Is your child ready for a booster seat? We've tested more than 60 car seats, and in this update, we purchased the top 8 boosters for crash testing and extensive side-by-side comparison. Are you curious about which products offer the best safety features? Are you 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 discover which seats offer additional protection and work best for different situations and budgets to find the right seat for you and your family.
The Clek Oobr is a high-backed booster you can use without the back when your child outgrows it, or you need to travel/carpool. This steel frame booster has the best-combined crash test results and 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 free-floating 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, travel,ing or carpooling.
The UPPAbaby Alta is a high-quality booster seat with better than average crash test results and some useful features for kid comfort. We like the LATCH connection of this booster, which keeps it from free-floating in the car, and kids like the adjustable headrest that provides comfort at almost any height level. This seat has ample padding, a useful recline feature, and a cup holder. It also sports a machine washable cover, a bonus every parent will love.
This seat is heavier and unlikely to be a good fit for travel or the carpool group. However, it is reasonably narrow, making it a potential option for 2+ seats across a vehicle row. With better-than-average crash test results and a comfortable cockpit, this seat will please passengers and parents alike. The reasonable price tag with higher quality is just a bonus.
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, with 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 we tested and could be hard to fit across a standard back seat with more than one other safety seat in use. It isn't the most comfortable or highest quality seat compared to some competitors. 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.
The BubbleBum is a unique backless booster that is great for traveling or carpooling, making it an excellent 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 appreciate that it raises little ones for better belt positioning to avoid head side-impact intrusion that could potentially happen in an accident when little ones sit on the vehicle seat itself.
We prefer a high-backed booster for increased safety and protection from side-impact intrusion. However, the Bubble Bum is better than forgoing a safety seat and will do well in a pinch. The BubbleBum's lower price makes it a cost-effective second seat when using your high-backed go-to option isn't feasible or practical.
We purchase 2 of each booster car seat 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.
Testing for booster seats is divided across five rating metrics:
Boosters are put through more than 24 individual tests to rank and score their performance compared to the competition. The most critical booster metric is crash testing analysis, which is 35% of the overall product score. This metric's overall result is derived from the crash test results from the crash test dummy's head (HIC) and chest (G) sensor data. Our reviews also utilize research and observations from various testers to compare each seat's performance.
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, 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 to analyze crash test results and ease of installation. Abriah uses her installation knowledge 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 in the review business with safety 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 best convertible car seat review 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 babies 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. Still, despite the convenience of a booster, BabyGearLab agrees with the experts that children stay in their 5-point harness car seats as long as the manufacturer's recommendations allow. Depending on the car seat, this shift from a 5-point harness usually happens between 40-65 lbs. 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 (even if your kid complains and begs). Safety regulations are there for a reason. 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 to the competition. 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 (according to crash testing).
While safety seats are not the gear categories where you should sacrifice potential safety for a lower price, there are budget-friendly boosters with impressive performances across metrics that most families can afford. The Chicco KidFit is inexpensive and offers much for families on a tight budget. The higher ranked UPPAbaby Alta is one of the lower-priced options in the review, and it has one of the highest overall scores with a better-than-average crash test analysis.
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 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?
All Tested Products Provide a Basic, Safe Level of Protection
All 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 primary 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 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 below 1000 to pass the federal requirements. Better performance results yield lower scores as the force exerted on the child is less (smaller is better, like golf).
In our tests, the UPPAbaby Alta earned the best HIC result with a 390. 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 Clek Oobr also has impressive results for HIC with a 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 below 60 (G) is required to pass Federal requirements. Once again, a lower number is desirable. The best chest clip score for the group is 39 for the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120.
High Backed vs. Backless
We prefer a booster with a back instead of a backless option because we believe they are intrinsically safer. While there are no agreed-upon safety tests for side-impact collisions or other kinds of crashes to prove this theory definitively, 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 the 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 not to use a booster.
Best Booster Based on Crash Test Analysis
We rank each product compared 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 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, and the best-combined sensor data in the test group. The Diono Monterey XT, Uppababy Alta, and the Chicco KidFit earned second-place scores for crash testing analysis.
Ease of Use
Booster seats seem relatively 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 the features and functions you use daily. This metric includes buckling, attachment, reclining, 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 Chicco KidFit earned the ease of use high. The Chicco KidFit is somewhat harder with a LATCH connection that is quick and simple but still creates an extra step (which we think is worthwhile). The headrest moves smoothly, and children have no trouble getting in and buckling. The UPPAbaby Alta, Diono Monterey XT, and Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 all came in second.
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 booster's weight can be crucial if you use it on 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's back seat. A narrower width could enable installing three across for multiple children. However, if your seat isn't going to move cars 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 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 lightweight and small, making it great for travel or carpooling. This unique booster deflates and rolls into its carry bag that can fit inside most backpacks or airplane carry-ons. It earned a top score for weight and size. The mifold earned a perfect score for this metric, but given our safety concerns for this "booster" and its poor performance overall, we think the Bubblebum is a better buy and small enough. The Clek Oobr is the most cumbersome option in this review at 19.3 lbs, and its size makes it prohibitive for travel or taking to school. The UPPAbaby Alta is one of the narrowest in the group at 18.5 inches. Only a handful of high-backed options are narrower.
Considering comfort factors, we compare the foam support, fabric feel, the seat's design, the depth of the seat bottom and headrest, and the potential for napping. Some boosters offer denser padding, 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 UPPAbaby Alta earned top marks for its soft fabric, ample padding, and wide, supportive headrest. The Clek Oobr, Diono Monterey XT, and the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex earned the third-highest scores for comfort. These booster seats are all comfortable, but each product is lacking in some way; 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. 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 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 consider the materials and construction of the final seat. We analyzed our purchased competitors' padding, foam, fabric, and attention to detail. Each component influences the longevity and stability of each booster.
The Uppababy Alta is the highest quality seat in the review. It utilizes nicer materials and has impressive attention to detail in the final construction and overall design that we didn't see in all of the competition. These choices create a self-contained and sturdy booster that looks as good as it performs. The Clek Oobr and mifold also earned impressive scores for quality. The lowest quality score goes to the BubbleBum. This booster has a flimsy feel and uses cheap thin fabric. The overall fit and finish look sloppy and somewhat incomplete, with stray threads and uneven stitching. However, the price tag makes the quality level feel acceptable, even if it is disappointing. Also, since we think of it as an occasional-use seat, quality is less of a concern.
Selecting a safe booster seat is equally as critical as other car safety seats. It is the last safety seat your child will use before transitioning to a vehicle seat unassisted, so your search for the best car seats journey is almost over. However, it is as vital as their infant car seat (you likely agonized over) to provide much-needed protection until they are tall enough to ride safely without a safety seat. Therefore, we encourage you to give thoughtful consideration to finding the best booster for your child. We believe there are competitors in this review for every child and need. The details we provide will help you narrow the field to find the right booster for your family and budget.
Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, and the BabyGearLab Review Team
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.