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If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best backless booster seat is, I’d recommend the Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster.
Kids. Every time you think you have what you need to keep them fed, clothed, and safe from harm, they hit a growth spurt, and you need to buy something new!
This is especially true for car seats. Most parents end up purchasing an infant seat, a convertible car seat, a highback booster seat, and a backless booster before their child is old enough and big enough to sit in a seatbelt without any extra assistance or support.
Once children hit the preschool/early elementary range, it might be time to start researching the car seat they will need next. Enter this comprehensive review of the best backless booster seats!
Here are the backless booster seats I will be reviewing:
When to Make the Switch
Before selecting a backless booster, it’s crucial to make sure your kiddo is ready to make the move from a 5 point harness or highback booster to a backless booster. Thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are some very clear guidelines to help make that decision.
Children should be in a five-point harness car seat until they are at least four years old. This isn’t a random age but is due to bone and muscle development that typically occurs around this time.
To move into a booster seat, children should be at least 40 lbs. For lighter kids, that means they may be in a five-point harness longer than some of their friends. It’s frustrating, I know, but in reality, it’s the best choice to keep them safe in the car!
Current Carseat Fit
You do not have to switch to a booster seat if your child has reached the age and weight guidelines, but you do need to be aware of the height and weight maximums for their current seat. If they are taller or weigh more than the car seat is designed to hold, that will decrease the efficacy of the seat.
Do They Need a Booster?
Kids, especially as they reach that “big kid” stage, always want to be done with things they perceive as babyish, and unfortunately, car seats can fall into that category. However, children need a booster for a lot longer than most people realize.
Boosters are designed to help seatbelts fit appropriately. If your child is not tall enough for the seatbelt to work correctly, then they could be seriously injured in a crash. A booster seat gives the child the extra height needed, as well as guide the seatbelt into the right position so that they are as safe as adults.
Here are some helpful criteria that kids should meet before they move out of the booster seat:
- Are they at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall?
- Do they weigh at least 80 lbs?
- Are they at least 9 years old?
- Can your child sit all the back against the seat?
- Do their knees bend easily at the edge, without the need to slouch?
- Does the lap belt fit snugly across the tops of their thighs (NOT their tummy!)?
- Does the shoulder belt lay flat across the center of their shoulder and chest?
- Can they sit in this position for the whole trip?
Once the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes!” then your kiddo is ready to kick the booster. Until then, keep them safe by picking one of the best backless boosters!
Features of Backless Boosters
Like other car seats and almost every piece of child safety equipment, there is a wide range of features and prices to choose from when you make your purchase. Here are some of the most important things to keep your eye out for when you’re selecting a backless booster.
Just like infant and convertible car seats, some backless boosters come with a LATCH system to help keep them securely in place in your car.
Since you always use the standard seatbelt with a booster, you don’t absolutely need the LATCH system to keep the seat in place, at least when your child is using it.
If you do get a booster without the extra tethers, I suggest teaching your kiddo to buckle the booster seat in, once they get out. This way, in the event of a crash, the booster is more likely to stay in place than go flying through the car.
As kids get older, they tend to ride in other people’s cars more often. Consider if your child will need to take their booster to Grandma’s house, carry it along on vacation, or need it in when they carpool with another family to soccer practice. Some boosters are definitely easier to move than others!
Many cars these days have backseat cupholders, but not all, and we all know how convenient it is for your kiddo to have a place to put their water bottle, a snack, or even just a small toy, so a booster with cup holders can be a plus!
Careful though, cup holders can make the car seat wider, which leads to the next feature.
There is a wide variety of booster seat sizes. Some work better if you’re trying to fit multiple car seats across a row of the car, while others are more targeted to kids who need a little extra space. Consider what your family needs when it comes to size before making your decision!
To help direct your research and make it easy to compare, I have divided our backless booster reviews into groups with like features.
My Best Boosters Without the LATCH System Reviews
These are the best backless booster that do not have the LATCH system.
Graco gives all their hallmark safety and security to parents of older kids with the TurboBooster Backless Booster. As with all Graco products, the safety ratings meet or surpass federal standards, bringing parents peace of mind. Once your child is both old enough and big enough to transition to a backless booster, this one is worth a try.
It has the standard weight range of 40-100 lbs, making it work well for kids of many ages, and the recommended height is 43-57 inches tall. If your child has outgrown the booster due to height, then they are ready to sit unassisted anyway.
Strangely enough, the most significant pull for my kids is the adjustable armrests. They don’t all have armrests in their seats in the far, so this is a luxury for them, and they claim it makes the seat more comfortable, compensating for the less than cushy bottom.
I love the hide-away cup holders since they give you convenience but don’t prevent you from putting three across in the back seat when necessary. I also appreciate the machine washable cover, but I will say that the fabric itself isn’t super high-quality and tends to fray and tear pretty quickly.
While there’s a lot of standout features for this one, there is a notable absence of any latch or tether options to secure the seat. This isn’t an issue for when your child is IN the seat, but any unsecured object in the back of your car can become a hazard, so it’s a safety issue.
For a slightly higher price tag, you can get all the features of the TurboBooster in the Graco AFFIX and also enjoy the LATCH system.
The Cosco Topside Backless Booster is definitely budget-friendly and will give you safety and security for a low price. It meets or surpasses all the federal guidelines and is a great little no-frills seat.
The cover has some extra padding, so kids might find it more comfortable than others without any of the plush, but unfortunately, it’s a hand wash only cover, so if you have a lot of spills (or just dirty kids like me) you’ll want to take that into consideration.
A major perk of this seat is that it’s incredibly lightweight and narrow. That’s important for people who travel often and want to be able to carry this on the plane (yes it fits on an airplane seat so you can avoid checking it!) or if you switch cars around a lot.
I also appreciate that it is narrow enough to fit three in a row across the back of the car without any issues. That’s been important for my family, especially when they go somewhere with their babysitter or aunt.
If your kids are a bit bigger for their age, definitely try a different model, as the narrow seat can be a struggle for those kiddos at the top of the growth charts.
The “armrests” on this model are so low that I question whether or not you can even qualify them as such, but they can interfere with the proper seat belt path, so that will be something to work through with your kids on your first few rides.
The Chicco GoFit Backless Booster is a high-end booster option that has some extra comforts and features that make it worth the investment, particularly if you’re only buying one seat!
If you’re a road-tripping family, this is one booster that may help lessen the complaints of your backseat riders. The seat has double foam padding for extra support and comfort, making it a cushier ride than some of the other options.
Both the seat pad and the armrest covers are removable, so after long car trips, or just rides home from the park, you can take them off and pop them in the washing machine, so they’re good to go the next day. (You’ll have to hang dry, so make sure to allow time for that!)
The GoFit has a seatbelt guide and shoulder belt trip to ensure a secure fit with your seatbelt. I find that it’s beneficial for younger kids who are prone to mess around with the belt placement, thus compromising the high safety standards of the seat.
There’s a handy dandy handle to carry the booster if you’re moving from car to car, but the handle can get in the way a bit. When it’s flush against the seat, there’s a small gap that can cause little people to slide back a bit, but it’s not a huge negative.
The GoFit doesn’t come with a LATCH system, but for a higher price, you can get all the features of the standard GoFit with a Chicco GoFit Plus.
The KidsEmbrace Backless Booster makes the list in large part to its unique character designs. With superheroes such as SpiderMan and WonderWoman available, kids are more likely to embrace their booster seat instead of complaining about it.
Other winning features for the KidsEmbrace seat include a shoulder belt positioner to ensure the seat belt fits snugly in place and a narrow design for smaller cars and multiple car seats. It’s very simple, without a lot of extra bells and whistles.
However, the lack of extra features make the price-point a little questionable. It’s not as expensive as some others, but this seat doesn’t have much in the way of padding when it comes to seat comfort and isn’t equipped with the extra security of a LATCH system or non-skid base.
While I always appreciate a good cup holder, this one is installed at home and can be complicated to get right. If you don’t have it incorrectly, it will pop off, causing more frustration and annoyance than actual convenience.
With the pros and cons pretty close to even for this one, I would weigh how much the character covers are worth. If your kid is really into superheroes, then this might be the right option for your family.
My Best Boosters with the LATCH System Reviews
For extra safety and security, invest in a backless booster that does have the LATCH feature.
Clek is a top of the line brand, and this booster seat is no exception. The price is on the higher end for backless boosters, but you do get some extra perks that make it worth the value.
The extra padding included on the seat of this booster leads Clek to make a “No Numb Bum” promise that your kids’ legs and bottoms won’t fall asleep. If you’ve ever had a whining child in the back of your car on a road trip, you know that this feature alone will be worth its weight in gold!
Another perk with the Olli seat is that the weight range is a little higher than most. If you have a child who is a bit denser than most, then this is an excellent option to make sure that they can stay safe in their booster until they meet the requirements to sit unassisted.
The ultimate safety feature here is the rigid latch system. While the buttons can be hard to press to unhook, the ability to tether this booster to the seat so that both your child and the seat stay put is a huge plus. The latch system can make it more difficult to access the buckle, so it will take a bit for kids to get the system down.
Of course, there are drawbacks. The booster is wider than advertised and challenging to fit in between other booster seats, especially when you account for the armrests. There is also a warning label affixed to the very front of the seat, so it’s incredibly noticeable. Not a deal break necessarily, but something to know!
The Diono Solana is another high-end option for a backless booster. Diono always guarantees superb safety ratings, and this seat falls right in line for that, meeting or exceeding all standards and keeping your kiddo safe and secure on your journey.
Like the Clek seat, the Diono has the LATCH system to keep the seat in place not only while your child is sitting on it, but also when they aren’t in the car to prevent any flying objects. This system is easier to attach than the Clek and installs quickly.
With a machine-washable cover, you don’t have to be afraid to let your kids make use of the retractable cup holders. If there are any spills, just remove the cover and pop it in the washing machine for a quick lean.
Many kids complain about their legs falling asleep in boosters, but Solana’s seat is specifically contoured to offer better leg support. Unfortunately, some kids might find the extra contours, particularly the hump in the middle, a little uncomfortable.
Unlike the brand favorite Riodan, this booster is broad and a bit on the bulky side. While this ensures a longer life since your child won’t outgrow it quickly, it does make it difficult for families with smaller cars or multiple car seats to fit everyone in comfortably.
Overall, this one is a good investment, but steer clear if you don’t have the extra space to accommodate the size.
If there was a Cadillac of car seats, this one would be it. Peg Perego is a high-end brand for baby and children’s equipment and while the price point is high for the Viaggio Shuttle Booster, so are the outstanding reviews.
Other than price, the biggest downside of this seat is its broad design. While this does give children with wider hips more room, it can cause an issue when you have multiple car seats in a row, or you have the captain’s chairs in your car. The booster is so vast that it can be difficult to buckle on slimmer seats.
However, that’s it. The rest of the features are fantastic and really make it worth the money if you’re in the market. The LATCH system ensures that the seat stays put whether your child is in it or not. The hooks even slide back into the seat, so you can use the booster in a car that doesn’t have LATCH technology.
Of course, it has a cup holder for easy storage, and I always appreciate a carrying handle so that kids and parents have an easier time hauling the seat to and from cars when needed. Like many of the other boosters, there is extra padding and an ergonomic design to help your kiddo stay comfy, no matter how long the ride.
Another winning feature of the Viaggio Shuttle is the high height and weight limit. While booster laws and requirements vary, it’s nice to have the additional wiggle room if you have a kid on the higher end of the growth charts.
My Best Best Boosters for Travel Reviews
If you need a booster seat that is easy to carry around, check out these favorites!
The BubbleBum Inflatable Backless Booster is a budget-friendly option that is perfect for traveling families, or for those that don’t use their own car regularly but rely on taxis and ride-sharing services while they are out and about.
The inflatable seat folds up compactly so you can stick it into your purse or luggage and inflate it when you get there. It doesn’t take long to inflate it by mouth, about 10 seconds, but there isn’t any pump option, so I recommend you decide how you feel about the potential “ick” factor before purchase.
You can deflate the booster quickly as well for storage, but be aware that the inflatable bladders tend to wear out rather quickly. This won’t be a booster you can use every day and pass on to younger siblings.
The booster has the seat belt guides that help position the belt safely and securely on your child, but like many others, there’s no real way to attach it to the seat. This one seems more prone to slip and slide around than some of the other tetherless options.
A mom of three, I love how small and narrow it is with a super slim design. I also appreciate the lack of armrests as I find those get in the way of bigger kids and sometimes the seatbelt. The booster height is less than many other options, and it may cause issues for some shorter kids to get the right fit.
Overall, I would say this is worth it for travelers and city dwellers, but I wouldn’t rely on this style for your day to day option.
The MiFold Comfort Grab and Go Booster is a seat like no other. Designed and developed by a parent just like you and me, the dad behind the booster wanted a seat that was easy to transport and kept his kids safe. MiFold delivers on both of those tasks.
The MiFold works differently than your standard booster. While most backless boosters give children extra height to make the seat belt fit securely, the MiFold uses guides to bring the seatbelt down to their level. The end result is the same, with your child tucked safely into their belt, but the approach is definitely unique. Of course, the booster still meets or exceeds all the necessary safety standards.
This seat is extremely compact when folded and is small enough to fit into a child’s backpack for after school pick-up and kids might feel like it’s a little more grown-up than the standard booster seat, especially since it comes in trendy colors.
Older kids would do better with this seat simply because it’s not as easy to just sit down and buckle. The seat belt guides take some practice, and they are essential to get right to maintain the safety standards.
The MiFold’s petite size has trade-offs in the comfort game, so I would not recommend this for your everyday car seat or long trips. It’s really more of a travel seat solution so that you can keep your kid safe without having to haul a bulky booster everywhere you go.
Another inflatable booster option comes from Hiccapop. The UberBoost Inflatable Booster has all the hallmarks of an excellent travel seat, and along with several of the features needed to use it every day.
It’s portable and packable, and incredibly easy to inflate. Just a few breaths will have it at full capacity and ready to use, and older kids will be able to inflate it by themselves.
When it comes to storage, it rolls up smaller than the BubbleBum because it doesn’t have any of the extra foam. Your kids might miss the cushion on long trips, but for shorter excursions, it’s perfectly comfortable for most children.
Without the safety of a LATCH system, the UberBoost relies on its non skid base to keep the seat in place while your child is riding. Luckily, it’s less likely to be a hazard without an occupant because of its lightweight and soft design.
The inflatable claims to be puncture-resistant, putting some parental concerns at ease. However, it is prone to developing leaks over time. This seems to happen more often in high-temperature climates, so repeated exposure to excessive heat (say sitting in a car outside all summer) might be a durability factor.
Overall, if you would like an inflatable booster seat to use on a more regular basis as well as for travel, this one is likely your best bet.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the best backless booster is the Graco TurboBooster. It comes from a trusted brand, has most of the favorite features, and is very reasonably priced.
If you want to choose a backless booster with the LATCH system, I recommend the Clek Ozzi. The price point is higher due to the extra safety feature, but still budget-friendly, and it’s well-engineered to last.
For boosters to carry with you, the best option is the Hiccapop UberBoost. It’s more comfortable and compact than the other inflatable options and will last for a while, as long as you take care of it properly.
At the end of the day, choose the best booster for you and your family. Happy (and safe!) driving!