Don’t Get Screwed with This Convertible Booster Seat
- What: Graco TurboBooster Car Seat
- When: 30 – 100 lbs (roughly 3 to 10 years old)
- Why: Affordable, readily available
- Where: Amazon
We got a Graco TurboBooster Car Seat to replace our handy Cosco Highback Booster after someone rear-ended me. It turns out replacing four car seats simultaneously sucks. So when the person on the other end of the phone didn’t have the Cosco one we’ve used for years available, I agreed to try something new.
The Graco Highback TurboBooster goes from 30 to 100 pounds, and covers a height range from 38 to 57 inches. It can be used as a highback booster from 30 to 100 pounds and up to 52 inches. After your kid grows taller than 52 inches, you have to switch it to the backless mode.
While I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. First and foremost, you have to assemble this car seat. I’ve owned lots and lots of car seats (though fewer booster seats) and I’ve never had to assemble one. Install it, yes. Wrestle it, yes. Curse at it, yes. But I’ve never needed actual tools to safely put a car seat in our vehicle.
I don’t like to think my kid’s safety (or anyone else’s) rides on my ability to wield a screwdriver, so that was definitely a strike against it. Secondly, it doesn’t transport as easily. Because it converts to a backless booster, the high back doesn’t attach as solidly as a booster that’s one piece. It doesn’t work as well to travel with if you want a highback booster seat. If you want more options, and the ability to carry on the bottom portion and pack the high back part, it works great for that situation.
Also, because I have younger, lighter kids, I don’t regularly switch between the highback booster and a backless type. I need an affordable seat that isn’t a pain to install for extra kids. That means I need something that can work for my seven year old’s friends as well as my five year old’s friends. For us, we get way more utility from a booster seat that offers a five point harness for younger, lighter kids, as well as highback booster used with the seatbelt.
Remember this screws? (Hello there again screwdriver!) It turns out, despite the fact that the screws go in the arm rests, that it isn’t safe to use the booster seat at all in any form without the screws installed. Since some models come with loose screws, and parents are tired, it’s easy to overlook that fact. Luckily, once you install the screws, you only need to take them out to switch the height of the arm rests. But you’ve got to get the screws in there first, without them rolling under the car during installation, or your toddler picking them up to taste, or any other unfortunate incidents.
I also find it easier to go from the harness to the seatbelt than from the highback booster to the backless one, which is the transformation the Graco seat offers. I can rethread a five point harness in only a few minutes without completely removing the seat from the car if I want to avoid it. I don’t think I could attach or detach the back part of the Graco TurboBooster without taking it completely out of the car. What’s more, because the back detaches, if I’m lugging it from one car to another, or through an airport, the back can separate from the bottom. I don’t like keeping track of one more thing when we travel.
I find it harder to use the highback booster with the seatbelt too. Somehow, the belt clasp itself always slides down with the Graco TurboBooster. I never had that issue with the same vehicle and in the same installation location (third row, driver’s side of a Mazda 5) with the Cosco Highback. The Graco, while much easier to adjust for height, is harder for me to thread the shoulder portion of the seat belt through properly. I almost always have to do that after I’ve buckled the kid in. Luckily, in my compact six person car, I can simply reach from behind to help them find the buckle and then adjust the shoulder strap through the proper restraint. I also don’t love the arm rests, as it makes it trickier to get the right path for the seatbelt.
On the plus side, I like the color coded red portions showing where the seatbelt should go. The back adjusts to fit a larger range of heights, and I can switch it easily with one hand to fit different riders.
The Graco also offers a lower minimum weight for riding with just a seatbelt installation (30 lbs versus 40 lbs with the Cosco), which makes it easier and safer for people unaccustomed to five point harnesses to use safely. The Cosco also tops out at 80 lbs, instead of 100 lbs like the Graco Turbo Booster. The Graco also offers only two slots for the five point harness, so kids can outgrow that option quickly. The one piece seat doesn’t adjust to height, so the Graco gets extra points for a better fit there, too.
And every kid who’s used the Graco loves the cup holders, which tuck away nicely when not needed. That helps me, because it means extra kids fiddle with the cup holders instead of the seat belt or who knows what else in my car in the back row where I can’t see them as well.
All in all, at a similar price point, the Graco TurboBooster offers some nice features like a higher maximum weight and the ability to switch to a backless booster. But I still like the Cosco Highback 2-in-1 Booster better for our family, and because I prefer highback booster seats to backless types.