LAST UPDATED: November 7, 2019
Best High Back Booster Seats: The Safest Option for Growing Kids
Keep your child safe and snug with these high-back booster seats
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON November 7, 2019
If your child has outgrown a harnessed child seat, it's time for an upgrade with a high back booster seat. It's the next step before he or she becomes old and tall enough to only use a car seat belt. With a high booster seat, your child will be safe and comfortable during the ride. His or her back and neck will have the needed support, and the extra padded sides will protect against impacts. To help you choose the best one, we have listed the three top high back booster seats on the market.
This high back booster seat easily adjusts to your child's needs. It's comfortable, secure, and stable in the vehicle. It meets U.S. safety standards and is for children 3-10 years old.
- Includes energy-absorbing foam for ultimate protection
- The Latch System ensures more stability
- Easy to set up
- Has adjustable parts for more comfort and a better fit to the vehicle
- Includes detachable back support, machine washable cover, and a cup holder
- Available in four colors
- Latch straps might loosen a bit after some time
- Headrest slips when in the uppermost position
- Armrests are not adjustable
Evenflo Big Kid is for children at least 4 years of age. It’s safe and comfortable. It allows for a lot of adjustments and transforms into a backless booster seat. Being compact and lightweight, it's perfect for those who often switch vehicles.
- Removable back support
- Easy to set up with six height adjustments for more comfort
- Compact and lightweight
- Energy-absorbing foam ensures safety and coziness
- Has two cup holders and a machine-washable pad
- Easy to spot clean
- Available in seven designs
- Seat might feel unstable due to the lightweight design
- Doesn't have a Latch system, so it relies on the seat belt
- Lower back area lacks some padding
The Turbobooster is for kids weighing 30-100 pounds. It's a lighter version of a high booster seat that is very portable and easy to adjust. With a lot of extra and adjustable features, it grows with a child and makes a great long-term investment.
- Has energy-absorbing foam for safety and comfort
- Detachable back support
- Easy to carry and transport between vehicles
- Adjustable headrest and armrests enhance the overall comfort
- Open-loop belt guide helps with placing the seat belt correctly
- Has hide-away cup holders
- Machine washable
- Without the latch system, it uses only the seat belt
- high back might rattle when the seat is empty
- Seatbelt might sometimes slip out of the guides
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Benefits of High Back Booster Seats
- Impact protection. Unlike a backless seat, a high back booster seat provides a solid base and sides to provide side-impact protection in the event of a collision.
- Support. Providing extra height means the adult seat belt supports your child in all the right places, with additional head, neck, and leg support in most seats.
- Comfort. Seat belts are uncomfortable to wear if you’re not quite tall enough because they don’t sit right. Booster seats include cushioning and padding, neck and head support, and even arm rests to remedy this.
- Versatility. High back booster seats are designed for taller children from around 3 years of age, but many designed for smaller children are convertible and will simply grow with your child.
- Cost-effective. Investing in a versatile, convertible car seat that grows with your child until it needs nothing but a backless booster seat is more cost-effective than buying a different car seat designed only for specific parts of their development.
Types of High Back Booster Seats
LATCH Connection System
The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system was developed by British car seat manufacturer, Britax. It uses fixed anchor points in the car—instead of the vehicle’s seat belts— to hold a car seat in place, and it’s considered an easier, more secure method of installation. It’s a legal requirement on all booster seats and cars made since September 2002.
Seat Belt Connection
Car seats that do not include LATCH connectors are fitted into the vehicle using the seat belt. Fixtures in the back and base of the booster seat hold the seatbelt in position, and the belt is fastened into the holster. This is how all car seats were installed before the introduction of the LATCH system described above, but the method is being phased out.
Not to be confused with the engineering and fluid handling specialists of the same name, the Graco company, which is known for baby goods, is owned by Newell Brands. Now based in High Point, N.C., the business was established in Philadelphia by Russell Gray and Robert Cone in 1942. They have made infant car seats since 1998, and their range includes the AFFIX High Back and Turbobooster models.
Britax is a British company that started making automotive safety products and accessories in 1938 and, since the 1970s, have specialized in car seats, strollers, and other childcare safety equipment. Britax invented the LATCH system and gave up its patent rights in 1988 to make way for U.S. LATCH Regulations. They make the SkyLine 2-Stage Belt Positioning Booster Car Seat and the Britax Frontier ClickTight, amongst many others.
Italian company Chicco has been making clothes and toys for babies and children since it was founded by Pietro Catelli to celebrate the birth of his son, Enrico, in 1958. The business is owned by Artsana, is headquartered in Lombardy, Italy, and has more than 300 shops in over 120 countries throughout the world. Some of their most popular models include the Chicco KidFit 2-in-1 Belt Positioning Booster Car Seat and the MyFit Harness & Booster Car Seat.
High Back Booster Seat Pricing
- Budget (around $50): High back booster car seats are fairly basic in design and don't require any complicated parts, so it’s fairly easy to find budget models. But always check reviews and safety certificates.
- Mid-Range ($100-$200): Most high back booster seats fall into this price range. Expect recognizable brands, a steel frame, and many adjustable safety features.
- Premium ($200 and up): This is where you’ll find the very top end booster seats with extra features, like cup holders and stain-resistant, removable seat pads. This price point also includes convertible car seats that will grow with your child over a number of years.
As there are different types of car seat connection systems, it’s important to know which one you’re dealing with. Latch systems are considered safer, with some requiring the installation of a base before you can attach the seat. Others just need your vehicle to be compatible with its anchor points. Belt-positioning booster seats should be fairly universal.
You also need to know that the booster seat you’ve got your eye on will actually fit in your vehicle. Booster seats vary in base size, width, and height, and not every model is going to fit in every car. Some require your back seats to have a flush or removable headrest, for example.
Being able to adjust the headrest essentially means adjusting the height of the booster seat. Having an adjustable headrest means the seat can be made to accommodate your child for a much longer period of time.
The whole point of a high back booster seat is to protect and support your child during the time when, because of their height, they will not be sufficiently protected by the standard seat belt. As a result, most infant car seats offer side-impact protection around the sides, but only some offer additional support, like adjustable leg rests, wings to protect the head, and shoulder pads.
- Washable Covers. Easy-to-remove seat pads that can go straight in the washing machine with minimal fuss are a must-have for most parents.
- Portability. If you’re a two-car household or regularly have a grandparent driving your child around, you should probably choose a booster seat that is easily portable and transferable between vehicles.
- Comfort. In addition to superior safety features and impact protection, a booster car seat is also supposed to be more comfortable for your child. Additional options to consider include wings to support the head, arm rests, and extendable leg rests.
- Extra Features. Premium models include things like dual cup holders, activity trays, the ability to recline, and a whole host of other extra features.
Best High Back Booster Seats Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Affix Booster from Graco is a forward-facing car seat designed for big kids who weigh at least 30 pounds and will support your child until they reach 100 pounds or 57 inches in height. Then, when they’re bigger, you can remove the back and just use the remaining booster seat for as long as you need. It meets all industry safety standards and has been specifically engineered to protect your child in the event of frontal, rear, and side collisions as well as during any roll-over scenarios. As such, the seat is fully adjustable (apart from the armrests) for maximum support and a secure fit on the vehicle seat, while the multi-layered, energy-absorbing foam delivers comfort and helps reduce the likelihood of injury from impact.
For additional stability, the car seat includes a LATCH system tether at its base, which is easy to reach and adjust from the front while enabling one-handed fitting. It’s important to note that this only exists to tether the booster seat to the back seat. This booster seat is, instead, held in place by the seatbelt—with open-loop guides—and the weight of the child. This promotes self-buckling and, with the cupholder and integrated storage compartment, is a big hit with older, more independent kids who no longer use a five-point harness.
The seatbelt is not held very securely by the belt guides and does have a tendency to get tangled. Earlier models were recalled for product quality issues relating to a slipping headrest, but this has now been rectified.
The Big Kid Booster is also designed for older children who are happy to use the shoulder belt but are not quite tall enough to do so safely. Integrated belt guides mean the car's seat belt goes where it should go. This does also mean that the seat cannot be secured (it has no LATCH connection points) when unoccupied.
This car seat is suitable for kids aged four and over who weigh between 40 and 100 pounds and are between 40 and 57 inches tall. It includes six different height positions that can be amended with just one hand, so your child is always properly supported and protected. Energy-absorbing foam is included for extra general comfort and to minimize damage in the event of an impact. Then, when the child is big enough, the back is easily removable for further use as a backless booster seat. Available in different colors, it comes with two cup holders and boasts a removable, machine washable seat pad, although it’s easy to spot-clean, too.
Because this seat doesn't have a LATCH system, it relies on the seat belt. Also, the lower back area lacks some padding, and the lightweight design may make the seat feel unstable.
This second high back booster seat from Graco is popular with kids thanks to its comfortable padding and adjustable arm rests, and it’s popular with parents thanks to space-saving, hideaway cup holders and an adjustable headrest. It is available in different colors, and the seat pads are removable and machine washable for your convenience.
The headrest has six different heights to ensure a secure, proper fit without sacrificing comfort and support during in-car naps. Designed for children weighing between 40 and 100 pounds, it is suitable for older kids who no longer need a five-point harness but aren’t quite big enough to use the shoulder belt in a safe and secure way. The seat belt fits easily through integrated open loops to guide it where it needs to go and keep it in the safest, most effective position.
Because it has no LATCH system, the booster seat is loose when unoccupied, and you might notice some rattling. Also, the seat belt has a tendency to slip out of the guides.
The Graco Atlas booster seat converts from a five-point harness, forward-facing seat to a high-back belt-positioning booster. In the former option, the booster accommodates from 22 to 65 pounds, and in the latter, it supports from 30 to 100 pounds. Overall, the seat is designed to grow with your child and provide the necessary support on the road. It's crash tested and meets the US safety standards. What's great about this booster seat is the lightweight design. Parents can transport it from one vehicle to another with ease and keep their children safe at all times. The harness system is easy to adjust with one single motion, and the five-position headrest quickly adapts to the child's height. The seat also features comfortable and machine-washable seat pads and covers. There are two cup holders, as well, to accommodate your child's drinks.
Some buyers still complained about the seat not being very comfortable on long rides. It's best to use it for traveling on short distances because children might feel discomfort due to the lack of padding. Also, the release button is difficult to push, especially for children. If independence is important to you, this car seat won't give much of it to your little one.
Evenflo offers a two-in-one car booster that transforms from a five-point harness to a belt-positioning car seat. It's perfect for children who are four years old and up, and it can accommodate from 22 to 110 pounds. Your little one can enjoy its support for a long time, and you can install and transfer it between multiple vehicles with ease. The Evenflo seat features a lightweight design that doesn't come at the expense of safety. Meeting all the federal crash test standards, this booster is highly supportive. It's specially designed to absorb impacts and protect children in case of accidents. Furthermore, the seat features high-quality materials that are easy to clean and maintain. It's also extra-padded for a better fit and more comfort on extended use.
There are only two drawbacks to this seat. Firstly, it doesn't recline enough to provide full support for the neck. Sometimes, children angle their necks when asleep during long rides, which makes them uncomfortable. Secondly, the shoulder straps lack some padding and might mark the skin on extended use.
- When choosing a high back booster seat, look for side-impact protection. Both seat sides should have energy-absorbing foam cushions for ultimate protection. The extra padding should be located on the headrest and torso area as well.
- Look for the adjustable harness and headrest if you want your child to feel cozy in the seat. You should be able to adjust the parts according to your child's body. Also, look for extra features, such as armrests and cup holders, as they also enhance comfort.
- Pick a seat that is easy to wash. Look for the ones that have removable covers for easy cleaning or material that you can wash with soap and water.
- Pick a seat that matches your child's age, weight, and height. A seat with an adjustable harness and removable backrest is always an excellent choice. It allows you to adjust the parts as your child grows older, so you can use it for longer.
Q: What is a high-back booster seat?
It's a seat designed for children that have outgrown a traditional harnessed seat yet are still not big enough to ride without extra protection. A high-back booster seat is one of the last steps before a child starts sitting in the vehicle with only a seat belt. It provides extra head and neck support and improves safety on the road.
Q: What is the difference between a high-back booster seat and a backless one?
A high-back booster seat is built for children who still need extra protection during rides. It features head and neck protection as well as additional padding on the sides. A backless seat has only a cushion that boosts the child's height. It's used when your child is old enough to ride only with a seat belt, yet is not tall enough to reach it.
Q: When is it safe to put a child in a booster seat?
Different states have different laws and regulations, so check to make sure. Most of them agree upon a 40-pound weight limit and an age of 4 years. A child should also be tall enough to have shoulders that are higher than the straps of the seat.
Our top pick is Graco AFFIX High Back Booster Seat. It’s an adjustable booster that feels super safe and comfortable.
For a budget-friendly alternative, take a look at the Evenflo Big Kid Booster Seat. It’s a lightweight seat with a lot of extra features to keep your child protected and comfortable.