Best Car Seat for 3-Year-Old Pros, Cons & Recommendations


Welcome to the best car seat for 3 year old award show!

I’ve spent the last 30 days testing out car seats for my 3 yo, and I’ve left no stone unturned; besides driving around a ton, I’ve asked other moms, checked reviews, and investigated recalls to bring you the best possible car seats for your 3 year old, meanwhile good old dad was kicking it back without a worry, time to return the favor, honey…


Finding the perfect car seat for your little one comes down to three things your available space, safety requirements, and budget. As soon as you know these, it will be easy to find that car seat that is super comfy and safe at the same time.

You see, I have a 3 year old too, and I know how big of a time suck is comparing and researching, and this is why I’ve decided to help you out. By reading this post until the end, you will find the right car seat without spending weeks researching.

Besides my 3 year old I have two other kids, so I’ve racked up some experience under my belt with car seats. So I’m ranking the best 6 seats on safety features, comfort, ease of install, perks, and of course, price.

Frankly, picking any car seat from the list below is a guaranteed winner. These are truly the best of the best, and you can’t go wrong with them.
Let’s see those seats already!


In a Hurry? Here Are the Top Car Seats for 3 Year Olds


For families who want the real deal and a full-time car seat that is easy to install and has all the safety features with a soft seat

For parents who want the safest car seat on the market and are fed up with buying the next stage seat before time is due

For kids that want the ultimate comfort car seat while being kept safe on the dangerous roads

Researched Sources

Reviews Considered


Products Evaluated


best car seat for 3 year old


#1 Britax One4life – Best Car Seat For 3 Year Old

Best-Car-Seat-For-3-Year-OldThe Britax One4life won the Best Car Seat For 3 Year Old.

3 year old is old enough to express their needs. The main reason why One4Life is the winner is that it has everything a three-year-old will need. From the child’s perspective, it looks cool, and it’s comfortable.

I’ve reviewed tons of car seats, and by far, this one has the most cushion. Also, it has two cup holders, which is perfect for a toddler. In one they can keep their drinks and in the second one is perfect for toys.

From a parent’s perspective, it has all the safety requirements. From the steel frame that can handle any type of crash continuing with the SafeCell Tech. This tech absorbs impact energy and protects your toddler from harm.

It’s an expensive car seat, and this will be the last one you will buy. It will serve your child up to 120 pounds. Plus, for parents who value extended rear-facing, it’s possible up to 50 pounds.

For parents, the cover washability is important as well. Finally, Britax has answered this call. It was an ongoing joke with this brand that they can design a car seat that can handle anything, besides the washing machine.

The Britax One4Life’s cover can be easily removed and washed with a washing machine.

It has one because it answers both the kid’s and parent’s needs.

  • It’s easy to install, and it’s impossible to mess it up
  • Extremely durable it will last for ten years and serve several kids
  • Finally, a Britax car seat that allows machine washing the material
  • It’s pricey and if you plan to buy more than one you need a serious budget
  • It’s large and heavy anything for safety


#2 Maxi Cosi Pria 85 – Best Convertible Car Seat For 3 Year Old

Highest-Quality-Car-Seat-For-3-Year-OldThis incident happened with some friends of ours. They were on a regular road trip. It was the same old road in the same boring distance. Their little one was asleep in the back.

Then the unthinkable happened. They got rear-ended by a tractor-trailer going 70 mph.

The father tried his best to avoid the crash. The impact was so powerful that he lost control. To make things worse, the trunk was gone. It was such a vicious collision.

The car started skidding left and right and finally came to a stop in the dirt.

After everything calmed down, the first instinct for the parents was to check on their little one. He was fine. He had some wide eyes and was scared, but there wasn’t a scratch on him.

If you value luxury at an affordable price, you have found the perfect car seat for your 3-year-old. As you have seen in the accident above, this car seat is safe. The head wings aren’t just for show. They protect your child in case of a side-impact and it helps them sleep comfortably.

This Maxi Cosi has only one cup holder. It’s one of the best ones I’ve seen (take a look at the best maxi cosi car seats page for more). Crafty little ones won’t be able to undo them and turn them into projectiles. We had that experience many times with clip-on cup holders.

This was the first car seat that I’ve seen to use magnetic buckle holders. No more fishing under your toddler’s bum.

It’s a safe car seat with a few unique features and a winner.

  • It comes with magnetic clasps so no more fishing for the buckles
  • No straps rethreading ever
  • It’s easy to clean, and it’s dryer friendly
  • This is a big seat not meant for small kids or a small car
  • It’s extremely wide it will take a lot of space


#3 Britax Advocate Convertible Car Seats – The Safest Car Seat For 3 Year Olds

The-Safest-Car-Seat-For-Three-Year-OldsThis accident happened to my cousin. She was driving on the highway while the three kids were sitting quietly in the back.

There was an accident up ahead, and she noticed it too late. Because of the accident, there was a long queue of cars.

Reflex kicked in. She slammed the brakes as hard as she could. The SUV was going with 70 mph, and there wasn’t sufficient space for a dead stop.

The last thing she tried was to avoid colliding with the stopped cars. She grabbed the wheel and tried to maneuver. She lost control, and the SUV flipped over. According to bystanders, the car flipped over 5-6 times.

The crash was horrific. Everything that wasn’t bolted down like phones and camping gear became a lethal projectile. Their family dog Coco got ejected from the car. After the rolling stopped, the SUV rested on the side.

They were lucky that day. All of them walked away with minor injuries such as cuts and bruises. Coco wasn’t hurt either.

Rollover accidents are few, but they are the deadliest. Four lives were saved thanks to the safety equipment. The Britax Advocate did its job, and the three kids were safe from serious harm.

The car seat sits on a steel frame, so no wonder the kids were safe. There are three layers of side impact protection to utilize, and it was tested in the crash above.

It’s an excellent and safe car seat for a three-year-old. It allows extended rear-facing up to 40 pounds, and since it’s a convertible, the upper limit of use is set to 65 pounds. Besides being safe, you’re getting many years of servitude from this car seat.

It has won for all the reasons above.

  • It’s a fortress which provides both front-facing and rear-facing mode
  • According to a policeman parent, it’s absolutely the best
  • It’s easy to understand thanks to the well-assembled manual
  • It’s heavy once you have installed you won’t move from the car
  • ARB looks like an afterthought a bit flimsy


#4 Clek Fllo Convertible Seat – Best Travel Car Seat for 3 Year Old

Best-Travel-Car-Seat-for-3-Year-OldClek is one of the few car seat makers that don’t use any toxic materials on their fabrics. Also, they were the first ones that passed government standards without harmful flame retardants.

The secret for their success is the merino wool. It’s a natural product that is not bleached with chemicals. This car seat is an excellent choice for parents who want to keep their kids safe from fumes. Plus, if your little one has skin sensitivity, this car seat will help.

Besides being skin-friendly, it has a lot to offer. First of all, it’s one of the safest ones to choose from. Also, it comes with space-saving tech. So if you want to 3 across, then, it’s perfectly doable.

The comfort is unbelievable. Many parents said that their child hated every car seat they have ever owned. All this changed with the Fllo. When they got it, the trips became quieter and less stressful. Since the kids were comfortable, they didn’t fuss.

It’s not the cheapest car seat to get. It gives a lot of mileage. It offers extended rear-facing up to 50 pounds. Since it’s a convertible, you can mount it forward-facing as well.

As you have seen, besides being an eco-product, it has a lot to offer for the price tag.

  • It looks good in the car, and it’s safe at the same time
  • It’s safe tests show that it has the least toxic chemicals and fire retardants
  • It’s the narrowest car seat you can buy. Two of these in the backseat, and there’s still room in the middle for an adult.
  • The stain resistive fabric is a good idea until a peeing accident. It fills all the hidden crevices so it will smell.
  • It’s hard to fly with this car seat. TSA agents warn against it.

You may also like: [Revealed] Best car seat for 6 year old 


#5 Diono Radian 3RXT – Best Lightweight Car Seat for 3 Year Old

Best-Booster-Seat-for-3-Year-OldThis accident happened to some friends of mine. The boys were out on a routine shopping trip.

The father was driving, and the little boy was enjoying the view from the back. They almost got home when it happened.

Another driver ran the red light and smashed into them. The impact came from the side from the driver’s side, where the little boy was sitting. The metal bent under the huge pressure. The windows cracked, and the airbags deployed.

The front of their van got destroyed. Both cars were totaled. The Radian did its job and protected the little boy from harm. There wasn’t even a scratch on him.

The Diono looks a bit big, and it has a secret. It actually one of the narrowest car seats you can get for a 3-year-old. It has space-saving technology, and you will be able to do 3 across without any problems.

As you have seen in the crash, it has protected the boy. They have gone above and beyond when it comes to safety. It has everything that you will ever need.

Why is this car seat ideal for a three-year-old? Because it has the big kid look. After a while, kids will want everything that bigger ones have. So this car seat will be much appreciated by them.  Not to mention Diono came out with some cool color combinations.

The Diono won in this category because it’s narrow, safe, cool, and 3-year old love it.

  • Finally, a car seat where the baby isn’t slouching or sliding down
  • It’s lightweight and easy to move around
  • It’s soft and padded plus it comes with side impact protection
  • The gray fabric is not that stain friendly
  • You can’t remove the fabric; the only solution is spot cleaning.


#6 Graco SlimFit Booster Car Seat – Best Booster Car Seat for 3-Year-Olds

Best-Budget-Friendly-Booster-Car-Seat-for-3-Year-OldsIf you’re looking for a convertible car seat on the budget, you have found the perfect one. It’s ideal for three-year-olds.

It has multiple functions that will come handy as the years go by. If you prefer to do extended rear-facing, then you will be able to do it up to 40 pounds. Even three-year-olds can benefit from rear-facing. In some countries in Europe, the mandatory for rear-facing is four years.

Besides allowing front and rear install, it has a booster mode as well. So this car seat can be the last one that you will ever need.

Wait, it gets better. The price is super affordable, and it has space-saving as well. According to Graco, you can save 10% in space.

Since we’re talking about 3-year-olds, then potty training is common. Also, you will have to face accidents and spills. The cover gets the most beating during these incidents. It’s good to know that Graco did a great job with their cover. You can easily remove it and throw it in the washing machine.

The SlimFit is an excellent choice for parents who are on a budget and want multiple functions and space-saving.

  • It’s a perfect car seat who wants three across
  • It has everything you need: safety, comfort, and sturdiness
  • Easy to use no manual threading of straps everything is automatic
  • You will need to force of Hulk to strap it down right
  • Not much tilting options if you want to mount it in rear-facing mode

If you liked this article, you might also like: [Revealed] Safest car seat for 4 year old

Buyer’s Guide

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when you are trying to find the best car seat. There are so many features, and some seats are marginally different. This is why I thought that I would give you a bonus. I will give you a quick and dirty buyer’s guide.

You will find out which are the four main things to look at so you have to eliminate car seats as fast as possible. Also, you will be only focusing the one that passes these tests.

Now before we can get to that, let me share with you two important tips.

Tip #1

Before you start with the installation process, decide where you want to mount the car seat. The safest place for your child is in the middle of the car. I know I’ve heard it a thousand times that’s not possible. So here’s my second suggestion. Go for the second safest pace, which is behind the driver.

Tip #2

The most important part of any car seat is the installation part. You have to get that right. Many car seats have upgraded to a more user-friendly install. No matter the procedure, you have to get it as tight as possible.

The wiggle room should be less than an inch. If you want to be sure, then you can reach out to a licensed professional. Even Amazon has this service of getting the car seat installed correctly.

So here comes my buyer’s guide. It’s a fast one to bring you up to speed.


Parents value safety over anything else. This is the most important part of any car seat. Here’s the truth. All car seat is safe on the market. If there are any issues, the recall is immediate.

Should you get more protection? The answer is not that easy to give. Accidents will happen no matter what you do. Most car seats are tested for front and rear collisions. A few left standing offer side impact protection. As you have seen above, it came handy with one of the seats.

Only a very few offer rollover protection. What I’ve seen in a recent study is that only a fraction of crashes is rollovers; however, they have the most fatalities. Since you can’t avoid accidents, you have to be prepared the best as possible. In this case, more protection is better.

Size Limits

This is the second most important thing to look at. These car seats aren’t cheap. If you have to buy multiple seats, your pocket will feel the hurt.

By checking out the size limits, you will be able to save money without compromising on safety. The secret is to plan ahead. The more you can use the car seat, the more money you’re saving.

This is why all in one solution is so popular. They are the first and last car seat you will have to buy.


The installation process is the hardest one from all. Some car seats are easy to install while others are a dread. This is why it’s a good idea to get those that are easy to install.

What I’ve seen recently is that all brands are moving towards an easier solution. This reduces injuries on the road. If the car seats aren’t as tight as it should, then it won’t provide the necessary protection for your child. That’s a scary thought.


The last item on my list is the fabric. We’re talking about 3-year-olds so accidents will occur. This is why you should know ahead of time the cleaning procedure.

From all the car seats above, only the Clek Fllo offers spot cleaning. The rest are washing machine friendly. The thing with Clek is that you have to buy their cleaning materials. I have my doubts about its effectiveness.

Well, this would be my short buyer’s guide. If you like it, then put it to good use.


Top Car Seats for 3 Year Olds Conclusions

We have reached the end of the best car seats for 3-year-olds. I hope you have learned a lot. The third-year is a major milestone for your little one. As you will see, they will get more independent as the years go by.

By now you should have a clear idea which car seat fits you the best. Now it’s your turn to take action. Get them as soon as possible because the stocks are running low.

If you would like to share your experience, then drop a comment below.


What kind of car seat should a 3 year old be in?

A 3 year old should be in a convertible car seat that it’s a convertible seat ideally in rear facing mode or the next level where which still uses a 5 point harness. As you know after rear facing the 5 point harness is the best safety feature.

Are booster seats good for 3 year olds?

It’s important to check the manufacturer’s minimum height and weigh. If your 3 year old needs those recommendations then it’s good. In all fairness a convertible car seat or an all in one would be a much safer option for your 3 year old.

Should a 3 year old be rear-facing?

Rear-facing is the safest way for a child to travel. Some states require for kids to be in rear-facing position up to 15 months old. There are car seats that allow extended rear-facing up to 4  years old. It comes down to personal choice.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What kind of car seat should a 3 year old be in?

A 3 year old should be in a convertible car seat or an all in one car seat.

Is a booster seat safe for a 3 year old?

If the 3 year old meets the weight and height requirements then they will be safe. However, I highly recommend keeping your 3 year old in 5 point harness mode until they reach 65 pounds in weight. If you have an older child check out the best car seat for 5 year old.

What car seat should a 3 year old be in?

A 3 year old should be in a convertible car seat or an all in one car seat.

Which is the best car seat for toddlers?

A convertible car seat would be the best for toddlers.

Which is the best car seat for 3 year old?

The best car seats would be the Britax one4life belt-positioning booster and Maxi Cosi Pria 85 convertible car seat.

What are the height and weight limits for convertible car seats?

The weight limit for rear-facing car seat mode is 40 pounds. The height limit is 49 inches. In rear-facing position you can do extended mode with some convertible car seats. The upper weight limit for forward-facing car seat is 65 pounds. Forward facing mode is for older kids. The best convertible seats have rear-facing seat mode and forward-facing harness with the 5 point harness. If you want to keep your child in extended rear-facing seat mode then look for a seat that can do it for 50 pounds. If you want to keep your child forward-facing harness look for a seat that goes beyond 65 pounds. The child grows from high-back booster to backless booster mode. Keep in mind to check the height limit regularly.

Which car seats didn’t make it on the list?

Safety 1st infant car seats because they work with different seats on the market. The infant car seat is not for toddler car seats. Easily the child outgrows these infant seats. There’s also the simply safe adjust harness system (harness and headrest) and not to mention the easy installation. Other that didn’t make the cut were graco 4ever forward facing harness seat (all in 1 convertible car seat), graco tranzitions travel car seat, chicco myfit harness car seat, Evenflo Maestro Sport high back booster seat, a few britax seats (backless booster seat) and travel car seats (travel car seat).

What kind of car seat safety standards are for three year olds?

When it comes to safety standards car safety these backless booster car seats are the best. To make these booster seats as safe as possible there is the seat belt and the latch system.

Which one of these can fit three across?

The narrowest one like the Clek and the Diono Radian 3RXT.

What kind of features should be on the lookout for when buying a car seat for a 3 year old?

First thing is the ease of use seat for your child and then look at the best car seats. Multiple recline positions is good and good leg room for the front seat also. Dual cup holders (two removable cup holders) are preferred. Washable seat cover. The simply safe adjust harness system and seat belts, vehicle seat, new car.

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 install. The latch system is the easiest to use but there’s the seat belt as well. The booster seats can only be installed with the seat belt.

What are the height and weight limits for these forward facing car seat for 3 year olds?

The height and weight limits are as follows for belt positioning booster seats. For rear facing mode the weight limit is 40 pounds (40 lbs). Come to think of it for rear facing 40 lbs is quite generous. The limit for forward facing car seat (forward facing seat) is either 100 lbs or 120 lbs (120 pounds). For the 5 point harness mode the limit is 65 pounds. Now depending if you have a highback booster seat than the limit is 100 lbs and if you have a simple booster mode than the limit is 120 lbs. As the child grows they won’t need a booster mode (highback booster) seat after 9 year olds.

What kind of car safety features do these 3 year old combination seats come with?

With the big kid combination car seat (combination seat) you will get everything to keep your child safe and sound. First of all it’s a great idea to keep your little one in rear facing mode as long as possible preferably until 2 years old. Many parents forget about this. The good news is that it can be easily fixed. Make sure you obey this rule. With a combination car seat you will be getting a steel reinforced frame. As you know the steel reinforced frame will keep your child safe no matter what. Nowadays most seats are equipped with energy absorbing base. This takes the form of energy absorbing foam. The impact absorbing layer will protect your child from harm. 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. Proper head support is mandatory. The headrest positions (headrest height) can be easily adjusted. Most car seats come with multiple harness and headrest positions. For a toddler car seat the eps foam will do wonders especially with air travel. 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 side 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 old all in one car seat in small cars?

No matter if you try to fit a forward facing seat or a rear facing mode you need to go with a slim fit design. I don’t like the oversized seats either it’s also hard to move them around. Not to mention air travel.

What is the car seat installation for these 3 year old booster seat options?

Before you get started make sure that you check out the manual for easy install. Secondly make sure that the bubble level indicator is in the right spot. Also try not to be perfect with the bubble level indicator because the range is enough. Next up you have to move the position recline into neutral. The seat is also install-able with the latch system or the vehicle seat belt. For easy installation stick with the latch system. The vehicle seat belt install is harder and slower. No matter if you’re using a forward facing harness booster seat, or a rear facing infant carrier (infant seat) the latch is the best option. After the install you can adjust the load leg if the infant car seat has one. The super cinch might help you with a faster install. The vehicle seat belt on the other hand is  slower and it’s admitted by the car seat manufacturer.

What other features do you have to consider when you’re checking out a rear facing or front facing 3 year old seat?

The biggest features for all in 1 convertible seats are the 5 point harness seat. Also the car seat cover (seat pad) should be machine washable. The front facing mode is also known as harness mode. With harness mode comes the harness holders. With 3 in 1 front facing mode the harness slots are adjustable. The car seat shell should be made out of durable plastic. The leg rest provides additional comfort. The cup holders are great for kids to have fun with. The 10 position recline provides more comfort. The forward facing harness booster seat such as the safety 1st seat is also a great option. A quick list of items to check before buying: harness straps, harness slots,  shoulder straps, harness car seat. While the safety 1st seat is also a forward facing harness it’s not the easiest to adjust the harness.

Are there low price and still safe car seats for 3 year olds?

When you’re looking for car seats for 3 year olds and want to save a bit of money you can do so by thinking ahead. There’s only one way to save money is by getting a bigger seat 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) and forward facing car seats mode, adjustable headrest.

What is the evolution of car seats through life of my child?

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 convertible seat). After this stage comes the harness booster or high back booster. What I’ve noticed is that the older the child gets the less safety stuff is added. For example it’s very hard to find a 5 point harness systems lightweight car seat that can do both rear facing and forward facing mode. 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 your child?

Since were talking about a 3 year old it would be nice if the seat could do rear facing (rear face) in parallel with forward facing. If you have a belt positioning booster seat then it’s pretty much out of the question since the belt positioning booster seat rarely have that option. The latest safety features that are a must have are: energy absorbing steel reinforcement, passing all federal safety standards & federal crash tests, eps energy absorbing foam, properly secured anchors. And the additional perk of having ten different positions for recline and removable and machine washable harness covers. The safest car seat are the rear facing car seats.

What so special about convertible car seats?

Well convertible car seats will fit most vehicles and they can do forward facing with ease. The truth that people don’t mention is that kids prefer forward facing especially if they get older. I know that forward facing is not the safest but driving hours with whining isn’t either. If I must I do forward facing.

Are there any good travel car seats for 3 year olds?

If you’re looking for travel car seats for 3 year olds  (travel car seat) there are quit many to choose from. These portable car seat tech have machine washable covers and pass all federal safety standards such would be the maestro sport minimum weight forward face booster mode. Other car seat or great car seat for a 3 year old would be those that are recommended by child passenger safety technician. Safety 1st has some booster mode car seat model options. This harness booster seat (backless booster seat) have all the safety features that a travel car seat needs withstanding even peak crash force during a car accident. You can install it in less than a minute thanks to the locksure belt system (lap belt). This booster seat will grow with your child. The travel car seat for a 3 year old should have these features: dual integrated cup holders (removable cup holders), two layers of side impact protection, steel reinforcement, adjustable headrest, removable pillows, save space,   You can be rest assured that it will be a proper fit even for the youngest child when they fall asleep on long rides. This booster seat can be installed only in forward facing mode with the car’s seat belt (vehicle’s seat belt) or with regular seat belt (shoulder belt). Make sure you follow the weight and height limits and the seat belt guide which should be above the child’s shoulders. It’s exactly what smaller children need in most cars (most vehicles). The safety 1st booster seat is machine washable. It has been crash tested and has ride safer travel vest (ride safer vest). If you need to switch vehicles then get more than one seat. It’s a great seat and more than one child can use it not like other seats. Since child’s safety (child safety) is top priority it will accommodate kids, young children and  children ages above 3. Plus it will save space. Most children won’t stay rear facing for extended period and that’s where this forward facing seat comes in. When the child reaches the age of 3 this is the best choice on the market today with high lbs rear limit.

What is the safest car seat for 3 year old?

The safest car seat for 3 Year old is the Britax Advocate. This car seat is superior in safety features. It’s a fortress which provides both front-facing and rear-facing mode.

What is the best booster seat for 3 year old?

The best booster seat for 3 year old is the Diono Radion 3RXT. This is a lightweight seat and is easy to move around.

What is the best travel car seat for 3 year old?

The best travel car seat for 3 year old is the Clek Fllo. This car seat is great at saving space. It’s the narrowest car seat you can buy.

What kind of car seat should a 3 year old be in?

A 3 year old should be in a convertible car seat.

What is the recommended car seat for 3 year old?

The recommended car seat for a 3 year old is a convertible car seat.

What is the best lightweight car seat for 3 year old?

The best lightweight car seat for 3 year old is the Diono Radian 3RXT. This car seat is easy to move around. It’s cushioned and soft, and it includes side impact protection.

What is the best small car seat for 3 year old?

Take a look at the best car seat for small cars to find out.

Last Updated on October 25, 2023 by Brian Beasley

Written by Linda Reid

Hey there, I'm Linda, a mom of three cool kids. I've tried so many car seats, you could call me a "Car Seat Detective." Searching for the perfect car seat can feel like finding a needle in a haystack, but don't worry! I've committed to researching and reviewing car seats that are super safe, cozy, and great for growing kids. Together, we'll find the perfect car seat that keeps your child safe and cozy, and makes you feel like a super-parent!