Best booster car seats
Booster car seats keep children safe once they outgrow forward-facing car seats. These models lift your child and help position both the lap belt and shoulder strap of the seat belt for an appropriate fit.
Considerations when choosing booster car seats
While safety is always the number one concern, there are other factors you'll need to consider when shopping for a booster car seat, including the space available in your car, your child's natural build, and, of course, your budget. There are enough booster car seats on the market that you're sure to find one that meets your needs. We've put together this shopping guide full of booster seat basics along with the features that might make a difference to your family.
Types of booster car seats
Backless booster seats: Backless booster seats consist of a backless seat with armrests. The car's seat back and headrest act as the back of the booster seat. The seat itself lifts the child so that the car's seat belt properly fits across the chest and lap. This type of booster seat should not be used in a car with a low seat back or one that lacks a headrest.
High-back booster seats: High-back booster seats look similar to a forward-facing car seat with back and side support for the head and neck. Some models include a three- or five-point harness, which typically makes them appropriate for smaller children. Once your child reaches the right size and height, these booster seats can be used with your car's seat belt rather than the harness.
Size/portability: There's a good deal of variation in height, width, and depth of booster car seats. High-back models are larger and bulkier than backless models. Backless models are easier to transfer between vehicles. If you have more than one child in a car or booster seat, the width of the booster seat will be an important factor, too. One less inch in width can enable a third car seat to fit in your vehicle, so look for slimline models.
Belt-positioning clips: Some backless booster seats come with a belt-positioning clip that holds the seat belt shoulder strap in the correct position. The shoulder strap should pass across the child's chest, not the neck or face.
Removable, machine-washable cover: While spot-cleaning sometimes works, kids make enough of a mess that you'll need to regularly wash the seat cover. Removable seat covers that are machine washable will save lots of cleanup time. Removable covers also make it easier to reach tight crevices in the fabric.
Safety rating: After extensive testing, car booster seats can receive a rating of "Best Bet," "Good Bet," or "Not Recommended" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). You definitely want a booster seat that's been rated either best or good. No matter the rating, make sure you properly install and use the booster seat.
Booster car seat prices: You can easily find backless booster seats for $20 to $40. These have armrests for your child's comfort, and some have cup holders. In the $50 to $100 range are basic high-back booster seats. Some of these might have a harness, but at this price most don't. Car seats that transition from a forward-facing to a booster seat cost anywhere from $100 to well over $300. These are larger, but they can be used for several years, which can save money in the end.
Q. Can booster car seats be used with a vehicle LATCH system?
A. Some high-back booster car seats are designed for use with a LATCH system. Most of these also include a safety harness for use with younger, smaller children.
Q. How long should my child use a booster car seat?
A. Children can start using a booster seat when they reach the recommended weight and height. However, most safety experts encourage parents to keep children in forward-facing booster seats as long as possible. High-back booster seats with a harness can be used with smaller children, while backless models might not be usable until your child reaches 40 pounds or more. Some states have laws that require children to use a booster seat until a certain age. Experts recommend keeping children in booster seats until they reach four feet nine inches tall, no matter the age, because the booster seat will make sure the seat belt is correctly positioned.
Booster car seats we recommend
Best of the best: Britax Frontier Clicktight Combination
Our take: Britax makes an excellent booster seat that grows with your child. It's not only safe but it also comes from a reputable company known for high-quality children's products.
What we like: The nine-position harness adjusts with the push of a button and makes sure you get a good fit as your child grows. Easy installation gets a big thumbs up from us.
What we dislike: It's expensive, but you can use it until your child doesn't need a booster seat anymore.
Best bang for your buck: Graco Turbobooster (Backless)
Our take: With a price that's hard to beat, this is the booster seat for parents on a budget. The maximum weight of 100 pounds means it will be the last booster seat your child uses.
What we like: It's easy to install and move from car to car. The cupholders are lifesavers because kids always need somewhere to stash a drink and snacks.
What we dislike: It tends to slide even when properly installed.
Choice 3: Graco Atlas
Our take: This convertible seat works as both a forward-facing car seat and a booster car seat, which means it will last your child from 22 to 100 pounds. The longevity of use and mid-range price make it a budget-friendly model that won't disappoint.
What we like: The one-hand adjustable headrest makes getting the right fit quick and easy. Plus, it's got two cupholders and a machine washable seat pad and harness. Anything that makes clean up easier gets high ratings from us.
What we dislike: It's big, bulky, and can be hard to get buckled in place.
Stacey L. Nash is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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