Picking the best car seat for your child is never an easy decision. There are so many options and features to consider.
Choosing the best car seat for 4 year old is made more difficult by the fact that 4-year-olds are in a transitional phase. They don’t need an infant seat, but they are too young for a booster.
To help you with your decision, we will talk about what car seat should a 4 year old be in, answer a few FAQs, and of course, provide our top picks for the best car seat for four year old in a variety of categories. If you are lost in a toddler car seat conundrum, read on!
Here’s a quick overview!
- Best Overall: Britax Grow with You ClickTight Car Seat
- Most Versatile: Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat
- Easiest to Clean: Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Seat
- Best for Tall Kids: Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat
- Best for Travel: WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat
- Best Affordable: Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat
- Most Comfortable: Maxi-Cosi Pria 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
- What Type of Car Seat is Best for a 4 Year Old?
- Can my 4 year old sit in a backless booster?
- Should my 4 year old be rear facing?
- Seven Super Car Seats for Four Year Olds
- #1 Britax Grow with You ClickTight Car Seat – Best Overall
- #2 Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat – Most Versatile
- #3 Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Seat – Easiest to Clean
- #4 Maxi-Cosi Pria 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat – Most Comfortable
- #5 WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat – Best for Travel
- #6 Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat – Best for Tall Kids
- #7 Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat – Best Affordable
- Choosing the Best Car Seat for Your Four Year Old
- Which Seat Suits Your Four Year Old?
You probably know your child shouldn’t be in an infant seat nor do they have to be rear-facing like 2-year-olds. But there is more than one choice when it comes to a child car seat for 4 year old.
So what car seat should a 4 year old be in? After an infant car seat, you can choose from a convertible car seat or a forward-facing car seat. Once your child exceeds the forward-facing car seat limits, they should move onto a booster seat.
It is hard to know exactly what position and car seat your child should use because they all have different weight and height guidelines. In general, the AAP, or the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that all children should be in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. This means until at least two years of age and commonly up to four years of age.
Most experts agree that four-year-olds should also be in a seat with a five-point harness. There are three types of car seats that typically have a five-point harness.
- Convertible Car Seats. A car seat that converts from a rear-facing position to a forward-facing position.
- Combination Car Seats. A car seat that transitions from a forward-facing position to a type of booster seat.
- All-In-One Car Seats. A car seat that converts from an infant seat to rear-facing, to forward-facing, to a booster.
Sometimes, it can be confusing as to whether an infant car seat or convertible car seat is better, or what makes one better than the other for convertible vs all-in-one car seat. But don’t worry! Each one of these car seats will have specific weight and height guidelines that will inform you as to when you can make the transition to the next seat position.
Just because your car seat may convert to a booster does not mean that your child is ready for the booster. The recommended car seat for 4 year old is one that keeps them the safest and suits their size.
So, if your child is within the weight and height range for the car seat’s rear-facing position with the use of the five-point harness you should keep them in that position until they exceed the maximum height or weight.
The booster position may have a weight or height low enough that your four-year-old meets it. And most states allow a four year to sit in a booster.
However, most four-year-olds are not developmentally ready to maintain proper form while sitting in a booster seat. Proper form is sitting up tall and straight and keeping the shoulder belt and lap belt correctly positioned. This is especially difficult to do if your child falls asleep in the car.
Even if your four-year-old is “ready” according to their size, they likely aren’t mature enough for a booster, be it a backless booster or otherwise.
As mentioned, the AAP recommends that children stay rear-facing as long as possible. Previously they had recommended children stay rear-facing until the age of two. They have since dropped the age limit.
Therefore, if your child still fits within the car seat’s rear-facing weight and height limits then they should be positioned rear-facing.
Here, we’ve listed seven recommendations we think are best for your 4-year-old after comparing the pros and cons of each product and going through many car seat reviews and feedback from parents.
- Highback Booster
- Highback Booster
- Backless Booster
- Highback Booster
- Highback Booster
- Highback Booster
- Backless Booster
- Highback Booster
I absolutely love the Britax Grow with You ClickTight car seat and if you are looking for the safest car seat for 4 year old you really can’t beat it. This car seat replaced the previous model, the Britax Frontier, and is an upgrade!
It has a high-strength steel frame, a unique V-shaped tether that limits forward movement in a crash, and SafeCell padding. Together these things make for one supremely safe car seat. The durable construction of the seat is covered with plush athleisure fabric that keeps kids cool and comfortable.
The seat effortlessly transitions from forward-facing to highback booster. The upfront adjustment of the harness and headrest allow for easy customization.
Parents don’t have to worry about a secure install. The addition of ClickTight means that you get a tight and safe seat belt installation every time. Available in a variety of colors and patterns, this seat is stylish and safe.
Want to know more about why it is a top-rated car seats for 4 year old? Head over to our Britax Frontier vs Graco Nautilus to see how it compares.
- TRUSTED QUALITY, UPDGRADED DESIGN: Looking for Frontier? Grow with you ClickTight is our newest harness to booster car seat
- PREMIUM, SOFT TOUCH FABRIC: 4-way stretch athleisure fabric combines style and function for a modern look that’s easy to clean
- 2 in 1 BOOSTER SEAT: Easily transitions from forward facing harness mode to belt positioning booster mode as your child grows from toddler to big kid
If your child is young, and you are thinking ahead, or you have future siblings in mind, we love the Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat. You can read all about this awesome seat in our Graco 4Ever car seat review, but here are a few highlights.
Graco truly means forever as you can get ten years of use out of this single seat. It transitions from a rear-facing seat that can be used at birth to a backless booster for children up to 120 pounds.
It has four modes, ten headrest and harness positions, and six recline options to keep your child comfortable. Two cup holders are very convenient for drinks and snacks. Parents love the 60-second rapid remove cover that can be tossed directly into the washing machine.
- 4 in 1 car seat gives you 10 years of use: seamlessly transforms from rear facing harness car seat (4 40 pounds), to forward facing harness car seat (22 65 pounds), to high back belt positioning booster (40 100 pounds), to backless belt positioning booster (40 120 pounds)
- Graco protect Plus engineered helps to protect Your little one in frontal, side, rear and rollover crashes
- Simply safe adjust harness system adjusts the height of your harness and headrest to 10 positions in one motion to ensure that Your child is always properly secured.Do not use bleach
We can’t talk about 4 year old car seat recommendations without mentioning the Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Seat. It is similar to the Graco 4ever, but more budget-friendly. It has three modes and is suitable for children weighing 5 pounds all the way up to 100 pounds. Plush infant inserts can be removed as your child grows.
Adjusting the seat to fit their height and weight is easy. The headrest and harness adjust together in one simple motion. Multiple recline options also help parents find the perfect fit for their little one. Two cup holders keep necessities close at hand. Should they spill, the removable seat cover is safe for both your washer and dryer! Want to know more? Check out our Safety 1st Grow and Go review.
- Built to grow: The 3 in 1 car seat built to grow for extended use through 3 stages: Rear facing 5 to 40 pounds, forward facing 22 to 65 pounds, and belt positioning booster 40 to 100 pounds
- Side impact protection: The grow and go’s side impact protection helps keep your child safe
- Easy in, easy out: Harness holders keep the harness in an open position so it is easy to get your child in and out of the seat. Rear facing height is 19 to 40 inches. Forward facing height is 29 to 52 inches
If you don’t yet need a booster seat for 4 year old but will soon, you should check out the Maxi-Cosi Pria 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat. I love how streamlined this seat is, making it very easy to use. It has three seating options: rear-facing, forward-facing, and highback booster mode. It can suit children from 4 pounds to 100 pounds, making it possibly the only car seat you will ever need. Smooth fabrics and plush padding keep even the youngest riders cool and content.
The harness and headrest adjust in one swift movement. The harness holders are very convenient when you are getting your little one in and out.
Removable cup holders are a blessing because those things always get full of gunk. Even the seat cover can go through the washer and dryer. Cell side-impact and European safety engineering mean your child is protected during almost any type of crash.
- 3 in 1 seating system: Rear facing, from 4-40 pounds; Forward facing to 65 pounds; And up to 100 pounds in booster mode
- Side impact protection with cell protects your child's head where it's needed most in a side impact crash
- In and out harness holders keep straps out of the way when buckling
For families on the go, the WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat is a must-have. It can be used with children over the age of two and weighing between 22 pounds and 50 pounds. Therefore, it is suitable for most four-year-olds. The best part about this seat is that it acts as a highback booster, complete with a five-point harness. But, it can be folded into a carrying case! At only 8 pounds, carrying by the handle or as a backpack is painless.
When you are ready to travel by plane or vehicle, just unfold the seat and secure it with the LATCH tethers. The AeroWing aluminum is very sturdy, and its design meets all NHTSA and FAA safety standards. The AeroMesh fabric keeps occupants cool and comfortable. This seat is a breeze to travel with!
- ANYWHERE YOU GO: Pico travel car seat is ideal for kids ages 2+ and within the range of 22-50 lbs. and 30-45 inches. Whether you’re ridesharing or road tripping, Pico’s 5-point safety harness has you and your little ones covered. Each bundle comes with a Travel Bag where Pico can be stored and carried as a backpack, with the carrying handle, or slipped on the handle of rolling luggage.
- DESIGNED FOR SAFETY: Pico meets all U.S. safety standards regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration, so it’s ready for road or air travel. FAA approved sticker is located on the bottom of the seat (see image for detail).
- LIGHTWEIGHT DESIGN: Weighing just 8 pounds, the Pico travel car seat makes it easy to travel light. Our AeroWing aerospace-grade aluminum frame offers lightweight strength, and the AstroKnit performance wool/polyester mesh fabric cover keeps kids cool and comfortable. Travel Bag is made from durable bluesign-certified recycled polyester.
The Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat is awesome for taller kids thanks to its highback and spacious seat depth. You can check out all the specs in our Evenflo Maestro car seat review, but in a nutshell, it accommodates kids from 22 to 110 pounds. As a sports model, the design is sleek and has a compact footprint. But it isn’t roomy or uncomfortable for occupants. It has the perfect amount of padding and touchably soft fabrics to wick away moisture.
Transitioning the seat from forward-facing mode to booster mode is hassle-free. When your child outgrows the easy-adjust five-point harness you can use the convenient seat belt guides. Achieving a secure install with either the LATCH or the seat belt is simple. The upfront harness adjustment makes customizing your child’s seat a breeze. With parent-friendly installation and added safety measures, you can be sure of a safe ride every time!
- 2 Modes - Converts to booster: Forward-facing harness with belt-positioning booster supports children 22-110 pounds. The height recommendation of a child in harnessed booster is 28-50 inches and in the seat belt booster mode, it is 44-57 inches
- 5-Point Harness with 50 pounds. Limit: Holds child's body safely and securely in the car seat
- Upfront Harness Adjust: Central, front access to the harness adjuster provides an easy way to adjust child's harness for an accurate, snug fit
Coming to the end of the list, we have the Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat, a budget-friendly option for safety-conscious parents. It is extra compact, made to fit three across in many vehicle’s back seats.
It is also very light, meaning switching cars won’t be a huge burden. Great for children from 30 to 100 pounds, this seat can be used in forward-facing mode or belt-positioning booster mode.
The deluxe fabrics feel great, while parents will love them for the ease of care being machine washable and dryer safe. Even the cup holder can be removed and placed in the dishwasher! When you go to reinstall the cup holder, you can choose which side to put it on as it is reversible. It is safe and convenient at an affordable price.
- Extended Use: Forward-facing with harness 30-65 pounds and Belt-positioning Booster 40-100 pounds
- Designed to fit 3 across in most vehicles - Great for growing families and car pools
- Lightweight and easy to move from car to car
Picking the best four-year-old car seat is a very important choice. There are many things you should consider beyond safety and comfort.
Type of Car Seat. If you are purchasing a car seat for your infant, and plan to still be using it when they’re four you will likely want a convertible seat or an all-in-one. However, if you are buying a car seat when your child is four you do not need a seat that can be used in infant mode. Therefore, you may prefer a convertible car seat that transitions from forward-facing to booster.
Reflect on the type of car seat your child needs currently, and in the future. There is no point in spending extra money for more modes if your child has already outgrown them.
Car Size. Many times car seats with extra comfort or safety features can be quite bulky. If your vehicle is smaller, think about getting a slim-feat seat. A comfortable car seat for 4 year old can still have a compact profile that keeps other car occupants comfortable too.
Many car seats that are designed for small cars are also ideal for vehicles in which you need to fit more than one child. Advertised as 3-across seats, these car seats have narrow bases that allow you to fit three of them in a single row.
The Height and Weight Limit of the Seat. Much like car seat type, think about your little one’s current height and weight as well as their future growth. You probably won’t have much use for seats whose limits they have surpassed.
However, you do need them to be able to use the car seat for hopefully the rest of their car seat stage. Make sure you get a seat that they can “grow into” and that will transition with them.
Car Seat Weight & Size. You want the car seat to fit properly and comfortably in your car. Choose a seat that suits your vehicle size. Another consideration is if you will need to transfer the seat from vehicle to vehicle or travel with it.
Most convertible seats and all-in-one seats are rather heavy. However, they do make more portable options that are easier to manage when traveling or switching cars.
Installation Type. Thankfully, most modern car seats are equipped with both LATCH and installment via seat belt options. Though it never hurts to double-check.
An important tip: Many car seats’ LATCH installation option has a weight limit. For most car seats LATCH cannot be used with children weighing 40 pounds or more.
Safety & Comfort Features. There are a wide variety of safety and comfort features to choose from. You can find car seats that offer steel reinforced frames, bumper bars, cup holders, and even snack compartments. But remember, these things usually come at a price, both in terms of cost and size.
Cleaning Convenience. Toddlers are messy, it is a fact of life. If your child will be eating or drinking in the car seat (which is typically unavoidable) you may want to consider an easy-clean cover. Look for a cover that is effortless to take off, like rapid remove, and can be machine washed and placed in the dryer.
Expiration Date. If you are not purchasing your car seat new, be sure to check the expiration date. Using an expired car seat is extremely dangerous. Buying your seat new is always encouraged as you cannot be 100% sure of a used car seat’s accident record and care.
Price and Buyer’s Budget. Undoubtedly, the best car seat for 4 year old is one that suits your budget. Make sure the price matches the number of accessories and safety options that come with the car seat.
If you have a young child, some car seats may be considered an investment but hopefully, your child will be able to use them from birth until they outgrow car seats altogether.
Hopefully, we have answered the question of what type of car seat for a 4 year old? The best proper car seat for 4 year old is one that keeps your child comfortable and safe while being convenient for you.
When it comes to meeting these requirements, our number one is the Britax Grow with You ClickTight Car Seat. The steel frame, added safety measures, and super comfortable fabric make it an instant favorite. However, you must choose a seat that fits your budget and needs! Any of the seats on this list would make an excellent choice.
Last update on 2021-09-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API