Best Toddler-Booster Combination Car Seats From Consumer Reports' Tests
These seats are designed for kids who have outgrown their rear-facing seat
Consumer Reports' toddler-booster/combination car seat ratings have been updated with our latest test findings, revealing the seats that provide the best balance of crash protection, ease of use, fit-to-vehicle, and booster belt fit. (Seats are evaluated for their crash protection on a scale of Basic, Better, and Best.)
You can find five of our top models below.
Also known as harness-to-booster seats or forward-facing-only combination seats, toddler-booster car seats are typically used for kids who have outgrown the height or weight limits of their rear-facing seat until they are big enough to use the vehicle belts alone.
These car seats are initially used with a five-point harness system to restrain the child; then after he outgrows the harness, he transitions to using the seat in booster mode with the vehicle’s seat belts to restrain him without having to purchase a separate booster seat.
CR's experts recommend delaying the move to a toddler-booster combination car seat as long as possible, because there is a loss of relative protection from rear-facing to forward-facing and from five-point harness to booster.
Especially when it comes to booster seats, experts say that it’s not just a matter of your child’s weight or height.
How We Test
Our fit-to-vehicle scores take into account how long parents can use the car's built-in lower anchors (or LATCH) to install the seat vs. using the seat belt, and are rated for both installation methods.
We also evaluate how the belt fits a child when these models are used as a booster seat. We evaluate this in actual vehicles—the same ones we use for our fit-to-vehicle assessments for all car seats—and we use a child-sized dummy that represents an average 6-year-old. We evaluate belt fit both after initial positioning of the dummy in the booster and again after we simulate typical child movement.
Our crash-test protocol goes a step further than federal government requirements for car seat tests by using an actual vehicle seat that sits behind a simulated seat back, and our test has higher crash energy and speed to be more representative of current vehicles and crashes.
Consumer Reports tested 23 of these car seats, rating them on crash protection, how easy they are to use, and how well they install in a variety of vehicles, as well as their ability to achieve and maintain proper seat belt fit as a booster. The results show clear performance differences among the seats tested. The models below excelled in our tests. Complete ratings are available to CR Digital and All-Access members.
How to Install a Car Seat
Child seats have come a long way over the years, but proper installation is key. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports expert Jennifer Stockburger shows host Jack Rico what to do to keep little ones safe in a car.