Advice And Reviews: Choosing A Car Seat For A Toddler

How to choose the best car seat for your toddler.

When your baby outgrows her infant car seat, it is time to graduate to a toddler car seat. It is important that your child is in a car seat appropriate for her height and weight; a seat that is too big or small is unsafe and will not adequately protect your toddler in the event of an accident.

Car seats sold in the United States must be approved for safety by the government so all of them meet rigorous standards and will protect your child in an accident. However, the other features offered in car seat models vary dramatically. This overview of available features will help you select the best car seat for your toddler.

Height, weight and age

Once your baby is tall enough and heavy enough for a toddler car seat, if she is under one year of age she still needs to be in a rear-facing position. A convertible infant-toddler car seat will allow you to start your baby in the rear-facing position and change to a front-facing position once she is a little older. For children older than one, a forward-facing car toddler seat is fine.

Make sure your child's height and weight fit into the suggested range for any car seat you consider to ensure your child's safety. Some toddler seats called combination seats can be converted to booster seats for older children; this is useful if you are concerned your child will outgrow a toddler seat too quickly.

Ease of installation

New car seats are required to have the LATCH system that allows for easier installation in late model vehicles, equipped with LATCH compatible hooks. While this system is simpler to use than some older car seat installations, make sure the instructions are clear and the process sounds straightforward. If you have an older car, make sure the seat is easy to install with your seat belts.

Some car seats have small levels or gauges to help you make sure it is installed at the proper angle. This is an excellent feature since it ensures optimal positioning for the car seat.


Since your toddler may spend a substantial amount of time sitting in the car seat it is important to ensure it is comfortable. Check the upholstery fabric; make sure it is soft. Car seats upholstered in vinyl are less comfortable and can get uncomfortably hot in warm weather. The seat should be well padded with layers of fiberfill and foam for maximum comfort.

The straps of the harness must be sturdy, but they should not have sharp edges. Better car seats have padded straps and padded covers to buffer the buckles where they could press against your toddler.


Read the owner's manual to learn how the car seat can be cleaned. While some covers can be removed and are machine washable, others may only be wiped with a damp cloth. A washable cover is a big advantage since toddlers are notorious for making messes.

Other features

Deluxe toddler seats come with lots of extra features. While these may not be necessities, they can make your child a happier passenger. Some nice extras to look for include cup holders, clips to attach toys, pockets, and removable pillows. Adjustable armrests are another nice feature some car seats offer.

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