErgoBoost contoured car seat that offers support at the right places. The seat is designed to accommodate children weighing around 30 to 100 pounds as a high-back booster and 40 to 110 pounds as a backless booster. It also features Chicco’s DuoZone protection, which is a combination of a rigid shell and EPS energy-absorbing foam at the head and shoulder for optimal side-impact protection. 

The backrest can recline to two positions, and the headrest is adjustable by up to 10 positions. Chicco’s SuperCinch Latch Attachment and one-pull tightener help to secure the child in the car seat in one swift motion, and it’s just as easy to take them out. Extra features on the car seat include armrests, two cup holders, and a machine-washable seat pad and cover. Ensure that it’s compatible with your vehicle to avoid installation issues.

Key Features
  • ErgoBoost contoured seat
  • DuoZone protection
  • 10 adjustable headrest positions
  • Two adjustable backrest positions
Specification
  • Brand Chicco
  • Model 05079014570070
  • Weight 10.2 pounds
PROS

Easy to set up and remove

Available in many colors

Removable backrest

Includes foam padding to keep your child comfortable

Side-impact protection

CONS

Latch attachments may not be compatible with some vehicles

Back portion is flimsy when the seat is empty  

Not the most appealing design

Graco is a popular name in the car seat industry and this is why we also included the Affix Highback Booster Seat. It’s designed to accommodate children weighing around 40 to 100 pounds or are at least 57 inches tall. You can set it up with just one hand even when you’re sitting at the driver’s seat thanks to the front-adjust latch system that secures to the vehicle’s car seat. 

For enhanced comfort and impact protection, the seat is designed with EPS energy-absorbing foam with multiple layers at the headrest. The headrest is fully adjustable to offer a comfortable fit, and you can remove the back support to use it as a booster seat when your child grows. It also has a cup holder and a built-in tray, which can be used to store small objects.

Key Features
  • EPS energy-absorbing foam
  • Removable backrest
  • Fully adjustable headrest
  • Front-adjust latch system
Specification
  • Brand Graco
  • Model 1852665
  • Weight 9.8 pounds
PROS

Crash-tested

Includes a hideaway storage compartment

Offers optimal back support

Can be converted to a backless booster seat

CONS

The headrest might slip when at the highest position

Latch straps may loosen after some time 

Cup holder not large enough for big cups

If you’re looking for a lightweight booster seat for frequent travels with your 4-year-old, consider using the Cosco Finale Booster Car Seat. It’s so compact that you can fit three of these in the rear seat of your vehicle. It can be used as either a forward-facing booster seat with a 32- to 65-pound carrying capacity, or a car seat belt positioning booster seat that can secure older kids weighing about 40 to 100 pounds.  

Though it only comes with one cup holder, it’s detachable and you can attach it on either side of the car seat depending on which side is more convenient for the child. Also, the unit is designed with deluxe fabric that’s soft to the touch and keeps your child comfortable during the ride.

Key Features
  • Two-in-one booster seat 
  • Deluxe fabric cover 
  • Detachable cup holder
Specification
  • Brand Cosco
  • Model BC121EJG
  • Weight 11.5 pounds
PROS

Can last for up to 10 years

Doesn't take up much space on the car seat

Affordably-priced

Dishwasher safe cup holder

CONS

Only comes with the single cup holder

Non-reclining back support

Limited padding on the seat

The Safety 1st Jive Convertible Car Seat is an airplane-ready car seat that can be used either as a rear-facing seat (5- to 40-pound carrying capacity) or as a forward-facing seat (22- to 65-pound carrying capacity). It’s fitted with a head and body pillow to support an infant’s body, and the body pillows can be removed when your child is ready to use the forward-facing seat. The cover only comes in one color, but it’s machine washable so you can keep it clean. 

Even after the pillows are removed, it will still feel comfortable since it’s designed with plush padding. Safety features include a five-point harness and three buckle locations to help secure the growing child. Also, the sides are extended for optimal side-impact protection.

Key Features
  • Removable head and body pillow
  • Plush padding
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine washable cover
Specification
  • Brand Safety 1st
  • Model CC267DWV
  • Weight 14.25 pounds
PROS

Comfortable padding

Provides side-impact protection

Compact and lightweight 

Strong, durable build

CONS

Limited colors to choose from

Non-removable back support

Doesn't recline

Replace your child’s rear-facing seat with the Evenflo Spectrum Two-In-One Booster Seat, which can accommodate children weighing around  40 to 110 pounds. You can remove the back support to convert it into a backless booster seat when your child grows older. The seat is built for safety and features Evenflo’s LYF + Guard Advanced Compression Technology, which includes multiple layers of impact-absorbing material that help reduce the risk of injury in the event of a crash. 

The seat is designed to remain comfortable even as your child grows thanks to the adjustable headrest, which can be adjusted to nine different positions, and a wide seat base that provides a comfortable sitting experience. Two built-in snack trays on either side allow your child to enjoy a few snacks on the road so they don’t get fussy. It doesn’t have a latch system that connects to the vehicle’s seat so you have to use the seat belt-guide provided to secure the car seat.

Key Features
  • LYF + Guard Advanced Compression Technology
  • Nine adjustable headrest positions
  • Wide seat base
  • Built-in snack tray
Specification
  • Brand Evenflo
  • Model 34211922
  • Weight 11.2 to pounds
PROS

Reduces impact during a crash 

Smooth and cool cover 

Ergonomically shaped armrests 

Nicely padded bottom 

Machine washable cover

CONS

The snack trays might jam 

Narrow seat belt slot 

Doesn’t have a latch system that secures to the vehicle’s seat

Best Car Seats for a 4-Year-Old Buying Guide & FAQ

On average, a 4-year-old is about 40 pounds and can grow up to 50 inches tall. To safely use your vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt, your child needs to be at least 60 inches tall. That typically falls within the 9 to 10 years age bracket. Therefore, it becomes important to use a forward-facing car seat to secure your child. 

But how can you be sure that the car seat you choose is safe and perfect for your child? We have made this easy for you by coming up with a buying guide that will help you navigate through the sea of car seats on the market to find the best one for your baby.  

Why Do You Need a Car Seat for a 4-Year-Old?

If you only have a rear-facing seat, you may notice that your child’s height and weight doesn’t allow them to sit comfortably, and you have to turn it around. You need to buy a new car seat if the rear-facing seat feels flimsy or doesn’t have enough safety mechanisms to secure your child in a forward-facing direction. 

As we mentioned earlier, 4-year-olds are expected to be playful and it will be hard to keep them from fidgeting around. They may also fall asleep in uncomfortable positions. It’s better to use a harnessed booster to secure your child in a comfortable position. Most of these units have cup holders or trays that can be used to store snacks so your child doesn’t move around looking for their favorite car seat toy or snack. 

  • It helps to prevent injuries during a crash. 
  • Give your child a smooth transition from an infant’s seat. 
  • It gives you peace of mind knowing that your child is safe and comfortable as you drive.
  • Most state laws require children under the age of 7 years to use a car seat. 

The Most Common Types of Car Seats for 4-Year-Olds

Four-year-olds can fit into two types of car seats. You can either buy a convertible seat or a combination seat. We will discuss both types below so you can know which one is better for you.

Best Car Seats for a 4-Year-Old
Car Seats for a 4-Year-Old

Convertible Seat

A convertible seat typically has a two-in-one design where you first use it as a rear-facing seat when your child is still an infant. After some time, you will notice that your child doesn’t have enough legroom in the rear-facing seat. This is when you convert it to a forward-facing seat. The benefit of this model is that it comes with its own safety harness, and you can remove the seat from the vehicle without having to unstrap and wake the baby. 

Also, most convertible car seats can be incorporated into a stroller so you can have a short walk with your child before you get back to the car. The main drawback of a convertible seat is that your child can only use it for a short time before you have to buy another high-back booster seat. 

Combination Seat 

A combination seat is a high-back booster seat with a five-point harness that is used to secure children weighing more than 40 pounds. The seat may also have removable head and body pillows that are contoured to fit the smaller body of a child for enhanced comfort. 

As the child grows, you can remove the five-point harness and use the car seat as a belt-positioning booster — it has belt guides that you can use to position the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt around the child.

How We Tested The Best Car Seats for 4-Year-Olds

Most importantly, we gave priority on our list to car seats that have been crash-tested and meet the federal safety standards. These car seats are typically designed with energy-absorbing foam, and have extra padding around the headrest, shoulders, and torso to reduce the risk of injury during impact. The car seat should also be user-friendly so the parent can safely secure the child in the vehicle’s rear seat.

Also, we checked the descriptions to ensure that the booster seat is appropriate for the age. Most 4-year-olds and not tall enough to use the vehicle’s shoulder belt properly so we ensured to pick booster seats with an adjustable five-point harness with a smooth buckling system.

We went further to look for a car seat that installs easily. Also, since messes are bound to happen in your vehicle, we prioritized car seats with removable and machine washable covers. 

The Most Important Features of Car Seats for 4-Year-Olds

As a parent, keeping your child safe in your vehicle is your first priority. Therefore, you shouldn’t just go for any car seat out there that’s not tailored to your child’s needs. This is why we have come up with a list of features that you should prioritize in a car seat for safer riding experience. 

Size 

Be sure to check the dimensions of the car seat to ensure that it’s not too large for your vehicle’s rear seat. You don’t want to always have to move the front seat to create more legroom for your child. Also, ensure that the seat isn’t so wide that it inconveniences other passengers on the rear seat. It should leave enough room for installing at least two more car seats. This can come in handy when you are driving with two or more children.

Also, ensure that the car seat has the appropriate height to give optimal head support, but it shouldn’t block your rearview mirror.  

Comfort 

Your kid should enjoy sitting in the car seat. Therefore, you should get a seat that is designed with high-quality foam padding at the sitting area and on the back support. It should also have extra padding at the head and shoulder area so they can get a comfortable resting position when they decide to sleep. 

Prioritize car seats with an adjustable headrest to accommodate the height of a growing child, and breathable fabric so your child doesn’t sweat excessively during long rides. Also, look for extra convenience features such as cup holders, armrests, and hidden storage units. 

Weight 

Choose a lightweight car seat if you are going to be moving it from one vehicle to another. You can expect most car seats on the market to weigh about 15 to 40 pounds. This may not be an issue if you intend to keep the seat in your vehicle for an extended period. 

Also, mind the weight limit of the car seat. The manufacturer will indicate the minimum and maximum weight the car seat can handle. For a forward-facing seat, the weight range is typically about 22 to 65 pounds. A harnessed highback booster seat typically has a 40- to 120-pound carrying capacity.

Best Car Seats for a 4-Year-Old
Car Seats for a 4-Year-Old

Harness System 

Car seats come with three types of harness systems: T-shield, three-point, and a five-point harness. A T-shield features two shoulder straps that connect to a flat, t-shaped shield that secures at the crotch. It’s recommended for newborns in rear-facing car seats. A three-point harness has a pair of shoulder straps and one strap that goes between the legs.

A five-point harness features a pair of shoulder straps, a pair of hip straps, and a crotch strap. This is the best design for securing a 4-year-old because it ensures that the neck, shoulders, hips, and crotch are protected. It’s also more efficient at absorbing the forces of extreme impacts, and keeps the baby from being ejected from the car seat.  

Best Car Seats for 4-Year-Olds FAQ:

So far, you have gained enough information to get your child one of the safest car seats on the market. If you still need more information, you can rely on some of the answers we have provided to frequently asked questions by parents. 

Q: What car seat should a 4-year-old be in?

You should secure your 4-year-old in a harnessed front-facing car seat until they are big enough to sit in a high-back booster seat. You can buy a four-in-one seat that transitions from a forward-facing seat to a backless booster seat as your child grows.

Q: Can a 4-year-old use a booster seat?

A booster seat is designed to give the child a boost so they can use the vehicle seat belt properly. At the age of 4 years, your child may not be tall enough to use the vehicle seat belt, and it may lay across the face and or neck uncomfortably even when using a booster seat. It’s better to secure them with the safety harness provided by a front-facing seat. 

Q: Are backless booster seats safe?

If your child meets the height and weight requirements for using a backless booster seat, and can properly adjust the seat belt, then it’s safe for him or her. It’s ideal for children aged between 8 to 13 years. 

Our Top Pick

The Graco Tranzitions Booster Seat is our top pick because it will help ease your child’s transition from the rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat. It’s also narrow, which is great if you want to fit two or more in the rear seat. Besides that, it’s quite lightweight and can be easily transferred from one vehicle to the next. 

Final Thoughts

If the Graco Tranzitions Booster Seat is a bit over your budget, you can opt for the Evenflo Big Kid High-Back Booster Seat, which will help you save a few bucks. Your child can use it for several years since it can be adjusted to grow with your child.

MORE TO READ