A lot changes in the first year of a child’s life.
One day, you’re leaving the hospital with a tiny bundle of joy that you can almost fit in the palm of your hand. Fast forward a year, and you have a 1 year old that’s practically doubled in size, many at or more than 20 pounds!
When it comes to choosing the best car seat for a 1 year old, your priorities have probably changed a bit. You’ve just spent a year learning what works, and doesn’t, with your current seat. It’s time to take a fresh look at your options.
Of course, due to their small size you’ll still need a rear-facing car seat, but around that first birthday the importance of features like portability, ease-of cleaning, safety, and long term usability often changes.
In this buyer’s guide we’ve outlined the 5 best car seat options based on specific details like that.
Below is a quick overview of our top picks. Keep scrolling to learn more details on the safety, comfort, and ease of cleanliness for each of our choices.
Top 5 Car Seats For 1 Year Old Children
The safety of your child is one of the most important considerations you make when putting them into your vehicle. Each time your child goes into a new seat, they have to meet certain age, height, and weight requirements. However, rather than buying a new car seat each time they hit a milestone, consider an all-in-one car seat.
An all-in-one car seat is a convertible seat that accommodates your child’s growth. It can begin at infancy and go all the way to when they’re ready to move to a booster or even move out of the booster. This means that you only need to make one purchase as opposed to three or four. Most car seats of this kind are also preemie-friendly.
These car seats transform from rear-facing to forward-facing, to highback booster, and maybe even to a backless booster. Some models only go to high back while others go to backless.
The only issue with all-in-one car seats is that they aren’t very portable, so if you’re switching from vehicle to vehicle, you may need to consider a more lightweight model or something different altogether.
We picked the Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat as the best car seat for 1-year-olds because it goes all the way to a booster or up to age 10. You only have to purchase one car seat and you’re done.
Pick #1: Graco 4Ever DLX – Best Overall
We were huge fans of the Graco 4Ever DLX when we checked it out. It’s a 4-in-1 car seat that enables your child to use it for a whopping 10 years. It starts as rear-facing, which is what all children are going to use for at least the first 2 years of their lives.
It then transforms to forward-facing, allowing your child to have more leg room, and then it converts to a high back booster, making your little one feel more like a big kid. Finally, you can remove the back piece and it will be a backless booster with a belt positioner.
Your one-year-old is going to want to be comfortable while they travel, especially if they’re bundled up for a long car ride. You will find 6 different positions on the car seat that allows you to switch how much or how little they recline. This ensures their comfort as they grow as well. Whether they’re 4 pounds or 120 pounds, there’s a setting for maximum comfort.
This is definitely a car seat that would work well for a preemie as long as they are 4 pounds and over. You can see that there is an insert in the car seat specifically for a preemie, so you don’t have to purchase a special one. You may want the head insert, however.
When your child is in your vehicle, you want to ensure their safety at all times, right? We like that the Graco DLX has a one-step 10 position harness. No more fussing with belts and levers.
All you need to do is reach back and adjust as needed. You can feel rest assured knowing your child is secure in their car seat no matter how big or small. It’s also a huge help that this car seat offers complete crash protection from all angles.
What’s more, you can have peace of mind knowing your child is completely protected if in an accident. There are state-of-the-start safety features embedded within this car seat as well. In the event of a rollover, rear, side, or front car crash, your little one is protected. The latch attachment keeps your child’s car seat in one spot and it’s easy to install.
Ease of Cleanliness
One feature that really caught our eye was the rapid cover removal. If your little one has a blowout, throws up, or spills anything in their seat, you can remove the cover in 60-seconds for easy machine washing.
We should mention that this is a pricey car seat, but considering all of the features and convenience, it may be worth it.
Pick #2: Safety 1st Grow and Go – Best Budget Option
We love the Safety 1st brand. It’s a reliable and affordable company that has your child’s safety in mind, hence the name Safety 1st. One of their best products is their Safety 1st Grow and Go.
This one is only a 3-in-1, but it’s a great option for a 1-year-old. Your child will start rear-facing, then move to forward-facing so you can see their smiling faces better, then once they are old enough, transition to a belt-positioning booster. They can remain in the booster until they reach 100 pounds or 52 inches tall.
When in the rear-facing position, the driver or passenger is given 7-inches more legroom. We don’t know about you, but we think that the extra 7-inches really makes a difference when traveling long distances.
This car seat is also great for preemies starting at 5 pounds. It does have a head support system for smaller children, but depending on the size of your baby, you may need additional support.
The parent-friendly design of this car seat caught our attention. How many times have you tried to put your child in or take your child out of the seat and the harness gets in the way? It catches an arm or a leg and may cause discomfort to your child.
The easy in, easy out feature allows you to perform those tasks while your child is flailing about, without the harnesses getting in the way thanks to the special harness holders. Pretty nifty, right?
Let’s not forget about our child’s comfort. There are various recline options to accommodate the comfort preferences of your child. Do they prefer to sit straight up or have a little bit of a relaxed ride?
There are three positions you can choose from. Pick one and see if they like it. If not, see if they respond better to the next position up. Once you’ve figured it out, they can stick their sippy cup in one of the integrated cup holders and sleep like a baby.
You can also adjust the headrest easily with the QuickFit no-rethread feature. This is more of a convenience for you than the child if we’re being honest. As they grow, you can adjust the height of the headrest and harness in just one step.
When you can’t adjust it anymore and come to the realization that your baby isn’t so much of a baby anymore, you can remove the harness and begin strapping them in with the seat belt instead.
Ease of Cleanliness
Again, we enjoy the fact that you can easily remove the cover for washing when needed. Additionally, we feel the need to mention the safety features of this car seat. Safety is important to us and to the Safety 1st brand. This car seat has side impact protection to ensure your child is protected at all times from an unexpected collision.
A lot of parents have made it a point to say that this particular car seat is difficult to install. Most car seats do take some finagling here and there. Check that the car seat is compatible with your vehicle by comparing the dimensions of your car’s seats and the car seat. Most of the time, car seats like these don’t fare well in cars with deep bucket seats.
Pick #3: Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 – Best for Travel
Some all-in-one car seats are big and bulky, not allowing for multiple car seats to be placed next to each other. However, the Graco SlimFit is ideal for cars that may not have enough space in the back seat. This is another car seat that grows with your child, starting from infancy or age 1.
This is one of the slimmer designs on the market, 10% slimmer to be exact.
If you have more than one car seat in your vehicle and your vehicle is small as it is, then this would be a good car seat to consider. It’s nice to know that even though they trimmed some fat off the sides, they didn’t take away the features that really pull a car seat together, like the hide-away cup holders. We’re suckers for cup holders. They’re the perfect resting spot for your child’s sippy cup or snacks.
This would be the ideal car seat for traveling. It weighs only 19 pounds and thanks to its slim design, it’s not as bulky when transporting.
The advanced features of this car seat bring us more joy than you could imagine. As a parent, it’s our top priority to keep our children safe. We like that this is Graco ProtectPlus Engineered. This means that they’ve tested the car seat with a combination of some of the most extreme crash tests. Your child is literally protected from all angles.
Ease of Use
Another feature that we think may save you some time and energy is the no-rethread simply safe adjust harness system. We’re seeing this a lot on many car seats.
It’s one system that allows you to adjust the harness and headrest height from 10 positions. You don’t have to struggle with removing the straps from the back and putting them into new holes. That’s just a huge headache.
Speaking of headaches, installing car seats like these can cause a big one. Some users have complained about difficult installation, but the InRight push-button latch is supposed to ease that pain. You should only have to click the latch in to ensure a secure installation. Some users may have difficulty depending on the make and model of their vehicle.
As far as comfort is concerned, we noticed that this car seat also has reclining options. You can place your baby in four different positions. If your child has acid reflux, they would benefit from sitting straight up. If your child tends to spit up when sitting straight up, then they may benefit from being reclined in one of the various positions.
Pick #4: Britax One4Life ClickTight – Best Safety Features
We are no stranger when it comes to Britax products. They aren’t as cheap as other brands, but they make up for that with their durability and advanced features. This is the safest car seat that we could find for a 1-year-old. Even though the One4Life comes with a hefty price tag, it grows with your child and offers them only the best in safety.
We are huge fans of this car seat because it can accommodate from the smallest to the largest children. Your child can be a preemie and they would fit comfortably in the car seat thanks to the cute little preemie insert.
Even if your 1-year-old is small for their age, they will still fit. Additionally, if you plan to keep the car seat until your child weighs 120 pounds or reaches 63 inches tall, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. Plus, as they grow, you can adjust the headrest in 15 different positions and they can recline in 9-positions with the quick-push recline option. We enjoy this feature because you can reach back and adjust at any time.
When we said this was one of the safest car seats on the market, we weren’t lying. The One4Life has 2 layers of side impact protection. Your child’s head, neck, and torso are fully protected in the event of an unexpected collision.
Not only that, but they have this cool SafeCell technology that essentially blocks the energy of the crash and absorbs it. This is combined with the V-shaped tether that will help slow and reduce movement during the crash. This is all thanks to the high-strength steel frame that gives the car seat optimal reinforcement and stabilization.
We have one more praise to give. This seat has built-in cooling channels and ventilated mesh to help improve airflow. Have you ever picked your child up out of their car seat and felt that their back was drenched in sweat?
This is due to a lack of ventilation in traditional car seats. These ventilated mesh covers will keep your child cool during the warmer months. The cover can also be washed in the event of a blowout or spill from a sippy cup that may have fallen from the cup holders.
Now, even though the cover is supposed to be machine washable, we did see that some users were having a tough time getting all of the stains out.
This may be due to the fact that the stains were set in or that they were just too tough for the washing machine. Personally, we use a spray beforehand and let it sit for about 5 minutes before tossing it in the washing machine.
Pick #5: EvenFlo EveryFit 4-in-1 – Most Comfortable
Is your child picky about their comfort level, even for a 1-year-old? If so, the EvenFlo EveryFit 4-in-1 car seat is their dream come true. EvenFlo has always been known for producing some of the most comfortable and safe car seats on the market for children of all ages and sizes.
This is another car seat that is meant for 10-years of use or up to 120 pounds. It’s the only car seat you’ll ever need since it works for rear-facing, forward-facing, as a high back booster, and a no-back booster. It’s also ideal for a preemie weighing at least 4 pounds.
Ease of Use
One of our favorite things about this car seat is that it’s unbelievably simple to install. Does anybody remember the old latch systems that use the clips that were just about impossible to remove when you were done using the seat?
We loathe those. However, this car seat has a neat latch system that has a SureSafe installation system. Simply push the latch into the metal bar, listen for the click, and you’re done! This method improves proper installation by 2x compared to the other latch installations.
When it comes time to adjust the harness to accommodate your growing bundle of joy, simply push a button. No need to re-thread the straps or remove the car seat from your vehicle. One motion and you’re done.
We had mentioned that this was one of the most comfortable car seats from EvenFlo. This is all thanks to the airflow mesh fabric that allows breathability. No more sweaty backs and no more uncomfortable 1-year-old. Use this in combination with the four reclining positions and 12-position headrest and you have yourself one heck of a comfy car seat.
We also want to mention that this car seat has met or exceeded all applicable federal safety standards. The side impact protection alone reduces forces up to 30%. It has been rigorously tested at 2x the federal crash test standards to ensure your child is safe and secure at all times.
We hope that you were able to gain some insight into which car seat would be best for your 1-year-old.
As we mentioned earlier, the Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Car Seat is, in our opinion, the best car seat for a 1-year-old because it goes all the way to a booster or up to age 10 and it has top-notch safety features and 60-second cover removal. This takes the pain out of washing the cover when the unexpected occurs.
If you’re looking for a travel-friendly option, the Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 is our top pick because it’s 10% slimmer than other comparable models. It’s not the lightest unit on the market, but it’s one of the lightest and slimmest convertible car seats available.
We understand that these are all convertible car seats and aren’t exactly cheap. However, these types of car seats are a one-time investment. You don’t need to purchase a new car seat each time your child hits a milestone. This may be a money saver for you in the long run.