The 10 Best Narrow Booster Car Seats to Buy 2021

The 10 Best Narrow Booster Car Seats to Buy 2021

Trying to fit more than one booster seat in the back of your car, van, or SUV can cause vivid flashbacks of playing Tetris—only you won’t have as much fun.

Having a narrow booster seat makes that game of backseat Tetris much easier. You may need a narrow booster seat because you don’t have a very wide backseat, or you may be trying to fit three across the back row. Whatever the reason, we’re here to help you find the best narrow booster car seats for your family.

There’s nothing more important than your child’s safety, so you undoubtedly have questions about booster seats. We’ll cover all the crucial aspects of what makes a good one below. And if you just want to know everything there is to learn about booster seats, there’s a complete guide to that, too.

Important Aspects of Narrow Booster Car Seats

Your child will most likely just feel excited to be in a “big kid” seat, but we checked out a few other aspects for the narrow booster seats on our list. We looked at how the boosters compared based on elements that kids don’t care about as much but are very important to their parents—like safety.

Type

Booster seats come in two types: backless and high back. High back boosters are typically best for younger children and include positioners for your car’s shoulder belt. Backless boosters are more portable and usually better for older kids.

Our reviews include a mixture of both so you can find the one that fits your child best. We’ve also included everything you ever wanted to know about both types of booster seats below.

Safety

Keeping your child safe in case of a crash is the sole purpose of a booster seat. We checked the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website for their ratings of each booster on our list. IIHS has four safety categories:

  1. Best Bet
  2. Good Bet
  3. Not Recommended
  4. Check Fit

We explain more about the safety ratings below. Like car seats, boosters are only safe if your child belts themselves in properly.

Many booster seats on this list feature LATCH connectors, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. These are easy to install and secure, and a good sign that any car seat containing them will be very safe—but other latching systems can work just as well.

Portability

Whether your child is going in a friend’s car, riding with their grandparents, or just needing to transfer their booster seat from one car to another quickly, it helps if the booster seat is lightweight and portable.

Extras

Some kids can’t live without cupholders; others need a seat that reclines because that’s the only way they can sleep on a road trip. We’ve noted which seats offer these types of extras that make the booster even more comfortable.

As a quick reference for you, we’ve also included the specifications and the height and weight limits of the booster seats so you can find the one that best fits both your car and your child. Most of the seats on our list are narrower than 16.5 inches, so they’ll fit comfortably in even the smallest backseat.

Top 10 Best Narrow Booster Car Seats 2021

1. Best Overall Booster Car Seat: Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster

Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster

Why we like it: With adjustable armrests for your kid’s comfort, this booster is also lightweight and easy to use.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: Backless
  • Size: 15 Inches Long x 16 Inches Wide x 8.5 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 43 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 100 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 5.1 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet

Does your kid want a booster seat that doesn’t look like a “babyish” car seat? Then this is a great option. The padded seat is comfortable for long car rides, and it even has adjustable armrests.

Safety

The Graco TurboBooster Backless booster is an IIHS Best Bet, which means it’s reliably safe and easy to use, no matter what type of vehicle you put it in. Graco has also done their own safety tests, including rigorous crash tests that make sure your child will be protected in frontal, rear, side, and rollover crashes.

Portability

Weighing in at only 5.1 pounds, you’ll easily be able to tote the Graco TurboBooster around. It’s only 16 inches wide, but with both cupholders extended, it’s 21 inches. The cupholders fold away, though, so you can use the seat without them (your kid just might not be as excited about it).

Verdict

The Graco TurboBooster is a lightweight, portable backless booster with some great extras like adjustable armrests and cupholders. A great safety rating and inexpensive price point make this booster a solid choice.

The booster seat’s fabric isn’t the highest quality, though. It gets worn quickly, especially with constant contact with a squirmy kid. It’s machine-washable, though, which is a plus.

Pros

  • The seat cushion has extra padding
  • The cover is removable and machine washable
  • The armrests are padded and adjustable
  • Two cupholders
  • It’s easy to move from car to car

Cons

  • The fabric isn’t very durable

2. Best Premium Booster Car Seat: Maxi-Cosi Rodifix Booster Seat

Maxi-Cosi Rodifix Booster Seat

Why we like it: This booster has superior seatbelt positioners, and it has lots of comfortable extras that make it ideal for long road trips.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: High Back
  • Size: 14.75 Inches Long x 19 Inches Wide x 30 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 40 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements:  40 to 120 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 12 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet

If you’re looking for a sleek and excessively padded high back booster seat, then this is a great option. It’s expensive, but it has some great features. For one thing, it’s ideal for long road trips. The headrest actually cradles your child’s head enough that they can sleep without their head falling to the side! The headrest is adjustable, so the seat keeps up well with your child’s growth.

The Rodifix’s cover is easily removable and machine washable. It’s also dryer safe, which is nice because sometimes car seat covers require you to air dry them.

Safety

The Maxi-Cosi Rodifix Booster Seat is an IIHS Best Bet because kids can buckle themselves in easily every time. It doesn’t have armrests that can get in the way of properly fastening a seatbelt. Instead, it has lap belt guides that lock into place. A lack of armrests may seem uncomfortable, but the hourglass shape of the Rodifix still gives kids somewhere to prop up their arms—just not in a place that gets in the way of the seatbelt.

Parents will appreciate the LATCH connectors that make installation quick and easy. You can also use the booster with just a seatbelt, and once your child reaches 65 pounds, you should discontinue the use of the LATCH connectors.

The Rodifix booster is also made of a flexible material and has Air Protect Technology for additional side impact protection. Aside from the safety aspect, the flexible seat allows you to squeeze the boosters close to each other in small backseats.

Portability

The Maxi-Cosi Rodifix is better for families who don’t need to move it around much as it weighs a little over 14 pounds. It’s easy to install, though, thanks to the LATCH connectors.

The base of the booster seat is very narrow—only a little over 12 inches—but the total width including the wings on the side and covered in the cushiony fabric is around 19 inches.

Extras

The Rodifix booster reclines to keep your child comfy (and quiet) during a trip.

One thing that’s inconvenient about this seat for road trips is that it doesn’t have cupholders. That’s fine for the kids who sit close to your car’s cupholders, but think of the poor kid in the middle!

Verdict

If your family likes to go on long road trips, this booster seat is almost perfect. With a comfortable headrest, a padded cover, and the ability to recline, your child might even sleep the whole way. However, for families who need to move the booster seat from vehicle to vehicle frequently, this might not be the best choice as it’s one of the heavier options.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Easy to clean
  • Adjustable headrest that cradles your child’s head
  • Reclining seat
  • Locking shoulder belt guide to properly position the seatbelt

Cons

  • Heavy, so not as portable as other high back booster seats

3. Best Two-In-One Booster Car Seat: Graco Affix Highback Booster Car Seat with Latch System

Graco Affix Highback Booster Car Seat with Latch System

Why we like it: This two-in-one booster seat uses the LATCH system for maximum parent peace of mind.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: High Back + Backless
  • Size: 5 Inches Long x 16.5 Inches Wide x 26.8 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 43 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 100 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 9.8 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet

Can’t decide between a high back booster and a backless? Then you’ll appreciate the convertibility of the Graco Affix Highback Booster. When your child is ready for a backless booster seat, you can take the high back part off.

This two-in-one booster also includes a LATCH system for parents who just feel more comfortable when they can secure the booster seat to their car. Booster seats don’t require LATCH connectors (more on that in our installation section below) or any other kind of anchor, but these systems are still helpful.

Empty boosters without kids or seat belts to hold them down can become projectiles in your car. Having one restrained by LATCH makes it easier for you because you don’t have to remember to put an empty booster away before driving.

Safety

An IIHS Best Bet safety rating means your child can easily buckle themselves thanks to open-loop seat belt guides. The booster is also lined with EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) energy-absorbing foam. This foam absorbs the force of an impact to protect your child in case of a crash.

This booster seat is also Graco ProtectPlus Engineered, which means the seat was crash-tested in front, side, rear, and rollover scenarios. It also was subjected to extreme temperatures to make sure it will hold up in a blazing hot car during the summer.

Portability

The Graco Affix Highback Booster isn’t the heaviest on our list, but it’s not exactly light either. It weighs almost 10 pounds, so you won’t be lugging this thing from car to car easily. When you take into account the LATCH system, which anchors it to your vehicle, it’s best for families who plan to install it and leave it.

At 16.5 inches wide, the Graco Affix is narrow enough to fit two or three side by side. The seat depth is only 15.5 inches, so you don’t have to worry about your back seat not being deep enough.

Extras

Besides being able to convert to a backless booster seat, the Graco Affix Highback has lots of extras your child will appreciate. There are two recline settings for the child who likes to kick back and relax on road trips. The headrest has multiple layers to be extra comfortable (and safe), and it’s easily adjustable.

This booster includes one integrated cupholder and a little storage compartment that can hold snacks or other essential items. The cupholder doesn’t fold away, but the storage compartment does.

The fabric cover is breathable and machine washable, but you have to air dry it. Having to air dry isn’t ideal, but at least it’s easy to wash.

Verdict

The LATCH system on this booster keeps it steady, so it won’t slide around while your child gets in. It has lots of extras to keep your kid happy and comfy on road trips, but it isn’t the most portable option as a high back. This a cost-effective seat since it easily converts to a backless booster.

Pros

  • Converts to a backless booster
  • Two recline settings
  • Adjustable headrest
  • Cupholder and foldaway storage compartment
  • LATCH system

Cons

  • Not very portable

4. Safest Booster Car Seat: Graco TurboBooster Highback Booster Seat

Graco TurboBooster Highback Booster Seat

Why we like it: With a Best Bet safety rating, two-in-one booster convertibility, and cupholders, this booster seat has it all.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: High Back + Backless
  • Size: 15 Inches Long x 16.5 Inches Wide x 26.5 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 40 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 100 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 9 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet

The Graco TurboBooster Highback is similar to the Graco Affix Highback Booster, only it’s not as expensive and doesn’t have the LATCH system. It has the same two-in-one convertibility from high back to backless. We recommend watching an instructional video on Graco’s website, though, as it can be tricky to install the booster’s high back onto the bottom seat.

The Graco TurboBooster Highback has a removable, machine-washable cover, so that’s a plus. You have to air dry it, though, which isn’t as convenient since it adds to your overall wash time. All the other plastic parts can be wiped down with soap and water.

Safety

The TurboBooster Highback is an IIHS Best Bet just like the backless version, so you can feel confident that it’ll fit well in your car and position your child properly. The high back booster has open-loop belt guides to make sure your child buckles themselves in correctly.

Like the Graco Affix Highback Booster, the TurboBooster Highback is Graco ProtectPlus Engineered and lined with EPS foam for comfort and added side-impact protection.

Portability

The TurboBooster weighs a little less than the Graco Affix Highback, but high back boosters are cumbersome to move around. This booster is best used in one car—at least while it’s in high back mode. One good thing is that there’s no installation necessary. This booster only uses your car’s seat belt.

Extras

The headrest has six settings to grow with your child, and like the Evenflo Big Kid Amp Booster, you can make the adjustments with one hand. Unlike the Evenflo, however, there’s no recline option. So, if your child is fond of lounging back and sleeping hard, they might be disappointed. The padded cover is thick and comfortable, though, and the booster comes with a removable pillow insert for your child’s head.

For some families, cupholders are a must, and this booster has them on both sides. They’re retractable, too, so you can save space when they’re not in use.

Verdict

The Graco TurboBooster Highback is a safe, long-lasting two-in-one choice that gives you both a high back and a backless booster. Kids typically need booster seats from the age of 5 up to 10 to 12 years old, so having a booster seat with a high safety rating in both forms is ideal. If you’re curious about the recommended age ranges for booster seats, you can find the answer in our FAQ section.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Converts to a backless booster
  • The cover is removable and machine washable
  • The headrest has six adjustable settings
  • Two foldable cupholders

Cons

  • Difficult to assemble the seat

5. Evenflo Big Kid Amp High Back 2-in-1 Belt-Positioning Booster

Evenflo Big Kid Amp High Back 2-in-1 Belt-Positioning Booster

Why we like it: This is a great two-in-one booster that reclines and easily adjusts to your child’s height.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: High Back + Backless
  • Size: 19 Inches Long x 16.5 Inches Wide x 33 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 40 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 110 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 8.1 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet for Backless and Check Fit for High Back

The Evenflo Big Kid Amp Booster is another two-in-one option like the Graco TurboBooster HighBack. Theoretically, this means that the booster should last for many years. However, the padding on this seat is comfy at first but breaks down quickly over time. It doesn’t seem to hold up as well as other seats, so consider that if you want to buy it to last several years.

The cover is machine washable, and you can also throw it in the dryer on low heat. We recommend washing it as little as possible to try and preserve the padding.

Safety

Evenflo crash tests all their seats to make sure they surpass federal crash-test standards, and the Big Kid Amp is no exception. This booster seat has also been side-impact tested, and it has an energy-absorbing foam liner to protect your child better.

The backless booster has a Best Bet rating from IIHS, but the high back has a Check Fit rating. This rating means that you need to make sure your child buckles up correctly. To learn how, be sure to read our safety section below.

Portability

The Evenflo Big Kid Amp High Back only weighs 8.1 pounds, so it’s easy to move it to another vehicle. There’s no installation required since it just uses your car’s seatbelt.

At 16.5 inches wide, you can easily fit three across in most mid-size SUVs. The length is 19 inches, though, so it’s best for deeper backseats.

Extras

You can easily adjust the headrest with one hand, and it has six different heights to keep up with your growing child. Comfort is essential, too, and the Evenflo Big Kid Amp has six reclining positions. Surely with that many different positions, even the pickiest of kids will be comfortable!

It also has two integrated cupholders that will hold drinks without taking up too much more space in your car.

Verdict

The Evenflo Big Kid Amp Booster is a solid two-in-one choice if you want both a high back and backless booster. However, the IIHS rating of Check Fit for the high back means you have to make sure your child is buckled in properly and fits the height and weight guidelines. The padding on this booster is comfy at first, and it’s great that it has so many recline settings, but it isn’t very durable.

Pros

  • Converts to a backless booster
  • The booster has six different recline settings
  • Adjustable headrest has six different heights
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • IIHS Check Fit rating for high back
  • The padding breaks down over time

6. Best Travel Booster Car Seat: BubbleBum Inflatable Backless Booster

BubbleBum Inflatable Backless Booster

Why we like it: The BubbleBum is light enough to take with you anywhere, and it’s surprisingly safe even though it’s an inflatable booster.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: Backless
  • Size: 12 Inches Long x 13 Inches Wide x 4 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 40 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 100 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 1.2 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet

If you go on lots of trips with your kids where you need to rent a car or ride in a taxi or Uber, then the BubbleBum Inflatable Backless Booster is ideal. Once deflated, it easily packs away in your bag or suitcase. It doesn’t require a pump or anything else, either. You just blow it up with your mouth—it only takes about 10 seconds.

An inflatable booster isn’t the most comfortable option, however. So while the Maxi-Cosi Rodifix Booster Seat is perfect for long road-trips, the BubbleBum is best as a temporary booster seat.

The cover is machine washable, and you can also throw it in the dryer on low heat.

Safety

An inflatable seat doesn’t sound like the safest option, but it has a Best Bet rating from the IIHS. The booster is also made of memory foam, and it passed crash tests even while deflated. It also meets European safety regulations, so you can take it with you internationally!

The BubbleBum also has lap belt guides to make sure the seat belt fits across your child’s lap properly.

Portability

At only 1.2 pounds, there’s no other booster on our list lighter. Once folded up, the BubbleBum measures 12 inches by 7 inches, so you can even fit it in a tote bag. Its narrow footprint will also easily fit three across in even the tiniest European car.

Extras

The trade-off for this booster’s extreme portability is that it doesn’t have any extras: no cupholders or even armrests on this one.

Verdict

The BubbleBum has a silly name, but it provides just as much safety as other backless booster seats. However, the BubbleBum won’t work well as an everyday booster since it’s not very comfortable. For a trip where you need a portable booster seat that will fit in your suitcase, inflate quickly, and give your child a booster to use in a rental car, the BubbleBum is the best choice.

Pros

  • Weighs a little over 1 pound
  • Deflates into a small package
  • Ideal for travel
  • IIHS Best Bet

Cons

  • Uncomfortable
  • No cupholders or armrests

7. Best Backless Booster Car Seat with LATCH: Graco AFFIX Backless Booster Seat

Graco AFFIX Backless Booster Seat

Why we like it: A LATCH system on this backless booster gives parents peace of mind.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: Backless
  • Size: 5 Inches Long x 16.5 Inches Wide x 8.6 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 43 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 100 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 6.4 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet

Many parents just don’t feel like their kids are safe without some way to anchor the booster seat to the car. Graco has heard your cries and created the AFFIX Backless Booster with LATCH to ease your mind. You can adjust the tightness of the LATCH by pulling on the front strap with one hand. One annoying thing, though, is that the straps don’t stay tight, so you’ll frequently have to readjust them.

Some of the other aspects we liked are that the padding on this seat is comfortable, and the cover is machine washable.

Safety

This booster is another Graco ProtectPlus Engineered model, so it’s been through rigorous crash tests of all types. It’s also an IIHS Best Bet because your child can buckle themselves up effortlessly. Just make sure they don’t accidentally put the lap belt over the armrests.

Portability

The Graco AFFIX is as portable as any backless booster, but it doesn’t have any aspects that make it especially easy to transport. At a little over 6 pounds, it’s not the lightest on the list. It’ll fit well in your car, but it’s not like the foldable Graco GO, where it’s easy for your child to take it with them.

Extras

The Graco AFFIX Booster comes with an integrated cupholder and a storage compartment to hold snacks or other vital things (like a favorite tiny toy). The storage compartment folds away when it’s not in use, which is always useful for making your booster seat narrower. However, the cupholder doesn’t fold away.

Verdict

For parents who feel most comfortable with a booster that has LATCH, this is a safe choice. It has some extras to make it more comfortable, but it’s not the most portable backless booster on the list.

Pros

  • This booster has a LATCH system with an easy-to-tighten strap
  • It has a retractable storage compartment and one cupholder
  • The padding is comfortable
  • The cover is removable and machine washable

Cons

  • The booster is not especially portable
  • The LATCH straps don’t stay tight

8. Best Budget Narrow Booster Car Seat: Cosco Topside Backless Booster

Cosco Topside Backless Booster

Why we like it: This backless seat is an inexpensive, lightweight choice for families that don’t need a lot of extras on their boosters.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: Backless
  • Size: 16 Inches Long x 15 Inches Wide x 3 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 43 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 100 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 2.2 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Check Fit

The Cosco Topside Backless Booster is exceptionally lightweight, weighing just a little more than the BubbleBum Inflatable Booster. It’s designed to keep your car’s seat free from marks, which is always good for resale (or for anyone who likes to keep their car looking nice).

However, we regret to inform any parent who likes to keep a clean car that the cover is hand-wash only. At least it can be cleaned—just not as easily as one that you can throw in the washing machine.

Safety 

The Cosco Topside has an IIHS Check Fit rating because you can’t use it in vehicles where the seat belt comes out of the door or from a side panel, which is the case in most minivans.

Portability

At only 15 inches wide, the Cosco Topside Booster will easily fit in most back seats, and you can also fit three across in most mid-size SUVs. If you need a booster that you can quickly move from vehicle to vehicle, then this is an excellent choice since it only weighs a little over 2 pounds.

Extras

If your kid needs a cupholder to be happy in life, then this isn’t the booster seat for them. The armrests are also not adjustable. The seat is comfortable and extra-padded, though, so it’s great for older kids who aren’t as attached to cupholders.

Verdict

The Cosco Topside Backless has price and portability going for it, but if you want a booster with a lot of great extras, this isn’t the one for you.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • IIHS Check Fit rating
  • No extras like cupholders or adjustable armrests

9. Most Portable Booster Car Seat: Graco Turbo GO Folding Backless Booster

Graco Turbo GO Folding Backless Booster

Why we like it: This lightweight booster has belt guides that fold down to make it easy to take along with you from car to car.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: Backless
  • Size: 8 Inches Long x 15.2 Inches Wide x 8.86 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 43 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 100 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 4 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet

For a simplistic booster that will appeal to older kids, the Graco Turbo GO is a good choice. Its unique features are that it folds in half, and the metal belt positioners fold down, enabling you to store and transfer the booster seat easily. It comes in a few different colors (always a plus for kids!), and the cover is machine washable.

Safety

The Graco Turbo GO has an IIHS Best Bet rating because the belt guides work well and are high enough that they don’t dig into your child’s legs. It also includes a shoulder belt positioner.

Portability

This booster isn’t the lightest on our list, but it only weighs 4 pounds. When you fold it in half, it measures 5 inches long by 14 inches wide, so you can easily fit it in a large bag or backpack. This small size makes it ideal for carpooling because your child can just bring it to school.

Extras

Like the Cosco Topside, the Graco Go doesn’t have many exciting features, but hey, it gets the job done. Just don’t expect cupholders, armrests, or any other extras.

Verdict

The Graco Turbo GO is a great portable option for older kids who frequently need to bring a booster with them from vehicle to vehicle. This booster might not be the best option for long road trips, though, as it lacks armrests and cupholders.

Pros

  • The booster folds in half for max portability
  • The cover is removable and machine washable
  • The belt guides lie flat when they’re not in use

Cons

  • No extras like cupholders or armrests
  • Not very comfortable for long trips

10. KidsEmbrace Backless Booster Car Seat

KidsEmbrace Backless Booster Car Seat

Why we like it: With covers featuring different superhero characters and a high safety rating, this booster is a fun choice for superhero fans.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • Type: Backless
  • Size: 5 Inches Long x 16.5 Inches Wide x 8.8 Inches High
  • Height Requirements: 40 to 57 Inches
  • Weight Requirements: 40 to 100 Pounds
  • Booster Seat Weight: 3.6 Pounds
  • IIHS Safety Rating: Best Bet

Does your kid have a favorite superhero or Disney character? KidsEmbrace probably has a booster featuring one of them. The advantage is that you can then use the superhero or character to motivate your kid into sitting in their seat properly: “Spider-Man says not to put your seatbelt behind your back, Jason.”

The booster cover is machine washable, which is always a good thing, but the seat isn’t very well padded. Your child will be comfortable on short trips to the store, but that’s about it.

Safety

The KidsEmbrace Backless Booster has an IIHS Best Bet safety rating, and it comes with a shoulder belt positioning clip to help your child buckle up correctly. The armrests are also positioned in a way to guide the lap belt, but this also causes them to be uncomfortable because they’re not very long.

Portability

The KidsEmbrace booster is only 3.6 pounds, so it’s very lightweight and portable. Like most of the other boosters on our list, the KidsEmbrace is 16.5 inches wide. If you have a family full of superhero fans, then you can have three different characters side-by-side. Just don’t mix DC and Marvel characters. It’s against the rules of the universe.

Extras

The KidsEmbrace backless booster includes one cupholder, but it doesn’t fold away when it’s not in use to save space. The armrests are also not adjustable, which your child might find uncomfortable.

Verdict

This booster is perfect for superhero fans, but after a certain age, bigger kids might think the design is too “babyish.” Unless you need a superhero’s help convincing your kid to stay in their booster seat, a more basic model will likely last longer.

Pros

  • Available in different characters
  • The booster has one cupholder
  • The cover is removable and machine washable

Cons

  • Older kids may not like the design over time
  • Not very comfortable
  • A little too pricey for what you get

Complete Guide to Buying the Best Narrow Booster Car Seats for 2020

The booster seats on our list are rated as safe (as long as you properly buckle your child in) by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), but it can be hard to narrow down exactly which one is best for your child. Don’t worry! We’re here to help with a handy buying guide.

To pick the perfect booster seat for you and your family, here are the questions you’ll want to ask yourself.

How Much Room Are You Working With?

The first thing you should do is measure your back seat or third row to see how much space you have to accommodate one or two (or three!) booster seats. You may have to take another car seat into account, or possibly other passengers—remember that Tetris scenario we mentioned in the beginning?—so make sure to include those things in your measurements.

You should also measure the depth of your seats—that’s something a lot of us forget to do, but you wouldn’t want your brand-new booster to hang off the edge of the seat!

Which Type of Booster Seat Is Best—Backless or High Back?

The answer to this really depends on your family’s needs. If you’re wondering if one is safer than another, this study found that there was no difference between backless or high back booster seats as far as safety. Of course, this is dependent on whether your child is properly buckled in (more on that later).

Let’s look at the pros and cons of both types of seats so you can get a better idea of which one is best for your family.

Backless

Backless booster seats like our top overall pick are the most straightforward kind. They are cushions that your child sits on to raise them so the seat belt fits them properly. The booster seat doesn’t fasten into your car in any way, and it only has one part: the seat that goes under your child.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight and portable
  • No installation necessary
  • Older kids typically like them better since they don’t look like car seats (they aren’t as “babyish”)

Cons:

  • You have to make sure the back of your vehicle’s seat or headrest comes to the bottom of your child’s ears
  • There’s no guide for the shoulder strap of the seat belt

High Back

High back booster seats like our premium pick have the bottom part of a backless seat, but they also have a back with wings on the side for shoulder belt positioning and side-impact crash protection. A lot of the high back boosters come with the option to convert them to backless, which is a cost-effective way of getting a seat that will grow with your child.

Pros:

  • Shoulder and lap belt positioning
  • Head support for vehicles that don’t provide it
  • Good for keeping a younger child in the safest position
  • Usually more comfortable

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Heavier and bulkier, so not as portable

Speaking of portability…

Do You Need a Portable Booster Seat?

There are many situations where you may need to move your child’s booster seat from one car to another. Maybe your child carpools with another family, or maybe you need to move the seat to a grandparent’s car, or you may even need to move it to your partner’s car regularly.

Sometimes you can get away with only having one booster seat that you transfer from your car to your partner’s, and it’s a great way to save money. Suppose you plan to move the booster seat from car to car frequently. In that case, it’s a good idea to have one that’s more lightweight and portable—like a backless booster such as the Graco Turbo GO.

How Important Is a Clean Booster Seat to You?

Are you the type who instantly develops an eye twitch at the sight of a drink spilling? You might want to look for a booster seat with a machine washable cover like most of the ones on our list. Because let’s be real, kids are going to eat and drink in the car at some point, and it’ll make your life easier if the booster seat is easy to clean. Some boosters are hand-wash only, but who has time for that?

Frequently Asked Questions About Booster Car Seats

Dying to know more about booster seats? Well, who wouldn’t be? Read on for everything you wanted to know and more. We’ll cover all the basics from what they are to safety and installation below.
child in booster seat

What Is a Booster Seat?

Booster seats have a simple enough purpose: they boost your child up so your car’s seat belt will protect them. They have the bonus effect of making your child feel like they’re Really Something Now.

Booster seats make sure your car’s lap belt lies across your child’s thighs instead of their belly. These seats also keep the shoulder belt from cutting into your child’s neck. Instead, booster seats guide the seat belt safely across your child’s chest.

When Does Your Child Need a Booster Seat?

Are you tired of struggling with a five-point harness? Is your child begging to graduate to a “big kid” seat? We get it. Car seats can be unwieldy, difficult to use, and take up most of the back seat. For your child’s safety, though, you need to take it slow when graduating from a car seat to a booster seat.

According to the Car Seat Lady, a well-known expert on car seat safety, the minimum requirements for kids to use a booster seat are:

  • At least five years old
  • At least 40 pounds
  • Able to sit in their seat properly without any shenanigans like putting their seatbelt behind their back

Backless booster seats, such as the Graco TurboBooster, have an additional requirement. For a child to safely ride in a backless booster seat, the vehicle seat or headrest must be above your child’s ears. The headrest is to prevent whiplash during a crash.

If you have a low vehicle seat, you’ll need to use a high back booster seat, such as the Graco Affix Highback Booster, to protect your child’s head and neck in case of a crash.

Why Should You Use a Booster Seat?

Your child has reached the weight and age requirements for a booster seat, but do they really need one? Why can’t they just sit in the backseat with a seatbelt on?

Well, for one thing, in some states, it’s against the law. Many states have laws that children under the age of eight must be in a car seat or booster seat.

There was also a study conducted using crash data that found that kids four to seven years old who used booster seats were 59% less likely to be injured than using a seat belt alone. The good news is that only a little over 1% of any of the kids in those crashes were injured at all, and even fewer (0.77%) were injured when they used a booster seat.

A seatbelt isn’t designed to fit children properly. The shoulder belt ends up cutting into their necks, and the lap belt digs into their soft belly instead of across their laps like it does with adults.

You probably know that a seatbelt exists to keep us from flying violently out of the car in the event of a crash. A seatbelt also redistributes all those powerful crash forces over the parts of our bodies that can handle it—like our chests and hip bones. A child’s little neck and belly can be seriously injured in terrible ways by a crash. It’s just physics.

A booster seat positions your child so that the seatbelt works the way it was designed to. The bottom line is that booster seats keep your little ones safe from injuries in a crash.

How Are Booster Seats Tested for Safety?

The big car seat companies like Graco and Evenflo can be trusted to conduct crash tests and verify their booster seats’ safety. Still, sometimes the weight and age recommendations are inaccurate. They may say a younger, smaller child can use a booster, for example. According to the Car Seat Lady, though, the minimum of 40 pounds and five years old should be adhered to. Why rush things and possibly endanger your child?

There are also independent labs that test boosters for safety, and we checked the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety for their ratings on each of the boosters on our list. The IIHS conducts crash tests and looks at how well the booster seats fit in various vehicle types including cars, vans, SUVs, and more.

The IIHS has four different safety ratings:

  1. Best Bet: the seats provide reliably good belt fits for typical 4 to 8-year-olds in almost any car, van, or SUV.
  2. Good Bet: the seats provide acceptable belt fit in most cars, vans, or SUVs.
  3. Not Recommended: luckily, no booster seat on the market (that they’ve tested) has this label.
  4. Check Fit: the seats had varied results depending on child size and type of vehicle, so always be sure your child buckles up correctly.

How Do You Know Your Child Is Buckled Up Properly?

When your child is buckled in their “big kid” booster seat, the shoulder belt should lie across the middle of your child’s shoulder, and the lap belt should run across the tops of their thighs. Are you a visual learner? The IIHS has examples of how the seat belt should and should not fit across your child’s body.

How Do You Install a Booster Seat?

Most booster seats are simply placed on top of your car’s backseat. The lack of anchor for the booster can be jarring for many parents because we’re so used to going through an elaborate installation process with car seats.

Some booster seats, especially high back, come with LATCH connectors to quickly snap into the metal bars inside your car’s seat. The Graco Affix Highback Booster is an excellent booster that comes with a LATCH system. These will likely be familiar to most parents as car seats frequently use them. LATCH connectors should only be used up to 65 pounds, though. After that, they’re not as effective.

It’s important to note that a booster seat doesn’t need to be anchored to your car. Your car’s seatbelt is what’s keeping your child safe in a booster seat. The seat is just there to get your child in the right position to use the seat belt.

One thing you should know, though, is that booster seats without a child in them can quickly become a deadly projectile in a crash. Be sure to store them in the trunk when not in use.
children in booster seats

Final Thoughts on Booster Seats

There’s nothing more important than your little one’s safety, so don’t be in a rush to move them to a booster before they’re ready. Even though some manufacturers sometimes say lower weight and height ranges, car seat experts agree that the rule of thumb is five years old and 40 pounds. So long as you adhere to these guidelines, any one of the booster seats on this list will protect your little one, so pick your favorite and hit the road!

About the Author

Jessica Leake

With five kids from the age of still-in-diapers to tween, Jessica Leake should have a degree in kid stuff, parenting, and diapers by now. Sadly, her only official degree is as a psychotherapist (Master of Social Work/licensed clinical social worker) which she puts to good use homeschooling all those kids. She’s also the author of four traditionally published novels, the two most recent by HarperTeen. She lives in Greenville, SC with her pharmacist husband, their five young children, two dogs, and a whole lot of chickens.

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