The 9 best toddler car seats 2024

best toddler car seats

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

Working out when to move your little one from a baby car seat to a toddler car seat can be confusing. The key thing to remember is that a car seat ‘fits’ your child according to their weight (or their height, in the case of i-Size seats) – not their age. Don’t move your child until they're close to the maximum weight or height limit for their current seat. Lots of parents buy the next-stage seat too soon, thinking the seat looks a bit snug, but it’s safer to keep your child in the lowest group seat for their height and weight.

UK car seat laws state that all children must use a car seat until they are 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall. If you’re currently using a Group 0+ car seat with your little one, you’ll need to start searching for the best toddler car seat when your youngster is around 12-15 months old. If you’re using a Group 1 or Group 0+/1 seat, you can use it until your child is around four years old before deciding which seat to buy next. If you’re using an iSize seat, you’ll need to replace it when your baby reaches the height limit for the seat – this varies between brands but is likely to be somewhere between 12 to 15 months and four years old.

Best toddler car seats at a glance:
Best toddler car seat overall: Nuna TODL next and BASE next - Buy now on Mamas & Papas
Best rear-facing toddler car seat: Axkid Minikid - Buy now on Axkid
Best sliding car seat: Maxi-Cosi Pearl 360 Pro and FamilyFix 360 Pro base - Buy now on Maxi Cosi
Best toddler car seat under £200: Graco Turn2Me 360° - Buy now on Argos

The good news is that there are lots of choices when it comes to the best toddler car seat meaning you can really hone in on the features that you specifically want for your child's next car seat. You might be looking for a 360 car seat for easy accessibility or perhaps a rear-facing toddler car seat to make sure your baby is in the safest position possible.

A very affordable seat might tick all your boxes if you’re shopping for a spare seat for occasional use, but it might be worth buying a more expensive seat if you need features such as a rotating base or ISOFIX. It’s worth spending as much as you can on a car seat with the best safety features.

The best toddler car seats for 2024

Best toddler car seat overall

The Nuna TODL NEXT was awarded Gold for Best Baby/Toddler Car Seat (Stage 1/2) at the Mother&Baby Awards 2024. Then again for Best Multi Stage Car Seat at the Mother&Baby Awards 2023.

The sleek and stylish Nuna TODL next and BASE next is ready to hit the road from day one right through toddlerhood – and our dad-of-two tester Joe describes it as the smoothest car seat he's ever used! It has five recline positions and the deep recline angles will have your little one snoozing in no time. The shoulder harness expands with each of the six headrest positions and you can attach the side impact protection pod to create an additional safety zone to protect your child, with the integrated foam significantly reducing the force of impact. Did we mention it has 360° rotation?

Made from resilient, top-of-the-line plastics and steel reinforcement, you get a heavy-duty and secure shell, which Joe found to be sturdy but lightweight. He describes that the awkwardness of trying to bend a seat through the open door coupled with the weight of the seat is often the main struggle for him with other car seats, but while this is really strong-feeling, he says it's so light that this isn't a problem. He also points out that seats with swivel features are usually clunky, especially when adding the weight of a three-year-old to the equation, with this seat however, the toggle buttons on each side compress to release it and allow a super smooth revolving motion. Joe says this makes getting your child in and out of your vehicle super easy, and rather than judder kids to the side when releasing, they remained asleep! Another reviewer on the John Lewis website had a slightly different experience saying that while it's definitely a well built seat with good angle adjustment, it's let down by a very fiddly seat belt that's hard to fasten and a fiddly headrest cushion. They say it took several attempts to get it right every time.

The seat is easy to install and you can install it with the seatbelt if you don't have ISOFIX in your vehicle. However, our dad tester implores anyone who isn't the type to enjoy complicated instructions to opt for ISOFIX. He says the ISOFIX base is key to a simple installation. He also thought it was a really nice touch that the 'foot' of the base has clear indicators that tell you if there's ample tension, meaning the car seat is secure, but also if the swivel has disengaged correctly. Joe installed the seat in two separate vehicles, his family car and a smaller vehicle, to assess the remaining space for the passenger/driver. Due to the profile of the seat he found there were no space issues when the seat was reclined in either of the five different positions. He says the side-impact protection device that comes with the seat and is installed on the side next to the door offers extra piece of mind too, but doesn't compromise on space or the use of the swivel feature.

We love how this car seat grows with your child. You can easily remove the support wedge and merino wool infant head and body inserts, and the one-handed height-adjustable head support has six different positions. The shoulder harness also expands as the headrest raises. When adding a heavier child, Joe didn't notice any strain on the swivel. He describes feeling like everything with this seat feels like it has ball-bearings, nothing feels flimsy or unreliable, and that it's genuinely the smoothest car seat he's ever tried.

Read our full Nuna TODL NEXT car seat review

Pros

  • 360° rotation
  • Steel strength technology
  • Machine washable
  • Lightweight
  • Rubberised 5-point harness
  • Front or rear-facing

Cons

  • Not suitable for over 105cm or 19kg weight
<meta charset="utf-8">Suitable from:Birth to 19 kg
<meta charset="utf-8">Rearward facing:From birth to 105 cm and less than 19 kg
<meta charset="utf-8">Forward facing:From 76 cm to 105 cm and less than 19 kg
<meta charset="utf-8">Dimensions:66 x 46 x 56 cm
  • Steel Strength Technology
  • Swivel lock mechanism
  • Side impact protection pod
  • Five recline positions
  • Deep recline angles
  • Shoulder harness that expands as the headrest raises.
  • One hand, height-adjustable head support – six different positions.
  • Magnetic buckle holder
  • Removable support wedge and merino wool infant head and body inserts
  • Ventilation panels within the shell

Best sliding car seat

The Maxi-Cosi Pearl 360 Pro and FamilyFix 360 Pro base was awarded Silver for Best Baby/Toddler Car Seat (Stage 1/2) at the Mother&Baby Awards 2024.

If you've had enough of the bending, backache, head bangs and other general struggles that come hand-in-hand with car seats, you'll want to take a look at the Pearl 360 Pro and FamilyFix 360 Pro base. Not only does it feature 360° rotation, but it also has SlideTech™ - which for many parents is a game-changer. Simply lock, slide, spin and go! It works by the car seat base rotating and then sliding toward you using Maxi-Cosi’s patented SlideTech™ technology. One of our mum testers was delighted to discover the fact the car seat pulls out as this was something she had never seen before. She says it makes getting them in and out of the car a lot easier, rather than having to reach in and lean over.

The Pearl 360 Pro car seat, is compatible with the FamilyFix 360 Pro base providing ultimate ease for you and maximum comfort for your child from birth to 4 years old. The straps are reported to be easy to use and our tester says they didn't twist or get tangled like with some other car seats. Another parent tester says the car seat was so easy to use and install with the base, and their son seemed comfortable and content. They said it was reassuring to hear about the safety features of the seat too, especially for a car seat that potentially lasts for so long! Another of our testers said that they would recommend this product to a friend because they feel like their little boy is really safe in the car seat with it being so well-padded.

One of the main complaints about this car seat is the higher price point. However, our tester liked that the car seat lasts for a good few years rather than having to upgrade it too often, as car seats aren’t a cheap product to buy, they say. So we think that this may make up for the high price tag for parents with a bigger budget.

Read our full Maxi-Cosi Pearl 360 Pro and FamilyFix 360 Pro base review.

Pros

  • Innovative SlideTech™ technology
  • One-hand 360° rotation
  • Effortless
  • ClimaFlow breathable panels
  • Both rotates and slides towards you

Cons

  • Expensive
Suitable from:0 - 4 years
Rearward facing:Yes
Forward facing:Yes
Dimensions:n/a
  • FamilyFix 360 Pro features FlexiSpin, a 360° rotational system that enables Pearl 360 Pro to easily rotate using only one hand in any reclined position.
  • The 360 Pro Family has been certified by AGR, an independent association of health care professionals, as back-friendly. Lifting up your toddler in and out of the car has never been this comfortable thanks to the revolutionary SlideTech™ technology.
  • The Anti-misuse rotation lock gives peace of mind knowing your baby always travels in the rearward-facing position, up to a minimum of 15 months.
  • Clear and easy installation. Helpful visual indicators let you know when your car seat is correctly installed.
  • Integrated ISOFIX connectors ensure your car seat is safely locked into your car.
  • Pearl 360 Pro is designed to grow with your baby, with nine adjustable headrest positions and an adjustable harness.
  • Pearl 360 Pro is designed with breathable ClimaFlow panels to allow optimal air circulation and ensure your baby is always at the right temperature.
  • Pearl 360 Pro provides your toddler with an elevated seating position that gives them the best view out of the window.
  • Meets the highest and latest i-Size safety standards (R129/03), offering maximum safety for your child.
  • Patented AirProtect® technology for extra protection of child’s head.
  • EcoCare fabrics are produced without the use of hazardous chemicals, meaning that babies' skin is not exposed to any potential risks.

Best toddler car seat under £200

The Graco Turn2Me 360° was awarded Bronze for Best Baby/Toddler Car Seat (Stage 1/2) at the Mother&Baby Awards 2024.

For parents seeking a budget-friendly product that still ticks all the right boxes, here is a fantastic group 0+/1 Isofix car seat with that all-important 360° smooth rotating feature. Despite the exceptional price there is no compromise on quality safety features, making the Graco Turn2Me 360° a brilliant choice for your little one.

As far as cheap car seats go, this is one of the best thanks to its numerous features. First of all you get easy and instant installation with the intuitive rearward/forward-facing locking system, and the added reassurance of an integrated colour-coded indicator. Next up is a 12-position load-leg that ensures the best fit for your car. Let's not forget that side impact protection, ensuring powerful head/body protection at each stage. Plus, the no re-thread harness guarantees a proper fit as your child grows. Mum tester Holly points out that there's lots of different options to make the seat suitable for your little one e.g. booster cushion, newborn insert etc.

Our mum tester Katie definitely thinks a rotating seat is worth the money, and likes the fact that this one is slightly cheaper than others on the market. She found it a bit difficult to reach the recline button and the rotation button when rear-facing, and says that as they are so close to each other it's possible to get them confused. However, once she familiarised herself, she didn't find this to be a problem. Holly also loves that the Isofix is attached to the seat, making it easier to move between their two family cars. 

Mum tester Leah says that while it feels really sturdy, it's maybe a little bulky, but she feels that her baby is safe in it, which is the main thing, and great value for money! In fact, after testing the product for us, Leah liked it so much that she purchased one for herself. The only thing she'd like to add, which she had with her first car seat, is a little hood to keep the sun off the baby or pull over for sleep. She found this really handy before she got sun visors, helping to make it a little darker for baby to fall asleep.

Mum tester Madeleine points out one very small but thoughtful feature that made a big difference for her was that the seat has little hooks on either side to hold each strap out of the way when they are not in use. She says it really does make it easier when you aren't trying to hold the straps out of the way whilst putting baby in the seat.

Read our full Graco Turn2Me 360° review.

Pros

  • 10 overall recline positions (5 rearward and 5 forward-facing)
  • ISOFIX
  • 360 turn
  • Built-in side ventilation

Cons

  • No sun hood
Suitable from:Birth to approx. 4 years (0-18kg). Rearward facing from birth to approx. 4 years (0-18kg) to forward facing from 1 to approx. 4 years (9-18kg)
  • 360° rotation allows you to swivel the car seat rear-facing, forward-facing, and towards you
  • ISOFIX connectors make installation quick & easy - no seat belt required
  • 10 overall recline positions (5 rearward and 5 forward-facing) which means your child's head and neck will be optimally supported whether they're awake or snoozing

The best rear-facing toddler car seat

Won Bronze in the 2020 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Rear-Facing Car Seat category.

This Axkid Minikid car seat allows your child to travel rear-facing up to 6-7 years of age, making it long-lasting, excellent value for money and one of the main reasons our mum tester Gemma would recommend it to other mums. Our other mum tester Katherine, however, wasn't convinced that the seat would be practical for older kids as it rear-faces only up to 25kg. She personally couldn't imagine many 6-year-olds being happy to rear face, but adds that this isn't a fault of the seat as it is clear that this is a safer option.

The car seat has easy installation, comfortable positioning and excellent protection from all angles. The harness can adjust easily to your baby's size and height, and the seat features self-tightening straps to ensure they ride comfortably and securely. Our mum tester Mhari likes that as well as feeling very sturdy and being so comfortable, the seat sits quite high so that baby can see out of the window. She says this made the process of going out for the day much easier as her little one was more than happy to use the car seat. Mum Carys also likes the lower sides that allowed her son to just about climb in and out himself, as well as the self-tightening tethers, making her life much easier.

Carys says that she found fitting the seat to be a bit complicated. If you're worried about this though, you can get a demonstration by an Axkid professional when you buy the product in a shop. Carys says her demonstration was great and that they offer plenty of help and advice to ensure your car seat is fitted safely. Mum Katie adds that the company offers great support to its customers, with representatives that are clearly passionate and knowledgeable about their products available to contact for help and advice by various methods.

Based on the plus testing, mum Jennie said she would happily recommend the car seat to other mums. This product is quite pricey, as noted by some of our testers. We think that knowing if you were in an accident your child would have the best possible chances for survival is priceless, and our other testers agree, but obviously it's always best to shop within your budget. Mum Jo says the rigorous testing at both higher speed and shorter stopping distance really do give her peace of mind that her daughter is safe as well as comfortable. Carys also said that this stopped her from worrying, and Katie agrees this would be her main reason for recommending the car seat too.

For those of you concerned with practicalities, Katie says she appreciated that the seat has a layer of removable padding allowing for easier cleaning.

The Axkid Minikid 2 is the latest model of the car seat.

Read our full Axkid Minikid review

Pros

  • Has gone through extra testing standards
  • Rear-facing up to 6/7 years
  • Simple and smart design
  • Removable padding 

Cons

  • No ISOFIX
  • Quite bulky
Suitable from:0-25 kg
Rearward facing:Birth to 6-7 years of age
Dimensions:44 x 62 x 56 cm

The best 360 toddler car seat

Joie i-Spin 360 car seatSophie Knight

This rotating car seat from Joie is suitable from birth as a rear-facing seat, to about four years or 105cm in height; once changed to forward-facing it can be used from 76cm in height to 105cm (about 15 months to four years). The rotating seat turns 360 degrees, making it a breeze to use and saving you from months of back ache; it’s a game-changer for baby car seats and once you’ve used a rotating car seat, you won’t go back to static. The rotation is easy to operate and feels smooth to move.

There’s an easy-to-use button that allows you to switch from rear- to forward-facing positions; the seat won’t rotate to forward-facing unless you’ve switched this across. The handles for reclining the seat are either side of the seat, and are easy to grab and engage; there are six recliner positions, meaning plenty of options for getting your baby comfy.

Once baby is toddling and you want to progress to forward-facing, there’s a simple pull handle at the top that then allows you to extend the height of the head cushions, making the seat grow as your child does.

The ISOFIX connectors are pretty simple to use and install with a couple of clicks; the seat is weighty and bulky however, and we found this one of the fiddliest to manoeuvre into the car – we had to move the driver’s seat forward to get in properly, which we didn’t have to do with most other seats – but it’s not difficult. It does require a bit of yoga while you press the front button and extend the connectors at the same time – we would recommend having two people if possible, for real ease. There’s a support leg to keep the seat stable and sturdy in place, with 19 settings to make sure it’s perfect, and green light indicators to show you if it’s fitted properly. There are also green light indicators for the ISOFIX fittings too.

There’s a five-point harness for ultimate safety, which is easy to adjust and get tight, and easy to loosen again once you need to get little one out.

The seat itself feels comfy and well-padded; the newborn insert comes in two parts, for extra comfort, and it’s easy to take the padded parts out as baby grows. They clip together with poppers to keep them in place.

Eco-friendly credentials are high with this seat, as it is made with 100 per cent recycled materials, coming from 33 recycled plastic bottles.

This car seat is available in four different colours.

The only downside we could find was that there’s no way of the safety leg being stored when you take the seat out of the car, meaning it falls open and makes carrying it a bit clumsy. However this isn’t really a problem given the small number of times you’d probably be moving the seat in and out of the car. We did also find the instruction manual very short and minimal, but then the fittings are so intuitive that it didn’t matter.

Reviewed by mum Uanfin: "I like the fact that the safety buttons change from red to green when it’s installed correctly, and my son and I both love the rotating feature. He can climb in and out of the seat himself and as I’m over 35 weeks pregnant, rotating the seat to buckle it was great. The headrest was easy to adjust, and I like the reclining option for both rearward and forward facing."

Read our full Joie Baby i-Spin 360 review

Pros

  • 360 degree rotating seat
  • Installation indicators
  • Plush cushioning and fabrics
  • Tri-Protect™ headrest

Cons

  • Quite heavy
Suitable from:Birth up to approximately 4 years (from 40-105cm)
Rearward facing:Birth to 4 years
Forward facing:15 months to 4 years
Dimensions:69 x 46 x 61cm
Weight:13.9 kg 

Best front-facing toddler car seat

CYBEX-anoris in carshshss

While the rest of the options on our best of list here are rear facing or 360, the CYBEX Anoris T i-size is truly innovative as it offers forward-facing travel from 15 months to 6 years. CYBEX have achieved this, safely, with an integrated full-body air bag on the front, through the belt that secures your child in place. This is great if it's a bit of a battle to convince your toddler into facing rearward, they'll feel very grown up indeed. You can also interact with your child a lot easier, and if they have older siblings they can face the same way.

The car seat is excellent quality, the materials are soft and the range of colours is much more diverse than most car seats. However, the front 'bar' containing the car seat is quite bulky, and some parents reported it restricted the movement of their little ones. It is one of the pricer car seats on our list, but as it lasts from the age you'd be moving your little one out of their newborn/baby car seat all the way to 6 years old it's quite good value considering they can safety face forwards so will be much happier in this for longer, before moving up to a high backed booster.

Here's how mum-of-two Emily, one of our Mother&Baby testers, got on when trying out the CYBEX Anoris T i-size with her 2 and a half year old son Theo: "Overall I thought this was a fantastic product, the materials are excellent quality and the car seat was easy to install with simple to follow instructions. We had zero problems moving it between our two cars and putting it in the grandparents car either. My son has long legs, and I felt bad squeezing him in to rear face, though I know it is the safest option. It's a relief for both of us that this CYBEX is perfectly safe, a reassurance for me, and he feels much happier to be forward facing. Especially because he has an older sister, he can now interact with her a lot easier when in the car. I did think his arms looked a little bundled up, but aside from on longer car journeys (when he'd start to get fidgety anyway) it doesn't seem to bother him too much."

Pros

  • Forward facing in a safe way with the integrated air bag and I-size connectivity
  • Child can interact with others in the car
  • Prevents your child's legroom being limited

Cons

  • No rotation feature for getting your toddler into the seat
  • Air bag is quite bulky and can restrict your child's arm movement
Age range: From >15 months up to approx. 6 years
Child weight:up to 21 kg
Child height: 76 - 115 cm
Approval regulation: UN R129/03 i-Size
  • Fabric covers machine washable at 30°
  • Compatible with summer cover and cup holder, sold separately
  • This car seat is an i-Size car seat and can be installed on any i-Size vehicle seat

The best reclining toddler car seat

Suitable from birth to approximately four years, the Britax Dualfix iSize is secured via the ISOFIX anchorage points in your car and has a height-adjustable support leg for extra stability. The seat rotates 360° degrees so it’s a doddle to lift a squirming toddler in and out of the car. It can be used rearward facing as well as forward facing. It has no less than 12 recline positions and a well-padded newborn insert for extra support and comfort.

Reviewed by mum Sarah: "This was such a comfortable seat for my son, who’s fairly tall. He thoroughly enjoyed every journey – in fact, he fell asleep almost every time we used it! It’s so well-padded, and knowing that he’s comfy means I feel more comfortable about taking longer trips. The rotating feature was so helpful and instinctive. I’d recommend this to anyone who, like me, has a bad back or a slightly heavier child."

Read our full Britax Römer DUALFIX i-SIZE review.

Pros

  • 12 recline positions
  • 360° rotating seat
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Quite bulky
<meta charset="utf-8">Suitable from:Birth to 4 years (18kg)
<meta charset="utf-8">Rearward facing:Birth to 18kg
<meta charset="utf-8">Forward facing:From 15kg to 18kg
<meta charset="utf-8">Dimensions:48 x 44 x 74cm

The best toddler car seat for compact cars

The versatile Graco Slim Fit 3in1 car seat can be used rear-facing from birth up until around four years old, or forward facing right up to around 12 years old when it can be used as a booster seat from 15kg. It’s secured via the vehicle seat belt rather than ISOFIX, and it’s slimmer than many other car seats – useful if you’ve got several seats to fit in the back.

Reviewed by mum Sarah: "My daughter popped herself in this seat while I was reading the instructions, and asked me to buckle her in – fantastic, as she usually hates getting buckled into anything! We were on the road within 10 minutes, after a very intuitive set-up. I couldn’t believe the price – brilliant value. It fits so well in our Golf and looks great. I’d prefer ISOFIX, but for less than £200, I can't complain."

Read our full Graco SlimFit review

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Side impact protection
  • Lightweight
  • Great for small cars

Cons

  • No ISOFIX
Suitable from:Birth to 12 years
Rearward facing:Birth to 18kg
Forward facing:9-36kg (around 12 years)
Dimensions:86 x 54 x 56.1cm.

Best lightweight toddler car seat

Ickle Bubba 360 car seatSophie Knight

This rotating car seat is suitable from birth to 150cm in height (about 12 years) meaning it’ll last a really long time – you probably won’t need to buy another car seat if you invest in this one.

The i-Size standard means you can use this seat for baby in a rear-facing position until they are 105cm – about four years old. After that, switch to forward-facing until they’re about 12 years old.

The seat isn’t too heavy to carry and manoeuvre into place and fit safely; this was pretty easy to fit by yourself, rather than needing two people. It did require a bit of trial and error to figure out the combination to get everything fitted correctly; the leg support must be fully extended out horizontally before you can rotate the seat. We did find the instructions less than clear, with lots of numbers and references without being totally transparent. But once you’ve got everything in the right combination, there are coloured indicators to make sure everything is fitted safely and correctly. The ISOFIX connectors are independent, so you have to fit them one at a time, which does add a bit of fiddle time on.

The rotating function is a game-changer for car seats and we thoroughly recommend a car seat with a 360 rotation. It makes getting your child in and out of the car seat so easy and without any pressure on your back. The rotation in this car seat is smooth and easy to operate with a button at the front.

Once your little one grows into the forward-facing seat position, you can adjust the height of the headrest with a simple-to-use pull ring at the top.

There’s a newborn insert with extra padding for babies, which is easy to remove once they grow. The fabric cover is removable and washable, which is a bonus. There are different recline modes for both rear- and forward-facing, making sure nap times can be comfy.

The only downside we really found was that this is only available in one colour.

Read our full Ickle Bubba Radius 360 Spin Car Seat review - which is the previous version of the new i-Size Plus that we've tested above.

Pros

  • Relatively lightweight and easy to manoeuvre for a rotating seat
  • Comfortable shape for toddler
  • Good value and long-lasting, as it adjusts to fit your growing child
  • Straightforward to install

Cons

  • ISOFIX bars are independent of one another
Suitable from:Birth until 150cm (about 12 years)
Rear-facingBirth up until 105cm (about four years)
Forward-facing100cm to 150cm (about 15 months to 12 years)
Dimensions:46 x 60 x 61cm
Weight: 15kg

Your guide to toddler car seats

Types of toddler car seats

All car seats are sorted into groups according to their maximum height and weight limits, to ensure that your baby is in the right seat for their size.

Group 0+ seats are suitable from birth up to either 12-15 months or until the child weighs 13kg, and Group 1 seats are generally suitable for babies from nine months to around four and a half years. Group 2/3 are to be used from around three years until age 12.

Group 0+ seats typically face rearwards, while Group 1 seats have traditionally been forward-facing, but with an increasing number of rearward-facing seats now available.

Group 1/2/3 car seats are ‘combination’ or ‘multi-group’ seats. This means they cover more than one car seat group. The main advantage of a Group 1/2/3 car seat is longevity. In theory, it should be the last car seat you’ll need to buy, as it’s designed to fit your child until they no longer need one, so it can save you money in the long run.

Laws and safety for toddler car seats

Babies must be rear-facing until they are over 15 months old. Your child can use a forward-facing child car seat when they’re over 15 months old although many parents decide to keep their child rear-facing for as long as possible.

All car seats must pass European safety standard tests, but they don’t all share the same safety features. Look for side impact protection, especially around the part of the seat that supports your child’s head, and choose a seat shell designed to help absorb impact.

Always remember to remove your child’s coat before you strap them into their car seat, as a thick padded coat or pram suit creates too much space between your baby’s body and harness, and prevents them being properly restrained and protected.

What is extended rear-facing?

Rear-facing seats provide greater protection for your baby’s head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats and are a legal requirement until your baby is over 15 months old. You can now buy extended rear-facing car seats which make it possible to keep your child rear-facing even longer.

Choosing the right toddler car seat for you

Safety features: All car seats must pass crash tests and safety standards, but they don’t share the same safety features. Look for extras like side-impact protection – especially around the part of the seat that supports your child’s head – and a seat shell designed to help absorb impact.

Transport: Unlike infant carriers or newborn car seats, which can be used to transport your baby back and forth between the car, toddler car seats are designed to stay in your vehicle. It’s best to avoid moving them unnecessarily to minimise the chances of re-installing it incorrectly, but if you’re a two-car family or need to move it into a grandparent’s car occasionally, choose a car seat that’s straightforward to re-install.

Seat padding: A well-padded seat means a more comfy journey for your child. Is it plush enough, and can you wash the cover easily in the event of a toilet-training accident or spilt drink?

Rotation: You'll find a few 360 car seats in our list which help make it easier to pop your child in and out of the car. Check how easy it is to operate this feature – it can be a wonderful extra if you have back problems or a heavy child.

Seat recline: Multiple recline positions mean more comfort for your child if they nod off in the car. Check how many recline settings there are, and whether you can easily (and quietly!) adjust the seat, even with your
child in it.

Harness and buckle: The car seat harness should be tight-fitting – you shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the strap and your child’s shoulder. Check how easy it is to adjust the harness height and straps, without breaking a nail.

Accessories: A cup holder isn’t essential, but it makes life easier as you don’t have to stop the car to pick up dropped toys or hand over drinks. Check whether any useful extras are included, or if you can buy them separately.

How do you install a toddler car seat?

Some toddler eats are installed in your car by attaching them to your vehicle’s ISOFIX anchor points – this type of seat isn't suitable if you have an older vehicle. Many also have a top tether to keep them firmly in place. Other seats are designed to be held in place using the car’s seat belt. Not all seats are approved for use in all cars, so check with the car seat retailer or your car’s manufacturer before you buy.

When can my child go forward facing?

Only move your child to a forward-facing seat once they can sit up unaided and has exceeded the maximum weight for the seat or they are too tall for the seat, usually when the top of their head is above the top of the seat.

Or, consider using a larger (Group 1 or Group 2) rear-facing seat. If you choose a seat that can be both rear-facing and forward-facing, check the weight limit for rear-facing use, as some seats aren’t suitable for rear-facing use beyond a certain weight.

Emily Gilbert is a Digital Writer for Mother&Baby and has written for the website and previously the magazine for six years. Specialising in product reviews, Emily is the first to know about all the exciting new releases in the parenting industry.

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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.