Toddler Car Seat Buying Guide

Find out when you should buy a toddler car seat and what to look for when you're making your choice. Plus, browse the top car seats on the market.

01 of 07

When to Buy a Toddler Car Seat

Hot Car Child Car Seat
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants and toddlers ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat's manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will permit children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.

If you purchased a convertible car seat, keep the seat rear-facing as long as possible as the AAP notes, then re-install your car seat to face forward once your child has reached the maximum capacity of the car seat. If you purchased an infant-only car seat that can only be installed rear-facing, once your child meets the max safety requirements of that seat, it's time to invest in a forward-facing toddler car seat. Here's what to look for when you head out shopping.

RELATED: Is Your 1-Year-Old in the Right Car Seat? Here Are the Rules

02 of 07

5-Point Harness

5-Point Harness
Courtesy of Evenflo

A 5-point harness is a combination of safety belts that clip across your toddler's chest, over his thighs, and between his legs. This harness will restrain your child in the event of an accident and keep him snug and secure at all other times.

It's also a good idea to get a seat with an overhead shield — the padded tray-like attachment that rests in front of his belly. This tray provides extra protection in the event of a crash and is a great table for toys and other objects while traveling.

RELATED: 9 Best Convertible Car Seats 2018

03 of 07

Tether Attachment is a Must

Tether car seat attachment
Courtesy of Edmunds.com

A tether is a strap that attaches the top of the car seat to an anchor in your vehicle. All new cars, minivans, and light trucks have been required to install tether anchors since September 2000, and almost all car seats come with tethers. If you have an older seat or an older car, it may be possible to purchase a tether kit from the car seat manufacturer. However, it is always best to purchase a new car seat to ensure your child's safety isn't compromised by an outdated or previously damaged chair.

RELATED: How to Install a Car Seat: A Confused Parent's Guide

04 of 07

Adequate Padding

Car seat with padding
Courtesy of Britax

Your child will have a more comfortable riding experience if she's surrounded by soft, plush pads around her head and back. If there is extra space around her and she isn't snug in the chair, tuck rolled-up blankets around her (but never under or behind) for added support.

RELATED: How to Safely Match a Car Seat with Your Car

05 of 07

A Machine-Washable Cover

Car seat cover
Courtesy of Target.com

Toddlers are messy — there's no way around it. Save yourself from hassle and frustration by selecting a car seat with a removable, machine-washable cover. Little spills and stains aren't such a big deal when they can be thoroughly washed away.

RELATED: The Best Car Seats for Babies and Toddlers

06 of 07

Top Car Seats for Babies and Toddlers

Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat
Courtesy of Amazon

Ready to go for a ride? Check out these top-rated car seats to keep you little one as safe and comfy as possible.

Browse Car Seats for Babies and Toddlers

07 of 07

When to Switch a Car Seat

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