It’s a very big day when your child finally outgrows his toddler car seat, and the moment isn’t lost on parents: Your baby is really entering big kid territory. While your child may be 4 going on 14, and adulting in the cutest (and yes, sometimes exasperating) way, he still isn’t quite ready to wear just a seatbelt during car rides. When children typically reach age 4 and a height of 40 inches, it’s the right time to switch to a booster seat. You may wonder why you even need one. A booster seat does exactly what the name suggests: It gives your kid a “boost up” so they are better protected when buckled in, whereas a seatbelt is designed for adults. Read on to see the best booster seats to keep your growing child safe until he’s truly ready to graduate to a seatbelt.
Types Of Booster Seats
Booster seats come in two front-facing designs: high back and backless. Decide which one works best for your child before you shop.
• High-back booster seat. Boosters with backs resemble infant or toddler car seats, but don’t always have the five-point harness that’s required for younger children. It does, however, continue to provide extra protection to the head, neck and back. Parents also note that it keeps children from slumping down when they fall asleep in the car.
• Backless booster seat. A popular choice among parents, this can be installed and removed with ease, takes up less room in the backseat and often cost significantly less than their high-back counterpart.
Booster Seat Safety Tips
- Make sure the lap and shoulder belts fit correctly. The lap belt should be low across the hips and the shoulder belt needs to lie across the shoulder.
- Do not put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the back.
- Make sure your child fits the weight and height requirements for the booster you buy, and measure your child throughout the year to ensure she still fits the recommended booster seat guidelines.
- If using a harness, the adjusters must be at or above your child’s shoulders; the top of the child’s ears must be below the vehicle’s seat back or headrest.
- If using a backless booster, the seat or headrest of the vehicle should be high enough to support your child’s head.
Best Booster Seats
Don’t let your kid’s grown-up size fool you: Children are safest riding in a booster seat until at least age 10—sometimes even 12. Here, we’ve rounded up 10 best booster seats for every budget and scenario.
Best High Back Booster Seat
This booster car seat has excellent side-impact cushioning and can accommodate tall children thanks to its high top belt guide. The closed shoulder belt guide also keeps the seatbelt in place—no wrestling with tangled belts here. What parents really love: The multi-height headrest and expanding side wing grow with your child. Plus, at 14.5 pounds, this high-back booster seat is one of the lightest on the market.
Weight range: 30 to 120 pounds
Height range: 34 to 57 inches tall
Buy It: Maxi-Cosi Rodifix, $250, Amazon.com
Best Backless Booster Seat
Graco Affix Backless Youth Booster Seat with Latch System
With just one hand, you can install the Latch system of this backless booster seat. It’s incredibly lightweight, which makes it easy to transport or swap between vehicles, and when it gets dirty (and it likely will), just remove the cover and toss it in the washing machine. What parents really love: Your kid will appreciate the cup holder and hideaway storage compartment for games and toys.
Weight range: 40 to 100 pounds
Height range: Up to 57 inches tall
Buy It: Graco Affix Backless Youth Booster, $35, Gracobaby.com
Best Narrow Booster Seat
When Uber execs decided to offer riders a booster car seat option, they chose the IMMI Go, and it’s easy to see why. It’s so simple to install and remove, it features a five-point harness and it’s incredibly lightweight. What parents really love: The narrow design (it’s only 16.5 inches across its widest part, the armrest, which is a half-inch less than super-compact models like the Diono Radian and Clek Foonf) doesn’t take up much backseat real estate, it’s a breeze to install in smaller cars and folds up into a square for easy trunk storage.
Weight range: 22 to 55 pounds
Height range: 31 to 52 inches tall
Buy It: IMMO Go, $200, immigoseat.com
Best Harness Booster Seat
Britax Pinnacle ClickTight Booster Car Seat Looking for a booster car seat rated high in safety, then consider the Britax Pinnacle. It boasts a steel frame, an energy-absorbing base and a v-shaped tether. There are even three layers of side-impact protection. What parents really love: The ClickTight installation is so simple that a child could do it. Plus, it has a cushioned, tangle-free five-point harness with seven height positions.
Weight range: 40 and 120 pounds
Height range: 30 to 58 inches tall
Buy It: Britax Pinnacle 90, $293, Albeebaby.com
Best Convertible Booster Seat
Diono Rainier Convertible Plus Booster with Adjustable Head Support This convertible booster car seat has a long list of top-notch safety features, among them extra sidewalls that provide side-impact protection and impact-absorbing foam. The removable body support pillow means this model can be used for newborns and keep growing with your child until she reaches grade school. What parents really love: The aluminum-reinforced headrest has 12 height positions.
In rear-facing mode: 5 to 50 pounds
In forward-facing mode: 20 to 90 pounds in five-point harness mode and up to 57 inches
In booster car seat mode: 50 to 120 pounds and up to 57 inches
Buy It: Diono Ranier, $271, Walmart.com
Best Travel Booster Seat
Mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat
One of the best booster seats for parents on the go, the Mifold is truly revolutionary. At nine inches wide, it’s 10 times smaller than a regular booster seat but just as safe. In fact, it’s been safety tested and meets or exceeds federal safety standards in the US. What parents really love: It can be stored in your glove compartment, purse, luggage and even a deep coat pocket, no joke. You won’t find another piece of baby gear that’s this easy to travel with.
Weight range: 40 to 100 pounds
Height range: 40 to 57 inches tall
Buy It: Mifold, $40, Amazon.com
Most Affordable Booster Seat
Evenflo Amp Performance DLX No-Back Belt-Positioning Booster
You won’t believe the price of this child booster seat, but rest assured the makers didn’t cut corners on safety. It’s even an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Best Bet. What parents really love: We’ve come to expect top-notch safety features from Evenflo, but the bright burst of color on this booster car seat is a real winner. It can brighten up any crumb-laden, juice-stained backseat.
Weight range: 40 to 50 pounds
Height range: 40 to 57 inches tall
Buy It: Evenflo Amp Performance No Back Booster, $28, Evenflo.com
Best Splurge-worthy Booster Seat
Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120
Italian craftsmanship makes this booster car seat a luxury ride even if it’s installed in a humble minivan. It has a tall seat back, three modes (wide, medium and narrow) to accommodate your ever-growing child and it reclines. Best of all, it folds down to fit into an airplane overhead bin for family trips. What parents really love: Besides how good it looks, moms rave about the fact that it comes out the box (a very slim one) fully assembled. Did they think of everything? Yes, they did!
Weight range: 40 to 120 pounds
Height range: 39 to 63 inches tall
Buy It: Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120, $280, BuyBuyBaby.com
Most Eco-Friendly Booster Seat
Clek Oobr Full Back Booster Seat
Clek’s entire booster seat line is #goals, but the minimalist design of the Oobr makes it a standout among the best booster car seats, and it can be used as both a high back or backless booster seat. What parents really love: Of course, the sleek design makes this booster car seat a thing of beauty, but user also rave about the rigid latch system that keeps the booster firmly in place. Eco-conscious parents also like the fact it uses certified organic fabric.
In full-back booster seat mode: 33 to 100 pounds; 38 to 57 inches tall
In backless booster seat mode: 40 to 100 pounds; 40 to 57 inches tall
Buy It: Clek Oobr, $350, Clekinc.com
Most Kid-Loved Booster Seat
WB KidsEmbrace Combination Toddler Harness Booster Car Seat
With a line of character booster seats that includes Minnie Mouse, Spider-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, every car ride can be an adventure. Plus, it doesn’t skimp on comfort, with padded straps, two recline positions and an adjustable headrest. What parents really love: You get the best of both worlds—fun and top-of-the-line safety features. It was awarded Best Bet Booster by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety for its deeper seat and wraparound headrest, EPS impact-absorbing foam and a tether system that controls forward movement during sudden stops.
In five-point harness mode: 22 to 65 pounds; up to 57 inches tall
In booster seat mode: 30 to 100 pounds; up to 57 inches tall
Buy It: WB KidsEmbrace, $150, Kidsembrace.com
Published September 2017