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
$$ — Graco Affix Youth Booster w/ Latch ~ $79 – Same as the aforementioned but with the ability to install the seat to your car for safety
$$ — Chicco KidFit ~ $99 – Made to protect, made to last and made with comfort, this seat has all the bells and whistles at a lower price point.
$$$ — Britax Booster Seats ~ $99-$169 – With layers of side impact protection, these seats are a solid choice and a great long-term value
$$$$ — Diono Monterey ~ $159 – Proclaimed “The Original Expandable Booster,” the Monterey can adjust up AND out for your growing child.
$ — Cosco Topside ~ $17 – Budget Pick; Perfect for families who value space and color options
$ — Graco Backless TurboBooster ~ $24 – Comes with cupholders, adjustable arm rests and a belt positioner
$$ — 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:
and backless boosters:
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
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 picks, 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…
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 ($52)
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.
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.
4. Chicco KidFit ($99)
The Chicco KidFit booster seat is a notch up in the safety department, but at an affordable price. Featuring DuoGuard head and torso protection with 10 height positions, Chicco’s SuperCinch LATCH tightener system for security and double foam padding for comfort and support.
This high back booster can adjust forwards/backwards to the vehicle seat and later becomes a backless booster for older children. My favorite thing about this seat are the two dishwasher safe “CupFolders” – which fold into the car seat and out of the way – so cool!
The KidFit comes in 4 other models:
- ClearTex Plus ($109) – Has everything the KidFit offers, but with ClearTex fabrics (flammability standards without the need of added chemicals).
- Adapt Plus ($129) – Offers a one-hand, quick release removal as well as breathable mesh (great for hotter climates).
- Zip Plus ($139) – Includes easy zip on and off fabrics for cleaning and a bonus kid console for road trips.
- Zip Air Plus ($159) – Has all the bells and whistles mentioned above but with a leg rest and a breathable backrest.
5. Britax Booster Seats ($99 – $169)
- 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. They now offer a 2-stage Highpoint seat, where you can remove the back to be used as a backless booster. This 2-stage seat retails for $10 more ($179)
- 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 and fits well in all cars. This is also a 2-stage seat.
We use the Britax 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 purpose.
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.
6. Diono Monterey ($159)
What’s unique about the Diono Monterey, is its ability to not only adjust to 11 headrest positions, but to also expand its side walls. This will potentially give you another couple years use (vs. the competitors).
At 15 lbs, this booster is beefy, but it offers excellent safety features like serious side impact protection, LATCH connectors and the ability to convert to a backless booster.
The Diono Monterey comes in three models:
- The XT (featured here) at $159
- The 4DXT starts at $199 – features upgraded breathable fabrics and additional layers of side impact protection.
- The NEW 5iST FixSafe at $269 – meant for travel, this booster folds compactly and offers even more layers of side impact protection.
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:
Cosco (not Costco!) is made by the Dorel Company, the same company that makes Safety 1st and Maxi Cosi. They’re a trusted name in the baby space.
- 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.
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!
- 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!