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High Back vs Backless Booster – What’s Best For Your Child?

Joanne Stene
Last Updated on
by Joanne Stene

Are you searching for booster seats for your new child? If so, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the number of options available on the market. Which features are best for your child, and which are worth ignoring? So many promises, so many specifications.

We all want the best for baby, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out what that is.

One of the best places to start when choosing a booster seat is high back vs backless. Once you’ve determined whether you should go high back or backless, you’ll have narrowed your options considerably.

After reading this article, you should have a much clearer idea about which is best for your small child.

High Back vs Backless Booster Seat – Which One is Right for You?

Clek Obbr

If you are worried about safety, especially in terms of a side-impact crash, you’ll want to go with a high back booster seat. The same is the case if you have a child who frequently sleeps in the car and slumps when doing so.

You’ll also want to use a high back booster if you’re concerned about price and would like a product that allows you to shift smoothly from a car seat to a booster seat.

If your child is larger than average for his or her age, you may want to consider a backless booster seat instead. The same is the case if you tend to switch cars frequently since backless booster seats are quite portable.

What are Booster Seats?

Before comparing high back vs backless booster seats, it’s critical that you first understand what booster seats are and why they’re used. According to Healthy Children, a division of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “booster seats are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing seats.

All children whose weight or height exceeds the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly.”

So, a booster seat causes your child to sit higher so that your car’s seat belt fits correctly. According to AAA, children should use booster seats until they are at least 4’9” tall. Most children will use a booster seat until somewhere between the age of 8 and 12.

In addition to these height and weight requirements, you should also consider whether your child can sit with his or her back against the vehicle seat with the knees bent over the edge completely. If so, your child likely no longer needs a booster seat. You can also check out this guide from Consumer Reports to confirm a booster seat fit.

Now that we’ve established what a booster seat is and why it’s essential to have for a growing child, let’s compare high back booster seats v. backless booster seats.

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High Back Booster Seats

Recommended High Back Booster
Graco Turbobooster high back seat
An excellent high back booster suitable for kids 4 – 10 years old weighing 40 – 100 lbs.

High back booster seats act much more like a hybrid model between a traditional backless booster seat and a car seat. High back booster seats have an extended back, which makes them look like a car seat. This back is often removable so that the seat acts like a traditional backless booster seat.

Many manufacturers include five-point harnesses so that parents can quickly graduate from a car seat to a high back booster seat with a seat belt.

These booster seats tend to be much safer when it comes to a side-impact crash. The high back tends to protect vital areas of your child’s body, including:

  • Head
  • Spine
  • Neck
  • Chest

High back booster seats are useful for children who like to sleep a lot in the car. The high back will prevent them from slumping, keeping them upright and giving them something onto which they can rest their head.

Graco Affix Youth Car Seat
Graco Affix Youth High Back Booster

There are some negatives, however, when it comes to high back booster seats. The first is the weight and bulkiness. High back booster seats tend to operate much more like car seats, which means it can be challenging to remove them from a vehicle. They are heavy and challenging to maneuver. So, if you plan on removing the booster seat from your car frequently, a high-back option may not be best for you.

Furthermore, high back booster seats may not work well if your seats sit low since they won’t sit flush against the headrest. If you have lower seats, you’ll need to search for high back booster seats that have an adjustable headrest.

High back booster seats also tend to be more expensive than traditional backless booster seats.

Many parents would prefer not to invest in both a car seat and a high back booster. So, we recommend using the high back booster as a hybrid between the two, and not purchasing both separately.

Backless Booster Seats

Recommended Backless Booster
Graco TurboBooster Backless
A very good backless booster seat suitable for kids 4 – 10 years old weighing 40 – 100 lbs.

Backless booster seats act more as traditional boosters. They don’t have a back at all. Instead, they merely provide your children with a “lift” from the car seat itself. At most, backless boosters may include features such as armrests and cup holders.

Backless boosters are best suited for those children who are taller than average or a bit older. They provide your child with just a bit of lift so that they can sit against with their back against the car seat comfortably. Backless boosters also tend to have a higher weight minimum than other booster seats, so they likely won’t work for smaller children.

Another benefit of backless booster seats is that they are lightweight.

If your family tends to switch cars frequently, or you need space in your back seat, backless boosters are a convenient option. You should have no problem storing this booster seat in the trunk of your car since they take up very little space. Backless boosters also have far less material, so they’re not nearly as expensive as high-back booster seats.

Graco Backless Booster Seat

Backless booster seats aren’t comfortable for children who sleep in the car. They also don’t provide the same safety during a side-impact crash as high-back booster seats.

Parents may also find it more challenging to get a secure seat belt fit with a backless booster since many of these models don’t come with seat belt positioning guides.

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About Joanne Stene
Joanne Stene
Joanne is a mother of 2 young girls and a technical writer with over 20 years of professional experience. She originally got interested in the topic of car seats as her two daughters were born and during the course of research into which seats to buy for her family. That interest has turned into a passion of sharing information on the Elite Car Seats website.
Joanne Stene
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