What Is The Best Booster Seat To Buy
Car seats and boosters provide protection for infants and children in a crash, yet car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. That's why it's so important to choose and use the right car seat correctly every time your child is in the car. Follow these important steps to choose the right seat, install it correctly and keep your child safe.
what is the best booster seat to buy
In addition to registering your car seat to receive recalls and safety notices from your car seat manufacturer, you can sign up to receive e-mail alerts from NHTSA about car seat and booster seat recalls to make sure your child remains safe.
This guide has been updated to reflect that as of July 2022, some models of the Clek Olli and Clek Ozzi, two backless booster seats that appear in the competition section, were the subject of a safety recall notice.
For the 2022 update of this guide, I spoke with Kerry Chausmer, program and member services director for the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA); Jessica Jermakian, PhD, vice president for vehicle research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to automotive safety; and Alisa Baer, MD, a pediatrician and co-founder of car seat safety website The Car Seat Lady. (Note: The Car Seat Lady website uses affiliate links, but it does not receive any compensation directly from car seat manufacturers.)
When I worked on the first version of this guide, in 2018, I became certified as a CPST, completing a 40-hour training program through the Safe Kids Worldwide organization, which teaches the proper installation and use of car seats.
I also interviewed representatives from car seat manufacturers Chicco, Diono, Nuna, Graco, BubbleBum, and MiFold. For the 2022 update, I consulted representatives from Chicco, Graco, Diono, Maxi-Cosi, Evenflo, UPPAbaby, and Britax. I talked to dozens of parents about their car seat experiences, scanned hundreds of Amazon reviews, and read articles from reputable media outlets such as Car Seats for the Littles and BabyGearLab.
Although the regulations for when a child is eligible to ride in a booster can vary from state to state (and seat to seat), typically the minimum height requirement is around 38 inches and the minimum weight requirement is around 40 pounds.
I tried out each booster seat with two of my children (ages 8 and 6). I unboxed, assembled (when applicable), and installed and uninstalled each seat. Over the course of six months, my kids took turns sitting in the seats in different cars (a crossover SUV and a minivan) and in different moods (from cooperative to cranky) while I took down the feedback on their likes, dislikes, and preferences. I formed my own opinions on the pros and cons of every seat, including install, fit, aesthetics, and ease of use.
We also asked three other families to try out the booster seats; each family (with kids ranging in age from 4 to 9 years old) tried four to five seats. They responded to detailed questionnaires about what it was like to install and move the seats into various cars, the buckling-in process, whether their kids were able to get a proper seat belt fit once buckled in, the overall look and feel of the seats, and how easy the LATCH system was to use (if applicable).
Since kids in boosters are often able to clearly articulate their opinions, their feedback was extremely valuable; we were curious to get their thoughts on everything from cup holders to cushions to armrests. The kids also reported on how well they were able to see out the window and whether they were able to get and stay buckled in comfortably.
For the seats that convert from high-back to backless, we asked families what they thought of that process. Were the pieces easy to separate, but not so easy that they fell apart each time the seat was moved? Finally, we inquired about cleanup, encouraging families to make a mess and then deal with the aftermath (we had one instance of car sickness and many more instances of cracker crumbs and grape juice spills).
For the first version of this guide, published in 2018, we elected to do independent crash testing on the booster seats that we considered as our top contenders. We hired Calspan, a highly regarded lab in Buffalo, New York, to perform the tests. The results were factored into our final recommendations, which included earlier models of the Chicco and Graco high-back seats that we are recommending again now.
The KidFit ClearTex Plus has nicer fabric than its predecessor. It feels smooth and substantial to the touch. And it has a Greenguard Gold Certification, which promises low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs); the textiles used to make the seat are manufactured without any added chemicals.
In terms of cleaning, the fabric was easy to wipe down. At one point, I took the booster out of the car and shook it; the crumbs came off of the fabric easily enough. For a more-thorough wash, the entire cover can be removed; to do this, you partly disassemble the seat and peel off the fabric elements, as detailed in this step-by-step video from Chicco. The instruction manual calls for the cover to be machine-washed in cold water on the delicate cycle, using mild detergent, and then air-dried. It can take a few tries to master putting the cover back on. But once you get the hang of it, it should take only a few minutes.
The seat belt threader on the TurboBooster LX is well designed; the belt slides into the opening smoothly from bottom to top, easily enough for most kids to manage it on their own. The seat belt threader on the Chicco KidFit ClearTex Plus is similar, but it has more of a diagonal at the entry point, which we prefer.
If aesthetics are a top priority: The Nuna Aace is a beautiful, expensive high-back booster seat. Like our upgrade pick, the Maxi-Cosi RodiFix, the Aace has rigid LATCH connectors, which are the easiest and most secure type of LATCH connectors, and they allow the seat to have a recline feature. The Aace comes with one cup holder, which is not permanently attached to the side of the seat and falls off easily. This seat converts from high-back to backless mode. It did not seem to offer any added functionality compared with models that cost less than half as much. But if aesthetics are your main concern, the Aace might be worth the splurge. This seat has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS for its ability to provide a proper seat belt fit.
If you want a backless version of our runner-up Graco pick without LATCH: The Graco TurboBooster Backless is the backless-only version of our runner-up Graco high-back booster, minus the LATCH option. The TurboBooster Backless weighs just over 5 pounds and has two cup holders; it has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS for its ability to provide a proper seat belt fit.
If you want a light backless booster without LATCH: The Evenflo Big Kid Sport weighs just 3 pounds and usually costs under $30 (sometimes far less). Our kid testers found it comfortable. This seat has two cup holders and a Best Bet rating from the IIHS for its ability to provide a proper seat belt fit.
If you want a cheap, light, zero-frills backless booster without LATCH: The Cosco Rise is less than $20 (but it can go on sale for as low as $12). This is an excellent small backless booster to keep in the trunk of your car for impromptu carpooling. It weighs just 2.2 pounds and does not have cup holders. And it comes with a Best Bet rating from the IIHS for its ability to provide a proper seat belt fit.
If you want an extra-wide backless booster with LATCH: The Diono Solana 2 XL is a high-end wide booster (20.1 inches across) that could work well for kids who want or need more space. Just be sure that your vehicle seat is large enough to accommodate its footprint, with ample room on the side to easily access the buckle. This seat has a hook-style LATCH mechanism; the hooks are positioned upside down and can be difficult to maneuver, making the seat harder to install and take out. It has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS for its ability to provide a proper seat belt fit.
Meanwhile, the safety needs of the back seat have taken, well, a back seat. Consumer awareness on this issue may be helpful, particularly if caregivers use their purchasing power to demonstrate that advanced seat belt safety features are a priority. In response to concerning research on common injuries to rear-seat occupants, Jessica Jermakian, VP of vehicle research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, told us the IIHS has developed a new frontal crash test that will include crash-test dummies in front and rear seating positions. The new test, launching in 2022, could encourage automakers to make these safety devices standard in the back seat and promote other safety improvements to rear-seat restraint systems.
If you have children of booster-seat age and are looking for a seat particularly for travel, we recommend using one of the inexpensive and lightweight backless boosters featured in this guide, such as the Cosco Rise. (We have a separate guide to the best travel car seats, but it focuses mostly on seats for younger kids.)
However, in February 2022, the IIHS raised concerns about the safety of inflatable boosters; a study using a computerized model determined that an inflatable booster may not have the stiffness required to keep a child from sliding out from under the lap belt upon impact. Until more research and information is available, we are no longer recommending the BubbleBum.
We plan to test a new version of our former top-pick booster seat, the Diono Monterey XT, as soon as it becomes available. As we were working on the update to this guide in late 2021 and early 2022, this seat was being updated, and there was no sample available for us to review. The previous Monterey XT we recommended was one of the widest booster seats we tested, with a back that extended up and out, allowing bigger children to stay in the seat longer and more comfortably than in any of our other picks. (Naturally, wide seats may not work well for compact cars or for those trying to fit three across.) The seat had hook-style LATCH connectors, which are not as easy to use as the LATCH connectors on our current top pick, the Chicco KidFit ClearTex Plus, or the rigid LATCH connectors on our upgrade pick, the Maxi-Cosi RodiFix. 041b061a72