The 10 best car seats for 3-year-olds, tested by parents

In need of a new car seat for your three-year-old? These are the best to buy.

best car seats for 3-year-olds

by Eleanor Weaver |
Updated on

Finding the best car seat for a 3-year-old can be tricky. At the age of three, your child will have likely outgrown their baby car seat and now they need the very best car seat that will be suitable for their weight and height as well as being safe and secure enough to harness a wriggling three-year-old.

While car seats for 3-year-olds will not come as part of a complete travel system like your infant carrier may have, they're still packed with handy features such as multiple recline options and easy adjustability. There are now even rear-facing toddler car seats that go up to age four, which you may prefer.

It is unlikely you will need to remove a car seat for 3-year-olds from the car as frequently as you do with a newborn car seat, but it is still important to consider how easy it is to install and how much it weighs. Also consider how long it will last because your little one will need to be in a car seat up until 12 years of age so a car seat that will grow with your child is important.

The best car seats for 3-year-olds at a glance:

Best overall car seat for a 3-year-old: Joie Elevate 2 - Buy now on Boots
Best car seat for 360 spin: Silver Cross Motion All Size 360 Car Seat - Buy now on Silver Cross
Best car seat from birth to 12 years: Joie i-Spin XL - Buy now on Demon Tweeks
Best rearward-facing car seat: John Lewis Swivel i-Size Car Seat - Buy now on John Lewis

What are the safety standards for UK Car Seats?

In the UK, it's a legal requirement for children to use a car seat until the age of 12 or 135cm in height, so a car seat for your three-year-old is a must. It is also important that children 15 months or under are rearward facing.

However, car seats for children are determined by their weight, rather than their age, under ECE R44 regulations. All of the below stage groups would be suitable for a three-year-old:

Group 0+/1 car seats: Suitable from birth to 18kg, approx. four-years-old.

Group 1 car seats: Suitable for children 9-18kg, approx. nine months to four years old.

Group 0+/1/2 car seats: Suitable from birth to 25kg, approx. six-years-old.

Group 1/2/3 car seats: Suitable for children 9-36kg, approx. nine months to 12 years.

Group 2/3 car seats: Suitable for children 15-36kg, approx. three to 12 years old.

You should only use a children's car seat if your car's seat belt has a diagonal strap, unless the seat is either fitted using ISOFIX anchor points or has been designed specifically for use with a lap seat belt.

Be sure to double-check that your chosen car seat is suitable for the model of your car before purchasing.

What is R129?

The R129 safety standard was introduced in 2013 and is newer than ECE R44. The R129 safety standard refers to i-size seats and it is considered the safest standard with improved head and neck protection. As part of the standard, side impact test results are assessed. However, you need to use ISOFIX with any i-size car seat.

At present, you can legally use either ECE R44 or R129 safety standards car seats, however, the R129 is likely to be safer and subject to more rigorous testing.

How to choose a car seat for a 3-year-old

If you're buying a new car seat for a growing three-year-old, the first thing you will want to consider is safety and we would recommend choosing stage Group 1/2/3 and up.

The lower group stages will only be able to be used for a limited amount of time at this age before you need to buy a new car seat. So you wouldn't be getting the best value for money.

Group 1/2/3 are classed as multi-stage car seats, they're designed to carry your child from birth to the booster-seat stage, adapting to each stage with the necessary safety features. They are initially more expensive compared to other car seats on the market, but they can be used until your child is too old – talk about futureproofing!

five-point car seat safety harness should come with adequate padding and most of these seats will fit children up to 18 or 25kg.

If your child is already over 15kg, we would recommend choosing a Group 2/3 car seat instead. 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. Depending on the age of your child, you may also want to look into the best car seats for 4 year olds.

As well as the safety elements, you should consider the features that are important to you in a car seat, as well as any handy add ons like a car seat organiser. For example:

• 360 spin: This function is top of the list for many parents as it makes getting squirming children into their seat much easier without needing to break your back in the process.

• Extended rear-facing: A rear-facing car seat is a legal requirement until 15 months but a lot of parents are now on the hunt for a car seat that can be used rear-facing for longer.

Weight: You might want to consider how heavy the car seat is to carry, for those times when you need to swap cars or remove the car seat.

Ease of installation: You won't be moving the car seat a lot for a 3-year-old but it is worthwhile considering how it is installed in the car, for example with the seat belt, a top tether or ISOFIX, and also how easy it is to do.

Comfort: Your 3-year-old will appreciate a comfortable seat and might be quite vocal about it if they are not comfortable.

Longevity: Take into account how long the car seat will last and if it can convert to a booster seat. If your little one is already near the weight or height limit consider a car seat for a five-year old, or one which grows with your child.

How we chose the car seats on this list

Our product recommendations are based on a combination of real-world testing from our burgeoning army of mum testers and the extensive knowledge of our experienced editorial team and product specialists. Where we can, we also consult experts who specialise in the field to ensure you get the right advice along with the right product, and we listen to what you say as well.

Once we’ve recruited our pool of testers we ask them to consider four areas while testing, including usability, design, quality and value for money. They also are asked to provide feedback on their experience with the product and whether they would make any changes to improve it.

Find out more about how we test and what considerations we take into account in our testing process.

Our thriving mum community on our Facebook group #mumtribe also often hold great insights as to which products mums really like best and why, helping us highlight the products that meet what you really want.

For the essential products, our annual Mother&Baby Awards shortlist the top products tested, and you can find full reviews from our mum testers provided on the product page. The winners and runners-up for each category then will appear in our top picks article for that product, along with other products that were rated highly by our team.

When it comes to testing car seats for 3-year-olds we considered various things such as budget, safety, longevity, weight, ease of use, type of installation and comfort.

It was also important to ensure that all car seats featured fit into the current safety standards of ECE R44 or R129 and in some cases car seats will have undergone ADAC testing. ADAC is an auto insurance company that rigorously tests car seats, especially testing frontal collision impact and side collision impact. ADAC tests surpass standard EU regulations, and the tests they carry out are extreme exceeding those of the European Standards approval system.

The best car seats for 3-year-olds

Best overall car seat for 3-year-olds

The Joie Elevate 2 was awarded Gold for Best Multi Stage Car Seat at the Mother&Baby Awards 2024.

Elevate 2.0 is a car seat that grows with your child and we like that it is suitable for use up to 36kg. It converts to a belted booster seat from 15-36kg which means that this is a great option to choose to see you through all your child's stages. Our testers liked the five-point harness and one mum, Julie, said, "the harness is an absolute must as it's so much safer and more secure than using an adult belt." However, one tester, Gemma, commented, "the seatbelt on this car seat is too easy for an inquisitive toddler to undo. I wouldn't feel comfortable knowing that my son could undo this whilst travelling on the motorway for example." Reviewers also had difficulty locating the button to adjust the shoulder straps and Sally, one tester, said, "the main criticism I would have for this seat is that the release button to help loosen the shoulder straps is a bit difficult to locate and press until you get used to it."

This car seat feels secure and our testers liked the full side impact protection, plus Guard Surround Safety panels that shields a child from head to hips, with mum Verity saying, "it is a good price for a good, solid product, which will last many years. It feels secure, robust and good quality." As well as safety features, comfort has been considered and testers were impressed with the materials and padding, including fully ventilated mesh sides and an integrated cup holder. In fact one tester, Hannah, loved the cup holder and said, "it has a really handy cup holder and as my toddler often likes to have snacks or drinks in the car, the cup holder means she can safely store her things in there without me worrying they are going to be dropped which makes a less stressful journey for us all." While another tester, Gemma, added, "The seat is really padded which would make it feel safer and more robust."

We know car seats can be awkward to carry or move around, especially as your little one gets bigger, but a real plus of this car seat is how light weight it is making it very easy to manoeuvre. One reviewer, Verity, noted, "it is lightweight which is very useful if you need to move it between vehicles." This car seat is not compatible with ISOFIX, which might put off some parents, but it is a very affordable option and one tester said it 'has a decent price compared to similar seats available on the market." We love that it offers affordability, a five-point harness and the option to convert to a high-backed booster seat.

Read our full Joie Elevate 2 review.

Pros

  • Lightweight to carry and move between cars
  • Comfortable with good quality materials and padding, plus a cup holder for convenience
  • Five-point harness for security with younger children

Cons

  • Harness is a little too easy for toddlers to undo
  • The release button to loosed shoulder straps is hard to locate
Age suitability: Forward facing from 15-36 kg, approx 3-12 years, as a belted booster seat
Weight: 4.8kgs
Dimensions: 50 x 50.8 x 63-83cm
Colour: Grey
Installation: ISOFIX
Testing certification: R129
  • Simple installation
  • Side impact protection
  • Ventilated mesh sides
  • Integrated cup holder
  • 10 position headrest
  • Elevate booster seat

Best car seat from birth to 12 years

The Joie i-Spin XL was awarded Silver for Best Multi Stage Car Seat at the Mother&Baby Awards 2024.

The only car seat you’ll ever need! This is a great car seat because it can be used from birth right up until 12 years of age, plus it rotates as well to make getting your growing baby, or wriggly toddler into their car seat even easier. One tester really appreciated this saying, "I can put my little boy in quickly and every little thing that makes life easier is an added bonus."

Testers really liked that this is a secure and sturdy car seat, however, as a result they did comment that it is really heavy to lift which isn't great if you are swapping between cars. A mum reviewer said, "the chair is incredibly heavy but I am on the fence to whether this is a negative or positive (does it demonstrate that it is more sturdier and therefore safer or is it just a heavy car seat?)" which is a good point.

With a seamless 360º spin and an automatically adjusting harness and headrest, this car seat is really easy to use and extremely convenient. We love that it makes getting you little one into their seat stress free. Testers agreed that it is a very simple car seat with one commenting, "its really easy to install and super easy to use. Being able to do everything with one hand just makes life easier." Plus it is really comfortable for your little one no matter what age they are, as well as featuring several reclining options which are very useful when your child has a nap. One mum tester noted, "the material is lovely to clean and it was super comfy for my son to use."

We like that the car seat is very easy to wipe clean which as one reviewer said, "is a huge bonus point with little ones." Reviewers did think it was more expensive than other car seats on the market, however, it is ISOFIX compatible and ECE R129 & i-Size certified, which really gives us peace of mind. Plus it is suitable for rear facing making it suitable for newborns and younger babies. One mum said, "I do feel the car seat is a little expensive however I know you can't put a price on child's safety."

Read our full Joie i-Spin XL review.

Pros

  • One-hand 360 spin to make getting your little one into and out of the car seat easier
  • Made to grow with your little one it is suitable from birth to 12 years old
  • ECE R129 & i-Size certified
  • Compatible with ISOFIX

Cons

  • Heavy to lift if you need to swap cars
  • More expensive than other car seats
Model:C2205
Weight:14.5 kg
Usage:• Rear facing with 5-point harness: 40-105cm<br>• Forward facing with 5-point harness: 76-105cm (minimum of 15 months)<br>• Forward facing with 3-point vehicle seat belt: 100-150cm<br>• 360º spinning feature: birth to 105cm/4 years
Size:Forward facing: L 54.5cm | W 52.5cm | H 85cm<br>Rear facing: L 69.5cm | W 52.5cm | H 71.5cm
Testing certification:ECE R129/03
Installation: ISOFIX
  • One-hand 360 spin
  • ECE R129 & i-Size certified
  • Made to grow
  • 5-point harness with shoulder and lower buckle covers easily tighten with one pull motion
  • Guard Surround Safety™ pod for optimal side impact protection
  • 5-position recline is usable on-the-go both rearward and forward facing
  • Built-in side and back ventilation enhances airflow for the child
  • 360º seat rotation makes for easy buckling in and out of the vehicle
  • One-hand, 14 position GrowTogether™ headrest and harness system adjust simultaneously and requires no re-threading of harness
  • 21 position load leg ensures the car seat is stabilized in various vehicle makes and models

Best rearward-facing car seat

The John Lewis Swivel i-Size Car Seat was awarded Bronze for Best Multi Stage Car Seat at the Mother&Baby Awards 2024.

This i-Size car seat rotates 360 degrees and has an extended rearward-facing travel position to 4 years for added head and neck protection. Our testers liked that it’s certified to be suitable from birth up to 105cm, rearward facing from birth to 105cm and forward-facing from 85cm to 105cm. One reviewer, Sasha, said, "the fact you could put the child in a rear-facing position for longer than 15 months provides flexibility to those who want it."

Not only does this car seat offer extended rearward facing, but multiple recline positions for comfort as well, plus the cushions are soft and plush with a quilted effect so it is extremely comfortable for your little one. One tester commented on this saying, "the design looks comfortable with the quilted cushions and I imagine this would be a priority for longer car journeys." We also liked the removable covers which can be hand-washed if needed because we all know how mucky car seats can get.

The most popular feature with reviewers was the 360 spin. Not only did this help make it easier to get little ones into and out of the car seat but it also helps mum protects their backs. One tester loved this feature saying, "after having my son I get constant sciatic pain which when it presents itself has made getting my son in and out of a car seat quite literally a pain, but thanks to the seat turning so I don't have to try awkwardly get my son into the seat, I haven't had any moments of becoming stuck in a car door while I try to wince through the pain."

This car seat is ISOFIX installation only, with a 5-point safety harness and removable newborn insert with a separate head cushion, which makes it a very secre seat. However, some reviewers did find installation a bit tricky or fiddly. But once in place parents will be reasuured with the lights which confirm the seat is in the right place. Fern, a parent tester, loved this noting, "this means you can rest assured that your little one is safe and secure. If something is not right the seat beeps at you once your little one is settled so you know to look again." She also added that this is "an awesome feature if you need to swap the car seat between cars regularly as you know it's been installed perfectly each time." However, while using the ISOFIX makes installation easier and also reassuring, the car seat is heavy and also bulky which can make getting it out of the car quite tricky.

Reviewers liked the price of this seat, especially in comparison to other products with similar features. Gabriella commented that she would "easily pay the price of this seat and then more!" We like the convenience and comfort of this seat combined with many safety features and the fact it can be used from birth to approximately 4 years.

Read our full John Lewis Swivel i-Size Car Seat review.

Pros

  • 360 swivel to make getting little one into and out of the car easier
  • Easy to wash with removable covers
  • Simple to install with ISOFIX and light indicators to ensure it is installed correctly

Cons

  • Can be difficult to get in and out the car because it is heavy and bulky
Age:Suitable from birth to 105cm (approx. 4 years)
Weight: 12.3kg
Dimensions: Not stated
Testing Certificate: R129
Installation:ISOFIX
  • Extended rearward facing travel to 4 years
  • Suitable rearward facing birth to 105cm, and 85cm to 105cm forward facing
  • Isofix installation only
  • Light and sound indicators confirm correct installation
  • 360 degree rotation to make it easy fitting the child in the seat
  • Multiple recline positions; 1 rearward and 5 forward
  • Soft and plush cushioning, with side impact protection
  • Removable newborn insert
  • 5-point safety harness
  • Easy headrest and harness adjustment
  • Removable covers, hand wash at 30 degrees only

Best car seat for 360 spin

**Awarded Gold for Best Multi Stage Car Seat at the 2022 Mother&Baby Awards
**
This Silver Cross Motion All Size 360 Car Seat is the first rotating multi-stage car seat to meet the latest i-Size regulations, and it's suitable from birth to 12 years, with extended rear-facing up to four years old which we love. Our testers liked that it has eight headrest positions, three recline positions too which makes it extremely comfortable for your little one. Sarah, a mum reviewer, said, "my daughter looks super comfy in this seat – there is plenty of padding and the bamboo fabric is lovely and soft." Plus Silver Cross claim that the bamboo fabric is naturally hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial, which is good to know especially when considering how much time kids can spend in car seats and how messy they can get. Do bear in mind though that while testers thought this was very comfortable, they did say it was quite deep with one reviewer, Sophie, noting, "the depth of the product is very deep, we have a large family car and the passenger seat has to be moved very far forward to accommodate the seat."

Of course the 360 spin is popular and makes life easier for mums, as one mum tester, Sarah, commented, "now my daughter has reached the ‘terrible twos’ she soon lets me know when she doesn’t want to do something – like being strapped into a car seat. Our previous car seat didn’t rotate and it was a real battle at times to get her in. Being able to spin this car seat to face me has made it so much easier," while another mum says it is great "especially during postpartum recovery."

Being a car seat suitable from 0-12 years it is bulky and heavy and mums commented that it is hard to manoeuvre, with one tester saying, "it would be awkward if I needed to move it between cars regularly." However, they liked the adaptability of the seat, noting that it is easy to adjust between children. Roxanne, one mum tester, said, "I tried the seat with my baby girl (5 months) and boy (3 years) old and it’s super easy to adapt the seat for each child."

We love how easy it is to install using ISOFIX and also that it has indicators which change from red to green to confirm it has been installed correctly. Plus it is R129 (I size) approved which really ensures it is safe and secure, along with a five-point harness and side protection system. However, while the five point harness is great, one reviewer, Maria was frustrated saying, "the cushioned pad surrounding the buckle between LOs legs pops right off."

Again, this is costly, but it saves you having to buy multiple seats as your child grows. We liked the quality fabric and the appearance of the seat and testers were reassured by the safety features as well as enjoying the convenience of the 360 rotation.  

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

Pros

  • Side protection system
  • Sturdy and secure from 0-12 years
  • 360-degree rotating seat unit

Cons

  • Car seat is quite deep, which means it takes up more space in the car
Type:i-Size multi-stage car seat
Suitable for:Height 40-145cm, birth to approx. 12 years
Installation:ISOFIX
Testing certificate: R129
Dimensions: 44cm x 64-78.2cm x 37cm
Weight: 14.4kg
  • Suitable from birth to 12 years
  • Rear-facing to age four
  • 8 headrest positions
  • 3 recline positions
  • Anti-bacterial bamboo fabric
  • 360 spin feature

Best car seat for longevity

Our Silver winner for Best Multi Stage Car Seat in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards, the Joie Bold Group 1/2/3 Car Seat provides three seats in one to see your little one from nine months all the way through to 12 years old, although it is only forward facing which disappoint some testers, especially considering the recommendation to forward face as long as possible, ideally until 4 years old. That said, it is a sturdy car seat with side impact protection and Guard Surround Safety which provides protection for the whole body and our mum tester, Victoria, was impressed with how it converts to a high backed booster seat, saying, "as a high back booster it is much more solid than other options and having the reassurance that it is secured by the ISOFIX fittings and the anchor belt give great reassurance as often high back boosters move around when your child gets in and out."

And for your child's comfort, there's ventilation on the sides of the shell, plus a cup holder that attaches on the side for a drink on the move, so they should have no complaints about the convenience and comfort of this seat, even on long journeys. Mum, Anna, really liked the cup holder, adding, "the cupholder is a small but welcome feature- having to turn round and pass a child their water bottle from the passenger seat isn’t easy- and if you’re driving then there’s no way to get their drink to them, so having them be able to grab it themselves is brilliant! "

This car seat offers a five-point harness up until 25kg which is great and very reassuring for safety, as our reviewer, Sophie, said, it's "something I’m really impressed with so my children can stay securely in the seat for longer." This seat is heavy because it is secured by ISOFIX but testers did note that it is not as heavy as others, which is great considering it will last until 12 years old too. That said, Arianne, a mum tester, thinks the fact it is only forward facing is off-putting. She suggests, "the only thing I would really change is the lower age range. I think 9 months is far too young to be front-facing."

Despite it not being suitable from birth, our testers still thought this seat provided great value for money because it will see your child through until they no longer need a car seat or booster seat, but you will need to purchase a car seat to use from birth. Overall parent testers thought this was an easy to use car seat, with one reviewer stating, "I would recommend it because it is good value for money, easy to use and my child seemed very comfortable in it."

Commercial Content Writer for MotherandBaby.com, Laura, used the Joie Bold seat for both her 7 year old and 4 year old and found it to be a great seat. "I can use the five-point harness with my four year old because she doesn't seem secure enough with a seatbelt, but my 7 year old is perfectly comfortable and safe with the seatbelt. This is an easy to install seat using ISOFIX and top tether for added security and both my girls are comfortable in it. Plus the covers wash really well."

Read our full Joie Bold Group 1/2/3 car seat review.

Pros

  • Side impact protection
  • Converts from a 3-point harness seat into a high-back booster suitable until 12 years old
  • Includes a cup holder for your little one's convenience

Cons

  • Forward-facing only
  • Only suitable from 9 months old
Type:Multi-stage car seat
Suitable for:9-36kg, approx. 9 months to 12 years
Installation: Seatbelt, ISOFIX and top tether
Testing certificate: ECE R44
Dimensions: 66 x 46.2 x 47cm
Weight:12.9kg
  • Three seats in one
  • Suitable from 9 months to 12 years old
  • Side impact protection
  • Ventilation in the side
  • Includes a cup holder

Best convertible car seat

The long-lasting Maxi-Cosi Titan Plus Car Seat has an extra padded inlay, seat and headrest to ensure your little one is comfortable even on long journeys, which we love, plus it has lots of room to grow as one mum described, "Louie was so comfortable in the seat, it’s really wide and spacious so he has lots of room to grow." It also uses special Maxi-Cosi ClimaFlow technology to keep your child at the right temperature while in the car, which we think is a great idea, especially if you will be in the car for a while.

Testers were disappointed that there is no spin function and one reviewer said adding a spin function would be the only thing she would change because she found it difficult to lift her son in and out of the seat. However, she did say this would become easier once he is able to climb into the seat himself.

We like the quality of this car seat and how comfortable it is for little ones, but also we like how easy the seat inserts are to remove and wash. Mum tester, Nikki, commented on this, saying, "The seat inserts are very easy to remove and add back in, making it quick and simple to wash them after we head home after a messy play session!" She also added that the harness is really easy to adjust and also the button to release the strap is really handy because "it made it really quick and easy to lift Louie out, especially when he fell asleep in the car seat."

With five recline positions this car seat does make for a comfortable journey and is suitable for both younger children from 9 months up to 12 years old. Plus, there is a GrowSafe headrest, which we liked, that offers an impressive locking mechanism that will notify you when it requires adjusting, and it can be extended by up to 5cm.

Despite lasting until 12 years old, our testers thought it was still quite lightweight, which they appreciated when moving it between cars. Overall, they were also reassured by the brand, with Nikki saying, "I really like Maxi Cosi as a brand as their car seats are so well made, really sturdy and long-lasting."

Read our full Maxi-Cosi Titan Plus review.

Pros

  • Can convert into a Group 2/3 car seat
  • Enhanced side impact protection for added security
  • Seat inserts are easy to remove and wash

Cons

  • No spin function to make getting children into the car seat easier
Type:Multi-stage car seat
Suitable for9-36kg, approx. 9 months to 12 years
Installation: ISOFIX, top tether
Testing certificate: R129
Dimensions: 50.5 x 44.5 x 63 cm
Weight: 10.8kg
  • Extra padded inlay
  • Transitions to a high backed booster
  • ClimaFlow technology
  • Five recline positions
  • Easily adjustable harness

Best car seat for 3-year olds with ISOFIX

Unlike other car seats, the Cybex Silver Solution is available in six different colourways to match your car interiors, which we really like as a change from grey or black. However this seat is serious about safety too. One user said that following an impact, her children walked away without a mark and the police said the only reason was the quality of the car seats. It has ISOFIX connectors, as well as in-built side protection to keep your little one safe. Testers commented on the sturdy, high quality of this seat.

While it is certainly a secure seat which can installed with ISOFIX and the seatbelt, do bear in mind that it does not come with a harness which must be purchased separately. This was frustrating for some users who found their little one still needed a harness. Another point to add is that it is only recommended for children 3 years, or 15kg plus so you must ensure they are the right weight to use this seat. However, it is suitable up until 12 years so will see you through from 3 years old until your child no longer needs a car seat or booster seat.

Once you are happy this seat is suitable for your child, then you can be reassured by the level of comfort. One tester, Claire, said "shortly after fitting the seat into the car, I took my daughter out for a short journey to see how she found it. She absolutely loves it! She has said that it's very comfy and she appears to be safe in it." It also has an adjustable backrest and headrest to ensure ideal positioning for your little one which we loved.

Users were also impressed by the space commenting that there is, "SO much more leg room for someone to sit in the front of our car now," compared to other car seats. Plus another user, Sophie, liked that it was "highly rated by ADAC for safety at a good price." Overall, for older children, testers were impressed with this car seat and would recommend it, with one reviewer saying, "this one is so great, colourful, comfy and can adjust nicely for accommodating a sleeping or awake child as necessary." Plus we also liked the removable cover which made it easy to keep clean.

Pros

  • Can be used up to 12 years
  • Built-in side impact protection 
  • Removable cover which makes it easy to keep clean

Cons

  • No harness which must be bought separately
Type:High-back booster seat
Suitable for:15-36kg, approx. 3-12 years
Installation:ISOFIX and seatbelt
Testing certificate:ECE R44
Dimensions:41 x 47 x 64 cm
Weight: 7kg
  • ISOFIX connectors
  • Adjustable backrest
  • Suitable from 3 years
  • Built-in side protection
  • Six different colours

Best forward-facing car seat

The stand out feature of the Cosatto Zoom are the fun designs. We particularly like the fun fox print in navy and orange, but you also have the choice of llamas, flamingos, unicorns and dragons. They really do make a change from the standard black or grey car seats to brighten up the back of your car. One tester, Sophie, said, "the design is absolutely beautiful, and something that will suit a growing boy from a young age until he doesn't need a car seat any more."

More practically, this is also a safe and secure car seat and one feature which testers were really impressed by was the anti-escape system on the five-point harness. There is nothing worse than your little one undoing their straps while driving down the motorway and with this harness you won't need to worry. Plus it also features side impact protection and reviewers said that it "feels very secure and safe."

Unfortunately this car seat is not compatible with ISOFIX and needs to be secured in the car using the seat belt. Reviewers said that it is still easy to install though with one customer noting it's a "brilliant seat, easy fitting in under 5 minutes," although another reviewer said "it was a little tricky to install." It is also important to bear in mind that this seat is only suitable from 9kg and can only offer a forward facing option, which is not ideal for younger children. Testers liked that it can last up to 4 years old, although that does mean you will need another seat, or high-back booster as your child grows.

We love the design and the padded seat with adjustable headrest and reversible seat liner too, and one customer, Susan, said, "it was very comfortable for my Granddaughter." Plus even better the seat liner and covers are removable and machine washable so it is easy to keep clean.

Testers were pleased with the price and thought it was a secure and sturdy seat that is "beautiful and serves its purpose well."

Pros

  • Fun designs which both kids and parents love
  • Side impact protection for added security
  • The harness features an anti-escape system to stop toddlers undoing their straps

Cons

  • Not ISOFIX, can only be installed using the car's seatbelt
  • Suitable from 9kg but only offers forward facing so not ideal for younger babies
Type:Multi-stage car seat
Suitable for:9-36kg, approx. 9 months to 12 years
ISOFIX compatible?No
Installation: Seatbelt
Testing certificate: ECE R44
Dimensions: 46.5 x 47 x 69.5 cm
Weight: 5.7kg
  • Fun designs
  • Side impact protection
  • Anti-escape system
  • easy to install

Best car seat for adjustability

Shortlisted for the Mother&Baby Awards 2022, the Nuna Todl Next Car Seat will take your child from birth to four years old. It is a sturdy, durable car seat which includes features such as side impact protection and it is made from resilient, top-of-the-line plastics and steel reinforcement for extra reassurance, however it is lightweight which is one of the first things our testers noticed about it. Dad, Joe, really liked this feature and said, "with modern materials at their disposal Nuna has been able to produce a really strong-feeling seat that is light enough to make taking in and out of the car less of an issue."

While it is easy for parents to move between cars, it doesn't compromise on comfort for your little one. There is an adjustable headrest, five recline positions and merino wool inserts which will keep your little one snug and supported. Dad,Joe, commented that the headrest is "easy to use when changing from baby to young child." He also liked that the seat is not too bulky in the car and said they even tested it in two different vehicles to check space for the driver or passenger wasn't compromised, and found, "the profile of the seat meant that no space issues were found even when the seat was reclined, of which there are five positions." Mum tester, Margo, added that it has "plenty of space and fits well in all types of cars so can easily be transferred between family cars."

It is important to note that unlike some car seats this one is only suitable up until four-years old so you would need to purchase another seat when you child reaches this age which disappointed some parents who prefer to have a car seat that can transition to a high-backed booster seat for older children. However, the ease of use was impressive and the harness got special mention because it is comfortable and easy to secure for even the most wriggly child. One tester said, "even with my son, who is also notorious for being hard to settle, the harness goes on easily and the rubberised shoulder supports grip him nicely while you tighten everything up."

Testers also appreciated the swivel function commenting that it has a "super smooth revolving motion." In fact one reviewer said that the swivel function on this seat is superior to others because of the "toggle buttons on either side, that when compressed release the seat from its fixing." They also liked that the swivel works well regardless of if the child is forward or rear facing.

We really liked the safety features on this car seat, in particular the side impact protection pod which can be fixed to the side of the seat to create an additional safety zone. Surprisingly testers didn't think this impacted the space in the car and were impressed by this feature. We also liked that it is compatible with ISOFIX and offers rear facing travel until four years of age.

Our testers liked this seat and overall found it "really smooth to use and at no stage does it feel flimsy or unreliable."

Read our full Nuna TODL NEXT car seat review.

Pros

  • Side impact protection pod for an additional safety zone
  • Easy to adjust the harness straps with the push of a button
  • Rear facing option as well as a swivel function

Cons

  • Only suitable up to four years so would not see your child through until they no longer need a car seat or high-backed booster seat
Type:i-Size multi-stage car seat
Suitable for:Overall height range 40-145cm, approx. birth to 12 years
Installation: ISOFIX
Testing certificate: R129
Dimensions: H56 x W46 x D66cm
Weight (with base): 14.3kg
Weight (without base):8.02kg
  • Suitable from birth to four years
  • Side impact protection
  • Adjustable headrest
  • Expanding shoulder width
  • True lock installation

Best car seat for comfort

This is a great seat for older children because it is suitable from 15 to 36kg. However, that does mean you will need an alternative seat for children weighing less than 15kg, although this one should last until your child no longer needs a car seat.

It has a simple design which reviewers liked, especially the one-hand adjustable headrest which allows parents to quickly adjust the headrest height to suit your growing child and ensure both safety and comfort, with five height options, and one tester commented, that they "love a higher lateral support of head & shoulders." The armrests are also adjustable so you can put them higher or lower depending on what your child likes. There is no recline option which bothered some customers because their child's head flopped about when they fell asleep. One tester, Aaron, said about his son in the seat, "I was worried about if he’d fall asleep in it because of sitting upright and if it would support him sufficiently. But this worry was put to bed very quickly."

The quality of the car seat is impressive and testers commented on the "comfy padding" which they liked. Plus the covers are removable and also machine washable which as parents we know is important to keep the car seat looking fresh and clean. A big favourite with little ones and parents are the cup holders or snack pots which can be hidden away in the chair when not in use. One parent noted that her daughter "loves the 2 cup holders on either side as it gives her something to hold her bits and bobs."

The Graco Assure has side impact protection and reviewers agreed that it seems very secure and sturdy. It also features EPS, which is an energy absorbing foam to effectively manage impacts, although some reviewers thought it needed more foam. While it is a safe car seat it cannot be installed using ISOFIX and needs to be fixed in place using the car seat belt which did disappoint some parents. However, they did comment that it is easy to install and swap between cars, plus it is not too heavy so easy to manoeuvre. One parent was also particularly impressed with the seat belt feeder clips which ensure proper seat positioning, and noted, "it's handy that it all comes apart so can just use the base when they're older."

Customers were pleased with the price of this seat and thought it was great value for money with one customer, Ray, saying, "overall great quality for the price."

Pros

  • Safety surround side impact protection, which gives your child the ideal head and body protection
  • Open-loop belt guides to help ensure proper seat belt positioning

Cons

  • Not enough foam in car seat, reviewers felt there needed to be more
Model: Group 2/3 car seat
Suitable for:From 4 to approx. 12 years (15-36 kg)
Installation: Seatbelt
Testing certificate: ECE R44
Dimensions: 53.6 x 42 x 81.6 cm
Weight: 4.06kg
ISOFIX compatible: No
  • Suitable from 4 to 12 years
  • Group 2/3
  • One hand adjustable headrest
  • Seat cover with additional padding
  • Two cupholders
  • Side impact protection

Car seat for 3-year-olds Buying Guide:

Car seat safety and law

It is a legal requirement for children under 12, or under 135cm, to use a car seat. Car seatlaw also explains that you can choose a car seat for your child based on their height and weight. Height based seats are known as i-size seats, and they can be both forward and rear facing, however, children under 15 months must be rear facing. To use a height based seat in the UK, it must be EU standard approved, and show an 'E' in a circle to indicate it is an R129 standard.

If you choose to use a weight based seat, this must follow the ECE R44 standard and it also impacts the type of harness or belt you can use for your child. Typically children under 18kg must use a five-point harness, however, some seats have a harness suitable for use up to 25kg.

It is also important to consider the way a car seat is installed in the car. All seats must be used in cars with a diagonal strap unless specifically designed for use with a lap seat belt, or if they are fitted with ISOFIX. You must also deactivate front airbags before fitting a rear facing baby seat in a front seat.

Types of car seats suitable for a 3 year old

There are lots of car seats on the market and many are suitable for a 3-year old. When it comes to choosing a car seat it is important to consider safety and ensure you choose a seat by either weight or height. However, you will also want to consider the following:

360 spin function: It might be easier for your little one to get into and out of their car seat if it has a 360 degree spin function.

Longevity: Some car seats will last up to 12 years old and may convert into a high-backed booster seat. This will save you needing to buy another car seat when your little one gets bigger.

Group: Consider which group car seat is suitable for your 3 year old. Group 0+ are rear-facing car seats suitable for babies up to 15 months, or up to 13kg. A Group 1 car seat can be rear facing, or forward facing and is suitable from 9-18kg, which is about 9 months to four years. Group 2/3 car seats are also rear or forward facing and they are high-backed booster seats suitable from 15-36kg which is about 4 years to 11 years.

Rear or forward facing: Depending on the weight of your little one, most group car seats have an option for rear or forward facing. It is advised by the NHS to keep your child rear facing for as long as possible.

Comfort: Ensure your little one is comfortable when travelling so consider any extra padding, or ventilation. Your child will enjoy being snuggly with a car seat blanket but it's best to start with a comfortable car seat.

Can a 3-year-old sit in a booster seat?

This completely depends on your child's weight and height.

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 three-year-old in the UK would fall below these requirements, so it's likely they would not be able to use a booster seat.

It's recommended that you should keep your child in the lowest stage group possible as these provide the best safety features.

3-year-old-in-back-of-car

FAQs

What is ISOFIX?

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.

Great for seamless installation with no seat belt threading necessary, they also come accompanied with 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 worth checking if this is the case with your own car if you want to make the most of it.

What is i-size?

i-Size is a European car seat safety standard that was launched in 2013, which started with the ECE R44 car seat standard, based on a child's weight. However, the R129 car seat standard is the most up-to-date safety standard for car seats and is based on a child's height.

Can you buy a second hand car seat?

It is not advisable to buy a second hand car seat. Childcarseats.org.co.uk say you should not buy a second hand car seat because you cannot be sure of the car seat's history and whether it has been in an accident. It may look fine but there could be hidden internal damage. Also, for a car seat to be legal it must fit the current safety standards, either R44 or R129, and an older car seat might not adhere to these. Also consider, where the instructions are available so you can ensure you are installing the car seat correctly.

If a family member offers you a second hand car seat, you can accept it but check you know its history, that it comes with instructions and it is not too old for current safety standards.

Eleanor Weaver is the Deputy Homes & Garden Product Editor and has been a writer for titles such as Mother&Baby and Yours. In her role, she has researched and recommended the best products for parents, from breast pumps to toys, nursery décor to car seats. She's also kept a keen eye on celeb mums and influencers to share what they've been using to help make parenting that little bit easier.

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How we write our articles and reviews
Mother & Baby is dedicated to ensuring our information is always valuable and trustworthy, which is why we only use reputable resources such as the NHS, reviewed medical papers, or the advice of a credible doctor, GP, midwife, psychotherapist, gynaecologist or other medical professionals. Where possible, our articles are medically reviewed or contain expert advice. Our writers are all kept up to date on the latest safety advice for all the products we recommend and follow strict reporting guidelines to ensure our content comes from credible sources. Remember to always consult a medical professional if you have any worries. Our articles are not intended to replace professional advice from your GP or midwife.