If you’re finding the ultimate guide for car seat laws in the United States, here is the right place.
We create the interactive map of car seat laws for 50 US states so that you can have a quick look at the age, weight, or height requirements in your living or traveling state.
We also make a complete list that contains the car seat laws for 50 US states and also includes the official car safety laws sites for each state.
The car seat laws for taking kids are not exactly the same in any two states in the United States.
Even there might be some common laws and recommendations on the child restraint systems.
This makes it a bit confusing for parents and caregivers who are going to take children traveling across different states, or for families that have young toddlers and just move to a different state.
What are the requirements for your child to be in a booster seat?
When can your child stop using a car seat?
The car seat and booster seat laws in every state might be updated occasionally, so if your family has newborn babies, you need to check the latest rules and requirements even you have understood the earlier car seat laws.
Child Car Seat Regulations for Each State in the United States
Hover to view a brief of the child car seat laws for each state.
Car Seat Laws by State
Car Seat Laws and Stages
Based on the guidelines of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrative (NHTSA) and interpreting the law of each state, we make the below table with four different car seat stages.
You may also find the details in the table below that lists the rules in 50 US States.
However, not all state car seat laws specify the age, weight, or height requirements following the NHTSA’s rules. If not, you’ll know it by an explaining statement.
|State||ShortCode||Rear-facing||Forward-facing||Booster||Seat belt||Front or Rear||Penalty||Uber|
|Alabama||AL||younger than 1 or less than 20 pounds (<1 year or < 20 lb.)||1 through 4 years or 20 - 40 pounds||5 but not yet 6||6 through 14 years||law states no preference for rear seat||$25||Not mentioned|
|Alaska||AK||one year old or less than 20 pounds||1 through 3 years and more than 20 pounds||4 through 15 years
shorter than 57 inches
more than 20 but less than 65 pounds
|4 through 7 years while at least 57 inches or 65+ pounds;
7 through 15 while shorter than 57 inches or weigh less than 65 pounds
|law states no preference for rear seat||$50||Not mentioned|
|Arizona||AZ||4 years and younger||children 5 through 7 who are 57 inches or shorter||5 through 7 who are taller than 57 inches||law states no preference for rear seat||$50||Not mentioned|
|Arkansas||AR||younger than 6 years of age and less than 60 pounds||6 through 14 years or 60+ pounds||law states no preference for rear seat||$100||Not mentioned|
|California||CA||younger than 2 years and less than 40 pounds and less than 40 inches||7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches||8 through 15 years or at least 57 inches||children 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches must be in the rear seat||$100||Not mentioned|
|Colorado||CO||younger than 1 year and less than 20 pounds||1 through 3 years and 20-40 pounds||4 through 7 years||8 through 15 years||1 year and younger and less than 20 pounds must be in the rear seat if available||$81||Not mentioned|
|Connecticut||CT||2 year old or less than 30 pounds||2-4 years or between 30-40 pounds||5-7 years or between 40-60 pounds||8 through 15 years and 60+ pounds||law states no preference for rear seat||$50||Not mentioned|
|Delaware||DE||7 years and younger and 65 pounds in weight or less||8 through 15 years or 66+ pounds||children 11 years and younger and 65 inches or less must be in rear seat if passenger airbag is active||$20||Not mentioned|
|Florida||FL||5 years and younger||under 18 years of age||law states no preference for rear seat||$60||Not mentioned|
|Georgia||GA||7 years and younger and 57 inches or less||more than 57 inches||7 years and younger must be in rear seat if available||$50||Not mentioned|
|Hawaii||HI||3 years and younger in a child restraint;||4 years through 7 years||4 through 7 years who are taller than 4'9";||4 through 7 years who are at least 40 pounds seated in a rear seat where if there are no available lap/shoulder belts, may be restrained by a lap belt||$100-$500||Not mentioned|
|Idaho||ID||6 years and younger in a child restraint||law states no preference for rear seat||$80||Not mentioned|
|Illinois||IL||2 years old, under 40 pounds or 40 inches in height||under 8 years of age||8 through 19 years||law states no preference for rear seat||$75||Not mentioned|
|Indiana||IN||under 8 years of age||8 through 15 years||law states no preference for rear seat||$25||Not mentioned|
|Iowa||IA||younger than 1 year and less than 20 pounds||1 through 5 years in a child restraint or a booster seat||6 through 17 years use a child restraint or seat belt||law states no preference for rear seat||$25||Not mentioned|
|Kansas||KS||all children 3 and younger must be in a child restraint||children 4 through 7 who weigh less than 80 pounds and children 4 through 7 who are less than 57 inches tall must be in a child restraint or booster seat||all children 8 through 13 years; children 4 through 7 years who weigh more than 80 pounds, and children 4 through 7 years who are taller than 57 inches||Not mentioned in the law||$60||Not mentioned|
|Kentucky||KY||40 inches or less||under 8 years of age, between 40-57 inches in height||at least 9 years old||Not mentioned in the law||$50 on child restraint, $30 or booster||Not mentioned|
|Louisiana||LA||less than 2 years old||2 years old or older||at least 4 years old||at least 9 years old||Younger than 13 years old||$250 ~ $500 or more||Not mentioned|
|Maine||ME||2 year old, less than 40 pounds||less than 55 pounds||17 and younger who are taller than 57 inches or heavier than 80 pounds||Less than 12 years||$50||Not mentioned on Uber and Lyft|
|Maryland||MD||Under 8 years old and less than 57" in height||8 through 16 years old||Not mentioned in the law||$50||Not mentioned|
|Massachusetts||MA||Under 8 years old and less than 57" in height||8 through 12 years; children who are at least 57 inches tall||Not mentioned in the law||$25||Not mentioned on Uber and Lyft|
|Michigan||MI||Under 8 years old and less than 57" in height||under 4 years if the back seat available||$10||Not mentioned|
|Minnesota||MN||Under 8 years old and less than 57" in height||Not mentioned in the law||$50||Not mentioned|
|Mississippi||MS||3 years and younger must be in a child restraint;||4 through 6 years and either less than 57 inches or less than 65 pounds must be in a booster seat||7 years and older who either weigh 65 pounds or more or who are 57 inches or taller||law states no preference for rear seat||$25||Not mentioned on Uber and Lyft|
|Missouri||MO||younger than 4 years old, less than 40 pounds must be in a child restraint;||4 through 7 years who weigh at least 40 pounds but less than 80 pounds and who are 4'9" or shorter||8 through 16 years; or 4 years and older who weigh 80 pounds or more or who are taller than 4'9"||booster seat with lap-only belt;||$50||Not mentioned on Uber and Lyft|
|Montana||MT||younger than 6 years old and less than 60 pounds||at least 4’9” tall, eight years or older.||law states no preference for rear seat||$100||Not mentioned|
|Nebraska||NE||younger than 2 years||7 years and younger in a child safety seat||8 through 17 years||children younger than 8 years old must be in rear seat if available||$25||Not mentioned|
|Nevada||NV||less than 6 years of age and weighing 60 pounds or less||law states no preference for rear seat||$100 or more||Not mentioned|
|New Hampshire||NH||less than 2 years old||6 years and younger who are less than 57 inches||7 through 17 years; younger than 7 who are at least 57 inches tall||law states no preference for rear seat||$50||Not mentioned|
|New Jersey||NJ||younger than 2 years and less than 30 pounds;||younger than 4 years and less than 40 pounds;||younger than 8 years and less than 57 inches||all passengers under eight years of age and at least 57 inches in height, and all passengers who are at least eight years of age but less than 18 years of age||children 7 years and younger and less than 57 inches must be in the rear seat if available, no child shall be secured in a rear facing infant seat in a front seat of any motor vehicle which is equipped with a passenger-side airbag that is not disabled||$75||Not mentioned|
|New Mexico||NM||less than 1 year old||1 through 4 years or less than 40 pounds||5 through 6 or less than 60 pounds||7 through 17 years||children younger than one year in a rear-facing child restraint must be in the rear seat if available||$25||Not mentioned|
|New York||NY||younger than 2 years||younger than 4 years||4 through 7 years||8 through 15 years; children who weigh more than 40 pounds or children 4 through 7 years in a seating position where there is no available lap/shoulder belt||$100||Not mentioned|
|North Carolina||NC||7 years and younger and less than 80 pounds||8 through 15 years + children 40-80 pounds in seats without shoulder belts||children 4 years and younger who weigh less than 40 pounds must be in the rear seat unless the front passenger airbag is deactivated or the restraint is designed for use with airbags||$25||Not mentioned|
|North Dakota||ND||7 years and younger and less than 57 inches||8 through 17 years; 7 years and younger and at least 57 inches||law states no preference for rear seat||$25||Not mentioned|
|Ohio||OH||3 years and younger or less than 40 pounds in child restraint;||4 through 7 years who weigh 40 pounds or more and who are shorter than 57 inches||8 through 14 years||law states no preference for rear seat||$75||Not mentioned|
|Oklahoma||OK||younger than 2 years or until weight/height limits||younger than 4 years in a child restraint;||4 through 7 years, if not taller than 4 feet 9 inches, in a child restraint or booster seat||8 years; children who are taller than 4 feet 9 inches||law states no preference for rear seat||$50||Not mentioned|
|Oregon||OR||younger than 2 years||7 or younger: 40 pounds or less must be in a child restraint;||7 or younger: more than 40 pounds but 4 feet and 9 inches or less must be in a booster seat||taller than 4 feet and 9 inches; 8 through 15||law states no preference for rear seat||$115||Not mentioned|
|Pennsylvania||PA||less than 2 years old||2 through 3 years||4 through 7 years||8 years of age or older and younger than 18 years old||law states no preference for rear seat||$75||Not mentioned|
|Rhode Island||RI||younger than 2 years or less than 30 pounds||under 8 years old and less than 57 inches and less than 80 pounds||7 years and younger who either weigh 80 pounds or more or who are at least 57 inches tall; 8 through 17||children under 8 years old must be in rear seat if available||$85||Not mentioned|
|South Carolina||SC||younger than 2 years||children 2 and older||children 4 and older||8 years or at least 57 inches tall||7 years and younger must be in the rear seat if available||$150||Not mentioned|
|South Dakota||SD||4 years and younger and less than 40 pounds||5 through 17 years; all children 40+ pounds, regardless of age||law states no preference for rear seat||$25||Not mentioned|
|Tennessee||TN||under 1 year of age or less than 20 pounds||between age 1 to 3, or more than 20 pounds||between 4-8 years old, under 4 feet 9 inches||9-12 years old, or over the age of 12 and less than 4 feet 9 inches||law states no preference for rear seat||$50||Not mentioned|
|Texas||TX||under than 8 years of age and less than 57 inches||not permissible||$25-$250||Not mentioned|
|Utah||UT||7 years and younger and shorter than 57 inches||8 through 15 years; all children 57 inches or taller||$45||Not mentioned|
|Vermont||VT||younger than 1 year old, or less than 20 lbs||1 through 7 and more than 20 pounds||8 through 17 years||Rear-facing car seat with airbag inactive||$25||Not mentioned|
|Virginia||VA||younger than 2 years old||7 years and younger||8 through 17 years||Rear-facing car seat with airbag inactive||$50||Not mentioned|
|Washington||WA||under 2 years||under 4 years||4 years or older and 4'9"||4'9" or taller||younger than 13 years in back seat||$124||Not mentioned|
|West Virginia||WV||7 years and younger||4'9" or taller||law states no preference for rear seat||$20||Not mentioned|
|Wisconsin||WI||less than 12 months and 20 lbs||one year or older but under 4 years old, 20 pounds or more but less than 40 pounds||under 8 years of age, less than 80 lbs, and shorter than 4'9"||less than 8 years with federal approved seat belt systems||$75||Not mentioned|
|Wyoming||WY||8 years or younger||not mention||12 years or under in back seat||$50||Not mentioned|
Common Phrases on State Car Seat Laws
To help you better understand the car seat and booster seat laws, we want you to know some common phrases and words and what they might mean.
This means that the car seat should be used completely following the instructions provided by the manufacturer and attached to the car seat package.
When you see the “proper use” words in your state’s car seat laws, you’d better properly install and use the car seat by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Sometimes, you’ll find the ‘appropriate’ or ‘properly’ words in a state’s laws, which usually means you can use the car seat for children who will fit well within the weight and height limits from the car seat’s label.
However, if your state law has the “proper use” phrases on a specific car seat type, like a booster seat with a minimum weight limit of 40 pounds, you can’t legally put a 35-pound baby in it.
Car seat laws are different in each state, but the approval process of car seats and booster seats is covered by the federal government.
Most state laws require that your kid’s car seat must be federally approved, meaning that the car seat has passed the testing and certification process that is conducted by the government.
Manufacturers usually do their own testing by following a set of federal standards before releasing a car seat on the market.
They self-certify that the car seat meets the standards, and then the federal government does spot checks to ensure compliance.
The “And” word generally means that the car seat should meet all the requirements if you find two or more requirements are joined by “and” on the state law.
For example, if the law says your child must be one-year-old and 20 pounds to use a forward-facing car seat, both requirements must be met.
The “Or” word is a bit different, it usually requires you to meet one of the requirements that are joined by “or”. Most state booster seat laws use this pattern.
Rear-Facing Car Seat Laws in the United States
According to the rules from the NHTSA, rear-facing is the first stage to ride an infant from birth. So, it’s important for parents, especially for new parents who have their first baby to know the regulations on child restraint devices in the rear-facing position.
Rear-Facing Weight Rules
After checking the laws in 50 states, we just find that the common weight mentioned are 20 pounds, 30 pounds, and 40 pounds.
These three weight rules are typically the upper weight limit required for rear-facing.
Some states are strictly following the guidelines of NHTSA and require a high rear-facing requirement of 40 pounds.
If you’re living or traveling in a state that requires riding the infants facing the rear up to 40-pound, it’s better to use a car seat with a higher rear-facing limit, convertible, and all-in-one are two great car seat types you can consider.
Infant-only car seats feature a low rear-facing weight limit of around 30-35 pounds, which is friendly for those states that require a lower rear-facing weight limit.
Rear-Facing Height Rules
Few US states mention the height requirement for rear-facing in local laws, only California and Illinois do.
Both states require children under 40-inch in height to ride facing the back.
Most states recommend keeping your child rear-facing until they exceed the height limit of the car seat.
Rear-Facing Age Rules
Age requirement is the major leading rule in the rear-facing car seat laws of all US states. No surprise about this. NHTSA also suggests riding the child rear-facing until they are 2 years old.
However, not all states will adopt the guidelines from NHTSA. Some of the US states have a lower age requirement – one-year-old.
Infant-only car seats are also a great choice in these states that require one-year-old kids to travel rear-facing
FAQs on Rear-Facing for Infants and Toddlers
According to the suggestion from Consumer Reports, car seats installed in a rear-facing position will spread the crash force more evenly across the back of the car seat and the child’s body.
When facing the back, the car seat also limits the motion of the head, reducing the potential for a neck injury, and keeps the child more contained within the shell of the child restraint.
Convertible car seats generally come with a minimum weight requirement of 4-5 pounds.
It means newborn babies can ride in this type of car seat as long as they reach the lowest weight limit.
To ride a newborn baby safely home from the hospital, parents should always install the car seat in the vehicle by following the manufacturer’s instructions in the manual attached.
After researching and reviewing 50+ car seats, we found that Chicco KeyFit 30 is the best option for most parents who have a premature newborn baby.
It features a 4-pound minimum weight limit, along with extra inserts, making it friendly to ride a low birth baby.
Measure your child’s weight or height and make sure both requirements are within the limits designated by the car seat manufacturer.
A child has outgrown the rear-facing seat when either of the following happens:
- the top of their head is less than one inch from the top of the seat when buckled in.
- they’ve reached the rear-facing weight limit, which is typically 30 to 35 pounds for infant-only car seats and 40 to 50 pounds for convertible and all-in-one car seats
As long as your child is large enough for a convertible car seat, it’s time to switch them to a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness.
You should always install and ride the child following the manufacturer’s instructions, no matter which type of forward-facing car seats you have chosen, convertible, harnessed booster, or all-in-one.
Forward-Facing Car Seat Laws in the United States
After checking and updating the local laws for 50+ US states, we find it’s much harder to summarise the common rules on forward-facing weight, height, and car seat age.
The differences vary greatly. But we’ll try our best to quote some basic rules.
Forward-Facing Weight Rules
Typically, the forward-facing is the next step of rear-facing, and the minimum weight requirements are just stepping the rear-facing rules as well.
So, you’ll see the 20 pounds, 30 pounds, and 40 pounds in the forward-facing laws for child car seats too.
However, you should always know the saying in the laws.
Commonly, the rear-facing laws will include the words ‘less than’ before the weight requirement. That means the 20-30-40 weights are considered the real minimum weight limit for forward-facing.
There is also an upper weight limit for forward-facing. 40-pound is mentioned most in the laws, only Maine requires a unique 55-pound in the forward-facing weight rule.
After reviewing 50+ child car seats, we can tell you that most forward-facing car seats, including convertible, booster with a harness, and all-one, are able to ride your child within the weight limit.
Forward-Facing Height Rules
Height is not a common factor in forward-facing rules, which only talk about the height limit of forward-facing car seats.
If so, you just need to follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions to ride your child until he or she reaches the upper weight limit.
Forward-Facing Age Rules
FAQs on Forward-Facing for Toddlers and Preschooler
Commonly, your baby can ride forward-facing as long he or she outgrows their rear-facing car seats.
99% of infant-only car seats are designed with an upper weight limit ranging from 30-35 pounds and an upper height limit of 32-inch.
If you choose this type of car seat for your baby, then you can switch to forward-facing around 12 months or 18 months old.
Convertible and all-in-one car seats generally have higher weight and height limits, between 40-50 pounds and 32-43 inches.
It means you can move your baby forward-facing at 2 years or older.
However, you should always purchase the right car seat in accordance with the local laws in your state.
According to the table of the law above, one-year-old and two-year-old are the most common age requirements for rear-facing. That means, your baby can turn to a forward-facing car seat after their first or second birthday.
A child has outgrown a forward-facing convertible seat when:
- they hit the weight limit (which, for most forward-facing car seats, is 65 pounds).
- the tops of their ears are at or above the top of the car seat’s shell or head restraint.
- The harness straps can’t be positioned at or above their shoulders.
Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, it’s time to move them to the next car seat stage – booster.
The booster seats, no matter high back or backless, are much safer than seat belts for protection. They work well to uplift the child so that the seat belts can be placed in the right position across the little’s body.
Booster Seat Laws in the United States
Booster Weight Rules
40-pound is a common weight requirement for booster seat laws in US states.
It’s also the minimum weight requirement designated by the car seat manufacturer.
The upper weight limits vary on car seat brands, types, and modes, but typically range between 100 to 120 pounds.
Booster Height Rules
The height requirement is important for booster seats. The 57-inch (or 4 feet 9 inches) is the most usual height rule you can find in the laws of most US states.
That’s why 95% or more child booster seats are manufactured with this upper height limit. Some even feature a higher height limit up to 63 inches.
Booster Age Rules
4-year-old and 8-year-old are two major age requirements for a child booster.
One is the minimum requirement and the other is the maximum requirement.
However, you’ll find the words ‘less than’ or ‘under’ or ‘younger than’ before 8 years of age.
Some states may only require children under 6 years of age to be secured in a child restraint system, but not mention a booster anyway.
FAQs on Belt-Positioning Booster for Children
According to the booster seat laws in most US states, children who are under 8 years old must ride in a booster seat.
Only several states say in the law that children under 8 years of age can ride in a seat belt. Nevada for 6 years of age to be secured in a child restraint system. And South Dakota allows a child who is at least 5 years of age or older to wear a safety seat belt like an adult.
Boosters are designed to raise the child so the vehicle seat belt fits their body properly, with the shoulder and lap belts positioned to provide optimum protection while minimizing potential harm.
It’s a common rule to secure a booster with the lap and shoulder belt system. However, some states also mention cases without a shoulder belt. If you are in the same situation, you should check the local laws and find if it’s allowed to install the booster with only a lap belt in the back seat.
Child in Seat Belts Laws in the United States
Seat Belt Weight Rules
Weight is not a leading requirement for seat belt rules. Only several states mention a weight requirement, for example, 60-pound for Arkansas and Connecticut, 65-pound for Alaska and Delaware,80-pound for Kansas, Maine, and Missouri.
Seat Belt Height Rules
The 57-inch is the most common height requirement in the laws. It’s the lowest limit allowed to be secured in a seat belt in the car.
Seat Belt Age Rules
8-year-olds are the deciding age factor in the laws. It’s the minimum age requirement mentioned in most state legislatures.
FAQs on Seat Belt for Older Kids
California law allows for a child 8 years of age or older to use a seat belt. However, it is safer for your child to remain in a booster seat until they can complete the 5-Step Test:
The 5-Step Test:
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm, resting on the collarbone?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If your answers are ‘Yes’ to all the above five questions, it means your child is large enough to ride with a seat belt.
No, it’s not allowed to buckle two or more children in one seat belt. Proper installation with an appropriate tightness allows the seat belt for optimal protection.
Securing two children in one seat belt can’t get the best result.
No. The best practice is to put the shoulder belt across the center of the chest.