So, your child is four years old? What a fun age!
At four, children are developing confidence, whether it’s going down the slide by themselves, putting their shoes on, or giving us their strong opinion on why they should have ice cream for dinner.
As confidence builds, they grow, and they reach new milestones, and parents have to adapt to keep up, which means buying new clothes, more foods, and perhaps another car seat.
At four-years-old, children are growing quickly, so you want to make sure that the car seat you choose will accommodate the growth spurts. The best kinds of car seats for this purpose are booster seats or convertible seats that transform into booster seats.
How Can You Determine The Best Car Seat For 4 Year Old?
- Measure in Weight and Height, not in Years.
Don’t rush out to buy a new car seat on your child’s fourth birthday. A child’s age is only a small part of the car seat decision process. You should choose a seat based on the child’s weight and height since all four-year-olds vary in size. If your child hasn’t reached his current seat’s weight and height requirement, it’s best to keep them there for a while.
On the other hand, if your three-year-old has outgrown his or her seat, it’s time to look for a new one.
All car seat manufacturers will tell you the recommended age and weight and height limits for their seats, but it’s up to you to decide which seat is best for your child.
- Choose a Car Seat that will Accommodate Growth Spurts.
Children grow rapidly, so if you don’t want to need to be buying another car seat in the near future, choose one that will accommodate a growing child. You will want to look at weight and height limits, as well as the maximum shoulder height.
Convertible and all-in-one car seats are best for adapting to a child’s growth, and we will look at these types in detail.
- Test the Fit.
You want your child to enjoy riding in his or her car seat. Of course, we know this doesn’t always happen, but if your child does not like the seat, it could be because it’s just not a great fit.
You can go out and test some floor models before you buy, and it is worth your time and money to do so. See where the lap belt falls on your child in different models. In an accident, a belt that falls on a child’s abdomen rather than the thigh is not going to be absorbed properly to protect the child from injury.
In addition, the straps should fit snugly on your child. Overall, make sure your child is comfortable in the seat you choose.
- Measure Your Backseat.
Some car seats are larger and bulkier than others. If you have a smaller, compact car, make sure the seat will fit by measuring the space you have to work with and matching them with the dimensions of the seat. Make sure you consider and check that you have plenty of room for other passengers as well.
Types of Car Seats for a Four-Year-Old
- Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats are convenient because they adapt to a growing child. Most of them include rear-facing, forward- facing, and then a booster seat. They typically accommodate infants from around 5 pounds to older children up to 100+ pounds.
- Combination/All-in-one Car Seats
Combination or all-in-one car seats are forward-facing only (not to be confused with a convertible car seat, which is both rear- facing and forward- facing. A combination car seat has a five-point harness and will convert to a booster seat when a child outgrows the harness.
- Booster Seats
Booster seats are necessary for children who weigh between 40 and 100 pounds. There are high back boosters and backless boosters, so understand the difference carefully before you choose between them.
High back booster seats include head and neck support and may also have adjustable headrests built in. High back boosters are useful for vehicles with low seat backs since these boosters provide the necessary head and neck support.
Backless booster seats are just that—backless. These seats are good to use if your vehicle already has head support and higher back seats.
If you are still not sure what type of seat is best for your child’s needs, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a conclusive listing of available car seats. The list is organized by restraint type and includes height and weight requirements.
Car Seats We Recommend for Four-Year-Olds
We researched and reviewed the available car seats for four-year-olds. We looked at safety features, comfort, adaptability, and other perks that each seat had. Here are a few that we recommend:
1. Graco 4Ever 4- in- 1 Convertible Car Seat
The Graco 4Ever is a 4-in-one convertible car seat that gives you ten years of use from the time your child is four to 120 pounds.
Seriously, this is the only car seat you will ever need to buy. It is a excellent option for being baby home from the hospital or for a 4-year-old child.
Check out the features :
- Item weight—22.8 pounds
- Dimensions—20 x 21.5 x 24 inches
- Rear-facing from 4 to 40 pounds
- Forward-facing from 20 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
- Material type—plastic
- Easy installation
- LATCH system
- Graco ProtectPlus Engineered
- Easy to clean
- Ten-year expiration date
- Available in 6 colors
- Two built-in cup holders
A solid investment, Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 car seat provides comfort, safety, and versatility from the time your child is born until he or she no longer needs a seat.
The safety features on this seat are impressive. It was designed with Graco ProtectPlus Engineering, meaning that it protects in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes. This seat has protected children in real-life accidents. Several reviews claimed they were in a car accident, and their children were left unharmed while in this seat.
This car seat has six comfortable reclining positions (3 rear-facing and 3 forward- facing), and is easy to adjust when you need to transition the next growth stage.
The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 seat is easy to install in all modes. The belt paths are clearly labeled and color- coded to help assist you, and the LATCH system simplifies the process even more.
Customers said this seat was easy to clean. You can remove the cover quickly and throw it in the washing machine and then let air dry.
2. Britax Pinnacle ClickTight
Another car seat we recommend for your child is the Britax Pinnacle ClickTight G1.1 Seat. This car seat provides three-layer impact protection for children from 25 to 120 pounds.
- Item weight—26.5 pounds
- Dimensions—21 x 22.5 x 18 inches
- Minimum weight/height—25 pounds/30 inches
- Maximum weight/height—120 pounds /62 inches
- Material type—steel
- Nine-position quick- adjust harness
- Three layers of side impact protection
- Transitions from harness to belt positioning
- No rethreading needed
- Patented ClickTight installation
- Three recline positions
- Three color options
- Two built-in cup holders
- Nine year expiration date
The Britax Pinnacle ClickTight G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat is top of the line car seat for your four-year-old child. This seat is a combo forward-facing harness seat and booster seat. It combines safety features such as impact protection and energy-absorbing materials with adjustable components for a growing child.
The nine-position quick-adjust harness grows with the child, making the transition from a harness to belt-positioning booster seat easy. All you do is adjust the harness and tuck the buckles and straps inside the seat.
Britax is known for its extra safety features, and this seat contains some impressive extras. The car seat is constructed with a steel frame, which absorbs energy in an impact. The foam-lined headrest and external cushions provide energy absorption plus support.
One of the best features on this car seat is the ClickTight system—quite possibly the easiest way to install a car seat. There’s no LATCH weight limits, no complex paths for routing the belt, and no locking clips. This system reduces the likelihood that the seat will be installed incorrectly while making installation simple in only three steps.
At almost 27 pounds, this seat is on the larger side, so before buying, make sure it will fit securely in your vehicle. These seats are too wide to fit in a row.
3. Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat
The Evenflo Maestro Booster is a great pick for a four-year-old because it fits children from 22 to 110 pounds, converting from a 5-point harnessed seat to a booster seat as a child grows.
- Item weight—11.02 pounds
- Dimensions—27.7 x 20 x 19 inches
- Fits children from 22-100 pounds/43 to 57 inches
- LATCH systems
- Rates two times above the Federal Crash Test standards
- Auto-adjust belt path
- Four shoulder harness positions
- Two crotch buckle positions
- Integrated cup holders
- Machine washable and dryable seat cover
- Available in seven combination colors
The Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat made our list for several reasons—it protects children in the forward-facing harness from 22 to 50 pounds and then converts to a belt-positioning booster seat from 50 to 110 pounds, making it a fantastic choice for a four-year-old. In addition to four shoulder harness and two crotch strap positions, this seat’s design adjusts to fit a child as he or she grows.
The safety features of this seat are impressive, withstanding approximately two times the energy of the Federal Crash Test Standard, which includes tests for side-impact, structural integrity, flammability, and temperature changes.
In addition, the Evenflo Maestro earned a “Best Bet,” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. With the LATCH system, this seat is easy to install and adjust to another mode. The auto-adjust belt path correctly positions the seat belt to tailor to the child’s fit.
One concern about this seat is that its height limit isn’t high enough in the booster setting. The height limit is 57 inches, and some reviewers said that this doesn’t accommodate kids who are tall for their age. Also, this seat does not convert into a backless booster, so that also was a common concern.
Another perk of this seat is that it is lightweight compared to some of the other ones. At just 11 pounds, it is easy to transport from one vehicle to another. It’s also an affordable option for those on a budget.
4. Safety 1st Grow and Go
The Safety 1st Grow and Go is another great choice for a car seat for a 4-year-old.
This convertible car seat protects children from 5 to 100 pounds in three stages: rear-facing, forward-facing, and belt-positioning booster.
- Item weight—18.66 pounds
- Dimensions—24.5 x 19.2 x 24.2 inches
- Fits children 5 to 100 pounds/19-52 inches
- Side-impact protection
- Three-position recline
- Padded body pillow
- QuickFit Harness and harness holders
- Machine washable and dryer safe fabric
- Adjustable headrest in booster mode
- Ten-year lifetime before it expires
- Two built-in cup holders
- Available in 12 colors
The Safety 1st Grow and Go may not have the bells and whistles that some of the other car seats do, but it 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.
Safety is high on our list, obviously, and this seat achieved impressive crash test scores and was also approved for use in Canada by the Transport Canada and Health Canada organizations. The three-position recline and padded body pillow allow for a child’s comfort as he or is she is riding in the car.
We also should mention the detailed user manual that Safety 1st wrote to accompany this seat. All seats should come with a manual, but customers raved about this one, citing user-friendly diagrams to color-coded sections, making the installation, use, and maintenance simple and easy.
This seat is designed with a narrower build than some other seats, making it an optimal fit for most vehicles. It is also lighter weight than most, making transporting it easy. The cover is easy to remove and machine wash and dry, making it convenient when clean-up is needed.
5. Cosco Finale DX
The Cosco Finale DX is a five-point harness that converts to belt-positioning booster seat as your child grows.
This seat accommodates children from 30 to 65 pounds in the forward-facing harness and 40 to 100 pounds in the booster seat.
- Item weight—11.5 pounds
- Dimensions—18.2 x 19 x 29.8 inches
- Protects children 40-100 pounds/32-52 inches
- Material type—fabric
- Exceeds safety regulations
- LATCH system
- Available in four colors
- Removable and dishwasher safe cup holder
- Removable machine washable and dryable booster seat pad
- FAA-approved for aircraft use
- 10-year lifespan
- One-year warranty
The Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Combination Booster Car Seat is a perfect choice for a 4-year-old child since it accommodates children who range from 30 to 100 pounds and 32-52 inches tall. The five-point safety harness converts into a belt-positioning booster seat for children 40 to 100 pounds.
This narrow, lightweight seat (only 11.5 pounds!) is great for families on the go and easy to move from car to car. Three of these seats can easily fit into a car’s backseat. It’s easy to install too—at least that’s what many parents said. The LATCH system simplifies installation and ensures a stable, secure fit. The LATCH system cannot be used in the booster seat setting though.
The Cosco Finale DX seat meets all federal, ASTM, and JPMA safety standards and includes a one-year warranty.
The deluxe, easy to wash fabric will keep your child comfy, and when it needs to be cleaned, it can be put in the washer and dryer. The cup holders are removable and dishwasher safe for hassle-free cleaning. As a final plus, this car seat is affordable and a perfect option for a four-year-old child.
How to Install a Car Seat Correctly
We talked a bit about installation with each car seat we recommended, but we wanted to expand on that a bit. Correctly installing a car seat is essential for maximizing your child’s protection while riding in a car.
Each car seat is different, so it is imperative to check with the car seat’s installations instructions before you install it. These instructions come directly from the manufacturer and will give step by step detailed instructions on how to install properly.
Checking your car manual is also a good idea. Each car is different, which means they have a variety of safety features that will aid you in securely installing your car seat. Your vehicle may have anchors designed to help install the seat (or it may not). Consult your vehicle’s manual to look for these features before installing the seat.
After consulting both the car seat and your vehicle’s manual, you should have a good idea of how to install the seat. Keep these tips in mind, too:
- Place the car seat or booster seat in the correct place.
Obviously, the car seat needs to go in the backseat as that is the law. The center of the backseat is the safest place to place a car seat since it’s not on the sides too close to the windows.
- Make sure you lock the seat belts.
If your vehicle does not have anchors available for the booster seat, you should tighten and lock the seat belt around the seat once you install it.
- Tighten the straps and adjust the angles.
Make sure that you tighten every strap so the car seat will not budge. Not tightening the straps tight enough a common mistake when installing a car seat.
The Bottom Line
Advancements in technology and car seat design has improved tremendously over the years. Most car seats pass FAA safety regulations (and if you come across one that doesn’t, run away!), and most car seats have even extra safety features.
Comfort is another significant factor to consider. Some car seats are more comfortable than others, so it’s best to look for seats with extra padding on the base, body, shoulder, and head areas.
Of course, then there’s installation. The LATCH system makes installation simpler, but not every car seat includes this system. You want a car seat that is easy to install. Don’t just look at what the manufacturer says though—go with the customer reviews. They don’t lie.
Then there’s the extra perks—color options, cup holders, etc. We do mention these features, but some customers value these factors more than others, so it’s up to you to decide what you are looking for in a car seat and do your homework!