Parents know they need car seats to protect their children in case of an accident. Selecting the best car seat is the confusing part. There are many variables to consider when selecting the car seat that will protect your child the best. With the following ten product reviews and the buyers guide, we will sort through all the issues you need to consider to help you select the best car seat for your three year old.
Best car seats for 3 year olds Comparison Table
|Model||Protection||Cup holders||Machine Washable||Item Weight||Product Dimensions||Minimum weight||Maximum weight|
|Evenflo Symphony DLX||e3 Side Impact Protection||2||yes||21 pounds||27.5 x 21 x 21 inches||5 Pounds||65 Pounds|
|Graco Size4Me 65||Simply Safe Adjust||1||yes||23 pounds||19.3 x 22.3 x 26 inches||4 Pounds||65 Pounds|
|Britax Marathon G4.1||SafeCell Impact Protection||n/a||yes||19.5 pounds||21 x 18.5 x 26 inches||5 Pounds||65 Pounds|
|Chicco NextFit||NextFit® has a steel-reinforced frame and is lined with EPS energy-absorbing||2||n/a||25.1 pounds||20.5 x 19 x 26 inches||5 Pounds||65 Pounds|
|Peg Perego Primo Viaggio||Side Impact Protection (SIP), a Shock Absorbing Foam Element (SAFE) device and Expanded Poly Styrene (EPS) energy-absorbing foam||n/a||yes||11 pounds||18.7 x 21.2 x 26 inches||5 Pounds||65 Pounds|
|Maxi-Cosi Pria 85||Safer side impact protection Air Protect||1||yes||19 pounds||29.6 x 20.5 x 18.5 inches||14 Pounds||85 Pounds|
|Maxi-Cosi Pria 70||Air Protect side impact protection||1||yes||23 pounds||30.5 x 18 x 17 inches||9 Pounds||70 Pounds|
|Evenflo Tribute LX||Standard protection||1||yes||9.1 pounds||18.5 x 22 x 25.5 inches||5 Pounds||40 Pounds|
|Disney APT||Side Impact Protection||2||yes||11.9 pounds||24 x 21.5 x 23 inches||5 Pounds||40 Pounds|
|Evenflo Tribute Sport||Standard protection||n/a||yes||12.1 pounds||18.5 x 22 x 25.5 inches||5 Pounds||40 Pounds|
Evenflo Symphony DLX All-in-One Car Seat, Concord – Best side crash impact car seat
The Evenflo Symphony DLX Car Seat is designed to be a car seat that can be used from the time your child is born until he reaches a weight of 110 pounds around the age of 8 or 9 years old. It provides you the opportunity to only buy one car seat for all the stages from rear-facing to front-facing to booster seat. Evenflo created auto-retracting SureLATCH connectors that make the car seat easy to install quickly. The car seat also features a 5-point Infinite Slide harness that helps easily adjust the straps for a consistent snug fit. With the e3 Side Impact Protection, it offers side impact crash protection that reduces the forces from a crash up to 50%. To protect your child from getting burned by hot buckles, this Evenflo car seat has buckle pockets. The Evenflo car seat also provides removable head and body pillows, a removable machine washable pad, a cup holder, an easily adjustable headrest, multiple reclining positions, and an energy absorbing foam liner. It is available in six colors.
Evenflo recommends that you use this car seat in the rear-facing position while your child is still five to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches tall or until the top of your child’s head is one inch below the top of the back of the car seat. Use it in forward-facing position when your child weighs 22 to 65 pounds, is 28 to 50 inches tall, has reached his first birthday, and his ears are below the top of the car seat headrest. Use the harnessed booster when your child weighs 40 to 110 pounds, is 44 to 57 inches tall, is at least four years old, and the top of his ears are below the top of the car seat headrest.
There are two issues with this seat. First, in the rear-facing position, it does not recline far enough to prevent a child’s head from dropping which can obstruct breathing. The second issue is a problem with any all-in-one car seat. A car seat cannot really give the best possible protection to an infant and a 110 pound child. It has to be too big for younger children. This is probably the reason that the seat does not recline enough to prevent a child’s head from dropping. Rolled up towels can be added to both sides of a child’s head and shoulders to somewhat resolve this issue. However, separate car seats for different stages is recommended.
Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat, Pierce – Best for Safe Seat Certification
The Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat can be used as a rear-facing car seat until your child is 40 pounds and then can be used as a front-facing car seat with the harness until your child is 65 pounds.
This car seat offers Graco’s Simply Safe Adjust Harness System. It has a front-adjust harness system that provides your child a snug fit easily. The LATCH system has an easy-to-read level indicator to help attach the car seat. This car seat offers a three position recline; a cup holder; a removable, machine wasable pad; removable head and body support; and is available in four colors.
Britax Marathon G4.1 Convertible Car Seat, Gridline – Best safety features
The Britax Marathon G4.1 Car Seat is a convertible seat that can be used rear-facing for children between 5 and 40 pounds and front-facing for children between 20 and 65 pounds who are at least one year old. It features both SafeCell Impact Protection and SafeCell Complete Side Impact Protection. The safety features include an impact absorbing base, a stabilizing steel frame, and a crash-absorbing shell that is deep to protect children from debris. This car seat provides a two-position buckle and a ten-position, tangle-free harness to easily adapt as your child grows. The LATCH connectors are designed to easily lock and unlock. It has comfortable plush foam padding, three recline positions, and is available in ten colors.
Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat, Matrix – Fits best in more cars
The Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat provides nine reclining positions for a better fit in more cars and two bubble level indicators to help you get the correct seat angle in the rear-facing and the front-facing position. It offers LATCH storage compartments and an integrated slide path to help reposition the LATCH strap when you are ready to change the car seat from rear-facing to front-facing. When the headrest is raised to one of the five higher positions to accommodate your child’s growth, the harness straps spread out to fit your child’s shoulders better. This car seat also has a infant insert for smaller babies and a two-position chest clip to accommodate your child’s growth. A Super Cinch LATCH Tightener system is designed to provide a snug, secure harness easily.
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible, Licorice – Best convertible car seat
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible Car Seat can be used rear-facing for children between 5 and 45 pounds and front-facing for children between 22 and 65 pounds. It has EPS, an energy absorbing foam, and provides side impact protection for the head, neck, and spine. Below the shell is another shock absorbing foam element that crumples during a crash to reduce impact forces on the neck and shoulders. Flexing and forward movement are reduced by the contour steel back. More stability is provided by the base. The reclining mechanism offers ten different positions.
The liner is made from Fresco Jersey performance fabric. It absorbs moisture and allows for ventilation. The liner covers are removable and machine washable.
Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Special Edition Ribble Collection Convertible Car Seat – Best for securing children up to 85 pounds
The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Special Edition Ribble Collection Convertible Car Seat features textured fabrics and tailored styling along with important safety features. During side impact crashes, the Air Protect system provides an advanced air cushion system to protect children’s heads. To help you secure your child more safely and snugly, it has the Perfect Fit harness adjustment, and it is made to fit better in your car to give front seat passengers more room.
Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Car Seat, Total Grey – Best for securing children up to 70 pounds
The Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Car Seat can be used rear-facing for a child between 9 to 40 pounds and front-facing for a child between 22 and 70 pounds. It offers the Air Protect system for side impact protection and FlexTech system for multi-directional crash impact force management. To secure your child, it uses the Perfect Fit harness system and is designed with a deep recline angle adjuster to fit better in your car to create more room for front seat passengers. It offers an easy, color-coded installation system, a cup holder, and is available in five colors. It is recommended because it can be used by children up to 70 pounds.
This Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat is designed to be compact and lightweight and to provide great vehicle fit. It was tested for structural integrity at energy levels two times Federal crash test standards, and it exceeds all federal safety standards. The energy absorbing foam liner provides comfort and safety. It has four harness positions, upfront harness adjustment, and buckle release to easily secure your child.
Disney APT Convertible Car Seat, Mouseketeer Minnie – Best in original design
The Disney APT Convertible Car Seat can be used rear-facing for children between 5 and 40 pounds and front-facing for children between 22 and 40 pounds. It is available in a Minnie Mouse design in five colors. The liner cover is removable but washing it by hand is recommended. This car seat has two cup holders, three buckle positions, and five harness positions to accommodate your child’s growth. It has built-in side impact protection, meets all Federal safety standards, and is FAA approved. The selling point on this car seat is how cute it is. The rest of the features are average.
Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat, Maxwell – Best for being lightweight, compact, and safe
The Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat can be used rear-facing for children between 5 and 30 pounds and front-facing for children between 22 and 40 pounds. It is compact, light, and designed to fit in multiple vehicles. The up-front harness system provides a secure fit. The harness offers four strap positions to accommodate your child’s growth and provides easy access upfront harness adjustment and buckle release. The LATCH system is easy to install.
For your child’s comfort, it has a pillow, harness covers, and buckle covers. It is available in two colors. The removable seat pad is machine washable.
Best car seats for 3 year old – Buyer’s Guide
Car seats are built to protect your child at their current stage of physical development. Children start in rear-facing car seats from the minute you bring them home from the hospital.
There are two reasons that children should be in rear-facing car seats until they are at least two years old. First, proportionally a child’s head is much larger and heavier in comparison to their body than an adult’s head. Second, a child’s bones and the tissue connecting the vertebrae have not ossified and are still soft.
Even at the toddler stage, the tissue connecting the vertebrae is cartilage and not bone. An adult’s head is only six percent of their body weight. A nine month old child’s head is 25 percent of their body weightless. That is why baby’s heads are always supposed to be supported when you are holding them. In a crash, passengers are always thrown forward. With a car seat facing the rear, the back of the car seat in the rear-facing position prevents your child’s head from being whipped forward, preventing neck and spinal injuries. When your child’s neck and spine are strong enough to support his head, then he can ride in a car seat facing forward using the harness restraints. The five-point harness crosses your child’s body at the strongest points to distribute crash forces and help your child “ride down” a crash. As your child gets big enough so that the seat belts lay properly across the body, your child can be fastened into the car seat using the seat belts. After that, your child will need a booster seat that raises the child up so that seat belts fit properly. Shoulder seat belts should cross the collar bone and the chest, not the neck. Lap belts should cross the thighs and not the abdomen.
Types of Car Seats
Although you can use convertible car seats for infants, infant-only car seats are the best fit for small infants. Convertible car seats can be used in the rear-facing position, and then, when your child is big enough, they can be turned around to face forward. Combination seats allow you to use the car seat with the harness. After that you can use it with the your car’s seat belts as a belt-positioning booster. High-back boosters, which provide better protection, are for cars with low back seats and no headrests. Backless boosters are for cars with backseat headrests.
Using Your Child’s Size to Select a Car Seat
Your child’s size, not age, is actually the determining factor as to which car seat your child should be using and whether your child should be facing the rear or can be facing forward. Three year olds are usually riding in front-facing car seats. Four year olds should be close to using booster seats. You need to look at the owner’s manual for every car seat to see if your child is within the range of the minimum height and weight limitations and the maximum height and weight limitations.
Use an infants-only car seat until your child is 20 to 22 pounds and his head is 1″ from the top of the car seat. Leave your child in the rear-facing position as long as possible. Front-facing car seats can be used when your child is at least two years old and between 40 and 50 pounds. Use the harness on combination seats until your child is 40 pounds. Your child is too big for a front-facing car seat when the middle of his head is beyond the top of the seat or his shoulders are higher than the top harness slot. Children are ready for booster seats when they are around 40 pounds and will be using them until they are 57″ and 80 to 100 pounds or around eight years old. At that point, they can use seat belts, but they should be riding in the back seat.
Is the Car Seat Compatible With Your Car? Try It Before You Buy It!
Read the child safety sections of your car owner’s manual. Read the manuals of the car seats to see if your car is listed as compatible with that specific car seat. If the car seat is also going to be used in someone else’s car, such as a grandparent’s car, check to see if the seat is compatible with that car. Then, go to a store that will let you try the car seat in your car to see if it fits. It is okay to buy a car seat online, but trying it first will save you the hassle of having to ship it back. Consider the following issues when you are checking to see if a specific car seat fits in your car. Is the base of the car seat too large for the seat in your car? Car seats should be in the middle of the back seat, but consider whether you need room in the back seat for other car seats or passengers. Is that possible with the seat you are trying?
How Does the Car Seat Fasten Into the Car? Seatbelt or Latches?
The traditional way to fasten a car seat into a car has been to use the seat belt. However, newer model cars offer a LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system). Read your car owner’s manual to see what options are available with your car. Then, you can decide what option you will be using and look for compatible seats. The LATCH connectors on the car seat attach to the anchors in the car. This system can be used until the combined weight of your child and the car seat reaches 65 pounds. Then, you have to use the seat belt to attach the car seat.
When you are looking at various car seats, look at the installation instructions. Are the instructions written clearly? Are there diagrams that help illustrate the installation steps? Are there additional instructions on the car seat?
To make sure that the car seat is secure, take hold of the car seat where the seat belt enters the car seat’s belt path and move it side to side. The car seat should not move more than an inch.
As part of your preparation for the arrival of you baby, have the car seat installed and have a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician check to see that it is properly installed. CPS technicians are certified by the government to ensure that car seats are properly installed. If you need help locating a CPS technician, call your local police or fire station, a local hospital, or AAA. After a technician has made any changes and approved the installation, practice installing the car seat and securing your child in it. The harness straps should fit snugly on your child. You can test the snugness by making sure that you cannot pinch any strap fabric at the shoulders. The straps should be in slots just at or below your child’s shoulders in a rear-facing car seat and at or above your child’s shoulders in a front-facing car seat. The chest clip should be even with the armpits. Your child should be dressed in clothes that allow the crotch strap to go between the legs. Your child cannot be wearing anything such as a bunting when using a car seat. Empty spaces can be filled with rolled up blankets placed on both sides of your child’s head and shoulders. If your child slides down, use a rolled diaper between his legs behind the strap. Do not use thick padding behind or underneath your child.
Always make sure that a rear-facing car seat is reclining at the angle indicated as safe on the car seat. This prevents your child’s head from falling forward and obstructing breathing. For forward-facing car seats, be sure the top tether is snug to prevent the car seat from moving forward causing a head injury.
Just to be safe, have a CPS technician check the car seat if you get a new car seat, make any changes to the car seat’s positioning, or change the car in which you will be using the car seat.
Car Seat Features
When choosing a car seat for a three year old, look for car seats with two-piece retainer clips and accessible harness adjusters. It should be easy to clean and, preferably, have a removable, washable fabric liner. Two-piece retainer chest clips are the hardest for children to unfasten. As for the harness adjusters, the easier they are to adjust, the more likely you are to get them adjust properly
FAA-approved Car Seats
If you intend to fly with your child, you will want to purchase a car seat that is also FAA approved. You can hold a child up to two years old on an airplane. However, it is much safer to buy a separate seat and use a car seat. Make sure your child’s seat is by a window and away from the exit row. Airplane seats are only 16″ wide. Face the car seat to the rear if your child is under 20 pounds. Face the car seat forward if your child is between 20 and 40 pounds. Any child over 40 pounds can use an airplane seat belt.
When to Replace a Seat
If a car seat has been damaged or has been in an accident, it needs to be replaced. Car seats do have expiration date. This date might be printed on the label or molded into the seat along with the production date. Some seats just give the number of years before they expire. Check the car seat manual for more information.
Used Car Seats
Buying a used car seat is not a good idea. You cannot be certain that it has not been in an accident. If you are given a car seat and assured that it has not been in an accident, still check for the expiration date of the car seat and check the Consumer Product Safety Councils website to make sure it has not been recalled.