Our Favorite Booster Car Seats – And What You Need to Know About Them

Which booster car seat is the best? Does your child need a booster with a back? And when can your kid make the move? Here are our favorite seats, and what you need to know.

Millennials And Gen Z Drivers Alike Are Looking For More Family-Friendly Suvs
Millennials and Gen Z drivers alike are looking for more family-friendly SUVs. Photo: Allison Bell

This Might be the Best Day of Childhood

They give our kids a new level of mobility: they are lightweight, easy to install, and can be moved from one car to another. Booster car seats allow her to sit in the 3rd row with her friend, ride home with the sitter, go out to breakfast with Grandma. And she can carry it and install it herself.

The day your kid moves to a booster car seat is a true rite of passage. But which seat is the right one for your child? Does it need a back, or will a backless booster car seat do the job? Here’s what you need to know and our favorites — so you have some good choices.

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Graco Tranzitions Booster Car Seat

Graco Tranzitions Booster Car Seat. Photo: Amazon

Booster Car Seats: How to Pick the Right One

The job of a booster seat is to do just that: boost your child high enough off the seat so the seatbelt can do its job. Without a booster, the seatbelt may cut into the child’s neck and may not protect the child’s torso in a crash. 

A booster seat can also provide extra side protection in the event of a crash, additional belt protection with a harness and remain even more secure in the car if installed using LATCH anchors. 

Related: Best Travel Car Seats, From All-in-Ones to Booster Seats for Big Kids

Is it Safe to Use a Backless Booster Car Seat?

Yes. As long as the seat belt is secure and fits properly, a back is not needed on a booster car seat. However, a back can add protection, and headrests are great for longer drives or long days in the car; they give a child more support when they fall asleep.

When Should You Switch to a Backless Booster Car Seat?

When a child no longer needs the support of a booster car seat with a back, maybe it’s time to make the switch. It might be a good transition point for your child as she matures, such as joining a new carpool, moving up to 5th grade, a new family car or moving to a 3rd row seat.

Car Seat Guidelines by Age, Height and Weight

What is the right age and weight for a child to use a booster car seat? These rules keep changing; as we learn more about how children are impacted in a crash and as car seats improve how they protect children, the guidelines keep changing. 

And because of how children grow, their bones, spine and brain are still developing and are not as strong or resilient as an adult’s. Don’t let their size fool you; if they fall within the guidelines, they still need a car seat.  

A good guideline is to look at the height and weight limits of your kid’s car seat; the manufacturer will specify how the seat should be positioned and a maximum weight and height for the seat. 

Related: Baseless Car Seat Installation: How to Keep Baby Safe In Taxis and Ubers

Installing Car Seats And Boosters Was A Breeze In This Grand Cherokee 4Xe. (We Added The Portable Dvd Players.) Photo: Allison Bell

Installing booster car seats is a breeze. Photo: Allison Bell

How Old Does a Child Need to Be For a Booster Car Seat? 

Currently, California law requires children use booster car seats until age 8 or they reach 4’9” tall.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children remain in a booster car seat until 12 years old.

How Old Does a Child Need to Be to Sit in the Front Seat? 

The CDC recommends kids sit in the back seat until age 13; until then they may be at increased risk of injury in a crash, including impact from an airbag. But at 13 they can move to the front seat, which will be the next best day of childhood. 

Car Seat Guidelines: 

  • The CDC recommends that children remain in a rear facing child car seat until they are 40 lbs and 40” tall and are 2-4 years old
  • Kids can move to a forward facing car seat at least until 5-7 years old and until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat;
  • A booster seat should be used until age 12
  • Kids should remain in the rear seat until age 13

Related: Minivan Showdown: Toyota Sienna vs. Chrysler Pacifica vs. Honda Odyssey

Our Favorite Child Booster Car Seats

Chicco Kidfit Booster Car Seat

Chicco KidFit Booster Car Seat. Photo: Amazon

Chicco Kidfit Cleartex Plus – $100+

This is Wirecutter’s top choice for a booster car seat for its ease of use and clean style. It has lower anchor latches, converts to a backless booster, and comes in a number of options including Chicco’s chemical free cover, a zip-on cover with added air circulation and lots of color options. LATCH or seatbelt install.

Shop the Chicco KidFit booster car seat.

Britax Skyline Booster Car Seat

Britax Skyline Booster Car Seat. Photo: Amazon

Britax Skyline Booster Car Seat – $109

This is also a versatile car seat that offers a seat back when you need it but converts when you don’t. It has lower anchors for a quick LATCH install, cupholders and side impact protection. 

We love Britax for several reasons: They independently crash test every seat they make and they invented the LATCH system and gave the patent to the US government to set the standard so that every car maker and car seat maker could use it. And, they have a stylist team who work with designs and materials to continually evolve the look, feel and performance of their seats. 

Shop the Britax Skyline Booster Car Seat.

Graco Tranzitions Booster Car Seat

Graco Tranzitions Booster Car Seat. Photo: Amazon

Graco Tranzitions – $139 

We like this for its versatility; use it with the back attached and a 5-point harness, then remove the harness and just use the car’s seatbelt; when it’s time, remove the back. 

Shop the Graco Tranzitions booster car seat.

Diono Solano 2-Pack Booster Seats

Diono Solano 2-pack Booster Seats. Photo: Amazon

Diono Solana 2-pack Backless Booster Car Seats – $55

We like the slender design of Diono, which are designed to fit within the footprint of the average seat in a car. We like the idea of a 2-pack so you always have one on hand for carpools, care givers or one for each car in the driveway.

And smartly here, these seats feature a cushy washable cover and two stretchy cupholders on each seat — cloth pockets that don’t take up extra space.

Shop Diono Solana Backless Booster Car Seats

Graco Turbobooster Car Seat

Graco TurboBooster Car Seat. Photo: Amazon

Graco TurboBooster – $29 

This backless basic has retractable cup holders, is lightweight, has a clear belt path for the seatbelt and is easy to use. Must be seatbelt installed.

Shop the Graco TurboBooster.

Kidsembrace Full Size Booster Car Seat

KidsEmbrace Superhero and Character full size booster car seat is available in more than a dozen designs. Photo: Amazon

KidsEmbrace Superhero Booster Car Seat $170

We love this full-size booster car seat for the power it gives us to get our kids to want to sit in a car seat. While these seats may seem more focused on fantasy than safety, they exceed federal standards for child passenger car seats. And they get thousands and thousands of 5-star reviews on Amazon — no doubt from happy parents whose children have stopped resisting the request to sit in a car seat. 

And for kids, it’s a special thing to get climb into the authentic superhero or character likeness of their choice— from Batman and Spiderman to Cinderella and Minnie Mouse; KidsEmbrace has licensed the Marvel and Disney characters for these seats and there are more than a dozen choices. The full size seat comes with a costume-matching 5-point harness and extra goodies, including a super hero cape, mouse ears and cup holders. 

Shop the KidsEmbrace full size booster car seat

Kidsembrace Backless Booster Car Seat

KidsEmbrace Backless Booster Car Seat. Photo: Amazon

KidsEmbrace Superhero Backless Booster Car Seat $40 

Unlike other car seats with removable backs, the back on the full size seat is not removable; the backless booster seat is sold separately.

Shop KidsEmbrace Superhero Backless Booster Car Seat

Proper Installation is Key to Safety

Even with booster seats, proper installation is important. Check the manufacturer’s instructions, check the website for a video, and check with your local fire station or health department for a car seat technician to show you, and your child, how their seat should be installed.  Also check the laws of your state to know exactly which guidelines need to be followed for proper car seat usage.

And then, find the right booster car seat for for your kiddo and make it the best day of childhood — so far. 

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss