Parents on a tight budget who need a belt-positioning booster will want to check out the Graco Highback TurboBooster, which reviewers say offers a solid mix of safety and comfort for a low price. The seat also converts to a backless booster. Reviewers have a few minor complaints, though: They say the seat is awkward to carry, and very tall kids might be more comfortable in another model.
Less side-impact protection than others. The Graco Highback TurboBooster is a belt-positioning booster that uses a vehicle's existing seat belts. It offers energy-absorbing foam and open-loop belt guides for more accurate belt placement, but it lacks the deeper side-impact protection that some competing models have, an expert reviewer notes. A souped-up Highback TurboBooster with Safety Surround offers more side padding for an additional $30. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names the seat a best bet for proper belt fit in high-back and backless mode. The Highback TurboBooster should be belted to the seat at all times to keep it from causing damage in a crash.
Easy to install, but requires assembly. Reviewers say the Graco Highback TurboBooster is easy to install, though a few parents complain that the seat belt slips out of or gets stuck in the belt guide. The headrest is easy to adjust, they say. Experts caution that the seat requires assembly with small parts that are easily lost. While relatively lightweight, the seat is not ideal for travel as a high-back seat because the back easily detaches from the seat when it's being carried, reviewers say. In ease-of-use ratings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the seat receives 3 stars overall, with testers citing needed assembly and incomplete or unclear labeling.
Narrow seat is good for tight spaces. The Graco Highback TurboBooster has two retractable cup holders and adjustable armrests. Reviewers say the narrow seat base makes it a good pick for small vehicles or those with multiple car seats. It has two recline positions. While most parents say the seat seems comfy for their children, an expert reviewer notes that the seat back is not as high as some others. The seat cover is machine-washable, and parents say it is easy to remove. Graco recommends the seat for children from 30 to 100 pounds and 38 to 57 inches.
Mixed customer service reviews. Graco offers a limited one-year warranty on the Highback TurboBooster, and reviewers give customer service mixed reviews across the web. The seat expires seven years from its date of manufacture.
Review Credibility: Excellent The Graco Highback TurboBooster is one of CarsSeatBlog.com's picks for best booster seats. Editors like the head and torso protection, high weight limit, versatility, comfort foam, cup holders, adjustable armrests, one-hand height adjustment and two recline positions. However, the seat does require some assembly, and it's not as tall as some competitors, they say.
Review: Recommended Carseats, Editors of CarSeatBlog.com, September 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent The IIHS evaluates booster seats on how well they make a safety belt fit an average 6 year old. The Graco Highback TurboBooster is rated a best bet in high-back and backless mode, meaning the lap belt was flat or nearly flat on the thighs, and the shoulder belt was correctly positioned at or very near the mid-shoulder.
Review: Booster Evaluations for 2012, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Not dated
Review Credibility: Excellent NHTSA rates car seats on a 5-star scale for ease of use, label content and clarity, instruction content and clarity, ease of installation and ease of securing a child. The Graco Highback TurboBooster receives 3 stars overall, with testers citing needed assembly and incomplete or unclear labeling.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Not dated
4. Baby Bargains
Review Credibility: Excellent Denise and Alan Fields review baby gear and common baby brands. The authors review popular car seats based on expert testing and parents' reviews, as well as information from manufacturers and retailers. Their website offers up-to-date information, additional reviews, recall information and forums for parents to discuss baby products.
Review: Car Seats: Picking the Right Child Safety Seat, Denise and Alan Fields, Tenth Edition, 2013
Review Credibility: Excellent Editors of ConsumerReports.org test 13 combination and 33 belt-positioning booster seats, including high-back and backless models. The ratings are reliable and unbiased, and they include editors' highs and lows for each seat -- helpful for parents who want a quick summary of each seat. However, there are a couple of discontinued models listed, and it's unclear when the tests were performed.
Review: Booster Seat Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good Car-seat experts from TheCarSeatLady.com pick the Graco TurboBooster as one of their top picks for booster seats under $50. Picks are based on those thought to be "the most versatile for the widest range of children and vehicles," they note. However, there is no in-depth review of the seat.
Review: Our Best Picks for Boosters, Editors of TheCarSeatLady.com, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good BabyCenter.com editors pick five booster seats for their best-of roundup. They praise the Graco Highback TurboBooster's 100-pound weight capacity, easy adjustability, cup holders and top safety ratings. However, they warn parents not to switch to the seat too soon, even though Graco says it's acceptable for 30-pound children.
Review: The Best Booster Car Seats for Big Kids, Editors of BabyCenter.com, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good The Graco Highback TurboBooster receives 4.5 out of 5 stars in more than 300 reviews on Amazon.com. Reviewers like the narrow seat base, retractable cup holders, easy installation and reasonable price. Most also say the seat was easy to assemble. However, some complain that the seat back doesn't stay on during transport, and others say the seat belt slips out of or gets stuck in a belt guide. Several wish the armrests were movable so it would be easier for kids to buckle themselves, and a few say the seat is not adequate for children who are 30 pounds.
Review: Graco Highback TurboBooster Car Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2013
Review Credibility: Very Good Heather Corley's short review says the Graco TurboBooster is "a good, basic booster at a low price" with a high weight limit and comfortable, impact-absorbent cushions. She also says the cup holders and adjustable armrests will please kids, and she likes the adjustable headrest, too. The review does not compare the seat to others or note any cons.
Review: Top 8 Belt-Positioning Booster Car Seats, Heather Corley, Not dated
Review Credibility: Fair In addition to top picks, the editors of BabyGizmo.com offer an overview of what to look for in booster seats and links for further reading. The Graco Highback TurboBooster is one of their top five picks for booster seats, but there is no accompanying review and the methodology is unclear.
Review: Booster Car Seats, Editors of BabyGizmo.com, Not dated