They are called the “terrible twos” for a reason, but truly, 2-year-old are delightful as they begin to discover the world through their little eyes. As you know, 2-year-olds need constant supervision and safety measures should be put into place at all times, and since we spend a lot of time in the car, a solid and safe car seat is essential.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy update in 2018 that says that infants and toddlers should remain in a rear-facing car seat for “as long as possible. This used to mean age two, but now it is until they reached the weight and limit of their rear-facing car seat. The minimum age requirement for a front-facing seat is 2-years-old and 22 pounds.
Fortunately, there are many safe, adaptable car seats out there, no matter your lifestyle. We have conducted tests and extensive research, and are ready to present you with four car seats for 2-year-old that are the best on the market. Make sure you check out our buying guide after the reviews for additional information on how to choose the best car seat for your 2 year old.
Best Car Seat For 2 Year Old Toddler
1. Pico™ Travel Car Seat: The Most Portable
Some car seats claim they are “portable,” but when you carry them around and install and reinstall them from vehicle to vehicle, you may wonder why they were advertised as such. Well, good news: the Pico Travel Car Seat, recently released from the company WAYB, is truly a portable car seat for a 2-year-old and has been called a “game-changer” for traveling families.
This easily-transportable forward-facing car seat is perfect for children between the ages of two and five who weigh 22-50 pounds and are 30-45 inches tall. Even better, it’s foldable and compact, weighing in at only 8 pounds! The founders of WAYB come from the outdoor gear industry, so this company is known for its commitment to safety and quality.
- Forward Facing (22-50 lbs./30-45 inches)
- Car and plane approved
- Aerospace-grade aluminum alloy frame
- AstroKnit Mesh
- Eco-Friendly: Minimal plastics/No PU Foam
- Comes in three different colors/styles: earth, ocean, and jet
- “Breathe-easy guarantee” (three-year limited warranty)
The Pico Car Seat exceeds all safety testing according to the NHTSA and the FAA, so this seat is safe to take with you on all your adventures. It’s also created with eco-friendly materials and includes minimal plastic and no PU foam.
Installation is simple with either top tethers or LATCH straps. WAYB offers installation videos to walk you through the installation process. Because the Pico Travel Car Seat folds in half for storage, it can fit in an airplane’s overhead bin or even be carried in a backpack.
Have more than one child? No problem. This travel seat is narrow enough to fit three-across in most cars. We do think that a handle would make this seat a bit easier to carry, but that’s not a deal-breaker. Also, this seat may be a bit pricey for some families, but WAYB does offer interest-free payments toward this seat, so that’s always an option.
2. Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 TrueShield Car Seat: The Most Versatile
Most parents would love to buy a car seat that can be adapted to each growth spurt and “grow” with their child. That way, they don’t need to buy a new car seat every season. Thankfully, the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Car Seat, featuring TrueShield Side Impact Technology, is a convertible car that provides comfort, safety, and versatility from the time your child is born until he or she no longer needs a seat.
- Rear-facing from 4 to 40 pounds
- 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
- InRight LATCH system
- Easy installation
- Ten-year expiration date
The TrueShield Technology provides advanced side-impact protection for your child from head to hips in the case of a crash. This seat is engineered and crash tested to meet or exceed the US standard FMVSS 213.
This car seat features six comfortable reclining positions (3 rear-facing and 3 forward-facing) and a 10-position headrest that is easy to adjust when you need to transition the next growth stage. The belt paths are clearly labeled and color-coded to help assist you, and the InRight LATCH system provides a simple, one-second attachment with an audio click clue to ensure proper installation.
This seat also comes with dual built-in cup holders for your child’s sippy cups. The washable seat cover is easy to remove and can be washed in the washing machine. The metal and plastic parts can be cleaned with mild soap and water. While this seat is versatile, it is not portable and does not have a detachable base, so it may not be convenient for an infant.
3. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat: Budget Choice
If you’re on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice quality in a car seat (as you shouldn’t!), check out the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat for your 2 year old. This convertible car seat is similar to the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1, as it protects children from 5 to 100 pounds/19-52 inches in three stages: rear-facing, forward-facing, and belt-positioning booster. It also provides extra side impact protection.
- Rear-facing mode: supports children 5-40 pounds
- Forward-facing mode: supports children 22-65 pounds
- Belt-positioning booster mode: supports children 40-100 pounds
- Side-impact protection
- Three-position recline
- Padded body pillow
- QuickFit Harness adjusts harness and headrest
- Machine washable and dryer safe fabric
- Adjustable headrest in booster mode
- Ten-year lifetime
- Two built-in cup holders
You know those famous yellow diamond signs hung in many vehicles that read “Baby on Board?” Those were originally released by Safety 1st in 1984! They have hung in millions of cars since then, and this company continues to put safety first in their car seats. The Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat has everything you need to keep your child safe while riding in the car. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated this seat a “good bet,” which also makes us feel good about it.
The three-position recline and padded body pillow allow for a child’s comfort as he or is she is riding in the car. This seat is designed more narrow and lighter in weight than some of its competitors, making it easier to transport. The cover is also easy to remove and machine wash and dry, which is an extra perk because many car seat covers are not made for the dryer.
Customers cited easy- installation with Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1, and a detailed user manual accompanies this seat. While all seats come with a manual, customers said this one is user-friendly and includes color-coded sections and easy-to-understand directions. We cannot say that for all companies. Best of all, this car seat won’t break your bank. It’s incredibly affordable, especially considering it’s a convertible car seat and can last up to ten years.
4. Evenflo EveryStage DLX All-in-One Car Seat: Extra Safety Features
A trusted source of quality car seats for almost 100 years, Evenflo is known for its proactive safety measures. This company tests all of its car seats to an energy level twice that of the federal crash standard, and they are leading the industry with the development of their dynamic rollover test.
EveryStage DLX All-in-One Car Seat, Kids’ Rear-Facing Seat, Convertible & Booster Seat is an all-in-one car seat that offers
- Rear-facing mode: supports children 4-50 pounds
- Forward-facing with harness mode: supports children 22-65 pounds
- High-back booster mode: supports children 65-120 pounds
- Steel reinforced frame
- EasyClick LATCH system
- Energy-absorbing base
- No-rethread harness
- Custom Cradle Fit
- Five-recline positions
- Two removable dishwasher-safe cup holders
Equipped with an EasyClick LATCH system to achieve a 3 times tighter than its competitors, this wiggle-free seat will keep your child snug and protected for ten years of use. It is easy to install, and you won’t need to tighten straps by pulling them. The no-rethread harness moves the headrest with one hand to adjust the height and harness in one step.
Evenflo DLX features a Custom Cradled Fit that adapts to your child, no matter what stage he is in. This seat reclines at five different positions (three rear-facing and two forward-facing) without taking up necessary space. An easy-to-read bead level will let you know that your seat is installed correctly. Extra built-in space is utilized to allow your child to ride in the rear-facing mode longer.
The seat pad removes and can be machine washed. The two removable cup holders are safe to wash in the dishwasher. Evenflo provides live video installation support where you can schedule an appointment with a certified technician if needed. In addition, a ParentLink online chat is available for customers to reach out with questions or issues.
You already know that car seats save lives, but as your child grows, what he needs from a car seat will change. For example, a 2-year-old won’t need the extra neck support or recline that an infant needs. By age two, children are becoming more independent. It’s important to choose the best car seat for his needs, so here is some additional information to help you make the best choice.
What Are the Types of Car Seats for Toddlers?
There are primarily three kinds of toddler car seats: forward-facing, convertible, and all-in-one. Sometimes car seats that are advertised as “convertible” are actually “all-in-one” car seats, so be sure you check the specifics on the car seat you are researching.
Forward-facing car seats have a five-point harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement in the event of a crash. Convertible car seats change from rear-facing to forward-facing with a harness and tether. All-in-one car seats change from a rear-facing to a forward-facing, to a booster seat. Two-year-olds are not ready for a booster seat, so the forward-facing modes should be used.
What Should I Look For While Shopping for a Car Seat for My 2-Year-Old?
First of all, the best seat for your 2 year old is the one that best fits her size, is correctly installed, and is used properly every time she rides in the car. Many car seats advertise special features, but the truth is, if a car seat does not fit your child correctly or is not installed properly, extra features may not be effective.
Height and Weight Requirements:
When shopping for a car seat for your two year old, take into account his height and weight. All car seats have height and weight requirements in order to best protect the child. These are not mere suggestions but backed by extensive testing and research to ensure the most protection for each child.
Two-years-old is the age where most rear-facing car seats can be switched to front-facing, but this decision should not be based on the fact that your child is now two. It should be based on his weight and height and whether he has met those requirements to transition to a forward-facing car seat.
Your Family’s Lifestyle:
Also, take into account what you need from a car seat, based on you and your family’s lifestyle. If you travel frequently, you will benefit from a good travel car seat, like the Pico Travel Car Seat, our first recommendation. This seat is easily portable and lightweight—perfect for traveling family.
If you are looking for a versatile car seat that will adapt to your child as he grows, a convertible or all-in-one car seat would be your best bet, like the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 or the EveryStage DLX All-in-One Car Seat. Convertible car seats are truly efficient and cost-effective since there is no need to go out and buy another car seat ever again.
If you are on a tight budget, there are some great budget-friendly options like the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Car Seat, which is also a convertible seat. Don’t decide on a car seat by price alone, though, and do know that a higher-priced car seat does not mean it is a safer or superior car seat. There are plenty of car seats out there that offer high-quality support for a modest price.
Even after you buy your car seat, test it to make sure your it fits your child properly. Many reviewers will leave negative reviews for a specific car seat, saying that “it’s uncomfortable” or “it doesn’t fit right,” when they may not have tested it out or made correct adjustments.
For example, your child will appear slouched, and her legs will extend further than they should if she is sitting too low in the car seat. Make adjustments to help her sit higher in the seat. Also, check the harness. The top slots should be no lower than your child’s shoulders.
If you have made adjustments and your child does not fit well in the car seat, contact the company to see if there are any steps you can take to ensure the correct fit. You can also contact a local car seat technician for assistance. If it still doesn’t fit right, return it. Don’t drive with your child in a seat that does not fit him well.
A car seat’s purpose is to minimize injuries during a car accident. Some car seats feature extra safety features, like the TrueShield technology in the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Car Seat and the extensive front, side, and rollover testing from Evenflo. When looking for a car seat, take into account the safety features, but also know that the car seat must be installed correctly in order to activate these features.
You want a car seat that lasts, of course. Check the expiration date for car seats to see how long you can use it. Some parents prefer to buy an all-in-one car seat that lasts up to ten years. Also, check the materials used when manufacturing the car seat to see about durability.
Comfort is essential, and a big part of comfort is making sure your child fits in the seat correctly. You can also look for materials such as energy-absorbing foam and extra padding. The plushier and foamier, the more comfortable!
Easy to Clean:
Two-year-olds are inevitably going to produce messes, and their car seats will need cleaning. Look for car seat covers that can be removed and machine washed. Ones that can be dried in the dryer should get bonus points!
Other Buying Tips
Avoid buying a used car seat if you don’t know the seat’s history. Be leery of buying from a buy and sell group since there are facts about the seat that you may not know. Also, don’t use a car seat that is too old. Look on the label for the date it was manufactured and then check with the manufacturer to see the lifespan of the particular seat. Don’t use a car seat that comes with any damage like a crack or missing parts.
Toddler Car Seat Safety Tips
Two common mistakes are turning a rear-facing car seat around to a forward-facing too early as well as transitioning to a booster seat too early. Moving your child prematurely to either front-facing or a booster can be a safety risk in an accident. That’s why there are important guidelines to follow when choosing a car seat for your 2-year-old.
In addition, more than half of car seats are not installed correctly, according to the NHTSA. Common installation mistakes include:
- Routing seatbelts incorrectly
- Using both the lower anchors of the LATCH system and the seatbelt
- Connecting the lower anchors and tethers of the LATCH system to the wrong places
- Forgetting to use the tether
- Not putting enough weight on the seat as you are installing it
Always review the car seat safety guidelines to ensure your 2-year-old is strapped in correctly, and the seat is installed properly. Ask for professional help, if needed.
Back to our initial questions: what is the best car seat for a 2 year old?
The answer is one that will keep him safe and comfortable and will fit into your family’s lifestyle. Along with our four recommendations, there are plenty of quality car seats on the market today, and it takes a little reading and research to determine which seat is best for your 2-year-old. Choose the one that best fits your personal needs while offering a safe and practical ride for your child.
Car Seats for other ages: