California Car Seat Laws (2022)-Front Seat Age and Booster Weight/Height Requirements

If you’re finding the CA car seat laws 2022, you’re right here.

According to California State Law, a child under eight years old should be secured with a child safety seat and then use a seatbelt as an adult. Children under 13 years of age should sit in the back seat.

Overview of California Car Seat Laws

The California Legislature Law in Section 27360. (a) reads: "Except as provided in Section 27363, a parent, legal guardian, or driver who transports a child under eight years of age on a highway in a motor vehicle shall properly secure that child in a rear seat in an appropriate child passenger restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards."

California State Regulations

The child seat laws go into three car seat stages – rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster. So we also talk about California car seat laws in these three categories.

Can’t wait to know the CA booster seat laws. Just click the booster field below.

Rear-Facing

Rear-facing laws

Forward-Facing

Forward facing rules

Booster

Booster seat rules

California Car Seat Laws Rear-Facing

In California Legislature section Section 27360.  (b), the law requires all children under two years old to ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs at least 40 pounds OR is 40 inches tall.

Except as provided in Section 27363, a parent, legal guardian, or driver who transports a child under two years of age on a highway in a motor vehicle, as defined in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 27315, shall properly secure the child in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system that meets applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards, unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or is 40 or more inches tall. The child shall be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the child passenger restraint system.

CA Car Seat Laws Section 27360 (b)

The law Section 27360.  (a) also indicates that the rear-facing car seat must be placed in the back seat of the motor vehicle.

It’s recommended to keep the child facing the rear as long as possible until they outgrow the weight or height limits allowed by the car seat manufacturers.

However, some infant-only car seats are designed with a maximum weight of around 35 pounds and a maximum height of around 32-inches.

It seems they can’t satisfy the need to ride a child rear-facing following the CA rules.

You may turn to a convertible or all-in-one car seat or directly use these two types of car seats at first since your baby’s birth.

The convertible and all-in-one car seats have higher rear-facing height and weight limits, allowing an infant to travel facing the rear for a longer period of time.

We list a few best options for rear-facing longer in the following part of this post, you may read and make your decisions.

under 2 years old

40 pounds or

40 inches

California’s rear-facing car seat law is a bit higher than the average requirements in other states, on age, height, and weight.

To ride your child according to the CA child seat laws, it’s better to get a convertible seat at the very first.

Graco Extend2Fit

Rear-facing Limits
$ 211
99
  • Maximum weight: 50 lb
  • Maximum Height: 32+5 in
BEST

Chicco NextFit Zip

Rear-facing Limits
$ 299
98
  • Maximum weight: 40 lb
  • Maximum Height: 43 in
RUNNER-UP

California Forward Facing Car Seat Law

CA law does not mention the age, weight, and height requirements for facing forward car seats.

But it’s a common rule to turn a child to a front-facing car seat until they exceed the safety weight or height limit for rear-facing car seats.

Based on the regulations in California Legislature section Section 27360.  (b), a child is approved to use a forward-facing car seat when weighing 40 pounds or more, or 40 inches or more in height, which typically happens when the child is 2-4 years old.

The California Highway Patrol indicates to use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible until the child outgrows the weight or height limit.

Most harnessed forward-facing safety seats, no matter convertible or harnessed booster, feature a 65-pound weight limit and 49-inch height limit. That means a child can ride in a forward-facing car seat at age 6-7 before moving to the next car seat stage.

You should follow the CA regulations to install the car forward seat in the back seat in the automobile until they are 8 years of age.

2 years or older

more than 40 pounds in weight or

40 inches in height

Graco Extend2Fit

Forward-facing Limits
$ 211
99
  • Minimum weight: 22 lb
  • Maximum weight: 65 lb
  • Maximum Height: 49 in
BEST

Chicco NextFit Zip

Forward-facing Limits
$ 299
98
  • Minimum weight: 22 lb
  • Maximum weight: 65 lb
  • Maximum Height: 49 in
RUNNER-UP

California Booster Seat Law 2022

3rd Car Seat Stage - Booster

The CA law does not indicate the requirements for using a booster seat.

It’s the California Office of Traffic Safety that gives some tips.

It states the rules that a child under the age of 8 must ride in a booster seat.

Children who are 8 years old OR at least 4’9” may be secured by a booster seat or wear a seat belt, based on the child’s weight or height.

Children under the age of 8 are required to be secured in a car or booster seat. Children who are 8 years old OR at least 4’9” may be secured by a booster seat, but at minimum wear a seat belt.

California Office of Traffic Safety

However, the regulation in section 27363. (d) talks about an exceptional case where a child who is younger than 8 years old can use a seat belt.

Let’s move to the next part on seat belt laws for children in CA.

Age for Booster Seat in CA

CA booster seat laws do not mention the age rule.

It’s the OTS department supplement the California booster seat laws, indicating that child under 8 years old should ride in a booster seat.

You may also want to know about the backless booster seat laws. Actually, the government regulations won’t specify the models in details.

So the booster seats include the backless ones.

Booster Seat Weight and Height

Based on our experience of reviewing 30+ car seats, most booster seats have a minimum weight limit of 40 pounds. The maximum weight limit may differ based on different brands, commonly ranging between 100-120 pounds.

57-inch is the most common seen height limit for a booster seat. Few backless boosters and backless booster mode in all-in-one car seats are designed with a higher height limit – up to 63-inches.

What about the backless booster seat requirements in CA?

It should be the same as the CA booster seat laws – child under 8 years old should stay in a booster seat until they’re 4 feet 9 inches tall.

The booster seats include the backless models.

under 8 years old

under 4’9″ tall

Graco TurboBooster

Booster Limits
$ 24
99
  • Minimum weight: 40 lb
  • Maximum weight: 100 lb
  • Minimum Height: 43 in
  • Maximum Height: 57 in
BEST

Diono Cambria 2 XL

Booster Limits
$ 299
98
  • Minimum weight: 40 lb
  • Maximum weight: 120 lb
  • Maximum Height: 63 in
RUNNER-UP

California Child Seat Belt Law

The CA car seat law in section 27360. (a) says that children under 8 years of age must ride in a child restraining system. That means a child can use a seat belt at least on his or her eighth birthday.

The rules in section 27363. (d) allow a child younger than 8 years old to wear a safety belt, but this has a minimum height requirement, the child should be at least 4 feet 9 inches or taller.

Except as provided in Section 27363, a parent, legal guardian, or driver who transports a child under eight years of age on a highway in a motor vehicle, as defined in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 27315, shall properly secure that child in a rear seat in an appropriate child passenger restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.

California Child Seat Laws Section 27360. (a)

Notwithstanding Section 27360, a child or ward under eight years of age who is four feet nine inches in height or taller may be properly restrained by a safety belt, as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (d) of Section 27315, rather than by a child passenger restraint system.

California Child Seat Laws Section 27363. (d)

The laws in the two sections are not conflictive. The child uses a car seat (including rear-facing, forward-facing, or booster) because they are small and can’t use the seat belt properly for optimal protection.

As long as they’re big enough in size to get the seat belt fitting properly, they are ready to get out of the car seat.

A parent, legal guardian, or driver shall not transport on a highway in a motor vehicle, as defined in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 27315, a child or ward who is eight years of age or older, but less than 16 years of age, without properly securing that child or ward in an appropriate child passenger restraint system or safety belt meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.

California Child Seat Laws Section 27360.5 (a)

How do you know if your child is ready to use a seat belt?

The regulation just requires the minimum terms, not the best. You may check via below five questions:

1. Can your child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do your child’s knees bend with ease at the edge of the seat without slouching?
3. Does the lap belt fit snugly across the top of the thighs, not upon the tummy?
4. Does the shoulder belt come across the center of the shoulder and chest?
5. Can your child sit like this for the whole trip?

If the answers to the above questions are ‘Yes’, your child might be ready to use a seat belt for traveling in the car.

at least 8 years old

under 16 years of age

57 inches or taller

Penalty for Breaking Car Seat Laws in California

Violating the California laws, for the first time, will be fined $100.

For a second or subsequent offense, the people who are responsible for the child passenger will be fined up to $250.

Plus, the fine is just a portion of the total cost if not obeying the CA law.

Adding the penalty assessments may result in paying over $475 for the first offender, and up to $1000 for a second offense.

California Car Seat Laws Apply for

The driver is responsible for the child’s safety in the motor vehicles.

But if the parent or legal guardian of the child also sits in the motor vehicle as a passenger, according to the CA law statement in section 27360.  (c), the driver does not have the responsibility.

At this time, the parent or guardian will take over the duty to ensure the child’s safety in the car.

Exceptions

A court can make an exception to any of the child safety restraint laws when the application of the law would be impractical because of a child’s:

  • physical unfitness
  • medical condition, or
  • size.

California Front Seat Law

How old do you have to be to sit in the front seat in California 2022?

In California, the law in section 27360 (a) says that all children under 8 years old should ride in an appropriate child restraint system in the back seat.

The regulation in section 27363 (e) tells some exceptions that parents will not be punished if not following the law, but to place a child younger than 8 years old in the front seat.

Notwithstanding Section 27360, a child or ward under eight years of age may ride properly secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards in the front seat of a motor vehicle under any of the following circumstances:

California Child Seat Laws Section 27363 (e)
  • there is no back seat
  • the rear seats are side-facing jump seats
  • the back seats are rear-facing
  • the child seat can’t be installed properly in the back seat
  • all the rear seats are occupied by children under the age of eight, or
  • medical reasons require that the child ride in a front seat.

The law and rules are the basic requirements. According to child safety experts, it’s best to have your child ride in the rear seat for as long as the child grows to 13 years old.

at least 8 years old

better 13 years or older

Taxi Car Seat Law California

According to the CA car seat law, taxis are not exempt from the regulations in California. Although the responsibility falls on parents first.

If the parents aren’t present, then the cab driver will be held responsible.

Age, Weight, Height Requirements in California Laws

California laws are a bit strict on the usage of a rear-facing car seat and the seating position for children younger than 8 years of age.

The rules are not 100% following the guidelines from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA for short), but state a few requirements on age, weight, and height.

Rear-facing (stage 1): under two years of age and below 40 pounds or 40 inches tall.

Forward-facing ( stage 2): more than two years old and above 40 pounds or 40 inches in height.

Booster (stage 3): under the age of 8 and below 57 inches in height.

Seat belt (stage 4): 8 years of age or older or at least 4’9” tall

Important Car Seat Safety Tips and Guides

Based on the CA child car seat laws, here are the best car seats that will ride your boys or girls safely without breaking the rules.

To help parents quickly find the best option based on your child’s current age, this list is made by age.

Birth - 2 Years

30-lb rear-facing maximum weight

Further Information

Best Car Seats for One Year Old

Birth - 4 Years

4-8 Years

  • Best to Fit 3 Across – Diono Radian 3R
  • Best with backless booster – Graco 4Ever DLX
Diono Cambria 2 XL

The Diono Cambria 2 XL combines a highback and backless booster into one. It provides spacious room for growing big kids.

Diono Cambria 2 XL

The Good
The Bad

All 50 US States Car Seat Laws

FAQs on California Child Seat Laws

California booster seat laws do not tell any requirements on weight. It requires children under the age of 8 to be secured in a car seat or booster seat.

The CA law only mention weight requirement for rear-facing. The rear-facing law in California says that all children under two years old to ride in a rear-facing car seat, unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall. 

At least 8 year of age.

According to the California Vehicle Code Section 27360 about car seat and booster seat. ​

  1. Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.
  2. Children who are 8 years of age OR have reached 4’9” in height may be secured by a booster seat, but at a minimum must be secured by a safety belt.

According to California booster seat laws, children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 8 years old or 57 inches tall, whichever comes first. 

Yes.

The CA car seat laws do not prohibit using a backless booster.

While high-backs are the safest choice, backless boosters are still much safer than no booster at all.

There are some legitimate reasons parents might choose a no-back model. For one thing, backless boosters are generally less expensive.

Ideally a 5 year old should be in a forward facing 5 point harness car seat, according to the CA forward-facing car seat law.

A good choice is either a convertible car seat (forward facing/rear facing), a combination car seat (booster seat/forward facing) or an all-in-one car seat.

No. 

According to California booster seat law, children who are 8 years of age OR have reached 4’9” in height may be secured by a booster seat, but at a minimum must be secured by a safety belt.

But the safest practice is to keep your child in a car seat for as long as possible until they outgrow that car seat.

At least 8 years old.

According to the California child seat laws, children under 8 years old may ride in the front seat of a vehicle in a federally-approved child passenger restraint system under the following instances: There is no rear seat.

An average 40-pound child is typically closer to age five, a much safer age to consider making a transition to booster use. And many booster seats that can be used in both a highback and backless configuration have a higher minimum weight limit of 40 pounds when used in the backless mode.

There are four important points to know about California car seat law on penalty. The “base fine” for not using a child restraint system is $100 for the first violation; and, $250 for every other violation.

Base fines are much less than the actual fine given since actual fines include fees and penalty assessments.

Yes.

According to California child seat belt laws, children can sit in the front seat from the ages of 8 years to 13 years or is up to 4 feet 9 inches. 

Car Seat Safety Tips and Guides

Sources

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