Booster Seats

Posted in: Booster Seats

Who Should Ride in a Booster?monkeying around

Kids, especially younger ones, are safer in a 5-point harness. Don’t rush to “graduate” your child to a booster seat. If your child still fits in his 5-point harness car seat, leave him there!

If you can answer “Yes” to ALL the statements below, your child is safe to use a booster:

green check markThere is a shoulder AND lap belt (boosters need shoulder belts)

green check markThe child is at least 40 pounds

green check markThe child is at least 5 years old

green check markThe child can sit properly the entire trip without leaning forward, slouching, sitting on their knees, playing with the shoulder belt, etc

Quick Guide to Boosters

What is a Booster Seat?

A booster seat positions the vehicle’s safety belt properly on a child. The booster makes sure that the lap belt rests on the child’s lap, over the strong hip bones – and nowhere near the soft belly. The booster also makes sure that the shoulder belt rests between the child’s shoulder and neck – so the child is comfortable and won’t put the belt behind her back or under her arm. When a child rides on a booster, he must use the vehicle’s shoulder AND lap belt across them. Boosters will not work with lap-only belts.

Why should kids ride in a booster?DSC_0022

Because the vehicle seat is too big and a child’s bone structure is too small and underdeveloped to keep the safety belt in the proper place during a crash. A 4-8 year old child riding in a booster is 59% less likely to be injured in a crash than a 4-8 year old wearing a safety belt alone.

Are there different types of boosters?

Yes, there are two different types of boosters–backless boosters, and high-backed boosters. Which one to choose depends on your vehicle, the age, height and weight of your child, and you and your child’s own preferences. Backless boosters are smaller and lighter and this makes them great for travel. High-backed boosters (specifically those with deep head wings) are better for sleeping.

Please note that combination seats are also sometimes called boosters or hybrid boosters. These seats start off as a 5-point harness car seat and can turn into a high-back and/or backless booster once the child is big enough and mature enough to ride in a booster.

When Can My Child Stop Using a Booster?

Unless you can answer “yes” to all the questions, your child still needs a booster in order for the seat belt to fit correctly, no matter how tall, how heavy, or how old he is!

5 step test

106 Responses to “Booster Seats”

  1. Kelli McCormick says:

    My son is currently riding in a Britax Advocate and Boulevard (in different cars). He’s 3.5 and has a tall seated height. We are getting close to the top of the shoulder position in the carseat where the straps are above his shoulders. He is FF. I would like to sell my carseats to another mom who doesn’t want to buy brand new ones. However, if my son can still fit in the ones we have now, is it safer to stay in those rather than go to a 5 point harness Britax Pinnacle or Frontier?

    • All of these are forward-facing 5 point harnesses. Yes, the Advocate & Boulevard can also go rear-facing, and yes the Pinnacle & Frontier can turn into boosters – but these “other modes” are irrelevant to the fact that you are going to use all of these seats as a forward-facing 5 point harness.

  2. Ken says:

    We live in California. At 37″ tall our 3 y.o. daughter’s shoulders sit at the height of her carseat’s top shoulder strap. She weighs 29.5 lbs. What should we do when her shoulders are higher than the top strap height on her carseat? Should we move her to a booster seat or do we need to purchase a taller carseat until she’s 4 y.o. or 40 lbs? I’ve searched for clarification on this, & can’t seem to find it anywhere.

    • She will need a seat where the 5 point harness has shoulder strap slots that allow the straps to stay at or above her shoulders. Most seats will do this for a 37″ child… so you may want to double check the manual to your seat and make sure you really have the straps as high as they go (it can be tricky). If you do – and therefore she does need a new seat – the Britax Frontier has the highest shoulder strap slots of any seat on the market.

  3. Kristi says:

    We are traveling to San Diego on a plane. Once we get there we plan on taking taxis/shuttle once we land. We have a just turned 1 yo, just turned 4yo and just turned 6 yo. We obviously will take the baby’s car seat but wondering what I should do for the 4 yo. He is 36 lbs but really tall. I think I might try the bumble bum for my 6 yo. I just don’t know what we do with the car seats at the zoo, aquarium, etc. Any advice on what to travel with/buy or other options will be greatly appreciated.

  4. Lori A Boyer says:

    My 5 year old uses a high back booster. He’s 43 inches tall and uses an adult seat belt. His pediatrician says he is able to sit in a backless booster. Do I leave him in the high back booster or switch to the backless?

    • Leave him in a high back booster for as long as you can – kids tend to sit much better in a high back than a backless (too much freedom in a backless).

  5. Aaron Shuman says:

    Our truck only has a lap belt in the middke back seat. It cannot be changed due to liability issues. What do uou suggest for our situation. Thanks.

    • You will need to use a car seat there (ideally a rear-facing car seat) or avoid having someone sit there. A booster or a person in a seat belt will not be well protected there and should not ride there. The Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 has the highest rear-facing capacity of any seat – takes most kids until 5-6 years old rear-facing – and would be a potential option for a seat to put there.

  6. Amanda says:

    I am looking for a booster for my husband’s truck because my 4 yo is getting too tall for the straps in her convertible. We have to purchase inexpensive from a place like Walmart. I am reading on all these seats that the harnesses on the high back boosters should only be used to 40lbs. Is that absolute? I don’t feel she’s quite ready for a belt, but I also don’t want to misuse a seat and make it more dangerous.

    • The Graco Tranzitions can be a good budget friendly option for a seat with a high harness capacity that later turns into a booster. Make sure to install it using the seat belt AND tether strap (don’t forget the tether – it is super important). If the truck is a pick-up truck, read the vehicle manual VERY carefully to see how to use the tether as it can be very confusing and easy to do wrong if you don’t read the manual carefully.

  7. kayla says:

    My 6 year old daughter is 54 lbs and 49 inches we currently have her in a booster seat but I don’t think she is ready to be in one because she wont sit up properly and plays around to much. She we put her back in a harnessed car seat? do you have any recommendations on ones for bigger kids?

    • The Britax Frontier is your best bet – as it has the highest harness capacity of any seat on the market. Make sure to install it using the seat belt AND tether strap (don’t forget the tether – it is super important).

  8. samantha says:

    My son is 6 and 41 lbs and is still in his Britix Boulevard and seems comfortable. We dont use our car every day. Only to drive to NJ or Long island, so highways. Is it unsafe to leave him in a car seat? Should I move him to a booster?

    • He can stay in the Boulevard until his shoulders reach the top shoulder strap height (make sure you are moving the head rest on the Boulevard up to keep the shoulder straps just above his shoulders). Also make sure you are using the tether to secure the top of the car seat to the tether anchor in the vehicle. If you are not using the tether he would be safer in a booster.

  9. Lisa says:

    Hi there,
    My son is almost 7 years old, but is still 39lb and is 45 inches tall. Should I have him in a 5 point harness? I feel like he’s right on the cusp for all things, but his weight. What would you recommend, and which type of 5 point harness if that’s what you think I should have him in? Thank you!

    • If he still fits in his 5 point harness in height (straps are coming from at or above his shoulders) AND you are using the tether strap when you installed the car seat I’d leave it for the next pound or so and then switch to a booster if he is mature enough for a booster – otherwise, if he is mature and has outgrown his seat you could consider switching now.

  10. Eric Troiani says:

    All good points in regards to proper usage of booster seats, however, you do not mention the following:

    Most vehicle today are equipped with a seat belt lock (Extending until ratcheting sound) Does this feature only applies for “baby seat” installations or can this feature also be used for booster seat when in use? backless or otherwise?

    • It is not safe to ride in a seat belt – either an adult in a seat belt or a child in a booster using the seat belt as their restraint – with it in the car seat locking mode (the one where you pull the belt all the way out and it locks as it goes in) as the locking mode can change how the body moves in the belt in a crash and research has shown it increases the chances of the lap belt sliding up into the belly.

  11. Karin says:

    How do you know if your child has outgrown a high back booster seat? I have a daughter who is 10, she is still in a high back booster her shoulders are now higher than the seat belt part and in the headrest part of the seat. She is also beiging to look a bit wide for the seat! Should I switch her to a backless booster seat.

    • The owner’s manual will tell you the height and weight maximums for the seat. For any booster, the shoulder belt must come from at or above the child’s shoulders. She either needs a high back booster that accommodates taller kids, or a backless booster (to use a backless booster the vehicle seat must support at least to the top of her ears).

  12. Allison GEARY says:

    Are there any boosters that exceed 120 lbs. My friends daughter is close to hitting 120 and still needs a booster due to seatbelt fit.

  13. Nadia Luciano says:

    I have a soon to be 5 year old, he weighs about 44 lbs.
    I currently have him in a booster seat with a back, but he constantly complains his back hurts from his chair.
    The carseat I have has a removable backing, would you recommend removing the back part of his chair or is it too soon?

    • It is way too soon to remove the back. Maybe you don’t have the back properly adjusted for his height – or maybe the seat you bought isn’t fitting him well – or maybe he just doesn’t want to sit in a booster and is picking something to complain about in the hopes you’ll take him out. Kids ideally would use a high back until 10-12 years of age.

  14. Jenny H says:

    My 4 1/2 year old is 50 lbs. He is in a 5 pt harness that is good to 60 lbs. He is tall enough and his arms are long enough, he loosens the straps all the time now. He hates it. We tell him to tighten and he does but within a few minutes he has it loose again. Is it safer to leave him in the 5 pt he keeps loosening or move him to a booster?

    • He does not sound like he will be mature enough to ride in a booster – as he will need to resist the urge to lean forward, slouch, mess with the seat belt – and unbuckle the seat belt. Please see here – – for some ideas to keep him properly restrained in his 5pt harness.

  15. Isabella K says:

    My 5.5 year old son (43 lbs) is in a Britax Pioneer, still using his 5-point harness. We want to put his and his sister (3.5 year old in a Britax Advocate) car seats in the 3rd row of our 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan. Both their seats can be used with LATCH, however it seems as if the 3rd row only has one latch area, which is the only spot that also has a tether. Is it possible to still have both of them in the 3rd row safely?

    We are due with baby #3 in Sept. and want to put baby RF behind the drivers side with the passenger side captain seat stowed for more space.

    • There is no way to have 2 forward-facing 5 point harness seats in the 3rd row of this vehicle as you only have one tether anchor, and would need 2 tether anchors. One idea would be to turn the 3 year old rear-facing – which wouldn’t need a tether anchor. The Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 would fit nicely on the passenger side rear-facing – – and can keep the child rear-facing until 50 pounds.

  16. Lisa says:

    I have a 5-year old that weighs 34 pounds. We just started using a high back booster seat because it says it can be used at 30 pounds (with the back), and it’s so much easier to transfer between cars. Is this ok?

  17. Megan says:

    My oldest child is 7 and turning 8 soon. He weighs 60 pounds and is 52 inches. He is currently in a high back booster but I’m curious if it’s okay to transition him to just a seat belt after his birthday. I am about to have baby #5 and he will have to sit in the middle of the back seat of our van in order to fit. Everyone else will be in car seats (youngest 2 in rear facing).

    • He can transition to just a seat belt when he passes the 5 step test – – if he doesn’t pass ALL 5 steps then he is at risk of serious abdominal and spinal cord injury from riding without a booster. Most kids need to be very close to 5 feet tall before they pass the 5 step test.

      If the middle of your van has a shoulder belt, try this booster as it is EXTREMELY narrow –

      If the middle of your van has only a lap belt then he can not ride there as big kids and adults need shoulder belts – and only a car seat can safely go with only a lap belt.

  18. Chana says:

    Question: In a ten-seat minibus, the middle seats (not beside a wall) only have lap belts (which position properly on the hips – but knees do not go over the seat). Should I place my child on one of the sides, with a booster and a shoulder strap? Or is it better to place him in a middle seat, sans booster, with only a lap belt? My concern re the sides is of course impact – the middle is far safer. However, middle means no shoulder strap, which means no booster.


    • A lap belt is a suboptimal restraint for anyone – as you have no protection for your head and chest, and the lap belt is more likely to go up into your abdomen (where it should never go) due to the fact that a lap belt does not hold the body well in a crash. The side with a shoulder belt will be much safer for anyone (child in booster, teen, adult).

  19. Allie says:

    My child is also five years old and 34 lbs. She is in a Britax Frontier and I plan to keep her there for awhile. However, I’m wondering if a high back booster would be okay for a grandparent car (she’d ride in it a couple times per month). It’s just easier for them to install than the cheaper five point harness seats.

    • We recommend waiting until a minimum of 40 pounds for a booster. The IMMI Go would be a good 5-point harness seat to use in their car as it installs much more easily than other seats – – and can be purchased from

  20. Kimberly says:

    My just turned 6 year old (50lbs) is sitting on a portion of the crotch buckle in the 5 point harness? Is she safe to move to booster portion? She sits in a graco nautilus. I’m so worried about making this leap!!

    • It sounds like she has most likely outgrown the Nautilus’s 5 point harness. She can use a booster if she is mature enough to sit properly in the booster – no slouching, no leaning over, no messing with the seat belt. If she is not mature enough, the Britax Frontier accommodates much bigger kids with a 5 point harness.

  21. Liz says:

    My 7 year old son is 70 lbs and he just barely fits (in terms of width) in his Britax Frontier 90. I still want him in a booster with a back. Are there any out there wider than the Frontier? His hips and whole body is wide! I still would like to keep him in a 5 point harness if possible. Any suggestions? The seat would go in the Captain back seats of the Sienna so the width is not an issue.

  22. Christina says:

    Can a child wear a winter coat with a booster seat? I know it’s not safe for five-point harness seats, but wasn’t sure if using the seatbelt on a booster was different. Thanks.

    • Since most seat belts in the rear seat do not have pre-tensioners (which can take out a small amount of slack in the first milliseconds of a crash) kids in boosters should be dressed just like kids in 5 point harness seats – in thin, tight latyers.

  23. Brenda says:

    My son is growing out of his cleck foonf even though he’s still below the weight limit. His big booty and tummy is making the harness difficult to buckle. He is restless and will unstrap himself from a booster that buckles the child with a seat belt, so I’d like him to keep using a 5 pt harness. I’m having a hard time finding boosters with 5 point harnesses that will fit 60 lb kids. Do you know of any?

    • What you are looking for is a car seat with a 5 point harness that can fit a bigger child – and the Britax Frontier will be a good fit for a big kid to stay harnessed longer.

  24. Tiffany says:

    Hi! My son is almost 7 and is in a high back booster using the seat belt. He is almost 100 pds and he is great in his seat but overgrowing in height. Would it be safe to transition his convertible booster into a backless booster? I feel like it’s soo, but I am just worried for safety.

    • When using any seat, it is important that the child is within both the height and weight parameters. With a high back booster, the shoulder belt must always come from at or above the child’s shoulder. He might get more time out of a Maxi Cosi RodiFix (high back booster) and when he needs a backless booster, you may find he fits best in a Safety 1st Incognito as there are no sides to it.

  25. Jess says:

    My nephew Matthew just turned 10 years old. We live in NYS, where the law does not require children to sit in ANY type of booster seat after they turn 8 years old. His parents took him out of his booster when he was 8, but I’ve continued to require he sit in it while he;s in my car. He is 4′ 8″, weights 68 lbs, and just turned 10. He is insisting he’s “too old” to sit in a booster seat, but I feel like he needs to be in one until he is a little bit taller/weighs a little more and can pass the “5 step test” you have above, so I have been still making him sit in it (I’m the “mean” Auntie, oh well). Other parents’ thoughts on this?

    • Unfortunately many equate legal with safe – when there are many things that are legal that are quite dangerous. We know from injury statistics that most kids need a booster until they are 10-12 years old. In your car you can have whatever rules you want… and you can do your part to ensure that child rides safely when you transport him. There’s nothing wrong with being the “mean” Auntie.

  26. Erin says:

    Our almost 4yo is starting to take fieldtrips at daycare and his Britax Boulevard is very cumbersome to load on and off the school buses and transport. He still needs to be in a 5-point harness as he is only 34 lbs, but his seems to be the only convertible carseat of the bunch still. I looked at replacing with the Britax Frontier but was unsure if that would improve our situation any. Do you have any recommendations for a safe 5-point harness carseat convenient for bus travel?

    • If he is on a bus (not a 15 passenger van which people sometimes call a bus) then the Safeguard Star is perfect. And if it is a smaller bus, then all of his classmates should be in 5 point harnesses (like the Star) as well as smaller buses have the same restraint needs as your private vehicle, but typically don’t have shoulder belts (so you can’t use a booster seat – as boosters need shoulder belts).

  27. Erin says:

    Thanks, the Safeguard Star looks convenient and I wasn’t aware they made such a thing! It is a short school bus type vehicle. I verified with the school, and it does have seatbelts but not a latch system.

    • All of the kids in this child’s class need the Star – as lap belts are not a safe or effective restraint, and boosters can not be used with lap belts. It is almost certain that this bus has lap belts, not shoulder belts.

  28. Ashley says:

    Hi! My six-year old son is currently in his 5-pt, Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 seat. He is 38 pounds. Everything I read says he should be AT LEAST 40 pounds before he’s switched to the belt / high back booster. However, the Graco manual says at 30 pounds he can be out of the harness. I just want to make sure he is not unsafe if I leave him in the 5-pt harness in this particular seat.

    • Your Nautilus 65 goes to 65 pounds with the 5 point harness (the child must also be short enough – which is that the child’s shoulders are at or below where the shoulder straps come out of… make sure you are moving the straps up as the child grows, though!). You are doing a good job waiting until at least 40 pounds to switch to booster mode.

  29. Jessica says:

    Hi! My son is 5 and sitting in the Diono Radian RXT. He is 42 lbs and 44 inches tall. The shoulder straps are starting to dip behind his shoulders and there is no higher slot. I’m surprised because we bought this seat because of the high weight limit and he’s not especially tall for his age. Would now be the time to switch to using this seat as a booster? I’m also not opposed to buying another type of high back booster.

    • Your Diono is outgrown in booster mode the same day it is outgrown in harness mode (and in fact can not be used in booster mode until a child weighs 50 pounds). Your child needs a different seat now.

  30. Laci Fachini says:

    My daughter is 4 years old. 41 inches tall and 41 lbs. Her 5 point harness goes up to 40 lbs then can be used as a lap belt booster. She is a little unpredictable and I’m not sure she would sit appropriatly in the booster especially with her brother in the car. (This could just be my paranoia, though). Do I buy two new seats that the harness goes up higher in weight? Or try and train her to sit appropriately in her booster?

    • Most of the seats that had a harness only up to 40 pounds (as opposed to 50 or 65 pounds) turned into boosters that offer very poor belt fit and are not recommended. I would suggest getting new seats that can fit her longer in the harness and will be a better booster. On the lower end of the price scale the Graco Nautilus is a good option and higher end is the Britax Frontier.

  31. Gil branch says:

    I am currently using a graco nautilus 65 ff with 5 point harness, I am about to switch it to highback booster for my 6 year old but don’t have a top teather in this vehicle for it as I have another child on the way and will be switching seats around does anyone know if it’s safe to use a highback booster with no top teather on a nautilus 65?

  32. Andrea Hartman says:

    My 9-year-old son is very tall (57″) but also very thin (only 60 lbs). He is also on the spectrum and has low muscle tone, although he is able to keep himself positioned safely in a high-back booster. I am writing because I noticed he is at the upper height limit for virtually all booster seats (both high-backed and backless), including his own. I am concerned because he does not seem sturdy enough to ride without a seat yet. He also sits in the 3rd row of our SUV, so there is very little room between him and the rear of the car if we were to get rear-ended. I’ve researched extra tall boosters, but all I can seem to find are the Diono Monterey and Cambria, and the newest editions of these seats have mixed reviews at best in terms of comfort. I would appreciate any advice you might have on what the safest option is for him. Thanks!

  33. nicole Taylor says:

    My 3.5 year old is very tall at 46” and 49lbs. He barely fits in his britax marathon anymore. Can we move him to a high back booster

    • This child needs a 5 point harness that can fit a taller, heavier child. The Britax Frontier will be the best option as it will fit him in the harness mode for several more years and then can be used as a booster after that. Most kids need a 5 point harness until at least 5-6 years old in order to be mature enough to sit properly in a booster seat.

  34. Wendy says:

    We are traveling to South America soon with my 5 year old who weighs 41 lbs and is 46″ tall. Normally we use a graco extend2fit for travel, but can’t take it with us. I’d use the Immi Go but I don’t think the cars will have latch. What do you recommend we take on this trip? Thank you

  35. Kathryn says:

    My daughter is also 3.5 (like most recent commenter) and also on the bigger side at 40″ and 39 lbs. She still fits well in her Britax Marathon in our primary car, but we can barely buckle into her Cosco Scenera in our other car. We were given a high back booster (First Years Pathway) and were toying with the idea of using that in the other car instead of the Cosco. Reading your replies it seems like a bad idea since she is so young; plus, we will eventually need two convertible seats in our primary car once our 4 month old grows out of his infant seat. I was looking at the Nuna Rava and the Britax Frontier; do you have a recommendation on either of those? Ideally it will grow well with our kids. Thanks!

    • The Nuna Rava will be outgrown sooner than the Marathon as the top shoulder strap position on the Rava is not very high. The Scenera is not a seat we recommend as it is more difficult to install properly (and remove when installed with LATCH) and is outgrown very quickly and has harness straps that twist horribly and get very uneven with every use. The Frontier has the highest height and weight capacity of any 5 point harness on the market currently – and would be an ideal choice for this child, assuming it fits in your vehicle.

  36. A H says:

    I’ve seen people say that kids, if not everyone 5′ tall and under should be in a 5 pt harness, if not rear facing. I’ve looked, but I haven’t been able to find a rear facing carseat that goes over 80lbs, let alone a 5 pt harness for someone over 80 or 100lbs, unless it was marketed for children and teens with Special Needs.

    I just want kids to be safe when they ride, let alone get their Learner’s Permit.

    • It would be safest if we all rode rear-facing – but most vehicle seats are forward-facing. Interestingly, concept cars for driverless vehicles are increasingly showing the two seats closest to the front of the vehicle as being rear-facing (to allow greater interaction with the others in the car). In the meantime, keep kids rear-facing as long as possible (ideally until at least 4) and then for kids in a booster make sure you don’t transition to a seat belt too soon –

  37. Erin says:

    My 3 year old is 63 pounds, which is almost over the weight limit for the 5 point harness. Besides that, the straps are out as big as they go and I can barely get him strapped in sometimes because the straps are too tight for him. What do I do? I bought a booster but I don’t think he is ready for it yet. What seat can you recommend for a LARGE toddler?

    • The Britax Frontier has the highest harness capacity – both height and weight – of any seat on the market and will fit your child nicely. Install with the seat belt AND tether strap.

  38. Kelly says:

    My son is almost 8 years old, 54 pounds and 42″ tall. Is it okay for him to be sitting in a backless booster?

    • Yes, so long as he can sit properly during the entire trip. However, we recommend using a high back booster whenever possible – especially when the child may be sleeping the car.

  39. Kelly says:

    Another question. My husband has an old GMC Jimmy that has no head rests and the back of the seat is short. It’s a bench seat. My daughter is still in a 5 pt. harness from Britax (Frontier). My son is in a booster. However, the booster will raise his head above the back of the seat. It is a backless booster. What should I do for a booster/car seat in this situation?

    • Your son needs to use a high back booster in this vehicle. Make sure your daughter’s frontier is tethered. If there are no tether anchors (pre-2000), then she either needs to be rear-facing (in a seat like the Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1) or in a high back booster (her frontier turns into a high back booster). To use a booster kids should be at least 5 and at least 40 pounds and mature enough to sit properly in a booster for the entire trip.

  40. Jennifer New says:

    Hello, my 4 year old will be coming with us to Aruba in November. He will be 4.5. I expect him to be 40 lbs by then. I dont know about seatbelts in a rental car (lap vs lap/shoulder). We have a baby that will be 1 at the time too, and will have to bring her convertable car seat. WE are flying alone with our two kids and are trying to figure out how to make it easiest on us and safest for him. What is my best option for his travel? Thank you!

    • The vehicles will be unlikely to have locking seat belts or the LATCH system – so you’ll want to make sure the convertible seat has a built in seat belt locking device, or use an infant seat like the Chicco Fit2 which has a European belt path (and can accommodate a much bigger child than most infant seats – will fit 75th% height child until 24 months). If the 4.5 year old is mature enough to sit properly in a booster seat then this will be the best option – look into the Graco Turbo TakeAlong (for a 4 year old I would strongly recommend using it in the high back mode to keep the child better positioned).

  41. cree max says:

    We are a family of six and my husbands truck rental not has a lap belt in the middle front seat. Our oldest is 10 and a half. Should I sit there so she can have the passenger seat belt?

    • Unfortunately this center seat in the front is a literal death trap – as lap only belts are very poor methods of restraint and lead to significantly increased head & spinal cord injury risk (as you hit your head on hard things like the dashboard) as well as abdominal and lower spinal cord injury due to the lap belt sliding up into the belly which happens on both kids and adults in this type of belt. Also, the front passenger air bag could seriously harm the person in the center as the lap belt won’t keep their upper body back and their head will likely be touching the dashboard when the airbag inflates which can be fatal (you need to be sitting back when the airbag inflates, which a shoulder belt allows for as it holds your upper body back). I would strongly advise not having anyone ride in this front center seat – as the consequences could be catastrophic to the person sitting there in even a minor crash.

      If that front center seat has a tether anchor (most don’t – but you can check the owner’s manual to the car to see if it does) I would put a forward-facing child in a 5 point harness there – but ONLY if there is a tether anchor to use for that seating position.

  42. Lauren Goldberg says:

    Hello. My almost 5 year old is 48 lbs and 43 inches. He currently uses a Britax Frontier with the 5 point harness. We’re flying to Boston and will be renting a car for a week. Is it ok to use a backless booster for the week? I have a 9 month old and will be taking his rear facing convertible seat. Would prefer not to take two big seats on the trip. Thanks for your feedback!

    • Most almost 5 year olds are not mature enough to sit properly in a booster – let alone a backless booster. If the child can not sit properly – sitting upright without slouching, leaning over, messing with the seat belt – the child can be injured in a crash because the booster won’t be able to keep the seat belt in the proper place because the child isn’t sitting properly in it. We’d suggest the IMMI Go for this 5 year old as it is a full 5 point harness car seat that only weighs 10 pounds and rolls up into its own attached travel bag – – and it can be purchased from

      If the child is going to ride in a booster, we’d strongly recommend using a high back booster. The Graco Turbo TakeAlong can be more portable than some others.

  43. Tina says:

    I have a 4.5 yera old he is 98 lbs when do I allow him to go with out a booster. He is about too wide for it

    • He will need a booster until the seat belt fits properly on his body AND his body fits properly on the vehicle seat without a booster. Most kids are very close to 5 feet tall before this happens. See here for more –

      As far as boosters that best accommodate wider kids:
      High Back: Diono Monterey XT, Diono Hip, Maxi Cosi RodiFix, Britax Frontier, Peg Perego Shuttle Plus 120 (coming in the next month or two)
      Backless: Safety 1st Incognito, Diono Monterey XT, Diono Hip

  44. Mayte says:


    I am traveling soon to California for a two week vacation and I was planning to take with us 2 backless boosters for a 6 and a half and 7 and a half year old boys. Would this be sufficient for a road trip in California for two weeks? or not enough?

  45. Steph says:

    My nephew is 12and 61 pounds and is 4ft 7inches tall is he to small for the seatbelt or does he need a booster seat

  46. Tary says:

    We are going on vacation and thinking of using a backless booster for our 67lb, 51″ tall 7 year old instead of her high-back booster. The Graco high-back booster (removable back) instruction manual talks about the shoulder belt positioning strap-should this be used? I can’t find any resources on your page about if it should be needed. Thank you for your help.

    • It is only needed if the shoulder belt is rubbing the child’s neck and the child is uncomfortable from it rubbing the neck and would otherwise start to do dangerous things like put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the back. If your child will be sleeping in the ca rides on vacation we would recommend traveling with a high back booster to keep the body better positioned in the seat belt while the child is sleeping.

  47. Stephen says:

    Hi I am making a friends nine year old travel in a 5point harness car seat he is very short for his age the harness still has a one more slot to go just moved it up slot as it the slot it was in was just above his shoulders or could I put it back down? Won’t pars the 5 point test won’t sit up straight, puts seat belt behind back, just had to put a chest clip gard on the harness as started putting both straps behind back I know this might sound horrible but at least I know the harness is on and will stay put, complaining all the time about the harness, as his mum let’s ride in the front seat with just the seat belt nothing else, am I wrong putting him in the 5 point harness in the back can you please give me some advice thanks..

    • If the child is unable to sit properly in a booster, then the child needs a 5 point harness. Make sure the child is within the height AND weight parameters for the 5 point harness. Forward facing the straps must always come from above the child’s shoulders.

  48. My son is 5 years and 8 months, 4′ tall about 46 lb. We never drive with him (gets very carsick) but we are visiting my dad in California and will need to. Is a backless booster okay? I’m super nervous so would prefer the safety of a high back but I’m afraid my son won’t fit in it or like it. So I’m taking his comfort into account too.

  49. Nancy Pirlot says:

    My daughter is 9 and passes the test to graduate from the booster seat, but she likes it and wants to stay in the booster. Is that safe?

    • Yes, it is safe so long as she is still within the height and weight guidelines for her booster. Also, make sure the seat belt is fitting her properly – the lap belt low and flat on the tops of her thighs and the shoulder belt between the neck and shoulder (not on her arm). Also make sure her head isn’t touching the roof (boosting a tall kid can put the head at the roof).

  50. Erin says:

    Thank you for this excellent resource.

    My twin daughters are small for their ages – they are 12-and-a-half and weigh about 75 lbs each. They are both 58” tall. Should they still be in boosters? I say yes but they are fighting me all the way.

    • They can ride safely without a booster when they pass the 5 step test – – note that they may pass in one seating position but not another, and in one car but not another initially.

  51. Jennifer Schaffer says:

    My daughter is almost 6 and is so tall (50.5”), that I am having a hard time finding a high-back booster for her. She weighs about 50 lbs. Is there one you would recommend?

    • Some good options for tall kids:
      – Peg Perego Shuttle Plus 120 (this has the highest torso height of any booster in the US)
      – Diono Monterey XT = this is not as tall in the torso as the Peg Perego, but still quite tall and is more budget friendly and has a deeper seat pan for the legs
      – Maxi Cosi RodiFix – not as tall in the torso as the Peg Perego but tall enough to fit most kids until they don’t need a booster anymore and is very narrow on the outside so doesn’t take up as much room in the car as the Diono

  52. ANdrea white says:

    I have a 2005 Honda van with bucket seats. Installing a Britax pioneer forward facing in harness mode with the seatbelt. There is still a ton of slack front to back…when I have a kid in it and try to pull the strap to tighten the harness the whole seat moves forward. I have it properly installed per the book with both the seat and the van. Help!

    • The Pioneer can be challenging to install securely and unfortunately lacks the fabulous ClickTight feature that its more expensive siblings (Frontier and Pinnacle) feature. Your van has seat belt buckles that are significantly forward of the seat crease which make it harder to get most forward facing car seats tight – and especially the Pioneer. I’m not sure it is possible to get the Pioneer properly snug there. Try the techniques shown in this video –
      If the child is under 40 pounds I would use the lower anchors + seat belt to install the seat as you are more likely to get a tight installation that way in your car than with seat belt + tether.

  53. Brenda says:

    Given the concerns about winter coats and car seats, I would like your opinion on putting my almost 5 year old in a high back booster using a seatbelt versus the five-point harness. Although we try to remove coats, it doesn’t always happen. Also, we live in an area with great temperature fluctuations (this morning it was 28F, yet in four days, the high will be 68F) so we’re constantly adjusting straps and I think it creates a greater margin of error/oversight. I’d like to remove the five-point harness and start using the seatbelt (as allowed by the booster she has). Thoughts? I know the five-point usually is safer, but weighing in the other considerations, I’m wondering if the seatbelt may be the way to go.