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 has 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 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 becoming a projectile in a crash. It expires seven years from its date of manufacture.
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, it's 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 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. The TurboBooster comes in more than a dozen colors and patterns, including bright colors and muted neutrals. Graco recommends the seat for children from 30 to 100 pounds and 38 to 57 inches.
The Graco Highback TurboBooster is a pick for best booster seat. Editors like the head and torso protection, high weight limit, 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 of its competitors, they say.
Review: Recommended Carseats, Editors of CarSeatBlog.com, September 2013
2. Baby Bargains
"Baby Bargains," a comprehensive book by Denise and Alan Fields, reviews baby gear and common 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 and forums for parents to discuss baby products.
Review: Car Seats: Booster Seats, Denise and Alan Fields, 10th Edition, 2013
The Graco Highback TurboBooster receives 4.5 out of 5 stars in more than 500 reviews. Reviewers like the narrow base, retractable cup holders, easy installation and price. Some complain the seat back doesn't stay on during transport, and others say the seat belt slips out of or gets stuck in the belt guide.
Review: Graco Highback TurboBooster Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of May 2014
Editors test 13 combination and 33 belt-positioning booster seats, including high-back and backless models. The ratings are reliable and unbiased, and they include highs and lows for 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
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.
Review: Booster Evaluations for 2013, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety , Not Dated
The Graco Highback TurboBooster receives 3 stars overall for ease of use, with testers citing needed assembly and incomplete or unclear labeling. Instructions and installation are high points, testers say.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Not dated
Editors 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