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Best Baby Car Seat For 1 Year Old

Renee Whitmore
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by Renee Whitmore

Remember when we used to immediately turn babies around from rear-facing to front-facing car seats as soon as they turned the big one-year? Well, at least I remember that since my kids are 16 and 11!  The American Association of Pediatrics now recommends that children stay in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least two or they reach the maximum weight and height for their car seat.

Children are safest in a rear-facing seat, which is why, no matter how much we want to see their cute faces in the rear-view mirror, we don’t prematurely transition them to a front-facing car seat. (And you can always invest in a car seat mirror so you can still see their cute faces!)

If you’re looking for a car seat for your 1 year old, you have come to the right place! Through our tests and extensive research, we have found the best car seats for a 1 year old. We have five car seat recommendations, and some educational information on other factors to look for in shopping for a 1 year old’s car seat.

Best 1 Year Old Child Seats
graco-4ever-4-in-1
  • Modes of Use: 4
  • Child Weight Range (lbs): 4-120
  • Weight: 24
safety-1st-grow-and-go
  • Modes of Use: 3
  • Child Weight Range (lbs): 5-100
  • Weight: 18.66
everystage-dlx
  • Modes of Use: 3
  • Child Weight Range (lbs): 4-120
  • Weight: 22
disney-baby-apt50
  • Modes of Use: 2
  • Child Weight Range (lbs): 5-50
  • Weight: 11
cosco-apt-50
  • Modes of Use: 2
  • Child Weight Range (lbs): 5-50
  • Weight: 11

What are the Best Car Seats For a 1 Year Old?

1. Graco 4Ever-4-in-1 Car Seat featuring TrueShield Side Impact Technology: Best Overall

graco-4ever-4-in-1

Our best overall car seat for 1 year old is the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1  with TrueShield Side Impact Technology. This convertible car seat adapts to each growth spurt and supports infants from just four pounds to children at 120 pounds. The TrueShield Side Impact Technology provides extra side-impact protection “from head to hips” in the case of a crash. Safety, comfort, and versatility are key aspects of this car seat.

Key Features:

  • Forward-facing from 22 to 65 pounds/27 to 52 inches
  • Booster seat in high back position from 30 to 100 pounds/38-57 inches
  • Booster seat in backless positioning from 40 to 120 pounds/40-57 inches
  • TrueShield Technology
  • EPS energy-absorbing foam
  • Reinforced steel frame
  • Six-position recline
  • Ten-position headrest
  • InRight LATCH system

As far as safety features, we love the TrueShield Technology with extra advanced side-impact protection. The steel, reinforced frame is designed with strength, durability, and will last ten years. This seat is engineered and crash tested to meet or exceed the US Standard FMVSS 213.

The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 is also super comfortable, as it features six reclining positions, along with an easily adjustable 10-position headrest. You can adjust the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System in just one motion. The InRight LATCH system provides a simple, one-second attachment with an audio click clue, and the belt paths are clearly labeled and color-coded for easy installation.

Dual built-in cup holders hold your child’s drinks and snacks, and the removable seat cover can be washed in the washing machine. The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 includes a ten-year-warranty, and you will never need to buy another car seat. Do note that this car seat does not include a detachable base, so it may not be ideal for an infant if you want to be able to detach the car seat.

Pros
  • Versatile car seat supporting children 4-120 pounds
  • TrueShield side-impact technology
  • InRight LATCH system
  • Easy installation
  • Machine washable cover
Cons
  • No detachable base
  • Cup holders are not removable

2. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat: Runner Up

safety-1st-grow-and-go

Safety 1st is the original creators of the popular “Baby on Board” yellow diamond signs that we see hanging on the windows of vehicles. It’s not just a motto; they practice what they preach! Similar to the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 in its versatility and safety features, the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat is another great choice for your 1-year-old, as it protects children from 5 to 100 pounds/19-52 inches in three stages: rear-facing, forward-facing, and a belt-positioning booster.

Key Features :

  • Rear-facing mode: 5-40 pounds
  • Forward-facing mode: 22-65 pounds
  • Belt-positioning booster mode: 40-100 pounds
  • Side-impact protection
  • Three-position recline
  • Padded body pillow
  • QuickFit Harness adjusts harness and headrest

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated this seat a “good bet,” and we agree. Along with extra side-impact protection, the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat has been crash tested and meets or exceeds all federal standards in the US (FMVSS 213).

This seat also boasts comfort, as it comes with a three-position recline and padded body pillow. The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 is lighter (under 19 pounds), and more narrow than many of its competitors, allowing easy transport. The removable cover can be machine washed and dried, which is an extra perk because many car seat covers cannot be put in the dryer.

This seat is also easy to install and comes with a user-friendly manual that includes color-coded sections that customers said are well-written and comprehensive. Another perk: this car seat is incredibly affordable, especially for a convertible seat with a ten-year lifespan.

Pros
  • Supports children 5-100 pounds!
  • Rated “good bet” by IIHS
  • Easy to install
  • Affordable
  • Made in the US
Cons
  • Cup holders are not removable
  • Some customers said fabric is not “breathable”

3. Evenflo EveryStage DLX All-in-One Car Seat: Tightest Installation

everystage-dlx

Evenflo has been providing high-quality car seats for almost 100 years, and with a solid track record in safety, comfort, and longevity, it’s no surprise that the EveryStage DLX  made our list. The EveryStage DLX All-in-One Car Seat features a rear-facing infant seat, a forward-facing five-point harness, and a high-back booster seat for babies and children ranging from 4-120 pounds. Its EasyClick LATCH system provides a 3X tighter installation for a “wiggle-free” seat.

Key Features:

  • Rear-facing mode: 4-50 pounds
  • Forward-facing with harness mode: 22-65 pounds
  • High-back booster mode: 65-120 pounds
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • EasyClick LATCH system
  • Energy-absorbing base
  • No-rethread harness

Evenflo tests all of its car seats to twice that of the federal crash standard, and they also lead the industry with their rollover testing. An added safety feature of the EveryStage DLX is that children can also stay in the rear-facing mode longer (up to 50 pounds) through the adjustable positions without extending the seat or taking up space from other passengers.

The innovative EasyClick LATCH system ratchets to achieve a tighter installation, so there is no need to pull straps to tighten. The bead level will let you know that your seat is installed correctly or if it needs adjustments. The Custom Cradled Fit reclines at five different positions: three rear-facing and two forward-facing.

The removable seat pad can be thrown in the washing machine, and the dual removable cup holders are dishwasher safe. Evenflo provides live video installation support for its customers where you can schedule an appointment with a certified technician if needed and/or use the ParentLink online chat to reach out with questions or concerns.

Pros
  • Supports children 4-120 pounds
  • Extended rear-facing mode
  • EasyClick LATCH system for tightest installation
  • Impressive safety ratings
  • ParentLink online chat
Cons
  • Seat is wider and heavier than some others
  • May not be ideal for frequent travelers

4. Disney Baby Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat: Most Stylish and Colorful

disney-baby-apt50

Some high-quality car seats skimp on the style factor by only offering one or two bland color options. We get it; all the focus is on safety and durability, but who says you can’t have an excellent car seat that is also fun? If you’re looking for a high-quality car seat that is also stylish and colorful, check out the Disney Baby Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat.

Key Features:

  • Rear-facing weight: 5-40 pounds
  • Forward-facing weight: 22-50 pounds
  • Five-point adjustable harness
  • Six harness heights/three buckle locations
  • Side Impact Protection
  • One Click LATCH

The Disney Baby Minnie Mouse APT 50 Convertible Car Seat protects babies and toddlers from 5 to 50 pounds. Infants from 5 pounds to toddlers of 40 pounds can sit in the rear-facing mode. The forward-facing mode is for toddlers 22-50 pounds. Six harness heights and three buckle locations allow accommodations for your growing child. Side-impact protection is built into the seat for extra safety.

At only 11 pounds, this seat is extra lightweight and portable, so if you transport your seat to different cars or travel frequently, even better!  You can easily remove the car seat from its base when you’re out and about. As we mentioned, this seat is stylish and colorful: a Minnie Mouse silhouette with a bow-shaped head pillow accentuates the vibrant pink fabric. Your child is sure to love it! A Mickey Mouse version is also available. The Disney Baby Minnie Mouse ATP 50 includes removable fabric that you can machine wash and throw in the dryer. Two integrated cup holders are also included for your little one’s snacks and drinks.

Pros
  • Minnie Mouse…enough said
  • Extended rear-facing protection
  • Extra side impact protection
  • Fabric is machine washable and dryer friendly
  • Light and portable
Cons
  • Fabric may not be “breathable”
  • May not have sufficient padding

5. Cosco Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat (Black Arrows): Budget Choice

cosco-apt-50

If money is tight, don’t get into the line of thinking that you must buy an expensive car seat for it to be effective. There are plenty of budget-friendly options out there for a 1-year-old that provide all you need in a car seat: safety, durability, and even some extra perks. Cosco has been a trusted car seat brand for more than 70 years, and this company features a budget-friendly seat, the Cosco Apt 50 Convertible. This car seat is designed for infants from 5 pounds to toddlers at 50 pounds and comes with all you need for a quality car seat on a budget.

Key Features:

  • Rear-facing weight: 5-40 pounds
  • Forward-facing weight: 22-50 pounds
  • Five-point adjustable harness
  • Six harness heights/three buckle locations
  • Side Impact Protection

At only 8 pounds, the Cosco APT 50 is lightweight and a great option for traveling families. (Note: this seat is advertised on Amazon for 11 pounds, but that is the shipping weight.) You can easily uninstall and reinstall it with the LATCH system, and the company provides a color-coding labeling system to make installation simple. The blue stickers give information for rear-facing installation, while the red stickers for front-facing. The seat comes with a QR code that you can scan with your SmartPhone for online installation videos and support.

The extended rear-facing mode is for children 5-40 pounds and 19-40 inches tall, and the front-facing mode is for children 22-40 pounds who are 29-43 inches tall. For the best fit, this seat includes six different harness heights and three buckle locations. The extra side impact protection adds to the safety of this seat, and there’s enough padding to keep your child comfortable, but not too much to where your child could get overheated. Two cup holders are included, and the seat cover can be machine washed and dried in the dryer.

Pros
  • Extended rear-facing mode
  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Side-impact protection
  • Air travel approved
  • Budget-friendly
Cons
  • Crotch strap may be too short
  • Installation may be difficult

What Types of Car Seats Are Made for 1 Year Olds?

While these numbers vary per child, on average, a 1-year-old child weighs between 19-27 pounds and is 29-35 inches tall, according to the World Health Organization. This means that most 1-year-olds will need a rear-facing car seat since the AAP recommends children stay in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old or exceed the weight and height requirements for their seat.

Rear-facing car seats come in infant seats, convertible seats, or all-in-one seats. Infant seats are designed to stay rear-facing until your child reaches two-years-old or outgrows it. Convertible seats, like our fourth and fifth recommendations, accommodate children in both rear-facing and forward-facing modes up to around 50 pounds.  All-in-one car seats, like our first three recommendations, include an infant car seat, a forward-facing seat, and a booster seat, which is why these are so practical.

What Should I Look For While Shopping for a Car Seat for My 1 Year Old?

The most important features when shopping for a car seat for a 1-year-old are safety, durability, comfort, fit, and of course, ease of cleaning.

Safety

Safety is obviously the number one priority. Extra safety features like side protection and extensive testing are pluses. However, no matter how many safety features it contains, the seat itself is not going to protect a child. It must be installed properly in order for the safety features to have any effect. That’s why it’s so important to be sure, without any doubt, that the car seat you choose is installed correctly.

Durability

No parent wants to buy a new car seat every year. That’s why it’s important to look for durability features in a car seat. For example, steel-reinforced frames are known for their durability. Also, every car seat has an expiration date that begins the day it was manufactured. Some people mistakenly think that this date starts from the date it was purchased. If you buy a car seat with a six-year expiration date, but it was manufactured three years ago, you have three years of use. Make sure to know this information for an idea of how long the car seat will last. 

Comfort

Comfort is an important factor in a car seat. If your 1-year-old is not comfy, the ride won’t be much fun for either of you.  Look for materials such as energy-absorbing foam and extra padding. However, make sure, especially if you live in a warmer climate, to look for car seats with more “breathable” material. Some can get too hot and cause your child to overheat. Also, another way to make sure your child is comfortable is to make sure he fits in the seat properly – more on that next.

Fits Your Child

The best car seat for a 1 year old is the one that fits her perfectly. After you purchase a car seat, test it to make sure he sits in it comfortably while harnessed. All of the car seats on our list have ample adjustable points where you can continuously adjust the seat and the straps until it’s just right.

If the car seat doesn’t appear to fit him perfectly, no matter the adjustments, contact the company to see if a representative can walk you through some troubleshooting tips. If you decide it’s still not a good fit, just return it and look for another. There’s no point in using a car seat that doesn’t fit well, and not all car seats will fit all children the same way.

Easy to Clean

One-year-olds aren’t exactly the cleanest humans, haha! In fact, they are notoriously messy. You will have all kinds of messes to clean on your car seat, so look for one that is easy to clean. Most covers are removable and machine washable. Some are even dryer-approved. The plastic and metal parts can be wiped down with soapy water and a sponge or rag.

Other Tips

You may be tempted to buy a used car seat online to save money. We are leery of this, since buying a used car seat means you don’t know its history. If you know the history of a car seat, and it hasn’t been in any accidents or been recalled, use your own judgment. However, be super cautious about buying them from an online buy and sell group.

As we said before, check for the date that the car seat was manufactured. Don’t think that you will get ten years of use from a car seat that was manufactured five years ago. Always check with the company to get this information. Also, don’t use a car seat that is damaged. If a car seat you order has any cracks or damage, contact the company immediately and send it back.

The Importance of Proper Installation

We can’t stress this point enough. If your car seat is not installed properly, the safety effects may be negated in the case of a crash. Unfortunately, more than half of car seats are not installed correctly, according to the NHTSA. Make sure you understand how to install the car seat either with LATCH or with your vehicle’s seat belt.

You will need to reference both your vehicle’s manual and the car seat manual for assistance. Don’t just guess! The safest place for a 1-year-old to ride is in the center of the back seat. Even if you think you have installed your child’s car seat flawlessly, it’s still a good idea to have your work inspected. Child Safety Seat Inspection Locations are across the country where you can stop in and have an expert make sure your car seat is correctly installed. The NHTSA offers an inspection location finder so you can quickly find that assistance.

Final Thoughts

The best car seat for a 1 year old is a rear-facing seat that will keep him safe and comfortable during your car journeys.

Our five recommendations are the best out there for 1 year olds, and if you know what you are looking for, you can find others. Convertible and all-in-one car seats are convenient and will save you money in the long run. Infant car seats are rear-facing, and once your child outgrows it, you will need to purchase a front-facing car seat. The bottom line is that you keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. It could save his life.

Car seats for other ages:

About Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.
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