A backless booster seat is generally considered the final seat your child will use when transitioning between their car seat days and their seat belt days.
Though fairly simple in design and more lightweight than a typical car seat, a booster seat is not any less important.
Simply put, a backless booster allows your child to be properly restrained with the vehicle’s seat belt by positioning the lap belt low across the child’s upper thighs.
Since vehicle seat belts are designed for adults, a child also needs a booster to make sure the shoulder belt will sit correctly across their shoulder in order to provide adequate protection.
When Should I Switch to a Backless Booster Seat?
There is no perfect age or size of child to help you decide when to transition to a backless booster seat.
Most of them are rated for children as young as 4 or 40 pounds, but that is just a minimum guideline. Many parents are choosing to use 5-pt harnesses or high back boosters for longer due to the fact that they tend to keep a child positioned correctly with less effort.
If you have a child that has outgrown the limits of their current high back booster or 5-pt harness car seat, or if you and your older child both want the simplicity of a backless booster, you may want to consider switching to a backless booster.
But how do you know if they are ready?
The main determining factors are: The booster seat allows the lap seat belt to fit snugly low across your child’s hips while the shoulder belt stays in contact with the middle of the child’s shoulder. Plus your child has the maturity to sit upright correctly during the entire ride while keeping the vehicle’s seat belt in the correct position.
If your child is prone to slouching, sleeping while riding, leaning or reaching beyond the confines of the seat belt, wriggling out of the seat belt, unlatching the seat belt, putting the shoulder belt under their armpit, or otherwise manipulating the vehicle’s seat belt, than you should likely continue to keep them in high back booster or 5-pt harness until they are older and more mature.
There is no rush to switch to a backless booster. It is not a milestone that needs to be reached sooner than later. In fact, we highly recommend using a backless booster only for children that have grown too large for the alternatives.
Legally, you can generally use them with children as young as 4 and as light as 40 lbs, but most children are not developmentally ready until closer to the age range of 6-9. Only you, as a parent, knows best when your child is ready for a backless booster.
Hopefully these guidelines will help you to know when to make this decision.
Best Backless Booster Seats in 2020
There are so many options for backless booster seats on the market. Honestly, it can be downright confusing as to what to look for! We hope to narrow down your choices to the best backless booster seats available in regards to safety, price, value, convenience, and ease of use.
In our reviews, we will cover a general description and then list the pros and cons of each seat, plus our final verdicts. To help us bring you the best recommendations, we consider the real-life experience of other parents and consumers, both the good and the bad, and our own overall impressions of each seat that we look at.
Why it is our top pick?
This seat has everything you could possibly want in a backless booster, including easy-to-use InLine LATCH, easy-to-clean features, a carrying handle, and a plush seat.
Designed for big kids between 40-110 lbs. and 38-57” tall, this deluxe backless booster has a contoured ErgoBoost seat with double foam padding and removable fabric that can be washed. The shoulder belt clip helps to position the seat belt and the integrated lap belt guides keep the seat belt snug across the upper thighs.
The GoFit Plus is equipped with Inline LATCH hooks with an quick-release button in the front for simple install and removal. The LATCH system keeps the booster in place whether occupied or not, but of course it is the vehicle’s seat belt which does the work of holding the child in place.
This booster also has a built-in handle for easy carry, which makes it ideal for travel. The bottom is smooth and non-marking to protect your vehicle seats. It also has two foldable cup holders that can be popped out for use or tucked in for storage and that can be removed for washing.
We love the easy-to-use LATCH system on this booster. It truly makes it a simple task to either install or remove, while holding the seat steady even when not in use.
The fact that this is seat has comfortable armrests, a cushy seat, and handy cup holders makes it a fast favorite among kids.
This is one of the most expensive seats on the market due to its various features, so it is definitely not a budget booster.
The Bottom Line
If you can afford it, this is one of the best backless booster seats on the market. It has all the bells and whistles you could possibly want or need. It is pricey, but it does its job really well and is loved by parents and children alike.
If for any reason you love this seat, but don’t feel that you want or need the InLine LATCH System, there is the option to save a few bucks by purchasing the basic GoFit model, which is otherwise the same seat, just without LATCH: Chicco GoFit Backless Booster Car Seat
This booster is designed for children from 40-100 lbs and up to 57” tall.
It has regular LATCH hooks that are tightened into position via the front pull straps.
This positions the booster and keeps it firmly in place whether occupied or not, while the vehicle seat belt is routed along the path under the armrests to secure the child.
The booster has one cup holder and hide-away storage compartment for snacks or small objects. The armrests are adjustable so that they can be kept at a comfortable level for your growing child. Plus, the fabric is removable and machine-washable to help you keep the seat clean.
We like that this booster has the LATCH attachments to secure the seat from becoming a projectile when not in use and the up-front adjustment straps are handy, too. The adjustable armrests are handy and it is nice that there is a cup holder and storage compartment.
The LATCH hooks are not the InLine system which means that it is more time-consuming and tricky to attach and remove this seat.
We also aren’t impressed with the fact that the placement of the hide-away storage compartment makes it nearly impossible for most kids to open and close on their own.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a fairly budget-friendly booster that has LATCH, this is definitely a great option. It isn’t the easiest one to use, but it also isn’t the most expensive, so it has that advantage. If you intend to mostly leave it one place, that makes it even more appealing.
Don’t need the LATCH system at all and want to save some money?
Try the Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster Car Seat which is nearly the same seat, except without the LATCH hooks. A slight design variation also means that it has two hideaway cup holders, but no storage compartment.
This basic booster seat holds a child from 40-100 lbs and 43-57 inches tall.
The seat has an extra-plush pad for comfortable riding and is super lightweight for easily moving between vehicles.
The armrests are splayed out to create plenty of room for your child’s bottom, while also providing the proper routing of the lap belt of your vehicle.
It comes in a few different colors and designs so that you can find just the look you are wanting.
The fabric is removable and should be hand-washed. The bottom of the seat is smooth and non-marking, so that your vehicle seat won’t be marred from its use.
This is a great budget option for a simple, lightweight seat that is adequate for many families. It won’t mess up your vehicle’s seat and is fairly for most children to ride on.
This is a basic seat with no extras. It does not have a LATCH system, so you will need to keep it strapped into the car or remove it from the vehicle when not in use. The armrests may not be all that useful because of their design and it has no cup holders.
The Bottom Line
Super simple, this is a grab-n-go car seat that will not break the bank. It doesn’t have any bells and whistles, but for some families, that it exactly what they want!
The fact that it is easy to grab and carry makes it handy to move around and if this appeals to you, this could be the seat you are looking for!
This is a very unique portable booster seat that is quite unlike any traditional booster you have seen before.
It was designed for when you need to carry a booster on the go in unique travel situations such as carpooling, taxis, rental cars, or for storing in your luggage while flying so that your child has a booster on the ready at your destination.
Super compact, this booster seat literally folds up into a tiny package that can fit in a glove box. It can safely hold a child aged 4 and up, from 40-100 lbs, who is 40-57 inches tall. It is safety-inspected and meets or exceeds all US National requirements for car seat crash tests.
This seat works a bit differently than a typical booster in that it doesn’t actually lift the child up, but actually positions the vehicle lap belt lower so that it is positioned correctly across the child’s thighs. It also has a shoulder belt guide so that the vehicle seat belt will fit securely and snugly in all the right places.
The is the seat to buy for your traveling ventures! Super portable, lightweight, and tiny, it can fit in your child’s backpack so that they always have a safe way to ride. It is simple enough to be installed by a child and the width adjustment means it can grow with your child as well.
Because it is designed for a very specific purpose, this is not a luxurious or necessarily comfortable booster. It gets the job done, but is not cushy. It has a few extra steps for installing and does require a bit more adjusting than a typical booster seat.
The Bottom Line
Do you need a compact, portable booster seat for your child? I highly recommend this booster!
Should it be your everyday booster for your family’s vehicle? Not necessarily.
This is because it may not be the most comfortable and it doesn’t help a shorter child see out of the window. However, an older child may love it because it doesn’t even look like a booster at all!
This is a portable booster that is designed to be used in travel situations where you don’t have access to a traditional booster seat.
It can be used for children 4-11 years old who weigh between 40-100 pounds. It works by being inflated by mouth for approximately 10 seconds.
It stores easily in its pouch and when deflated takes up a small amount of room. It is adequate and useful for when you need a booster but can’t really carry a full-size one with you. However, it does tend to slide around and is not recommended as a permanent seat or for long rides.
It comes with a shoulder-positioning belt clip and it does pass the national standards required for car seats in the US. When inflated it is only 13” wide, so works well in situations when you need to seat 3 children across.
It is lightweight (1.2 lbs!), compact, and convenient to use and carry. It is a great option when you know you won’t have access to a regular booster but need something to provide your child a safe ride. It only takes a few seconds to inflate and deflate.
It is difficult to get a great fit with the belt-positioners and may require your child to be extra-diligent to sit still and not move around too much, especially because it is prone to sliding around. This means that it may only be adequate for short rides or in emergency situations when you don’t have other options.
Because this seat relies on inflation to work properly, you will likely need to double-check that it is holding up adequately. It also may lose some inflation in higher altitudes, but it is not recommended to overfill to account for this or it could damage the seat. Never use on an airplane.
The Bottom Line
This is not a replacement for a traditional car seat, but is a great alternative for when you need something portable, such as in a taxi, carpool, after an airplane ride, or other unique travel circumstance when you may not have your regular booster with you.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is a Backless Booster Seat Safe?
Yes, a backless booster seat is a safe and approved way of restraining your child in a moving vehicle as long as your child is mature enough to sit properly and the seat belt routes correctly across their body.
If your child attempts to circumvent the seat belt by unbuckling, leaning, slouching, or moving the seat belt from its designated path, then they are probably not ready to use a backless booster seat. Most children will require some training and guidance to understand how to safely sit in a booster seat.
If the booster seat is properly installed but the vehicle’s seat belt does not sit low across the child’s upper thighs while also making contact with the child’s shoulder, then this may mean your child is not big enough to use a backless booster seat and should be restrained with a 5-point harness car seat instead.
Only transition your child to a backless booster if proper fit can be maintained at all times during travel. If in doubt, continue to use a car seat that eliminates these doubts. There is no rush to use a booster seat and it is not a milestone to be achieved. Best practice generally includes using a 5-point harness until your child outgrows the limits of that type of seat.
Which One Should I Choose: a High Back Booster Seat or a Backless Booster Seat?
A high back booster seat is a great choice when transitioning your child out of a 5-point harness car seat. Because a high back provides head and neck support as well as a shoulder belt guide, it is easier to train your child to sit properly in this type of booster seat. Plus, a high back is a must if your vehicle does not have proper built-in headrests.
If your child is trained to sit properly in a backless booster seat, the seat belt routes correctly across the child’s body, including contact with the child’s shoulder, and the vehicle has a built-in headrest to provide adequate head and neck protection, then a backless booster is as safe as a high back booster.
In this case, you can choose either type of seat and may want to use a backless option for convenience and ease of use. Because they are more lightweight and less bulky, a backless car seat is easier to switch between vehicles and are great for traveling.
What safety warnings should I pay attention to when using a backless booster seat?
- The vehicle seat must have a properly positioned built-in headrest to provide head and neck protection in the event of a crash.
- Most do not have a shoulder guide, so make sure that the shoulder gently rests across the middle of the child’s clavicle, touching between neck and shoulder.
- Be sure that the lap belt is routed across the child’s hips/upper thighs and does not cross the soft part of the child’s belly, which increases the risk of injury and fatality during a crash.
- Make sure that the seat is properly restrained even when not in use so that it is not loose and cannot become a projectile.