The best toddler booster seats are those that keep your toddler safe while still comfortable. Though age and size limits depend on the model, booster seats generally start at a minimum of 4 years old and at least 40 pounds.
Backless booster car seats depend on your vehicle’s seat for head and back support and the vehicle seat belt for restraint. Their main function is to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. Most have no other installation mechanisms, though some boosters have a LATCH connection system to provide extra stability.
Many of the high back booster seats come with a harness system, so they’re a good option if you’re on the fence about a backless booster. Plus, if you have a car with no headrests in the back seat, a high back booster is necessary. Feel free to browse our high back booster seat listings to see if one is right for you.
To determine if your child is ready for a backless booster:
- Has your child outgrown the manufacturer’s recommended size limits of his current car seat?
- Is your child 4-8 years of age and at least 35 inches tall?
- Are they 40-80 pounds and under 4 feet, 9 inches tall?
- Can he NOT yet sit with his back straight against the vehicle seat while his knees bend completely over the edge?
- Is it obvious that the vehicle seat belt alone doesn’t fit where it would on an adult?
- Does your back seat have headrests that are higher than your child’s ears?
If you answered yes to all those questions, you’re probably okay to go shopping for a backless car seat.
Backless Booster Rating of 2018
|Graco Affix Backless Booster||Evenflo AMP Select||Clek Ozzi Backless Booster||mifold Grab-and-Go||Graco TurboBooster||BubbleBum Backless Booster|
Graco Affix Backless Booster
The Affix is one of the easiest boosters to use, making it perfect for busy families. It has a weight range of 40 to 100 pounds and a height range of 40 to 57 inches or when the top of the ears are level with the headrest of the back seat.
Overall, this is one of the “easier” seats on the market today. It is a fantastic option for a first backless booster seat and it’s affordable enough to buy one or two more extras.
Of all the seats we reviewed, the Affix is one of the easiest backless booster seats. Everything is easy to set up, easy to adjust, and easy to move. It’s only 5.6 pounds, so if you can lift a bag of sugar or a toddler, transferring it between vehicles isn’t strenuous. Installation takes all of 14 seconds with a one-handed LATCH system you can adjust from the front of the seat.
An integrated cup holder keeps drinks close by and secure, while a sliding storage compartment holds extra snacks, ear buds, and handheld games. The seat pad is machine washable, which is always a big plus.
Several parents noted the cupholders were missing upon delivery. However, we discovered that the cupholders are usually stored in a slot under the seat itself, so be sure to check there.
Other parents had issues getting the straps equally tight on the car’s LATCH anchors. Be sure to check all parts, and if anything is missing or malfunctioning, call Graco for a replacement.
Overall, parents love how easy the Affix is to use. It’s light, affordable, and includes a LATCH system, which could make it safer than those without. An excellent choice if you’re taking your first foray into booster seat territory.
Evenflo AMP Select
One of the prettiest backless boosters on our list, the AMP comes in 8 funky colors and patterns. This may make it more appealing to the kids who fuss about still riding in a “baby seat.”
Besides the cool colors, the AMP is functional enough for long road trips with the padded armrests. Elastic dual cup holders fit drinks of all sizes from fast food sodas to water bottles. It comes with a belt clip to get the seat belt fit just right.
The easy-on, easy-off seat pad is machine washable. However, parents added that it’s easy to spot clean as well, so minor spills can be quickly wiped away so you won’t need to wash it all the time.
Some parents thought it felt too light and flimsy to be safe. Others commented the seat padding was too thin and uncomfortable.
If you have a smaller car, this seat can be a bit too wide. Measure your seats before you commit to this one.
The vast majority of customers had no problems with this seat. It’s super cute, and a few parents said their children were fighting over who would use the seat. For the price, it’s a solid choice, especially if you don’t have a compact car.
Clek Ozzi Backless Booster
The Clek Ozzi Backless booster seat accommodates children from 40-120 pounds and between 40 and 57 inches. It can be used for up to nine years, so it can easily be handed down to younger siblings.
It connects with rigid lower anchors, which is pretty rare, and has a metal substructure, making it really safe. However those same features make it a poor choice for frequent vehicle switches.
The Crypton stain-resistant fabrics are fantastic and prevent bacteria growth. Beneath the cover lies energy-absorbing foam plus a thicker foam cushion to prevent “numb bum.”
There are several accessories available, such as a carrying strap, drink holder, cleaning kit, travel bag and seat mat. This one comes in basic black, but you can order other colors/patterns for the seat cover.
Firstly, this booster seat is about twice the price of most of the seats on our list. Some parents said it was really hard to attach the seat to the lower anchors with the rigid-LATCH system. Plus, there’s no strap on the front to release it, so switching the seat between vehicles will be a challenge.
The sleek design is nice for bigger kids who don’t want the cutesy seats, but several parents hated the big warning sticker that’s on the front of the seat. The biggest downside we found was the lack of accessories included. This one is barebones, and you have to special order all extras from the company.
Overall, this is a sturdy, safe and comfortable booster seat, especially for long drives. If you don’t have to switch the seat between cars often and don’t want a lot of accessories, it’s a great investment.
The Mifold Grab-and-Go is by far the most unique seat on this list. It’s designed to fit its name - this seat folds up into a compact little package you can take anywhere.
From looking at it, it doesn’t seem like it would do the job of a booster seat. It works not by boosting the child up, but by bringing the seatbelt down so it fits properly. This flat little thing is fully safety tested and meets or exceeds all standards.Read Full Review of mifold Grab-and-Go
If you’re always on the go and switching vehicles, you should definitely consider this seat. It’s for children 40-100 pounds and 40-57 inches tall. You can fold it up and store it practically anywhere, like backpacks, purses, glove compartments, etc.
This seat could be a great option for smaller, compact cars that don’t fit other booster seats well.
This seat is a new invention from a recent start-up company. Though fully safety-tested, we’re not sure how well they tested comfort levels. It looks as though it would be comfortable from the way it sits flat against the seat bottom, but several parents said their children complained about it being uncomfortable.
Other parents said they could not figure out how to use it, while others said their children couldn’t buckle it and couldn’t release it without help. If you’re a booster seat novice or take long road trips, this seat may not be for you.
Many parents love this seat because it is so portable and light. But the comfort level is questionable, as is the ease of use. The company does have several instructional videos that could be very helpful if you’re willing to give this new design a try.
Just like the Affix, this is a truly versatile backless booster seat. It has a weight range of 40 to 100 pounds, an age range of 4 - 10 years and a height limit of up to 57 inches. It’s similar to the Graco Affix, with more padding but no LATCH system.
The sleek, modern style helps your “big kid” feel like they’re not riding in a baby seat.
Two hideaway cup holders keep drinks within reach. If you don’t need them, just slide them back in to save some room in the back seat. Adjustable-height armrests improve the comfort level for taller children. It also comes with a seat belt adjuster to help the shoulder strap fit better for smaller kids.
The seat and armrest covers are removable and washable. Many kids appreciated the thicker seat and armrest padding over the Affix model.
Several parents were disappointed in the lack of a LATCH system in this seat. It seemed less stable than others that can be anchored. While the fabric is easy to clean, several parents noticed it came apart at some of the seams. One parent noticed her son’s velcro shoes snagged the fabric badly, so it may not withstand the kind of wear and tear of an energetic toddler as well as other models.
Most parents and kids loved this seat. For the price, it’s a great value and would probably work best with an older child that wouldn’t put as much wear and tear on the fabric.
BubbleBum Backless Booster
The only inflatable booster seat on our list, the BubbleBum is great for traveling. When deflated, it packs easily into a suitcase or tote bag. It’s simple and sleek, with that big kid look your older child might appreciate.
The BubbleBum is less than a pound, so it won’t tire you out moving it from car to tote bag. The narrow width works well if you need 3 car seats in the back. We loved that it easily deflates and rolls up, and even includes a drawstring carry bag.
This seat works great for rental cars or cab rides when you’re on vacation or when you need an extra for a carpooling or a surprise trip with the grandparents.
While the narrow width is good for fitting more kids in the back seat, it was uncomfortable for kids with a wider bum. So if your child isn’t petite, they might feel like they’re sitting on an unstable ball.
To inflate it, you have to blow into it, which can be a challenge for those with breathing difficulties. The fabric isn’t removable, but you can clean it easily because it’s so compact and light. Several parents reported air leaks and deflation during long trips, but this seat isn’t really designed for long car rides.
As a travel seat, the BubbleBum is worth a try in rentals, Uber, and taxis, but if you need something for everyday, extended use, you should look elsewhere.
Not sure whether your child’s ready for a booster seat?
Your kid may be in that in-between state where it’s hard to determine if they’re big enough for a booster seat. When to start using a booster seat will depend on local regulations and specific manufacturer’s guides. Visit SafeRide4Kids.com to see what your state laws are regarding booster seats.
However, vehicle belts are designed to fit 165 lb. males, therefore even with a booster seat, the vehicle seatbelt may not provide the safest fit. That’s why experts recommend children remain in a harnessed seat for as long as possible. That 4 year old minimum age is probably best suited for those with larger builds who can be trusted to stay buckled and still.
Common myths about booster seats
If you ask two different caregivers about when a child is ready for a booster seat, you’ll likely get two different answers. Some people don’t think they’re needed at all, whereas some think as soon as a child is 4 years old, they can use a booster. Let’s dispel some of those misconceptions:
Myth: My child can use a booster as soon as they meet the minimum height and weight requirements.
FALSE. Children grow physically and mentally at different rates. While one child may be the minimum size at 4 years old, he or she may not be mature enough to sit still in a booster seat. Other children may be mature enough to sit still, but too short or light to be safe in a booster seat. Waiting until your child is at least 5 years old and is able to sit still for the duration of a trip is the safest bet.
Myth: State law says I can let my child ride without a booster when she’s 8 years old, so I should trust that.
FALSE. Laws vary from state to state. Some state laws say children can go without a booster at 5 years old, while others say a child must ride in a child restraint until they’re 10 years old. This can be a problem for interstate driving if you’re pulled over. Best (and safest) practice is to use a booster until 10-12 years old and at least 4’9” tall. That will cover regulations for all 50 states and Canada.
Myth: A high back booster is safer than a backless booster.
FALSE. If you have a car with low seat backs or no headrests, you have to use a high back booster. No exception. Opt for a high back booster if the shoulder belt doesn’t fit properly (diagonal across the chest, not the neck), if she slumps while sleeping, or can’t sit safely still in a backless model.
Myth: Lower anchors can’t be used with booster seats.
FALSE. As you can see in our list above, several backless boosters come with LATCH systems just like those in infant and high back boosters. They can help stabilize the seat to make it easier for the child to get in and out and buckle herself in.
Myth: You don’t need to replace booster seats after a crash.
FALSE. Some booster manufacturers build seats that are compliant with NHTSA reuse guidelines. However, just like with other car seats, if you’re involved in more than just a bumper tap, it’s better to be safe than sorry and replace your booster seat.
Should you choose a high back or backless model?
High back booster seats tend to provide a better fit for the shoulder belt, since they have a built-in belt guide at the top of the seat. This is especially true for the younger toddlers. While a belt clip on a backless seat may properly hold the shoulder belt in place, if your child is wiggly, the clip could come loose and be useless.
- Pros of high back booster seats
- Headrests provide head and neck support for sleeping children, and another layer of protection in a crash.
- Great (and necessary) for vehicle seats with no headrests or low seat backs.
- Keeps a sleeping child positioned properly so they don’t slump out of the seat belt.
- Those with a 5-point harness provide more even protection across the child’s torso, especially younger children whose skeletons are still growing and fragile.
Some crash tests have shown much better results with high back boosters for keeping the child more stable in a crash. This may depend largely on how well the backless booster positions the shoulder belt. If it’s too high or too low, there’s an increased risk of your child slipping out of it upon impact.
But, a backless booster is much better than no booster at all. Studies show that with any type of booster, the risk for injury to children 4 – 8 years of age is reduced by 45%.
- Pros of backless booster seats
- More affordable – often within the $15 – $30 range.
- Lighter, which makes it easier for switching vehicles and traveling.
- Tend to look less like a “baby seat” than a high back booster, so older kids are less likely to complain.
- Come with shoulder belt clips and sometimes seat belt guides that function like a high back booster.
- Some models include a LATCH system for greater stability.
If you think you’re ready for a backless booster seat, consider starting with one that includes a LATCH system and a clip that helps position the shoulder belt properly. Those with cup holders that slide in and out or elastic cup holders won’t take up extra space in the backset when you need a few more inches.
Other available options
If you just can’t choose between a high back or backless booster, consider an all-in-one or a convertible car seat. These are often designed to last from birth through the booster seat stage. Some have removable backs, so that you can take advantage of the extra head support and shoulder belt guides until they’re ready for a backless seat.
From all the options available on the market, you’re sure to find the right one for your child and your lifestyle. Just keep these things in mind as you shop:
- Is it safe? Check for any recent recalls.
- Is it comfortable? Read reviews, ask friends for recommendations or examine the seat in a store for a firsthand opinion.
- Is it affordable? Top of the line car seats aren’t always the best, though often you get what you paid for, so try to invest in at least a mid-range priced seat.
- Is there a LATCH system or other extras? Whether you feel safer with a LATCH system or really want cup holders, check out the extras (if any) that come with the seat.