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The best toddler car seats

(Image credit: Diono)

Toddler car seats are a bit different than the traditional baby car seat you may have purchased to bring your baby home from the hospital. Toddler car seats are made to grow with your child, and in some cases, may even see your child off to their first few years of elementary school. 

One useful thing about convertible car seats is that they're exactly that. Your child can ride rear-facing until they reach the maximum weight, and then you can flip the car seat around so that they're forward-facing until they require a booster seat. Some of the convertibles covered here offer removable parts to transform into a booster seat, which saves you some money in the end and the hassle of having to remember to swap out your child's car seat. 

We've selected the best toddler car seats for parents to buy. A majority have been heralded for their safety features and impeccable crash tests, and a few are well-known for their style and flair.

These are the best toddler car seats you can buy

(Image credit: Britax)

Britax Marathon ClickTight

The best toddler car seat overall

Rear-facing NHTSA Rating: 4.4/5 | Forward-facing NHTSA Rating: 4.8/5 | Seat Dimensions: 23 x 18.5 x 23.5 inches | Seat Weight: 28.5 pounds | Rear-facing Weight: 5-40 pounds | Forward-facing Weight: 20-65 pounds

Tested well in safety tests
Works up to 65 pounds
Not for plane travel
Baby can be hard to take out of rear-facing position

Our pick for best toddler car seat, the Britax Marathon ClickTight is not only a trustworthy performer in both third-party and the NHTSA's crash tests, but it's also much easier to install than the competition due to Britax's ClickTight system. Interestingly, the ClickTight system relies on the seatbelt securing methodology rather than the Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) system, which makes it easy to switch between cars if need be without having the dig through your car cushions for the LATCH's adapters. The ClickTight works like a key, in which you twist it clockwise to tighten the straps and secure the seat bottom. It's different than the oft-used LATCH system, but once you get past the learning curve, it becomes second nature.

The Britax Marathon is also the best toddler car seat because it supports kids up to 40 pounds in the rear-facing position, and then up to 65 pounds in the front-facing position. One drawback to consider is that since the Britax extends back a bit, it may be harder to dig your baby out of the seat in the rear-facing position. At 28.4 pounds, the Britax Marathon ClickTight is also a bit too hefty for plane travel.

(Image credit: Graco)

Graco Extend2Fit

Best value toddler car seat

Rear-facing NHTSA Rating: 3.2/5 | Forward-facing NHTSA Rating: 3.4/5 | Seat Dimensions: 27 x 20.75 x 26 inches | Seat Weight: 18.5 pounds | Rear-facing Weight: 4-50 pounds | Forward-facing Weight: 22-65 pounds

Best crash test results
Rear-facing until 50 pounds
Attractive price
Hard belt installation
Not the best quality

If you want a convertible car seat that will last you from the hospital to their first day of school, the Graco Extend2Fit is the best toddler car seat for those looking for an affordable option. For $200, this well-rated car seat can accommodate your child to sit rear-facing up to 50 pounds, well past the expert-recommended amount of time. It scored highly with the federally-mandated NHTSA for safety, though it also scored the lowest for seatbelt installation, so you'll want to utilize the easier-to-use LATCH method to install this in your car. It's not made of the highest quality material, either, and you may find your child isn't comfortable for the long car ride to see the grandparents. However, at $120, it’s a very affordable model.

(Image credit: Graco)

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1

This car seat is designed to last for years

Rear-facing NHTSA Rating: 4/5 | Forward-facing NHTSA Rating: 4.4/5 | Seat Dimensions: 21.5 x 20 x 24 inches | Seat Weight: 23 pounds | Rear-facing Weight: 4-40 pounds | Forward-facing Weight: 22-120 pounds

Works all the way up 120 pounds 
Tested well in crash ratings
Affordable
Laborious install

The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 positions itself as a car seat that will last your baby through their first several years of elementary school—that's a long time! This best toddler car seat is particularly popular among parents who don't want to bother with having the upgrade a car seat halfway throughout their child's life. The seat starts rear-facing for newborns and babies and then converts into a front-facing seat with a high-back. When your child is ready, you can remove the back of the seat to transform it into a full-fledged booster. The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 works with children ranging from 4 to 120 pounds.

It's a bit of a complicated install, but the idea is that it will stay in the back of your vehicle for literal years. Its sub-$300 price point is pretty attractive, too, considering how much you might end up spending to upgrade the car seat throughout the beginning years of your child's life.

(Image credit: Nuna)

Nuna Rava

This toddler car seat is for chic parents who want to splurge a bit

Rear-facing NHTSA Rating: 3.8/5 | Forward-facing NHTSA Rating: 3.8/5 | Seat Dimensions: 16 x 19 x 25 inches | Seat Weight: 27.2 pounds | Rear-facing Weight: 5-50 pounds | Forward-facing Weight: 25-65 pounds

Performed well in crash tests
Stylish look and feel
Easy to install with LATCH or belt method
Expensive
Stiff buckles

If you'd like a premium choice, the Nuna Rava is the best toddler car seat for chic parents. It's available through specialty retailers like Nordstrom, which is why you won't find it on Amazon.

It is a beautiful car seat, however, and it has the crash ratings to back up its high price tag. It's easy to install using either the LATCH or seatbelt mechanism, and it's constructed of high-quality materials that feel nice to touch. You'll have to contend with a heavier build, however, as those beautiful materials add to the weight of the Rava car seat. Its straps are also a bit stiff, which might make your baby feel uncomfortable until they've had time to wear it in.

(Image credit: Diono)

Diono Radian RXT

Best for those with more than one child

Rear-facing NHTSA Rating: 2.4/5 | Foward-facing NHTSA Rating: 2.4/5 | Seat Dimensions: 16 x 17 x 28.5 inches | Seat Weight: 26.15 pounds | Rear-facing Weight: 5-45 pounds | Forward-facing Weight: 22-120 pounds

Narrow width makes it easy to stack
Foldable for travel
Average crash test performance
Stiff buckles

The Diono Radian RXT is slim enough that if you have more than one child—twins or triplets, perhaps—you can cram up to three of these seats in the back row for safe transportation of your little ones. The Radian RXT isn't priced too-highly either for being one of the best toddler car seats. It features a reinforced steel alloy frame, aluminum sidewalls, and energy-absorbing foam. It makes the car seat bit heavy, however. On the plus side, if your tyke is rapidly growing, the Radian RXT fits children up to 120 pounds. It's also foldable so that you can stow it away for travel on an airplane.