Based on our research, the best car seat for your 3-year-old is the Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 Harness Booster because it can be used as a forward-facing, harness, high-back booster, and backless booster. It’s there for your child all the way up until they are ready to use just a seatbelt or until they reach 100 pounds. 

We’ve reviewed the top car seats for 3-year-old children based on safety, durability, comfort, ease of installation, and of course price.

According to the CPS technicians we spoke to, the best seat option for the typical 3-year-old is a combination car seat that can be converted from front-facing to a high-back booster seat.

This means your child will be able to use a regular seat belt as opposed to the harness system once they are old enough. The great news is that combination car seats are generally more affordable than all-in-one car seats!

Let’s take a look at one of those car seats and what characteristics make it our best pick.

Our Top Pick

GRACO Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat
4.0
  • 3-in-1 harness booster helps protect your child, from toddler to youth
  • Grows with your child from forward-facing harness (22-65 lb) to highback booster (40-100 lb) to backless booster (40-120 lb)
  • No-Rethread Simply Safe Adjust Harness System allows the headrest and harness to adjust together in one motion
  • Fuss-free harness storage to get your child in and out easily
  • Removable body support helps keep your child comfy
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Additionally, this is one of the most budget-friendly convertible car seats on the market. It’s also lightweight and portable, which is essential for those who travel or switch vehicles often. It also features a one-hand, 8 positions adjustable headrest to accommodate your growing child. It comes in a variety of colours and has open-loop belt guides to help position the vehicle’s seat belt properly.

We cover this model in more detail below, but if you’re ready to make a move now you won’t be disappointed to buy the Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1.

Other Notable Picks 

Best Car Seats For 3-Year-Olds 

02/20/2024 12:32 pm GMT

1. Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1 Harness Booster

Cheapest Car Seat For 3-Year-Olds [Our Top Pick]
Graco Tranzitions 3 in 1 Harness Booster Seat, Kyte
4.5
$189.98 $159.96
  • 3-in-1 harness booster helps protect your child, from toddler to youth
  • Grows with your child from forward-facing harness (22-65 pounds) to highback booster (40-100 pounds) to backless booster (40-100 pounds) to continue to meet industry standards, we have increased the weight minimum from 30 to 40 pounds
  • No-rethread simply safe adjust harness system allows the headrest and harness to adjust together in one motion.Do not use bleach
What We Liked:
  • Budget-friendly
  • Has two cupholders
  • Two different booster options
  • Has belt loop guides for booster modes
  • Machine-washable
  • Super durable in case of an accident
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/20/2024 02:42 pm GMT

As mentioned before, this is our top pick.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, this one’s definitely for you. Of all the seats on our list, this one is easily the best value. This Graco 3-in-1 booster can be used as a forward-facing harness, a high-back booster, and a backless booster.

You can use forward-facing mode up to 65 pounds and either booster options for up to 100 pounds. The seat uses the SimplySafe harness adjust system, which allows you to adjust the seat using one hand.

Graco Tranzitions 3-in-1

It comes with five different headrest positions. The seat has undergone all federal safety tests and has met or exceeded all safety standards. When uses in either booster mode, there are helpful belt loop guides to ensure the best fit.

Removable Pad and Cover

Both the seat pad and the car seat cover are removable and can be run through your washing machine. On top of this, there are also two integrated cupholders to hold snacks and drinks on long car rides. There are three different colors to choose from as well, so you’ll definitely find one that matches your car. This seat can be used up until 7 years after the date of manufacture.

2.Safety 1st MultiFit EX Air 4-in-1 Convertible Seat

Best Rear Facing
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Car Seat
3.5
  • Built to grow: The 3 in 1 car seat built to grow for extended use through 3 stages: Rear facing 5 to 40 pounds, forward facing 22 to 65 pounds, and belt positioning booster 40 to 100 pounds
  • Side impact protection: The grow and go’s side impact protection helps keep your child safe
  • Easy in, easy out: Harness holders keep the harness in an open position so it is easy to get your child in and out of the seat. Rear facing height is 19 to 40 inches. Forward facing height is 29 to 52 inches
What We Liked:
  • One-stop-shop seat
  • Best for extended rear-facing
  • Harness holders are convenient
  • Removable inserts
  • Easy to adjust the headrest
  • Easy to install
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Of all our seats on this list, Safety 1st Convertible Seat is the most extended rear-facing friendly. It’s considered an all-in-one seat but works well for toddlers/preschoolers because it allows rear-facing up to 50 pounds. You may then forward-face up to 65 pounds and use booster mode up to 100 pounds.

It uses Air Protect side impact protection for the head and neck and has a QuickFit harness to make adjusting simpler. There are harness holders on each side to help keep the straps out of the way when getting in and out as well.

Insert Pillows

The insert pillows are comfortable and removable for once your little one grows out of them as well. Keep in mind that these should be removed once they surpass the infant stage. It has a three-position recline for comfort and safety as well as easily removable and machine-washable fabric. This seat can be used up to 10 years after the date of manufacture.

3.Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1

Best Budget Car Seat
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
4.5
$159.99

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is noted to be crafted to grow with your children, from as small as 5 lbs (rear-facing) to 65 lbs (forward-facing) and 100 lbs (belt-positioning booster seat).

 It also is super easily adjustable in terms of both the headrest and the harness, which means that your child will always be comfortable and secure, no matter how big they get. 

Safety First car seats are always noted to have some of the top safety features, and this is certainly one of the finest available on the market.

What We Liked:
  • Adjustable three-position recline
  • Has harness holders that keep the harness open
  • Two integrated cup holders
  • Super easy to clean
  • One of the most affordable, and high-quality convertible options
  • Parent-friendly strap holders
  • A convertible seat that grows with your child
  • Side impact protection
  • Comes in a variety of colors
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/20/2024 12:58 pm GMT

 

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1

4.Graco Slimfit 3-in-1 Car Seat

Space-Saving Car Seat
Graco SlimFit 3 in 1 Car Seat -Slim & Comfy Design
  • 3-in-1 car seat grows with your child from rear-facing harness (5-40 pounds) to forward-facing harness (22-65 pounds) to highback booster (40-100 pounds)
  • Slim design with dual integrated cup holders that rotate away, making the seat 10% slimmer to save valuable back seat space
  • Graco ProtectPlus Engineered: A combination of the most rigorous crash tests that helps to protect your little one in frontal, side, rear and rollover crashes
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Slimfit is great for anybody that needs to install 3 car seats in a row, because of its narrow design. The cup holders can be rotated to help save space as well.

In addition, it is a 3 in 1 car seat, also considered an all-in-one car seat. In other words, you won’t need to buy a booster car seat once your little one grows.  

This one is good for extended rear-facing because it can do so up to 40 pounds. The forward-facing harness can be used up to 65 pounds and booster mode can be used up to 100 pounds.

SimpliSafe System

This one uses the SimpliSafe harness adjust system and has integrated harness storage for when using the seat in booster mode. The seat has been crash-tested and has met or exceeded all federal safety standards.

It’s been side-impact tested with its lined EPS foam and has also been tested to withstand extreme temperatures too.

It’s equipped with LATCH technology for safe and easy installation and has four different recline positions for comfort. The plush cushions add to the comfort factor and can be removed for easy cleaning too. The Slimfit can be used up until 10 years after the date of manufacture

5.Diono Radian 3R Convertible Car Seat

3 Seats In A Row
Diono Radian 3R, 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
$199.99 $160.15

The Diono Radian 3R is an updated version of the Radian. This one can fit three across most vehicles and has also been FAA-approved for air travel too. It’s another great seat for extended rear-facing as it can accommodate that mode up to 40 pounds.

Once your child outgrows the rear-facing mode, they can use the forward-facing harness for up to 65 pounds and the belt-positioning booster for up to 100 pounds.

What We Liked:
  • Stylish design
  • Comes in seven different color options
  • Superior LATCH technology
  • The original “3-across” seat
  • Approved for air travel
  • All-in-one seat
Check On Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/20/2024 04:38 pm GMT

 

Extra Protection

It’s reinforced with a memory foam seat and aluminum walls to help with side impact protection. The inside walls are also lined with energy-absorbing EPS foam.

The Radian also comes LATCH-equipped, but with a superior model of LATCH technology. With this one, you can easily install it with the audible-click/visual-locking indicator system. The cover is made of machine-washable fabric and the seat folds flat for easy storage too. This seat can be used up to 10 years after the date of manufacture.

6.Maxi-Cosi Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Maxi-Cosi CC208EMQ Pria Max 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
4.5
$339.99 $239.99

This Maxi Cosi 3-in-1 seat is perfect if you want to practice extended rear-facing. Your little one will be able to stay rear-facing until they reach 40 pounds. This is really nice because rear-facing is proven to be the safest position for children and this seat can do that well after your child turns 3.

It can be used in three different positions: rear-facing and front-facing harness, as well as a high-back booster. Once your child surpasses 40 pounds, they can forward face until 85 pounds and use the booster until 100 pounds.

What We Liked:
  • Easy to convert between modes
  • Cleaning isn’t a major hassle
  • Will Last Long.
  • Encourages extended rear-facing
  • Easy to buckle
  • Comfortable for long rides
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/21/2024 06:12 pm GMT

GCell Foam

The seat uses patented GCell foam to absorb the energy around the head and neck during a crash. The cushions are also soft to the touch and provide optimal comfort for your little one. To add to the comfort and convenience factor, the harness is uniquely equipped with the ClipQuik auto magnetic chest clip.

The headrest is easily adjustable with one hand and the seat has the ability to be reclined into three different positions. You may also choose to install this one either using a seat belt path or via the LATCH method.

Both the seat pad and harness covers are removable and machine-washable and the cupholders can be removed as well. Both cupholders are safe for the top rack of your dishwasher. This seat can be used up to 10 years after the date of manufacture.

7. Britax Grow With You Clicktight – Safest Combination Seat

Most Secure for Toddlers and Older Children
Britax Grow with You ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, Cool N Dry - Cool Flow Moisture Wicking Fabric
3.5
$255.99

An upgrade from the Pinnacle, this seat can be used as a 5-point harness (25-65 lbs) and a belt-positioning high back booster (65-120 lbs). It accommodates an extra inch and 20 pounds more than most boosters on the market, which means your child stays safer for longer. 

As with all Britax seats, you’re getting exceptional safety features, starting with the three layers of side-impact protection and a V-shaped tether to keep the seat fully restrained. The SafeCell crumples beneath the seat absorb crash impact, and the steel frame keeps the seat stable under any circumstances. 

With a 9-position headrest, this seat is a great option for tall kids, and the armrests, cupholders, and soft fabric make for a comfortable ride. Bonus: you can remove the machine-washable cover without uninstalling the seat OR rethreading the harness!

What We Liked:
  • Colour-coded belt guide
  • SafeWash fabric that’s easily removed
  • 5-point and high back booster
  • Good for tall and heavy kids
  • Easy installation
  • Steel frame
  • SafeCell crumples
  • Easy-to-wash fabric
  • Three layers of side-impact protection
  • Can be used for taller kids with longer
  • Comes with comfortable harness pads
  • The cover is naturally flame retardant
  • Easy to install
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/20/2024 11:42 am GMT

Britax Grow With You is top-rated for its incredible safety features: an industrial-based steel-reinforced frame, 2 layers of side impact protection, SafeCell impact technology, and Britax’s patented v-shaped tether.

This seat is an updated version from Britax Frontier Clicktight that was retired in 2020. The only difference is that Britax Grow With You Clicktight has a lower harness weight limit of 65 pounds vs. retired Britax Frontier – 90 pounds.

It has a stronger steel frame and comes in three different color options as well. It’s made with soft-to-the-touch athleisure fabric to contribute to style and function.

The forward-facing harness mode can be used from 25-65 pounds and its belt-positioning booster mode can be used up to 120 pounds. If you’re worried about the harness strap irritating your little one’s skin, this seat comes with comfortable harness pads.

Installation: LATCH or Seat Belt

This one can be installed via Britax’s ClickTight LATCH method or belt path. Keep in mind, though, that LATCH is unnecessary when using it in belt-positioning booster mode.

The harness and headrest are both easily adjustable and don’t require any harness rethreading to do so. There are also nine different settings to choose from when adjusting. The seat comes with two integrated cup holders to fulfill your child’s snack and drinking needs. All Britax seats are designed and built in the USA. This seat can be used up until 9 years after the date of manufacture.

Britax Grow with you Clicktight

8.Chicco Nextfit Zip Convertible Car Seat – Extended Rear-Facing

Chicco NextFit Sport Convertible Car Seat | Rear-Facing Seat for Infants 12-40 lbs. | Forward-Facing Toddler Car Seat 25-65 lbs.
4.5
$299.99
  • BUILT TO GROW — NextFit Max ClearTex offers 25% more legroom compared to other NextFit car seats and a 50 lb. weight limit maximizes time in rear-facing position; forward-facing mode accommodates older children (up to 65 lbs.) with more calf support.
  • NO ADDED CHEMICALS — From textiles to tags, gentle ClearTex fabric features no added chemicals; GREENGUARD Gold Certified for low chemical emissions contributes to healthier air quality around baby.
  • EASIEST TO INSTALL CORRECTLY — Designed to deliver a secure install with premium LATCH connectors, SuperCinch force-multiplying tightener, RideRightTM bubbles levels and a 9-position leveling system.
What We Liked:
  • Super easy to clean
  • Easy to install
  • Encourages extended rear-facing
  • Extremely durable in the case of crashes
  • No need to rethread the harness to adjust
  • Fits well in most vehicles
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/20/2024 09:27 am GMT

This convertible seat will work for your toddler up until they reach 65 pounds. It also encourages extended rear-facing by capping the weight limit off at 40 pounds before you need to flip it around.

It uses the force-multiplying SuperCinch tightener to ensure a proper fit when installing via the LATCH method and the LockSure belt-lock system when installing via belt path. The Nextfit Zip has nine different headrest positions as well as nine different reclines.

Extra Features

This one is also nice because there are four different colors to choose from. This way, you’re sure to find one that suits your vehicle’s interior. It also includes a detachable cup holder that’s foldable to save space as well.

It’s Duo guard protection includes a deep rigid shell and an EPS energy-absorbing foam. The base is also made of steel to ensure optimal stability and protection too. As far as cleaning goes, this one is one of the easiest. The fabric can be zipped off and run through your washer and dryer. This seat can be used up until 8 years after the date of manufacture.

Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat
Force – Multiplying Tightener

9.Chicco Myfit Harness Seat – Easiest to Install

Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat, 5-Point Harness Car Seat
4.5
$219.99 $209.99
  • Converts from 5-point harness to belt-positioning booster
  • DuoGuard head & torso protection and a steel-reinforced frame.Care & Cleaning: Hand Wash
  • 4-position recline, 9-position headrest, and contoured ErgoBoost seat with dual-density padding
  • Premium LATCH connectors and LockSure belt-tightening system for easy installation
  • 2 dishwasher-safe CupFolders with push-button removal


What We Liked:
  • The easy-to-read level indicator makes installation easier
  • Dishwasher safe cupholders
  • Has two layers of impact protection
  • Several different headrest heights
  • Lasts a long time
  • Easy to install
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/20/2024 02:02 pm GMT

The MyFit is a good seat because it can accommodate in forward-facing harness mode from 25 pounds to 65 pounds and booster mode from 40 pounds to 100 pounds. There are nine different headrest settings and a four-position recline for comfort.

Its DuoGuard side impact protection uses two protection layers: a rigid seat shell and an EPS foam liner around the head and torso.

Steel Frame Shell

The shell also comes reinforced with a steel frame to maximize stability and safety too. The harness is padded and doesn’t require any rethreading and when used in booster mode, there are helpful belt guides for a proper fit. You can also be sure the seat is positioned correctly by using the easy-to-read bubble level indicator on the side of the seat.

When installing via belt path, the seat uses the LockSure belt system to ensure a tight fit. The seat also comes with two detachable and dishwasher safe cupholders. These cupholders can also be positioned flat if you need extra space in your car. This seat can be used up until 8 years after the date of manufacture.

Chicco MyFit Harness Booster
4 Position Recline For Improved Child Comfort

10. Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Seat – Safest Combination Seat

GRACO Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat
4.0
  • 3-in-1 harness booster helps protect your child, from toddler to youth
  • Grows with your child from forward-facing harness (22-65 lb) to highback booster (40-100 lb) to backless booster (40-120 lb)
  • No-Rethread Simply Safe Adjust Harness System allows the headrest and harness to adjust together in one motion
  • Fuss-free harness storage to get your child in and out easily
  • Removable body support helps keep your child comfy
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

This seat lasts a long time as it can be used up until your child reaches 120 pounds. It starts as a forward-facing harness seat and then you can use it as either a high-back or backless booster.

Once your child surpasses 65 pounds, they can graduate up to either booster mode. The seat has integrated harness storage for when using the seat in booster mode and can easily be adjusted using one hand.

This one comes with five different adjustable headrest positions and is easy to get in and out of when in forward-facing harness mode. It also comes with a comfortable body support pillow for your child too.

The Nautilus seat uses TrueShield protective shields for side impact protection.  However, these shields are only beneficial in forward-facing harness and high-back booster modes.

Optimal Safety

The seat has been tested and has met or exceeded all federal safety standards. During testing, the seat went through tests at peak crash force, which is roughly 2 times more than typical testing. All fabric components of this seat are machine-washable. This seat can be used up to 10 years after the date of manufacture.

Buyers Guide

What Are The Most Important Factors in Buying a Car Seat For 3-Year-Old?

When it comes down to selecting the best car seat for your child, there are three main factors that you should take into consideration before investing in a car seat. Those factors are durability, ease of cleaning, and, of course, safety. Here we’ll be examining those vital features a bit more in-depth.

Car Seat Safety

Booster seats are created to raise your child up so that they are able to sit high up enough where your vehicle’s seat belt will strap them in properly (across both the shoulder and the lap).

Your child’s shoulders and head shoulders also need to be fully supported. If the seats in your vehicle are high enough, you can most certainly opt for investing in a backless booster seat and, more often than not, your existing headrest can offer plenty of support as well.

However, if your child’s head extends above the back of your vehicle’s seats then you will want to be sure that you select a high-backed booster seat for both comfort and safety. You will also want to ensure that the booster seat you are considering offers plenty of cushion support which can help in supporting your child’s body in the event of a car accident. Be sure to opt for a car seat that keeps your child strapped in tightly and that they slide around as little as possible.

Durability

It should be noted that your little one is going to be using their booster seat for quite a while, so it is important to put some careful consideration into making sure that you are choosing the right one for their needs.

A combo seat, as previously noted, is going to be one of the best options for you because it is a worthy investment in terms of how long it will last you. Keep in mind that you are going to want to choose the most durable car seat (or combination seat) that is sure to be able to grow with your child and also last as long as they are going to need it for as well.

Ease of Cleaning

Spills are inevitable. Even if you do not permit your child to have food, drinks or snacks in your vehicle, messes still happen! That is precisely why you are going to want to seek out a car seat that can easily be wiped down without actually having to remove the cover for quick clean-ups, and also one where the pad can easily be removed and tossed into your washing machine to tackle tough stains.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What kind of car seat should my 3-year old be in?

This is a commonly asked question and knowing when your child is ready for a forward-facing seat or a booster seat is based specifically on your child’s personal weight and height, as well as your state’s own laws, and regulations.

How long should a child be in a 5-point harness?

Your child should remain in a forward-facing 5-point harness car seat between the ages of 4 and 7. Once your child reaches the recommended height and weight requirement, they can then move up to a booster seat that works with your car seat belts.

Is a 5-point harness safer than a booster?

A 5-point harness is safer for your child because it straps them in at 5 different parts of contact on their body (shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, and crotch). When your child is properly secured in their 5-point harness it prevents them from moving out of their seated position.

Your 3-Year-Old Deserves The Best!

There are most certainly a number of things that you will want to consider when it comes to choosing the perfect car seat for your 3-year-old to meet the needs of your child, who is ready to move from rear-facing to forward-facing.

Be sure to put forth a bit of research in terms of ensuring that the combination car seat or forward-facing/booster seat is going to be one that is not only the safest option. But also one that is the most durable, easy to clean, and reliable option for both you and your child.

You may be interested in car activities for your 3-year-old.

Author

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren

Keren Simanova

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren