Toddler Seat Vs. Infant Seat: What’s the Difference?
There are two types of car seats you may own:
a) The infant seat
b) The convertible toddler seat
While you can start off in a convertible seat, many parents choose an infant car seat. These car seats are designed for even the smallest of babies and they are rear-facing only.
Not only are they the safest choice for your little one, but they are also the most convenient as they can be lifted out of a base so that you can take your sleeping baby with you wherever you go.
A toddler seat (more commonly known as a convertible seat) can often be used for a newborn, but they can also be used throughout the many “car seat stages” your child may enter.
Several models can convert into a high back booster and then even a booster seat, making it a more economical option for families.
Table Of Contents
- 1 When Should I Switch to a Toddler Seat?
- 2 What Features Should I Look for in a Toddler Seat?
- 3 5 Top Toddler Car Seats Available For 2017:
- 4 The Graco Nautilus 65 3 in 1 Harness Booster Car Seat – See Reviews Here.
- 5 Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat – See Reviews Here.
- 6 Britax Frontier ClickTight Combination Harness 2 Booster – See Reviews Here
- 7 Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat – See Reviews Here
- 8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp75heJaQ3Y
- 9 Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat – See Reviews Here
- 10 Which Car Seat Should You Choose?
When Should I Switch to a Toddler Seat?
There are 4 scenarios where you should make the switch from an infant seat to the best car seats for toddlers:
- The Weight Limit is Maxed Out
All car seats come with strict weight limits which will be noted on the label attached to the seat.
Most infant car seats max out when your little one is anywhere from 22 to 35 pounds, though the limit will depend on the model of your car seat.
Be sure to read your owner’s manual to confirm when you should make the switch.
- The Height Limit is Maxed Out
Infant car seats also have a height limit with the average limit being around 29 inches. Most babies will reach the height limit of their infant car seat before they reach the weight limit.
The height limit will be listed on the same label where you will find the weight limit. Make sure that you make the switch when your baby reaches either the weight limit or the height limit.
Do not make the mistake of waiting for your baby to reach both limits before you switch to a toddler seat.
- The Head Height is Maxed Out
The closer your child’s head is to the top of the seat, the less support they have for their head, neck and spine should they be involved in a crash.
When the top of your child’s head is within one inch of reaching the top of your infant seat, it’s time to make the switch.
- The Seat is No Longer Comfortable
Both parent and baby may become uncomfortable using the infant car seat.
Lugging around an infant car seat with a 20+ pound baby is no easy feat for a parent, and your baby may start to feel cramped or she may be upset that she cannot look out of the window.
Your baby may begin to indicate that she is uncomfortable by crying during car rides on a regular basis.
Before you make the switch, make sure you look into your toddler seat options and that the seat you choose will be able to accommodate the height and weight of your baby.
What Features Should I Look for in a Toddler Seat?
Not all toddler seats are created equal. When shopping around for your seat, be on the lookout for these 5 features:
- Five-Point Safety Harness
This safety harness goes over your child’s shoulders, hips, and it connects between your baby’s legs. This harness is critical for your toddler’s safety.
- Side-Impact Protection
A nice feature which the best car seat for toddlers will have is side-impact protection.
These seats feature an energy-absorbing foam and other features which are designed to protect your child’s head and chest in the event of a side impact accident.
- LATCH System
For 15 years all car seats and vehicles have been built with what is known as a “LATCH” system. This system allows car seats to be installed directly to the frame of your vehicle rather than using a seat belt.
The LATCH system may have a weight limit, after which point you may need to install the seat with a seat belt.
- Easy to Adjust
Your little one is going to be growing at an exponential rate.
The best car seat for toddlers will allow you to easy adjust the harness height and straps from the front, with some models featuring single-handed belt adjustments and quick-release buckles.
- Easy to Clean
Kids are messy, yet surprisingly some car seats come with covers which cannot be removed. Do yourself a favor and find a toddler seat with an easily detachable machine-washable cover.
5 Top Toddler Car Seats Available For 2017:
Parents have a large selection of toddler seats available to them.
Below are 5 of the most popular and highly rated today:
The Graco Nautilus 65 3 in 1 Harness Booster Car Seat – See Reviews Here.
This convertible car seat can be used in forward facing mode only!
This car seat has many of the new and improved features which can be found on the Graco Argos seat. (Source)
- The seat features a no-rethread harness, making it easier for you to adjust the straps on your seat
- The headrest can be used in any position when in harnessed mode
- You can put the seat in any one of three recline positions
- The LATCH system can be used in high back booster mode (the weight of your child has no impact on whether or not the lower anchor can be used while in booster mode)
- The seat is easy to install and easy to clean
- This car seat cannot be put in rear-facing mode (many experts now recommend having your child rear facing until they are 3 years older or more!)
- Many parents have found this seat to be difficult to assemble
- The seat does not have great head support for sleeping children
- The seat is bulky and heavy (20 pounds)
Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat – See Reviews Here.
This is an economical car seat which can be used in both rear-facing and forward-facing mode!
This is the one I purchased for my 1.5 year old. We took it to California on a 6 hour flight and she did great!
It is smaller than the majority of car seats on the market today and can be used for children up to 65 pounds and 52 inches. (Source)
- The seat can be placed in rear facing mode for children up to 40 pounds and 40 inches (36 inches in Canada)
- The rear facing mode also has 2 rear facing level lines: more reclined for children under 22 pounds, and more upright for children 22 to 40 pounds
- This is a narrower seat so it will not take up a lot of space in your vehicle
- No-rethread harness when the newborn setting is not in use
- The non-sport model features a child positioning pillow
- Despite being rear-facing, the seat does not fit newborns and young infants very well
- The seat only has a maximum weight limit of 65 pounds (other seats on the market have a weight limit of 100 pounds or more)
- The lower anchor weight limit is anywhere between 40 pounds and 65 pounds (depending on the date of manufacture)
- Headrest can push a child’s head forward and cause their head to “slump” when they are sleeping (you may be able o remedy this by bumping the head rest up a click or two)
Britax Frontier ClickTight Combination Harness 2 Booster – See Reviews Here
Awesome that this Booster Car Seat won the 2014 IIHS Best Bet because of its many safety features and usability.
image source: This West Coast Mommy
The seat has a no rethread harness and two crotch strap positions as well as a recline setting for harnessed mode. (Source).
- The ClickTight Installation System makes installation a breeze. The car seat can be secured in a vehicle simply by buckling the seat belt, which means you do not need to have a LATCH system (though the LATCH system can be used in booster mode)
- The seat has the highest harness height capacity available on the market (62” tall) and has 9 positions
- The EZ buckle feature holds the buckle in a forward position, which means no struggling when searching for the buckle under and around your child
- Features Britax’s patented “give-way” stitching on the tether which give away one at a time in the event of an accident
- This seat is approved by the FAA for use on an airplane
- Parents love the attractive car seat covers available for this model
- The seat is quite a bit more expensive than most other options available to you
- Though smaller than the Frontier 85, the Frontier 90 model is still bulky and heavy
Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible Car Seat – See Reviews Here
This seat is beloved by many parents and guardians nationwide because it is easy to use and to install (Source).
- This seat is amongst the least expensive available on the market today
- The seat has better than average crash test results
- The seat is smaller and more narrow than many other seats, making it easy for parents and guardians to install it in any size vehicle.
- Installation is quick and easy for both rear and forward facing modes
- The seat features the TensionRight Adjuster which makes changing tightening and loosening the harness quick and easy (although the
- TensionRight Knobs may become pushed against the vehicle seat and be difficult to turn)
- The seat only has a 37” rear facing height limit (many children will outgrow the seat before reaching the best practice age recommendations for forward facing)
- The straps for the seat do not have an approved cover, so the straps may irritate a child’s neck
- The length and placement of the crotch buckle can cause discomfort for some children
- Seat expires after 6 years (other seats on the market expire after 8 or 10 years)
Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat – See Reviews Here
The Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat is known for its high rear-facing capacity and is the IIHS Best Bet for all Radian models. This is the beast I wanted originally for our California trip but I couldn’t see us carrying this through the airport (they weigh about 30 lbs.) – even with our Go-Go Babyz Travelmate!
Which is a must if you are traveling with kids in car seats. (these are a God send)
This seat has a high harness position of 17.5 inches and the seat can be used until a child’s ears are over the shell (Source).
- Features an impressive rear facing capacity of up to 45 pounds and 44 inches
- The seat is small and has a low profile, making it ideal for 3-across situations (when there are three car seats in the back seat)
- This seat can be tethered when rear facing (if your vehicle has the LATCH system)
- The seat can be folded, making it easy for travel and for use in more than one vehicle (a carry strap can be purchased separately which allows the seat to be worn as a backpack).
- Because it is commonly used as a travel seat, it features actual storage cubbies for the tether, the lower LATCH connectors and the
- SafeStop load limiting device (this can be used when your child is between 20 and 40 pounds)
- When rear facing, the seat takes up a large amount of front and back seat space
- The booster mode features a 50 pounds minimum weight limit, and it is often outgrown at the same time harness mode in harness mode
- Users have found that this seat is difficult to install
Which Car Seat Should You Choose?
Ask Yourself These Questions:
- Is it affordable?
- Does it have a positive safety rating?
- How comfortable will this be for your infant or toddler? (especially on long road trips or flying)
- Do you need front/rear or both facing car seat?
- Does it have a 5 point harness?
For parents who have a bit more of a budget for a car seat: My Top Picks:
- Britax Frontier ClickTight Combination Harness 2 Booster Car Seat
- Diono Radian RTX Convertible Car Seat
For parents who are looking for a cost-effective and long-lasting car seat: My Top Picks
- Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat (MY CHOICE – Featuring a five-point no rethread harness, the LATCH system and side impact safety features, the seat can be used rear-facing until your child is 3 or 4 years old.) It is also easy to clean, easy to adjust and easy to install, which makes it my top pick 🙂