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Car Seat by Child's Age and Size

There are many car seat choices on the market. Use the information below to help you choose a car seat that best meets your child's needs.

Forward-facing car seat button
Forward-facing car seat button
Recommended Car Seat Types by Child's Age and Size
Rear-facing Car Seat content
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Birth – 12 Months

Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats:

1 – 3 Years

Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It's the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.


Learn about the different types of car seats

Find a Car Seat

See NHTSA's complete car seat recommendations (PDF 350 KB)

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1 - 3 Years

Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It's the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.

4 - 7 Years

Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.


Learn about the different types of car seats

Find a Car Seat

See NHTSA's complete car seat recommendations (PDF 350 KB)

4 - 7 Years

Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

8 - 12 Years

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it's safer there.


Learn about the different types of car seats

Find a Car Seat

See NHTSA's complete car seat recommendations (PDF 350 KB)

8 - 12 Years

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it's safer there.


Learn about the different types of car seats

Find a Car Seat

See NHTSA's complete car seat recommendations (PDF 350 KB)

  • Select a car seat based on your child's age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.
  • Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer's instructions (check height and weight limits) and read the vehicle owner's manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available.
  • To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements.
  • Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.

To learn which car seat is appropriate for your child's age and size, click on the seat types above or check out NHTSA's complete list of car seat recommendations.