Is your child ready for a booster seat? We've tested more than 60 car seats, and for 2020 we purchased the top 9 boosters for crash testing and extensive side-by-side comparison. Are you curious about which products offer the best safety features? Confused by the high-back vs. no back options? We can help! We spent several months testing and using each booster, including a crash test analysis, ease of use, weight, moving from car to car, and more. Let us help you learn which seats offer additional protection and work best for different situations and budgets, to find the right seat for you and your family.
Best Booster Seats with Crash Tests
Crash Test Champion
The Clek Oobr is a high-backed booster you can use without the back when your child outgrows it. This steel frame booster has the best combined crash test results, and it has a rigid LATCH system to secure the booster to the car. We like the adjustable headrest, comfortable armrests, and easy to clean fabric.
This option is heavy and more cumbersome than the competition, making it a poor choice for carpooling and travel. Still, we think it makes up for this heft with impressive crash test results, quality construction, and the ability to quickly and easily secure the booster to the car to avoid it becoming a flying projectile when little ones aren't in the car. The Clek is an excellent choice for families with safety on the brain who are less concerned with switching cars or carrying for travel or carpooling.
Read review: Clek Oobr
Great Overall Booster
The Evenflo Spectrum is a budget-friendly booster with a high-back and an impressive head sensor crash test result. This ultra-cozy option won the hearts of little testers thanks to its ample seating area, nap-able headrest, and super soft fabric. We like that the Spectrum is one of the lightest high-backed boosters in the review, and it is easy for children to buckle themselves in without assistance. This booster can also go backless once children reach the height or weight limit using the back or if you need a smaller lightweight option for travel and carpooling.
While this seat is one of the widest in our tests, and therefore, not the best choice for families with multiple children in car seats, it is the least expensive high-backed option in this review with an impressive overall score. We feel its lower price and performance make the Evenflo a cost-effective, easy to use solution for most families.
Read review: Evenflo Spectrum
Economical Lightweight LATCH Booster
The Chicco KidFit is a versatile booster that works with or without the back. This option locks in place using Chicco's self-ratcheting LATCH anchors that make securing it to the car a breeze. This booster is the lightest product with a back in this review, which may make it an option for carpooling despite its wider size. We like that the KidFit is easy to use and has a slightly better than average crash test score all for a reasonable price.
This product is not the best choice for families with more than two safety seats, as it is the broadest option in this review and could be hard to fit across a standard back seat with more than one other seat in use. It also isn't the most comfortable or highest quality option compared to some of the competition. However, it is a good booster with a higher overall score and a reasonable price tag. We think it is a good choice for families looking for an easy to use product with better than average crash test results.
Read review: Chicco KidFit
Top-Scoring 5-Point Harness
Britax Frontier ClickTight
The Britax Frontier ClickTight is a quality booster seat with a great 5-point harness you can use until your child is 90 lbs! This versatile booster is super easy to install using the ClickTight method, has an easy to use headrest, and is LATCH capable. The Frontier is easier to use than most of the competition, and it earned a better than the average crash test score.
This Britax is heavy and more substantial than most boosters making it a poor choice for frequent travelers or carpooling, but it is a great choice for anyone who wants to keep little ones in a 5-point harness for as long as possible. We love the 5-point harness for the potential increase in safety over a traditional seatbelt with only 3 points, and it is something we think parents should seriously consider.
Read review: Britax Frontier ClickTight
Best for Travel and Carpool
The BubbleBum is a unique backless booster that is great for traveling or carpooling, making it a nice backup option for occasional use. This product is the lightest we tested and the second smallest, making it easy to carry and move from car to car. The BubbleBum is an inflatable booster with the lowest price in the review and is super easy for kids to use or carry themselves. We like the simplicity of the BubbleBum and think it is tough to beat for children who do a lot of carpooling. We like that it raises little ones up for better belt positioning and to avoid head intrusion that could potentially happen in an accident when little ones sit on the vehicle seat itself.
Overall, we prefer a high-backed booster for the increased safety, but the Bum is better than forgoing a safety seat altogether and will definitely do well in a pinch. The BubbleBum's lower price makes it a cost-effective second seat when it isn't feasible or practical to use your high-backed go-to option.
Read review: BubbleBum
Why You Should Trust Us
We've been testing safety seats for over six years, including commissioning crash testing with the same facility (MGA Research) that works with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for their car seat tests. Our team is led by our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a board-certified pediatrician who uses her experience in the medical field to choose products with safety and ease of use in mind, the two factor that play a key role in keeping little ones safe during a crash. In-house testing is performed by and under the guidance of our onsite Certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician, Bob Wofford, father of 7. Bob works with Senior Review Editors, Wendy Schmitz and Abriah Wofford, to test each booster. Wendy, a mother of 2, uses her science background in the analysis of crash test results and ease of installation. Abriah uses her knowledge of installation to provide details on ease of use and other features. With over 15 combined years of experience, we feel it is safe to say they have the most experience with safety seats in the business.
We purchase 2 of each booster model in this review, one for crash testing and one for in-house and real-world use. We install each product in multiple cars to see how well it fits and how easy it is to install and use. Children utilize the seats in real life, and we record their opinions and feelings as part of the test process giving us insight into comfort and ease of use without adult help. We combine all test results, including analysis of the crash tests to rank the competitors and give awards.
Related: How We Tested Booster Seats
Analysis and Test Results
In this review, we include the details you need to make a well-informed decision on which booster seat is the best choice for your child and your budget.
Related: Buying Advice for Booster Seats
Under the guidance and supervision of a NHTSA Certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician, we spent several months testing and rating every product in this review. We created a set of comprehensive tests derived from our convertible car seat tests and used these results together with the crash test data to determine the scores and rank for each option.
Experts agree children should stay rear-facing until at least age 2. The recommendations from both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and NHTSA are that baby stays rear-facing as long as is allowed by the seat, and at the very least until they are 2 years old. Children can move to a booster as young as four years old, but despite the convenience of a booster, BabyGearLab aggress with the experts that children stay in their 5-point harness car seats as long as the manufacturer's recommendations allow. This shift from a 5-point harness usually happens between 40-65 lbs depending on the car seat. While parents love marking milestones as their little ones grow, transitions from one level of safety seat to another should not occur until your child has reached the maximum limits of the seat as defined by the manufacturer. Each time you move to a new level of safety seat, there is a reduction in the protection it provides. Don't be in a hurry!Also, don't be in a hurry to ditch your booster. The recommendation is 4'9" tall before moving from a booster to the vehicle seatbelt. Once again, we recommend you keep children in the booster until they reach the limit advised by the manufacturer.
Each booster we test is compared side-by-side in an identical manner. While each option has met the minimum safety guidelines outlined by the Federal government, they are not equal in form or function, nor do they all offer an additional margin of protection compared to the competition.
While safety seats are not the baby gear categories where you should sacrifice safety for a better price, there are budget-friendly boosters with impressive performances that most families can afford. The Evenflo Spectrum has a higher rank and an attractive price. With an impressive head sensor result during crash testing, you aren't making safety sacrifices due to a smaller budget. Something any parent will love. The Chicco KidFit is also inexpensive and has much to offer for families on a tight budget.
Crash Test Performance
We contracted with the same crash test facility used by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to conduct our booster seat crash tests. We test the products using the NHTSA protocol outlined in the FMVSS 213.
We analyzed the crash test sensor data from each booster's crash sled dummy to determine how they performed compared to each other and the Federal safety standards. To help you understand crash tests a little better, we've included comparison graphs using the actual crash test results in each booster's gear review, and we have summarized them below.What are the most critical details from crash tests for analyzing results?
- The risk of head injury
- The risk of chest injury
A detailed analysis of automobile crash injuries for children indicate that head and chest injuries are the cause of the most significant risks of severe or fatal injuries.
All of the seats included in this review earned sufficient scores to pass the minimum Federal safety standards. Therefore, all of the boosters we tested provide at least a basic level of crash safety protection. Our main focus for crash testing is to identify boosters with crash test performance results that exceed the Federal requirements by a wider margin. The crash test sensor data implies that these seats potentially provide an additional level of protection compared to other booster seats in the group.
Understanding the Head Injury Criteria (HIC) Score
For the crash tests, they buckle a crash test dummy into the booster secured to a sled to simulate the forces experienced in an actual crash. This dummy has sensors in the head and chest that record the amount of force exerted on those areas during testing. NHTSA crash studies show that the risk of injury is higher for forward-facing children. Head Injury Criteria (HIC) score is the factor used in Federal safety standards for crash test scoring. This score is a measurable way to assess the likelihood of injury arising from an impact. Each booster must obtain a HIC score equal to or lower than 1000 to pass the Federal requirements. Better performance results yield lower scores as the amount of force exerted on the child is less (smaller is better, like golf).
In our tests, the Evenflo Spectrum earned the best HIC result with a 456. This result is under half the maximum allowed and significantly below the worst results in the group received by the Graco Nautilus 65 LX with a 759. The Britax Frontier ClickTight is also impressive with a 482, and the Clek Oobr sensor shows a HIC of 493.
Understanding the Chest (G) Clip Score
The test dummies include sensors that measure impact forces in the chest. The results from the chest sensors are used to calculate the Chest (G) score, which attempts to numerically determine the likelihood of an injury occurring to the organs located in the chest cavity. A score anywhere below 60 (G) is required to pass Federal requirements. Once again, a lower number is desirable.
High Backed vs. Backless
We prefer a booster with a back as opposed to a backless option because we believe they are intrinsically safer. While there are no agreed-upon safety tests for side-impact collision or other kinds of crashes to definitively prove this theory, we feel it makes logical sense that a protective shell (similar to that found on a convertible car seat) will provide additional protection for little ones depending on the type of crash and possibility for intrusion of foreign objects into the passenger area. The difference is evident in both crash test videos and in examining the actual crash test dummy sensor readings.
Also, a high-backed booster seat is better at keeping children positioned correctly, especially if they frequently enjoy sleeping in the car. A backless booster doesn't offer the support required to keep little ones correctly positioned if they should fall asleep and slump or fall forward. We believe this theory makes sense, and it is why we recommend using a booster with a back whenever possible. However, we think any belt-positioning booster is safer, and therefore, preferable to not using a booster at all.
Best Booster Based on Crash Test Analysis
We rank each product in comparison to the competition based on an analysis of the crash test reports using a 1-10 system. This scoring method guides our assessment of the products that we believe offer an additional margin of protection above and beyond the basic level of protection that is already present in every other seat on the market (as outlined by US federal guidelines). The Clek Oobr has the best crash test score in the group with a 9 of 10 and the best-combined sensor data in the test group. The Diono Monterey XT, Britax Frontier ClickTight, and the Chicco KidFit earned a second-place score for crash testing analysis with 7s.
Ease of Use
Booster seats seem fairly straightforward and virtually the same. Some parents might even be tempted to forgo them (Do not do this!) However, they are very different in how easy they are to use.
For Ease of Use testing, we consider all of the features and functions you use on a day-to-day basis. This metric includes buckling, attachment, recline, and additional features.
Booster seats aren't as convoluted as convertible or infant car seats, but that doesn't mean they are universally easy to use. For this type of gear, one of the most important regular activities is buckling in, and whether or not little ones can do it for themselves. Other ease of use related features would be attaching the seat to the vehicle (if applicable), adjusting the headrest and recline features, and moving the booster from place to place.
During testing, the Evenflo Spectrum and Chicco KidFit each earn the ease of use high with an 8 of 10. The Evenflo is a straightforward booster with quick removable headrest. It is easy for passengers to buckle themselves while sitting in it, and the lighter weight and lack of LATCH connection make it easy to move between vehicles. The Chicco KidFit is somewhat harder with a LATCH connection that is quick and simple but still creates an extra step (one we think is worthwhile). The headrest moves smoothly, and children have no trouble getting in and buckled.
The mifold is the hardest to use because it doesn't stay in position well and is the most challenging for children to use for buckling and positioning the shoulder belt retainer. The mifold bottom blocks the buckle, and the retainer moves up and down when the passenger rotates their body to use the buckle.
We checked the weight and width of each seat at its widest point. The weight of the booster can be crucial for parents planning to use the seat for travel or carpooling.
Transporting the seat easily from car to car is essential if you plan to do it regularly. Also, the width of the booster can play a factor in your decision if you need to fit multiple safety seats across your vehicle back seat. A narrower width could make it possible to install three across for multiple children. However, if your seat isn't going to move cars very often, and you don't have a space limitation, then the weight and size metric are probably less crucial for your family. Another consideration is that some of the high-backed boosters will work without the back, creating a much lighter and smaller package. These features give you a backed booster that does double duty for travel when you remove the back.
The Bubblebum is very lightweight and small, making it great for travel or taking to school for carpooling. This option deflates and rolls into its own carry bag that can fit inside most backpacks. It earned a 9 of 10 for weight and size. The mifold earned a perfect 10 for this metric, but given our concerns over safety, and its poor performance overall, we think the Bubblebum is a better buy. The Britax Frontier is the heaviest and most cumbersome option in this review, and its size makes it prohibitive for travel or taking to school.
Considering comfort factors, we compare the foam support, feel of the fabric, design of the seat, including the depth of the seat bottom and headrest, as well as the potential for napping. Some boosters offer denser padding or a cushy feel, softer fabric, or a steel frame. Boosters are tested side-by-side by adult testers and children for general comfort compared to the competition. After all, who knows booster comfort best? Tiny testers.
The Evenflo Spectrum earns the highest score for comfort with a 9 of 10, sporting a cushy bottom, deep and supportive headrest, and soft fabric. Both passengers and parents feel this seat is conducive to comfortable napping. The Clek Oobr, Diono Monterey XT, and the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex earned the second-highest scores for comfort with 7s. These booster seats are all comfortable, but each product is lacking in some way like the Clek Oobr has a shallow seat bottom which can leave longer legs dangling, the Diono Monterey has less padding than competitors, and the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex lacks armrests, and the headrest isn't suitable for napping. The mifold is the most uncomfortable seat in the review with a score of 2. This product has almost no padding and relies on the vehicle seat for support and comfort features. The no-slip fabric isn't soft, and it doesn't prevent slipping (which would at least make it valuable). The mifold doesn't have a headrest and offers no support for napping.
For quality, we analyze the materials and construction of the final product. We consider the padding, foam, fabric, and the attention to detail we see in the competitors we purchased. Each component plays a role in influencing the longevity and stability of each seat.
The Britax Frontier Clicktight is the highest quality seat in the review with a 9 of 10. This Britax uses better materials and has impressive attention to detail in both the final construction and overall design. These choices create a contained, and sturdy product that looks as good as it functions. The Clek Oobr and mifold also earned impressive scores for quality with 8s. The lowest quality score goes to the BubbleBum with a 3. This booster has a flimsy feel and uses cheap thin feeling fabric. The overall fit and finish look sloppy and somewhat incomplete. However, the price tag makes the quality level acceptable, even if it is disappointing. Also, since we think of it as an occasional use seat, then quality is less of a concern.
Choosing a booster seat is equally as important as other types of car seat purchase. It is the final safety seat your child will use before transitioning to a vehicle seat unassisted. However, it is as important as their infant car seat (you likely agonized over) in providing much-needed protection until they are tall enough to ride without a safety seat. Therefore, we encourage parents to give considerable thought to choosing the best booster. We believe there are contenders in this lineup for every child and every need. The details we provide in this review will help you whittle your options so you can find the right booster for your family and finances.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, and the BabyGearLab Review Team