Before we begin this post about Safe in the Seat’s recommended best booster seats (high back and backless booster seats!), don’t forget this important reminder: all car seats are safe when they’re installed and used correctly. Yes, even the ones that are on the list of seats we do NOT recommend! Just because you don’t see a car seat below or it’s not one we recommend, it doesn’t mean that it’s not safe; it just means that we like other seats better. If you’re in the market for a new car seat for your little one, read on so you can make the best purchase for your family.
Heads up! This is not a comprehensive list of all of our recommended car seats and favorite booster seats. You can find a complete list with a full database in the Forward-Facing and Booster Buying Kit. This list contains our top picks. You may find it helpful to use the Notes app on your phone, or you can have some paper and pencil nearby to prioritize what features are important for you to consider when choosing a car seat.
Car Seat Buying Process
Child fit is one of the most important factors when choosing a booster. The goal is to choose one that is going to last until the child can fit into the adult seat belt. Matching up your child’s growth trajectory with the specifications of various car seats will ensure you get the most bang for your buck. Is your child taller than average, or do they have a tall torso, or maybe they are a little higher percentile in weight? Or perhaps the opposite is true? There are some seats that will work better and last longer than others based on this information. This is why our recommended car seats vary depending on the child’s size.
Children should ride in harnessed seats until they are at least 5 years old. But some kids will be even older before they are able to consistently sit properly in a booster seat. This stage requires maturity and a lot of practice as well. We highly recommend starting with a high back booster and having your child use that until they reach the maximum weight or height limit before moving to a backless booster.
If you don’t already know where your child falls on a growth chart, check out this site and find your child’s height and weight percentiles. If you make an account, you can even use the project function in the top right corner to find out when they might reach certain weights and heights.
We have added the highest belt guide height for each of the boosters. This correlates to the child’s seated torso height. On average, a child will grow 1″ in torso height per year, so you can use this to estimate how long a high back booster would last.
Your child’s size is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a car seat. But vehicle fit is equally important. This is why we can’t just tell you a car seat that we recommend without a lot of information. There are a few things you should consider. If you will need to fit 3 people with comfort in your back seat now or in the foreseeable future (like if you are planning on having more kids), you will want a narrow booster, ideally 17.5″ or less. There are not many options in this category, unfortunately in the booster stage of seats.
If your vehicle has non-removable headrests, you may find that many high-back boosters are incompatible once you get to booster mode. We will note below which ones we have found to work best with those kinds of headrests.
If you have a Ford or Lincoln vehicle that has inflatable seat belts, you have to consider that not many boosters can be used with those kinds of seat belts. Typically, if there is a center seat in the 2nd or 3rd row, it would have a normal seat belt, so you may be able to use the booster there instead.
If you don’t own a vehicle and you use public transportation and taxis/Ubers, we would recommend a booster that is lightweight.
There are a lot of convenience features that are available on car seats now which are often a driver of the higher price points. Boosters don’t have as many options, but there are still some.
Some boosters come with lower anchors. These are nearly always optional but double-check the manual. Lower anchors keep the booster in place, making it easier for the child to buckle and keeping it from being a projectile when the child is not riding in it.
The weight of a car seat may be a factor you need to consider. For example, if you travel often via airplane, a folding high-back booster or a small backless booster may be your best option so that they can go in the overhead bin. You can check out our Wheels Up course and private Facebook group for more information about airplane traveling with kids and car seats. In the lists below, we have provided the weight of each seat.
There are other things to consider as well. If you are interested in a booster that is free of flame-retardant chemicals, you will have fewer choices as not all car seat manufacturers have seats that meet this criteria.
If you are someone who plans to wash their car seats a lot or if you have a child who is accident prone (potty training, gets car sick often, etc), then you would probably want a booster that is machine washable instead of one that is hand wash only.
Car seat manufacturers have different crash policies as well that vary from replacing the seat after any crash to contacting the manufacturer, and they will decide on a case-by-case basis. Read more about crash replacement policies here.
Time to shop!
Now that you know your child’s fit information and have taken into consideration your vehicle fit, convenience factors, and added safety features, it’s time to start narrowing down the booster seat choices. Below are our recommended booster seats.
Top High-back Booster Recommendations
Evenflo GoTime LX $44.99
Review Coming Soon
This is one of the least expensive high-back boosters available. It works well with non-removable headrests. This seat has a shorter lifespan than most other boosters since it has a 6-year expiration date. This is one booster you don’t want to buy too far ahead.
Diono Cambria 2 $99.99
Review Coming Soon
This booster comes with lower anchors. It’s the least expensive booster that has a 63″ standing height limit. It also works well with non-removable headrests.
Cybex Solution B2-Fix+Lux $169.99
Review Coming Soon
This is the least expensive high back booster that comes with rigid lower anchors. It has a taller headrest and standing height limit than many other high-back boosters, so it’s a great option for taller kids.
Nuna Aace $250.00
Review Coming Soon
This is currently the only high back booster in this blog post that is flame-retardant-free. It also works well with non-removable headrests but does require the rigid lower anchors to be used when the booster is not flush with the vehicle seat.
Top Backless Booster Recommendations
Shop the car seat sales like a pro!
When you know what you’re looking for, watching for booster seat deals can be a low-stress process! We hope this post helps highlight that child fit is a critical component to consider when choosing a booster where you will get the most bang for your buck. For a more detailed process of how to choose a car seat and all of our recommended car seats, head to the best-selling Car Seat Buying Kits that will lead you to the top recommended car seat for you in under 30 minutes! Once you know what car seats are best for you, shop the deals! You can find our car seat sales blog here which is updated daily.
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