A car seat is one of the most expensive products you need to buy when you have a child, but arguably also the most important. In the UK a child must use a booster car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever happens first.
If you’re going to be using a car seat for a number of years you’ll want to make sure you’re making a good investment in a product that will continue to protect your growing child, and keep them comfortable.
A booster car seat is one which is used by a child once they reach the age of four. The most common types of booster are either high back or backless.
What are the key things to look for in a high back booster seat?
Once your child has outgrown their Group 1 car seat you will want to look for a Group 2/3 front-facing seat which is recommended for children aged four to 12 who weigh 15kg to 36kg. Most high back booster seats in this category do not have a harness but instead the car’s seat belt goes around the child and the seat. An increasing number of seats now also have Isofix connectors which secure the seat to anchor points in newer cars. This provides added security for the positioning of the seat and also stops it from moving around or flying forward when you’re driving with no children onboard and have to brake quickly.
A booster seat will raise your child high enough that the seat belt crosses their body in the right position – across their chest and pelvis – and keeps them secure and comfortable. High back seats also have side wings which are designed to protect a child’s head in case there is an impact.
Some high back boosters will have an adjustable back and head rest which can be raised or lowered to fit the child using it. These seats can be used in the rear or front of a car but it’s safest to put them on a rear seat, especially if the front passenger seat is fitted with an airbag.
It’s best to keep your child in this type of seat until they have reached the maximum height and weight. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the individual seat as they will vary from product to product.
What does i-size mean?
You might have seen that some booster seats have i-size in their name. This is a new safety regulation for child car seats (ECE R129) which was introduced in 2013. It was created to make car seats easier to fit, provide better protection from side impacts and to keep children facing backwards for longer. i-size only applies to Isofix seats.
The idea is that all i-size car seats will fit all cars because they will all have Isofix anchors. This is safer than fitting a seat with the adult seatbelt alone. It’s mandatory for children in i-size seats to stay rearward facing until they are at least 15 months old. However, some i-size/R129 seats can be used backwards until a child is 105cm, or around four years old, which many people are choosing to do now.
What is a backless booster seat?
A backless booster seat might be tempting to buy because it is cheaper and takes up little space. However, there are a number of reasons why we’ve chosen not to feature one in this roundup.
Backless booster seats don’t provide adequate crash protection for a child, especially if your car was hit from the side in an accident. There is also little to stop a child from smashing into the inside of the vehicle and hurting themselves if you were to swerve in an emergency.
Obviously they are still available to buy but a law change in 2017 means that backless booster seats can only be made for children over 125cm tall and weighing over 22kg. Always check the label and make sure the child is in the recommended size for their age.
Here are our top picks
Cybex Solution Z i-Fix Group 2/3
This Cybex product is a car seat which can adapt as your child grows and changes. It has 12 height settings, a reclining headrest and automatic width adjustment meaning there is no compromise on space or comfort. It can be fitted both with the Isofix anchors and with an adult seatbelt. It has an integrated Linea Side-impact Protection (LSP) system which gives it added safety bonus points in case of a collision.
The seat comes in three colours; grey, black and red and its covers are easy to remove and machine washable which is handy in the event of any car sickness episodes.
This booster would be a great choice and as it fits a child from age three to 12 (15-36kg), it will be part of your family for a long time, making it a great investment.
Buy now £189.95, John Lewis
Maxi-Cosi RodiFix AirProtect Group 2/3
This high-backed booster seat is approved for children from 15-36kg which is around three-and-a-half to 12 years old. The RodiFix AirProtect is a really good quality product with some additional features which will keep young passengers safe. The AirProtect in its name refers to a special layer in the cushion of the head area and side wings which is designed to absorb the force of a side-impact crash. The seat also has very good side protection lower down in the seat for the lower back and hips.
This seat will continue to keep your child safe as they grow. The headrest is adjustable and the seat also reclines to provide even more comfort when out and about. Another advantage of this seat is that it has Isofix fixture points which gives an extra layer of security.
Buy now £99.99, Amazon
Britax Römer KIDFIX III M Group 2/3
The Britax Römer booster seat is a really popular choice which comes at a great price. Its features, such as an adjustable headrest and deeper seat, guarantees a comfy journey for its user. It has Side Impact Protection and also comes with a SecureGuard lap protector which helps reduce abdominal forces in the event of a crash.
Its Isofix fixtures means it is easy to install and you have the added peace of mind that it’s not going to move around at all. There are indicators to show you when the Isofix is in place properly and also to show you where the car’s adult three-point seatbelt should be placed. One downside of this seat is that it is quite upright so if your child is still partial to a car snooze, they may not be as comfortable as they would in another product.
At 54cm wide and 7.5kg this is one of the heavier booster seats on the list which may put some people off if they will be moving it in and out of the car regularly.
Buy now £139.99, Uber Kids
Mifold Hifold Fit and Fold Booster
Mifold have claimed their hifold product is the ‘world’s most portable high back booster’ and it’s true that at 4.6kg it is one of the lightest seats in this roundup.
The hifold is suitable for children from 90cm to 150cm tall and 15kg to 45kg. And this is a seat that really will grow with your child. It’s adjustable in four different areas – the headrest, height and width, shoulder width and seat width. This means it has a huge 243 different settings which will ensure the seat belt lies perfectly across a child’s lap and chest.
If you’re planning a holiday where you will need a car seat, the hifold could be the one for you. It folds down to just 25cm by 34.4cm and comes with a handy carry strap too. This means you could include it as your carry-on luggage on a plane as it will fit inside an overhead locker or under the seat in front of you.
One drawback of this product is that the seat isn’t as comfortable as others and some reviews have said that the seat cover is difficult to remove when it needs a wash. Another issue is that it doesn’t have Isofix attachments so is only kept in place via the seatbelt.
Buy now £155.00, Argos
Joie is a safe pair of hands when it comes to creating high quality, safe products for babies and older children. Their car seats are no different and the Joie i-Traver performs strongly when it comes to safety, comfort and easy installation. It has an adjustable headrest which can be fitted to 10 different positions. The Guard Surround Safety side impact panels are fitted to the exterior of the seat which means they would absorb the force of an impact before it reaches your child. This is an i-size seat so it can be fitted using a car’s Isofix anchor points or with a seatbelt by following well-marked belt guides.
As well as rating highly on safety features, growing legs are also well catered for with this seat which has a three point extendable seat base. And there is no compromise in comfort with its padded armrests and soft, machine washable fabric.
Buy now £160.00, Mamas & Papas
Recaro Young Sport Hero
If you’re looking for a car seat which can be easily installed and can keep your child safe for many years, then the Young Sport Hero is a great option.
This is a Group 1/2/3 forward-facing car seat which means it’s suitable for children weighing from 9kg to 36kg, which is around nine months to age 12. It has its own Hero harness for children weighing up to 18kg and then for older children who are in Group 2/3 the adult seatbelt can be used.
While other car seats may offer better protection in the Group 1 stage because it does not have Isofix attachments, the Young Sport Hero will provide a pleasant, secure ride for older children. Reinforced arm rests offer protection in the hip area and comfort for children as they grow.
Buy now £149.00, John Lewis
Chicco Fold and Go Air i-size
This is another booster seat which can be easily installed and transported if you’re not keeping it in the car at all times. It can be folded down and has a carry handle which is convenient if you are moving it between your house and vehicle. It is an i-size car seat which means it has the two fitting options – seatbelt and Isofix – which increase the security, and is suitable for children 100-150cm tall or weighing 15-36kg.
The height and width can be adjusted easily as your child grows and it has four reclining positions for nap comfort. One drawback is that its Side Safety System ‘wings’ are removable rather than fitted. This may compromise safety if you misplace them or forget them on journeys.
Some customers have said the cover is difficult to remove to wash which could be a drawback for some families.
Buy now £159.00, Amazon
Cybex Anoris T i-size
Now, the price tag on this seat is slightly eye watering, but we’ve included this Cybex product because of its innovative safety features.
The forward-facing Anoris T i-size has an impact shield rather than an integrated harness, and this is where its own airbag is stored. The airbag means that if you were in a frontal crash it would inflate in milliseconds and protect a child’s head, neck and body.
The airbag feature means the Anoris is the safest car seat tested by ADAC, a vehicle insurance company which examines car seat safety to higher standards than the EU regulations. This would explain why this car seat is so much more expensive than others in this category. The other downside of this seat is that it is only suitable from 15 months up to six years old, or 21kg/115cm.
Other great features of this seat include LED indicators and a sound which emits if the support leg is not correctly in place. It has Isofix connectors and the seat reclines to give maximum comfort when on longer journeys. At 12kg, it is a heavy car seat and will take up quite a lot of space in your car. And once your child gets too big, you will need to buy another seat for them to use until they are 12.
Buy now £599.95, Uber Kids
The Cybex Solution Z i-Fix is our top pick from our round-up. Not only does it have great safety features such as its side-impact collision protection but it will also keep your child sitting comfortably, whatever age they are. The adjustable head and shoulder protectors mean there is room for them to grow, all while watching the world go by through the car window. While it is one of the more expensive seats on this list, it comes with a three-year guarantee if you buy it from John Lewis.