The 7 best car seats for four-year-olds 2024

best car seats for four-year-olds

by Lorna White |
Updated on

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 on Boots
Best safety features: Joie Baby Every Stage FX Group 0+/1/2/3 Car Seat – Buy now on Kiddies Kingdom
Best luxury car seat for 4-year-olds: Axkid Minikid 3 – Buy now on Pram Centre

Best car seat for easy installation: Recaro Salia Elite Group 0+/1-360 Spin Car Seat - Buy now on Kidides Kingdom

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.

How we test our car seats

Our Mother&Baby Awards are renowned in the industry for being one of the most highly respected product awards for baby and parenting products, and every year, we arrange for thousands of independent parent reviewers to test the latest products on the market.

The Mother&Baby Awards parent testers are provided with some guidelines while testing, so that they take into consideration four key areas: usability, design, quality and value for money. We ask them to score each of these out of 10, as well as give their overall impression of the product.

Find out more about how we test products for Mother&Baby.

Our list of the best car seats have been tested by parents just like you – who have lived with these car seats, used them with travel systems, fitted them in cars and know how they suit them and their children. From all this work, our best car seat award winners are chosen and listed in our finalised and definitive list of the best baby car seats, one for each key category, along with the quotes we found to be most useful when choosing our selection.

Our editorial team is also constantly looking for new car seats to test so that we can help you find the best - be that a a more affordable product that we want to test for value for money or the latest car seat innovation.

The best car seats for 4-year-olds 2024

Best Car Seat For 4-Year-Olds Overall

Silver Cross Motion
Price: £345 (was £395)

www.boots.com

The Silver Cross Motion All Size 360 Car Seat is soft and breathable with natural bamboo fibres and comes with plenty of safety measures. Little ones will stay protected with every journey thanks to the Side Protection System; it was awarded ‘Best baby, toddler and child car seat’ in the ADAC 2022 Autumn Test (ADAC stands for the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club, an experts' safety organisation that evaluates car seat safety). 

The ISOFIX base keeps the seat firmly locked in place, and it's the first rotating car seat of its kind to meet the latest R129 (i-Size) regulation.

You can buy this seat when your baby is a newborn and it will grow through baby, toddler, and child stages; our mum tester Maria said: "The 360 capabilities are revolutionary. I know friends of mine who 7/8 years ago said this feature on a car seat was unheard of, so I feel very lucky to have this type of car seat on the market during my young children's lives. I love that I can pop my LO in and out of the car without having to strain my back and especially during postpartum recovery, it's an additional help – I can see all the straps directly in front of me and am able to secure LO into her seat as safe as possible and without the stress of leaning into the car."

When it comes to fitting this car seat, you can download the free Silver Cross app on to your smartphone for additional instructions and how-to information - it’s handy to do this before you buy the car seat, as you can check whether it’s compatible with your make and model of car. 

When the car seat grows with your child, you can store the harness away and use it as a booster seat, and the headrest is adjustable. It’s currently available in three neutral colours; the fabric is easy to wipe clean, and made from recycled plastic bottles for added sustainability. 

We tested this car seat as part of the Mother&Baby Awards 2022, when it won Gold for Best Multi Stage Car Seat.

Read our full Silver Cross Motion All Size 360 Car Seat review.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Not many recline positions
Type: Multi-stage car seat
Suitable for: Height 40-145cm, birth to approx. 12 years
ISOFIX compatible? Yes

Best safety features

A car seat that’s suitable to buy at birth and will grow with your child, the Joie Every Stage features a range of safety features to give you peace of mind that your little one is as safe as possible in the car.

There’s Guard Surround Safety panels that provide extra side protection, ISOFIX connections, six recline positions, and a headrest with 10 adjustable heights; our mum tester Adelle said: "I am really impressed with this product so far. We have another Joie car seat and they have always seemed to perform well. Easy to clean and look comfy. The seat was easy to install with an ISOFIX base and sits nicely on the backseat without movement. It is great if it does last until they are a lot older but difficult to know just yet."

It’s easy to install with colour-coded sections so you know what needs to go where, with locking devices to make sure it’s securely in place. 

Some parents found it tricky to change between the modes for different ages of child, however; our mum tester Libbie said: “I’d recommend this seat to other mums because of the capability of covering all required seats, and saving a lot of money on having different stage seats. However, I would also have to make other mums aware that it wasn’t easy to switch modes, and I did have a lot of uncertainty about if I’d correctly switched the modes and if the seat would now be safe.”

One downside to this seat is that it doesn’t rotate 360 degrees, unlike some car seats that are suitable from birth. 

We tested this car seat as part of the Mother&Baby Awards 2022, where it was Shortlisted. 

Read our full Joie Every Stage FX review.

Pros

  • Side impact protection provides added security for the head, body and hips
  • 5-point harness with soft, padded covers keeps baby cosy and secure
  • Grows with your child from birth 

Cons

  • Doesn't have a 360-degree spin feature
  • Instructions for changing between modes aren't very clear
Type: Multi-stage car seat
Suitable for: Up to 36kg, approx. birth to 12 years
ISOFIX compatible?Yes

Best luxury car seat for 4-year-olds

This new Minikid car seat allows extended rear-facing up to seven years of age, up to 125cm and 36kg. The headrest automatically adjusts according to your child's height and size, or if you prefer to keep things fixed, there are 14 headrest positions to choose from. 

The toddler support cushion is made from comfy memory foam and gives even the smallest children a comfortable and safe position; mum tester Samantha said: "I was not worried that it might move around like other car seats I have tried. Baby looked comfortable in it and had ample space without being cramped or too much space to move around. The headrest and back space for the car seat has a design which seems to fit into baby's back shape, baby could rest back in the seat and have more comfort than a rigid car seat, while still being secure and protected."

Automatically lowering tethers mean installation is a lot easier than some seats, but do read the instructions first to make sure you know what’s going where; the instructions are clear, and just being able to wriggle it into place and know that installation is correct gives you peace of mind; however, not all testers agreed it was straightforward, with one mum saying: “It took two people a very long time so definitely not one for easily switching between cars. There is a helpful video to show you what to do but it was still rather a mission!”

The brand claims this seat allows your child up to 30cm of leg room, but this really does depend on your make and model of car. The Minikid can be installed in any seat in the car - all three of the back seat positions, or even the front seat if suitable. 

What’s different to other car seats is the design of the headrest, which, in a V-shape, not only allows your child to see out of the window with ease, but also absorbs shocks and force should you be in an accident. 

We tested this car seat as part of the Mother&Baby Awards 2023, where it won Bronze for Best Baby/Toddler Car Seat (Stage 1/2). 

Read our full Axkid Minikid 3 review.

Pros

  • Extended rear-facing capabilities
  • Suitable until seven years old, approximately
  • Sturdy and stylish car seat

Cons

  • Some parents found it difficult to install
Age:up to 7 years
Dimensions: Width: 44 cm Height: 65 cm Depth: 54 cm
Cleaning: Machine washable

Best car seat for easy installation

With 360 degrees of rotation, that you can move with just one hand, this car seat is a smooth and easily operated option from birth to about four years. 

It has indicators on the base to show you if it’s been installed correctly, with an easy-to-use ISOFIX integrated base. It’s quick to click the seat in, and take out - the brand says ‘with just one hand’ but in reality it’s always easier with two. 

It features what’s called the ‘HERO’ harness, a five-point harness designed to keep your child safe and secure; this works with the adjustable headrest that grows as your little one does. 

It’s available in two colours.

Pros

  • 360-degree rotation that’s easy to operate 
  • Easy-to-install ISOFIX base 

Cons

  • No reviews available 
Suitable from:Grows with the child from 15 months to 12 years
Audio:Features a sound system
Comfort: Air Ventilation System
Ease of use:One-Handed Recline Adjustment

Best car seat for comfort

Designed for three-year-olds and up, this car seat has seven different height positions that can be adjusted using just one hand. The Joie seat comes packed with protection, including the Guard Surround Safety side impact panels for full-body impact protection and ISOSAFE connectors.

This forward-facing seat is suitable up to 36kg; one reviewer said: "Perfect for a growing toddler following a standard baby seat. ISOFIX makes it really easy to install and gives you a peace of mind that it's firmly in place (although I believe the ISOFIX doesn't actually add to the safety of the seat as that's done by the seat belt). Armrests and easy height adjustment, nice touches. Overall, one very happy camper in the back in a 'big seat'."

Pros

  • Affordable car seat
  • Washable seat cover
  • Memory foam cushion for extra comfort

Cons

  • Quite wide, so can be difficult to fasten
Type: High-back booster seat
Suitable for: 15-36kg, approx. 3-12 years
ISOFIX compatible? Yes

Best car seat for taller children

This sturdy high-back booster from Cybex features built-in side impact protection, a patented reclining headrest, ISOFIX, an 11-position height adjustable headrest, and an adjustable backrest. It’s available in six colours. 

You can install this booster seat using just the seat belt, but there’s also the option of connecting it with ISOFIX; our mum tester Sarah said: "We had this seat for both my kids (4&6). Yesterday a drunk driver hit us and we were flipped clean over. We walked away without a mark and the police say the only reason they were unharmed was the quality of these seats. They were very impressed by how they performed. Needless to say I have already ordered two more for when we get a new car."

It’s pretty easy to lift move out of the car, so it’s a good option if you need to swap it between yours and your partner’s car, or the grandparents’.

Pros

  • Sturdy and comfortable
  • Headed adjustable to prevent neck strain when asleep

Cons

  • Car seat is prone to twist a little once buckled in place
Type: <meta charset="utf-8">High-back booster seat
Suitable for: <meta charset="utf-8">15-36kg, approx. 3-12 years
ISOFIX compatible? <meta charset="utf-8">Yes

Best car seat for moving between cars

This basic and affordable option is highly rated by parents and grandparents. With height-adjustable armrests and a headrest with six heights, the Graco Junior Maxi provides side impact protection, and easy-to-use guides for the seat belt to make sure you install it correctly. 

Retractable cup holders are useful and will no doubt entertain your child - luckily the seat cover is machine washable; one mum reviewer said: "Great car seat sturdy and easy to assemble. My 4-year-old loves the two drink holders... they are now sweet holders! Highly recommend at such a good price! Very happy!"

Pros

  • One of the cheapest car seats we've tested
  • Sturdy but lightweight and easy to move around

Cons

  • Not as much padding as other car seats
Type: <meta charset="utf-8">High-back booster seat
Suitable for: <meta charset="utf-8">15-36kg, approx. 3-12 years
ISOFIX compatible? <meta charset="utf-8">No

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.

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