Child/Booster Seats

Child/booster seats, sometimes referred to as ‘combination’ seats, are forward facing harnessed seats that convert to a booster seat later on. Some convert to a high-back booster only, and some convert to a high-back and then a backless booster (see here for information on our favourite dedicated booster seats).

The child/youth seats that are not on this list tend to position the seat belt poorly on most children when in booster mode. The ones we do have make very good tall harnessed seats, and then make good-to-excellent booster seats.

A note about boosters: in order for a child to be properly protected by the adult seat belt, s/he must be a minimum of 40lbs AND developmentally mature enough to remain seated properly at ALL times, even when sleeping. Some kids are ready at 5, many by 6, and almost all by 7. Booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt and can never be used with a lap-only belt. Not sure if your child should remain harnessed or might be ready for a booster? This article might help you decide.

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In no particular order…

Harmony Defender (read a review here)Harmony Defender Pirate Gold

Features:

  • ~$160 at Walmart or directly from Harmony
  • top harness height of ~19″
  • forward facing harnessed to 65lbs
  • use as a high back booster from 40-100lbs
  • expires 10 years from date of manufacture

Pros:

  • narrow
  • lightweight
  • no-rethread harness
  • very smooth harness adjuster
  • cushy, has harness pads for comfort at neck

Cons:

  • requires assembly at purchase
  • may be difficult for children to route lap belt in booster mode due to close spacing of arm rests to seat pan
  • seat belt installation can be challenging

 

Evenflo MaestroEvenflo Maestro

Features:

  • ~$120 at Walmart, Babies R Us, Sears
  • top harness height of ~18″
  • forward facing harnessed to 50lbs
  • use as a high-back booster from 40-100lbs
  • expires 8 years from date of manufacture

Pros:

  • inexpensive tall seat ideal for lighter weight children (note maximum weight of 47lbs/50lbs in harness mode)
  • narrow, ideal for tight seating arrangements
  • can use UAS (latch) anchors and top tether in booster mode to keep it from becoming a projectile when not occupied

Cons:

  • tends to be outgrown by height around the same time in both harness and booster modes because the belt guide for the shoulder belt does not adjust any higher
  • closely spaced harness is too narrow for some kids and may bother their neck

 

Graco Nautilus (very similar to the now discontinued Graco Argos, read a review here)Graco Nautilus

Features:

  • ~$300 at Walmart, Babies R Us, Superstore, Amazon.ca, Sears
  • top harness height of ~18.5″
  • forward facing harnessed to 65lbs
  • converts to a high-back booster, and then a backless booster
  • use as a booster from 40-100lbs
  • harnessed mode expires 10 years from date of manufacture

Pros:

  • NEW! on the newest version of this seat — a no-rethread harness and three crotch buckle positions
  • Smooth harness adjuster
  • One of the tallest harnessed seats available
  • can use UAS (latch) anchors and top tether in booster mode to keep it from becoming a projectile when not occupied

Cons:

  • some children in some vehicles are prone to ‘head slump’ when sleeping – this is hard to predict in advance.

 

Britax Frontier CT or PinnacleFrontierCT

Features:

  • ~$420 (Frontier) and ~$480 (Pinnacle) at Babies R Us, Amazon.ca and specialty stores
  • top harnessed height of ~20.5″ (tallest harnessed seat currently on the market and ideal for tall and/or long-torsoed kids)
  • forward facing harnessed to 65lbs; minimum to use is 2 years old AND 25lbs
  • use as a booster from 40-120lbs; in booster mode it’s the tallest booster available on the market
  • Pinnacle has air bags on the outer shell by the child’s head for extra side-impact protection
  • expires 9 years from date of manufacture

Pros:

  • can use UAS (latch) and top tether in booster mode to keep it from becoming a projectile when not occupied
  • has a no re-thread harness to adjust harness height without undoing straps
  • exceptionally easy and fast seat belt installation method (“click-tight” technology)

Cons:

  • width can make it harder to fit next to other seats, especially the Pinnacle version
  • booster fit is not as reliable as on some child/booster seats

 

Britax Pioneerpioneer

Features:

  • ~$300 at Babies U Us, Canadian Tire, Amazon.ca, and specialty stores
  • top harnessed height of ~20.5″ (for seats approximately Feb 2016 and newer; older seats are 18.5″ or 19.5″)
  • forward facing harnessed to 65lbs; minimum to use is 2 years old AND 25lbs
  • use as a booster from 40-120lbs
  • expires 9 years from date of manufacture

Pros:

  • can use UAS (latch) and top tether in booster mode to keep it from becoming a projectile when not occupied
  • has a no re-thread harness to adjust harness height without undoing straps

Cons:

  • booster fit is not as reliable as on some child/booster seats

 

Evenflo SecureKid 300/400 (read a review here)

Features:

  • ~$180-220 at Babies R Us, Sears, Amazon.ca
  • top harnessed height of ~18″
  • forward-facing harnessed to 65lbs
  • use as a booster from 40-100lbs
  • expires 6 years from date of manufacture
  • 300 model has basic UAS connectors; 400 model has premium self-ratcheting SureLatch connectors and extra side-impact protection in the head wings

Pros:

  • can use UAS (latch) and top tether in booster mode to keep it from becoming a projectile when not occupied

Cons:

  • closely spaced harness is too narrow for some kids and may bother their neck
  • overall harness length is shorter so a child may run out of harness room before reaching height or weight limits

 

Graco Tranzitions (read a review here)tranzitions

Features:

  • ~$240 at Babies R Us
  • top harnessed height of ~18″
  • forward-facing harnessed to 65lbs
  • use as a booster from 40-100lbs
  • expires 7 years from date of manufacture
  • no-rethread harness

Pros:

  • can use UAS (latch) and top tether in booster mode to keep it from becoming a projectile when not occupied
  • narrow
  • lightweight
  • no-rethread harness
  • very smooth harness adjuster
  • has harness pads for comfort at neck

Cons:

  • seat belt installation can be challenging

 

Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65* This seat is included on this page even though it does not convert to a booster (it rear-faces and forward-faces and is a favourite in our convertible category). Its extremely tall harness height makes it long lasting, and one of these on sale plus a dedicated booster later on is often a good plan for families. Read a review here.

SureRide

Features:

  • ~$170 at Babies R Us, Sears, BestBuy online, Canadian Tire, Amazon.ca, or $150 at Walmart for Titan 65 (name exclusive to Walmart)
  • forward faces to 65lbs or 54″
  • expires 6 years from the date of manufacture
  • top harness slot:* ~19-19.25″

Pros:

  • Lightweight and medium-narrow
  • Very high top harness slots will fit even very tall children until they’re ready for a booster
  • Harness covers available for purchase directly from Evenflo

Cons:

  • Forward-facing children at the top end of the height or weight limits may find there isn’t enough harness length to comfortably or easily buckle. Smaller forward-facing children may find the lowest harness height uncomfortably high.
  • For this category only: does not convert to a booster

 

Others to consider: although we have not had our hands on it as of yet we have heard good things about the Evenflo Evolve. Stay tuned for more info!