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27 Aug 2021

Are parents getting the message about backless booster seats?

Which? survey discovers parents still don't realise backless booster seats can't provide the same protection as high-backed booster seats

Backless booster seats are temptingly cheap - some start from as little as £6 - legal to sell and use, and there's no doubt they're convenient.

But while using any child car seat is better than using none, booster seats offer very little protection in a crash, particularly if you're hit from the side.

In February 2021, we surveyed 2,021 parents who have a child or children under 12 years old and asked them whether they think backless booster seats offer the same crash protection as high-backed booster seats.

More than a third of parents (37%) think that they do.

Read on to find out what the issues are with backless booster seats and our advice on the best type of car seats to use for older children.

See the best baby and child car seats

Watch: Backless booster seat crash test video

The video below shows what happened in a crash test to a child sitting on a backless booster seat.

Why we recommend high-backed boosters

We'd always advise using a high-back booster seat when travelling in a car. Here's why:

  • A high-back booster seat has a supportive full-length back, side wings and a headrest, which provide extra protection for your child's head and torso.
  • It also holds your child securely in the seat thanks to the upper belt guide.

A backless booster seat will raise your child's body to a height suitable for use with the adult seat, but it makes it more difficult to correctly position the diagonal strap of a three-point adult seat belt across the shoulder.

This can mean there's nothing to stop your child from slamming into the side of the vehicle, seriously injuring themselves.

We've tested and reviewed nearly 35 high-back booster seats and found seven Best Buys, including one that costs £90 and can be used from four to 12 years old.

Go to our high-back booster seat reviews to compare all of the Group 3 car seats we've tested and visit our guide to booster seats for more information about using a car seat with an older child.

The law and backless booster seats

  • UK law dictates that children must use a child car seat until they're 12 years old or 135cm/4ft 5in tall, whichever comes first.
  • From 1 March 2017 the rules on backless booster seats changed.These seats can now only be made for children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg.
  • However, backless booster seats made and bought before this date are still legal and approved for use by children weighing between 15kg and 36kg.
  • So, if you own a backless booster seat bought before this date, you can still use it for a child within this weight range.
  • Shops can also sell backless booster seats that are approved for use by children weighing between 15kg and 36kg, so you'll need to check the label when you buy a seat.
  • Check the label on your booster seat corresponds with the size of your child.