Last Updated: Mar 17, 2021 @ 10:23 am.

What's the best front-facing car seat? We surveyed parent readers, tried out seats first-hand with actual toddlers and interviewed car seat safety techs to find the best bets. Which were easiest to install? Easiest for a toddler to use? Most comfortable? Here are the ones we'd recommend.

FYI: We've been reviewing and rating car seats and baby gear since 1994. To keep things independent, we don't take money or freebies from brands we review! Our work is 100% reader-supported!


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Best Car Seat For 2 Year Old

Machine washable seat pad
Loved this comfortable, lightweight and sturdy car seat—and it grows with your child, thanks to an 8 position headrest that adjusts with one hand. Also nice: dual cup holders and comfy fabric.
$99.99

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Best Car Seat For 2 Year Old: Graco Tranzitions 3 in 1 Harness Booster Seat

Let’s talk the best front-facing car seats.

Safety experts agree: it is safest for babies and young toddlers to ride rear-facing until age 2. But after that, what’s the best car seat?

To answer that question, we looked at the current crop of front-facing car seats (we’ve been reviewing and rating car seats for 25+ years). Then we asked our parent readers for their real-life experiences. Finally, we interview car seat techs regularly for their insights—which seats are easiest to install in the real world, for example.

After all that research, we pick the Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 Harness Booster Seat as the best bet for 2 year olds. One big reason: that five-point harness. While a two year old may think they are a big kid (and no one can argue with a toddler), the five-point harness keeps them in place during vehicle rides—and that’s safer.

Here’s more on why this seat is a top pick:

What We Liked

• Lightweight so it’s easy to move from vehicle to vehicle.

• One-hand adjustment for harness and headrest.

• Dual cup holders.

• Works up to 65 lbs. in harness mode; 30-100 lbs. as a booster—then morphs into a backless booster up to 100 lbs.

• Side-impact tested.

• 8-position headrest allows for growing child.

• Machine washable seat pad.

• Comfortable.

• Can be used on an airplane (with harness only).

What Needs Work

• Armrests could be bigger.

• Buckle button can be hard to press for younger toddlers. Toddlers love their independence, so a few may be frustrated that they require a bit of strength to release the button on their own.

• No seat recline. If that is an important feature, consider this next pick.

Best Budget-Friendly Car Seat

2 integrated cup holders
Easy to install, this car seat ticks all the boxes for a happy toddler: comfy seat, sturdy and easy to adjust harness. And yes, there is a seat recline (two-positions). Works to 65 lbs. with harness.

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Best Budget-Friendly Car Seat: Graco Atlas 65 2 in 1 Harness Booster Seat

Yes, car seats can sometimes run into the hundreds of dollars—but we have some good news.

We found a good forward-facing seat that is well designed, comfortable, safe  . . . and is easy on the wallet: Graco’s Atlas 65.

Graco has these harnessed boosters down to a science and the Atlas hits all the right notes, say our readers. It is sturdy, lightweight and easy to install. Here’s more:

What We Liked

 Quick to install.

• One-hand harness and headrest adjustment. 

• 10-position headrest = adjusts with growing child.

• Machine washable seat pad.

• Cup holders are integrated into seat.

• Works from 22-65 lbs. with a harness and then 30-100 lbs. as a belt-positioning booster.

• Lightweight at 16.6 lbs.—good for carpooling.

What Needs Work

• Doesn’t convert to backless booster. That’s an extra use you get with the Graco Tranzitions recommended above.

• Two position seat recline doesn’t really recline the seat that much.

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Best Car Seat For 3 Year Old

Combined head and side-impact protection are the star features here. We liked the easy install. And the machine washable seat fabric. Works from 30-100 lbs. in high back mode, 40-110 lbs. backless.
Loved the comfy foam padding
$99.99

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Best Car Seat For 3 Year Old: Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Belt-Positioning Booster Car Seat

A belt-positioning, front-facing booster car seat is a good bet for kids that are three years old and older. That’s because they aren’t big enough to sit in an adult seat . . . but many have outgrown their convertible seats. 

And, of course, some three year olds object to sitting in a “baby seat.” The booster seat, therefore, provides key safety protection, while making your toddler feel like a big kid.

After looking at the latest crop of booster car seats (including trying them out with real kids in real cars), we pick the Chicco KidFit as the best car seat for 3 year olds.

No, this seat does not have a five-point harness . . . hence this seat is designed for kids 30-100 lbs. Then the seat morphs into a backless booster for use from 40-110 lbs. 

Here’s more on why we liked this car seat:

What We Liked

Comfortable padding. Chicco calls this their ErgoBoost foam and our kid testers loved it.

• Nice fit and finish.

• Easy to install.

• Lightweight.

• One-pull LATCH tightener.

• 2 cup holders.

• Removable seat and armrest covers are machine washable.

• Combined head and side-impact crash protection.

What Needs Work

• No five-point harness. Yes, your child will need to be mature enough to sit in the seat with only the adult seat belt restraining them. Most three year olds fit that description.

• No seat recline. So this isn’t the best bet if your kid is still napping. However, most belt-positioning boosters lack a recline feature, so the Chicco KidFit is in line with other seats in this category.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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