Transitions to four different positions to last through 10 years of use. Ample safety features include a steel anti-rebound bar, adjustable headrest, and eight layers of durable materials. Easy to put in place and adjust. Convenient design means multiple seats can be placed next to one another.
Expensive. Some reports of shipping delays. Fits tightly in some vehicles.
Made by a trusted brand. Can be used for kids between ages 4 to 10 and up to 100 pounds. Stylish and comfortable. Low price and easy installation. Seat is contoured with soft yet supportive cushioning for a gentle, bump-free ride.
Seat can slide a bit and can be a narrow fit for larger children.
Converts from car to booster seat. Has five-point harness and impressive safety ratings. Easy to change between 5 headrest settings with one hand. Firmer cushioning holds up well through years of use. Several machine-washable components.
Overall design is bulky, and it's a bit challenging to securely fasten into place.
Can be used for kids between 22 and 100 pounds. Headrest adjusts with one-hand adjustments. Designed with a no-rethread safety system that allows headrest and harness to adjust together in one motion. Has two cup holders that are removable and easy to clean.
Buckle is located near the crotch, which makes it difficult to access and may be uncomfortable for kids.
Holds kids between 22 and 100 pounds. Design allows for multiple seats to fit in your back seat. Equipped with latch systems for easy installation. Five-point harness allows for a customized, safer fit. Mesh panels boost airflow around the booster.
A few reports that parents experienced some difficulty with the latch system.
Your child has aged out of their forward-facing car seat. Is this the end of their 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 our top 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.
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 them – 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 them instead of restrain them. 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.
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.
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.
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 their 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.
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.
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.
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.
The shoulder strap of a seat belt should sit across the middle of your child's shoulder, not on their 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.
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.”
When properly fitted, the lap part of a seat belt should sit flat over the top of your child's thighs, rather than across their 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 them 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.
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.
Backless booster seats are relatively inexpensive, generally costing between $20 and $40.
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.
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.
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 they exceed the height or weight limit or become too cramped width-wise, they 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 they reach at least 4’9”, whatever age they 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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