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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.