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Best Front Facing Car Seats

Renee Whitmore
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by Renee Whitmore

Time flies when you have a little one! Seriously, my “little ones” are now 16 and 11-years old, and the 16-year-old is now driving me around! (That’s another story, though!)

A significant milestone is when your child transitions from rear-facing to forward-facing in his or her car seat. However, as exciting as it is, this is not a transition to be rushed. But, as we all know, there will come a time when their legs are too long to accommodate a rear-facing seat, and they should be flipped around to face the road.

So, that brings us to the question, when do you transition from a rear-facing to a forward-facing car seat?

The American Academy of Pediatrics changed its recommendation in 2011 to state that children shouldn’t face forward until at least age 2. Then they removed the age recommendation and said children should remain in a rear-facing car safety seat “as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.”

That brings us to this point: age doesn’t factor into this transition. I saw a four-year-old the other day in a rear-facing car seat, and it was still a perfect fit for her.

The research overwhelmingly supports the fact that children are way safer when they are rear-facing. Children’s bodies, especially their necks and spines, are simply not equipped to handle the forces from a head-on collision. So, do not let your child’s age factor into this safety decision.

However, if your child awkwardly fits in his rear-facing seat because he has reached the height and weight limits, it’s time for a forward-facing seat.

We know that the options are endless when it comes to car seats. One Google search will prove that, and parents may get overwhelmed when considering these options. That’s why we do the research for you! We spend hours studying the best car seats, why they are the best, and the ones to avoid.

First Of All: What is a Front Facing Car Seat?

A forward-facing car seat has a harness and tether that limits your child’s movement during a crash. There are different types– convertibles, combinations, and all-in-ones, for example. Still, they all are constructed the same in that they protect children in a forward-facing seat, who are within the weight and height range specified by the seat’s manufacturer.

We have analyzed each of the best forward-facing car seats to present you with five recommendations. Here are the factors we look for:

  • Safety
  • Comfort
  • Installation
  • Ease of Use
  • Seat’s height/weight limit
  • Convenience
  • Style
  • Price

So, with no further ado, here are our top five front-facing car seat recommendations to help you make the best decision possible for your child.

Best Forward Facing Car Seats

1. Graco Nautilus 65 Booster Convertible Seat

Top Choice
Graco Nautilus 65
The Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Harness Booster Convertible Seat is perfect for toddlers and smaller children who weigh 22-65 pounds. This seat then transitions into a high back booster or backless seat for children who weigh 30-100 pounds.

As I mentioned before, the Graco Nautilus is for children from 22-65 pounds and 27 to 49 inches in the forward-facing mode. The high-back booster weight and height range is 30 to 100 pounds and 38 to 57 inches. The backless booster weight and height range is 40 to 120 pounds and 40 to 57 inches.

We love the Graco Nautilus 65 because of the combination of safety features, comfortable seating, and convenience. Graco rigorously crash tests their products, includes EPS impact-absorbing foam and side-impact protection. In addition, the seat is built with a steel frame, which makes it stable and durable.

One great perk of this car seat is that you can install it with LATCH technology or a seat belt. Both are easy ways to install the seat. If you choose to install with a seatbelt, make sure that you pass the belt through the color codes holes and attach and tighten it. If you install with LATCH, just use the LATCH straps, adjust, and tighten them.

The Graco Nautilus is a comfortable seat, and reviewers of this seat proved that with testimonials and pictures of their children taking naps during a long car ride.  Any of the three recline positions can be used at any age, weight, or the mode of seat. The energy-absorbing foam is not only a safety feature, but it is also a comfort feature. The Simply Safe Adjust Harness System makes it easy to accommodate your child’s size.

It is also worth noting that this seat was built to withstand high temperatures (as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer) in a car’s interior. It is a quality, durable seat that will last for ten years.

This seat comes with a cup holder and a storage compartment for your child’s belongings or snacks. The removable pad is machine washable.

Specifications & Features:

  • Item weight—20.5 pounds
  • Dimensions—18 x 20 x 28 inches
  • Minimum weight/height—22 pounds/27inches
  • Maximum weight/height—120 pounds /57 inches
  • Material type—plastic
  • Reinforced steel frame
  • Front-facing car seat booster, high back booster, backless booster
  • Adjustable headrest
  • Simply Safe Adjust Harness System
  • Three-position recline
  • Side impact protection
  • No-thread harness
  • Multiple installation options
  • Graco ProtectPlus engineered
  • Plush comfort features  
  • Machine washable
  • Cupholder
  • Storage compartments
  • Ten-year lifespan
Pros
  • Easy to install
  • Comfortable padding
  • Inexpensive
  • can use LATCH in booster mode
  • Ten-year lifespan
Cons
  • Takes up more room than some of its competitors
  • Cupholder is on the small side

2. Britax Pinnacle Clicktight G1.1

Good Safety Features
Britax Pinnacle ClickTight
Another forward-facing car seat we recommend is the Britax Pinnacle ClickTight G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat. This car seat provides three-layer impact protection for children from 25 to 120 pounds.

The Britax Pinnacle ClickTight G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat is a top-of-the-line car seat, including a forward-facing harness seat and booster seat combo. It combines safety features such as three layers of side impact protection with comfort features such as the three recline positions.

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 since installation is simple in only three steps.

At almost 27 pounds and 21 x 22.5 x 18 inches, this seat is on the larger side, so make sure you measure your backseat to make sure it will fit.

Specifications & Features:

  • 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
Pros
  • Lots of extra safety features
  • Steel enforced frame
  • Easy ClickTight installation
  • Extra comfortable
  • Nine-position harness
Cons
  • Large and bulky
  • Shoulder strap may be hard to adjust
  • A bit pricey

3. Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1

Very Portable
Cosco Finale DX
The Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Combination Booster Seat is a five-point harness that converts to a 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.

The Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1 Combination Booster Car Seat is an excellent forward-facing seat accommodating children from 30 to 100 pounds and 32-52 inches tall. This seat meets all federal, ASTM, and JPMA safety standards and includes a one-year warranty.

This narrow, lightweight seat (only 11.5 pounds!) is excellent for families who are always on-the-go, and it is easy to move from car to car. Three of these seats can easily fit into a car’s backseat. The LATCH system simplifies installation and ensures a stable, secure fit. Do note that the LATCH system cannot be used in the booster seat seating. You will need to install the booster using a seatbelt.

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 your child.

Specifications & Features:

  • 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
Pros
  • Narrow and lightweight
  • For children 30-100 pounds
  • Budget-friendly
  • Comfy washable seat pad
  • 10-year lifespan
Cons
  • 30 lbs minimum may not make it a top choice for older, lightweight children
  • Cannot use LATCH in booster mode

4. Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Seat

Easy Installation
Chicco MyFit
Another great forward-facing seat is the Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Seat. This seat is for children from 25-100 pounds, and it transitions from a five-harness forward-facing seat to a belt-positioning booster seat.

We love the Chicco MyFit Car Seat because it’s safe, convenient, and stylish. The 5-point harness mode protects growing toddlers from 25-65 pounds and less than 54 inches. The seat belt harness and lap belt mode accommodate children from 40 to 100 pounds and 38-57 inches.

The double-sided Guard protection protects your child in two ways. One if from the rigid shell, and the other is energy-absorbing foam in the headrest. Along with the aid of the steel frame, the Chicco MyFit is a very safe car seat.

The padded, no-rethread harness with a one-pull tighter simplifies the process of buckling your child into the seat. Nine headrest settings and a four-position recline ensure the comfort of your child while accommodating years of growth.

The installation is easy with the LATCH connectors and the Premier LockSure belt-tightening system, which ensures accuracy. The bubble level indicators also work to verify the proper seat angle during installation.

Another perk of the Chicco Myfit is that it’s super stylish and comes in three color patterns. The seat pad is removable for washing. Chicco’s innovative cupholders (they call them cupfolders) fold in to make extra space next to the car seat. They also remove easily and are dishwasher safe.

Specifications & Features:

  • Item weight—12.1 pounds
  • Dimensions—21 x 27 x 18 inches
  • Forward-facing weight/height range–22-65 pounds/54 inches or less
  • Booster mode weight/height range–40-100 pounds/48-57 inches
  • Steel-reinforced frame
  • Converts from 5-point harness to belt-positioning booster
  • Duo Guard side-impact protection
  • 4-position recline
  • 9-position headrest
  • Padded Ergo Boost seat
  • Premium LATCH connectors
  • Lock Sure belt-tightening system
  • Two dishwasher cup folders
  • Comes in three color patterns
  • 8-year expiration
Pros
  • Safety features
  • Super easy installation
  • Narrow seat
  • Stylish
Cons
  • The crotch strap is long
  • The product says the seat is 12.1 pounds, but customers say it’s much heavier

5. Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster Seat

Evenflo Chase
An Evenflo award-winning car seat, this 2-in-1 combination booster car seat fits children 22-110 pounds as it converts from a 5-point harness to a belt-positioning booster.

Evenflo tests their car seats at two times the Federal Crash Test Standards, so that makes us feel pretty good about the safety aspect of the Chase Harnessed Booster. Specifically, the car seat has exceeded all federal safety standards for side impacts, crash test standards, restraint systems, and flammability of interior materials. The energy-absorbent form and a padded head pillow also contribute to the safety of this seat.

While the energy-absorbing foam is for safety during a crash, it is also plush and comfy. The one factor we don’t love about this seat is that it does not recline.

This seat is designed for both LATCH and tether systems, so it will work in most vehicles. The harness and belt path are adjustable and adapt to your child’s weight and height. This seat also includes an auto-adjusting belt path for the booster seat without the harness. You can also install this car seat using your vehicle’s seat belt.

The Chase Harnessed Booster is made of leather and foam that can be removed and machine washed. It can then be dried on low for 10-15 minutes. Two integrated cup holders are included and are removable and dishwasher safe.

This seat is one of the best values on the booster market today, but Evenflo doesn’t sacrifice quality for cost.

Specifications & Features:

  • Item weight—11 pounds
  • Dimensions—18 x 18.5 x 29.5 inches
  • Forward-facing weight/height range–22-40 pounds/28-50 inches
  • Booster mode weight/height range–40-110 pounds/43.3-57 inches
  • Converts from 5-point harness to belt-positioning booster
  • Material type––leather, foam
  • Designed and crash-tested at energy levels two times the Federal Crash Test Standards
  • Upfront harness adjustment
  • Four harness positions
  • Auto-adjusting belt path
  • LATCH system
  • Integrated cup holders
  • Machine washable pad and removable head pillow
  • Available in six colors
  • Affordable price
  • 90-day warranty
  • Six-year expiration
Pros
  • Impressive safety standards
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to install
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Can only use the harness up to 40 pounds
  • Does not recline

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Know My Forward-Facing Seat is Installed Correctly?

A sobering statistic: more than 2,600 children are involved in a car crash daily. While most families put children in car seats, the National Highway Safety Administration shows 59 % of car seats are not installed correctly.

In fact, as I was working on this article, I checked my Facebook, and I saw an article from my local newspaper about a car accident, just down the road from the town where I live. It involved a four-year-old girl, and she had been airlifted to a larger hospital. I wouldn’t even mention this, but in the article, it stated that the EMS workers stated that her car seat was not appropriate for her size, and it was not installed correctly.

It is absolutely vital that your car seat is installed correctly.

In order to ensure this, read your vehicle’s owner manual as well as the car seat user manual. Most car seats these days can be installed either with the LATCH system or by a seatbelt. If you have any doubt, stop by your local fire station and ask them to check your car seat. Or you can find local passenger safety technicians in your area through the National CPS Certification Program.

How Do I Know Which Forward Facing Car Seat is Best for My Child?

When shopping for a car seat, keep the following tips in mind:

Choose one that fits your child:
While some car seats have extra safety features and these should be considered, the best seat is one that fits your child’s size, is correctly installed, fits well in your vehicle, and is used properly every time you drive. You can have the “safest” car seat out there, but if it doesn’t fit your child, then it’s not the best one for you.

Don’t decide on a car seat based on price alone:
While you will find lower-priced car seats (like the Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster), don’t make the price your pivotal reason for buying or not buying. A higher price does not mean the seat is safer or easier to use. Likewise, a lower price does not mean that quality is sacrificed. It’s best to do your research and decide the one which is best for your child and family.

Avoid used seats if you don’t know their history:
It may be tempting to buy a used seat or take a hand-me-down from a friend, but be careful. If you don’t know the seat’s history, pass it up. Look at the label for the date it was made and check with the manufacturer to find out when it expires.

Don’t use one that has visible cracks on it or one that does not have the date of manufacture and model number. Definitely don’t use one that was recalled, in a crash, or is missing parts.

How Do I Ensure My Car Seat Lasts as Long as it Should?

Car seats expire, usually between 6 and ten years. Make sure you know the expiration date on the one you buy. The label on the plastic shell gives you the make, model, manufacture, and manufacture information.

To ensure that your car seat lasts, take care of it by making sure it is installed and used properly every single time you’re driving your child.

Follow the cleaning instructions on the car seat. If you’re not using it, you can store it in a cool, dry place. Don’t use bleach or harsh chemicals on it when cleaning. Only put it in the washing machine and dryer if the instructions say it’s OK to do so. Wipe down the plastic parts with a gentle cleanser and a dry rag.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to buy a forward-facing car seat, make a list of your priorities first. What do you need? (Safety should be number one!) What can you do without? (You could maybe do without the hot pink with black polka dot pattern, but if you find one that works, go for it!)

From your list, start searching, and don’t compromise. Read research and reviews on the various car seats, and keep an eye on our website, as we are always posting informative articles on the latest car seats.

If you’re looking for a forward-facing car seat, consider the ones we recommended. Good luck with finding the perfect forward-facing car seat for your little one!

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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