Best Car Seat for Three-Year Old (2023)

One of the many things parents care about is their child’s safety. In this case, you look at your baby and realize they are no longer a baby but three years old!

Now that your baby outgrew the infant car seat, you are looking into what is the best car seat for your three-year-old. So, we have done the research required for you! Here are the best ones out there:

  1. Chicco NextFit Zip
  2. Britax Boulevard ClickTight
  3. Britax Advocate ClickTight
  4. Britax Marathon ClickTight
  5. Graco TrioGrow SnugLock LX 3-in-1
  6. Graco Milestone
  7. Chicco Fit4 4-in-1
  8. Britax Grow With You ClickTight

This article dives into reviews on the best type of car seats and what kind of extra features all of them have. On the other hand, we will be discussing what all you should look for in a car seat. Without further ado, let us dive in! 

What Are the Best Car Seats for a Three-year Old?

There are quite a few car seats that we will discuss, but we have labeled them into categories, which are convertible, all-in-one, and toddler booster seats for your convenience.

Convertible Car Seats

Once the infant seat is over with, the convertible chair is your next option. Although you can quickly get an all-in-one, you can still use these seats for quite some time before transferring to a highback booster seat. So, without further ado, here are the best convertible car seats, according to Consumer Reports.

1. Chicco NextFit Zip

The first convertible car seat is the Chicco NextFit Zip. This car seat is a good choice because of its features. 

The Chicco NextFit Zip scored an incredible 85 on Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports noted that this car seat had one of the best crash protection safety results, its ease of use, and the rear and forward-facing latch system fit well in the car.

This car seat has two layers of protection: a deep rigid shell and EPS energy-absorbing foam, leaving it to be a great car seat. 

On top of that, the rear-facing mode can hold between 5 to 40 pounds, leaving plenty of room to rear face without worrying about putting your child forward-facing at an early age. In the forward-facing position, you can do so as early as 22 to 65 pounds. 

The Chicco NextFit Zip contains a 9-position recline system to fit whatever your child needs or wants. This car seat includes an easy installation with a level and tightening system, making less effort for you. 

In cleaning the Chicco car seat, you can put the fabric in the washing machine by simply zipping the top off, allowing the car seat to remain in the car, making it less hassle. This is a good thing because the Chicco car seat is known to be a heavy seat.

The backflow for the car seat contains breathable fabric, making it where your kids will be comfortable in the car ride instead of remaining hot constantly. 

Lastly, you can extend the Chicco NextFit Zip to 25% more leg room than a regular car seat, leaving the rear-facing seat much more comfortable while providing calf support in a forward-facing way.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Although we have discussed a lot thus so far, here is a quick run down on what is good and bad about this product:

It contains a steel frame with a two-layer side impact, ensuring further protection.Heavy as it is roughly 25 pounds.
Provides removable cup holders that are dishwasher-safe.
FAA approved.
Includes an easy-to-remove zipper seat cushion, making it machine washable and easy to remove and replace.
You can adjust the headrest multiple times, making it easy for young children to grow.
It contains an easy installation where you do not need to pull as much.
Comes at an affordable price.
Measurements & Weight
  • Dimensions of car seat:  21 x 19 x 29.2 inches
  • Rear-facing height limit: Up to 43 inches
  • Forward-facing height limit: Up to 49 inches
  • Weight: 25 pounds
  • Car seat lifespan: 8 year

2. Britax Boulevard ClickTight

For our first Britax review of the day, we have the Britax Boulevard ClickTight. This particular brand is one of the best brands you can get because of its locking mechanism, the ClickTight system. It ensures a tighter grip and keeps it to where the car seat does not bulge out of place. 

The first thing we will discuss is the Consumer Reports log. They mention the Britax Boulevard ClickTight scores a very high 84 on their website, ensuring it to be a great choice. 

Their test results show that their crash protections remain at best. Their rear latch, forward latch, rear belt, and forward belt scored a 5/5, while the ease of use scored a 4/5. 

The Boulevard is unique because it contains 30% bamboo charcoal, meaning that this car seat keeps your three-year-olds cool during those hot summer days. The chair keeps away any moisture created to keep your child dry. 

This car seat comes with 2-layer side protection, creating an external cushion that surrounds your little one’s neck, head, and torso. It contains an energy-absorbing shell with a foam-lined headrest. 

Your child will easily be able to grow in this seat as it contains 14 adjust harnesses and headrest positions. 

For the rear-facing car seat option, the weight requirements for your baby are 5 to 40 pounds, and the forward-facing is 20 to 65 pounds. 

Advantages & Disadvantages

There are quite a few other pros and cons we can consider as well before making your purchase. 

Made in the United States.The LATCH uninstallation can be a bit challenging.
The cover is easy to remove.The car seat is heavy and bulky.
Rear and forward-facing have a significant height scale.One of the more expensive car seats.
Harness straps are thick and do not twist easily.Leg room is limited for the rear-facing position.
No-rethread harness creates it easy to adjust the height when your little one goes through a growth spurt.The newborn angle might be hard to achieve in some cars. 
The car seat contains an extra seat pad for comfort.
Includes an easy installation with the ClickTight system. 
EZ-Buckle System allows the belly pad and buckle to be tucked away while your young children climb into the car seat.
IMMI buckle is easy to buckle and unbuckle.
You can replace the harness straps if needed.
Measurements & Weight
  • Weight: 25 pounds
  • Dimensions of car seat: 18.5″ wide x 23.5″ high x 23″ deep
  • Seat area dimensions: 10.5″ deep x 11.5″ wide
  • Shoulder width: 16 inches
  • Harness slot height: 8.35″ to 19.4″ 
  • Buckle strap depths: 5.25″ & 7″

3. Britax Advocate ClickTight

For the third convertible car seat, we have the Britax Advocate ClickTight, another top pick of ours. 

On Consumer Reports, the Advocate scored another 84 with the seat reining excellence in crash protection and provided a 5/5 score for the rear latch, front latch, rear belt, and forward belt. 

The Advocate also achieved a 4/5 on the ease of use, which you might expect because the Boulevard was the same way. 

However, that does not show off its excellent qualities and features, as the Advocate contains three layers of extra impact protection, a steel frame, and an impact absorbing base, ensuring the safety of your little one. Not to mention its V-shaped tether, creating a slow and reduced forward moment if a car accident occurs. 

On top of that, the Britax contains the ClickTight system, guaranteeing the installation process is relatively easy to secure and put in. 

You do not need to worry about rethreading the harness, as you can quickly adjust the seat in a 14-position harness, ensuring the perfect fit for your baby to grow in. 

For the weight limit, you will be happy to hear that the Advocate backward faces from a minimum weight of 5 to 40 pounds and front faces go from 20 to a maximum weight of 65 pounds, making it where your child can continue to grow for quite some time. 

Advantages & Disadvantages

In terms of the advantages and disadvantages, let us do a brief overview:

It contains forward and rear facing.Not budget-friendly.
Comes with a 10-year lifespan.Heavy-duty.
Three layers of side protection.Not part of a travel car seat system.
Has a LATCH system.
The harness is easy to adjust and tighten.
Includes a seven-position recline system for the comfort of your child. 
ClickTight installation.
Measurements & Weight

As with anything, you must know the measurements and weight before purchasing. 

  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Dimensions of car seat:  20.5″ wide x 23.5″ high x 23″ deep
  • Seat area dimensions: 10.5″ deep x 11.5″ wide
  • Shoulder width: 16 inches
  • Harness slot height: 8.35″ to 19.4″ 
  • Buckle strap depths: 5.25 inches & 7 inches

4. Britax Marathon ClickTight

The last Britax convertible car seat we will discuss is the Britax Marathon ClickTight, which has another Consumer Reports score of 84, ensuring the best of the best. 

Like the other two Britax, it excels in safety and everything else besides ease of use, which scores a 4/5. 

As your child grows, you can easily transition your child rear-facing to a forward-facing car seat role relatively quickly. The weight limit for looking backward is 5 to 40 pounds, and the front-facing seat is 20 to 65 pounds, confirming you will have the car seat for a long time. 

Suppose you were not thinking and gave your three-year-old a juice box for the back of the car. In that case, they spill it all over themselves and your new car seat! 

However, you do not need to worry, as this seat is machine washable, ensuring you do not have to scrub everywhere.

The Marathon does not contain any added FR chemicals, which means it is made from natural flame-retardant materials and foam. 

The Britax Marathon ensures your child’s safety while looking stylish, coming in numerous colors.

Advantages & Disadvantages

As with anything in life, you will face some struggles with the Britax Marathon ClickTight, but you might be happy to know that this particular brand will not disappoint you with what they offer! 

It is incredibly comfortable.Limited leg room for extended rear facing.
You can adjust the height without rethreading.The car seat is deep in front and back, so it might not fit easily in your car.
Easy to mount and unmount.The top car seat cover may come off due to nothing holding it.
The cover is easy to remove.
The car seat contains multiple safety features.
It comes at an affordable price.
  • Dimension of car seat: 23 x 18.5 x 23.6 inches
  • Seat area depth/width: 10.5″ / 11.5″
  • Shoulder width: 16 inches
  • Harness slot heights: 8.35″ to 19.4″
  • Buckle strap depths: 5.25 inches & 7 inches

All-in-One Car Seats

The all-in-one section is for those who wish to save money and keep one seat instead of worrying about having a convertible seat and getting other options down the line. 

Not only can you use this particular car seat when they are infants, but they will be able to grow into it when your child needs a booster mode.

5. Graco TrioGrow SnugLock LX 3-in-1

For our top pick of all-in-one car seats, we have the Graco TrioGrow SnugLock LX 3-in-1

The first thing to note is the Trio Grow comes at an affordable price than the others we have previously mentioned. Graco strives to provide affordable products with high-quality objects. 

You can use this specific car seat with three weight limit settings:

  • Rear-facing harness from 5 to 40 pounds.
  • Forward-facing harness from 22 to 65 pounds.
  • Highback booster mode from 40 to 100 pounds.

Due to Graco’s SnugLock technology, you can easily install it with the LATCH or seat belt systems in less than one minute. 

The headrest contains ten positions, and you can remove the infant insert when your child gets old enough, ensuring more comfort on their end. 

You can also recline the car seat in six ways, making traveling for long road trips a breeze. 

As with the other convertible car seats, you do not need to reread the harness constantly when your child grows. All you do is adjust the headrest according to when your three-year-olds grow, making it much easier to use. 

On Consumer Reports, the Graco Trio Grow scored an overall 83, with the crash protection being at best. 

This particular car seat also came with a 5/5 with the rear latch, forward latch, booster fit, rear belt, and forward belt. 

The main reason they scored a 4/5 on the ease of use is the potential difficulty of closing the SnugLock system. 

Advantages & Disadvantages

After reviewing the initial review, let us discuss some pros and cons. 

The cover is machine washable.Some customers mention the SnugLock feature might be hard to close at times.
Comes with a 10-year lifespan.The harness storage compartment for the booster mode is minor.
Features two cup holders.The belt guide is relatively short in the highback booster mode.
The cover is machine washable.The small belt paths might frustrate people’s larger hands.
Steel reinforced frame.
The SnugLock tensioning does a lot of the work for you.
Contains easy access to RF and FF belt paths. 
On-board harness storage for the booster mode.
Measurements & Weight
  • Dimension of car seat: ‎19.25 x 22.5 x 25.5 inches
  • Maximum height recommendation: 57 inches
  • Seat area depth: 12 inches
  • Shoulder width: 14 inches
  • Harness slot heights: 6 1/4″ with infant insert; 8″ to 18″ without an infant insert
  • Shoulder belt guide: 19 inches
  • Buckle strap depths: Inner slot is 2″ with padding, 3 1/2″ without padding; the outer slot is 5 1/2″
  • Seat weight: 21.5 pounds

6. Graco Milestone

The Graco Milestone is the best choice for your child’s safety because it is budget-friendly, lasts a long time (10-year lifespan), and is easy to use. 

Some of the Graco Milestone’s features include a removable cup holder, integrated harness storage, an InRight LATCH system that clicks when it’s in place, and a no-rethread harness system. 

The Milestone comes in a four-position recline to help ensure your growing child is comfortable in the many stages of their life.

The Graco is a multi-use car seat, meaning you can use it for rear-facing (5 to 40 pounds), forward-facing (22 to 65 pounds), and a high back booster (40 to 100 pounds) ensuring it will last a relatively long time.  

The Consumer Reports rated the Milestone an 80, which contained the best crash protection possible but scored a 4/5 regarding the forward latch, ease of use, rear belt, and forward belt. 

However, it contains a 5/5 with rear latch and booster fit, making this car seat the best option. 

Advantages & Disadvantages
FAA approved.You can only recline four levels, and there are only two recline levels for the rear-facing car seat position.
It contains an extra long life of 10 years.You might have a hard time converting between installation modes.
The harness adjustment is fast and easy with no rethreading.
You can easily remove the seat cushion and cover for easy cleaning without rethreading.
You can remove or switch sides of the cup holder depending on what extra space you need.
There is a lot of safety, including crash testing, temperature testing, and side impact testing.
The InRight LATCH system installs relatively quickly, which contains an audible click to let you know it is secure.

Measurements & Weight
  • Dimension of car seat: ‎21 x 17.5 x 21 inches
  • Rear-facing height limit: The top of the child’s head is at least 1 inch below the handle
  • Forward facing height limit: 27 to 39 inches
  • High-backed booster height limit: 38 to 57 inches
  • Car seat weight: 20 pounds

7. Chicco Fit4 4-in-1

For our seventh review, we have the Chicco Fit4 4-in-1 car seat. These four options are infant, rear-facing toddler, forward-facing, and a high booster seat. 

The stages include different weight limits that we will briefly go over:

  • Stage 1 (infant rear-facing): 4 to 16 pounds
  • Stage 2 (toddler rear-facing): 12 to 40 pounds
  • Stage 3 (preschooler forward-facing): 25 to 65 pounds
  • Stage 4 (big kid booster): 40 to 100 pounds

Their unique DuoGuard technology offers two layers of protection with an EPS energy-absorbing foam that surrounds your child’s head and torso, made from a steel reinforced frame. 

The headrest also provides ten positions that allow your little one to continue growing. 

The Chicco Fit4 is designed for your child to grow from a newborn until ten years old, providing much comfort and convenience. 

The Chicco Fit4 mentions their relatively easy installation process, ensuring you install the seat correctly using their features, including bubble levels, ReclineSure leveling system, LockSure belt-tightening system, and SuperCinch LATCH tightener. 

This car seat scores an 80 on the Consumer Reports website with the crash safety protection remaining the best score. The main issues come from ease of use. However, this Chicco car seat is still an excellent choice for your little one.

Advantages & Disadvantages
The seat belt fits excellently in the booster mode.The seat is heavy and bulky.
Contains easy transition between each stage.The LATCH system is limited to 35 pounds rear-facing.
Super Cinch tensions LATCH smoothly.Crotch strap adjustment requires removing cupholders, the buckle cover, and soft goods.
The straps do not twist easily.Contains awkward belt routing in rear-facing mode.
Harness straps are easy to loosen or tighten.Newborn seats are not detachable for portability.
Contains machine-washable inserts and covers.You cannot use this seat with a stroller.
Provides additional padding and premium fabrics for extra comfort.
Stage markings are color coded for better organization.
The cupholders push in easily.
Contains nine recline positions.
Provides multiple stages of life.
FF and RF lock-offs for use with vehicle seatbelts.
Measurements & Weight
  • Dimension of car seat: ‎‎21.5 x 19 x 27 inches
  • Rear-facing height limit: 43 inches
  • Forward facing height limit: Up to 54 inches
  • High-backed booster height limit: 38 to 57 inches
  • Buckle strap depths: 4 and 6 inches
  • Tall harness height: 18.5 and 19 inches
  • Car seat weight: 25 pounds

Toddler Booster Seats

8. Britax Grow With You ClickTight

For our final car seat, we have the Britax Grow With You ClickTight, the only toddler booster seat on our list. 

Rating at an 82 score on Consumer Reports, the Britax passed the crash protection test, is easy to use, fits the vehicle with the LATCH system, and fits the car with the belt. In terms of the booster fit, it contains a 4/5. 

The Britax Grow with You contains a 2-in-1 booster, meaning you can easily transition your child from a forward-facing 5-point harness to a belt-positioning booster. 

The weight requirements go from 25 to 65 pounds in the harness mode and 40 to 120 pounds in the booster mode. 

On top of that, the installation method comes with a breeze in 3 easy and simple steps: open, thread buckle, then close. 

You can also place the flame retardant covers in the washing machine, ensuring your little one always sits in a clean seat.

Lastly, the car seat comes in a 2-later side impact protection containing a high-strength steel frame with a crumple zone and patented V-shaped tether. 

Advantages & Disadvantages
Made in the USA.Some parents find the headrest or harness hard to adjust once you install it in the upper-most positions.
The installation process is effortless thanks to its ClickTight technology, which reduces installation errors.It is relatively heavy if you need to lug it around from time to time.
The seat comes well cushioned and lined with foam around the head and neck area.
There are two cup holders.
The instructions and labels are clear.
It comes with a built-in crumple zone that absorbs crash forces.
There is an option to store or remove the harness from the booster mode. 
Follows the NHTSA guidelines for replacement after a crash.
Harness pads cover connectors.
Measurements & Weight
  • Dimension of car seat: ‎21 x 23 x 25 inches
  • Harness heights: 12 to 20.5 inches at 1-inch intervals
  • Booster height limit: 13 to 22 inches
  • Buckle strap depths: 7 and 9 inches
  • Car seat weight: 26.5 pounds

What Should I Look For in a Car Seat?

There are quite a few things you should look for when it comes to a car seat. These significant considerations include the following:

  • Safety
  • Ease of comfort
  • Size
  • Installation
  • Portability
  • Maintenance
  • Certain features
  • Price range

1. Safety

Considering how we look up car seats, the most important thing to consider is ensuring it is child safe. In doing so, you want to look at any crash protection a car seat provides. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Safety Standards are the ones that set rules and regulations for road safety.

All car seats mentioned above pass the crash protection test, and every new car seat sold in the USA must meet the minimum road safety standards.

You can also go to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for more information on car seat safety. 

The AAP recommends infants and toddlers should rear-face as long as possible. In that case, although many car seats mention children can forward face as early as 22 pounds, it is safer to keep them rear-facing. 

2. Ease of Comfort

Suppose you previously bought a car seat that gets hot relatively quickly, or the car seat was charcoal black that loves the sun. 

In that case, you will want a car seat that leaves your little one feeling comfortable and well-rested. If your child constantly complains or cries about getting in the chair, you might consider finding something comfortable and easy to use. 

3. Size (Height & Weight)

Depending on the size of your child’s head and body, you will want to consider how long they will fit in the car seat. 

For example, if your husband or wife is roughly 6 feet tall, your three-year-old might go through a growth spurt when they have that seat. If that is the case, you want to consider all your options during that time.

Another thing to consider is your infant. If the car seat does not come with an infant insert and your little one is 7 pounds, they would not fit properly. In that case, ensure the weight limit is up to par for your baby’s needs.

When your child is properly secured in their seat, the CDC estimates the risk of dying in a car accident goes down by roughly 71%. 

4. Installation

Installing a car seat can be a pain, so ensure you find features with easy installation processes, like the Britax ClickTight method or finding something where you do not need to pull as much. 

Another question you might want to ask yourself is if the car seat can fit in small cars. It might not work if you purchase a bulky seat like the Nuna Rava. However, if you have something small with a more compact design, it would fit much better. 

5. Portability

Car seats can be relatively heavy, but there are still some out there that are more lightweight than others. In that case, this might be a consideration you want to account for.

Do your children go with their grandparents often, or are you planning to take them out when you clean your car? What about when you tend the car seat, or you go on a vacation by plane? 

If you have a 25 to 30-pound seat, it is not easy to lift constantly. The good news is there are quite a few car seats that do not require much heavy lifting. 

6. Maintenance

Washing the car seat can often be overlooked because many parents do most of their research on the safety aspect of it. 

In that case, how easy is your car seat to wash and maintain? Do you need to take the entire base out, or can you zip or snap off the fabric to throw it in the washing machine?

It might not be a big deal if you have one child, but this can be a daunting task for those with multiple children. 

7. Price Range

Some families are on a budget, so make sure you find a specific price range before finding what is best for you. 

Many parents are willing to spend between $100 for a basic model and $300+ for a premium model. 

Some models and brands are more expensive due to their materials, features, and finishing. 

However, that does not necessarily mean a more expensive item is better than the other, as all car seats sold in the USA pass the minimum safety standards.

8. Certain Features

Although you do not need specific features for a car seat, it might be nice as a bonus. Let us consider some of the options you may or may not want. 

  • Anti-rebound bar: This prevents the car seat from bouncing up and down if a car accident occurs, so it is for better safety.
  • Five-point harness: A five-point harness is on many modern car seats today. You’ll notice two shoulder straps (one per side), two waste straps (one per side), and one strap between your child’s legs.
  • Car seat base: Many infant car seats come with a car seat base to which you can connect and disconnect the chair. It is not necessary for toddlers but might be a feature you want to consider for your youngest child if they’re small enough. 
  • Breathable fabric: During the summertime, car seats can get extremely hot! So, ensure you have material that your little one can breathe comfortably. 
  • Expiration date: All modern car seats should come with an expiration date. They expire for many reasons, such as wear and tear, recalls, regulation changes, etc.
  • Cushion side impact: Having multiple layers of side impact protection helps with safety and comfort for your child’s head.
  • Non-rethread straps: Not too long ago, you used to have to rethread the straps constantly when your child grew older. Nowadays, we do not have much of that issue as you pull the headrest up according to your little one’s height, so it is less of a hassle. 


There are many car seats available for your three-year-old. All the ones we mentioned above ensure your child’s safety and comfort and can fit into most budgets without any issues. 

The most important thing to remember is that you are making an informed decision that will last your little one a relatively long time. We wish you the best of luck in finding the right one for you!  


Photo of author

Brandi Miles, BSW, MS Human Services

Brandi Miles, BSW, MS Human Services is the mother of two adult children and three beautiful grandchildren. Brandi has 20+ years of experience helping people with developmental disabilities.
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