Practical Car Seats For Your Growing Four Year Old
Whether taking a quick drive down the street for a weekend playdate or taking a long family road trip to visit your distant cousins, ensuring the safety of your children in transit is undoubtedly at the forefront of your mind.
While the rate of children under 13 being fatally injured in car accidents has greatly declined since 1975, they are still responsible for 1 in 4 unintentional deaths with the bulk of those injuries occurring to toddlers and infants.
The use of proper restraints via car seats and seat belts can greatly reduce the risk of injury, so today we’re going to look at the options for the best car seat for 4-year-old children.
|My Top Picks|
|Graco 4Ever All-In-One|
|Safety First Grow & Go|
|Britax Frontier ClickTight|
|Evenflo Symphony Elite|
|Graco Nautilus 3-in-1|
|Diono Radian R100|
Choosing Your Car Seat
Since your child is at an age where they are still growing quite rapidly, you want to make sure that whatever car seat you choose is going to last through any sudden growth spurts. Typically, the best kind of car seats for this purpose are boosters or convertible seats, as many of them can be transformed into boosters as your child ages to better prepare them for the transition into a regular car seat.
Booster seats are necessary for children between 40 and 100 pounds as they are generally too small to effectively utilize your car’s seat belts until they’re about 8 years old or about 4 foot 9 inches.
Improper fitting of seat belts can cause serious injuries to your child should you be involved in an accident so it’s best to be cautious and do your due diligence when selecting a booster.
High Back Booster
High back boosters include head and neck support and may even have adjustable headrests built-in for ease of use. If your vehicle has low seat backs, these types of boosters will provide your child with the necessary support they need. Depending on the type of booster you choose, it may also come with anchors that can be helpful to further secure the booster to your vehicle.
Depending on your needs, a backless booster may do the trick for your child. If your vehicle has solid head support and higher back seats, then a backless booster is generally sufficient.
All-In-One or Combination car seats can normally be used as a booster simply by removing the included harness, but this varies depending on make and model so be sure that it suits your vehicle’s and toddler’s specific needs before committing to one.
If you’re still unsure of what kind of safety seat is best for your needs, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a conclusive product listing of available options that are organized quite handily by restraint type and includes height and weight requirements, so cross-reference their listing with the models you’re interested in.
Tips For Buying Your First Car Seat
Don’t Rush Out To Buy On Their Birthday
Just because your child is now four years old doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to immediately switch them to a new car seat. If your child hasn’t hit the weight or height requirements yet, keep them in their current restraint. That being said, if your three-year-old has quickly hit the weight requirement, it’s certainly time to start looking at your options.
Test the Fit
Your child is going to be using this car seat for a long time, so if you have the opportunity to go test out some floor models, do take the time to do so. See where the lap belt falls on your child in different models because in the event of a crash a belt that falls on the abdomen instead of the thigh is not going to be absorbed properly to protect your child from injury. The straps should fit snugly on your child, not too tight or too loose.
Measure Your Backseat
Some car seats are a lot bulkier than other car seats, so if you have a compact car with limited backseat space, you may have to limit your search to slimmer models. Also be sure to consider and check that you still have ample room for any other people that may be riding in the car at the same time as the car seat is installed.
Recommended Car Seats Explored
Key Features At A Glance
- A rear-facing seat for larger newborns and infants
A rear-facing seat for larger newborns and infantsA forward-facing seat for toddlersA booster seat with a back for added supportA backless booster seat for the child that no longer needs back supportAdapts easily to new clips or coversTwo cup holders so your child can easily access drinks and snacks on long trips Cover is machine washable
- A forward-facing seat for toddlers
- A booster seat with a back for added support
- A backless booster seat for the child that no longer needs back support
- Adapts easily to new clips or covers
- Two cup holders so your child can easily access drinks and snacks on long trips
- Cover is machine washable
The Graco 4ever All-In-One is a highly durable convertible car seat with high durability said to last up to ten years. It transitions from a rear-facing car seat for infants below forty pounds into a more mature, 5-point harness that can withstand up to sixty-five pounds.
Then, once your child surpasses that weight restriction, easily transform it into a high-back booster until your toddler reaches 100 pounds to which you can then remove the harness and create a backless booster upwards of 120 pounds.
It’s a remarkably versatile car seat that can span years with a single purchase. It boats a Simply Safe harness adjustment system that has 10 different position options for headrests that makes adjusting your car seat into a proper fit for your child a breeze.
It even includes an InRight Latch system which makes it easy to install into any vehicle, and you can drive away knowing that your child is safe and secure at all times.
- 10 Year Lifespan
10 Year Lifespan10 Headrest PositionsHolds up to 120 pounds4 possible configurations
- 10 Headrest Positions
- Holds up to 120 pounds
- 4 possible configurations
- Bulkier than some other models
Bulkier than some other modelsLimited accessories
- Limited accessories
The Safety First Grow & Go is the can-do car seat for busy families that love to travel. It’s a highly functional and affordable option for families that are either planning on having many children close in age or just want an all-in-one options for their growing child.
Like the Graco 4ever, it easily transitions from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat and at its maximum can hold up to 100 pounds. Its slim design makes it suitable to sit in the middle seat which is useful for families that need extra seat space for older children or adults in tow without jeopardizing their comfort, and also makes it easy for the driver to quickly check in on the child via the rearview mirror.
It also conveniently comes with cup holders so your child’s juice bottle doesn’t wind up rolling around on the car floor.
3-in-1 Slimmer than most models Integrated cup holdersCheaper than comparative car seats
- Slimmer than most models
- Integrated cup holders
- Cheaper than comparative car seats
- Requires manual adjustments
Requires manual adjustmentsHarnesses can be difficult to thread connections require storage when not in use
- Harnesses can be difficult to thread
- Connections require storage when not in use
The Britax Frontier utilizing a revolutionary ClickTight installation system that is as easy to use as your own seat belt, safely securing your car seat to your vehicle with a buckle. With a quick grasp of the quick release button, you can secure your child in with their seat belt and click again to seal it in.
Featured in the Britax Frontier is a side-impact protector which provides an additional deep level of protection via energy-absorbing foam that will prevent your child from whiplash or other neck and spinal injuries should they be involved in an accident.
The Britax Frontier proudly boasts that it surpassed federal safety regulations and includes 9-variable harness positions making it easily adaptable to growing children. It’s important to note that the Britax may not be compatible with all vehicles so be sure to double check the manual and user guide before purchasing to ensure it complies with your car.
- Height can be adjusted while in use
Height can be adjusted while in use9 year lifespanTaller booster mode than comparable models
- 9-year lifespan
- Taller booster mode than comparable models
- Latch technology limited to 40 pounds
Latch technology limited to 40 pounds More expensive than comparable models Only two headrest position changes possible
- More expensive than comparable models
- Only two headrest position changes possible
The Evenflo Symphony Elite is another all-in-one convertible car seat that can hold weight upwards of 110 pounds making it a great investment for years to come and it is jam-packed with features all while meeting FAA approval requirements.
It has five adjustable headrest positions and three recline positions while maintaining a smaller shell so that it can be easily secured in even the most compact of vehicles. One key feature that parents will love is it’s easily removable and machine washable car seat cover, so you don’t have to worry about your child making a mess and causing a stain.
It’s a great seat for kids that are tall for their age as it’s rear-facing mode allows for ample leg room. One of the negatives to this superstar seat is that its harness isn’t replaceable so you do have to use extra caution when using it in order to avoid breaking the hard plastic.
- 8-year lifespan
8-year lifespanIntegrated cupholdersFAA approved for use in an aircraft
- Integrated cupholders
- FAA approved for use in an aircraft
- Harness is not replaceable
Harness is not replaceable Harness does not have protective coverssureLATCH technology may not be adaptable in all vehicle types
- Harness does not have protective covers
- sure LATCH technology may not be adaptable in all vehicle types
While you can’t use the Graco Nautilus straight from infantry, its weight requirements start pretty low at 22 pounds with a maximum limit of 100 pounds. It has a 10-year lifespan which means it’s durable and built to last.
It utilizes steel bars for enhanced safety with up to five repositioned headrests made of EPS foam so it’s sure to be a comfortable ride for long road trips.
It’ll also be easy to readjust as your child ages as it does not require you to spend time trying to rethread the harness straps, instead it uses an open belt that your child can actually buckle themselves once they’re old enough to know how.
- Easy to install
Easy to install10 year lifespanTall armrestsVery well padded
- 10-year lifespan
- Tall armrests
- Very well padded
- Must be assembled out of box
Must be assembled out of boxCrotch straps may be snug on larger children Cover full of elastics
- Crotch straps may be snug for larger children
- Cover full of elastics
For a car seat with a bit of a different look but with just as much consideration put into safety as it did aesthetics, the Diono Radian R100 is worth a look.
Its weight requirement starts at 5 pounds but can be adapted to be used upwards of 100 pounds with its booster seat configuration. It’s compact with a strong, sturdy frame that’s built to withstand years of use.
It is a little bit more difficult to install than other car seats and can be challenging to adjust given how tight its safety straps are designed to be, but they will loosen as they are used to better fit your child’s form.
It’s also a little bit heavier than other car seat models, so moving it from vehicle to vehicle often is not recommended.
- Very strong and highly durable
Very strong and highly durableEasy to install
- Easy to install
- Heavier than comparable models
Heavier than comparable models May be too bulky for some vehicles May require further stable head reinforcement
- May be too bulky for some vehicles
- May require further stable head reinforcement
Advancements in technology and car seat design has improved tremendously in recent years which means that as long as you’re selecting a car seat that safely passes FAA regulations, you’re probably going to get your money’s worth.
That being said, some designs are just doing it a little better than others and in our opinion, if you can only pick one, the Graco 4Ever All-In-One stands above the rest in style, safety, and function. Retailing for only $450.00 with a lifespan of ten years and the ability to be transformed to follow a child’s growth from infantry to 120 pounds make the Graco the best car seat for 4-year-old children and beyond. Additionally, its highly durable safety features are built to withstand big impacts, which to us, is priceless.
With that being said, as you can see from above there are many different models and sizes to choose from with a variety of safety features, so do your due diligence and make sure that you’re purchasing a car seat that not only meets all your needs but is practical for use in your vehicle.