Best Booster Seat: Our Top Harnessed and Backless Booster Picks

Best Booster Seats: Our Top Harnessed and Backless Booster Car Seats Picks

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by Samantha Davis |

Switching to a booster is such an exciting prospect. You’ve got an official big kid on your hands! But that doesn’t mean you want to downgrade on safety just because their car seat gets smaller. There are a ton of amazingly safe and still user-friendly booster car seats on the market.

Below, you’ll find reviews of the best booster seats for keeping your son or daughter safe (and comfortable) in the car.

Best Booster Seat Best Features Mom Rating
Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat Easy to adjust, install, and tighten ♥♥♥♥♥
Britax Midpoint Booster Car Seat 10-position headrest and incredible 10 years of safe use ♥♥♥♥♥
Graco Nautilus 80 Elite No re-thread harness makes adjustment easier, solid steel frame ♥♥♥♥♥
Mifold Booster Seat Unique, compact design that is comfortable to sit on ♥♥♥♥♥
Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight Seat Easy to install, reclines and has 9 different harness positions ♥♥♥♥♥
Evenflo Advanced Chase LX Booster Seat Doubles standard for impact testing, ComfortTech for customized comfort ♥♥♥♥
Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong Compact design, audible click lets you know it is in place ♥♥♥♥
Essentials by Britax Skyline Booster Car Seat Affordable model by Britax, easy-to-use LATCH system for anchoring booster seat ♥♥♥♥♥
Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat Elastic cup holders, great safety ratings ♥♥♥♥
Sentry Guardimals Combination Car Seat Cute, fuzzy design, comfortable to sleep in, side impact protection ♥♥♥♥♥

 

The 10 Best Booster Seats of 2019

Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat

Chicco has all the Fill-in-the-blankFits, from the baby KeyFit car seats to the MyFit Harness+Booster Car Seat, to this KidFit booster. For parents who don’t want to worry about buying a second booster for their child, this 2-in-1 model transitions from a backed to a backless booster. It works as your child grows out of their forward-facing car seat, usually between 3-4 years of age and can accommodate children 30-110 pounds. The Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat is easy to adjust and install and is packed full of features for safety and comfort.

Safety

Simple installation and an easy-to-adjust tightener make this an incredibly safe booster seat. When in backed booster seat position, this features DuoZone impact protection that works on the sides and protects your child’s head. This is created using a shock-absorbing foam that adds padding to your seat and improves comfort.

A SuperCinch latching system allows an easy install, which is great if you may send the kids to their grandparent’s house or another relative’s. Additionally, the single-hand latch lets you adjust the headrest so it’s the perfect height for safety and comfort.

Best Features

While most booster seats will not fit your child until they are around 4, meaning you may need another seat between their forward-facing car seat and a booster, this model works for children as young as three. It can be used as a backless or backed car seat, depending on your child’s age and size.

For snacking, the Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 booster has two removable cup holders that fold away when not in use and a 10-position headrest that lets your little one nap on the road, making this the ideal booster car seat for travel. Additionally, the armrests and seat covers are easy-to-wash and the colorful mesh designs do not make stains obvious.

Pros

  • Backless and backed option to grow with your little one
  • One-hand latch to adjust the headrest makes booster seat comfortable
  • Simple enough that toddlers can safely latch themselves
  • Manufacturer recommends eight years of use, worth the investment

Cons

  • Compact design, headrest does not go as high
  • Easy to install, but can be difficult to assemble
  • Does not recline forward/backward

You can find out more in our Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat review.

Britax Midpoint Booster Car Seat

This harness booster seat stands out for its ability to let your child to have the freedom to buckle him (or her) self, without sacrificing safety. Its durability allows it to last for ten years, which is great since its designed to accommodate kids from 40-120 pounds. This makes the Britax Midpoint Booster Car Seat perfect for growing with your little one.

Safety

With features like a 10-position adjustable head restraint, a well-placed seat belt harness, and the Secure Guard Belt-Positioning Clip, you can be sure that your little one is safe and secure in the backseat. The head restraint allows the car seat to grow with your child, while the positioning clip ensures the lap belt sits at just the right spot to offer protection.

In addition to the safety belt features and head restraint, this booster car seat comes with an ISOFLEX Latch connection system to tether the seat to the car and 2 layers of side impact protection. This comes in the form of side-impact EPP foam, which absorbs shock on impact and keeps your little one safe.

Best Features

While safety features are a necessity for booster seats, this one has plenty other things to love. First, this ranks as the best toddler booster seat for eating in the car. Two convenient cup holders let your little one enjoy a snack and a drink, without having to balance anything in their lap. If they do spill, however, the cup holders are dishwasher safe and easy to remove. Additionally, the cover of this car seat is machine washable and made of moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics.

This booster seat is also comfortable for your little one to sit in. When they are done eating, the cup holders can be used to hold everything from rocks and toys to Kleenex. Additionally, this comes with two armrests so your little one sits comfortably. This comes without sacrificing space—as this model is designed to work with 3-across seating if the cup holders are removed.

Pros

  • Adjustable headrest and a wide weight limit range is perfect for growing with your toddler
  • Manufacturer recommended use for ten years, so worth your money
  • Dual armrests and cup holders
  • Accommodates 3-across seating

Cons

  • Anchors are at bottom of the car seat, so might be wobbly in some vehicles
  • Britax is generally a pricey brand

For a more in-depth look at this seating option, check out our Britax Midpoint Booster Car Seat review.

Graco Nautilus 80 Elite

best booster seat

This is a forward-facing car seat that works as a harness booster, then transitions to a harness that can be used with kids up to 100 pounds, before working as a traditional booster seat. It has features like a steel-reinforced frame and no re-thread harness. The Graco Nautilus 80 Elite is also comfortable, being roomy and having an adjustable headrest and recline function.

Safety

If you have a kid that is ‘too big’ for their seat, but still not at the age requirement to make the switch, this best toddler booster seat will give them the support they need to stay safe. The Nautilus from Graco has a steel frame that absorbs impact following a car accident. Additionally, there is a lock for the seat belt strap, which stops the car seat from tipping over or coming loose in the car. Another great benefit is that that high-back booster works up to 100 pounds, which is higher than most models and means your little one will have the extra safety longer.

Something to note, however, is that while the manufacturer states that this can be used for children who are 1 year old and at least 22 pounds and 27-inches tall, general safety guidelines do not recommend harness seats until after your child has grown out of their forward-facing car seat. Additionally, the seat should not be reclined once your child reaches the recommended 65-pound weight limit.

Best Features

Have you ever been frustrated by needing to re-thread your child’s harness when they grow a size? Instead, this model has a single lever that moves up and down to quickly secure your child in their booster seat. The headrest is also incredibly easy to adjust for maximum comfort. The headrest and harness adjust together, so seating your child and adjusting their seat is a breeze.

Another great feature of the Nautilus 80 Elite is its machine washable cover. Body support is also included, as a heavily passed cushion that works with the car seat until your child doesn’t need it (and then it is easily removable). It is a little bulky, but there is plenty of room for your son or daughter to grow.

Pros

  • No re-thread harness makes adjusting for your child’s size simple
  • Great for larger kids, who can now stay safe longer
  • Works from 22 pounds to 120 pounds, and has 10-years of safe use
  • Steel-reinforced frame for increased protection

Cons

  • Can only be reclined up to 65 pounds
  • Bulkier and heavier than some other models
  • Difficult to install

People often compare this booster to the Graco Nautilus 65 LX, which we have reviewed a lot. Here’s what you need to know about these two boosters, as well as the other noteworthy boosters in the Graco lineup:

MiFold Booster Seat

While most car seats work by lifting your child to the seat belt, the MiFold booster works by bringing the seat belt down, holding the strap down to position it across your child’s lap and chest, rather than their stomach. This allows it to be used by kids from 4-12. The unique design of the MiFold Booster Seat makes it significantly smaller than the average booster seat and makes it excel as a grab-and-go option.

Safety

MiFold is crafted using tough plastic polymers and aircraft grade aluminum, which means you don’t have to worry about the handles breaking off or the materials breaking down with exposure to heat or over time. Like any certified booster, this model has been crash-tested for safety and proven effective in reducing the amount of impact your child feels in a car accident.

It uses lap belt guides (with three adjustable sizes) and has a QuickClip that clips securely onto the shoulder belt of your vehicle. These are used to position the belt in key points, ensuring your little one stays safe in the event of an accident. Extender arms also work to ensure the lap belt sits where your child needs it most.

Best Features

Even though it looks like it doesn’t have much padding, the MiFold makes use of DenseFoam that is made of the same materials found in tennis shoes and boxing gloves. The foam provides support where it is needed most, cushioning your child’s pressure points. While it will be an adjustment from an especially plush seat, it is more comfortable than some more rigid models.

The MiFold also is easy enough to install and buckle that many kids can do it themselves. You slide the lap belt into the guides, clip the QuickClip on the shoulder belt, and allow the seat belt to tighten. Additionally, if your little one does fall asleep on a long car ride, the security of the shoulder belt keeps them sitting more upright than they would with the average backless booster seat.

Pros

  • Narrow design lets you sit three kids across a backseat without squishing them
  • Lightweight, narrow design can be thrown into your kids’ bookbag or stored almost anywhere
  • Easy to thread the belt, encourages independence
  • Does not allow excess movement because it sits against the seat

Cons

  • No harness, so cannot use for kids under 4-5
  • Not machine washable, but does wipe clean

You can learn more in our MiFold Booster Seat review.

Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight Seat

The major advantage of this seat is its ability to add security to your child’s ride by using this as a harness seat and then transition with your child into a booster seat until they are over 120 pounds and 62 inches. The Clicktight system is patented by Britax. It is designed to make installation incredibly easy. Though the Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight Seat is a little heavy and it does not have a backless design, but it is slim enough these features shouldn’t be an issue.

Safety

For people who switch their child’s booster seat between cars, this is a good option because it is easy to install. You don’t have to worry about your partner, parents, or anyone who watches your child struggling to secure them safely. It also features nine different harness positions and a front adjust recline lever, which keeps your child safe and comfortable as they grow.

This Britax booster seat also has a 5-point harness that is easy to adjust. If you have ever been frustrated trying to loosen or tighten the straps when your little one gets in and out the car, this is a feature you may appreciate. To keep your child safe in case of a car accident, this model also has a steel frame and is constructed of materials to absorb impact.

Best Features

The easy-to-adjust recline function makes it easy for your little one to recline and relax in the car, while it also ensures the harness seat will sit properly in the backseat of your vehicle. Additionally, its slim design lets it sit comfortably whether you have two children to fit in your seating row or three.

Though this is heavier than many booster seats, this comes from the steel frame that adds stability in a car accident. It is designed to last for 9 years of safe vehicle use, so it’s the perfect choice to grow with your child.

Overall, it’s way more user friendly than more expensive options, like the Diono Rainier Car Seat.

Pros

  • Wide height and weight limit; lasts for nine years of use
  • Steel frame adds stability in a car accident
  • Easy to install
  • Easily reclines and adjust to fit your car

Cons

  • Steel frame is heavy
  • ClickTight is optional for extra cost (worth the price)

You can learn more about this best harness booster seat in our more thorough Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight Seat review. Be sure to measure the Frontier up against 2 of the best-selling Britax boosters in our Britax Frontier vs Pioneer article and the Britax Frontier vs Pinnacle article. You can also see how it compares to another popular booster in the Britax Frontier vs Graco Nautilus review article.

Evenflo Advanced Chase LX Booster Seat

This booster adapts as your child grows, making it a good investment. It can be used forward-facing for children from 22 to 110 pounds. Up until your child is over 40 pounds and 50” tall, they can use the five-point harness.  The seat is also durable, comfortable, and lightweight. The Evenflo Advanced Chase LX Booster Seat is also on the lower end of the price range, comparatively, which makes it a great budget toddler booster seat.

Safety

This seat does not just meet minimum requirements for safety—its structural integrity has been tested at twice the federal crash test standard. The side-impact testing also meets all federal standards. With a five-point harness, this seat also keeps your little one protected with the added safety of a harness until they are ready to transition to the next stage. While the seat expires after six years, which is less than several others on the list, six years is still plenty of time to get use out of the seat.

Best Features

As a backed booster, this seat excels. It is easy to assemble and install, and the innovative headrest positions the safety belt perfectly once your child outgrows the harness. Some other nice features include dual removable cup holders and its lightweight (but durable) design. The cover is also washable, which is a huge plus when you have a messy toddler!

Another great feature of this seat is ComfortTech, which is made of three separate layers. As your child grows and needs more room, you can remove the layers. The Chase LX also excels at comfort because the base can be adjusted depending on your child’s height, a removable pillow is included, and four separate buckle positions give the best possible fit.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Very adjustable, fits your toddler perfectly
  • Can be used as a five-point harness or as a booster seat
  • Doubles the standard for impact testing

Cons

  • Cup holders are a little flimsy, child may be able to kick them off
  • Back is a little rigid, may not be as comfortable as some other seats
  • Does not recline

You can learn more in our review of the Evenflo Advanced Chase LX Booster Seat.

Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong

The last thing that parents on the go want to do is spend precious minutes wrestling with their child’s car seat every time they need to go somewhere. The Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong is designed for safe (and fast) transitions between cars. It is perfect for parents who take turns dropping the kids off at school, carpooling, traveling, and more. It works for children between 40 and 100 pounds and is perfect for boys and girls who like to get their own seat ready.

Safety

This booster works with the seat belts of your vehicle, with guides that help position the belt exactly where your child needs it. As it is not a harnessed model, it is not a good choice for children who have not yet outgrown their booster seat. However, it does meet or exceed all US crash-test standards.

Even without a harness, the design of the seat provides side-impact protection in the event of an accident. Additionally, energy absorbing foam can be found through the booster seat, helping shock be absorbed.

Best Features

Whether you use this model in the backed or backless version, you can easily fold it up and take it on the go. It is simple enough to use that your kid can set it up themselves—but keep in mind that you want to hear an audible click to ensure the back of the seat is locked into the right place if you let them do this. It also comes with a storage bag for easy transportation and cup holders that fold inward, to save even more space.

Be sure to check out our look at the non-foldable version, the Graco TurboBooster, here on EM. The Graco TurboBooster Grow comes with another cool feature- a seat belt trainer, which we discuss in our review. You can also check out the Graco Affix vs the Graco TurboBooster to see a booster that has even better installation than the TurboBooster.

While this is perfect for parents on the go, it may not be the best option for long trips in the car. However, its foldable design also makes it convenient for carpool moms who might bring along a friend or two with their child to daycare or school in the morning. Its narrow design is also good when you seat more than one child in your back seat. The cover of the Graco TurboBooster is also washable.

Pros

  • Very easy to set up
  • Adjustable back height, locks into place with an audible click
  • Compact design is easy to transport and carry
  • Foldable cup holders

Cons

  • Narrow design is not good for children who are growing especially quickly
  • Not a lot of padding
  • Might not be good for long trips

You can find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of this model in our Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong review.

Essentials by Britax Skyline Booster Car Seat

This seat is one of the latest in the Britax line. It is one of the more affordable models available, and it’s certainly cheaper than the good-old Britax Pioneer booster seat (which admittedly has more features). This works as a high-back booster by positioning your vehicle’s seat belt, so it holds your child more safely and securely in an accident. Unlike some other boosters on the market, the Essentials by Britax Skyline Booster Car Seat has a LATCH system to anchor the seat in place and provide extra protection for your little one.  It accommodates kids from 40 to 120 pounds.

Safety

As a backed booster, the Skyline features a deep well that allows it to provide side impact protection if you are in an accident. It is not as safe once it is transitioned to a backless booster, however, this is common with booster seats. In addition to side impact protection, it works with your vehicle’s seat to keep your child from flying forward in an accident.

The positioning of the belt allows it to sit across your child’s lap, as well as across their chest. An internal clip and threading system let the belt fit securely, while the adjustable headrest positions the shoulder strap.

Best Features

If you frequently take long car trips with your child, this seat has a plushy, soft fabric that they will enjoy sitting on. The wings of the back allow your little one to rest their head and the seamless design adds to the comfort. Two dishwasher safe cup holders are easy to remove and clean, while an adjustable headrest ensures your child has comfort on the go.

The colored guides of the belt adjuster also ensure the seat belt is in the right place, while the headrest easily adjusts the shoulder strap. Finally, a 10-year lifetime of use allows you to keep the booster around for years to come, provided you are not in a collision.

Pros

  • Removable, dishwasher safe cup holders
  • Incredible side impact protection for the head, neck, and pelvis
  • Soft, seamless fabric is comfortable
  • One-button latch makes installation easy

Cons

  • The headrest will not fit in all vehicles
  • Might not be a good match for especially tall kids

You can learn more in our Essentials by Britax Skyline Booster Car Seat review.

Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat

This budget-friendly booster seat comes with a sleek design, high safety ratings, and the option to be used as a harnessed or non-harnessed booster seat. While it may not be the best choice if you are always in the car, its lightweight and slim design of the Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat is perfect for traveling to and from daycare or school, or when you pass the car seat between more than one vehicle. As an added benefit, this works as a forward-facing car seat for children 22-50 pounds and can be used until they are 110 pounds.

Safety

This car seat starts offering safety around 22 pounds when most children are ready to turn their car seat around for the first time. After age 2, a five-point harness keeps your kiddo safe until they weight 50 pounds. The harness increases safety, so its better for them to be in this position as long as possible.

Once your child grows out of that position, they are held secure by a belt path for the bottom and top of your vehicle’s belt. This keeps it securely in place, so your little one is held fast in a car accident. It also meets or exceeds safety standards from the FAA, has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS, and meets side impact standards. Additionally, it has a safe temperature rating which means the materials will not break down in extreme heat or cold.

Best Features

Though this seat has plenty of safety features, it is also incredibly lightweight. It is also easy to adjust the harness using a button located on the front of the car seat, which is very accessible. You pull the strap through to tighten the harness and push on the lever to make it release.

The Evenflo Maestro also has a machine washable seat pad, 2 elastic cup holders that stretch to hold even wide cups, and a storage area for when your child outgrows the harness. It also has a small design. While that may not be good for larger kids, it can be optimal if you have more than one child sitting in your back seat and need the space.

Pros

  • Washable seat pad
  • Easy to adjust the harness straps
  • Belt guide works well to position the belt securely in booster mode
  • Cup holders have elastic bands for wider cups

Cons

  • Very difficult to get the latch system unhooked, not a good choice for moving between cars
  • Not a lot of padding
  • Have to re-thread harness as your child grows

You can learn more in our Evenflo Maestro Car Booster Seat review.

Sentry Guardimals Combination Car Seat

When people think of a ‘cute’ car seat, they often think of colorful patterns. The Sentry Guardimals Combination Car Seat brings the cuteness and safety like no others, offering features like side-impact protection and a slanted seat that sits perfectly on the average back seat. All this is packaged in a car seat designed like a cute, fuzzy friend that works for children between 40 and 100 pounds.

Safety

To be considered safe under government regulations, the amount of pressure exerted on your child’s chest during a car accident cannot exceed 60Gs of force. Many available seats test at around 55Gs. However, the Guardimals model only exerts 40Gs of force. This is something you expect from a vehicle safety seat designed by the founder of Sentry Baby Products, who has many years of experience as an aerospace structural engineer.

The cute ears of the headrest also provide side-impact protection that keeps your little one’s most fragile area (their head and neck) safe. Additionally, the bottom angle of the seat allows it to sit perfectly on car seats and in aircraft, while the chest clip design and placement also work to improve safety. Finally, the inner of the seat is lined in shock-absorbing foam that reduces the amount of impact felt in a car accident.

Best Features

The soft, fuzzy outer of the Guardimals car seat is available in designs including a puppy, monkey, tiger, and bear. Before your child is ready to transition to the booster mode, the sides of the car seat provide impact protection. Internal foam absorbs shock, while a pillow cradles your child’s head on long rides. It is incredibly lightweight and offers easy installation as well.

The harness also works longer than some other models to give your child maximum protection up to 50 pounds and 50 inches. Once your little one transitions to a high-back booster, they can use the seat with the belt positioner and extra side-impact protection until they are ready to transition to a backless booster. The unique angled design of the base allows this to be recommended by the IHHS as a backless booster because it stops your kid from being thrown forward in an accident. It also comes with cup holders and stretchy storage pouches.

Pros

  • Breathable, machine washable fabrics like plush and mesh
  • Storage pockets and cup holders
  • Great side-impact protection and protection in an accident
  • The design is incredibly cute

Cons

  • Very difficult to open chest clip with one hand (good, but can be inconvenient)

You can learn more about this model in our Sentry Guardimals Combination Car Seat review.

Guide to Selecting a Safe Booster Seat

Safety is the top priority. We here at Experienced Mommy want to encourage you to be educated about car seat safety, which includes safe booster seat use.

Why Do You Need a Booster?

As parents, we often go out of our way to ensure our little ones are safe. We lock up medications and cleaning supplies, cover our outlets when they are not in use, and monitor our little one’s day and night to keep them out of harm’s way.

Unfortunately, it is not always our homes that are dangerous places for our toddlers. The CDC reports that the leading cause of death in children under 12 in the United States is injury caused by motor vehicle accidents. Buckling is one thing that can keep children safe—but having them in the proper seat is even more important.

Some parents mistakenly think that once a child outgrows a forward facing car seat, they should just use the vehicle seat belt. But that’s false! For children around 4 to 8 years of age, it is time to transition to a booster car seat.

The Statistics and Facts

According to data collected by the National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats, only 46% of children between the ages of 4 and 7 were properly restrained in a booster seat. This is surprising since vehicular-related injury is the leading cause of death in children under 12. It is also quite a decline since parents restrain 98% of infants and 96% of children from age 1-3.

The average vehicle safety belt is designed for use by the average 165-pound male. However, the average toddler is far from this standard. To make seat belts adapt, children should sit in a booster seat up to age 8. This gives them the best chance of safety during a car accident. However, it is not enough to just choose a high-quality booster seat. You must choose a seat that your child can be properly restrained in.

As we reviewed the car seats listed above, things like the safety features were heavily considered. The types of booster seats were also reviewed in several other categories, which will be discussed below. You should consider each of these things as you decide which booster seat is best for a toddler.

Harness Booster Seat vs. Backless Booster Seat

Generally speaking, there are two types of booster seats. Harness booster seats are designed for children around 4-6, who may be transitioning from their forward facing car seat into a booster seat.. They are a good choice for children who no longer meet the height and weight requirements of their forward-facing car seats, as well as those who might be uncomfortable.

Then there’s the backless booster. It’s a simple booster seat with a bottom that gets your child to the proper level so that the seat belt can do it’s job. It usually has no harness, but it will guide the seat belt and it usually has armrests and a drink holder or two.

How Do I Know My Child is Ready for a Booster Seat?

Many parents find themselves questioning when their child is ready for a backed booster seat. Even when you graduate from a forward-facing car seat to a harnessed booster, you are downgrading the amount of protection for your child. This isn’t as much of a problem if your child is big enough to use a booster seat. The signs that your toddler is ready for a booster seat include:

  • They have outgrown the height limitations and/or internal harness of a forward-facing car seat
  • They weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and are 35-57” tall
  • They do not fit into a vehicle belt system properly
  • They cannot sit against the seat of the vehicle and have their knees bend over the edge, without leaning backward or slouching

Features to Consider

Once you are sure your little one is ready to transition to the next size up, there are several factors to consider before buying a booster seat.

Safety

It does not matter how many extra features your toddler’s booster seat is if it cannot protect them in a car accident. Backed seats usually have a stabilizer like a ridged or steel frame that absorbs impact in an accident. Others have side-impact protection or shock-absorbing materials inside the seat. Once you move your child to a backless booster, what matters most is that it lifts your child enough that it allows the vehicle’s seat belt to secure them to the seat. Some seats also have a clip that attaches to the vehicle’s seat belt to ensure it is positioned correctly across your child’s chest.

Installation

While it may not matter if you only drive one vehicle, most parents do not want to struggle every time their child gets into another car. You should always refer to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Also, be sure that the booster aligns properly with the seat.

If you have a new vehicle, it should have an anchor in the backseat that the booster can attach to. This anchor adds security if you are in a car accident by securing the booster seat to the vehicle. Something else to consider is the height of the booster seat if you have headrests on the vehicle seat. If the booster seat is too tall, a seat with a headrest might cause it to sit unevenly on the seat, which is not safe.

Harness

Most children move to a backed booster with a harness before transitioning to a booster seat, as it is not uncommon for them to grow out of their forward-facing seat before they meet the height and weight requirements for a simpler booster. As you consider the harness, think about how it is designed. Will you need to rethread it each time that your child moves up a size? How easy or difficult is it to rethread?

Something else to consider regarding the harness is how easy will it be for your child to buckle themselves. With the toddler years comes increased independence as your child learns to do more for themselves. You should encourage this growth. For some toddlers, it’s a good idea to choose a seat that lets them buckle themselves in. However, you should also check each time to be sure your toddler is secured properly before driving.

Washability

Toddlers are messy. Even when you say that your child is not allowed to eat in the car, it only takes a bad timing or a long car trip for you to give in to your child. Additionally, accidents might become a problem before your child is fully potty trained. As you consider which is the best booster seat for eating, the washability is a major factor. While most booster seat covers can be washed, others are spot-wash only. If you are worried about your little one making a mess in the car, then those that cannot be washed might not be the best option. As you consider washability, you should also consider how easy (or difficult) it is to take the cover on and off.

Something else to consider regarding washability is the fabric used. Even when your child’s booster has a machine washable cover, you might not have time to clean it as often as you would like. To avoid the hassle, be sure to choose a seat cover that wipes clean easily. You might also want to go with a darker color or mesh material, which will not show stains as easily.

Weight and Size

If you are going to be moving your child’s booster seat between cars, you do not want it to be excessively bulky or heavy. While being heavy is a sign of stability, it is not always convenient to use. You can find a few booster options on our Best Car Seats for Small Cars review.

Additionally, bulky car seats are a problem in some vehicles and if you have 2 or 3 other kids because they do not leave room for other car seats or for your child’s siblings to sit comfortably. Check out our Best Narrow Car Seats and Booster Seats article for more info.

Extra Features

While all car seats have the same basic function of keeping your little one safe when you’re on the road, some have extra features that make them more convenient to use. For example, some have easy-install options or the ability to buy more than one base. Others have storage pockets or cup holders.  If the room is an issue, you could also choose a model that has a cup holder that folds away when it is not in use.

Also compare the number of modes a booster car seat has. Some might only have 1, while others have more. Many will have 3, like the Graco Nautilus line up. Some, like a few of the Britax, only have 2. Compare these two big brands in our Britax Pioneer vs Graco Nautilus 65 article.

Size Range

A car seat is often one of the first things parent’s buy when they learn they are expecting, as it is a necessary item. However, they often have to upgrade by the time their child is ready to move out of a front-facing car seat. The size range determines the smallest and largest that your child can be to safely use the seat. However, this is not always a guarantee of the life of the booster seat, which varies depending on the materials used. You should also keep in mind that it is recommended most car seats be replaced following a collision, even if they do not appear damaged.

The size range of booster seats mentioned in this article are as follows:

Booster Seat Min. Height Max. Height Min. Weight Max. Weight
Sentry Guardimals 29″ 57″ 22 pounds 100 pounds
Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 38″ 57″ 30 pounds 110 pounds
Britax Midpoint 38″ 63″ 40 pounds 120 pounds
Graco Nautilus 80 Elite 27″ 57″ 22 pounds 120 pounds
Mifold Booster 40″ 57″ 40 pounds 100 pounds
Britax G1.1 Frontier Clicktight 30″ 62″ 25 pounds 120 pounds
Evenflo Advanced Chase LX 43.3″ 57″ 40 pounds 110 pounds
Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong 43″ 57″ 40 pounds 100 pounds
Essentials by Britax Skyline 38″ 63″ 40 pounds 120 pounds
Evenflo Maestro 28″ 57″ 22 pounds 110 pounds

Booster Car Seat FAQs

Even the most prepared parents find themselves with questions regarding booster seat use (as well as other areas of parenting). Whether you are buying a booster seat for your first child or consider yourself an expert, these frequently asked questions might help you on the quest for the perfect booster seat.

Can I buy a used booster seat?

Buying gently used items is a great way to save money. However, like infant car seats, booster seats should not be used after a car accident. Never buy a used car seat that is older than six years. You also should buy from a trustworthy person, as you cannot always see the damage caused in a car accident. Structural damage may cause the booster to fail in the event of a collision.

What if my toddler grows out of their front-facing car seat before their 4th birthday?

Most parents do not want to buy their child several safety seats through their lifetime, both because of the cost and because each purchase means more research to find the perfect seat. If your child grows out of their forward-facing car seat early, choose a booster with a harness. This provides the most protection and can be used by most children until they are 40-50 pounds. To avoid needing to buy another booster as they grow, look for a 2-in-1 booster seat.

How do I know if a booster seat is compatible with my car?

Back row seating generally does not have cumbersome headrests that will get in the way of your child’s booster. If the backseat does have a headrest, see if it is removable. If not, you will need to choose a backless model and keep your child in a forward-facing car seat as long as possible. The other option is to choose a seat that is shorter than the bottommost edge of the headrest. Measure starting at the base of your vehicle’s seat, keeping in mind that the highest part of the seat will give you the most accurate measurement. Then, measure to the bottom side of the headrest. Choose a booster seat that is shorter in height than the distance between the base of the seat and the headrest.

How do I know if my toddler can eat in their booster seat?

You should always avoid foods that pose a choking hazard when you are driving. If your toddler eats well, be sure they can easily chew foods in the car. You should also consider a seat that has cup holders and storage pouches, which will allow your child to eat without having to hold food and a drink (like the wonderful dual cup holders on the Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1 that we review). Finally, consider how easy it will be to wash your child’s seat if they do make a mess. Considering patterns and fabrics that hide stains well may also be a good option.

Where do I find booster seat safety ratings?

Not all booster seats are created equally. While you can read countless booster seat reviews online, none compare to the safety data. Among the leading resources for parents of toddlers is safety data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They use a dummy that is the size of an average 6-year old to test the latest models available. You can compare the information you have learned reading reviews with the IIHS’s convenient booster seat safety search tool that lets you look up safety data in an instant. In addition to testing how the seats stand up in a crash, areas like installation and fit of the lap belt are also tested.

Where should I position the booster in my car?

Children under the age of 12 should always sit in the back seat. While many parents consider convenience, you should also consider which seat is safest. Consult the manufacturer’s guide for your vehicle. Additionally, keep in mind that some middle seats do not have anchors, so you may want to choose one of the side seats for this reason. If you can’t find the information in the manual, speak with a CPST (child passenger safety technician).

What does it mean when a booster seat or car seat ‘expires’?

Car seats have an expiration date because all materials start to break down over time. This means that your child’s booster seat will not maintain the same safety standards after a certain amount of time. Booster seats also expire once they are in a car accident, as it is impossible to tell if there has been any internal damage that may cause the seat to fail. Even if there is not any apparent damage, you should not use a car seat after the expiration date recommended by the manufacturer.

Should I use a booster car seat on an airplane?

Car seats and booster seats are made for all types of travel, including use on airlines. Not only will they keep your little one safe in turbulence, but they will also provide protection should there be a crash. Something to note, however, is that not all boosters are made for use on airplanes. Backless boosters are the least-recommended, and you may find

Some parents rent boosters for airplane rides. However, it is best to bring your own booster seat on the airplane. Most airlines will allow this, and it makes installation easier. You also know that the seat you are using is safe. Call ahead and find out the requirements after you schedule your flight. Be sure to read more advice on traveling with a car set on an airplane.

How do I install a booster seat?

Booster seat installation depends on the type of booster that you have chosen, as well as the instructions provided by your manufacturer. One of the biggest things to consider is the compatibility of the seat. You should consider the angle of the seat and how it aligns with your backseat, as well as the height of the headrest.

If you are installing a seat that has a harness, you’ll want to be sure the harness fits over your child’s shoulders and the clip is centered in their chest. You can go to your local fire department or police station if you are unsure if you are fastening your child’s seat correctly. Once you move out of a harnessed seat, correct installation will affect where the belt sits on your child. The lap belt should sit across their lap, rather than their stomach. Additionally, the shoulder strap should be positioned across their chest instead of across their neck.

What is an anchoring system?

An anchoring system is built into most newer cars. It is a hook or latch that can usually be found inside the vehicle’s seat, but you can consult your vehicle guide to learn more. The anchoring system works with a latch or hook attached to the car seat. If the seat belt were to fail for any reason, this adds an extra level of security by ensuring the car seat does not go flying out of the seat. It also holds the seat in place when it is not being used by a child, so it does not become a hazard if the driver is in an accident. We have a review that looks at the Clek Olli vs Ozzi booster seats, which are 2 great booster options that utilize the latch system.

Final Take

Choosing to use a booster seat for your child is choosing to protect them from the unforeseen. It does not matter how safe of a driver you are—accidents happen all the time. Your best line of defense is a booster seat that provides all the security your toddler needs.

While factors like how much you are spending and the extra features may come into play, never sacrifice them for your child’s safety. Use a harness until your son or daughter outgrows it and then be sure the booster you choose makes the lap belt of your vehicle fit them securely.

Any of the boosters on our list are sure to keep your child happy and safe and feeling like the big kid they are.

Safe travels!

Samantha Davis
Samantha Davis is a part-time writer and a full-time mommy of two boys, Apollo (age 3) and Adrien (age 5). She has been working as a writer for five years and one day plans to run her own writing company. For now, Samantha is content working as a writer and spending all her free time with her little boys. They live together with dad in Ohio and spend their free time crafting, hiking, and baking.

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