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Best Booster Seats
Updated on
January 4, 2024

Best Booster Seats

By Babylist Team
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Best Booster Seats.
Photo by Clek
Kids use booster seats well into elementary school. Here’s your guide to buying the right one.Best Booster Seats

Infant bucket seats, convertible seats, boosters… When it comes to car seats, you’re going to be in it for the long haul. This is especially true when it comes to booster seats, since your little one will be riding in one for years.

Buckle up—we have everything you need to know about the safety guidelines around boosters, when to switch to a booster seat and which seats are best to keep your tiny passenger as safe as possible.

In this article:

What Is a Booster Seat?

A booster seat is a device that uses a vehicle’s seat belt as a restraint. Booster seats were developed to elevate children in a car’s seat, making adult seat belts fit better on little bodies. Many have clips that guide the shoulder and lap belts into the proper placement.

After a child outgrows a front-facing car seat, they’re still not big enough to be in the correct position for your vehicle’s seat belt to do its job: saving your child from injury should you get into an accident. Straps that lay against the neck or across the belly can actually do harm instead of good in the event of a crash. Booster seats ensure your vehicle’s seat belt is in the proper position on your little one’s body.

What Types of Booster Seats Are There?

There are two types of booster seats: high-back boosters and backless boosters.

A high-back booster is similar to a car seat in that it is a mini-sized seat, with a bottom and back, placed on a passenger seat. High-back boosters offer a seat belt guide through which you can thread a vehicle’s shoulder belt to make sure the fit is exactly where it needs to be. On some, the backrest can be adjusted for height, and most high-backs have padded headrests.

Backless boosters have only the seat component to provide the extra height needed to properly position your child in your vehicle. Backless boosters have seat belt guides that position the belt over the correct place on the child’s body. These types of boosters are less expensive than high-backs.

There’s one more category of booster seats that is a bit of a hybrid: combination high-back booster seats. Sometimes also called harnessed boosters or harnessed car seats, these hybrid seats can function either as a car seat with a five-point harness (for children up to at least 40 pounds) or a belt-positioning booster for kids over 40 pounds. In these types of seats, the back portion of the seat is not usually removable.

How do you attach a booster seat to a car?

Booster seats sit in the back passenger seat of a vehicle. Some boosters rest directly on a vehicle’s seat without being tethered down. Others provide connectors and attach to your car’s lower anchors to keep the booster secured to the vehicle seat. This doesn’t affect your child’s safety while riding in it, but eliminates the booster sliding around when your little one is getting in and out. It can also prevent a booster seat that’s not being used from becoming a projectile in the event of a crash. If the booster you choose doesn’t have connectors, be sure to stow it in your trunk or secure it down with a seatbelt when your child isn’t in it.

When Can a Child Transition to a Booster Seat?

According to the Car Seat Lady, children need a booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly on their body (the lap belt on their lap and the shoulder belt between their neck and shoulder) and their body fits properly on the vehicle seat (they are able to sit back with their knees bent without slouching).

While laws vary on how big a child must be before they can ride without a special seat, most states require children to use a booster seat until eight years old. But you can’t rely on age alone to determine when it’s safe to move your child from a car seat to a booster. Here’s how to know when to safely make the switch.

  • Max out your forward-facing car seat. Don’t consider transitioning your child to a booster seat until they have reached the maximum weight and/or height limit of your forward-facing car seat. For some seats, that’s around 40 pounds or five years old, while others have much higher limits.
  • Meet the height and weight requirements of a booster seat. All car seats, including boosters, have a minimum height and weight requirement for use. Before transitioning to a booster, be sure your child meets your particular seat’s requirements—but don’t rush the switch and don’t focus on the minimums alone, especially weight. While many booster seats have a 40-pound minimum weight, you can’t determine if a child is ready for a booster on weight alone. (More on that below.) Most car seat safety experts recommend waiting as long as possible to transition your child into a booster seat.
  • Are mature enough to sit properly. Another thing to consider when transitioning your child from a car seat to a booster is the freedom of movement that a booster allows. A car seat has a five-point harness, which means that when it’s properly tightened, it doesn’t allow your child the freedom to move around all that much. A booster, however, does not. And leaning over, twisting, reaching over to poke a sibling…none of these are safe positions for your child to be in while you’re driving. Most kids aren’t mature enough to sit properly in a booster until at least five years old; most hit this milestone sometime between five and seven.

Still unsure about when to make the switch? Keep these four things in mind, according to Car Seats for the Littles, a car seat safety group staffed by a team of Child Passenger Safety Technicians (AKA trained car seat safety experts). Your child should:

  • Be at least five years old.
  • Meet the minimum height and weight requirements of your booster seat.
  • Be able to sit properly one hundred percent of the time, even when asleep.
  • Have a proper seat belt fit.

Is a high-back booster better than a backless booster?

Most car seat experts recommend using a high-back booster for as long as possible. That’s because high-back boosters generally do a better job of correctly positioning both your child’s body and your vehicle’s seat belt, especially on smaller children. High-back boosters are also preferred if your child falls asleep frequently while riding in the car, as they help prevent them from slumping over and ending up in an unsafe position.

Backless booster pro tip: According to the Car Seat Lady, in order to use a backless booster, the vehicle seat must come up to your child’s ears. That’s because the top of the ears is the same height as the bottom of the skull, and the skull needs protection in the event of a crash. If your child’s ears come up past the vehicle seat, they should use a high-back booster.

When can my child stop using a booster seat?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should stay in a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits correctly—usually when a child reaches about four feet nine inches and is between eight to 12 years old. Here’s how you know it’s time to ditch the booster:

  • Your vehicle’s shoulder belt lies across the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder, not their neck or throat.
  • The lap belt is low and snug across their upper thighs, not on their stomach.
  • Your child can sit in your vehicle with their back against the seat and their knees bent over the edge of the seat without slouching and can remain safely in this position throughout the car ride.

How We Chose Our Best Booster Seat Picks

  • We analyzed results from Babylist’s Best Baby Products survey, which polled almost 3,000 Babylist users and asked them to share the baby products they love the most and why.
  • We utilized insight from the Babylist editorial team, including Gear Editor Jen LaBracio, an expert in the baby space for over six years and a mom of two who has written hundreds of baby gear guides and personally researched and tested hundreds of baby products.
  • We researched information on booster seat safety and booster seat reviews from several leading car seat experts, including Car Seats for the Littles and The Car Seat Lady, as well as information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • We reviewed customer reviews from hundreds of real Babylist parents.

Babylist’s Best Booster Seat Picks

Best Harness to Booster Seat

The Scoop
  • Combo harness-to-booster seat
  • Three modes: harness, highback, backless
  • Narrow, lightweight
What Our Experts Say

A combination harness-to-booster seat is ideal if you’re trying to limit the amount of baby gear you own while also trying to maximize the amount of time your little one spends in a five-point harness. This Graco seat comes in at a competitive price point and has several standout features worth noting. It’s a narrow and lightweight seat, making it ideal for travel or for three-across in many vehicles. It works as a harness booster, a highback booster and eventually a backless booster as your little one grows. We also that the seat bad, body support and harness covers are machine washable.

What’s Worth Considering

According to car seat experts and some parents, this seat can be tricky to install, so be sure to read your manual carefully and watch the installation video.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 20 lbs
Child Guidelines Harness mode: 22-65 lbs, 27-50”; high-back booster mode: 30-100 lbs, 43-57”; backless booster mode: 40-100 lbs, 40-57”

Best High-Back to Booster Seat

The Scoop
  • Converts from high-back to backless booster
  • Well-priced considering features
  • Comfort features like double-foam padding and two-position backrest
What Our Experts Say

Chicco’s KidFit booster seat garners rave reviews from parents and car seat experts alike, and deservedly so. At an accessible price point and loaded with great features, this high-back seat that converts to a backless booster boasts side-impact protection, 10 height positions, LATCH connectors, double-foam padding and a two-position backrest. The retractable cup holders are a great add, especially if you’re stuck riding in the back and don’t want to get poked in the side throughout the trip, and parents rave about the seat’s light weight and kid-approved comfort level.

What’s Worth Considering

There are three other seats in Chicco’s KidFit line: the Adapt, the Zip Plus, the ClearTex Plus. The Adapt uses a seat fabric that helps keep your little one at just the right temperature. The Zip Plus stands out thanks to the quilted seat and backrest cushions, both of which zip off for easy machine washing. The ClearTex Plus is GREENGUARD Gold Certified and is made with fabric that meets federal car seat flammability standards without the addition of any extra chemicals. It also features removable, machine-washable fabrics.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 10 lbs
Child Guidelines High-back mode: 40-100 lbs and at least 4 yrs old; Backless mode: 40-110 lbs, 38-57” and at least 4 yrs old

Most Affordable Booster Seat

The Scoop
  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy to install, great for carpools or moving between vehicles
  • Fits a wide variety of children well
What Our Experts Say

If you’re in the market for a safe, easy-to-install and highly-rated booster seat at a budget-friendly price, this bestselling Graco pick is your answer. For under $45, this high-back booster seamlessly transitions to a backless booster when your child is ready. It’s easy to install and fits a wide variety of kids comfortably. There’s also an adjustable headrest and padded armrests, energy-absorbing foam for impact absorption in the case of a crash and belt guides for seat belt positioning. One more thing to note: Parents love this seat for carpooling due to its weight and easy install.

What’s Worth Considering

There are no lower anchors on the TurboBooster. Some users also report that the seat is a bit narrow. If you want a booster with anchors (they can help hold the seat in place a little better), check out the upgraded model of this Graco seat, the TurboBooser LX Highback Booster Seat.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 8.4 lbs
Child Guidelines High-back booster mode: 40-100 lbs, 43-57”; backless booster mode: 40-100 lbs, 43-57”

Another Budget-Friendly Booster Pick

The Scoop
  • Well-priced
  • Light, easy to install
  • Fun storage drawer under seat
What Our Experts Say

This booster seat from Safety 1st is another solid choice if you’re looking for a safe, reliable and easy-to-use booster that won’t break the bank. Like many other seats on our best-of list, it’s easy to install (which should always be top of mind when shopping for any type of car seat) and light, so you’ll be able to move it between vehicles if needed or use it for carpooling. Car seat experts like that the Store ‘n Go has a tall shoulder belt guide, something that’s hard to find on many booster seats. And there’s one other very cool feature: a drawer underneath the seat where your little one can store all of their favorite treasures.

What’s Worth Considering

If your car has a deep or recessed seat, this booster may make it tricky for your little one to access the seat belt buckle. (It’s totally doable, it just may take some wriggling around.) This seat doesn’t have lower anchor connectors.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 9.7 lbs
Child Guidelines High-back booster mode: 40-110 lbs, 43-57”; backless booster mode: 40-110 lbs, 43-57”

Best All-in-One Booster Seat

The Scoop
  • One seat, four modes
  • Good fit for kids of all different sizes
  • Machine washable cover
What Our Experts Say

If you’re looking to limit the number of car seats you’ll be buying throughout your child’s life, Graco’s 4Ever is a seat you’ll want to consider. While technically a convertible car seat, the 4Ever does have booster seat capabilities. It actually has lots of capabilities—it pulls quadruple duty as a rear-facing seat, a forward-facing seat, a high-back booster and finally a backless booster seat. There are lots of features for safety, comfort and convenience including an easily adjustable harness and headrest, a machine washable cover that comes off in about 60 seconds (no uninstalling the seat required), a steel-reinforced frame and a convenient harness storage area. Transitioning the seat from convertible to booster mode is straightforward and experts comment that the seat’s overall fit works well for kids of all different sizes.

What’s Worth Considering

Car seat experts note that this seat can be tricky to install, so be sure to read your manual carefully and get your seat checked by an expert if possible. The 4Ever is on the longer side, a concern if you have a sedan or a smaller vehicle. It’s also quite heavy (since it’s a 4-in-1 seat), so it’s best for a family who plans on keeping it installed in one vehicle rather than one that needs a seat they can easily transfer from car to car.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 23.35 lbs
Child Guidelines Rear-facing with harness: 4-40 lbs, head must be at least 1” below red handle; forward-facing with harness: 22-65 lbs, 27-52”; high-back booster mode: 40-100 lbs, 38-57”; backless booster mode: 40-120 lbs, 40-57”

Best Booster Seat That Grows with Your Child

The Scoop
  • Leg extension panel
  • Expandable shoulder system
  • Side impact protection
What Our Experts Say

Is there anything car-seat-favorite brand Nuna didn’t think of when designing this high-back to backless booster seat? (We think no.) This sleek, modern booster has so many unique safety and comfort features that are worth a mention. One major thing to note is the seat. It features a leg extension panel with three different depths, giving growing legs plenty of space. The shoulder system is also innovative. It expands, so as the headrest moves up (there are nine different positions), the shoulder area expands right along with it, helping kids stay comfortable as they grow.

Other features we love include eight recline positions, ventilation panels, and breathable, washable knit fabric as well as side impact protection pods. (Just note that you should only use these foldout pods on the seat side that’s next to the vehicle’s door, and never if the AACE is being used in the center seat.) All foams and fabrics are flame resistant with no added chemicals.

What’s Worth Considering

The AACE is pricey, but considering its long usage life and enhanced features, it may be worthwhile for some families who can work it into their budget. Some users mention that it can at times be tricky to thread the seatbelt through the guide.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 15.6 lbs
Child Guidelines High-back mode: 40-110 lbs, 38-60”, 4+ yrs; backless mode: 50-120 lbs, 38-60”, 5+ yrs

Best Backless Booster Seat

The Scoop
  • Weighs just five pounds
  • Adjustable armrests and two cup holders
  • Removable, washable seat pad
What Our Experts Say

Once your child meets the age, weight, and height requirements, a backless booster can be a great option to raise your child to the proper height of the seat belt that’s a whole lot smaller than its high-back counterparts. At only five pounds, this one is ideal for travel, carpooling with other children, and moving from car to car. The seat is comfortable and features height-adjustable armrests and two hideaway cup holders. The seat pad is removable and machine washable.

What’s Worth Considering

Remember that when using a backless booster, you want the vehicle seat to come up to your child’s ears to protect your little one’s head in case of a crash. (If their ears come up over the seat, you’ll want to use a high-back booster instead.)

If you want an upgrade, check out the TurboBoosterLX model. It has many of the same features as the OG model (including the same height and weight requirements) but also features LATCH (to keep the seat in place a bit better), a bit more padding, and a hideaway storage compartment. For an even more convenient upgrade, check out Chicco’s GoFit Plus Backless Booster. It features a built-in carry handle, LATCH, and a button for one-handed release, making it extra convenient to uninstall the seat and move it when needed.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 4.5 lbs
Child Guidelines 40-100 lbs, 43-57”

Best Travel Booster Seat

The Scoop
  • Inflatable—ideal for travel and carpools
  • Weighs less than a pound and fits in a small bag when deflated
  • Features seat belt guides
What Our Experts Say

The BubbleBum is more than just a fun name—it’s an innovative product that solves the huge problem (and inconvenience) of traveling with big, bulky booster seats. This booster seat is inflatable, so when it’s not in use, it’s compact and ridiculously easy to toss into a backpack or even a small bag. It features a webbing harness and seat belt guides and comes in a ton of fun colors and patterns.

What’s Worth Considering

BubbleBum is also great for carpools. It’s a compact, narrow seat, so it fits between two full-size car seats, allowing for a three-across configuration in the backseat of most vehicles.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 15 oz
Child Guidelines 40-100 lbs, 40-57”

Most Stylish Booster Seat

The Scoop
  • Lots of added safety features
  • Cool, modern design and fun fabrics
  • Unique seat recline feature
What Our Experts Say

Canadian brand Clek is known for making modern, stylish seats that exceed even the highest safety standards. The Oobr is a high-back-to-backless booster that’s built just like the seat of your car—but sized for your child. This stylish seat is “oobr” safe, too; it features a high-impact frame, a headrest made from energy-absorbing foam, and a steel base with rigid LATCH for added stability. There’s even a unique recline feature (when used with LATCH) that allows the seat to slide forward and pivot back for up to 12 degrees of recline.

What’s Worth Considering

This booster seat is expensive, making it out of reach for many families. It’s also on the heavier side for a booster seat at nearly 20 pounds.

Additional Specs
Seat Weight 19.3 lbs
Child Guidelines High-back mode: 400-100 lbs, 40-57”; backless mode: 40-100 lbs, 40-57”. Minimum age 4+ yrs recommended.
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