The best child car seats for older children
By Alison Potter
Find out which types of Isofix and belted child car seats from Group 2/3 are best for older children as they grow, and why it's not recommended to use backless booster seats.
Child car seats are designed to protect children's soft bones and vulnerable internal organs from birth to the age of 12, or 135cm, when your child will no longer legally need to use a car seat in the UK.
As your child grows, their skeleton changes, which means they will need different levels of protection as they transform from infants and toddlers into school-age children.
In this article, find out which i-Size and Group 2/3 child car seats came out best in our tough crash tests for children aged four to 12, the law on child car seats for older children and why we advise going for a high-back booster seat over a backless booster:
- Top 10 best child car seats for kids 4 to 12 years
- Child car seat law for older children
- What car seat do I need for a toddler or pre-schooler?
- High-back booster seats and backless booster seats compared
- What are the best child car seats for tall children?
In the table below we've rounded up 10 of the best car seats for children aged four and older. They're i-Size and Group 2/3 car seats that are the top-scoring models in our rigorous car seat crash tests.
We’ve also picked three of the worst Don't Buy child car seats, so you know which ones to avoid, as they didn’t provide a suitable level of protection in our crash tests.
Top 10 best child car seats for kids aged between 4 and 12
You'll have no issues installing this lightweight high-backed booster seat, which is approved for use from 15kg to 36kg (approximately four to 12 years old). It’s easy to fit, and you can install it using the adult seat belt and Isofix, which means it stays secure in the car even when not in use. It has a nice sitting position and a large, well-padded seat, plus it doesn’t take up much room in the back of your car.
Suitable from 9kg to 36kg (roughly one to 12 years old), this car seat is a Best Buy that’s good value for money. It gets four stars for overall safety and it’s very easy to use, which is no mean feat for a multi-group car seat. In Group 1 mode it uses an impact shield to hold your child in place, but as a Group 2/3 seat your child is secured using the adult seat belt.
This Best Buy multigroup seat provides a good level of protection in a crash, both as a Group 1 seat and as a Group 2/3 seat. It can be used from 9kg to 36kg, which is generally one year to 12 years old, and it has Isofix connectors which make it easy to install. The well-padded seat can be reclined and it offers good leg support, so it should provide a comfortable ride for older children.
This Best Buy high-back booster seat that has useful soft latches to hold the seat in place when it’s not in use. It has a good four-star overall safety rating and it’s a low injury risk, especially in side-on collisions. It’s a spacious car seat that’s easy to install and it offers good leg support and a nice amount of padding for children aged four to 12 years.
This Group 2/3 high-back booster seat has advanced side impact protection and the a fourth-attachment point to help ensure the optimal lap belt position. It gets a good four-star rating overall for safety and if you use the optional Isofix connectors it means you don't need to remember to secure the car seat when it's not in use.
This car seat has no major weaknesses and is among the cheapest Best Buy Group 2/3 car seats currently available. The level of overall crash protection is good, and it's straightforward to install and easy to use. You can adapt it to comfortably fit your growing child, and the Isofix connectors allow you to securely attach it to your car, even when it's not in use.
The side-impact results in our crash tests were impressive enough to make this high-backed booster seat a Best Buy. It’s a Group 2/3 car seat for children from 15kg to 36kg (approximately three and a half to 12 years). It can be installed in the car using the Isofix mounts for a stable fit, and it uses the adult seat belt to hold the seat and your child in place.
If your car is older and lacks Isofix connectors, then this high-back booster seat is a good one to go for. Our rigorous crash tests show there’s a low risk of injury in a side-on collision and it’s lightweight and easy to install. It’s suitable from 15-36kg (which is three and a half to 12 years old), so it’s an ideal car seat for school-age children.
This high-backed booster seat is nearly a Best Buy and it’s worth considering for children weighing between 15 and 36kg (roughly three and a half to 12 years old). It has a low injury risk, it’s easy to install using the Isofix mounting points or adult seat belt, and it has a seat recline and adjustable headrest to ensure your child is comfortable and supported when travelling in the car.
This child car seat is the world’s first i-Size high-back booster seat. It has Isofix connectors and can be used with little ones who are 100-150cm tall (approximately four to 12 years old). It just misses out on being a Best Buy, but it gets a good safety rating in our crash tests. This well-padded seat has an adjustable headrest and a small recline feature that BeSafe claims is designed for sleeping support.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of February 2020.
Want to see more choices? Browse all our best child car seats we've reviewed
Car seats to avoid
As well as recommending the best, we think it’s also important to highlight the child car seats for older kids that you need to avoid.
Below are three car seats we've labelled Don't Buys because the samples we tested weren’t as safe as they should be.
Low-scoring car seats for kids aged between 4 and 12 to avoid
This multi-stage car seat is approved for use from birth up to 36kg, which is around 12 years old when your child will no longer need to use a car seat. Although it’s a well-padded seat and comfortable seat, a combination of poor frontal crash-test results and complicated installation means we've had to limit the score to 42%. This means it falls below our Don't Buy threshold.
This multi-group seat is difficult to install and it had disappointing crash test results whether it’s used rearward-facing or forward-facing. In our tests this seat scored poorly for frontal-impact when used rearward-facing in Group 0+/1 mode and forward-facing Isofix Group 1, as well as belted-only in Group 2/3 mode for older children.
This backless booster seat looks like a good option for parents, as it's small and easily transportable, so you can take it on holiday. But our crash tests show that it provides virtually no side-impact protection and little front-impact protection, plus the seat belt cut into the neck area on our crash test dummies. For these reasons it’s a 0% Don’t Buy.
Child car seats distribute the crash forces over as wide an area as possible and protect your child from being injured by coming into contact with the vehicle interior.
According to UK law, every child must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm/4ft 5in tall, whichever comes first.
In many other European countries the cut-off is higher, at 150cm/4ft 11in, and many child car seats for older children sold in the UK can be used with kids up to 150cm tall.
To find out which child car seats we recommend, visit our child car seat reviews.
Your child's bones continue to strengthen as they grow older, and once they reach around four years old you can swap to a Group 2/3 car seat.
Group 2/3 high-back booster seats are the best choice when a child has outgrown a Group 1 child car seat, as they raise your child and help guide the adult seat belt across them, so that it lies properly across the chest and pelvis.
They also have a protective headrest and side wings, which usually come with added side-impact protection, and will help protect your child's head in a crash.
Backless booster seats can be cheaper and seem more convenient to use (especially if you need to move the child car seat between cars), but they offer very little protection in a crash, particularly if you’re hit from the side, and they have no way of keeping the shoulder strap of a three-point adult seatbelt in the right place on a child.
It may be better to use a backless booster seat than nothing at all, but we would strongly advise investing in a high-back booster seat for daily use to ensure the safety of your child when travelling in a car.
The rules around backless booster seats changed in 2017. Now only children who are over 125cm in height and 22kg in weight can use them, and they are classified as Group 3 seats.
Find out more in our guide to booster seats for children and booster seat law.
If you want to keep your in a child car seat for as long as possible for safety reasons, but they have reached or now exceed the 135cm/4ft 5in height threshold, there are still some options available to you.
We’ve tested child car seats that can be used up to 150cm/4ft 9in, and in some cases up to 160cm/5ft 3in.