When Do Toddlers Stop Using Car Seats

One of the most common questions traveling parents use to ask when it comes to car seats is how to keep a baby cool in a car seat? How to clean a car seat? When do toddlers stop using car seats?

All these are great and very important questions! As we all know car seats are portable seats attached to an automobile that is meant to hold an infant or toddler safely.

They are vital in providing safety for your child while driving on the road. With time, your toddler will outgrow it and you’ll have to stop using it and use a normal seat belt.

The best way to know when to stop using a car seat for your toddler is by using the 5-Step test discussed below.

When Do Toddlers Stop Using Car Seats: 5-Step Seatbelt Fit Test

This test accredited to the SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A helps to decide when it is the right time for your child to stop using the car seat.

The tests help to check if your child can ride safely with just a safety belt and also know if the safety belt fits properly. I can say from experience and research that this test is very effective.

This is what you should do – allow your child to get into the back seat of your car without a booster on and buckle him or her with a safety belt, then proceed to consider the following:

  • Can your child sit back with his or her bottom in the car?
  • Does the shoulder part of the belt lay between the mid-chest and mid-shoulder?
  • Does your child’s knee bend comfortably at the edge of the seat and does his foot reach the floor?
  • Is the lap portion of the seat belt rested below your child’s tummy and touched the top of his thighs and hips?
  • Can your child seat in this position for the entire trip?

How was the assessment? Did your child get all the 5 steps? If your child wasn’t able to do one of those questions, then your child still needs to use a booster seat.

It doesn’t matter if your child is above the specified age or has outgrown his or her booster seat. You can get a higher booster seat till the 5 steps are completed.

For your child to pass the 5-step seatbelt test, the child’s height is an important factor to note. Also, note that the car you’re using varies. So your child might just be able to pass the 5-step test in one car, but not in another.

So to answer your question of when do toddlers stop using car seats, this is when they reach age 8 or grow to 4 feet 9 inches tall, during this time it’ll be easier for them to properly use most automobile’s seat belts.

Also, keep in mind that your state law also matters. It is proper that you know your state law and you work with it to avoid being fined.

Most state laws allow children above 10 to 12 years or 4’9″ to use a seat belt, but the truth is that many children do get to 4’9″ before attaining those required ages.

According to California state law, children under age 2 should ride in a rear-facing car seat. This state law also requires children to keep using a booster or car seat until they are 8 years old, or 4 feet 9 inches.

It is best advised to wait till your child passes the 5-step seat belt test as an adult seatbelt that doesn’t fit properly can be detrimental to your child. Rather than prevent injury, it can cause it.

Read Also: How To Protect Car Seats From Child Seats

When Can Toddlers Legally Travel Without A Car Seat?

I’ll be listing four situations where you don’t have to be fined for allowing your toddler to travel without a car seat:

  1. You don’t have to worry about not taking along with you a car seat when you’re in a minicab, taxi, or van. But your toddler can only travel in the back of the car. Do not wear an adult seat belt if they’re below three years old.
  2. If your toddler is in a coach or minibus, they should not travel in the front seat. Your toddler can be allowed to travel without a seatbelt when traveling in a coach, but if they’re in a minibus, they should always wear an adult belt, even if they’re below three years old.
  3. At times, you might have to travel on unexpected journeys and possibly forget your toddler’s car seat. It’s allowed, only if the journey is urgent and also for a short distance. The child must be over 3 years of age.
  4. If you have a lot of kids, you can also be excused. In a situation where there isn’t room for a third car seat, you can allow the third child to travel in the front. It must be with a car seat or at the back without a car seat if the child is over three years old.

Seat Belt Safety Travel Tips for Toddler’s

  • If you have more than one car or your child is opportune to ride in more than one car, you should check the safety belt fit in each car. If your child is still using a booster, you can keep it in one or both cars.
  • Do proper research on how to install a booster seat correctly and make sure you properly install it in your vehicle.
  • It’s advisable to always keep your toddler in the back seat even if he no longer needs a booster seat till they’re above 13.
  • Make sure the car seat fabric is kept clean and free from dirt or mold. A dirty car seat can be dangerous especially for kids, and just inhaling the mold spores can cause severe allergic reactions and could lead to death in some cases!
  • Never allow your children to share one safety belt as it is highly unsafe. In event of a crash, one of the occupants sharing the seatbelt can strike or crush the other inadvertently. Every occupant of the car should have his or her safety belt.
  • If your child is excited about something and tries to unbuckle the seatbelt, explain to him the importance of the seatbelt and try to calm him down.
  • As you drive, do well to supervise your toddler at the back seat and make sure their shoulder belt isn’t tucked under their arm or behind their back, because in event of a crash, the seatbelt could cause friction on vulnerable parts of his body, and his upper body will be endangered, possibly leading to severe injury.

Read Also: How To Get Mold Out Of Fabric Car Seats

Other FAQ’s

What are the types of car seats?                     

Car safety seats are specifically designed for three specific groups of children known as the Rear-facing infant-only seats (designed to protect babies from birth until they reach 20 to 22 pounds).

The forward-facing toddler seats (designed for 1-year-old to be used when the child reaches a weight of 20 pounds until age 4 and 40 pounds).

Booster seat (designed to be used until the child reaches age 8 and a height of 4-foot- 9-inches).

Children should ride in a vehicle backseat until they clock at age 12. All passengers in every vehicle are encouraged to wear a seat belt.

Can you travel with a 3-year-old child without putting him in a car seat?

The current California law (California Vehicle Code Section 27360.)  states that kids under 2 years of age should ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child’s weight is 40 or more pounds OR his/her height is 40 or more inches tall.

Every child under the age of 8 must be secured in a vehicle seat or booster seat in the back seat.

What kind of car seat does a 3-year-old child belong in?

A 3-year-olds belongs in a forward-facing car seat. When the child gets a bit older and taller, you can transition them over to a booster seat.

The size requirements for each type are very unique. Once your child hits these milestones then it’s time to move the child to a booster.

Read Also: How To Install a Safety Ist Car Seat


Your toddler can stop using a car seat when they’re taller than 135cm or above the age of 12.

However, always wear your toddler a seat belt. The adult seatbelt does not offer maximum protection against car accidents as much as booster seats, but your child would eventually outgrow that booster seat. Just make sure to fit the seatbelt in safely.