Best Booster Car Seats | 🇨🇦

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Your child has aged out of her forward-facing car seat. Is this the end of her safety-seat days? Nope, she’s just moved on to the next stage. Booster seats are recommended – and in many states, required by law – until your child is tall enough for a seat belt to do its job properly.

Since it’s your child’s safety at stake, picking the right booster seat is a serious decision. But with so many on the market, how do you make the safest choice?

At BestReviews, we can help. Here we do the research so you don’t have to. We test products in our lab, talk with experts, analyze data, and consult existing customers. What we never do is accept free samples or perks from manufacturers. The result: fair and thorough reviews you can trust.

If you know what you need in a booster seat, check out our top picks. Or read on to learn more about booster seats, why your child needs one, and how to pick the right seat for your little one.

DOES YOUR CHILD NEED A BOOSTER SEAT?
Child car safety has come a long way since most of today’s parents and grandparents were kids. Gone are the days when a child could sit in the back seat of a car without even a seat belt to secure him – and rightly so.

Seat belts are designed to work properly on people of average adult height. If a child gets into a car accident without a booster seat, his seat belt could injure him instead of restrain him. A booster seat “boosts” a child up so he’s at the right height for the seat belt to work properly.

Using a booster seat is the law. Exact age, height, and weight limits vary from state to state. But in many parts of the U.S., it’s required by law that children under eight years old use a booster seat.

TYPES OF BOOSTER SEATS
Two basic types of booster seats exist: backless boosters and high-back boosters. Generally speaking, backless booster seats are better for older kids and high-back booster seats are better for younger children, but there are some exceptions.

Backless booster seats
A backless booster seat is a basic model that boosts your child up but doesn’t offer any side or back support. Since the car’s own seat provides back support with this kind of booster, it’s not recommended for use in cars with low back seats and/or no headrests. Backless booster seats are great for older kids who wouldn’t fit comfortably in a high-back model. They’re also much more affordable than high-back booster seats.

High-back booster seats
A high-back booster seat is similar to a forward-facing child car seat. Some forward-facing car seats can also be used as high-back boosters, in fact.

These types of seats may have a three- or five-point harness but can also be used with a seat belt once your kid outgrows the harness. Some, however, are just designed for seat belt use.

If you’re in the market for a booster seat because your little one has outgrown her forward-facing car seat, then this type might not be for you. That said, high-back models without harnesses are often slightly wider and taller than forward-facing car seats to accommodate larger children.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A BOOSTER SEAT
Machine-washable covers
You don’t have to be a parent to know that children are able to make a mess wherever they go.

That’s why a booster seat with detachable, machine-washable covers can be a real lifesaver.

No parent has the time or inclination to spot clean a booster seat cover after a child has spilled juice or sat on a chocolate bar and melted it into the fabric.

Safety rating
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) does safety tests on booster seats and rates them “Best Bet,” “Good Bet,” or “Not Recommended.”

Ideally look for a seat rated “Best Bet.” “Good Bet” seats are fine, too. Just make sure you have the seat belt positioning right.

Look out for booster seats that have been rated “Best Bet” by the IIHS.

Size and portability
Size matters if you’re going to be moving your booster seat from one vehicle to another.

For instance, if you have more than one car in your family or you have a school carpool going with other parents, you’ll need a portable booster. Smaller backless models are much more portable and less of a hassle to fit in another car.

Families with three children might also be interested in the width of their booster seats. If you want to fit three in a row in the back seat, you’ll need slimline models.

Belt-positioning clips
The shoulder strap of a seat belt should sit across the middle of your child’s shoulder, not on her neck or upper arm.

High-back boosters should have belt-positioning clips built into the back of the seat to help you achieve the correct belt position, and many backless models have them attached to a strap.

FOR YOUR SAFETY
Correct belt position is important for seat belts to work as they’re meant to. We recommend a booster that has a belt-positioning clip.

Recalls
Before you make your purchase, check whether your chosen brand has had any recent recalls.

TIPS FOR USING A BOOSTER SEAT
When properly fitted, the lap part of a seat belt should sit flat over the top of your child’s thighs, rather than across her belly.

Some booster seats come with cup holders, which can be a handy extra, especially on long journeys or when the driver is the only other person in the vehicle and can’t take his eyes off the road to look for a sippy cup.

Many high-back booster seats can be fitted in your car using the LATCH system, but if your child is too tall for the seat’s safety harness, you’ll need to strap her in using the seat belt.

If you’re thinking of using a secondhand booster seat, or you have one you used for an older child who’s now outgrown it, be sure to check the expiration date. Most booster seats have an expiration date of about six or seven years from the time they were manufactured.

CAUTION
Any booster seat that’s been in an accident is considered to be “expired” and should be replaced.

HOW MUCH DO BOOSTER SEATS COST?
Although your child’s safety isn’t an area in which you should be too frugal, raising kids is an expensive job.

The good news is you can find good-quality booster seats at affordable prices. There are makes and models to suit all budgets.

Inexpensive
Backless booster seats are relatively inexpensive, generally costing between $20 and $40.

Mid-range
Basic high-back booster seats cost about $50 to $80. These types of seats are designed to be used with a seat belt alone and tend not to have a harness, so they’re best for older kids.

Expensive
High-back booster seats with harnesses — which act as forward-facing car seats for children small enough to fit in the harness — are the most expensive type. They tend to cost between $150 and $300, depending on the brand and number of extra features.

FAQ
Q. When should my child switch to a booster seat?

A. Your child should stay in a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, but once he exceeds the height or weight limit or becomes too cramped width-wise, he should move on to a booster seat.

Q. When can my child stop using a booster seat?

A. Most states require by law that your child sit in a booster seat until the age of six or eight. However, many experts recommend your child keep using a booster until she reaches at least 4’9”, whatever age she may be. In the majority of cars, a seat belt won’t sit properly on a passenger shorter than 4’9”, and a seat belt that doesn’t sit properly won’t offer optimum protection in the event of a collision.

Q. What is the best seat in a car to put a booster seat?

A. For safety reasons, a booster seat should always go in the back of the car. In fact, in some states it’s illegal for kids under a certain age to ride in a booster seat in the front of a vehicle. If it has a full three-point seat belt, the center rear seat is the safest spot in a car to position a booster seat. However, in many cars the center rear seat only has a lap belt. In this case, position the booster seat either in the left or right rear seat.

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