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Quick List: Best Car Seat for 3 Year Old Toddlers
After comparing and reviewing 50+ car seats in our database, we find the best of the top-rated car seat for 3 year old. They’re slim, portable, lightweight, safe, and cheap.
1. Best slim car seat: Evenflo Revolve 360 Slim ($349.99 on Amazon) – 360-degree rotation, 50-lb weight limit for extended rear-facing, 16.75″ narrow width for 3 across.
2. Safest car seat: Graco Extend2Fit ($234.99 on Amazon)– 50-lb weight limit for extended rear-facing, extension panel.
3. Best portable car seat – Diono Radian 3R ($199.99 on Amazon) – extended rear-facing (50-lb weight limit), folding design, narrow width (17″), low profile.
4. Best 5-point harness car seat: Chicco MyFit ($199.99 on Amazon) – 54-inch harness height limit, narrow profile (17.5″).
5. Best lightweight seat- Graco Tranzitions ($139.99 on Amazon): 12.5 pounds in weight, 3 modes to grow with toddler, 17.5″ width.
If you’re looking for the best car seat for 3 year old kids, this guide is the right place.
What car seat should a 3 year old be in? Three year old children can drive both rear-facing and forward facing.
If your 3-year-old boy or girl does not outgrow the rear-facing weight or height limit, keep them rear-facing.
However, it’s uncommon to see a 3 year old still in a rear-facing car seat. If the rear-facing car seat does not fit well and your child is not comfortable in it, it’s time to switch the car seats for 3 year olds to a forward-facing position.
According to our experience and other CPS technicians we spoke to, the best seat for a 3 year old is the car seat with a 5-point harness.
We’ve reviewed the top 8 car seats for 3 year olds based on safety, durability, comfort, ease of installation, and price.
Best Car Seat for 3 Year Old
To make it simple, we categorized the 8 best car seats for 3 year olds into three groups of car seats – slim, lightweight, and safest. Just click on it below to find the one that best fits your needs.
Evenflo Revolve360 Slim
Diono Radian 3R
Safety 1st Jive
Best for Extended RF
Britax Grow with You ClickTight
Graco 4Ever DLX
To help you better know all the best car seats for 3 year olds, we have done a simple review for each. Check below button to find the category you’re most interested in.
By Bonus Features
- Convertible car seat – Evenflo Revolve360 Slim (360 degrees)
- All-in-one car seat – Diono Radian 3R (foldable)
Best Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Slimmest Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Evenflo Revolve360 Slim with QCC
If you’re on the lookout for a car seat for 3 year old that’s convenient, safe, and a total space-saver, the Evenflo Revolve360 Slim is a clear winner in my book for your 3-year-old. With its 360-degree spin, extended rear-facing capacity, slim profile, and adjustable 15 harness positions, it’s like they’ve thought of everything a busy mom with a 3-year-old needs.
The Revolve360 Slim is a new model released in 2023, inheriting the most amazing 360-spin feature that is really an absolute lifesaver for parents with 3-year-olds. Getting your kid in and out of the car seat can’t be easier now. Just rotate the car seat toward the door and push it back rear-facing or front-facing after your kid climbs in the car seat.
More than that, the 2023 new Evenflo 360 car seats, including the Slim and Extend series improved in other aspects. The higher 50-pound rear-facing weight limit is one of the improvements, making all the new 7 models the best rear-facing car seat at 50 lbs for extended rear-facing. You can even use this car seat for 3 year old if your little one is not approaching 50 pounds and is under 48 inches tall at that age.
The Revolve360 Slim ranks #1 as the best car seat for 3 year old for another reason – slim design. Just as its name indicates, it’s narrow, only 16.75 inches in width, making it one of the best narrow car seats.
The bonus feature to keep your kid comfortable is the 15-position harness adjustment. That means you can always find the best-fit position for a growing kid when your kid is at 3 years of age.
However, it’s a bit pricey, over $300. It’s not suitable for all families. But if you’re on the trend to try out a 360 car seat, I would strongly recommend the Evenflo Revolve360 Slim. It replaces the Graco Extend2Fit’s position on my best convertible car seats list.
Safest Car Seat for 3 Year Old with Extended Rear-Facing
Why We Recommend It:
*RF=Rear Facing; FF=Forward Facing
Graco Extend2Fit is always the first and best car seat for 3 year old toddlers, no matter rear-facing or forward-facing.
It’s designed for big kids to stay rear-facing for a longer time, thanks to its 50-lb maximum weight rating for rear-facing.
Graco is a traditional car seat brand with advanced and excellent experience in this industry and takes the parents’ concerns into consideration when developing new models.
The Graco Extend2Fit solved the problems that governments required a two-year-old child to sit in rear-facing.
Moreover, its 50-lb weight limit for rear-facing is still great enough to fit children at three years of age, or even 4-5 years old preschoolers.
Its height limit is not higher than other infant or convertible car seats when used rear-facing, only 32-inch. Then how does Graco Extend2Fit accommodate growing children?
The magic is the unique extension panel, which is able to offer up to 5-inch of extra rear-facing legroom. It’s adjustable at 4 levels to fit growing children.
The other two car seats are also available for big kids to stay rear-facing longer, the Diono 2020 Radian 3R and Clek Foonf.
Both come with a 50-lb weight limit for use in rear-facing mode. Both car seats fit 3-across if you have a big family with three children that need to use a car seat.
If your 3-year old kid wants to sit forward-facing, just transition the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat and install it front-facing at the 4-5-6 level as your kids need.
It has a very high weight limit if used in the forward-facing mode, up to 65 lbs, which supports children of 7-years old at average weight and height.
Besides the top-notch performance in riding the kids’ rear-facing longer, the Graco Extend2Fit is also designed with a lot of other amazing features.
Grow with your child
The 10-position headrest allows you to choose a perfect position for your child’s safest fit as they grow.
Generally, the harness should also be adjusted to fit your child to be at or above their shoulder.
You can complete the headrest and harness adjustment in seconds, thanks to the No-Rethread Simple Safe Adjust Harness System that allows you to adjust the height of the headrest and harness in one motion.
A strong steel-reinforced frame gives the Graco Extend2Fit strength and durability and allows it to last for 10 years of use until the car seat is out of date.
Note here, that the 10 years of use is generally calculated from the manufacture date printed on the car seat.
You should always register the car seat first as soon as you receive the package and record the manufacture date to remember the 10 years expiration.
Provide additional support for accurate installation
Installing the car seat correctly is very important to allow your child to travel safely in the car.
To help the parents to get an accurate installation easily, the Graco Extend2Fit features two useful tips – a level indicator and reclines ball.
There are 6-positions of reclines available for both rear-facing and forward-facing: 1-2-3 levels are for rear-facing and 4-5-6 for forward-facing.
You can find it on the side of the car seat and adjust one of them to fit your child comfortably and safely.
The level indicator helps to check if you have adjusted the Graco Extend2Fit at the right recline or installed it correctly or not.
If the ball is in the RED fields, it means the car seat is not installed correctly in level and you must adjust the recline position.
If the ball is in the blue field, the car seat is installed accurately.
Have you noticed that there are two types of blue in the level indicator? What does that mean? You may check details in the Graco Extend2Fit review in the installation part.
#2 Lightweight Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Safety 1st Jive
Why We Recommend It:
Safety 1st Jive is a convertible car seat that provides two modes to ride toddlers at 2 or 3 years old – rear-facing and forward-facing, with a harness for fix and protection, making it the best car seat for a 3 year old.
However, considering its weight range from 5-40 pounds rear-facing. It’s better to use the Safety 1st Jive in front-facing to fit a 3 years old child.
When used as a forward-facing convertible, the Safety 1st Jive is able to carry a child from 22 pounds to 65 pounds, lasting for years used to accommodate kids between 6 months to 7 years old at an average weight.
But it’s recommended to put the small babies rear-facing as long as possible until they outgrow their car seat’s rear-facing height or weight limits. Then you can change to the next stage – front-facing convertible when they’re ready.
Based on most parents’ experience, the height limit always comes first, so you should pay closer attention to checking your child’s height occasionally.
The Safety 1st Jive is one of the best budget car seats for 3 year olds, sold at a cheap price but with a few additional inserts.
The included removable pillows provide extra head and body support. As your little one grows, the cushions are easily removed, and your big kid will love the extra comfy ride that the plush padding provides.
Just a reminder, remember to remove the head and body pillows if your toddler does not need them anymore when switching from rear-facing to forward-facing.
Its removable cup holders make both the kids and parents happy. Your 3-year-old little one won’t feel hungry or thirsty during the travels in the vehicle.
You may also enjoy the slacks sitting alongside your kid in the back seat. They’re super easy to clean when messes happen.
The same case happens to the seat pad, which is made of machine washable and dryer-safe fabrics. Parents can effortlessly take it off for washing to let their little ones stay in a clean and comfortable space.
The Safety 1st Jive is certified for use on aircraft.
Its compact design not just makes it easier to manage through airport security checks, but also fits 3 across in the rear seat of most vehicles, making it one of the best convertible car seats for small cars and growing families with several kids.
#1 Lightweight Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Graco Tranzitions - 12.5 pounds
Why We Recommend It:
Most kids at their 3 years old are ready to ride forward-facing in the Graco Tranzitions, which is a 3-in-1 multifunctional car seat to grow with your child.
It can only be used front-facing for the second and third stages and is not good for fitting small toddlers younger than 1 year old facing the rear.
When used in the convertible mode, the Tranzitions is able to ride a child between 22-65 pounds and 26.5-49 inches in height, making itself one of the best 3 year old car seats.
Because this weight and height range is good enough for fitting all 3 years old children, including big kids who grow at a faster rate than the average.
It’s recommended to keep your child in the forward-facing 5-point harness as long as possible until they exceed the harness height or weight limits. It’s obvious that the height limit comes first before the weight limit.
That’s why you should always check your child’s height and weight regularly. But parents don’t need to worry much about the big kids, who may slow down the growth rate as they get older.
You may wonder if your child can sit in a booster at 3 years old. It’s not recommended to change the Graco Transitions so early, even your child may have reached the minimum weight requirement of 40 pounds at four years of age.
Generally, the boosters will also state that they’re suitable for 4 years old kids, not for 3 years old toddlers. The experts from AAP and NHTSA and Consumer Reports also advise the parents to stick to the forward-facing harness until the child outgrows the harness height or weight limits.
But if your child is big enough and ready for a booster when they’re 5 or 6 years old, you can use the Graco Tranzitions in the booster mode.
It supports both the belt-positioning high back booster and backless booster with the same upper weight and height limit of 100 pounds and 57 inches, making it suitable for big kids between 7-9 years old until they’re ready to use the seat belt like an adult.
The Tranzitions feature the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System like other Graco car seats. This function allows you to adjust the harness and headrest in one motion.
Along with the 8-position, you can always find a perfect position to fit and protect your child during their growth.
The Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 harness car set is designed to please both the littles and their parents. It has two removable cup holders that make your child happy staying in the car seat.
Its seat pad is made of machine-washable fabrics that save the parent’s time and energy.
Believe me, you definitely won’t have time to wash the seat pad and cover in hand!
#2 Safest Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Britax Grow with You ClickTight
If you’re willing to invest a little extra in a car seat for 3 year old that offers hassle-free installation, a jaw-dropping weight and height limit, and the peace of mind that comes with a top-notch brand like Britax, the Grow with You ClickTight is the one to consider. Trust me, once you experience the convenience and longevity it brings, you’ll see why many parents are singing its praises.
Getting the car seat installed properly is the first step to ensure your kid’s safety. The Britax Grow with You ClickTight takes all that installation worry away. The ClickTight installation feature is like a breath of fresh air. It’s incredibly easy – just buckle up the seatbelt through the designated path, and voila! You’ve got a secure and snug fit. No more wrestling with straps and feeling unsure if it’s installed properly.
All the Britax car seats with ClickTight are much easier to install – you should pay attention to the Britax One4Life, which might be a bit different. Don’t worry, just follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Even I don’t understand but I’m still impressed with the height limits of the Britax Grow with You ClickTight. It’s the highest – up 63 inches. The Britax One4Life has the same 63-inch height limit. But the car seat laws in the United States require children below 57 inches tall to use a car seat or same-leveled child restraint system.
The Britax Grow with You ClickTight is a bit higher on the price scale, ringing in at over $300. It’s without doubt that the ClickTight technology increased the price.
Parents who are keen on the Briax brand would be willing to pay this high price for getting a Britax car seat with ClickTight. If you’re not, there are a lot cheaper alternatives like the Graco Tranzitions and Chicco MyFit for choice.
#2 Slim Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Chicco MyFit - 17.5"
The Chicco MyFit ranks on this list of best car seats for 3 year olds for its 54-inch harness height limit. Even can be used for forward-facing only, this car seat is designed to grow with your kid, at 2 or 3 years or older, giving them plenty of room to stretch and stay snug as they sprout up like little beanstalks. Say goodbye to outgrowing their seat too soon – this one’s built for the long haul.
If you’re a parent who wants to keep your little one in a 5-point harness for a longer time, the Myfit is a good option. The 54-inch height limit is 5 inches higher than the average. Very few models have this high harness height limit. The other car seat with a 5-point harness up to 54 inches is the Chicco Fit4, another car seat from Chicco.
Now, onto the narrow design – a real lifesaver, especially when you’re juggling a 3-year-old and all the other stuff that seems to pile up in your backseat. I mean, who hasn’t struggled with fitting bulky car seats? But with the Chicco MyFit, that’s not an issue. It’s like they waved a magic wand and created a seat that slips right in, leaving room for you and your passengers to breathe. It’s one of our best car seats for 3 across.
Just look at the car seat, you can feel that the Chicco MyFit is one of the most comfortable car seats. Kids can be picky, right? Well, the Chicco MyFit’s got that covered too. The abundance of padding around the frame is like a plush embrace for your 3-year-old. Long rides are a breeze when your little one is cozily nestled in, surrounded by cushioning that’s practically like a hug from their favorite teddy bear.
Chicco MyFit provides two modes for use and expands its versatility to be a good long-term investment. It effortlessly transforms from a harnessed seat to a belt-positioning booster, adapting to your child’s needs as they grow. It’s like getting two seats in one, and that’s a total win in my book.
#3 Safest Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat
Why We Recommend It:
Children are safer when riding rear-facing, and it’s recommended to let them stay in the car seat in rear-facing mode as long as possible.
But most toddlers might outgrow their Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 with a rear-facing harness that comes with a 40 lb weight limit when they grow to 3 years old.
At this time, parents should change it to front-facing, which is the most and best position to install the car seat for a 3 year old.
Like most toddler car seats on the market, the Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 supports an upper weight limit of 65 pounds to ride a child with a forward-facing harness.
That means, your child can stay in the 5-point harness as long as he or her 5 or 6 years of age. For big kids, they may reach the limit at a smaller age.
But don’t worry, you can store the harness and buckle in the built-in compartments and turn Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 car seat into a booster – the next stage of your child in a car seat.
There are many parents asking this question: Can my 3 year old sit in a booster? Even most boosters can fit children weighing over 40 lbs, about 4 year of age with an average weight.
The AAP and NHTSA recommend – even the local laws in some states require – the parents to put the children in the forward-facing harness as long as possible, just like they’re in the rear-facing.
The Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 has a high weight limit of 120 pounds when working in the backless booster mode.
It allows an 8-year-old child to stay in the car seat. It features only a 10-year lifespan.
You should pay close attention to the useful period and check if it’s expired or not.
The company does advise you not to use a car seat that is out of date since its manufacture date. If you’re not sure about this, you may contact the manufacturer’s support team for confirmation.
Long-lasting – both the 10-year lifespan and 120-lb weight limit are absolutely a great point to appeal to the parents. It’s understandable as the company developed this car seat to be an excellent money saver to ride a child from birth to 8 years old.
Besides the most common functions in the Graco car seats, the company upgraded this all-in-one child car seat with three additional features.
We have talked about one in the paragraph above – it’s the rubberized fuss-free harness storage compartment.
More than the Extend2Fit’s storage to hide the harness and straps with buckles hooked at the right position, the Graco 4Ever DLX allows you to store the harness and buckles in the hidden boxes so that you can switch it to a booster without the harness that might cause an installation problem and discomfort for your child.
The second is the integrated belt lock-off that ensures an easy installation, even all the Graco car seats deliver easy-to-read level indicators and six-position marked reclines for an effortless and accurate installation.
The third point is good for parents. The Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 car seat has a Rapid Remove cover and you can easily take it off for washing. The seat pad is made of machine-washable fabrics.
You don’t need to care much about it getting dirty, just take it off and throw it into the washing machine. This ensures your child stays comfortably in the car seat.
#3 Slim Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Diono Radian 3R - 17"
Why We Recommend It:
If you have owned a Diono Radian 3R since your kid’s birth, then you can use it when they’re 3 years of age.
It’s one of the best car seats for a 3 year old and is able to accommodate your kid in three modes – rear-facing harness, forward-facing harnessed, and booster.
The last mode requires a minimum weight limit of 40 pounds that most 3-year-old children can not reach.
From the weight and age standpoint, your three-year-old kid can sit in the rear-facing or front-facing convertible.
From the safety point, it’s better to stick to the rear-facing mode as long as possible before your child outgrows their car seat’s weight limit – up to 50 pounds for the Radian 3R.
If your kid grows at an average speed as their peer, they should not exceed the 50-lb weight limit. But if your kid wants to see and explore the landscape outside the window, you can switch Radian 3R to the front-facing and move your kid then.
It’s not required to put a 3-year-old child in the rear-facing; Most US states only indicate this requirement that a 2 year old child should ride rear-facing in the local laws. They are:
New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington.
The Diono Radian 3R also works as a booster seat for 3 year old toddlers. As long as the toddler grows over the harness weight or height, you should change it to booster mode, generally in the ages of 7-8 years.
Lots of parents love Diono’s car seats for their great accommodation in compact vehicles or small cars with relatively narrow seats in the back.
The company noticed this pain point for some parents and big families with several children at different ages. So they developed the 3-series, meaning to fit 3 across in the back seat.
Fitting 3 across is not Diono’s unique technique, another 3-in-1 car seat we’ll talk about in the following – Maxi-Cosi Pria also supports to fit 3 across.
|Car Seats Comparison||Radian 3R||Radian 3RX||Raidan 3RXT||Raidan 3QX||Radian 3QXT|
|Weight limits (lb)||RF:5-50 / FF: 22-120||RF: 5-50 FF: 22-120||RF: 5-50 FF: 22-120||RF: 4-50 FF: 22-120||RF: 4-50 FF: 22-120|
|Rear Facing Weights||Up to 50lb||Up to 50lb||Up to 50lb||Up to 50lb||Up to 50lb|
|Newborn Protection||-||-||2-in-1||Advanced 3-in-1||Advanced 4-in-1|
|Head Support||-||12 Positions||12 Positions||Safe+ 12 Positions||Safe+ 12 Positions|
Best Car Seat for 3 Year Old by Weight Limit
|Weight Limit||Car Seat||Price||Height Limit|
|65 pounds||Graco Extend2Fit||$211.99||49 in.|
|65 pounds||Evenflo Revolve360 Slim||$299.99||49 in.|
|65 pounds||Safety 1st Jive||$99.99||49 in.|
|100 pounds||Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1||$109.99||57 in.|
|100 pounds||Chicco MyFit 2-in-1||$299.99||57 in.|
|120 pounds||Britax Grow with You ClickTight||$329.99||63 in.|
|120 pounds||Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1||$309.99||57 in.|
|120 pounds||Diono Radian 3R||$199.99||57 in.|
Best Car Seat for a 3 Year Old by Height Limit
|Height Limit||Car Seat||Price||Weight Limit|
|49 in.||Graco Extend2Fit||$211.99||65 pounds|
|49 in.||Evenflo Revovle360 Slim||$349.99||65 pounds|
|49 in.||Safety 1st Jive||$99.99||65 pounds|
|57 in.||Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1||$139.99||100 pounds|
|57 in.||Chicco MyFit||$199.99||100 pounds|
|57 in.||Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1||$309.99||120 pounds|
|57 in.||Diono Radian 3R||$99.99||120 pounds|
|63 in.||Britax Grow with You ClickTight||$329.99||120 pounds|
Best Car Seat for 3 Year Olds by Price
|Rank||Price||Car Seat||Weight Limit||Height Limit||Stage||1||$99.99||Safety 1st JIve||65 pounds||49 in.||2 stages|
|2||$139.99||Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1||100 pounds||57 in.||2 stages||3||$199.99||Chicco MyFit 2-in-1||100 pounds||57 in.||2 stages|
|4||$234.99||Graco Extend2Fit||65 pounds||49 in.||2 stages|
|5||$199.99||Chicco MyFit||100 pounds||57 in.||2 stages|
|6||$329.99||Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1||120 pounds||57 in.||3 stages|
|7||$339.99||Britax Grow with You ClickTight||120 pounds||63 in.||2 stages|
|8||$349.99||Evenflo Revolve360 Slim||65 pounds||49 in.||2 stages|
Law on Car Seats for 3 Year Olds
Younger than 6 Years Old Rules
States that require children under six years old to use an appropriate restraint system. These states have had no clear rules for riding 7 years old. This possibly means that 7 years olds don’t need a car seat in these states.
However, it’s strongly recommended to use an appropriate car seat for your boy or girl at their 7 years of age. After all, most multi-stage car seats have a long lifespan of more than 7 years.
- Alabama – under six years old to use a size-appropriate restraint system
- Arkansas – younger than 6 years of age and less than 60 pounds should be secured in a proper child restraint system.
- Idaho – who is six (6) years of age or younger, child safety restraint
- Iowa – 6 through 17 years use a child restraint or seat belt
- Montana – under 6 years of age and weighs less than 60 pounds, a child safety restraint.
- Nevada – less than 6 years of age and who weighs 60 pounds or less a child restraint system.
3 Years Old Car Seat Laws
- Alaska – 4 through 7 years who are at least 57 inches or 65+ pounds; 7 through 15 who are shorter than 57 inches or weigh less than 65 pounds should use a booster seat.
- Arizona – each passenger who is at least five years of age, who is under eight years of age and who is not more than four feet nine inches tall to be restrained in a child restraint system.
- California – 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches must be in an appropriate child passenger restraint system – 4 through 7 years in a booster seat.
- Colorado – 4 through 7 years in a booster seat
- Connecticut – 5-7 years or between 40-60 pounds in a forward or rear-facing child restraint or a booster seat secured with a lap and shoulder belt.
- Delaware – 7 years and younger and 65 pounds in weight or less child safety seat or booster seat
- Georgia – under eight years of age provide for the proper restraint of such child in a child passenger restraint system.
- Hawaii– 4 years through 7 years must be in a child restraint or booster seat.
- Illinois – under the age of 8 years, appropriate child restraint system.
- Indiana – under the age of 8 years, appropriate child restraint system.
- Kansas – for a child under the age of seven but at least four years of age, or who weighs less than 80 pounds but weighs at least 40 pounds, a child booster seat; or for a child seven years of age but under the age of 14 or who weighs more than 80 pounds, a safety belt
- Kentucky – under 8 years of age, between 40-57 inches in height in a booster.
- Louisiana – at least 4 years old can use a booster, this includes 7 year olds.
- Maine – The operator shall ensure that a child who weighs less than 80 pounds, who is less than 57 inches in height and who is less than 8 years of age is properly secured in a belt positioning seat or other child restraint system.
- Maryland – Under 8 years old and less than 57″ in height, appropriate child restraint system.
- Massachusetts – Under 8 years old and less than 57″ in height, appropriate child restraint system.
- Michigan – Under 8 years old and less than 57″ in height, appropriate child restraint system.
- Minnesota – Under 8 years old and less than 57″ in height, appropriate child restraint system.
- Mississippi – 7 years and older who either weigh 65 pounds or more or who are 57 inches or taller, seat belt.
- Missouri – 4 through 7 years who weigh at least 40 pounds but less than 80 pounds and who are 4’9″ or shorter, in a booster seat.
- Nebraska – 7 years and younger in a child safety seat.
- New Hampshire – less than 7 years of age, child restraint system.
- New Jersey – younger than 8 years and less than 57 inches, in a booster seat
- New Mexico – children seven years of age through twelve years of age shall be properly secured in a child passenger restraint device or by a seat belt.
- New York – all back seat passengers of such vehicle who are age four or older but under age eight, an appropriate child restraint system or in a lap safety belt
- North Carolina – 7 years and younger and less than 80 pounds, appropriate child restraint system.
- North Dakota – 7 years and younger and less than 57 inches, appropriate child restraint system.
- Ohio – 4 through 7 years who weigh 40 pounds or more and who are shorter than 57 inches in a child restraint or booster seat
- Oklahoma – 4 through 7 years, if not taller than 4 feet 9 inches, in a child restraint or booster seat
- Oregon – 7 or younger: more than 40 pounds but 4 feet and 9 inches or less must be in a booster seat
- Pennsylvania – 4 years or older but under 8 years in a booster seat.
- Rhode Island – under 8 years old and less than 57 inches and less than 80 pounds in an appropriate child restraint system; 7 years and younger who either weigh 80 pounds or more or who are at least 57 inches tall; 8 through 17 in seat belt.
- South Carolina – children 4 and older who outgrow forward-facing child restraint must be in belt positioning booster using lap/shoulder belts until child is at least 8 years or at least 57 inches.
- Tennessee– Children age four (4) through age eight (8), and measuring less than four feet nine inches (4’9″) in height, must be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat system,
- Texas – A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than eight years of age, unless the child is taller than four feet, nine inches, and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system.”
- Utah – a child who is under the age of eight or who is less than 57 inches tall must be secured in a car seat or booster seat
- Vermont – a child eight through 17 years of age shall be restrained in a safety belt system or a child passenger restraining system.
- Virginia -all children under 8 to be properly secured in a child safety seat or booster seat,
- Washington -4 years or older, who is under four feet nine inches tall must be properly secured in a child booster seat. A child may continue to be properly secured in a child booster seat until the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly, typically when the child is between the ages of eight and twelve years of age.
- West Virginia – all children under 8 to be properly secured in a child safety seat or booster seat.
- Wisconsin – Children must be in a booster seat until they reach age 8, more than 80 pounds in weight, or more than 4 ft. 9 in. tall.
- Wyoming – no person shall operate a passenger vehicle in this state unless each child who is a passenger in that vehicle and who has not reached his ninth birthday is properly secured in a child safety restraint system in a seat of the vehicle other than the front seat.
Best Car Seat Types for 3 Year Olds
Various types of car seats can be used to ride a 3 year old with safety and comfort. You may have found that from the above list of best car seats for 3 year olds. In this part, you’ll learn more about why we recommend the three types of car seats for a 3 year old.
Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats are the safest option for 3 year old boys and girls. They feature a 5-point harness for both rear-facing and front-facing.
The 5-point harness is approved to offer optimal protection for 3-year-old toddlers and preschoolers younger than 5 years of age.
Convertible car seats might be purchased after your child’s birth. Then you can keep using it for a 3 year old until they outgrow the 65-pound weight limit or 49-inch height limit.
3-in-1 or 4-in-1
All-in-one (including 3-in-1 or 4-in-1) car seats are also considered convertible car seats actually because they can be converted from rear-facing to forward-facing, and to boosters as well.
Some all-in-one car seats for 3 year olds are able to switch to backless mode. You’ll see 4-in-1 in their name, like the Graco 4Ever DLX.
Like convertible car seats, all-in-one models can be forward-facing car seats with a 5-point harness. That’s necessary for 3 year old boys and girls.
As your 3-year-old little one grows, the all-in-one car seats can transition to booster mode until they’re ready to wear the vehicle seat belt. So they generally have really long longevity – up to 10 years. That’s the longest lifespan of the best car seats for 3 year olds.
Combination Car Seats
3 year olds are not allowed to ride in a pure booster seat, but they can be accommodated in booster seats with a 5-point harness, i.e combination car seat.
When you use a combination car seat to ride a 3 year old child, stick to the 5-point harness until he or she exceeds the maximum weight or height allowed by the car seat.
Typically, combination car seats have the same forward-facing 5-point harness height and weight limits as convertible car seats – a 65-pound weight limit and 49-inch height limit. Few models are exceptional, like the Chicco MyFit. It features a 54-inch harness height limit, extending the harness use time.
You can transition the combination car seats to booster mode when your little one outgrows the 5-point harness forward-facing mode.
How to Choose the Best Car Seat for 3 Year Old
Features to consider while buying the safest car seat for 3-year-old
Safety comes first! That’s the deciding reason we purchase car seats for our children. We want our boys or girls to be as safe in the car or on the plane as they are at home.
First, all the car seats sold in the US should meet or exceed the minimum safety standard – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. That means any car you purchased – online or offline, has passed the most rigorous crash tests before going to the market
However, the safety performance is not totally equal. It’s understandable.
A 5-point harness is more protective than a booster. The more layers of side impact protection, the better. Easier to install, more secure.
Graco car seats, like the Extend2Fit and 4Ever DLX, have a great feature – ProtectPlus which the manufacturer boasts of it for protection from frontal, side, rear, and rollover crashes. Rollover accidents are indeed rare, but they contribute many fatalities to total.
The size of your child decides the size of car seats for 3 year olds.
The height and weight of your little one should be always within the height and weight requirements of the car seats.
For 3 year olds, the 5-point harness is a must. So, as long as your 3-year old child is less than 65 pounds or 49-inch tall, they can ride in their convertible, combination, or all-in-one car seats.
Not only is the size of your child important, but the size of the car seat is also notable.
You’ll want to make sure that the car seat actually fits in your car. Narrow car seats are friendly for small cars. If you have to install two or more car seats, car seats that fit 3 across are preferable.
Easy to Install
You can install the car seats for 3 year olds using either the LATCH system or the seat belt system. The LATCH system is almost always easier to install thanks to the built-in anchors and tethers.
It’s best to choose a car seat that has both the LATCH system and the seatbelt system. The majority of car seats have both.
Proper installation is the foundation to guarantee protection. Choosing a car seat for a 3 year old with easy installation will not only save your time but also increase the chance to install the car seat properly.
From this point, Britax Marathon and Grow with You ClickTight win. Both feature the company’s ClickTight technology which allows an easier installation with a seat belt.
All three types of car seats for 3 year olds are designed to grow with your child. They last for several years ranging from 7 to 10 years.
Choosing a car seat for 3 year olds that is durable to grow with the child will not only save money, but also be friendly for your boys or girls. They will probably get used to it.
Changing to a new car seat for a 3 year old is not always a good idea unless you need to do that. But convertible car seats may not be suitable for big kids at 7 years of age.
Easy to Clean
Easy to clean is a great feature you should check out.
It’s a good idea to choose a car seat that is made of machine washable fabric. You’ll find you are too busy to wash the seat pad by hand, especially if you have two or more children.
The majority of car seats for 3 year olds come with washing machine seat pads. They are easy to clean.
Very few models do not have a machine washable seat pad. As far as I know, only the Britax Grow with You and the ClickTight version do not come with the machine washable fabric.
It would be beneficial if the car seat for a 3 year old has an easy-remove-off cover. It saves time. Graco 4Ever DLX, features a rapid remove cover for easy takeoff. The Chicco NextFit Zip and its premium models have a zip-off cover.
The longer, the better!
The majority of car seats for 3 year olds have a 1-year limited warranty. Only Diono Radian 3R promises a longer 3-year warranty.
Can a 3 year old ride in a booster seat?
Some states’ car seat laws make it clear that only 4 year olds can ride in a booster seat. Some states may not mention this age requirement, but the local laws require parents to use the car seat as the manufacturer’s instructions.
While all booster seats sold in the US have a 4-year-old minimum age requirement and 40-pound weight requirement.
Here, we also insist on putting your 3-year-old in a 5-point harness forward-facing car seat for as long as possible.
How to install the car seat for three year olds
The most common ways to install a car seat for a 3 year old boy or girl are using a LATCH and a seat belt.
However, the LATCH has a weight limit – the sum weight of your little one and the car seat should be under 65 pounds.
You can do a simple calculation and decide what way to use it. Remember, do NOT use both installation methods at the same time.
No matter which way you finally choose to install the car seat for three year olds, LATCH or seat belt, you may want to know these tips:
- Follow the car seat user manual and vehicle manual
- Install the car seat in the back row of the car.
- If possible, place the car seat in the center of the back seat which is considered the safest car seat position for installing a car seat.
What kind of car seat should my 3-year old be in?
This is a commonly asked question and knowing when your child is ready for a forward-facing seat.
Based on the car seat rules and CPS experts suggest, a 3-year old boy or girl should ride in a 5-point harness forward-facing car seat.
Among the five car seat types, there are three types of car seats suitable for 3-year old children – convertible, harness 2 booster, and all-in-one car seats.
How long should a child be in a 5-point harness?
Your child should remain in a forward-facing 5-point harness car seat until he or she outgrows the 5-point harness height or weight limit.
99% of forward-facing 5-point harness car seats have a maximum 65-pound weight and a maximum 49-inch height. That typically happens around the ages of 4 and 7. Kids grow at different rates.
The height limit usually comes first. So if you prefer a higher height limit, you may consider the Chicco MyFit. It features a 54-inch height limit.
Once your child reaches the recommended height and weight requirement, they can then move up to a booster seat that works with your car seat belts.
Is a 5-point harness safer than a booster for a 3 year old?
Yes. A 5-point harness is safer for your child because it straps them in at 5 different parts of contact on their body (shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, and crotch).
When your child is properly secured in the 5-point harness it prevents them from moving out of their seated position.
Booster seats only use the seat belt for installation. They are not as safe as the 5-point harness for 3 year old toddlers.
Are booster seats good for 3 year olds?
Not really. A 5-point harness is safer and better for 3 year olds boys and girls.
Even if the weight of a 3 year old exceeds the minimum 40-pound weight requirement of a booster, it’s a good idea to keep them in a 5-point harness forward-facing car seat until they reach the height or weight limits.
But you can use a booster with a 5-point harness for 3 year olds and stick to it until your child grows bigger.
Should a 3 year old be rear-facing?
The laws do not require this.
As long as your little one does not outgrow the rear-facing weight and height limits, a 3 year old boy or girl can be rear-facing as well.
Rear-facing is the safest way for a child to travel. Some states require kids to be in rear-facing position up to 2 years old. There are car seats that allow extended rear-facing up to 2 years or older, like the Diono Radian 3R and Chicco NextFit Zip.
FAQs on Best Car Seats for 3 Year Olds
What car seat should a 3 year old be in?
It’s not a good idea to accommodate your littles in a booster, which is designed for kids at least 40 pounds or four years old, even if they exceed the 40-lb low weight limit of a booster at three years of age.
Can a 3 year old go in a booster seat?
It’s not recommended to put a 3 year old in a booster seat that usually comes with a minimum weight requirement of 40 pounds. You may also find all the booster seats state in the product description that they’re for four-year-old kids.
You may wonder if it is possible to put your 3 year old big kids in a booster if they reach the low weight limit of 40 pounds. It’s better not. If you really want one to be a backup in the kid’s grandparents’ vehicle, purchase a cheap harness booster.
What is the safest car seat for a 3 year old?
Harness-protected car seats are the safest car seat for a 3 year old child. Parents can choose a convertible or combination or an all-in-one car seat with a harness for protection.
A booster seat is not a good option for a three year old child, even if they’re big enough to meet the low height and weight limits.
Can my 3 year old use a booster seat in the UK?
The UK requires that children aged 3-12 years old or up to 135cm tall must sit in a booster seat in the front or back of the car in the wings. It seems ok to put a 3 year old child in a booster.
However, do NOT use a backless booster for young children under 3 year old if, at all possible, even some seats are approved for use for these aged children. The backless booster does not offer the best protection as a convertible and high back booster.
What age is booster car seats for?
Booster (high back or backless) car seats sold in the US state that they’re designed for 4 year old children.
When should a child move to a backless booster?
Based on its requirement, a child at 4 year old or weighing over 40 pounds can move to a backless booster.
It’s recommended to stick with the harness protection until your child outgrows their harness height or weight limits.
The backless booster can be used as a backup.
What is the difference between a high back booster and backless booster?
Highback booster provides better protection and fits when compared to backless booster. The former allows additional head and back support when your child sits in the car seat.
A backless booster seat doesn’t have a back and must be used with a high vehicle seat or vehicle headrest. A child must have head support to the tops of his or her ears – a high-back booster can provide that support.
Are high back booster seats safer than backless?
Yes. A high-back booster seat has a supportive full-length back, side wings, and a headrest, which provide extra protection for your child’s head and torso. It also holds your child securely in the seat thanks to the upper belt guide.
What kind of car seat should a 3 year old be in?
Is a booster seat safe for a 3 year old?
It seems okay for a 3 year old in a booster if he or she meets the weight and height requirements. However, some state and local laws on child passenger safety require a child to be at least 4 years old to ride in a booster.
So I highly recommend keeping your 3 year old in 5-point harness mode until they reach 65 pounds in weight or 49 inches in height. If you have an older child check out the best car seat for 5 year olds.
Which is the best car seat for toddlers?
The car seats with a 5-point harness are the best for toddlers.
Which is the best car seat for 3 year old?
If you plan to purchase a new car seat for a 3 year old, the harness 2 booster would be a great option. The best car seat for 3 year old can be Graco Tranzitions It’s the cheapest.
If you prefer a 5-point harness up to 120 pounds weight limit, the Britax Grow with You ClickTight is the best car seat for 3 year old.
What are the height and weight limits for convertible car seats?
The height and weight limits for convertible car seats vary depending on the makers and the specific car you chose.
The average weight limit for rear-facing car seat mode is between 40-50 pounds. The rear-facing height limit is between 40-49 inches. The upper weight limit for forward-facing car seats is 65 pounds. 49-inch is still the forward-facing height limit.
For example, Chicco NextFit Zip comes with a combination of 40-pound-weight-limit and 43-inch-height-limit for rear-facing and 65-pound-49-inch for forward-facing.
Which car seats didn’t make it on the list?
The infant car seats and classic booster seats are not on the list.
Infant car seats are not for toddlers at 3 years of age. The child will easily outgrow the infant car seats typically at 1 year old.
Classic boosters are suitable for older children at least 4 years old. They are not suitable for 3 year old toddlers.
Boosters with a 5-point harness are exceptional because you can use the harness mode at first when your boy or girl is not ready to ride in a booster.
What kind of car seat safety standards are for three year olds?
All the car seats sold in the US should meet or exceed the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 on rigorous crash tests.
Three year olds should stay in a 5-point-harness car seat, which is approved to feature side impact protection.
Which one of these can fit three across?
The Diono’s R series was designed to do the 3-across fitting. Radian 3R is the entry-level model with a budget price of under $200. But it lacks an infant insert, not friendly for newborns.
What kind of features should be on the lookout for when buying a car seat for a 3 year old?
More than the basic essentials, there are a few bonus features you may like when buying a car seat for a 3 year old.
Multiple recline positions are good and friendly for older children. Two removable cup holders are useful, better if they are dishwasher-safe and washable.
Durable and machine washable fabric is more practical. Most of the best car seats for 3 year olds above are machine washable, except Britax Grow with You ClickTight.
A slim design is preferable if you have to install multiple car seats.
How do you install these best car seats for three year olds?
Make sure you install it on the back seat. Also, make sure you read the manual first for easy installation. The latch system is the easiest to use but you should pay attention to the LATCH limit.
Make sure the sum weight of the car seat and your child do not exceed 65-pound. If yes, use the seat belt as well.
What are the height and weight limits for these forward facing car seats for 3 year olds?
When you ride your 3 year olds forward-facing, there are different car seat options. Whatever type of car seats you have chosen, the height and weight limits range mostly between a certain scope.
For example, convertible car seats for forward-facing riding feature an upper 65-pound weight limit and a 49-inch height limit.
That’s the same for all-in-one car seats and the majority of boosters with a 5-point harness. Only Chicco MyFit has a higher 54-inch harness height limit.
What kind of car safety features do these 3 year old combination seats come with?
Steel reinforced frames will offer optimal protection for 3 year olds in combination seats.
Nowadays most seats are equipped with an energy-absorbing base, thanks to the energy-absorbing foam.
The impact absorbing layer around the combination car seats will protect your 3-year-old child from harm or injury in case of any collisions. The car seat manufacturers try to outdo each other in safety stuff and this can be a major selling point for car travel.
The most important body part is the child’s head and neck. The proper head support is mandatory. The headrest positions (headrest height) can be easily adjusted to grow with your child. Most car seats come with multiple harnesses and headrest positions.
Let me mention side impact protection for a second. As you know t-bone accidents are quite common and the only protection against them is siding impact protection. With car seats, you can have from one up to three layers of side impact protection.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the most protection possible.
How can you fit three across these 3 year olds all in one car seat in small cars?
What is the car seat installation for these 3 year old booster seat options?
It’s better NOT to put a 3 year old in a booster unless the booster seat has a 5-point harness.
Remember to place the car seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
Before you get started make sure that you check out the manual for easy installation.
Secondly, make sure that the bubble level indicator and the headrest are in the right spot.
Next up you have to move the position recline into neutral.
Then secure the car seat with the LATCH system or seat belt. NEVER use both. LATCH should be easier, but it has a 65-pound weight limit; seat belt installation takes a longer time.
If you prefer a seat belt, Britax Grow with You ClickTight car seat is a good option.
What other features do you have to consider when you’re checking out a rear facing or front facing 3 year old seat?
The 5-point harness is necessary for protection in a 3 year old seat.
Also the car seat cover (seat pad) should be machine washable.
The car seat shell should be made out of durable plastic. Reinforced steel is better!
The leg rest provides additional comfort. The cup holders are great for kids to have fun with. The multiple-position recline provides the most comfort to fit your child.
A quick list of items to check before buying: harness straps, harness slots, shoulder straps, harness car seat.
Are there low price and still safe car seats for 3 year olds?
When you’re looking for the safest car seats for 3 year olds and want to save a bit of money, you can do so by thinking ahead.
Here are two methods for your reference.
You can purchase an all-in-one car seat.
It lasts long from a child’s birth to preteen so you don’t have to buy the next one. The top-rated car seats work with smaller cars (compact cars) these are available in rear-facing (rear face, rear-facing car seat), forward-facing car seat mode, and then booster.
You can purchase a budget combination car seat to work with an infant car seat.
The total cost for these two car seats = $109.99 (for Tranzitions) + $199.99 (for KeyFit 30). It’s about $309.98, quite the same as the price of the Graco 4Ever DLX, which is an all-in-one car seat.
What is the evolution of car seats through the life of my child?
From birth, your child will go through at least three stages in a car seat until he or she is ready to get out of that.
It starts out with the infant seat or infant carrier. Then you need to upgrade to convertible car seats (rear facing, forward facing car seats like combination car seats and all-in-one).
Move on to the next stage and it’s the booster (harness booster, high back, or backless).
A car seat for a 3 year old can be a lightweight car seat. Also, it’s good if it has ride safer travel vest (ride safer vest).
What is absolutely essential to have in convertible car seats for 3 year olds?
Convertible car seats are good for a 3 year old because they could do rear facing (rear face) in parallel with forward facing.
More than the basic safety feature to pass all federal safety standards & federal crash tests, the must-have safety features are:
Energy absorbing steel reinforcement, eps energy absorbing foam, layers of side impact protection, machine washable harness and covers, properly secured anchors.
And the additional perk of having multiple positions for headrest and recline and removable and machine washable seat pads, dishwasher-safe washable cup holders.
The safest car seats are the rear facing car seats.
Are there any good travel car seats for 3 year olds?
If you’re looking for travel car seats for 3 year olds, there are quite many to choose from. These portable car seats pass all federal safety standards and are lightweight car seats.
It is much easier to switch them from car to car for multi-vehicle households. If your family does air travel a lot, they’re friendly to carry from home to the airport as well.
How to know if the car seat is suitable for air travel or not? You can find this information in the user manual. All travel car seats for 3 year olds have their user manual uploaded online from the manufacturer’s website. You can even know this before paying a cent on it.
You’ll find statements like this – this child restraint system is FAA approved for aircraft use.
Only car seats with a 5-point harness can be used for air travel, as there is no shoulder belt on the plane. Booster seats cannot be properly and tightly installed with a lap-only belt.
The Diono Radian 3R is the most portable travel car seat for 3 year olds. It’s not a lightweight car seat, but it features a foldable design. It allows you to carry it like a backpack. That’s super convenient for parents who need to carry a lot of traveling stuff with kids and car seats.
Graco Atlas is also a good travel car seat for 3 year olds. It’s a lightweight booster seat with a 5-point harness. For 3 year olds, keep using the 5-point harness for both air travel and road trips.
The travel car seat for a 3 year old should have these features: machine washable covers, at least one cup holder – better if the cup holders are removable and dishwasher-safe washable, two layers of side impact protection, steel-reinforced frame is better – some entry-level models may have a plastic frame, adjustable headrest, and harness.
What is the safest car seat for a 3 year old?
The safest car seat for a 3 year old should be the car seat with a 5-point harness. Convertible car seats like Graco Extend2Fit, Chicco NextFit Zip, and Britax Marathon (Advocate/Boulevard) are good options.
If you prefer a 5-point harness car seat up to 120 pounds for a 3 year old, the Britax Grow with You ClickTight is the safest option. It features the ClickTight technology for easy installation.
What is the best booster seat for a 3 year old?
The best booster seat for a 3 year old is the Chicoc MyFit. It was designed with a 54-inch maximum height limit, extending the harness protection for children 3 years or older.
It’s a narrow car seat for three cross fitting.
What is the best travel car seat for 3 year old?
They are all-in-one car seats with a 5-point harness to safely ride 3 year olds rear-facing or forward-facing – as long as your 3 year old little one does not outgrow the 50-pound rear-facing weight limit.
They are not lightweight, but they feature a folding design. The seat pad can be folded up. Then you can carry it like a backpack. What a brilliant idea!
The foldable design is ultra-practical if you want to take a 3 year old boy or girl for air travel. The Diono Radian series was the first and original car seat for 3 cross fit.
They are absolutely the best travel car seats for 3 year olds.
What is the recommended car seat for 3 year old?
The recommended car seat for a 3 year old is a convertible car seat. There are a few great options to meet your and your little one’s needs.
Graco Extend2Fit is the best overall convertible seat for 3 year old. It comes with a 50-lb rear-facing weight limit to extend the rear-facing ride up to 2 years or older. It is Graco ProtectPlus Engineered with extra safety features, offering protection from frontal, side, rear, and rollover crashes.
Chicco NextFit Zip is the #2 recommended convertible car seat for 3 year old. It extends the rear-facing ride as well with an association of a 40-pound weight limit and a 43-in height limit. What we loved is that it features a zip-off design. You can easily zip off the seat cover for machine washing.
Britax Marathon is the #3 recommended convertible car seat for 3 year old. It can be easily installed with the seat belt for its ClickTight feature.
What is the best lightweight car seat for 3 year old?
The best lightweight car seat for 3 year old is KidsEmbrace.
It weighs only 15 pounds. The car seat is also the best Spiderman car seat for a 3 year olds. Your 3 year old boy would like Spiderman or Batman while your 3 year old girl might like Cinderella.
What is the best narrow car seat for 3 year old?
The best narrow car seat for 3 year old is the Graco SlimFit 3 LX, with a width of 16.7 inches. It’s even narrower than the 17-inch width for the Diono Radian series.