We spent 50 hours researching and testing over 15 different types and brands of booster seats and found that ease of use, style, and cost were the most important factors for consumers who were shopping for booster seats. Evenflo High back Booster Seat scored high marks in all categories and is our overall top pick. There are many things to like about the Evenflo high back booster seat including the Latch system that offers a secure connection for the seat that keeps it safely in place. The front adjustment enables you to tighten the booster seat as needed so your child is safe when riding in a vehicle.
Booster Seat Buying Guide
Types of Booster Seats
There are several different kinds of booster seats on the market to choose from. We have listed these different types below along with some information about each type so you can easily tell one from another.
Backless Belt Positioning – A backless booster seat features the seat portion only and helps position the regular seatbelt so it works safely and easily for your child. The booster provides the extra height needed to ensure the seatbelt is in the right place to safely secure the child. Most backless booster seats have a weight range of 30 to 100 pounds but the weight limits will vary from seat to seat. Make sure you check the description so you know the weight limit of the specific booster seat you are considering.
High-Back Booster Seat w/o harness – A high-back booster seat may look a lot like a car seat but they do not have the deep sides that regular car seats have. The back typically has a headrest and is very comfortable for the child. A high back booster that does not have a harness system is meant to be used with the vehicle’s existing seat belts and have slots that the seatbelt fits into once the child is sitting in them. They are easy to install and the child usually enjoys the extra height they get which enables them to see out the windows much easier.
High-back Booster seat w/ harness system – Some high-back booster seats have a 5 point harness system that is just like a car seat. This style of booster seat is secured to the vehicle by the vehicle’s seatbelt for children up to 40 pounds. Once your child reaches 40 pounds you should remove the 5 point harness system and use the vehicle’s shoulder belt and lap belt. Some boosters with a 5 point harness system have larger weight ranges so check the individual model for the specific weight range. You can start using a regular seatbelt once the top of your child’s ears are above the back of the high back booster and above the back of the vehicle’s seat when they are just using the backless booster. Once they have reached those heights they are ready to just ride on the vehicle seat itself.
Considerations before Purchasing
There are several things you should look at or think about before you make your booster seat purchase. Below we have listed these important considerations that will make the process of purchasing a booster seat much easier and will ensure you choose the right one for your child’s needs.
Weight and height of your child – The first thing to determine is whether your child is big enough for a booster seat. 5 point harness car seats are recommended until the child is at least 4 years old but that should have more to do with the weight of the child and height than just an age. 5 point harness systems can and should be used until the child is at least 40 pounds.
Does the child ride with more than one person? – If you carpool with friends or one parent drops off while another picks up you may want to choose a backless, easy-to-move booster seat or put a high back booster in the seat the child rides in most frequently and a backless model in the car they occasionally ride in. Toting a heavy, bulky high back booster from car to car each day can be a real pain and is time-consuming as well.
How much space do you have? – Do you have a small, compact vehicle or do you have one with plenty of seat space? If you have a cramped backseat or need to fit multiple seats in the back you want to find a booster with a narrow width so you can safely accommodate more than one seat.
Do you travel a lot? – If you take a lot of long trips a backless booster seat is not very comfortable for the child to sleep in. High-back boosters with prominent wings make a good napping seat since they can rest their heads on the wings. Make sure the seat has adequate padding as well. Cup holders are another great feature since children get thirsty frequently. Make sure the cup holder can accommodate a standard water bottle.
Is style important to you? – Booster seats come in a large selection of styles and colors. Some of them look like racecar seats. There are neutral shades that are understated and go with a lot of vehicle upholstery and others are brightly colored and don’t really “go” with anything. You will find a huge variety of colors and styles when you are shopping. As long as the seat meets all the other criteria that makes a quality booster seat, you can choose the color and style you and your child wants. Also keep in mind that if you are dealing with a resistant child, them being able to choose the color and astylar they like will make them want to ride in it because they chose it themselves.
Is your child clean? – You want a booster seat that can handle spills and dirt that your child will inevitably get on it as they are riding around. Look for removable booster seat covers that are machine washable. Most have removable covers but some do not and would require special cleaning.
Do you have low-back vehicle seats or contoured? – You want the booster seat to fit securely against your vehicle’s seats. You also want the child protected in the event of a crash. If your backseat is low or has no headrests, choosing a high-back booster can keep your child protected.
Do you have younger children? – If you want to use the booster seat for other children keep in mind that all booster and car seats expire due to changing and expanding safety regulations. Make sure when you are considering different models you look at the expiration date, especially since your child could be using a booster seat for years. Depending on the manufacturer and model of booster seat some can expire 6 years after they were manufactured. Others may have a 10 year life span. If you are ever involved in a car crash, it is very important that you replace the booster or car seat with a brand new one due to the fact that the existing seat involved in the crash could have become weakened due to impact.
Features of a Great Booster Seat
There are several features that you want to look for when it comes to purchasing a booster seat. We have listed the things to look for below so you are prepared once you start shopping around.
Good safety ratings & features – All booster seats are rated for how well the child is positioned for seat-belt positioning that is in the proper place. Other important features are impact absorbing foam and side impact protection. LATCH systems help boosters stay in place even when they are not being used.
Height & weight limits – NHTSA recommends that children remain in an approved booster seat until they are old enough and big enough for just the vehicle’s seatbelt. This will typically be somewhere between the ages of 8-13. A properly fitting shoulder belt will fit across the chest and shoulder, not the neck or face. The lap belt is in the proper position when it lies across the upper thighs.
Easy to use and install – One of the most difficult things a parent can struggle with is how to install the booster seat or car seat and how to ensure their child is in the seat properly. Look for models that offer clean instructions and that feature easy to install instructions so you can be sure the booster seat is properly installed. You want it easy to use so the child can buckle themselves safely.
Adjustable straps – If your child is still using a 5 point system you want to be sure that the harness fits properly. There should be several slots for the crotch strap so it can be put in the correct place and ensure proper fit.
Choosing the right booster seat for your child’s needs and your lifestyle is very important to ensuring the safety and comfort of your child whenever they are in the vehicle. With all of the choices available, it can quickly be confusing and overwhelming to sort through all these selections and know which ones are high quality and which ones are not.
This guide and the reviews we have added of three of the top-rated booster seats on the market are designed to help you through the process of sorting through the different choices, eliminating the ones that don’t work for you, and narrowing the amount of booster seats to only the ones that fit your needs perfectly.
The three top-rated selections we have reviewed above are all great choices that will give you high quality, safe booster seats you can rely on. The buying guide information you have learned will help you understand exactly what each booster seat offers and what features to look for. This information will enable you to confidently choose the right booster for your needs and one that your child will enjoy as well.