It’s no surprise that children grow fast! When your child has outgrown the height and/or weight limits for their harnessed car seat, it’s time to shop for the best booster car seat you can find. Booster seats are designed to help prepare your child for using the vehicle seat belt alone. They properly align the vehicle belt across your child’s lap and shoulder.
A booster seat can also help your child feel a lot more grown up. High back or backless booster seats are not only less restrictive, but they also look less like a child’s seat. Be sure you don’t move them to a booster seat too early. Harnessed seats are safer for children that haven’t outgrown their size limits.
Child boosters are also good for the other passengers in the car. They are usually a lot less bulky than traditional child safety seat. No more cramped knees for your front seat passengers. You can easily fit 3 boosters across most back seats, while other car seats can be a real challenge if you need a 3 seat configuration.
If you are in an accident, the booster makes it so that your child will have the maximum level of support and safety without harming his or her neck or chest. Putting your child in a booster seat too early can cause damage as can an ill-fitting booster seat.
When do you need a booster seat? Age and weight requirements
Your child needs a booster seat when he or she has reached the maximum height and/or weight for a forward-facing, harnessed car seat. This will typically be somewhere between 40 – 65 pounds or more. Here are some general rules of thumb if you’re unsure whether to make a transition to a booster seat.
- Has your child outgrown the weight and/or height limits of his or her harnessed seat?
- Is your child between 4 – 8 years of age and at least 35 inches tall?
- Is your child between 40 – 80 pounds and UNDER 4 feet, 9 inches tall?
- Is your child still UNABLE to sit with his back against the vehicle seat, with knees bent comfortably over the edge of the seat cushion and without slouching?
- When sitting directly on the vehicle seat, does the vehicle belt still not fit properly across the shoulder (not the neck) and over the lap (not the abdomen)?
If you answered yes to all of these, then your child is ready for a booster seat. A booster seat will last until the child is at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall, 8 – 12 years old, and up to 120 pounds for some seat models.
Don’t just go by age when deciding if you need to get a booster seat. Children all grow differently. So, if it comes down to it, the weight requirement is more important than age.
|High-back Booster Seats||Backless Booster Seats|
High-back booster seats have back and head supports and usually have seat belt guides to help position the vehicle belt across your child’s shoulder and lap.
This is the best next step for children who have outgrown a traditional harnessed seat.The extra head & neck support is good for children who still fall asleep in the car and for longer road trips. Many of these have an adjustable head rest to accommodate your growing child.
Some of these can be part of a combination or 3 – in 1 seat that convert from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster. Some high-backs also have a removable back so you can convert it to a backless booster.
Backless booster seats are the last step before your child is ready to ride without a safety seat. They are like specialized seat cushions that simply boost your child’s height. They offer no additional head or neck support.
Backless boosters have seat belt guides to properly position the vehicle belt on your child. Make sure your child’s legs bend with the seat for the safest ride.
Lightweight, compact and budget-friendly, these are the perfect seat for the child who can easily buckle themselves in without assistance.They’re easy to transport for short or long road trips.
Of course, even the best booster seat won’t work unless you install and use it correctly!
- Make sure you refer to the manufacturer’s user manual to see all size limits and how your seat works.
- For a backless booster, make sure your child’s ears do not go above the top of the vehicle seat. This will ensure they have proper head support and prevent whiplash. If your child’s ears are above the vehicle seat or you have low-slung seats, a high-back booster is the best option.
- The vehicle belt should ALWAYS make contact with your child’s shoulders and chest. It should also lie across the tops of the thighs, and NOT the stomach area. If not, try another booster or another location in the car.
Our 2019 Rating of Booster Car Seats
|Britax Frontier G1.1 ClickTight||Chicco MyFit LE||Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Booster||Graco Tranzitions||Evenflo Chase||Graco Affix||Evenflo Maestro Sport||Clek Oobr||Graco Highback Turbo Booster||Graco Atlas 65 2-in-1||KidsEmbrace 2-in-1 Booster Seat||Evenflo Big Kid||Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1|
Britax Frontier G1.1 ClickTight
Overall, the Britax Frontier G1.1 Clicktight is a fantastic seat and like all Britax products, is made in the USA. It functions as both a harnessed forward-facing seat for kids 25 - 90 pounds and up to 58 inches in height and as a booster for children 40 to 120 pounds and up to 62 inches in height, so it would be a good transition from a rear-facing seat. Dimensions (with back) are: 21”D x 19” W x 36” H.
It comes in 9 fashionable color patterns, has a 1-year limited warranty and an expiration of 9 years from the date of manufacture.
We found that the Britax Frontier was one of the easiest booster seats to install overall thanks to its ClickTight technology. The headrest has 9 positions to grow with your child. The seat cover is easy to remove and wash or just spot clean. The weight and height limits (58 in. forward-facing, 62 in. booster) are quite high. It also has one of the highest top harness heights among car seats at 20.5 inches. Heavy padding and quality construction mean it will probably last through at least a couple of kids.
The Frontier comes with 2 integrated cup holders with extra storage for snacks or small toys. It’s performed well in real life crash scenarios. This seat has won several awards for ease of use, safety, and more from several expert safety groups such as the NHTSA and IIHS.Disadvantages
This booster seat is pretty big and heavy, which wouldn’t be the best choice for frequent vehicle switches or long car trips. Another issue is that adults may need to step in to adjust the harness. It can get stuck against your vehicle seat so it’s hard to tighten. The seat belt can sometimes get stuck in the seat belt guide too.
The Frontier is not cheap. Some found the seat to be a bit narrow, but that hasn't been a universal complaint. Other minor complaints involved the cupholders which aren’t removable and the fixed armrests which can make it difficult to get the child in and out at times.Compilation of customer opinions
Overall, customers have been very happy with the purchase of this car seat. If you don’t need to switch vehicles or fly often and are ready to invest quite a bit of money in it, then the Frontier is a good booster seat option for you.
Not Quite Enough? Take a Look At These Extended Specialized Editions:
Like the Frontier, the Pinnacle is a harness to booster seat. It has the same weight and height ranges, but comes in only 4 colors. Two of those include “cool flow” fabric that has ventilated mesh for better air flow. The Pinnacle is slightly heavier and wider and has additional side impact cushions that the Frontier doesn’t have.
The Pioneer is a budget-friendly harness to booster seat that is cheaper than the Frontier and Pinnacle. It has basically the same features as the Frontier, but has lower weight limits (70 pounds forward-facing, 110 pounds for booster). It has nearly the same dimensions, but is about 4 pounds lighter than the Frontier and comes in only 4 colors.
Chicco MyFit LE
The Chicco MyFit LE is relatively new on the market. It’s a harness to booster car seat that is forward-facing for kids 25 - 65 pounds and up to 54 inches tall and a booster for kids 40 -100 pounds and up to 57 inches tall. Dimensions (with back) are: 20” D x 17.5” W x 27.5” H.
It comes in two colors and has an 8-year expiration from the date of manufacture.
Two layers of rigid shell, a steel reinforced frame, and 2 zones of side impact protection make this one sturdy seat. It has 4 recline positions with a bubble level recline indicator. The 9-position headrest is easily adjusted with a one-handed pull. The harness also has a one-hand strap for easy tightening. The Super Cinch LATCH system ensures a quick and easy installation.
One of the best features is the cupholders. They fold in if you need extra space for another car seat or passenger. They are removable and dishwasher safe too. The LE includes a KidConsole, which is a square, dishwasher safe storage box with a flip open lid that slips into the cupholder.Disadvantages
The KidConsole rattles and doesn’t stay in place very well. The headrest can rattle in booster mode, especially if there’s no kid in it and you don’t have LATCH installed. Parents reported that the rattling is better if you use LATCH with the booster, which is allowed.
The material around the crotch buckle can get in the way of fastening. Installation with the belt lockoff can be a little confusing at first. Converting from harness to booster mode has several steps that can take quite some time.Compilation of customer opinions
Customers appreciated the seat belt lockoffs and SuperCinch LATCH install that made installation easier than the original MyFit. Children liked the KidConsole for storing snacks and “treasures”. Installation and conversion proved a little challenging for some parents, but for the most part, this seems to be a well-loved harness to booster seat.
Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Booster
The Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Booster is a long-lasting 2-in-1 belt-positioning booster seat that will grow well with your child for quite some time. It can be used as either high-back (for kids 30 - 100 pounds) or backless (for kids 40 -weight limit 110 pounds). Seat dimensions (with back) are: 16.5” D x 18.75” W x 32.5” H.
It’s not very expensive, comes in 4 color choices, and is one of the easiest booster seats to install. This seat earned a Best Bet rating on IIHS for 2015. It has a 1-year limited warranty and an 8-year expiration from the time of manufacture.
One of the biggest advantages is the fact that your child can use this as a highback and a backless version. It is easy for parents to install and adjust with 10 height positions for the headrest. It’s easy for kids to buckle themselves into this booster as well. Machine washable seat pad and armrest covers make cleaning easy. The cup holders are collapsible, removable and dishwasher safe.
You can use both the LATCH system and vehicle belt to install this seat, which is rather unusual. However the LATCH connection keeps the seat in place when your child isn’t riding in it, preventing it from being a projectile in a crash. This seat is lightweight, at 10 pounds for highback and 6 pounds for backless, making it very easy to switch between vehicles or take along on vacation.Disadvantages
The seat is made in China, which can increase the chances of quality control issues. When in high-back mode, the seat rattles when the child is not riding in it, so you have to secure it with the seatbelt. You could also use the LATCH to help secure the seat. The seat also may not sit flush against the back of some vehicle seats.
The visual appeal is rather lacking compared to other Chicco products. It’s also a bit heavier and wider so it may take up more backseat real estate than the competition. The seat belt could slip out of the belt guide at the child’s shoulder, so be sure to check to make sure it’s still threaded before you drive.Compilation of customer opinions
Very few parents have major complaints about this booster seat. A few parents had trouble getting a tight installation. Some mentioned that the neck area doesn’t offer enough support for a sleeping child. Besides not fitting well in some smaller cars and vehicles with bucket seats, the Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 is a really good option for most families.
This model is a 3-in-1 harness to booster seat. It converts from a forward-facing harnessed seat (22 - 65 pounds) to a highback booster (30 - 100 pounds) to a backless booster (40 - 100 pounds). Seat dimensions (with back) are: 17.4” D x 19” W x 26.5” H.
It comes in 3 fashionable colors, has a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty, and a 7-year expiration from date of manufacture.
Like many Graco seats, this one has the Simply Safe Adjust Harness system, which easily lets you adjust the headrest and harness with one hand to 8 different positions. It includes 2 removable cup holders, machine washable seat pad, body insert, and harness covers.
This seat is lightweight (17 pounds with back) and easy to switch from car to car. It’s comfortable enough for most kids to sleep in. This is also a very budget-friendly car seat.Disadvantages
The LATCH system is not as easy to use as it could be. The hook-type LATCH connectors are difficult to attach to the anchors in some vehicles. It’s also difficult to get it tight enough by pulling the one tightening strap.
The owner’s manual is not clear, so you may need to watch videos in order to get the installation right. The back also comes off of the seat a little too easily, so you’ll need to be careful when carrying it between cars, etc.Compilation of customer opinions
Parents love the colors and that the seat padding is easy to remove and put back on after washing. By far, the biggest complaint was not being able to get the LATCH straps tight enough. A self-ratcheting LATCH system with push-on connectors would be a great improvement.
The Evenflo Chase is a 2-in-1 harness to booster car seat. It works as a harnessed seat for kids from 22 - 40 pounds and 28 - 50 inches in height and as a belt-positioning booster for 40 - 110 pounds and 43.3 - 57 inches in height. Seat dimensions are: 18” D x 18.5” W x 29.5” H.
This seat comes in 5 fashionable colors, comes with a 90-day manufacturer’s warranty and a 6-year expiration from date of manufacture.
This is a very basic harness to booster seat that is great for families on a tight budget. It’s lightweight and easy to use for everyday use on short trips to school, etc.
It has performed well in real-life crash scenarios. Parents, for the most part, have no trouble installing the seat or converting it from harness to booster mode. The harness is easy to tighten with a one-handed front tightening strap.Disadvantages
The weight limit for harness mode is pretty low compared to other seats, plus there’s no overlap between max harness weight and minimum booster weight, which doesn’t leave much wiggle room for switching. Since some 3 year olds are big for their age (over 40 pounds), this is a problem, since they’re not supposed to use the booster mode until they are 4 years old.
Some parents thought the cup holders were too shallow for taller sippy cups and felt there wasn’t enough head support for a sleeping child. A few found that the shoulder straps twisted too easily.Compilation of customer opinions
Parents love the simplicity of this seat and that it’s budget-friendly. They love the cup holders and that the seat pad is machine washable and dryable. Some felt the seat was too flimsy. It’s mostly just a basic seat that does its job well enough for everyday use. For longer car trips, you’d probably want something more comfortable.
Rated a “Best Bet” booster by the IIHS, the Graco Affix Youth Booster can be used as a backless booster seat (for between 40-100 pounds and 40 - 57 inches) or a highback booster seat (for between 30-100 pounds and 38 - 57 inches). Seat dimensions are: 10.5” D x 16.75” W x 25.4” H.
This booster is a little bit wider than other models and has a nicely padded seat, making it perfect for longer rides. It comes in 4 colors, has a 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty, and a 10-year expiration.
The LATCH system holds this seat securely in place with a one-handed front adjuster. The seat won’t wobble around, which keeps the booster from becoming a projectile threat when your child isn’t in it. The headrest adjusts to several positions to accommodate your growing child and supports her head, neck, and back well.
A “secret” storage container lets your child store snacks, small toys and other things to keep him entertained. The Graco Affix is one of the best selling seats in the Graco line, is lightweight, and is very budget-friendly.Disadvantages
The LATCH straps can be hard to uninstall due to the hook-style connectors. Some parents thought the cup holder and drawer were too small, while some mentioned the drawer is hard to pull out while the child’s in the seat. Others reported that the LATCH straps sometimes came loose and didn’t hold the seat in place well enough while their child was not in the car, which could be unsafe in a crash.
A few parents noted that the armrests were too short and not adjustable. Some also found the seat was too wide to do a 3-across car seat configuration. One of the biggest issues was that the headrest wouldn’t stay up when sitting in the uppermost positions.Compilation of customer opinions
Parents love that the seat is so lightweight and easy to install. They also like that their kids can easily buckle themselves in without the seat belt getting stuck. A few quality control issues such as the headrest not staying up are troublesome, though there have been no recent recalls of this seat.
Always be sure to thoroughly inspect all parts, and if anything is broken or malfunctioning, contact the seller and ask for a refund or exchange.
Evenflo Maestro Sport
The Evenflo Maestro Booster is a combination seat that converts from a harnessed forward facing car seat (22 - 50 pounds) and into a highback booster seat (40 - 110 pounds). It was tested (successfully) for both side impact and structural integrity at 2 x the federal crash test standards. Seat dimensions are 17” D x 19” W x 27.5 “ H.
The Maestro comes in 4 color choices. It has a 90-day manufacturer’s warranty and a 6-year expiration from date of manufacture.
Like all Evenflo products, this seat is manufactured in the USA. The upfront harness adjustment is a favorite feature for parents because you can tighten or loosen the harness quickly with one hand. Dual cupholders are integrated in such a way that they don’t add to the width of this seat, which is uncommon in a lot of boosters. A removable pillow adds extra comfort for long car trips.
An updated, expanded belt path makes it a lot easier to install with the seat belt. It is also approved for aircraft use by the FAA (harness mode). One parent reported using a Go-Go-Babyz Travelmate car seat stroller to make it easier to carry the Maestro through the airport. You can even keep the child strapped into the seat so it acts like a temporary travel system.Disadvantages
Several parents noted that the seat fabric on the bottom keeps coming loose. A few reported not being able to equally tighten both the left and right harness straps equally. Some parents had a very hard time fastening and unfastening the LATCH as well. Some kids had trouble buckling themselves in booster mode.
Some people complained about the low height limit in booster mode. This means your child could outgrow the height limit and need another seat before getting much use out of booster mode. The headrest doesn’t adjust, so children sometimes felt their shoulders were cramped.Compilation of customer opinions
Overall, parents are satisfied with this seat, but it performs better as a harnessed seat than a booster for some families. If you need a secondary seat for grandparents or a second car or do a lot of flying, this would be a good choice for its narrow profile, and it's lightweight enough to carry through the airport. For an everyday seat or one that needs to be switched from car to car often, you might want to consider other seats first.
If you're in the market for a premium booster seat, the Clek Oobr High Back Booster Car Seat is worth considering. It converts from highback (33 -100 pounds & 38 - 57 inches) to backless booster (40 -100 pounds & 40 - 57 inches). While it's higher priced than others on the market, it does deliver a lot of value. It has some really nice features to improve safety and comfort that are unique to the industry. Car seat dimensions (with back) are: 12.5” D x 20” W (w/ cup holder) x 28” H.
This seat comes in black, has a 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty, and has a 9-year expiration.
The seat’s unique rigid-latch system securely locks the booster in place using your vehicle’s LATCH system. It secures your child while in the seat and prevents the seat from becoming a projectile when not in use.
The Oobr revolutionizes the recline feature, providing a good 12 degrees of recline so your child can rest better on long trips. The seat is not made in China, which can often result in questionable quality. It’s manufactured in Mexico.
The fabric is top quality and doesn't contain harsh chemicals. It is easy to remove and clean. As your child grows, you can remove the back and convert the seat to a backless booster.Disadvantages
The seat may not fit well in certain types of vehicles, with its width blocking easy access to the belt buckle. We recommend contacting the manufacturer first to see if your vehicle is compatible with the seat before buying.
When converted to a backless booster, a gap between the vehicle’s seat back and the booster may occur in some vehicle models. As a result, your child might find the seat uncomfortable. Children who are tall for their age with longer legs may also find it uncomfortable due to the short depth of the seat. Some customers thought the seat wasn't padded enough, while a few felt the seat depth was too shallow.Compilation of customer opinions
Customers give the Clek Oobr High Back Booster Car Seat top ratings for its design ingenuity. It’s easy to install and use, goes beyond safety and comfort expectations, and has unique features that make this a premium booster seat.
Because it grows with your child by converting from a high back to a backless booster seat, the price reflects the value in innovative design and years of use. For those looking for smart advancements in booster seat design and can spend a bit more, this seat is worth a try, especially for bigger kids. Just be sure to find out if your vehicle is compatible with it before buying.
Graco Highback Turbo Booster
The Graco Highback booster is a convertible booster that starts life as a highback booster and converts to backless. The highback version holds kids from 30-100 pounds, and between 38 - 57 inches in height. In the backless mode, your child should be 40-100 pounds, and the height limits are between 40 - 57 inches. Car seat dimensions (with back) are 15” D x 16.5” W x 26.5” H.
It’s available in 3 color options and is one of the most affordable seats on our list. It was rated a Best Bet booster seat by the IIHS, has a 1-year manufacturer’s limited warranty and a 10-year expiration from date of manufacture.
This seat is one of the lightest and narrowest boosters on the market today. At only 16 inches wide, it’s easier to get a 3 seat configuration if needed, even in smaller vehicles. It is extremely easy to adjust and move around as well. Full coverage back support and a multi-layer headrest in high-back mode makes it more comfortable for long road trips. Headrest and armrests are both height-adjustable to ensure even more comfort.
Dual hideaway cup holders keep drinks and snacks within reach and fold in when not needed. The patterns on the seat fabric are less child-like so this seat will appeal more to older kids or younger ones that insist on riding in a “grown-up seat.” A big plus: the TurboBooster is very affordable.Disadvantages
Some parents actually didn’t like the light weight because they felt it was too flimsy. The high back can rattle when the seat is empty, so it’s recommended to strap it in with a seatbelt just like you would when the child is in it. Those with bucket seats said it didn’t fit well in those.
Some parents reported that the back would come loose or fall to a lower position while riding or picking up the seat. Some parents noted that the seat belt sometimes slips out of the guides. The cup holders may also be a bit shallow for taller drinks. There is no LATCH attachment, which is common for most booster seats that aren’t also forward-facing harness seats.Compilation of customer opinions
For the most part, people had no issues with this seat. It’s probably best for older kids who know how to buckle themselves in. NOTE: There IS a current recall on seats produced between December 2015 and April 2016. It does not involve an issue with the seat itself but involves information about securing the seat at all times with the seatbelt that was left out of the user manual.
Graco Atlas 65 2-in-1
For children who are over three years old and weigh more than 30 pounds (but under 100 pounds), the Graco Atlas 65 2-in-1 is a fantastic choice. It can be used as a forward-facing harnessed car seat from 22 - 65 pounds, and then converts to a highback booster from 30 - 100 pounds. It does NOT convert to a backless booster. Car seat dimensions are: 22” D x 19” W x 25” H.
The Graco Atlas 65 comes in 2 color options and isn’t that expensive. It would make a good step up from a rear-facing car seat, but you may end up needing a separate backless booster if your child still needs one past 100 pounds. It has a 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty and a 7-year expiration from date of manufacture.
This is a user-friendly seat with an easy to remove machine washable seat cover, a no rethread harness, built in harness storage and has seat belt guides that make it easy for your child to buckle themselves in.
The Simply Safe Adjust system lets you adjust the headrest (10 positions) and the harness in one simple movement. Buckle covers keep the buckles from burning your or your child’s fingers on a hot day. Removable cup holders make it easy to keep a drink and snack within reach.
Note: The cupholders are removable for cleaning purposes, but should be reattached before travel since the seat has not been safety tested without them.
One of the biggest disadvantages is that this does not turn into a backless booster, which many parents expect when they get it. Instead, you get a highback booster with a harness. The seat bottom may feel less padded than others on the market. Depending on your vehicle seat and child, the recline may be lacking, so your child’s head might slump if they fall asleep.Compilation of customer opinions
Overall, most parents found this combination booster fit their needs well. Some of the biggest complaints involved not being able to secure the seat well enough with the LATCH or seatbelt so that it flopped around. This could be due to vehicle design or user error. We recommend watching installation videos and calling Graco to see if it will be compatible with your car.
KidsEmbrace 2-in-1 Booster Seat
This model is a 2-in-1 harness to booster seat. It converts from a forward-facing harnessed seat (22 - 65 pounds) to a highback booster (30 - 100 pounds). Seat dimensions are: 17.5” D x 19.5” W x 29” H. The amazing character designs steal the show.
It comes in dozens of fun characters, has a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty, and an 8-year expiration from date of manufacture.
Kids will have smile on their face and enjoy buckling up in these vibrant, colorful booster seats decorated with all of their favorite characters. It includes a machine washable seat cover, 2 big cup holders, 2 position crotch belt, and 3 position headrest.
Detailed character decorations and choices from Disney, Marvel, DC, and Nickelodeon mean every kid can travel with their favorite hero by their side. It also is a budget-friendly car seat choice.Disadvantages
The cute characters come with a price as they make the booster seats bulky with protruding plastic heads, large armrests and cup holders. The LATCH system and seat belt connectors are not ideal with somewhat difficult straps to attach and tighten.
These seats do not offer children an extraordinarily comfortable ride. The seat cushion is thin and the character decorations protrude at the top and sides to envelop kids. The seats are fun but best for shorter rides.Compilation of customer opinions
Kids are happy so parents are happy with these car seats. The fun characters delight child passengers and are truly well done. Over longer drives the novelty wears off and the thin seat cushion can be uncomfortable. Parents biggest complaint was not being able to get the LATCH straps tight enough or the seat belt routed easily.
Evenflo Big Kid
The Evenflo Big Kid AMP is a booster seat that fits a wide range of children, from 30-110 pounds (38 - 57 inches) as a highback booster and 40 - 110 pounds (40 - 57 inches) as a backless booster. Many parents love this seat and it is one of the highest rated for the price point. Seat dimensions are 13” D x 15.5” W x 28.5” H.
The AMP comes in at least 7 different colors/patterns and is made in the USA. It has been rated as a best best booster by the IIHS. It has a 90-day limited manufacturer’s warranty and a 6-year expiration from date of manufacture.
The biggest advantage of this seat is obviously the price – it is a great deal for a booster seat. It is also convertible, which you don’t typically find in this price point. It has 6 height positions so the headrest grows along with your child. The back easily removes to convert to a backless booster when your child is ready.
Elastic cup holders fit a wide range of drink and snack containers. The seat is very light, weighing in at less than 10 pounds, so it would be a good choice for those who need to switch vehicles often. The seat padding can be removed easily, is machine washable and dries well in the dryer. It’s also easy to spot clean.Disadvantages
There are no LATCH anchors which means the seat depends on your child’s weight and the seat belt to secure it. When your kid isn’t riding in it, you should secure it with the seat belt to prevent rattling and prevent it from being a projectile object in the event of a crash.
Some parents felt that there wasn’t enough padding, especially in the lower back area when the back was adjusted higher. Some also thought that because it was so lightweight, it felt cheap and unsturdy. For a booster at this price point, that’s not unheard of. You won’t be getting a steel frame in such a basic seat.Compilation of customer opinions
Overall, most parents were happy with this seat. However, the lightweight construction makes some of them nervous about safety. Keep in mind that the only real job of a booster seat is to lift up the child so that the vehicle belt fits him properly. It’s the vehicle belt that will do the protecting in a crash, not the booster. This would be a good seat for those who are always on the go and often switch up vehicles but may not be padded well enough to be comfortable on long road trips.
Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1
The Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1 is a convertible booster that switches between a forward-facing harness seat (22 - 65 pounds), a highback booster (30 - 100 pounds) and a backless booster (40 - 120 pounds). Car seat dimensions are 18” D x 20” W x 28” H.
This seat comes in 4 colors, has a 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty, and a 10-year expiration from date of manufacture.
The Nautilus will last a long time, from the time your child grows out of a rear-facing seat until they no longer need a safety seat. The headrest adjusts easily to 5 different positions with no harness rethreading. Integrated cup holder and storage compartments in the armrests keep drinks, snacks, and small toys or devices within reach. There’s also a 3-position recline.
Harness storage keeps the straps out of the way for getting in and out easier. A steel-reinforced frame and EPS foam help make this a safe and sturdy seat.Disadvantages
The biggest complaints with this seat involve ease-of-use in installing and adjusting. The crotch buckle is really difficult to adjust to a new slot. For some people, the LATCH system is also difficult to get tight enough, as are the harness straps. It’s also hard to uninstall when needed.
Some parents have mentioned that the seat doesn’t recline enough, so their child’s head slumps when they sleep.Compilation of customer opinions
Overall, many parents have been happy with this purchase. When it works, it works well. Adjusting the crotch buckle is a very common complaint, as is the difficulty when tightening LATCH and harness straps. We highly recommend you look up installation/usage videos so you can see some useful techniques that worked for some parents.
All You Need to Know About Booster Seats
When your child outgrows their harnessed car seat, that doesn’t mean they no longer need a safety seat. Most children will need a booster once they’ve outgrown the weight and/or height limit of their previous car seat. A vehicle seat belt is actually designed for a 165 pound man, so it won’t fit a child properly until they are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall and 8 – 12 years of age.
Kids spend more time in cars than they ever have before, so it’s vital to ensure they’re adequately protected at every age and stage. And if you have a child who’s 7 going on 27, she may be ready to give up the “baby” seat and ride like a grown up. She might put up a fuss about riding in a booster seat, especially if it still looks like it’s made for a little kid. The good thing is, that many booster seats available today have a more mature, grown-up look that your kid may actually love.
If you ever come to a booster seat standoff with your child, be honest. Explain to them what the consequences are for not being properly secured in the car. Children who aren’t adequately secured are 55 percent more likely to be injured in a car accident than those who use a safety seat. Explain that a booster seat will make sure the shoulder and lap belts fit them just right to keep them safe for every trip.
If you are ever in an accident – or even have a sudden stop, an improperly fitting seat belt can injure your child more than the injury it would have prevented. If the shoulder belt doesn’t lay across their shoulder, it could cause major damage to her neck, respiratory system, or ribs. If the lap belt doesn’t fit across the tops of the thighs, it can cause damage to the internal organs, including the spleen, liver, and stomach. Sitting in a booster seat is a small sacrifice to make in order to prevent a catastrophic injury.
Just remember, you’re the parent. It’s up to you to ensure your child is safe in the car, even if she resists riding in a safety seat.
Here are some FAQ parents have about booster seats:
What age is a booster seat appropriate?
Sometimes, people rush to get their child into a booster seat. You should wait until he or she is truly big enough and old enough to use it. If your child is a wiggle worm or can’t buckle himself in without help, he should still ride in a harnessed seat.
Each state has its own requirements for age, but the general rule is never put them into a booster until they’re at least 4 years old. And even that may be too young.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently changed their recommendations, removing the minimum age for rear-facing seats. They now recommend keeping your child rear-facing for as long as possible. The fact of the matter is that rear-facing, harnessed car seats offer more protection than any other safety seats.
So at 4 years old, it’s possible (and wise) to keep your child in a rear-facing seat or at the very least a harnessed forward-facing car seat. Today’s harnessed car seats have higher maximum side limits to allow for extended use. However, you can save a step with a combination harness/booster seat. Some combination seats start as a harnessed forward-facing seat, then convert to a belt-positioning highback booster. Some of these can even convert to backless boosters.
How long should a child be in a five-point harness?
Just like rear-facing seats, the answer is for as long as possible. The secure straps, side impact protection, and headrests with protective wings are always safer than a seat belt alone.
So when can I put my child in a booster seat?
Yes, it can be a little confusing to know when to make the change. Children grow at many different rates in both size and maturity level. In general, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has three recommendations to keep in mind when it comes to when your child should use a booster seat:
- From 4 years old and 40 inches tall until at least 8 years old and 4’9”
- Have outgrown the manufacturer recommendations for their existing car seat
- Can keep upright and still when sitting on the booster seat, and naturally bend their legs over the edge of the booster seat.
- When they’ve met state age and size requirements
Can I put my 3 year old in a booster seat if he’s able to buckle himself in?
That depends on two things – the size limits of the booster seat and whether it’s legal in your state. In Colorado, for instance, children under age 4 or under 40 pounds MUST be in a harnessed safety seat.
Wait a minute – are booster seats still legal?
Yes. Since 2016, there have been misleading news reports online that reported backless boosters being banned in the US. This is not true at all. Booster seats are still very much legal and required in most states once your child has outgrown their harnessed seat.
Always check the laws for your state. You can also ask a local police officer, car seat technician or pediatrician. They will stay up-to-date on all legal requirements for safety seats.
What is the law for booster seats in my state?
Most states require a booster seat for children under a specific age, height, and/or weight. The only states that don’t require a booster seat are Florida and South Dakota. To find out the laws in your state, visit the Governor’s Highway Safety Association’s website for a complete state-by-state list.
What is the right seat for my 4 year old?
Depending on your child’s dexterity and maturity level, you should either keep them in a harnessed forward-facing seat or a belt-positioning high back booster.
When can I put my child in a high back booster?
When she has exceeded the weight and/or height limits for her harnessed seat, she’ll be ready for a belt-positioning high back booster. But no sooner than 4 years old.
Types of Booster Seats
When shopping for a booster seat, keep these things in mind:
- Your car needs to have both a lap belt and a shoulder belt in order to use any current booster seat.
- Your child must be at least 40 pounds to use the booster seat – even if he is tall, he needs to weigh this much to hold down the seat when the car is in motion.
- Ensure that you buy a booster seat with a headrest if he cannot use the headrest in the car.
There are three main types of booster seats to consider when you do decide to buy one. Some of these can come in a convertible seat that converts between 2 or all 3 of these types.
Backless Booster Seat
A backless booster seat must be used with a lap and a shoulder belt. These work together to keep your child safe. These are considered the most efficient booster seats because they are easy to move from car to car. However, there are a few fit requirements: your car needs to have a headrest, and your child’s ears must be no less than one inch below the top of the vehicle headrest when he is sitting down.
High Back Booster Seat
Once again, a high back booster seat must be used with a lap and a shoulder belt. This is good for a car that doesn’t have headrests, but it can be used in a vehicle that does have them as well so long as the back of the booster sits flush against the back of the vehicle seat. The high back booster is particularly good for smaller children that still like to nap in the car or for families that drive in a lot of stop and go traffic, as it prevents whiplash.
Forward-Facing to Booster Convertible Seat
Another popular option is a forward-facing seat with a harness that converts to a booster. This is becoming more and more popular. It will allow you to keep the same seat or seat system so that you can save some time and money. It also makes it easier for you to switch back if you find that maybe your child wasn’t ready.
How the seat works and fits your car will be largely dependent on the seat itself.
If You Need Seats for Children Living With Special Needs
It is important to note that some children require seats that fit their physical needs. Make sure to do some research about which seats have worked best for other children that have the same physical requirements as your child does, but always seek advice from your pediatrician. He or she will likely know of the best option for you or can refer you to someone who can help you find the best option.
Installation Tips for Booster Seats
When you are using a booster seat, always read the owner’s manual of both the car and the booster seat first. You will get great tips and tricks that will make installation much easier and more efficient. Most booster seats come with a plastic clip or guides that will help you to correctly position the vehicle lap and shoulder belts. Even more, your car may come with moveable pieces that you can use to adjust the clips and keep everything aligned. This is mostly true in newer cars. Another thing to be aware of is whether or not your car has lower anchors or attachments – this information should be readily available in the car booklet.
Ideally, have your child present when you are installing the booster seat so you can double check the fit and make any necessary adjustments for comfort and safety. High back boosters, for instance, require the top of the headrest to be adjusted to within an inch of the top of the child’s head.
Booster seats always have to be used with a lap and shoulder belt, unless you have a booster seat with a harness (rare). Instruct your child to NEVER place the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm. If it’s rubbing their neck too much, they likely still need to be in a harnessed seat OR you can use shoulder belt positioning clips to ensure a better fit (see below).
With backless boosters, use shoulder belt positioning clips (if they are recommended for your specific seat) for an even better fit, especially with a wiggly child. They are most likely to be found on the sides of a high back booster or attached to a strap on the bottom or back of a backless model. Sometimes, you won’t need to use the clips if the seat belt lands correctly on your child.
LATCH Systems Help Too
Though not common for booster seats, some come with LATCH systems that connect to the anchors in your back seat just like harnessed car seats. They can help keep the seat still and in place, especially for a wiggly child. They can also help secure the seat when your child isn’t riding in it so that the seat is not a projectile in an accident. If you don’t have a LATCH attachment for a high-back booster, just buckle the seat belt around it to keep it steady when your child isn’t in it.
How do I know if I’ve installed my child’s booster seat correctly?
First make sure you’re able to access the seatbelt easily. This could be a challenge in smaller cars or cars with bucket seats. Make sure you (or your child) can easily buckle it properly across their bodies. With a high back booster, make sure the seat belt slides freely within the seat belt guides in the booster seat.
Location is also very important. Ideally, place the booster seat in the center of the backseat so your child will be more protected in a side impact. Wherever you place it, make sure there is both a lap and shoulder belt and NOT just a lap belt, as some older vehicles may have in the center seat.
If you can’t put your child in the middle, put them into the seat behind the passenger side of the car. You will be able to look at your child and check on him or her throughout the entire ride. Plus it allows you to safely get your child out of the car when you park on a busy street.
If you have more than one child and have multiple safety seats in the car, you want to spread them out if possible (like in a van with multiple rows) or put them together for maximum protection. With a mix of booster and harnessed seats, place the booster seat in the middle so the older child is better protected. The harnessed seats will provide adequate side impact protection for the younger kids.
Booster Seats to Avoid
There are a few different booster seats (also applies to any safety seat) that you would be better off avoiding.
The first type is the shield booster seat. These have a big, usually padded, tray or bar that comes down over the baby’s head, and buckles into the car seat at the crotch. While a shield booster seat is still better than no seat at all, it’s no longer recommended by any professional because it can actually cause more harm than good. The bar can actually cause severe facial and head injuries in a crash. Plus there are no straps at the hips, as there are in a five-point harness. The bar height is usually not adjustable, either so you can’t get a perfect fit.
But good news: these are no longer manufactured, and it’ll be hard for you to even find one. If you do, just walk away. It would be expired already anyway.
Another thing you want to avoid is a recalled seat. Recalled seats have problems that you might be able to see, or you might not be able to see. Make sure to consistently check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration listing of recalled seats.
Keep in mind, however, that not all recalls are related to life-threatening flaws. Many times there may just be trivial issues, like missing information in the manual or a missing sticker on the seat. The best way to keep up-to-date is to be sure and register your seat – fill out that little card that comes with it and mail it off to the manufacturer (or register it online).
You should also avoid second hand seats. These come from garage sales, yard sales, thrift markets, or friends. These seats may have been in crashes, may be expired or have unseen damage. If you must buy it second hand, be sure that it is still up to date, hasn’t been involved in an accident, and has only light wear and tear.
When Can We Eliminate the Booster Seat?
Eventually, your child will grow big enough that you will be able to ditch the booster seat and use only the vehicle belt. Do not rush your child out of the booster as AAP recommends kids use booster seats until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. Parents who want to remove the booster seat should check these five things before doing so:
- Your child can sit all the way back against the vehicle seat. Their back should sit completely flat against the seat without a gap and they should not be slouched forward.
- Your child’s knees bend comfortably over the edge of the back seat. Otherwise they might slump forward to pull their legs over the seat and that can move the seat belt up onto the soft part of their belly.
- The shoulder belt sits diagonally across the shoulder, not on the neck or arm. During a crash the belt can slip off the shoulder or injure a child’s neck. Kids should be tall enough to not be tempted to put the shoulder belt behind them.
- The lap belt goes across the top of the thighs, not on the abdomen. The hip bones are the sturdiest part of the body and that is where you want to direct force during an impact.
- Your child can remain safely seated throughout an entire trip. Booster seats position kids for a comfortable ride and if they are squirmy in the car without it then the car seat is probably too big.
Remember to also check your local laws regarding car seats and boosters before moving children out of them.