10 Best Car Seats for 4 Year Olds

Portable Car Seats For 4 Year Olds

Car crashes are among the leading causes of death for children between the ages of 1-13. However, there are a number of things that responsible parents can do to maximize their child’s safety in a vehicle. One such measure is to use a car seat that fits your child’s needs and another is to make sure that the seat is installed perfectly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), using the appropriate seat based on your child’s age, weight and height and installing it the right way can reduce the risk of fatal injuries by around 70%. This articles lists the 10 best car seats that are ideal for 4 year olds.

Child car safety seats are designed to provide extra protection in addition to the protection provided by the safety features of the vehicle itself.  Some cars may even have car seats integrated into the vehicle’s design. However, as children have different needs it is advisable to take them into consideration and choose and buy a seat that provides optimal security based on your child’s age, weight and height.

Most US states have laws in place that require parents to use car seats approved by the relevant authorities. However, merely using the right seat is not enough – they have to be installed properly in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions. It is estimated that only about 15% of seats have been installed the right way. Parents should not hesitate in seeking expert advice, or in reading blogs and manuals or watching instructional videos to ensure that no safety measure or feature has been overlooked.

While a number of subcategories exist, most safety seats can be put under three categories – rear facing, front facing and convertible seats. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a child should be placed in a rear facing seat if the child meets the minimum weight and size requirements provided by the manufacturer. Furthermore, it is recommended that a rear facing seat should be used for as long as possible – until the child reaches or exceeds the weight, size and age limits.

Once the child exceeds the recommended limits, they should be put in some variation of a forward facing seat. Convertible and all-in-1 seats are ideal as they can be used for younger infants as well as toddlers and older children. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that 4 year olds should be seated in forward facing harness seats for as long as possible as they still are not old enough to stay in the right position all the time – they may move, bend over or fall asleep. In fact, most experts recommend that parents use forward harnessed seats for several more years until they’ve reached or exceeded the manufacturer’s age, weight and size recommendations.

Some experts also recommend belt-positioning booster seats if the child is old and large enough. If the vehicle’s seat belt is at the child’s belly level instead of the hips and thighs, there’s a high risk of internal and spinal injuries. Booster seats prop up the child so that the belt is placed around the child’s hip and chest instead of the belly and neck. According to research, when a booster seat is used the right way, it can reduce the risk of serious injury by 45% for a child within the age group of 4 to 8 years. Once a child no longer fits a forward harness seat, a booster seat should be used until the child is large enough to no longer need a boost.

1. Evenflo SureRide Convertible Seat

The SureRide is a lightweight convertible seat that has a stylish appearance. Experts regard it highly for the ease of installation and the ease with which it can be transported between vehicles. This makes it an ideal safety companion for your child in vehicles as well as for air travel. The seat has a long life span and has a number of highly adjustable features that make it suitable for a growing child’s changing needs.

Evenflo SureRide Convertible Seat

In addition to safety and convenience, the seat is designed to keep the child comfortable on longer trips. The fabric is soft and plush and can be removed to be machine washed and dried. Furthermore, the breathable fabric improves the seat’s ventilation and keeps the seat pleasant, cool and comfortable in hotter temperatures. The side padding not only provides additional comfort, it is made of shock absorbing foam that can redistribute forces produced by collisions in order to reduce their intensity by up to 50%. The seat has been designed and extensively tested for providing protection on all sides.

Pros
  • Light weight and easy to move between vehicles
  • Easy to install and remove
  • US made and tested
  • Highly adjustable 5 point harness – 6 positions
  • Easy on the pocket
  • Convertible seat
  • Padding for side impact protection
  • Stylish appearance
  • Fabric is durable and soft
  • The fabric can be cleaned in a machine and dried in a dryer
  • Multiple angles of recline (forward facing)
  • Body support for infants and smaller sized children
  • Built in ventilation system
  • Foldable cup holder
  • Free video support from manufacturer
  • Certified for aircraft travel by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA)
  • 1 year warranty
  • LATCH and seat belt compatible
Cons
  • Rear facing weight limit – 40lbs
  • Rear facing height limit – 40in
  • Forward facing weight limit – 65lbs
  • Forward facing weight limit -50lbs (base model)
  • Forward facing height limit – 49in
  • Takes more space than other seats when used as rear facing
  • Not meant to be carried
  • Not compatible with strollers
  • Infant insert needs to be bought separately
  • Only 1 angle of recline when used as rear facing
  • The NHTSA gives it a low rating (2 out of 5) for ease of use
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2. EVENFLO MAESTRO SPORT Forward Facing and Booster Seat

The Maestro Sport is a lightweight 2-in-1 car seat. It can be used a harness seat between the weight range of 22 and 50lbs and as a belt booster seat between 40 and 110lbs. It is one of the more affordable options on this list. It has been tested and approved by all relevant authorities including the FAA.

EVENFLO MAESTRO SPORT Forward Facing and Booster Seat

The seat is designed in a way that the harness is easily accessible during emergency situations. The harness does not require rethreading and can be adjusted to ensure optimum comfort and safety based on the child’s age, weight, height and other needs. The buckle is engineered and placed to ensure that the child does not get unbuckled accidentally.

The seat can be wiped, whereas, some components can be removed and machine washed and dried. The seat can be wiped easily and the seat belt can be removed and machine washed. There are 2 cup holders to hold snacks and drinks. The seat has been awarded the rating of ‘Best Bet’ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Pros
  • 2 modes of use
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to install
  • Affordable
  • US made and tested – meets high quality and safety standards
  • Rated as a ‘Best Bet’ by IIHS
  • Highly adjustable harness with 4 harness slot positions
  • 2 crotch buckle positions
  • Comes with built in harness and LATCH strap storage
  • Multi layered seat for greater comfort and protection
  • Comfortable pillow rest
  • The belt path automatically positions the seat belt into the recommended position
  • Fabric is durable and comfortable
  • The seat pad can be machine washed and dried
  • Multiple recline angles and positioning
  • 2 cup holders
  • Certified and approved for aircraft travel by FAA
  • 1 year warranty
  • LATCH and seat belt compatible
Cons
  • Headrest is not adjustable
  • Harness needs to be rethreaded to change the height
  • Not for use as a rear facing seat
  • Forward facing weight limit -50lbs
  • Forward facing height range – 28 to 50in Minimum age: 2 years
  • Booster seat weight range – 40 to 110lbs
  • Booster seat height range -44 to 57 in Minimum age: 4 years
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3. GRACO TRANZITIONS 3-in-1 Car Seat

Tranzitions is a forward facing 3-in-1 car seat that can be used over a longer period of time. It can be used as a forward facing, high back booster and a booster seat within the weight ranges 22lbs to 65lbs, 30lbs to 100lbs and 40lbs to 100lbs respectively. The seat can transition, as the name implies, between the 3 modes easily. Graco’s patented Safe Adjust Harness System allows you to adjust the headrest and harness in one motion.

GRACO TRANZITIONS 3-in-1 Car Seat

The harnessing system allows 8 positions without having to rethread. The seat also comes with harness covers. Additional features include machine washable parts, removable cup holders and a plush support insert. It meets the US FMVSS 213 Standard and has been engineered and tested accordingly. The seat comes with side impact protection as well.

Pros
  • Easy to install and remove
  • Can be moved easily from vehicle to vehicle
  • 3 modes of use
  • Easy transition between modes
  • 7 year life span
  • Graco’s Simply Safe Adjust Harness System – single motion headrest and harness adjustment
  • Stylish and sleek appearance
  • Approved by all federal authorities including the FAA
  • Engineered and tested to exceed US Standard FMVSS 213
  • Protection on all sides (as forward facing)
  • Removable, machine washable and dryer safe parts
  • 6 point recline
  • Available in multiple colors
  • 2 cup holders
  • Loops for an accurate belt path
  • LATCH compatible
Cons
  • Cannot be used as rear facing
  • Weight range as a harness booster seat – 22 to 65lbs
  • Height range as a harness booster seat – 25.5 to 49 in
  • Weight range as a high back belt booster seat – 30 to 100lbs
  • Height range as a high back belt booster sear – 48 to 57 in
  • Weight range as backless booster seat – 40 to 100lbs
  • Height range as a backless booster seat – 40 to 57 in
  • No push-on connectors
  • No harness storage (unlike some other Graco models)
  • Not steel reinforced
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4. COSCO FINALE DX 2-in-1 Forward Facing and Booster Car Seat

It is a stage 3 car seat – highly recommended for pre-school and school aged children. It is lightweight, extremely easy on the budget and stylish in appearance. Installation and usage is relatively uncomplicated. The seat’s instruction manual says that it can be used by a child aged 1 and above. However, if the child’s weight and height allows, the child should be seated in a rear facing seat for at least two years according to the AAP.

COSCO FINALE DX 2-in-1 Forward Facing and Booster Car Seat

It is a 2 in 1 car seat that can accommodate a child weighing between 30lbs and 60lbs as a forward facing harness seat and a child weighing between 40lbs to 100lbs as a booster seat. Additionally, the harness can adjusted to keep up with the growth of the child. Because the seat is relatively compact, it is easy to fit 3 of these in the backseat of most vehicles. It meets all relevant safety standards and certifications and comes with a 1 year warranty. IIHS has rated it as a ‘Best Bet’ for use in booster seat mode.

Pros
  • Lightweight, easy to install and remove
  • Can be moved easily from vehicle to vehicle
  • Compact in size – Can fit 3 in the back seat
  • 2 modes of use – front facing and booster seat
  • Rated as a ‘Best Bet’ by IIHS as a booster seat
  • Highly adjustable no-rethread harness
  • Meets or exceeds federal (FAA etc.), JPMA and ASTM standards
  • Protection on all sides (as forward facing)
  • Removable, machine washable and dryer safe parts
  • Multiple (6) angles of recline
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Cup holder is removable and can be placed on either side
  • 10 year life span
  • Premium fabric
  • US made – High quality, functionality and safety
Cons
  • Cannot be used as rear facing
  • Weight range as a forward facing seat – 30 to 65lbs
  • Height range as a harness booster seat – 32 to 49 in
  • Weight range as a belt booster seat – 40 to 100lbs
  • Height range as a belt booster seat – 43 to 52 in
  • Comparatively lower height capacity
  • Not very tall in booster mode – the child may need a different seat once this is outgrown
  • LATCH is unusable in booster mode
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5. WAYB PICO Car Seat

The WayB Pico car seat has been designed by a group of parents with experience in designing technical outdoor gear. The development of the seat was done through a crowdfunded campaign. It is designed for everyday use and can be used for air travel or vehicles with equal ease and effectiveness. The slim design means that 3 of these can fit in most vehicles simultaneously.

WAYB PICO Car Seat

It is a forward facing seat and should not be used in any other mode. It is recommended for a child aged 2 and above. The weight and heights limits for this seat are 22lbs to 50lbs and 30 to 45 inches respectively.

It is certified and approved by all relevant authorities including the FAA and the NHTSA. The seat weight just 8 pounds and is, therefore, easy to carry around. For further convenience, it is foldable and can fit most storage compartments including the overhead luggage compartment in a plane.

It comes with a travel bag that can be used as a back pack as well. It is made of durable and certified recycled polyester.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Can be moved easily from vehicle to vehicle (including planes)
  • Compact in size – Can fit 3 in the back seat and in most luggage compartments
  • Easily foldable
  • Highly adjustable harness
  • Meets or exceeds federal (FAA etc.), JPMA and ASTM standards
  • Protection on all sides
  • Removable, machine washable and dryer safe parts
  • Premium fabric
  • Available in multiple colors
  • LATCH and seat belt compatible
  • Comes with a travel bag made of recycled materials
  • Designed by parents
Cons
  • Single mode of use – forward facing only
  • Steep price
  • Weight range – 22 to 50lbs
  • Height range – 30 to 45 inches
  • Relatively slower installation
  • Only 1 shoulder harness position
  • Only 1 crotch buckle position
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6. SAFETY 1st GROW and GO 3-in-1 Car Seat

Safety 1st Grow and Go gives parents what they want – the convenience of only needing and using one seat over the years for the different stages of their child’s growth. Unlike most other all-in-1 convertible seats, this seat is comparatively compact and light in weight. Also, it’s quite affordable. It can be used rear facing up to 40lbs, forward facing up to 65 lbs, and as a booster seat between the weight range of 40 and 100lbs.

SAFETY 1st GROW and GO 3-in-1 Car Seat

The seat offers protection on all sides using padding and foam for the redistribution of potentially harmful forces away from the head and neck. Additionally, it comes with an insert for head and neck support.

There is a no-rethread harness that is highly adjustable and has a separate positioning option for newborns. The seat has harness holders that get the harness out of the way when placing or removing the child. Additionally, the harness and headrest can be adjusted together in a single motion. There are three possible recline angles and the seat comes with side numbering and a level line that add to the accuracy of positioning.

The seat has a 10-year life span. Furthermore, it comes with a 2 year warranty and has received a ‘Good Bet’ rating from the IIHS.

Pros
  • Meets or exceeds all safety standards and regulations
  • LATCH and seatbelt capable
  • 3 recline angles with a level line and numbered position guide
  • Highly adjustable harness
  • The harness has a separate position for newborns
  • Harness holders to make it easy to place and remove the child
  • QuickFit Harness to adjust the harness and headrest in one go
  • Removable head and neck support
  • Padding for side impact protection
  • Seat pad is removable and machine washable
  • Up to 7 inches of extra leg room when used as rear facing
  • 2 cup holders
  • 2 year warranty
  • 10 year life span
  • “Good Bet” rating from IIHS
Cons
  • Rear facing range – up to 40 lbs and between 19 to 40 inches
  • Forward facing range – 22 to 65 lbs and 29 to 52 inches
  • Booster seat range – 40 to 100 lbs and 43 to 52 inches
  • Fabric is not breathable
  • Harness needs to be rethreaded for newborn position
  • Cup holders are not removable
  • LATCH is not usable in booster mode
  • Straps and harness can be difficult to tighten for some parents
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7. BRITAX MARATHON ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

This is easily one of the most popular convertible car seats available in the market. It can be used as rear facing for a child weighing between 5 and 40 lbs and forward facing for a child weighing between 20 and 65lbs. It is extremely easy to install – the patented ClickTight mechanism makes installation as easy as buckling a seat belt.

BRITAX MARATHON ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

The harness does not require rethreading for any weight or height. The seat has a 14 position harness and 2 buckle positions to fit your child at different stages of growth. The seat allows the child to relax and be comfortable by allowing 7 different angles of recline. The seat offers protection on all sides. It has foamed padding on the sides, a steel reinforced frame and an impact absorbing base to make it one of the safest options around.

Pros
  • Convertible car seat
  • The patented ClickTight Easy Installation System
  • Extended rear facing use (up to 40lbs)
  • Double stitched straps for to prevent whiplash
  • Shock absorbing base
  • Meets or exceeds all safety standards and regulations
  • LATCH and seatbelt capable
  • 7 recline angles with an indicator
  • 14 position harness
  • No-rethread (ever)
  • Impact Stabilizing Frame – Steel renforced
  • Padding for side impact protection
  • 1 year warranty
  • Long life span
Cons
  • Rear facing range – up to 40 lbs and
  • Forward facing range – 22 to 65 lbs
  • No cup holders
  • For a child under 49inches (standing)
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8. EVENFLO SYMPHONY ELITE All-in-1 Car Seat

The Symphony Elite (or Symphony DLX) is a thoughtfully constructed car seat for your child’s safety and comfort. It is an all-in-one seat that can be used for the weight range of 5 and 110 lbs in different modes. It is durable and has a long life span – designed to be the only seat you may ever need for a child.

EVENFLO SYMPHONY ELITE All-in-1 Car Seat

In rear facing mode it can be used for a child weighing between 5 and 40 lbs. In forward facing mode it can be used for a child weighing between 22 and 65lbs and in booster mode for a child weighing between 40 and 110lbs. It comes with SureLatch technology which helps achieve the tightest and most comfortable installation.

It meets or exceeds all federal safety standards. The seat has been tested extensively for structural integrity at energy levels that are nearly twice those of the federal crash test standards.

Pros
  • All-in-One car seat
  • SuperLATCH installation
  • US made and tested
  • No rethread harness
  • Highly adjustable 5 point harness
  • One handed adjustment of headrest
  • Padding for side impact protection
  • Stylish appearance
  • Fabric is soft and can regulate temperature
  • Buckle pockets that stay cool in hot temperatures
  • The fabric can be cleaned in a machine and dried in a dryer
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Multiple angles of recline (3 angles in forward facing mode)
  • 2 cup holders
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Proven safety record in real-life crashes
  • Free video support from manufacturer
  • Certified for aircraft travel by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA)
  • 90 day warranty
  • LATCH and seat belt compatible
Cons
  • Rear facing weight limit – 5 to 40lbs
  • Rear facing height limit – 19 to 40in
  • Forward facing weight limit – 22 to 65lbs Forward facing height limit – 28 to 50in
  • Booster mode weight limit – 40 to 110lbs Booster mode height limit – 44 to 57in
  • Not meant to be carried
  • Not compatible with strollers
  • Comparatively bigger in size – less room for other passengers
  • No level indicator
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9. GRACO 4EVER DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat

The 4Ever All-in-1 DLX has a long life span of 10 years and is meant to last from birth to when your child does not need a car safety seat anymore. It can be used as a rear facing, forward facing, high back booster or a booster seat and is designed to offer protection on all sides.

GRACO 4EVER DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat

It builds on the comfort and safety provided by the base model and adds premium features such as seat belt lock-off for forward facing mode or self-tightening lower LATCH connectors.  The Simply Safe Adjust Harness System can be used to adjust the harness and headrest in 10 positions in a single motion. It also allows a 6 position recline to keep your growing child comfortable. It is, both, LATCH and belt compatible and allows easy installation. The covers can be removed fast and machine washed without the need for uninstalling the seat from the car.

Pros
  • Easy to install and remove
  • 4 modes of use and easy conversion
  • Offers a 10 year life time
  • Allows headrest and harness adjustment in a single motion
  • 5 point no rethread harness
  • 10 position headrest
  • Bubble level indicator
  • Self-tightening lower LATCH connectors
  • Lock off for forward facing seat belt installation
  • LATCH available for booster mode (up to 42 lbs)
  • Proven crash safety record
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Storage compartment for harness when not in use
  • Approved by all federal authorities
  • Engineered and tested to exceed us standard US Standard FMVSS 213
  • Protection on all sides (as forward facing)
  • RapidRemove cover
  • Removable, machine washable and dryer safe parts
  • 6 point recline (3 forward, 3 rear facing)
  • Available in multiple colors
  • 2 removable solid bottom cup holders
  • Features open loops for an accurate belt path
  • Certified for aircraft travel
Cons
  • Fabric not breathable
  • Harness is not removable for cleaning
  • No lock off device for seat belt installation
  • Weight limit as rear facing seat – 4 to 40lbs
  • Weight range as a forward facing seat – 22 to 65lbs Height limit as a harness seat – 49 in
  • Weight range as a high back belt booster seat – 40 to 100lbs Height range as a high back belt booster sear – 43 to 57 in
  • Weight range as backless booster seat – 40 to 100lbs Height range as a backless booster seat – 43 to 57 in
  • Headrest may rattle
  • Fabric is not very breathable
  • Very tall at full high – may limit rearview visibility
  • Only one set of LATCH straps for forward and rear facing mode
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10. GRACO AFFIX Highback Booster Seat

The Affix is a booster car seat that can be used for a child weighing between 40 and 100 lbs and under 57 inches in height. It has a one handed LATCH system to secure the seat to the vehicle. The seat includes a multi layered headrest for your child’s comfort and safety. The head is highly adjustable.

GRACO AFFIX Highback Booster Seat

The seat provides back support for a growing child.  Other key features include a cup holder for drinks or snacks and a hidden storage compartment.

The seat has been engineered and extensively tested to meet safety regulations. It has been tested for frontal, rear, side and rollover crashed. Furthermore, it has been tested according to the New Car Assessment Program and has been found capable of withstanding extreme vehicular temperatures.

Pros
  • Easy to install
  • Can be used as high back and backless booster
  • Allows headrest and harness adjustment in a single motion
  • 5 point no rethread harness
  • 6 position adjustable headrest
  • Affordable
  • Proven crash safety record
  • Proven ability to withstand extreme vehicle interior temperatures
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Storage compartment
  • Approved by all federal authorities
  • Engineered and tested to exceed standards and regulations
  • Protection on all sides
  • Removable, machine washable and dryer safe parts
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Integrated cup holder
  • Features open loops for an accurate belt path
  • Certified for aircraft travel
Cons
  • Weight range as a high back belt booster seat – 30 to 100lbs Height range as a high back belt booster sear – 38 to 57 in
  • Weight range as backless booster seat – 40 to 100lbs Height range as a backless booster seat – 40 to 57 in
  • Cup holder is smaller than some other models
  • Arm rests are not adjustable
  • Drawer/storage compartment can be hard to access when a child is seated
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Conclusion

So what is the best seat for a 4 year old? There is no definitive answer. There are a variety of factors that can affect the decision to buy a car seat such as the buyers’ budget, seat’s features and the child’s physical and even psychological needs. The generic advice would be to have all these things in mind, conduct thorough research into the safety features and record of the model and manufacturer and make the decision accordingly.

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