At four years old, your little one might be growing out of their baby car seat, and you'll no doubt be on the hunt for the best car seats for four-year-olds to keep them safe and secure in the car.
Around this very exciting time, your baby will soon be heading to 'big' primary school, but they may have also outgrown the car seat that they've had since birth. At some point soon, they'll need to move up to a group 2/3 car seat, which are suitable for tots up to 12 years old. These may come as part of a complete travel system and should be compatible with your car.
You may be wondering, is it worth getting a new car seat? But due to the current Government rules here in the UK, car seats are mandatory for transporting babies in cars, and all children under 12 years old in the UK (or who are less than 135cm tall), so you'll definitely be getting your money's worth over the next couple of years.
The best car seats for four-year-olds at a glance:
• Best car seat for 4-year-olds overall: Silver Cross Motion All Size 360 car seat – Buy now from Boots
• Best safety features: Joie Baby Every Stage FX Group 0+/1/2/3 Car Seat – Buy now from Mamas & Papas
• Best car seat for taller children: Cybex Silver Solution X-Fix – Buy now from Amazon
We've done the research and found the best car seats for four-year-olds. We've included some Mother&Baby Award winners that have been reviewed by our real parent testers and that'll last for years to come.
The best car seats for 4-year-olds 2023
Best Car Seats For 4-Year-Olds Overall
Awarded Gold for Best Multi Stage Car Seat at the 2022 Mother&Baby Awards, the Silver Cross Motion
- Three-year warranty
- Long lasting — designed to grow with your child from newborn to 12 years old
- The 360 swivel offers both rearward and forward-facing modes
- Not many recline positions
Best safety features
The Joie Every Stage comes with Guard Surround Safety panels that provide extra side protection
- Shortlisted in the Mother&Baby 2022 Awards
- Side impact protection provides added security for the head, body and hips
- 5-point harness with soft, padded covers keeps baby cosy and secure
- Doesn't have spin feature
- Instructions for changing between modes aren't very clear
Best luxury car seat for 4-year-olds
The newest addition of the Minikid allows extended rear-facing up to seven years of age, ensuring
- Extended rear-facing
- Suitable until seven years old, approximately
- Sturdy and stylish
- Difficult to fit
Best car seat for easy installation
The RECARO Toria Elite R129 is the perfect solution for parents looking for a safe car seat that,
- Suitable from approximately 15 months to 12 years old (76-150cm)
- R129-compliant (i-Size ready)
- No swivel
Best car seat for comfort
Perfect for three-year-olds and up, this travel buddy has seven different height positions that
- Washable seat cover
- Memory foam cushion for extra comfort
- Quite wide, so can be difficult to fasten
Best car seat for taller children
This sturdy high-back booster from Cybex comes locked and loaded with built-in side impact
- Sturdy and comfortable
- Headed adjustable to prevent neck strain when asleep
- Car seat is prone to twist a little once buckled in place
Best car seat for moving between cars
This basic and affordable option is highly rated by parents and grandparents alike on Amazon. With
- Sturdy but lightweight, so easy to move around
- Not as much padding as other car seats
How to choose a the best car seats for four-year-olds
When looking for the best car seats for four-year-olds, you should be looking for their 'stage group' based on their weight rather than their age. The stage groups for little ones are broken down as follows under ECE R44 regulations with different seat designs as a result.
Laws and safety for car seats
In the UK, it's a legal requirement for children to use a child car seat or booster seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm in height. Children over this height can wear a seat belt without the need for a car seat. Here in the UK, there are two main types of seats you can use.
Height-based seats, also known as 'i-Size' seats, must be rear-facing until your child is over 15 months old. You can then switch to forward-facing when they're over 15 months old. According to the Government website, only EU-approved height-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital 'E' in a circle and 'R129'.
The other kind of seat is a weight-based seat. This is where the different groups of seats are useful to look at. Remember, only EU-approved weight-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital 'E' in a circle and 'ECE R44'.
Car seat types and groups explained
It's recommended that you should try to keep your child in the lowest stage group for as long as possible to give them the optimal safety features. But all of these group stages would be suitable for a four-year-old:
Group 0+/1/2 car seats
This car seat group is suitable from birth to 25kg, approx. six-years-old.
Group 1/2/3 car seats
This car seat group is suitable for children 9-36kg, approx. nine months to 12 years.
Group 0+/1/2 and Group 1/2/3 are classed as multi-stage car seats. They're designed to carry your child from baby to the booster-seat stage. Yes, these are initially more expensive compared to other car seats on the market. That said, they prove to be great value for money because of their extended use.
These car seats come with padding and a five-point safety harness, and most of these seats will fit children up to 18 or 25kg.
Group 2/3 car seats
This car seat group is designed as a high-back booster seat and is suitable for children 15-36kg, approx. three to12-years-old.
The next best choice if your little one has outgrown their existing car seat, this seat will lift your child up to use the vehicle seat belt and comes with a high back and side padding for safety and impact protection.
i-Size car seats (Height-based system)
Expected to eventually be adopted across all new car seats sold, i-Size was introduced in 2013 as safety regulation ECE R129 with rigorous testing through impact crash trials and new state-of-the-art Q dummies to test impact.
Using a height-based system, i-Size car seats have been designed to take the guesswork out of choosing the right fit, provide better protection from side impacts, and keep children rearward-facing for longer, until at least 15 months or 75cm to protect their fragile heads and necks.
Can a 4-year-old use a booster seat?
Based on new safety regulations launched in 2017, group 3 car seats, i.e. new booster seats on the market, are limited to children who are taller than 125cm weighing more than 22kg. The average height and weight of a four-year-old in the UK fall below these requirements, so it's likely they would not be able to use a booster seat until they are bigger. Depending on the age of your child, you may even want to have a look into the best car seats for 3-year-olds.
Previously, these car seats were approved for use by children weighing between 15-36kg, but they've been deemed by the UN as being unsuitable for protecting smaller children from side-on collisions as they have fewer safety features. It's safer to look at the best car seats for 5-year-olds.
What is ISOFIX?
For a car seat that's seamless to install, ISOFIX is a must and is included in most of the best car seats for four-year-olds in our list. ISOFIX-compatible car seats have two arms that lock onto small metal bars located in the seat of your vehicle to anchor the car seat into place. No seat belt threading necessary – and they're accompanied by install indicators so you can be sure it's correctly connected.
Most new cars since 2013 have a pair of ISOFIX anchor points. But it's something worth checking in your car if you want to reap the benefits of this feature from the best car seats for four-year-olds.
Lorna White has been a Digital Writer for Mother&Baby since 2020. She has a keen interest in a range of topics, from potty training and nutrition to baby names and maternity fashion.