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Booster Seats

High Back Boosters

$ — Evenflo Big Kid AMP ~ $39 – Top Budget Pick; A fan favorite, great for families with multiple car seats across

$ — Graco Highback Turbo ~ $49 – Comfortable with niceties like cup holders and storage

$$ — Graco Affix Youth Booster w/ Latch ~ $79 – Same as the aforementioned but with the ability to install the seat to your car for safety

$$$ — Britax Booster Seats ~ $99-$169 – With layers of side impact protection, these seats are a solid choice and a great value in the long run

Backless Boosters

$ — Cosco Topside ~ $17 – Budget Pick; Perfect for families who value space and color options

$ — Graco Backless TurboBooster ~ $24 – Comes with cupholders, adjustable arm rests and a belt positioner

$$ — BubbleBum Inflatable Booster ~ $29 – Best for Travel; Lightweight, portable and safe

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the booster seat stage… or have you?

The first thing before you buy a booster is — is your kiddo really ready for a booster? The criteria for booster seat readiness boil down to maturity, size, and age:

  • Maturity: your child needs to be able to sit in the “right” position for the entire car ride, all the time — this means sitting upright, facing forward, hands off the seat belt, etc.
  • Size: check to make sure your child meets the minimum height and weight requirements for the seat you plan to use — they’re all different, but most fall in the range of 30-40 pounds minimum weight and 38-40 inches minimum height
  • Age: the age factor here is more about development/maturity than years, but generally speaking your kiddo needs to be at least 5. No toddlers, please!

There are two main types of booster seats: those with a high back, also known as belt positioning boosters:

high back booster/belt positioner

and backless boosters:

backless booster

The long and short of it is this: the seatbelt needs to hit your child on the shoulder (as seen above), NOT the neck (as seen below). If the seatbelt IS hitting your child at the neck, then she needs a high back booster, which has a guide that positions the seatbelt at the correct height.

See also: Forward Facing Car Seats

Nope! This kiddo needs a high-back booster or a harnessed seat

High Back Boosters

High back boosters (or belt positioning boosters) have a guide that will lower the height of the shoulder belt so it makes contact with the shoulder (shown below). You can adjust the height of the guide.

<< The seatbelt “guides” are the red things near the head of the seat.

High back boosters also offer side impact protection, something you don’t get from a backless booster. Furthermore, the back of this car seat has a place a child can rest his head for a nap — another thing you don’t get in a backless seat. Shoot — we use these seats with our girls for long trips simply because they are more comfortable.

*Note: all our high back booster picks also convert to backless boosters for growing kiddos!

Good news: boosters, whether “high back” or not – are much simpler types of car seats than others and therefore, cheaper. Here are our top 3, listed in order of price:

1. Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster Seat ($39) ~ Top Budget Pick

The Evenflo Big Kid AMP booster is a fan favorite! You can easily adjust the seat back height, and it also converts to a backless booster. The frame is narrow (17.5 inches at the base), which can be a big help if you have multiple car seats. There’s also a cupholder on each side, although they’re not the most sturdy things…

*Note! This seat is affixed to your car with the seatbelt (strapped over your child) — which means when you’re child isn’t seated in it, it can become a projectile. Many parents say they buckle the seat in when it’s empty, but I’m not sure how practical this is. For a little more money, you can get a booster that can be secured permanently with LATCH connectors, which obviates this problem…

fits three across (in big cars)
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The seats on the Evenflo aren’t the most cushy out there, but for the price, this is a fantastic choice — and a great choice for people who don’t use them very often, like grandparents.

2. Graco Highback Turbo Booster Seat ($49)

The Graco Highback Turbo Booster, like the Graco Affix (below) has a comfortable seat with a fun sliding storage compartment and two cupholders, as well as an adjustable headrest. This seat is a little more padded/comfy vs. the aforementioned Evenflo.

It also converts quickly to a backless booster.

“Look, mom! A pony!”
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3. Graco AFFIX Youth Booster Seat w/Latch ($79)

Being able to use LATCH to install the seat to your car (so it doesn’t become a projectile when not in use) is ideal.

This booster from Graco is easy to install, has an adjustable head rest, and comes with a cupholder and a little storage compartment kids really love. Also converts to a backless booster.

Graco Affix Booster
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4. Britax Booster Seats ($99 – $169)

The Britax line of booster seats includes 2 models: the Highpoint and Skyline (the Midpoint was discontinued). 

Britax Highpoint
  • Highpoint – $169, Priciest Seat; has the SecureGuard clip (a clip that holds the seatbelt in place at the lap) and 3 layers of Side Impact Protection; this seat is VERY wide and won’t fit well right next to another car seat or passenger; many parents feel this seat is overkill
  • Midpoint: The Midpoint has been discontinued as of 2019, but there may be some in stock and yet available.
  • Skyline – $99, Their mainstream seat that still has 2 layers of Side Impact Protection – fits well in all cars

We use the Skyline with both of our girls and like it very much. The seatbelt guides always stayed in place (more than I can say with my Chicco!), the seat itself is comfy for long road trips, and the cupholders are key. This seat can fit 3-across in many cars, but isn’t our first choice for this.

Britax Skyline
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Best of all, when your child has outgrown the “back”, just pop it off and use the bottom as a backless booster. Easy peasy.

For $99, I think the Skyline is a solid choice for a 2-stage belt positioning booster. We have used it from 5 years up to 10, so it’s a great value.

Backless Boosters

Ah yes, my favorite type of car seat: the backless booster. This is for a kid who is definitely tall enough for the seatbelt to hit him/her in the shoulder, as seen here:

In my experience, this happened for my kids around the age of 7, but it solely depends on your kid’s height.

You guys — the brand really doesn’t matter! Literally the only job of this seat is to raise the height of your child so the seatbelt hits her in the shoulder and not the neck. That’s it!

Some of them have conveniences like cupholders and such, but you can buy the cheapest booster on the market — and it will be just fine! I’ve even used a thick phone book in a pinch.

1. Cosco Topside Backless Booster Seat ($17) ~ Budget Pick

This is a great economy pick if your priority is space (over things like cupholders or snack storage). It comes in some fun colors, and is also SUPER light, at only 2.2 pounds. Multiple seats stack nicely together, too:

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Specs:

  • seat weight: 2.2 pounds
  • maximum recommended weight limit: 100 pounds
  • maximum recommended height limit: 57 inches

2. Graco Backless TurboBooster Car Seat ($24)

The Graco TurboBooster is a comfy seat with hideaway cupholders, height-adjustable arm rests, and a belt positioner to help secure the seat belt in the correct position across your child’s shoulder.

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The upgraded version of this seat has LATCH connectors, which keep the seat from getting moved around when not in use. If you want the seat to stay in place, opt for this Graco TurboBooster LX.

3. BubbleBum Inflatable Backless Booster Seat ($29) ~ *Best for travel and short rides

This thing is genius, friends. It inflates (and deflates) super quickly, comes with a carrying case, and gets the job done. We love it for both travel and quick, easy everyday use. Even if you have a separate “permanent” booster seat, the BubbleBum is really handy for carpooling, ubers, taxis, and such. So portable!

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Specs:

  • seat weight: 2.2 pounds
  • maximum recommended weight limit: 100 pounds

By the way, there are lots of other backless booster seat brands out there, but I truly don’t feel like you should pay any more than $40 for a backless booster (hence, only mentioning the ones above). However, if you want to spend $75 on a high end brand like the Clek Ozzi, go for it!

That’s a wrap, friends! Safe driving!

Comments

  1. Avatar

    I notice you didn’t include the Chicco high back boosters or mention any that convert from 5 point to high back booster. Any advice on those?

    1. Meg Collins

      We’re in the process of adding it. For the one I own (the Chicco), the belt constantly pops out of the guide, so it’s the course of endless frustration. Hence, very hard for me to recommend it. But I understand that defects happen and I probably just got unlucky.

  2. Avatar

    I joined LuciesList in 2012 and it’s still my first stop for gear advice. Getting a new booster for my short 8 year old and I’m still buying what you tell me to!

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