Your child may be older and stronger, but he or she is still just as vulnerable on the road. Using a booster seat not only will reduce the risk of injuries in the event of an accident, but it will also improve your child’s comfort on the daily run to school and on longer trips.
Our Geeks did the legwork to help you find the best booster car seats from trusted brands based on consumer reviews, comfort, and safety technology. We’ve also included on this page some helpful FAQs, tips, and installation guidelines. Follow the links below to get started:
Best Booster Car Seats
Clek Oobr High Back Booster Car Seat
Estimated Price: $225 – $300
Born out of one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, Clek entered the car seat game with the knowledge and experience to build world-class car seats. The proof: award-winning products that don’t compromise on design or engineering.
The Oobr High Back Booster doesn’t flip the script, instead it builds on the company’s track record of creating some of the best booster car seats under $6k. Punted as “the seat that grows with your child”, this seat morphs and adapts to accommodate your little one’s (or not so little one’s) needs.
Equipped with a so-called rigid-LATCH system, this booster locks into place using your vehicle’s LATCH anchor system to provide added stability and safety in a crash. While the seat is heavy, not even our scrawniest Geek struggled to position, install and secure this booster.
The seat can be set up in one of two modes, either as a high back booster or a backless booster. Whichever option you use depends on the size, height and age of your child and the shape of your car’s own seats. The high back booster setting can carry kids from 33 to 100 pounds and between 38 to 57 inches in height. The backless booster setting can accommodate tykes from 40 pounds to 100 pounds and between 40 to 57 inches in height.
The seat comes equipped with a reclining seat back, allowing you to adjust the seat to ensure your child is not only safe but comfortable on longer trips and the seat back also supports up to 12 degrees of recline.
The adjustable headrest delivers on its promise of a custom fit with our little Geeks comfortably managing to catch a few hours of shuteye on longer trips. Thick foam in the seat’s bottom provides added comfort while the company’s Crypton Super Fabrics repel the buildup of uncomfortable moisture and defend against even the most menacing stains (including our greenhorn Geek’s morning coffee).
At just under $300, this seat is a steal. And it’s not just us saying that; the Oobr has been rated as a “Best-Bet” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for seven straight years.
Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120
Estimated Price: $195 – $250
Peg Perego appears twice on this list and for a good reason: they make the best booster seats on the market. Where the company’s convertible model aims to accommodate infants and toddlers, this specialized front-facing seat is designed for older children up to 120 pounds.
Securing the seat to your car using the pre-existing LATCH anchors is a breeze. Our Geeks had no trouble installing this seat in any of our test vehicles, whether it was the hatchback or the SUV. Added bonus: at just 15 pounds, this lightweight seat is easy to transfer from car to car.
That convenience doesn’t come at the cost of luxury features. The HBB 120 is equipped with an adjustable six-position head panel and a recline handle which unlocks inches of precious comfort. This seat was designed with longer rides in mind so your little ones won’t struggle to snooze during the more boring stretches of your next road trip.
The seat’s sturdy design is bolstered by the inclusion of adjustable side impact protection which Peg Perego says exceeds even the most stringent tests in the world. Wide-padded wings provide added side impact protection at a shoulder and head level where it is needed most.
But this seat isn’t just an engineering marvel. High-quality two-tone fabrics, expert tailoring and flawless stitching combine to make this the best-looking seat we’ve ever tested.
Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Belt Positioning Booster
Estimated Price: $85 – $150
Galvanized by the birth of his son, an inventor knew he could create a safer world for his newborn. He founded Chicco, and since then the company has gone on to create some the world’s best baby and child safety products. The Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Belt Positioning Booster is the result of decades of development, testing and refinement – and it shows.
Straight out of the box, installing the KidFit was a walk in the park. Our Geeks were able to attach the seat’s SuperCinch LATCH attachment to the car’s anchors without a hitch (or breaking a sweat). The seat has a sleek design, a noteworthy achievement when you look at the laundry list of features the company has managed to cram under the hood.
The 10-position headrest is quick to adjust and you’ll be able to find a comfortable position for your little one regardless of his or her height. As an added bonus, the headrest is lined with EPS foam which helps absorb crash forces and protects your child’s neck and head in a collision. The seat can also be used as a backless booster.
Beyond the seat’s safety specs lies a world of comfort. According to our little Geeks, the armrests are comfortable – even over longer trips–- and the seat’s padding is firm but forgiving. Two cup holders can be folded into the chair or removed entirely when not in use.
As a parent, a seat that is easy to clean is just as important as a safe one. But more often than not, car seats can be nearly impossible to sterilize as stubborn seat covers hang on for dear life and stains refuse to flee from fabric in the washer. Fortunately, the KeyFit has none of those problems.
The consensus: the KeyFit is a durable, comfortable and safe car seat which is worth every single dollar on the price tag.
Graco Atlas 65 2-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat
Estimated Price: $100 – $165
In our tests, we’ve seen many seats that can adapt to accommodate a growing child. But the Atlas is a transformer that can easily carry the weight of the world on its shoulders.
In one mode, it’s a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness to buckle-in children from 22 to 62 pounds and from 27 to 49 inches. Switch it up and you’ve got a belt-positioning booster car seat which can carry kids from 30 to 100 pounds and 38 to 57 inches.
While installation was simple enough – the seat connected with the lower anchors in our test vehicle with no hassle – it was even easier and quicker setting up the seat as a booster (including the time it takes to loosen the straps and transform the seat). Once the seat is secure and positioned you can use the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System to customize the height of the harness and the headrest in just one movement.
Under the hood, an EPS lining provides effective protection against crash forces while a steel-reinforced frame adds strength and durability. The seat is designed to withstand extreme interior temperatures which means the frame won’t buckle or warp when the temps pick up.
Cleaning the seat is just as simple as installing it. The cover removes in three separate machine-washable pieces and unhooks and hooks back onto the frame in seconds. Our Geeks suggest letting the cover dry on the line.
Bottom line: this seat will stretch every dollar you’ve spent by keeping your child safe and secure longer than any other.
Evenflo Maestro Booster
Estimated Price: $$60 – $115
When our Geeks received this $75 seat, they didn’t have high hopes. They’ve seen the horror show of budget car seats, from missing parts and missing features to terrifying safety hazards. However, the Maestro proves that even our jaded Geeks can be taken by surprise.
This 2-in-1 combination booster car seat can carry children from 22 to 110 lbs and converts from a five-point harness car seat to a fully-fledged belt-positioning booster. Rather than cutting corners, this seat is crammed with extra features, from integrated cup holders and modern latch and tether systems.
The seat has been rigorously tested to ensure that your child is safe from potential side impact and that the seat’s structural integrity will survive the steady march of time. The seat does have some shortcomings: there is no adjustable side impact protection or an adjustable headrest to accommodate taller children.
Bottom line: at this price point, nothing beats the Maestro’s safety or comfort.
Booster Seat FAQs
How do I know if my booster seat is correctly installed?
Have you followed the steps outlined in the instruction manual for your car seat? Every booster is different and you may need to use extra attachments or adapters to connect the seat securely to your car.
Once your seat has been installed and positioned, check to see if it wobbles, tips over, pivots, or seesaws. If there is any movement, attempt to tighten the straps or reinstall the seat. Even the smallest movement can be lethal in a crash.
If you’re still struggling to achieve a secure fit, contact the manufacturer to troubleshoot your issues and to find out whether there are any attachments or parts that may help accommodate the seat in your car.
If the seat is still not sitting securely, return the booster and start browsing for another.
Is it an issue if my booster car seat is loose?
Yes. Any movement – whether it’s forwards, backwards or side-to-side – may compromise your child’s safety. In a crash, that small movement could cause severe injuries or even death.
What’s the difference between a booster and a car seat?
Safety seats are divided into the following three categories:
Baby (or infant) car seats are rear-facing safety seats designed to protect your little one during the early months of his or her life. These seats keep your child restrained and significantly reduce crash forces by absorbing the brunt of the shock of a collision.
These seats can carry children up to two-years-old or up until a maximum weight of 35 pounds. Ideally, you want to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. However, when your child exceeds the maximum weight it is time to switch to a convertible car seat.
Convertible car seats are a two-in-one travel solution, operational in both rear-facing and front-facing positions. This enables you to adjust the seat to accommodate your growing child.
When set to rear-facing these seats can accommodate infants up to 40 pounds, while the front-facing mode can carry kids up to 70 pounds. Again, our Geeks would like to remind you that you should aim to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible.
Booster seats aren’t designed for infants, and are instead meant to plug the gap between a traditional car seat and using your vehicle’s own seats. Instead of using a harness or LATCH attachment system, these seats require your car’s regular lap and shoulder belts to secure your child.
Warning: you should only use a backless booster seat if your vehicle’s seats are fixed with adequate head support for your little ones.
When should I switch to a booster seat?
Experts suggest switching to a booster seat when your child has outgrown the maximum limits of a convertible or front-facing car seat. Typically, your child will switch to a booster seat at four-years-old. However, if your child is smaller than most, you should consider keeping them restrained in a front-facing car seat until they have outgrown it.
What is LATCH?
LATCH stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”. This innovative technology is an attachment system used to securely install your booster in your car. Using built-in straps, hooks and loops, it enables you to attach your booster to anchor hardware in your vehicle.
This tech can result in more secure fit than the conventional seat belt attachment method. However, our Geeks suggest trying both methods – when possible – and testing to see which setup yields the least movement.
Remember: older vehicles are often not equipped with these specialized anchors. As a result, you will either have to buy special adapters to connect your booster or rely on using your car’s seat belts to secure your car seat to your vehicle’s seats.
Will this seat fit my car?
Not all vehicles are built the same, and while manufacturers aim to design car seats that can accommodate any car, some simply won’t fit in with your current setup. Fortunately, sites such as Amazon are now offering free and fast refunds on returns. Our Geeks suggest ordering one of the seats recommended above and giving it a test drive.
When will I know if my child can use the seat belts in my car?
Try this test provided by the New York State Police department:
- Does the shoulder portion of the seat belt fit securely across and over your child’s chest and shoulder without resting against your little one’s jaw or neck?
- Does the lap portion of the safety strap fit snugly across your child’s upper thighs and hip bones?
- Do your child’s fold comfortably over the lip of your car’s seat?
- Will your kid sit in a proper system for the duration for the trip?
If the answer to all of these questions was “yes”, your child is technically ready to use the seat belts in the car.
Booster Seat Tips
1. Contact a Technician
Even if you have achieved a secure fit, it pays to rope in an expert. Technicians are trained to spot safety hazards most of us would gloss over without a second thought.
Head over to seatcheck.org, enter your zip code and contact an expert nearby who will evaluate your car seat setup and vehicle to ensure the safety of your child.
2. Stick to the Center
Studies and crash tests have shown that the center rear seat is the safest place in your car for your kid. Ideally situated a safe distance from the most common points of impact in a crash, your child is best shielded from potential harm when restrained in the center rear seat.
3. Check the Expiration Date
It’s a common myth that companies invented booster seat expiration dates to sell more units. Car seats have been shown to degrade over time, developing hairline fractures and structural faults leading to catastrophic failure in a crash.
Our Geeks recommend disposing of seats that are six years or older.
4. Replace Your Booster after an Accident
Even a small fender bender can damage your booster seat. Often, these seats are lined with EPS foam, a material that crumples under pressure to absorb crash forces. According to experts, it is a one-use material and will not be as effective when subjected to those same forces again.
Plus, a collision can also put strain on the structural integrity of your seat. To ensure your safety seat is operating at peak performance in the event of the worst, our Geeks suggest replacing your booster seat after an accident.
5. Strict Safety Belt Rules
Your safety seat’s features mean nothing if your child isn’t buckled in. It’s important to educate your little one on the importance of always wearing a safety belt when they are travelling in the car.
Our suggestion: lead by example. Don’t start driving until everyone in the car is buckled in. If your child escapes from the harness, pull over and tell them, in a calm but firm voice, that you aren’t setting off until they are back in the safety of their booster and belt.
6. Your Car is a Clutter-Free Zone
Studying crash tests, researchers discovered that even the smallest pieces of debris could become dangerous and even lethal projectiles in a crash. Our advice: comb your car for potential hazards such as toys, books, groceries and empty soda cans.
Extra items belong in the trunk. Yes, even the beach ball.
How to Install a Car Booster Seat
Position the booster seat in the center back seat of your car. If you plan to use your seat as a backless booster, now is the time to remove unit’s back support (consult your seat’s manual for a guide on how to do so.)
Thread the shoulder-belt positioning strap through the seat’s rear guide and use the attached hook, clip or loop to fix the seat in place.
Push your booster seat against your car’s setback. Now, sit your little one in the booster and string the safety belt over the seat and your kid.
Buckle in the safety belt. If the booster is equipped with armrests you will need to thread the belt underneath the armrests before securing the safety strap.