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  • 74 Models Considered
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Booster Car Seats

    The best car booster seats on the market fit children well and offer plenty of desirable features -- with safety features being the most important of all. The top car booster seats on today's market include the following:

    Your child has aged out of her forward-facing car seat. Is this the end of her safety-seat days? Nope, she’s just moved on to the next stage. Booster seats are recommended – and in many states, required by law – until your child is tall enough for a seat belt to do its job properly.

    Since it's your child's safety at stake, picking the right booster seat is a serious decision. But with so many on the market, how do you make the safest choice?

    At BestReviews, we can help. Here we do the research so you don’t have to. We test products in our lab, talk with experts, analyze data, and consult existing customers. What we never do is accept free samples or perks from manufacturers. The result: fair and thorough reviews you can trust.

    If you know what you need in a booster seat, check out the matrix above for our top five picks. Or read on to learn more about booster seats, why your child needs one, and how to pick the right seat for your little one.

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    Children are safest in the back of the car until at least age 13 and in a booster seat until they reach 4’9” in height.

    Does My Child Need a Booster Seat?

    Child car safety has come a long way since most of today's parents and grandparents were kids. Gone are the days when a child could sit in the back seat of a car without even a seat belt to secure him – and rightly so.

    Seat belts are designed to work properly on people of average adult height. If a child gets into a car accident without a booster seat, his seat belt could injure him instead of restrain him. A booster seat "boosts" a child up so he’s at the right height for the seat belt to work properly.

    Using a booster seat is the law. Exact age, height, and weight limits vary from state to state. But in many parts of the U.S., it's required by law that children under eight years old use a booster seat.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Britax Frontier Clicktight Combination

    Features

    Finding a good fit for the Britax Frontier Clicktight Combination inside your car is fairly easy. Lower LATCH connectors are included, making it easy to secure this seat. The booster's Clicktight Installation System allows you to securely install the vehicle's belt in harness mode. Two buckle positions ensure a snug and secure fit for passengers of various sizes. Color-coded vehicle belt guides give a clear indication of how to use your vehicle's seat belt in both harness and booster modes. If you have any doubts about how well you've installed the seat, simply listen for the audible "click" that confirms correct LATCH installation.

    Types of Booster Seats

    Two basic types of booster seats exist: backless boosters and high-back boosters. Generally speaking, backless booster seats are better for older kids and high-back booster seats are better for younger children, but there are some exceptions.

    Types

    Backless Booster Seats

    A backless booster seat is a basic model that boosts your child up but doesn’t offer any side or back support. Since the car’s own seat provides back support with this kind of booster, it’s not recommended for use in cars with low back seats and/or no headrests. Backless booster seats are great for older kids who wouldn't fit comfortably in a high-back model. They're also much more affordable than high-back booster seats.

    EXPERT TIP

    The lap belt should fit snugly across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder strap should firmly cross the middle of the chest.


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    Types

    High-Back Booster Seats

    A high-back booster seat is similar to a forward-facing child car seat. Some forward-facing car seats can also be used as high-back boosters, in fact.

    These types of seats may have a three- or five-point harness but can also be used with a seat belt once your kid outgrows the harness. Some, however, are just designed for seat belt use.

    If you're in the market for a booster seat because your little one has outgrown her forward-facing car seat, then this type might not be for you. That said, high-back models without harnesses are often slightly wider and taller than forward-facing car seats to accommodate larger children.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If you have low back seats in your car, or seats without headrests, a high-back booster seat would be safer for your child in the event of a collision.

    What to Look For When Buying a Booster Seat

    Considerations

    Machine-Washable Covers

    You don't have to be a parent to know that children are able to make a mess wherever they go.

    That's why a booster seat with detachable, machine-washable covers can be a real lifesaver.

    No parent has the time or inclination to spot clean a booster seat cover after a child has spilled juice or sat on a chocolate bar and melted it into the fabric.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Britax Frontier Clicktight Combination

    Safety

    The Britax Frontier Clicktight Combination features energy-absorbing foam with deep walls and technology called "True Side Impact Protection," which helps distribute crash force more evenly in the event of a collision. What's more, the base of this seat comes with SafeCell technology that compresses and greatly lowers the center of gravity, reducing the seat's forward movement during an accident.

    Considerations

    Safety Rating

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) does safety tests on booster seats and rates them "Best Bet," "Good Bet," or "Not Recommended."

    Ideally look for a seat rated "Best Bet." “Good Bet" seats are fine, too. Just make sure you have the seat belt positioning right.

    Look out for booster seats that have been rated "Best Bet" by the IIHS.

    Staff
    BestReviews
    Considerations

    Size and Portability

    Size matters if you're going to be moving your booster seat from one vehicle to another.

    For instance, if you have more than one car in your family or you have a school carpool going with other parents, you’ll need a portable booster. Smaller backless models are much more portable and less of a hassle to fit in another car.

    Families with three children might also be interested in the width of their booster seats. If you want to fit three in a row in the back seat, you'll need slimline models.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Graco TurboBooster, Backless

    Features

    The Graco Backless TurboBooster's safety ratings are definitely impressive. The IIHS awarded this seat the coveted “Best Bet” designation for its outstanding ability to protect riders in the event of an accident. Aesthetically speaking, this booster's Disney Cars pattern will appeal to children of all ages. The colorful seat, with solid black accents and white piping, brightens up a car's interior while supplying dual hideaway cup holders and removable padded seat cushions. Note: A pink Disney princess seat is available for those children who might prefer a different design.

    Considerations

    Belt-Positioning Clips

    The shoulder strap of a seat belt should sit across the middle of your child's shoulder, not on her neck or upper arm.

    High-back boosters should have belt-positioning clips built into the back of the seat to help you achieve the correct belt position, and many backless models have them attached to a strap.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Correct belt position is important for seat belts to work as they’re meant to. We recommend a booster that has a belt-positioning clip.

    Considerations

    Recalls

    Before you make your purchase, check whether your chosen brand has had any recent recalls.

    Our child development expert, Jonas, has this to stay on the subject: “Consider the recall history of a brand before making a purchase. If they’ve recently pulled products from store shelves, what was the reason? Products may be recalled for regulation changes, missing or incomplete labels, manufacturing defects, or reported injuries. Not all recalls are the fault of the manufacturer, so it’s important to understand the reason behind the incident. Recalls may be voluntarily initiated by the manufacturer or mandatorily by the NHTSA — the government branch that’s responsible for vehicle safety.”

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Evenflo Amp Performance, No Back

    Design

    Safety is a priority with the Evenflo Amp Performance. This booster seat was designed and tested at roughly two times the federal crash standard. In the event of an accident, research suggests that this seat maintains its structural integrity — a plus for safety-minded parents. The seat also comes with a removable, 100% polyester pad for easy washing and dual cup holders that are accessible to most children.

    Tips for Using a Booster Seat

    • When properly fitted, the lap part of a seat belt should sit flat over the top of your child's thighs, rather than across her belly.

    • Some booster seats come with cup holders, which can be a handy extra, especially on long journeys or when the driver is the only other person in the vehicle and can't take his eyes off the road to look for a sippy cup.

    • Many high-back booster seats can be fitted in your car using the LATCH system, but if your child is too tall for the seat's safety harness, you'll need to strap her in using the seat belt.

    • If you're thinking of using a secondhand booster seat, or you have one you used for an older child who's now outgrown it, be sure to check the expiration date. Most booster seats have an expiration date of about six or seven years from the time they were manufactured.

    CAUTION

    Any booster seat that's been in an accident is considered to be “expired” and should be replaced.

    How Much Do Booster Seats Cost?

    Although your child's safety isn't an area in which you should be too frugal, raising kids is an expensive job.

    The good news is you can find good-quality booster seats at affordable prices. There are makes and models to suit all budgets.

    Price

    Inexpensive

    Backless booster seats are relatively inexpensive, generally costing between $20 and $40.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Cosco Juvenile Top Side

    Comfort

    The Cosco Juvenile Top Side is a backless booster with an extra-plush pad for added comfort. This seat fits children between 40 and 100 pounds with heights that range from 43 to 57 inches. Cosco's unique "seat-safe" design ensures that vehicle seats remain unmarked by the presence and use of the booster. Many customers tell us this product's narrow seat makes it a great choice for smaller cars, comfortably fitting children without tipping over.

    Price

    Mid-range

    Basic high-back booster seats cost about $50 to $80. These types of seats are designed to be used with a seat belt alone and tend not to have a harness, so they're best for older kids.

    Price

    Expensive

    High-back booster seats with harnesses — which act as forward-facing car seats for children small enough to fit in the harness — are the most expensive type. They tend to cost between $150 and $300, depending on the brand and number of extra features.

    Children should always ride in the back seat, especially if you have passenger-side airbags. Airbags save adult lives, but they can cause grave head and neck injuries in children.

    FAQ

    Q. When should my child switch to a booster seat?

    A. Your child should stay in a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, but once he exceeds the height or weight limit or becomes too cramped width-wise, he should move on to a booster seat.

    Q. When can my child stop using a booster seat?

    A. Most states require by law that your child sit in a booster seat until the age of six or eight. However, many experts recommend your child keep using a booster until she reaches at least 4’9”, whatever age she may be. In the majority of cars, a seat belt won't sit properly on a passenger shorter than 4’9”, and a seat belt that doesn't sit properly won't offer optimum protection in the event of a collision.

    Q. What is the best seat in a car to put a booster seat?

    A. For safety reasons, a booster seat should always go in the back of the car. In fact, in some states it's illegal for kids under a certain age to ride in a booster seat in the front of a vehicle. If it has a full three-point seat belt, the center rear seat is the safest spot in a car to position a booster seat. However, in many cars the center rear seat only has a lap belt. In this case, position the booster seat either in the left or right rear seat.

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