The Best Booster Seats of 2021
The booster seat gives your child a little "boost" help to safely position the seat belt on their torso and shoulder. Below we list the top 5 booster seats we found, followed by in-depth reviews of over a dozen different options.
|Model and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. Clek Oobr Booster Seat|
|#2. Chicco KidFit Booster Seat|
|#3. Britax Grow With You Booster|
|#4. Graco Tranzitions Booster Seat|
|#5. Diono Monterey Booster Seat|
There are three primary types of booster car seats: the harness booster, the high back booster, and the bottom-only backless booster. The harness booster (also referred to as a combination booster) combines a 5-point harness with a high back booster, the high back booster serves as a belt-positioning booster by properly positioning the vehicle's seat belt for child restraint, and the backless bottom-only booster provides only the height assistance from a small seat. Our reviews cover all three types of booster car seats!
In our quest to find the best booster car seats of the year, our hands-on reviews focused on safety, versatility, convenience, ease of use, comfort, and price. For more in-depth information about how we considered each of these factors, scroll down toward the end of this page. Otherwise, let's dive into the results!
- Top 5 Booster Seats Comparison Table
- 1. Best Overall: Clek Oobr
- 2. Runner-up High Back Booster: Chicco KidFit
- 3. Best Harness Booster: Britax Grow with You
- 4. Runner-up Combination Booster: Graco Tranzitions
- 5. Best Splurge: Diono Monterey XT Booster
- 6. Best Budget Pick: Graco Highback TurboBooster
- 7. Another Budget Pick: Evenflo AMP Big Kid Booster
- 8. Britax HighPoint Booster
- 9. Graco Affix Booster Seat
- 10. Chicco MyFit Harness Booster
- 11. Best Booster Seat Overall: Graco Nautilus
- 12. Diono Cambria 2 Booster
- 13. Britax Midpoint Booster
- 14. Evenflo Chase LX
- Booster versus Harness Booster
- Why Use a Booster Seat?
- Ease of Use
- Child Weight and Height
Here are the Best Booster Car Seats of 2021!
The Clek Oobr supports from 40-100 pounds and 38-57" tall using the vehicle's seat belt, as a belt-positioning high back booster. The Oobr can also be used as a backless booster from 40-100 pounds (and 40-57" tall). The seat itself weighs a beefy 20 pounds and is 18" wide at the base, or 20" wide with cup holder attached). Clek is based in Canada and has a strong reputation for quality, style, simplicity, and safety. We love Clek products, but they are definitely more expensive than most other options. The Clek Oobr booster seat is no exception: for safety, we loved the magnesium-reinforced frame, rigid lower LATCH anchors, side impact protection, EPP energy-absorbing foam, and belt guides. For comfort, we loved the adjustable recline, extensive headrest adjustments, comfortable fabrics, and the detachable cup holder. For peace of mind, we love Clek's dedication to sustainable and low-emissions fabrics, including never using chlorinated or brominated flame retardants, and the option for Merino Wool fabric (without any flame retardants at all!). In our testing, we absolutely loved trying it out! Clek uses relatively simple designs and excel in safety measures and quality. It's a confidence-inspiring seat with its laundry list of safety features and its stellar crash test results. It's not super narrow, but 18" isn't terrible for a booster seat width, especially given the relatively high weight limit of 100 pounds. We love booster seats with adjustable recline because it can help accommodate different vehicle seat pitches, but also allows older kiddos to recline their seat and booster to take a nap on longer drives. Pulling it in and out of the car is a bit of a chore given its weight (20 pounds!), but the trade-off is the safety and structural rigidity of a reinforced frame. We'd take that trade-off any day! It's relatively rare for a reclining booster seat to also have a removable back, but the Oobr can be used as both a belt-positioning booster and bottom-only backless booster, which gives great versatility for a growing child. Installation was simple and we love rigid LATCH systems. As you likely know, the LATCH connections are only to help the booster from flying around the vehicle when not in use, they do not provide any additional safety for your child when they are seated properly. There are a couple little downfalls with the Clek Oobr. First, the fabric cannot be removed for cleaning (spot clean only). Second, the rigid LATCH anchors cannot be used in most center seating positions due to the irregular anchor spacing. Finally, the bottom seat could be a little deeper and more padded. Aside from that, we love the safety and styling of the Clek, the fact that it's made in North America, and its overall simplicity. Who else loves the Clek Oobr? It is considered a Best Bet by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and is also a top pick by our friends at Babylist and Babygearlab. You can check out the Clek Oobr here!
The Chicco KidFit supports children from 30-100 pounds and 38-57" tall, using the vehicle's seat belt, functioning as a belt-positioning high back booster. It can also transition to a backless booster that supports kids from 40-110 pounds. The seat itself weighs 10 pounds and is 17" wide at the base (with the cup holder collapsed). From the KeyFit to the NextFit and the KidFit, we love testing Chicco products! They combine great features and safety while maintaining a reasonable cost. No, they aren't the most stylish or sophisticated booster seats, but they get the job done for a fraction of the cost. For safety, the KeyFit uses Chicco's DuoZone side-impact protection, shoulder and lap belt positioners and guides, and a LATCH system to keep the seat securely in your vehicle when unoccupied. It has two collapsible cup holders, two recline positions, a wide range of headrest height adjustments (10 positions!), and an easily removable cover for machine washing. In our testing, we found the seating surface to be very comfortable relative to most other models we've tested. During installation, we loved the LATCH system and its front tightening mechanism - this is a really great feature that helps especially when you frequently swap the booster seat between vehicles. It does also have a built in recline, which is nice for fitting more upright back seats (like in trucks or Jeeps), or relatively reclined ones like in sedans and SUVs. Between its narrow frame and collapsible cup holders, this is one of the narrowest booster seats we've tested, coming in at just a hair under 17" wide at the base (the shoulder area is nearly 19" wide), making it a great option for cramped back seats (especially in backless mode). We found the fabric reasonably soft but durable, and easy to clean. For tougher cleaning situations, you can easily remove the cover and throw it in the washing machine. Negatives? Well, we thought the belt-positioner didn't always do a great job holding the seat belt in place, especially when the child unbuckles and lets the seat belt go flying upwards. Under those retraction conditions, it would sometimes pop out of the belt guide. More of an inconvenience than anything, but worth mentioning. Also, no steel-reinforced frame, though that certainly makes it lighter than the others, which many parents will appreciate. Overall, this is a great booster seat and we think your kid will love it! Who else loves the Chicco KidFit? It has great crash test ratings from Consumer Reports, and it's a top pick by our friends at Wirecutter, Babylist, and Babygearlab. You can check out the Chicco KidFit here!
The Britax Grow With You is new for this year, replacing the discontinued Britax Frontier. You won't be surprised to learn that its specifications are very similar to the outgoing Frontier, supporting kids from 25-120 pounds and 34-63" tall. With the 5-point harness it supports from 25-65 pounds (34-49"), and with vehicle seat belt (as a belt-positioning high back booster) from 40-120 pounds (44-63"). The seat itself weighs about 25 pounds and is 19" wide at the base. As you know, Britax has a strong reputation for car seat safety, and their booster car seats are no exception. The Grow With You has two layers of side impact protection, uses the amazing ClickTight install system, has a SafeCell impact absorbing base, and uses a steel-reinforced frame. When in harness mode, you can use the included premium LATCH system for children up to 40 pounds, at which point you'll need to secure the seat using the vehicle's safety belt. Convenience features include the quick-adjust headrest and harness height, integrated cup holders, machine-washable cover, and adjustable incline. In our testing, every feature was easy to use and adjust, and the cushioning and fabric were soft and durable. We found the Grow With You to be extremely well built, one might even say over-engineered, and super solid and sturdy. Of course, all that safety and over-engineering comes at a cost - Britax booster seats are relatively expensive and heavy. A combination harness booster is ideal for parents who are ready to graduate their child to a front-facing booster, usually around the age of 4 or 5, but want to retain the security and familiarity of a 5-point harness for a couple more years. While Britax says this can be used once your child is 2 years old and at least 25 pounds (and 34" tall), we strongly discourage the use of a harnessed booster before the age of about 4 years old, or a belt-positioning booster before the age of 5. In our testing, we loved the quick-adjust headrest and harness height (9 positions), two cupholders integrated into the seat (not dangling from the sides), the machine-washable cover, front-access incline adjustments (this was a great feature!), the intuitive level indicator, and the ClickTight lock-off system. We found the chest strap and crotch buckles really easy to use, and had an audible click to give us the confidence they were secure. We also liked the quality of the fabric, which was soft and comfortable while still being easy to wipe clean. Cons? Well, it's certainly heavy, large, and expensive! Outside of that, we love it - highly recommended! If you're looking for a similar booster without the 5-point harness capability, then check out the Highpoint (below). Who else loves the Britax Grow With You? The IIHS calls it a Best Bet, and it's a top pick by our friends at Car Seats for the Littles (CSFTL). Interested? You can check out the Britax Grow With You Booster Seat here.
Looking for a combination harness booster that transitions all the way from a harnessed booster, to a high back booster, to a backless booster? How about without breaking the bank? The Graco Tranzitions does it all! In harness mode, the Tranzitions can support toddlers between 22-65 pounds and 27-49" tall, in high back mode it supports 30-100 pounds and 38-57" tall, and in bottom-only mode it supports 40-100 pounds and 43-57" tall. The seat itself weighs only about 13 pounds and is 17.5" wide at the base, and comes in at only about $90! It comes with LATCH connectors which can be used in harness mode until your child is 45 pounds, at which point you need to use the vehicle's seat belts for installation. Additional features include the Simply Safe Adjust Harness System that allows you to adjust the headrest and harness between 8 positions without rethreading, two cup holders, removable and washable cover (and padding), side impact protection, and a blow-molded plastic energy-absorbing shell. The cup holders are slightly collapsible to help with tight seating situations. In our testing, we loved the soft body support pillows, easy LATCH or belt installation with intuitive guides, an easy to use belt positioner, the two crotch buckle positions, and the one-handed headrest and harness height adjustment. Our test kids found it very comfortable, though one was a little disappointed that it couldn't be reclined along with the vehicle's seat. It was super lightweight and easy to move between vehicles, and it's reasonably narrow to help with back seat spacing. There's really nothing to complain about here, it's a truly fantastic booster, and we enjoyed trying it out. It was a bit difficult to get a tight installation when using the vehicle's seat belt, but this was helped a ton by the top tether (which you use in both harness mode and belt-positioning mode). Overall, this is an excellent and highly versatile harness booster with great convenience and safety features. The only thing we might ask for is a steel-reinforced frame, but of course that would basically double its weight. Who else loves the Graco Tranzitions? The IIHS rates it as a Best Bet, and it's a top-pick by our friends at Babylist and VeryWell Family! Interested? You can check out the Graco Tranzitions Booster seat here.
the beautiful Diono Monterey supports children from 40-120 pounds and 38-63" tall (up to 12 years old!), using the vehicle's seat belt as a high back belt-positioning booster. It can also be used as a backless booster from 40-120 pounds. The Monterey XT itself weighs about 14 pounds, and is 19" wide without cup holders, and 24" wide with cup holders and its shoulder wings spread all the way out. The Monterey is an excellent option for taller or heftier kids, and is one of the most comfortable booster seat on the list. We loved the 11-height adjustable headrest and the most unique feature - the adjustable shoulder width (from 15.5" to 20" wide)! It has big aluminum-reinforced side-impact wings on the shoulder and head, an energy-absorbing EPS foam lining, super comfortable padded surfaces, an included LATCH system, two retractable cup holders (and snack holders), and adjustable recline. The cover can be removed and hand washed. We love the Diono reputation for simplicity, European styling, great usability, and high safety standards. In our testing, we were impressed with its lightweight design (only about 14 pounds), high quality parts and fabric, soft-touch arm rests and plastics, and its huge side-impact protection. Those side-impact wings are beefy and aluminum-reinforced, and they are really striking when you pull it out of the box. The coverage spans from about mid abdomen, to the shoulders, and up to the head. The adjustments were wide, especially the headrest, and we thought the adjustable shoulder width was really awesome! All of the adjustments were easy to do and felt high quality. We liked that it has two cup holders that you can swing in or out, but thought the cup holders themselves were a little too shallow for most sippy cups, risking tip-over. Unlike other Diono car seats, this has a relatively wide size that makes it less suitable for fitting more than 2 car seats in the back. The only other little issue was the cover can't be machine washed. Outside of that, we think this is an amazing and beautiful booster seat that will last your child for many years. Who else loves the Diono Monterey? It passes Consumer Reports crash tests, is a Best Bet according to the IIHS, and our friends at Wirecutter and Babygearlab call it a top pick. Interested? You can check out the Diono Monterey XT here.
The Graco Highback supports children from 30-100 pounds and 38-57" tall, as a belt-positioning booster. It can transition to a backless booster as well, supporting children from 40-100 pounds and 43-57" tall. The seat itself weighs only about 8 pounds and is only about 16.5" wide at the base. This is definitely one of the best booster car seat options for fitting three car seats in a row, given its relatively narrow stance of about 16.5" wide; it's also very lightweight so it's perfect for swapping between vehicles. Did we mention how inexpensive this is, coming in at only about $50!? Features include side-impact protection, EPS energy-absorbing foam, adjustable headrest height (6 positions), two flip-out/in cup holders, belt positioners, and reasonably soft and cushioned fabric. It has some pretty good bang for the buck given that it converts to a backless booster, is reasonably comfortable, and is super durable and long-lasting. Given the price, the dislikes are pretty minor - yes, it is a relatively barebones booster, without the LATCH system or a steel-reinforced frame. But for this price, we think it's a fantastic option with surprisingly high quality fabrics and components. If you really want the LATCH to help secure the booster to the vehicle, we suggest checking out the Graco Affix, below. Who else loves the Graco TurboBooster? It passes Consumer Reports crash tests, is considered a Best Bet by the IIHS, and is a top pick by our friends at Babylist and VeryWell Family. Interested? You can check out the Graco High Back TurboBooster here!
The Evenflo Big Kid Booster supports children from 30-110 pounds and 38-57" tall, and can be used as a belt-positioning booster or a backless booster (40-110 pounds and 40-57" tall). The seat itself weighs only 8 pounds and is only 16" wide at the base. Similar to the Graco High Back TurboBooster, this is a no-frills and relatively inexpensive (about $45!) booster car seat that is made in the USA and can be converted to a backless booster. It has an adjustable back height, smooth belt-positioners, and two cup holders. It also has head and torso side-impact protection and energy-absorbing foam, while being lightweight and easily swapped between vehicles. Did we mention how darn cheap this booster seat is!? Evenflo is known for providing low cost baby products with reliable quality, but without the fancy features, multiple pattern options, or high quality fabrics. This booster has a lot of things that the Britax and Graco offer: easily cleaned fabrics, two cup holders, some side impact and head/neck support, and height adjustment. It is lightweight at only 8 pounds, and it is also light on price, and that shows in some of the features. First, the cup holders are a little small and awkward and can't really be used to hold snacks. Second, the head and neck support aren't as substantial as the Britax and Graco options, making it more likely for you child to bob their head down during a nap. Third, it has thin foam padding that isn't as comfortable as the other options. But for this price, you really can't go wrong! Who else loves the Evenflo Big Kid Booster? It is considered a Best Bet by the IIHS, passes Consumer Reports crash tests, and a top pick by our friends at Safety.com and VeryWell Family. Interested? You can check out the Evenflo Big Kid booster here!
The Britax Highpoint supports children from 40-120 pounds and 38-63" tall, using the vehicle's seat belt (as a belt-positioning booster). It converts to a backless bottom-only booster to support kids from 48-120 pounds. The seat itself weighs about 13 pounds and is 21.5" wide at the base. The Britax reputation for safety makes their booster seats stand out against the crowd. This Highpoint booster seat has 3 layers of side impact protection, and uses a series of bright red guides to help you figure out how to position and adjust the seat and seat belt for optimal safety. The side impact protection has layers by the head, at the shoulders, and behind the shoulders. It includes lower LATCH anchors to keep the booster seat attached to your car when not in use, and uses awesome Cool Flow fabric that is highly breathable and does a great job preventing sweaty backs. It also has an easily adjustable headrest that goes very high (10 settings) without making a gap in the back, two large cup holders, and great weight range. For safety it includes EPP energy-absorbing foam, side-impact wings and external side-impact bolsters, and a lower seat belt positioning guide that helps with installation and making sure that the seat belt is positioned appropriately on your child's waist. For convenience it has two removable cup holders, a LATCH tightening system, removable and washable fabrics, and optional Cool Flow fabric. We loved testing this car seat and think it's a truly amazing addition to our list! Yes, it's expensive, but it also has tons of safety features and fantastic durability and versatility. The only thing it's missing is a steel-reinforced frame, but that helps keep it from tipping the scales over 20 pounds. Overall, we love it, but it's certainly a splurge! Who else loves the Britax Highpoint? It's a Best Bet according to the IIHS, and a top pick by our friends at Car Seats for the Littles. Interested? You can check out the Britax Highpoint here!
The Graco Affix supports children from 30-100 pounds and 38-57" tall, using the vehicle's seat belt (as a belt-positioning booster). Can also be used as a backless booster for children 40-100 pounds and 40-57" tall. The seat itself weighs only about 9.5 pounds and is only 16.5" wide at the base. You might be surprised to learn that this is the exact same booster seat as the TurboBooster, but with the addition of LATCH connectors. These can help secure the booster to the vehicle while it is not in use. Everything else is the same as the TurboBooster, including side impact protection, high quality and soft fabrics that we found easy to clean, and two cup holders (one for holding cups and one for other stuff). It's lightweight and narrow, making it an ideal booster seat for tighter installations and for easily swapping between vehicles. This seat has some nice versatility, allowing for use as a belt-positioning booster seat or a backless booster seat for taller kiddos. All the same pros and cons apply to the Affix as with the TurboBooster, other than the addition of the LATCH. Who else likes the Affix? The IIHS calls it a Best Bet, it has great crash ratings from Consumer Reports, and it's a top pick by our friends at VeryWell Family. Interested? You can check out the Graco Affix here!
The Chicco MyFit supports children from 25-100 pounds and up to 57" tall. When used with the 5-point harness it supports from 25-65 pounds and up to 54" tall, and as a belt-positioning booster it supports from 40-100 pounds (and 38-57" tall). The seat itself weighs about 25 pounds and is 17.5" wide. As one of the few combination booster car seats on our list, the Chicco MyFit can convert from a car seat with a 5-point harness to a belt-positioning high-back booster seat, giving it some great versatility. The build quality is superb, and we loved the soft-touch fabrics and plastics, ample cushioning, and easy to use adjustments and buckles. For safety, it includes bubble-leveling, side-impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, shoulder belt lock-off, and EPS energy-absorbing foam. For convenience, it has a no-rethread harness, wide headrest height, adjustable recline, removable and dishwasher safe cup holders, and comfortable arm rests. The cover was easy to remove and wash, and the seat felt very safe and secure when installed with the LATCH or the vehicle's safety belt. Our test kids found the Chicco to be one of the most comfortable booster seats they've tried, with its relatively deep seat, adjustable recline, and substantial padding. The price is somewhat steep coming in at about $150-200 depending on color. It's also heavy, thanks to the steel-reinforced frame, making it more difficult to swap between vehicles or lug through an airport. That weight also means that using the LATCH is limited to a child up to 40 pounds, at which point you'll need to transition to the vehicle's seat belt. The only other little issue we found is that some of the buttons for the harness release and headrest height adjustment are a little flimsy, but we never had any issues with any breakage or failure. Overall, the Chicco MyFit is very deserving of a spot on our best booster car seat list, and we think you'll love it! Who else likes the Chicco MyFit? The IIHS rates it as a Best Bet, and it is also a top pick by Consumer Reports. Interested? You can check out the Chicco MyFit here!
The Graco Nautilus Snuglock booster supports children from 22-120 pounds and 27-57" tall, using the shoulder harness (22-65 lbs, 27-49") or the vehicle's seat belt (as a belt-positioning booster; 40-120 lbs, 43-57"). The seat itself weighs about 25 pounds and is 21" wide at the base. For safety features, the Nautilus features the TrueShield side impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame, and EPS energy-absorbing foam. Also helping out with safety is the easy installation process, including the SnugLock install and Simply Safe harness adjustment, and LATCH connectors. Installation is made easier by a wide range of adjustments to help get your toddler or big kid comfy and safe. For convenience it has two cup holders, a harness storage area for booster mode, and superior versatility (three modes, all forward-facing of course: harness booster mode, high back belt-positioning booster mode, and bottom-only booster mode. Overall, we found it to be big, comfortable, safe, and durable. In our testing, the entire booster seat felt super sturdy, high quality, and well-built. When we started checking out the features, we were impressed with the wide range of adjustments, and the overall ease of installation. On the surface, all of the padding and fabrics were high quality and comfortable, and we liked how it included the insert for smaller toddlers and had the comfy shoulder pads and crotch buckle pad. Regarding comfort, we didn't appreciate how the arm rest wasn't well padded (or padded at all), but we did like the big and detachable cup holders. Going below the surface, we were really impressed with the safety of this seat. It not only has two layers of side impact protection, it also has a steel-reinforced frame and EPS energy-absorbing foam. The steel-reinforced frame helps justify the weight and bulkiness of the seat, and we're definitely willing to compromise a bit on weight for safety benefits. A couple other little issues we encountered. First, the position of the crotch buckle was somewhat tight, especially if you have a heftier child. Second, the padding wasn't as comfortable as some other models, and installation wasn't as easy as with some of the Chicco or Britax models. Overall, we really like this harness combination booster, and think it's a great option for those looking for superior versatility and excellent safety features. Speaking of which, the Nautilus receives the BEST crash test rating from Consumer Reports, and is rated as a Best Bet by the IIHS. Can't beat that! Interested? You can check out the Graco Nautilus Booster seat here.
Important Note: on March 24, 2021, Diono issued a recall for certain units of the Cambria 2 manufactured between September 5, 2020 - November 30, 2020; you can read more about the Diono Cambria 2 recall here. The Diono Cambria 2 supports children from 40-120 pounds and 38-63" tall (about 4-12 years old), using the vehicle's seat belt (as a belt-positioning booster). Can also be used as a backless booster. The seat itself weighs 12 pounds and is about 19.25" wide at the base. As you know, Diono has a long history of making excellent convertible car seats and booster seats, with superior quality, comfort, and safety. This new version of the Cambria (the Cambria 2) booster seat can serve as a belt-positioning booster or a backless booster, giving it some nice versatility. For safety, it has head and torso side-impact protection, LATCH connectors to secure it to the vehicle, energy-absorbing EPE foam, and aluminum lined sidewalls. For features, it has a good weight range and a superior upper height range (63") for tall kids. There is adjustable recline, adjustable headrest height (6 positions), and a belt-positioning strap (for backless mode) that is unique to this Diono booster seat. The fit and finish are high quality and the fabrics are soft and washable. Did we mention that this is only about $80? For a Diono, that's a sweet deal. In our testing, we thought the LATCH system was a little tricky - be careful not to pull the connectors too far out from the back of the seat or you'll never be able to route them back through! Definitely read the manual and be careful during this step. Also, even though the Cambria 2 is an improvement on the Cambria 1, and has slightly thicker seat padding, it still was pretty thin and more than one child complained about it. The cup holders are relatively shallow, and it's quite a bit wider (19.25") than many other options. Overall, we like the style and build quality, and think it's a great overall booster seat; but we also think for about $100 you can probably do better! Who else likes the Diono Cambria? It passes Consumer Reports crash testing and is considered a Best Bet by the IIHS. Interested? You can check out the Diono Cambria here!
The Britax Midpoint booster supports children from 40-120 pounds and 38-63" tall, using the vehicle's seat belt as a belt-positioning booster. The seat itself only weighs 12 pounds and is a bulky 20.5" wide at the base and shoulders. This booster seat runs about $120 when it's not on sale, making it a great price point for the comfort, safety features, quality, and convenience. It's a hefty car seat in terms of bulk but not weight, and it packs two layers of side impact protection and super comfortable padding and fabric. It uses lower LATCH anchor quick-release connectors to keep the seat from flying around the vehicle when unoccupied, energy-absorbing EPP foam, a steel-reinforced lower frame, and the SecureGuard lower belt clip. For convenience, it has a quick-adjust headrest position (10 heights), and a removable and machine-washable cover with moisture-wicking and highly breathable "Cool Comfort" fabric. Comfort and convenience are high with this booster seat, and helped by the soft padding, comfortable fabric, arm rests, and two cup holders. In our testing, we were really impressed by how lightweight but sturdy and high quality this booster felt. Our test kids found it to be very comfortable, even without a recline function. We appreciated how lightweight it was, making it an easy booster seat to swap between vehicles as needed. The SecureGuard lower belt positioner gave us peace of mind that our child was accurately positioning the lap belt on his waist, which was a nice touch though yet another thing to pay attention to (for better or worse) when securing your child. If only there were a similar feature for the shoulder belt (like on the Diono Cambria), which in our experience is far more likely to be incorrectly positioned on a child (especially on a squirmy one!). For cons, the padding could be a bit thicker on the bottom, it would be great to have a seat not made in China (for those who care), it would be a nice bonus to have it convert to a bottom-only booster, and the price could be a bit lower given its comparability to other less expensive boosters. Interested? You can check out the Britax Midpoint Booster here.
The Evenflo Chase supports children from 22-110 pounds and 28-57" tall, using either the 5-point harness (22-40 pounds and 28-50"), or the belt-positioning booster (40-110 pounds and 43.3-57"). The seat itself weighs 11 pounds and is 20" wide at the base. This is a combination harness booster seat, which means that it can be used with a 5-point harness and then transitioned to a belt-positioning booster seat that uses the vehicle's seat belt. For only around $65 that's some serious versatility when you consider that you can use it as small as 22 pounds (and 28" tall), and all the way up to 110 pounds (and 50" tall). The ability to go down to 22 pounds is huge, though we strongly suggest using a rear-facing car seat for as long (at least 2 years old) as possible before converting to any front-facing car seat, and don't suggest transitioning to a belt-positioning booster car seat until your child is about 5 years old. The overall comfort and styling were also pretty good for the price, and we liked that it has two cup holders, the LATCH system, and side-impact protection. Some cons are that the harness needs to be re-threaded from the back to adjust its height, the belt-positioners are in an awkward position making them difficult to use, the seating surface is very narrow and shallow (even for our 6 year old), there's no recline, and the lower padding leaves something to be desired (it's very thin). In terms of safety, it does not have a steel-reinforced frame or energy-absorbing foam. The cup holders are shallow and flimsy. Finally, it uses the LATCH system, but it's the old version of the system which is quite a pain to work with. In our opinion, the only thing this booster seat really has going for it is the bang for the buck: you're getting a combination harness and belt-positioning booster for only about $65, which is basically unheard of. It's not great, but that price makes it pretty appealing! Interested? You can check out the Evenflo Chase here!
Conclusions: How we found the best booster car seats!
Booster versus Combination Car Seat? Parents often wonder whether to get a combination harness booster or a regular booster car seat for their child. There are a few things to consider when assessing the type of booster you need. First, the differences between the two car seats. A regular booster seat will use the vehicle's seat belts to secure the child into the seat. The LATCH system might also be used to secure the booster into the car, but this is only to keep the booster in place when it's not being used (so it doesn't fly around the car when you need to stop quickly). Unlike a harness booster seat, a regular booster car seat will not have a built-in 5-point harness system. Because it doesn't have the 5-point harness system, it is only to be used with children over 40 pounds and at least 38" tall.
The combination booster car seat is a bit different, as it includes the 5-point harness for smaller children and then transitions to a belt-positioning booster (using the vehicle's safety belts). The combination booster car seat is sometimes called a combination harness2booster car seat, a 2-in-1 booster, or a harness booster, and is useful for parents who want to go directly from an infant car seat into a front-facing car seat that will transition eventually to a booster.
Transitioning to a booster from an infant car seat may not be a super comfortable ride, at least not as much as a (usually more expensive) convertible car seat. This is because booster seats tend to have less padding and support than a convertible car seat, and are often restricted in their recline settings. So if you and your child are ready to transition to front-facing but your baby is not yet over 40 pounds and at least 38" tall, then you should probably consider a convertible car seat instead of a combination booster.
Finally, a 3in1 harness booster can go all the way from a booster with a 5-point harness, to a belt-positioning booster, to a backless booster (bottom-only), giving you serious versatility.
Why Use a Booster Car Seat? Though many parents do skip from a convertible car seat directly to using the vehicle's seats and seat belts, this is not recommended by the NHTSA because the booster seat positions the child correctly for using the lap and shoulder belts. Without the booster car seat, the child's lap and shoulders will be too low and the seat belt will not fit properly, posing a substantial safety risk.
For example, if the lap belt is too high it can increase the risk of abdominal injury during a crash, and if the shoulder belt is too high it will be on the neck instead of the shoulder. The booster car seats can do a great job of reducing injury risk due to improper seat belt positioning. Depending on the height of your child and where the vehicle's shoulder belt hits your child's shoulder, you will need to use the belt-positioning booster (with the highback on it), or for taller kids (usually over about 45" tall) you can use the backless boosters because the vehicle's seat belt will hit the child's shoulder in the appropriate way. Some seats, like the Diono Cambria, have a unique shoulder belt positioning strap that can be used in backless mode. This is a great solution when you don't want to lug around a heavy high back booster, but still want to ensure the shoulder belt is properly positioned on your child's shoulder.
Ease of Use: Now that your child will be expected to buckle and unbuckle him/herself, ease of use becomes very important. The easier the latching mechanisms and reach-over to the buckle, the less frustrating of a transition this will be to a booster car seat. For the ease of use portion of our ratings, we focused on how easily kids could manage any buckles and latches, and how well the booster positioned the car's shoulder belt in a way that made it easy for kids to reach. All of our options scored very well in this category. Some of them provide their own buckle positioning mechanisms, ensuring ease of use and safety. Some also provide a LATCH system to secure the seat to the car; this is not for child safety, this is to keep the booster secure in the car when it's not in use. For instance, if you have an accident or need to stop short without your child in the car, you don't want the booster seat flying toward you. Many parents think that relying on the car's shoulder and lap belt is great because you can be more confident regarding safety standards of the vehicle manufacturer, and it teaches your child how to use and correctly position a regular seat belt (a skill they will use throughout life!).
Safety: You will notice that most of the booster seats on our list are considered a Best Bet by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS conducts comprehensive tests of booster seat safety and usability, and we constantly monitor their results. The IIHS uses a highly rigorous testing methodology and we consider their results very important in determining rankings. We also review and monitor the Consumer Reports crash test results, which are available for booster seats and all-in-one car seats, and provide a "Pass" or "Fail" determination for structural integrity during a crash. As with the IIHS ratings, we consider these results in our annual rankings.
Price: Now that your child is likely graduating from a convertible car seat, you will be happy to find out that booster car seats are substantially less expensive. We suggest spending about $50-100 on a high quality booster seat, though you will notice that our most expensive option is nearly triple that price. We don't think it's necessary to spend that much to get a great booster car seat, but if you really like the features, there are some very comfortable and high quality options. Of course, the most expensive booster car seats also tend to be plusher, with softer fabrics, and use higher quality and lighter parts. It is important to mention, though, that more expensive booster car seats are not necessarily safer. When used correctly, all booster seats meet safety requirements of the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Some of the less expensive brands may meet NHTSA minimum requirements whereas others go beyond those standards, meeting or exceeding highway safety regulations. A good example of going beyond NHTSA requirements to increase safety is using multiple (or very thick) layers of side impact protection, have a steel-reinforced frame, and use more extensive energy-absorbing foam. In reality, the most important aspect of car seat safety is a proper installation, so whichever seat you purchase, be sure to read the owner's manual and make sure you're doing installation correctly.
Child Weight and Height: The U.S. federal government recommends belt-positioning booster car seats from as early as 4 years old (and a minimum of 40 lbs) to as late as 12 years old. Typically parents switch to just the vehicle's seat and seat belt at around 9-10 years old, depending on height, weight, and developmental progress. Most booster car seats are for children from about 40 to 100 lbs, though some go up over 100 lbs. In terms of height, they are usually made for kids 38" to 60" tall. But always check the details on the box or label because even within a single brand, different models have different specifications. Of course, a harnessed booster can usually be used at a lower weight and height than a belt-positioning booster, though we do not recommend transitioning to harnessed booster until your child is about 4 years old.