I’ve spent time doing a ton of research and reading reviews on the newest car seats for older kids, and have landed on these five as the best car seats for older kids right now.
Hey, car seat safety is no joke, but you moms and dads already know that. It’s why you’re reading this, right? But I know things get a little tricky once when kid has outgrown their infant car seat, but you’re not quite ready to move to a backless booster.
Even when a preschooler can climb in and buckle themselves in, they’re still small enough to need extra car seat protection — sometimes by law in a lot of states.
So in determining the best five car seats for older kids, I’ve taken into consideration factors including:
-safety testing and features (of course!)
-price point and value for the money
Oh, and those comfort features are hardly low on the list of importance. You don’t want to have to fight to get your kids in the car seats — and keep them there — after all. What’s the point of a safe car seat for older kids if they won’t get in one in the first place, right?
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Please note that while we our team has received several car seats for consideration, most don’t make the cut.
Best grow-with-you car seat for older kids: Maxi-Cosi Magellan
When I received a press sample of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan 5-in-1 convertible car seat (also at top) to try out, I was doubtful that this convertible infant seat would actually fit my 8-year-old son. But thanks to clever engineering, you make some small changes to the seat, adjusting it to five different positions, so you can use it from from birth to age 10. Seriously. That’s getting your money’s worth!
(Of course, check our tips for keeping car seats clean, because yikes — a decade’s worth of Cheerios and juice boxes is a little scary.)
Best value car seat for older kids: Evenflo Big Kid models
Hey, we get it. Not everyone (including us) can afford to buy $400 booster seats, especially when you’ve already shelled out for the infant car seat and the stroller and more diapers than you ever dreamed you would. Even though Evenflo booster seats for big kids ring in under $50, they still get a top rating from Consumer Reports for their “excellent belt fit” which is a feature that can be tricker than you’d think.
This booster don’t use a LATCH system though, so always double check to see that your child is safely and properly belted in underneath the arm rests.
Best high-back to backless booster system for older kids: Nuna AACE
My son has been in a backless booster for a few years now, but after trying out a Nuna AACE that was sent to us for consideration, he immediately ditched his backless in favor of this comfortable and roomy high-back style. I’m also feeling a little safer as we drive around town now, to be honest.
It’s reassuring that this one uses a LATCH system, so that if we do get in an accident, his booster will stay put, which is one of the reasons this made my pick for five best car seats for big kids.
The Nuna AACE has 9 different positions you can choose from, depending on your child’s size, so it works for kids from 40-120 pounds. And when he’s ready, we can ditch the back and just use it as a backless booster, making this an excellent value, if not the cheapest.
Best booster for older kids’ comfort: Chicco KidFit Zip Air 2-in-1 car seat
The number one reason parents ditch car seats sooner than they probably should is that their kids are uncomfortable. And I get it — my older kids have also complained about their knees hurting because of the way their legs dangle from a car seat. That’s why I love this leg rest on the Chicco KidFit Zip Air 2-in-1 car seat which keeps even big kids happy in their seat.
But the leg rest is not where the comfort stops — the seat is covered with a double layer of ergonomic foam, and it’s ventilated to help keep kids cool. (Thus the name, Zip Air.) Even the arm rests are padded.
And then there’s that smart kids’ console for keeping their snacks and small toys to keep them occupied. LATCH anchors and tethers hold this big kids car seat in place, and the seat is rated for kids from 30-110 pounds.
Most fun (but still safe!) booster car seat for older kids: KidsEmbrace Marvel Avengers booster
I have to admit, when I first saw the KidsEmbrace Marvel Avengers booster seats I thought they looked amazing (yay for not having to convince the kids to get in their car seats!) but was skeptical about how safe they’d really be. Especially considering this isn’t a well-known brand name, and their focus seems to be on licensed products.
Turns out that, wow, KidsEmbrace has lots of safety accolades, and in fact, they exceeded federal motor safety standards to receive the highest rating for proper belt fit — something that definitely impresses me.Thanks to a built-in five-point harness, kids from 22-100 pounds can use these seats, and they do employ the LATCH system to anchor them in place.
If the Avengers aren’t your favorite (though the Iron Man seat is awesome), KidsEmbrace offers DC Comic favorites too like Batman and Spiderman, as well as some Disney princesses, Ninja Turtles, and Mickey & Minnie car seats — provided your big kid isn’t “too old” for such characters. I’m sure not.