What is a Toddler Car Seat?
Before mentioning makes and models, I first ought to clarify which seats actually qualify for inclusion in the list of – “Best Toddler Car Seats 2014”.
The American Academy of Pediatrics defines toddlerhood as starting in the second year of life and consider that it extends into, and includes, the third year.
So, for our purposes a toddler is any child between the ages of about 1-3 years.
In the US, there are really only 2 types of child car seats that are suitable for use with toddlers:
- Convertible Car Seats
- Combination Booster 2 Harness Car Seats
Best Convertible Car Seats 2014
There is no single best convertible car seat that I can point to and say “this has been independently tested and found to be the safest convertible car seat in the world”. Some unscrupulous people hint at this, but there are no such comprehensive independent tests to justify such a bold claim.
Yes, the NHTSA performs “Ease of Use” Tests, but these are NOT comprehensive safety tests – they make this perfectly plain on their own website. I have previously written extensively about the Myths surrounding the NHTSA Ease of Use Ratings and I don’t propose to repeat myself in this post. The NHTSA Ease of Use ratings are a useful source of information, but they only tell you which seats are the easiest to use as opposed to which are objectively assessed as having the best crash test scores or safety features.
The NHTSA’s mantra is simply this – the safest seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and can be used correctly time after time. The extent to which you need to use the NHTSA’s Ease of Use ratings to make your choice will depend upon many factors, including how experienced/confident your are in fitting child car seats and whether their top rated seats will actually fit into your vehicle.
For example, a seat might not get their top rating because the labels are not the clearest. However, since I already know how to install a LATCH fitted seat correctly, this wouldn’t be relevant to my purchasing decision. Conversely, if you were unsure about how to fit a LATCH seat, then this “might” affect your decision.
I have reviewed a number of convertible car seats on this website and you can find all of those reviews in the menu at the top of the page (unsurprisingly under the heading “car seats”).
If I had to choose the 2 Best Convertible Car Seats, they would probably be:
#1 Britax Advocate
The Britax Advocate is the top-of-the-range convertible car seat that comes with enhanced side impact protection. It comes with every safety features that you could ever wish for in a child cars seat. The only downsides are that you won’t be able to fit 2 other seats next to them on the back row of a standard sized vehicle and it is quite expensive.
It is suitable for use between 5 and 65 lbs.
You can buy the Britax Advocate here
I have compared some of the Britax Series seats here to help you to compare all of their different features.
#2 Chicco Nextfit 35
The Chicco Nextfit 65 is a very stylish convertible car seat that comes with 9 recline positions to make it much easier to find a comfortable seating set up for your child. This feature also makes it easier to extend rear facing since reclining makes you child’s feet less likely to squash into the back passenger seat.
It also comes with a 6-position headrest and SuperCinch LATCH to make installation almost foolproof.
It used to receive complaints from parents about the shoulder pads being too bulky and not being removable for washing. However, Chicco listened to these complaints and have replaced the old shoulder straps with removable ones. They have also lengthened the crotch strap to make it easier to adjust.
It is suitable for use between 5 and 65 lbs.
You can buy the Chicco Nextfit 65 here.
Best Combination Booster 2 Harness Car Seats
One of the main safety benefits of convertible car seats is that they help to prolong rear facing up to about 2 years of age (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics).
The only other alternative type of seat for toddlers is the Combination Booster 2 Harness seats. They are only suitable from 25 lbs and are forwards facing with 5-point harness up to about 70/90 lbs (depending on which model you choose). They are better for older children that can no longer fit into a rear facing seat.
They are certainly better than standard booster seats since they allow the use of a 5-point harness instead of just the adult seat belt, but if your child is just coming out of an infant seat at about 30 lbs I would prefer to use a rear facing convertible car seat for as long as I could rather than go straight into a forwards facing combination seat.
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
Do You Need More Help?
If you need any further advice or assistance whatsoever, please feel free to contact me and I will do my very best to help.
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