If you own a full-size SUV, mid-sized SUV, or minivan and have a bunch of kids who need to travel safely, you’ll want to pick booster car seats that are narrow enough to fit 3 across.
And if you have a compact car, you want to be able to carry 2 little passengers in the backseat comfortably. In all these situations, you need to find the narrowest car booster seats for the money.
Related: How to Pick Out a Booster Car Seat
However, installing three booster car seats in tight spaces can be extremely difficult if you don’t know of any trick to make it easier. But you’re here, and…
Not only will I hand you a nice little list of 6 really narrow car booster seats, but you’ll also learn a trick that makes seating 3 across less of a hassle.
Don’t have the time to read all the details in this narrow car booster guide? No worries! Here’s a simple comparison table of my top 3 picks.
Also Read: Best Compact Car Seats for the Money
- Lifespan:12 years!
- Rated Best Bet (backless mode)
- Weight: 14lbs
- Rigid LATCH
- Headrest, backrest, wings adjust independently
- Thick padding
- Belt placement mechanism
- Lightest travel booster (1pound only)
- Width: 13″, the narrowest
- 1 pound heavy!
- 4 year liffespan
- FAA&FMVSS 213 approved
- Also certified for the European market
- Most compact, fits in a provided backpack
- Easily fits on a plane’s overhead bin
- Easy to inflate and deflate, no pump needed
- Belt guides for consistency during fitting
- 16″ wide & 7-year lifespan
- 12lbs heavy
- Backless & High-backed mode
- Max weight limit:120lbs
- Made in Italy
- 2 optional cupholders
- Rigid LATCH
- Best Bet rating IIHS
- Pretty plush cover
- Spring-loaded recline foot
- Backrest adjustable with kid buckled in
- No seat belt adjuster in backless mode
- Great value and quality for the price
Who is a Booster Car Seat for?
A booster car seat is for children who’ve hit all the limits for forward-facing seating with a harness. The kid no longer fits in the forward-facing car seat, probably a convertible car seat or a combination car seat.
They need to move to a better-fitting car seat that could jump into action and protect them during a crash. And the Gaco Snugride Snuglock may be a good option. Some parents even say it’s one of the best narrow convertible car seats.
Any car seat that doesn’t fit the user properly can’t be trusted to provide adequate protection during an accident. That’s why moving big kids out of a forward-facing car seat into a higher-limit car booster seat makes tons of sense.
Why Are Booster Car Seats Important?
Safety for kids is why using the right car seat is essential, especially when seated in the back seat. One study investigating the effectiveness of seatbelts vs belt-positioning booster seats as far as injury risk reduction returned interesting findings.
This study discovered that for kids aged 4-7, the odds of injury to the user were 59 percent lower compared to when 4-7-year-olds rode restrained by seatbelts only. In fact, using only seatbelts resulted in injuries to many parts of the wearer’s body while using a booster seat with seatbelts prevented injuries to the “…stomach, neck, spine, or lower extremities.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends using certified car seats as they meet safety standards. Your kid needs a good booster car seat. And a high-quality narrow booster seat is the best option for compact cars like yours.
Why Can’t Kids Use Seatbelts Instead of Booster Seats?
Would you like to know what different kinds of car seats there are? This car seat guide has all the information you need to know.
Safety restraint experts have consistently educated us that kids below ages 10-12 have trouble fitting in adult seatbelts. This is mainly because seat belt anchors sit too high, especially in older vehicles. Besides, kids younger than this age range face size limitations when it comes to fitting in seatbelts; they’re too small for this child restraint.
A high-back booster seat is more suitable for older children. And if you need to seat three kids in the back, one of whom is an infant, consider combining the booster seat with any of the narrowest infant car seats with a narrow base.
Clek Liing infant car seats are some of the narrowest options out there. The Peg Perego Viaggio Flex comes with a five-point harness and fits well even with bucket seats. It gives that extra space needed and will last for a long time.
While newer vehicles tend to have adjustable seat belt anchors, many parents find that the seatbelt doesn’t their kids properly. Instead of this safety best passing over the collarbone and making a diagonal line across the center of the chest, it stays too close to the neck, causing discomfort.
And instead of running across the entire chest, the belt sits higher up, making a shorter diagonal line below the neck in smaller kids. A booster car seat “boosts” the child, making the vehicle’s seatbelt fit them more comfortably and safely. As a result, the child is less likely to place the seatbelt under the arms or behind their backs.
Young Children Have a Weak/Underdeveloped Iliac Spine
Here’s another reason young children can’t or shouldn’t use seatbelts: the iliac spine (the part that sticks out around the hip bones) in young children isn’t fully developed as it is in adults, according to this Car Seat Lady article.
A fully developed iliac spine serves a big role in adults and big kids who’ve passed the 5-step seatbelt test: it keeps the lap seat belt from riding up from the hip bones and into the stomach during a crash. Seat belt injuries after a crash can be life-changing in young children.
How Booster Seats Help Solve Seat Belt Challenges for Kids
A well-fitted booster car seat provides a better lap belt fit compared to an adult seatbelt. It has the lap belt resting over the strongest part of the passenger’s body: over the upper thighs.
To keep the lap belt section of the seatbelt from moving up toward the stomach, many booster seats use seat belt guides. The guides could be plastic clips, armrests, slots, or small handles, and they all do one thing. They fit the lap belt flat and snug over the upper thighs, preventing it from riding upwards to the belly.
Also, a booster seat’s design makes it less likely that children will slouch during rides, creating excessive slack in the seatbelt, which can be dangerous.
Since it’s not as deep as the vehicle’s regular adult seat, the child doesn’t face difficulty bending their legs over the edge of the seat. And because the legs bend over comfortably at the edge, the child feels no need to lean forward to compensate.
6 Narrowest Boosters for Fitting 3 Across
Do you have a bunch of booster-age kids to carry in the backseat and are wondering if there are options that make fitting 3 across possible? You’re at the right place. Because I’m about to introduce you to 6 of the slimmest booster car seats. These slim car seats, particularly when combined with other narrow models, make fitting 3 across much less of a headache.
Here’s a list of 6 best narrow car booster seats for fitting 3 across in a full-size SUV or 2 in smaller vehicles:
1. Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 Booster (16″): Best Overall
2. Chicco MyFit Harness Plus Booster Car Seat (17″): Easiest Install
3. Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Plus 120 Graphite Booster (17″): Most Adjustable&Longest Lifespan
4. Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle No-Back Booster: Best Narrow Backless Booster (16″)
5. Chicco GoFit Backless Booster: Best Budget Backless Booster
6. Bubblebum Inflatable Booster Seat: Best Inflatable and Narrowest Booster (13″)
Let’s now see what each recommendation looks like so you can form an informed opinion of each as far as using it in tight spaces.
1.Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 Booster: Also Good
Before I say anything about the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 Booster Seat, below are its features and specs.
- Expiration date: 7 years from the date of manufacture
- Safety ratings: Boasts IIH’s Best Bet safety rating for the high-backed mode and Check Fit rating for the backless mode.
- Booster seat weight: 12lbs
- Seat width: 16″
- Weight range, high-backed mode: 40-120lbs
- Height limits, high-backed riding mode: 39″-57″
- Weight limits, backless booster mode: 10-120lbs
- Height limits, backless booster mode: 39″-57″
- Cover: removable and washable, and it’s really plush, which boosts comfort
- Lower anchor connectors (rigid) for safety when not in use
- Adjustable high back: back adjustable with the young passenger still seating in it
- Cupholders: Available, but they lack a bottom
- Offers two riding modes: A backless booster mode and a high-backed booster mode
- Removable backrest
- Wide, deep side wings with deep padding for great side impact protection
There are quite a few $30 booster seats out there. But do these incredibly cheap car booster seats have as solid a feel as my top recommendation, the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 Booster? No.
These kinds of seats, particularly bargain-counter options, tend to be pretty basic options that lack the solid feel of a full-sized car seat. I’m talking about that familiar feeling that makes you believe your baby will get adequate protection in a crash.
Not only is the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 a sturdy high-backed option, but it also looks rad and offers way better padding than many cheaper choices do. The side wings are deep and keep the head in position at all times on top of boosting side-impact protection.
We used this to position our oldest child for the seatbelt, and he gave it a 5-star rating for comfort. If you’re looking for a luxurious high-backed booster to use in a variety of tight spaces, consider the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120.
At 16″ wide, the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 Booster is among a small bunch of really narrow high-back car booster seats on the market.
You can use it as a high-backed mode anywhere between ages 4 and 8 and as a backless option afterward.
I consider any booster car seat with a width of 17″ or narrower to be a narrow choice, and this car seat is one of those.
In a compact SUV such as the Honda CRV or any other mid-size SUV, fitting 3 across with the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 shouldn’t be hard. And in most small cars, fitting 2 seats in the backseat shouldn’t feel like mission impossible.
Its padding can’t be beat, and it comes with easy-to-use lower anchors. Also, it’s recline-able thanks to an easy-to-operate spring-loaded recline foot. Best of all, you can adjust the seat’s high back with the child seating in, which isn’t something many competitors do at all.
That’s not all. It’s pretty versatile, too. It’s a backless booster at 40-120lbs and a high-backed booster at 40-120lbs. As for the height limits, they hover between 39″and -57″ for both the backless and high-backed modes.
But while this option offers a high-backed booster mode, you’re required to use it on a seat with a headrest.
Safety-wise, the IIHS gives it the Best Bet rating in the high-backed mode and a Check Fit rating in the backless mode. Check how the IIHS rates booster seats here. Also, this option doesn’t come with a seatbelt adjuster in the backless mode.
Installing the lower anchors was simple stupid, and we didn’t worry that we’d forget to buckle up the seat when not in use. Even though many options these days come with lower anchors for safety, not every option has rigid LATCH.
As opposed to flexible LATCH, rigid LATCH super securely attaches the seat to the vehicle when not occupied, dramatically reducing the odds of it becoming a projectile in an accident.
Cupholders: There are 2 cupholders, which doesn’t make this choice stand out, but have you ever met a kid who doesn’t fancy cupholders? One little downside about these cupholders is that, unlike many, these ones don’t have a bottom.
This may not seem like a bummer, and it certainly isn’t, but I definitely prefer cupholders that have a bottom for obvious reasons.
The cover is pretty plush, removable, and machine washable. And I appreciate that the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 Booster manual provides clear cleaning instructions. But I found that removing this cover did take some getting used to.
The instructions manual says to be careful when removing the cover or you’ll damage the padding. Tearing the seat down to take out the cover can feel intimidating at first, but it does get easier down the road.
- Easy-to-use lower anchors
- Spring-loaded recline foot
- Reasonable price point for the value and quality
- Deeply padded side impact protection
- A breathable microfiber fabric for less discomfort in warm weather
- Adjustable backrest even with the child strapped in
- Rigid LATCH for incredibly secure installs
- Plush padding that’s also washable
- Used as both a backless and high-backed booster seat
- A solid booster seat with great looks to boot
- Best Bet rating from IIHS
- No seat belt adjuster in backless mode
- Headrest necessary even in the high-backed mode
- Cupholders lack a bottom
2. Chicco MyFit Harness Plus Booster Car Seat (17″): Easiest Install
- Lifespan: 8 years from DOM
- Forward-facing mode weight range (with harness): 25-65lbs
- Forward-facing height limit, with harness: from about 2 years up to 54″
- Booster mode limit: 40-100lbs, or from roughly 4 years
- Booster mode height limits: 37″-57″
- Rated Best Bet by IIHS
- Width: 17″
- Weight: 25lbs
- Premium anchors
- A harness tightening and loosening button, it’s red in color
- Offers both a harness mode and a booster mode
- Wide vehicle belt path
- Great side impact protection
- 2 button-based cupholders that are also dishwasher safe
- Dual-density foam for safety and increased comfort
- Looks better and boosts better (thicker) padding than most 2-in-1 boosters
- Reclines 4 positions, recline easy to do
- A durable, removable, and washable fabric cover
If you own either of MyFit’s predecessors, the KeyFit and NextFit, I bet you’re facing a small problem. Your kiddo’s been growing fast, which means that as each day passes, they’re becoming a tad bigger and the car seat is getting a tad smaller.
They’re almost too big for the forward-facing seat, but definitely not grown enough for a belt-positioning seat. Here’s the dilemma: do you buy another forward-facing car seat with more generous height and weight limits or do you instead go for a booster seat even though the young passenger might not fit very well in it?
What if you could get an option that does both, one that forward-faces and has a 5-point harness while at the same time converting to the booster mode when needed? That’s exactly what the 2-in-1 Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat does.
As long as your child isn’t taller than 54″ and weighs anywhere between 25lbs and 65lbs, they get to use the Chicco MyFit as a forward-facing seat.
Does the Chicco MyFit turn into a booster seat? Yes, it does. Your kid can use it in the booster mode (high-backed) at between 40 and 100 lbs, somewhere at age 4 for most kids. But no, it doesn’t convert to a backless booster. Now, 100 lbs isn’t bad, but the best options offer a limit of up to 120 lbs.
At 17″ wide, this isn’t the narrowest choice, but you sure can fit 3 of these in any roomy vehicle such as a full-size SUV or mid-size SUV. As many experienced parents know, installing different kinds of seats in varied seating modes gives you the best results as far as fitting 3 across.
If you have a small car, you sure can use the Chicco MyFit + Booster, but at best you can only fit 2 of them in the backseat.
Installing this thing with the lower anchors is easy as is installing it with the vehicle’s seat belt. One reason the Chicco MyFit + Booster is an easy install is that it’s really roomy around the belt path. If there’s one feature I can’t love enough about any car seat, it’s ease of installation (read wide belt path). It’s one of the many reasons I love my Evenflo Revolve 360 Gold.
This seat is a real looker, and it’s also one of the best padded 2-in-1 choices on the market today. One look at it, and you instantly know you’re standing in front of a sturdy seat that’ll potentially last years.
I suspect the sheer strength of this seat’s reinforced steel frame accounts for its longevity. Small wonder it weighs in at 25 lbs, which places it in the convertible seat-heavy territory. Switching between vehicles shouldn’t be like the labor of Hercules, but its sure takes strength to do this.
How long is the Chicco MyFit good for? It’s an 8-year lifespan, which is 1 year longer than that of the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120. This means you can use it until your kiddo is ready for the 5 step test that determines who’s grown enough to use the adult seat belt.
It reclines 4 positions, and it doesn’t take a car seat geek to figure out how this feature works. Another really nice feature is the red button that makes it easy to tighten and loosen the 5-point harness. This feature works without hitches, and I bet you’ll love it.
Finally, the fabric cover is relatively easy to remove, and you sure can machine-wash it and line-dry it. As for the cupholders, you get two instead of 1 or even none at all.
These are intelligently positioned full-size cupholders. If your big kid wears sunglasses or travels with earphones, they can put these in one of the cupholders while they store a water bottle or snacks in the other.
Best of all, these cupholders come right out at the pressing of a button, something I’ve not seen in many car seats. And you certainly can feed them to the top rack of your dishwasher.
*A note about Chicco seats: they tend to fit skinny kids better than they beefier ones.
- Deeply padded, super solid reinforced-steel construction
- 4 recline positions that are easy to dial in
- Adjustable headrest, 9 positions
- Great side-impact protecion
- Rated Best by the IIHS
- Premium lower anchors
- Fits 3 across in many seating situations
- 2 full-sized and removable/optional dishwasher safe cupholders
- Button-adjustable 5-point harness
- Available in at least 6 colors, there’s a color for every kid
- A bit on the heavier side
- Not a cheap deal
- Max weight limit could be greater
3. Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Plus 120: Longest Lifespan
- Lifespan: 12 years!
- Forward-facing weight limits: 40-120lbs
- Forward-facing height range: 39″-63″
- Weight: 14lbs
- Width: 17″
- Best Bet rated by IIHS (backless mode only)
- Thickly padded side wings for supporting napping heads
- Shoulder belt guides for perfect belt placement
- Removable backrest made from reinforced aluminum
- Side impact protection
- Rigid LATCH for a super secure installation
- Blind Lock Attaching System to prevent another kid from releasing the seat
- 3D Total Adjust Technology
- 1 cupholder
- Grows with your fast-growing kiddo
- Adjusts in 3 independent directions
- Converts to a backless booster seat
The Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Plus 120 is another 2-in-1 booster that works in different kinds of tight-space situations. It’s a pretty solid piece of protection-packed baby gear. But it didn’t impress me as solidly made as either the HBB 120 or the Chicco MyFit + Booster.
Perhaps that’s why it weighs in 14 lbs, which is slightly lighter than the HBB 120 and way lighter than the Chicco MyFit Plus Booster.
At 17″ in width, it’s hard to imagine it not fitting in any car no matter how small. And in full-sized and mid-sized SUVs, seating 3 in the backseat shouldn’t be a calculus-level challenge.
I don’t often bump into car seats of any kind that are good for 12 years, but the Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Plus 120 Graphite Booster lasts that insanely long. Most of the longest-lasting seats I know of last 10 years at best, but this is a booster car seat and you can use it for 12 long years. Now that’s incredible.
And it’s not just its peerless longevity that amazed me. It’s also its really generous maximum height limit of 63″. Pretty much all competing options accommodate kids up to 57″ and no more, but this one offers extra headroom of 9″, which is exceptional.
The seat measures 17″. And 17″ is considered pretty narrow in the car seat world. You’d be able to fit 3 of these in the backseat of any roomy vehicle and 2 in standard-size cars and even small ones.
If your kid is skinny and they’re in the 95+ percentile in terms of height, this definitely the booster seat for them. The same goes for anyone who doesn’t want to run the risk of their kid outgrowing the seat before vehicle seat belt age.
One area where the Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Plus 120 Graphite Booster beats everyone else is adjustability. To be clear, every narrow high-backed car booster seat I recommend here adjusts to some extent. The headrest adjusts liberally creating much-needed extra headroom for a fast-growing young passenger.
But the Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Plus 120 Graphite Booster does a much better job when it comes to adjustability. It comes equipped with a unique technology that makes it the most adjustable 2-in-1 booster I’ve ever reviewed.
Its 3D Total Adjust Technology makes it possible to adjust the headrest, the upper section of the backrest, and the side wings independently. I’m not aware of any other option that does this.
Then there’s rigid LATCH, a feature that makes for a pretty tight installation of any car seat. A rigid LATCH system connects a seat directly to the metal on the vehicle and doesn’t use the straps at all.
You can be sure this Perego seat will stay where you secure it when not in use and will never become a dangerous projectile in a crash. And if there are no anchors in your vehicle or if you prefer to install via the seat belt, the rigid LATCH stores in the base and out of the way.
You get 1 cupholder, but this could be better quality IMHO. Lest I forget, there’s a carry handle that makes carrying this seat as a backless booster a breeze.
- Adjusts in 3 independent directions
- An extremely extended lifespan of up to 12 years from DOM
- Side impact protection
- Shoulder belt placement guides
- Rigid LATCH
- Converts to a backless booster seat
- Has the most generous height limits, up to 63″
- Carry handle for the backless mode
- Only 2 color options namely Licorice and Graphite
- 1 cupholder, but it’s not great
4. Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Backless Booster: Best Backless for Tall Riders
- Longevity: up to 12 years
- Width: 16″
- Design: Backless booster
- Forward-facing weight range: 40-120lbs
- Height limits: 39″-63″
- Weight: 6.75lbs
- Integrated rigid LATCH
- I cup holder
- Carry handle
- 3-point harness
- Not nearly as thin as most backless boosters
No-back booster car seats are naturally light, much lighter than their high-backed counterparts. The reason for this significant weight difference is that backless boosters don’t have a backrest, which substantially reduces the product’s weight.
It’s 16″ wide, which easily makes it one of the narrowest backless boosters ever. It lends itself well to all kinds of seat-3-across scenarios.
Before we dive into why this Peg Perego backless booster made it to my list of recommended tight-space boosters, there’s something you should know. It’s that car booster seats without a backrest aren’t recommended for younger passengers who have trouble holding their neck and head up during rides.
If your kiddo isn’t mature enough and keeps napping in the seat during travel, it’s definitely best to buy a high-backed booster for them. Get them something with deep side wings that rein the shifty head in for comfort and safety.
I’ll now tell you what makes this car seat unique. Unlike most no-back options, the Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle No Back Booster attaches to the vehicle via a really secure system known as rigid LATCH.
There’s rigid LATCH and flexible LATCH BTW. One difference between fixed LATCH and flexible LATCH is that rigid LATCH unites the booster directly with the metal of the vehicle.
Any car seat technician will tell you that rigid LATCH makes for extremely tight installations and seats once secured don’t move at all.
After installing this seat, it won’t move sideways or back and forth when not in use as many others do. If you landed here looking for only one reason to purchase the no-back Viaggio Shuttle, let it be that it comes with a rigid LATCH system.
The Viaggio Shuttle 2-in-1 above has the same specs and features as our backless candidate. The weight and height limits are exactly the same, but the no-back booster is massively lighter at 6.75 lbs vs. 12 lbs for the backrest-equipped version.
You won’t break a sweat moving the backless model from one vehicle to another. And in terms of installing it, you never saw an easier-to-install car seat whether using the lower anchors or seatbelt.
Both car seats have a feature that makes it hard for little fussy passengers seating next to your kiddo to fiddle with the securing mechanisms, releasing the seat. Peg Perego named this safety feature the Blind Lock System.
I mean, kids keep experimenting with stuff. And when the object they’re toying with is a car seat, you don’t want their little project to succeed! That’s where the Blind Lock mechanism comes into play.
Of course, you can’t use the Viaggio Shuttle Backless Booster in a seat without a headrest. Your kiddo is going to need the support of the vehicle’s backrest and headrest to use this no-back option comfortably and safely.
Like its high-backed version, this backless guy offers kids one cup holder, a feature pretty much all big kids want to see in a car seat. But I must say that this cup holder could use some quality improvement.
Also, your kid won’t get a 5-point harness, which has become quite the standard no matter the car seat you’re looking at. Instead, it’s a 3-point harness.
Well, there’s nothing wrong with a 3-point harness. However, according to Maxi Cosi, a 3-point harness provides somewhat less safety compared to a 5-point one.
And if you’re searching for a slim-width booster seat that lasts more than a decade, turn to this puppy.
Your kid can squeeze utility out of it for as many as 12 years, which makes it one of the longest-lasting seats on the market today. What’s more, its extremely generous weight and height limits make it the tall kid’s booster of choice. Little wonder many parents can’t stop loving this backless piece of gear.
Safety ratings of the Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Backless Booster? The IIHS assigned it the best rating it ever gives to a car seat, Best Bet. As long as you install it correctly, which is easy, and buckle kiddo in properly there aren’t any safety concerns to fret about.
And yes, you get a carry handle for really easy and convenient carries.
It’s available in 3 colors Crystal Black, Licorice, and Monza. That’s not many color options, but at least you have options. And no, it’s not cheap at all, but it doesn’t feel like paying through the nose.
- Extremely long longevity (up to 12 years)
- Rigid LATCH for really secure installs
- Accommodates tall kids better than most
- Cupholder present
- Easy installs
- 3 color options
- Rated Best Bet by IIHS
- Built-in carry handle
- Cupholder isn’t the best quality it could be
- Even the tallest of kids could use it until age 10-12
- Comes with a 3-point and not a 5-point harness
- Pricey for a backless booster
5. Chicco GoFit Backless Booster: Best Budget Backless Booster
- Lifespan: 8 years from DOM
- Weight limits: 40-110lbs
- Height limits: 38″-57″
- Design: No back booster
- Product weight: 5lbs
- Width: 17″ (with the cupholders folded)
- Fold-in cup holders/cup folders as the manufacturer cleverly calls them; cupholders are also removable with the help of a button located on the seat’s bottom
- A nice carry handle for when switching between cars
- Plush seat cover for comfort
- A belt guide adjuster for the shoulder portion
When this backless booster from Chicco, we didn’t need to do any assembly because the brand’s tech people sent it in fully assembled. But there’s a manual placed at the bottom of the seat to use in case the seat comes not assembled.
With the cupholders not folded in, the widest part of this booster measures 19″, which is wider than what I consider to be narrow booster width (17.5″ at the widest). But here’s one really fabulous thing about this product: the cup holders let you fold them in so that the width of the seat reduces from 19″ to 17″. And this is the width number stated on the product’s Amazon listing.
But are the cups removable? Yes, they are. A button found on the bottom of this seat makes removing these optional cupholders relatively easy. Be sure to consult the manual for instructions on how to do this because it can get a tad tricky (not hard at all though).
One big difference between this backless choice and the majority of the options on my list is that it doesn’t come with LATCH, whether flexible or rigid. In fact, this is the main difference between the Chicco GoFit and Chicco GoFit Plus backless boosters. The Plus mode comes with a flexible-style LATCH system, a mechanism that makes securing the seat easy when there’s no one seating in it.
With that being said, it’s easy enough to use the vehicle’s seat belt to secure the seat when your kiddo isn’t using it. And using the seat belt to restrain the seat is easy enough. Even your 8-year-old should be able to do it without your assistance. Just be sure to show them how to do this correctly the first time and they won’t need you from there.
Some big kids hate climbing into booster seats that slide all around. If that’s the sort of youngster you’re shopping for, maybe this isn’t the best option for you. I suggest that you pick a backless booster or high-backed booster that secures via the lower anchors, especially one that boasts rigid LATCH.
Another thing that’s admirable about the Chicco GoFit is the belt guide adjuster for the shoulder portion of the vehicle’s seat belt. This feature helps you customize the fit so that the shoulder belt fits the passenger properly across a variety of vehicles.
Whether they’re riding with you or going on a road trip with Grandpa, your kiddo gets the belt to fit comfortably and safely each time.
Speaking of safety, the Chicco GoFit got the IIHS Best Bet rating in 2015, making it a choice any child and their caregiver will use with complete peace of mind.
But do you know what really makes the Chicco GoFit quite the bomb? It’s the incredibly low price point it comes in at.
Admittedly, it’s the cheapest narrow backless booster that can be had, but it’s substantially more accessible to the parenting community compared to the Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle No-back and many other competitors.
It’s sold at an under-$50 price tag, but what’s the catch? If you think the manufacturer skimped on comfort to keep costs abysmally low, well, you’re wrong. This thing comes with a surprisingly plush seat cover. How the company managed to make such a comfortable backless seat without eating away at the padding eludes me.
As for height limits, they’re 38″-57“, numbers that are pretty standard for these kinds of seats. As for the weight limits of 40-110 lbs, the upper limit isn’t as good as it gets, but it’s only 10 lbs short of the typical max limit of 120 lbs.
And how long is the Chicco GoFit good for? It’s 8 years, which is what seems to be the average lifespan of these products.
Even though this is a super lightweight backless car booster (5 lbs), it features a solid and sturdy carry handle for when moving the seat between vehicles. Every child big enough to use this thing can just as easily carry it.
But it’s not FAA-approved, which is the norm for booster seats (specifically those without the harness mode).
- Shoulder belt clip for consistent shoulder belt placement
- Great safety credentials (Best Bet)
- Narrow enough for many fit-3-across situations (with the cupholders folded in)
- Fold-in and removable cupholders
- A hard-to-beat price point (under $50 at time of writing)
- Surprisingly decent padding for the price
- Cup holders take a little effort to pop off
- Quite wide (19″) with the cupholders unfolded
- No lower connectors for securing when not in use
6. Bubblebum Blow-up Car Booster Seat: Best Inflatable Backless
Lifespan: 4 years after the date of manufacture
Weight range: 40-100lbs
Height range: Up to 57″
Seat weight: 1pound
Design: Inflatable booster
- It inflates, boosting the passenger’s height relative to the vehicle’s seat belt so that they can get the best fit possible.
- Deflates and rolls into a really small package, making it a great traveler’s companion
- Comes with clips for better belt placement on the child’s body
- An inch of memory foam inside the seat for firmness and comfort
- Easy setup
US car seat safety regulations require kids to be at least 40 pounds or 4 years before they can use a car booster seat. That’s the law, but the majority of 4-year-olds aren’t the best candidates for this restraint.
For the most part, kids can’t fit properly in a backless booster until they’re at 6, but I imagine some big 5-year-olds can use them safely. You’ll have to judge whether your loved one is mature enough to use the Bubblebum booster.
It’s for kids who aren’t always snoozing during rides, those who are unlikely to lean forward too much or wiggle around excessively. If your kid is excessively the wiggly type, I suggest that you stay away from the Bubblebum and any other backless booster.
Instead, get a high-backed booster for them. Alternatively, use the Bubblebum along with a safety-certified device such as the Ride Safer vest.
At just 1 pound, this is the most lightweight car booster seat ever. Being ultra-light makes it the frequent road traveler’s dream come true. I say road traveler because you can’t use it on a plane, nor can you use any other dedicated booster (they’re not FAA approved).
Here’s another benefit of being ultra-light: the seat won’t press on your vehicle’s backseat too hard, potentially causing damage.
Setting it up is a task we were able to do in under a minute each time. And deflating it was just as easy. Pretty much all kids can use this extremely lightweight inflatable travel booster without help after a few trials. Plus, the little passenger can easily carry it in their backpack.
I like that this blow-up travel booster has clips that position the seat belt so that your kiddo can get a consistent fit in different kinds of vehicles.
You’re probably asking: where do you inflate the Bubblebum Booster? To inflate the Bubblebum booster, unscrew the cap that covers the valve on the back corner of the seat and blow enough air into the inflatable travel booster seat. Then, put the screw cap back on and you’re done.
To deflate, unscrew the cap and let the air out. They don’t provide a pump BTW, but you don’t really need one. Use your mouth. After use, roll the seat up and pass the tail of its seat belt strap through the red clip to hold the package together.
Does the Bubblebum ever deflate on its own? No, unless you store it in extremely hot conditions such as leaving it in the trunk during the summer.
Here’s a tip to make your travels by cabs convenient for everyone involved: make sure to air up the Bubblebum before the taxi driver arrives at the pickup point. I mean, you don’t want to keep them waiting as you perform your weird ritual even if it takes seconds to complete.
Another tip: don’t blow in too much air. If you over-inflate the Bubblebum, don’t be surprised when your kiddo says they don’t like using it because it feels too tippy. Believe it or not, this thing passes the safety whether inflated or deflated.
Measuring just 13″ width-wise, this is the narrowest booster car seat on my list of recommended boosters for tight spaces. That sounds like good news, and it is if you don’t have much room in the backseat, but it also means there isn’t much seating space for kids with a voluminous bottom.
If you’re looking around for something a chunker can use comfortably, I doubt they’ll enjoy the Bubblebum that much. But most skinnier and average size kids should be able to use it until they hit 100lbs or 57″, which are the upper weight and height limits respectively.
Lifespan? It’s only 4 years from the date of manufacture. That’s awfully short compared to other options. But I read on a trustworthy blog (owned by a CPST) that the manufacturer says the seat can be used for 4 full years after the initial use.
Unless you leave it in extremely hot vehicles for like an entire year, you can expect it to last 2-3 years. Well, this isn’t a great lifespan, but replacing the Bubblebum sure won’t require squirreling money away for months.
- Works well with the Ride Safer Vest
- Extremely lightweight and stores small
- Super easy to inflate, install, and deflate
- Belt guides for consistent fit in different vehicles
- Safety certified whether in inflated or deflated status
- Pretty low replacement cost
- Great for traveling in cabs and fitting 3 across
- Unlikely to damage your luxurious leather seats
- Meets US’s FMVSS 213 & European safety regulations
- No lower anchors
- Will slide on slick vehicle seats, especially when excessively inflated
- Short lifespan
- No cupholders
How to Choose a Narrow Car Booster Seat
If you click on the link after the intro above, you’ll find a detailed post about how to pick a booster car seat. The factors to put into consideration when choosing any booster car seat are the exact same ones to consider when shopping for a compact car.
However, you MUST pay close attention to the width of the booster seat and its overall design. You need to think about how the purchase would work with the existing seats in your vehicle.
In this guide, I’ll quickly list down the things to keep in mind when out there shopping for the narrowest car booster seat for your big kiddos.
Booster Car Seat Design: Backless or High-backed Booster?
A backless booster is best suited for cars with high-backed seats and nicely padded headrests. You want to install a no-back booster in a backseat that will provide back, neck, and head support to the young passenger since this restraint doesn’t have a back or a headrest. Just a seating area and maybe a cup holder or 2.
When buying a backless booster, the Car Seat Lady recommends choosing an option with seatbelt guides. Belt guides, as already mentioned, position the lap belt part of the seatbelt over the hip bones and discourage the belt from shifting upward to the belly area. But seatbelt guides aren’t a preserve of backless boosters.
As for high-backed boosters (types of car booster seats), install them in seats with a high comfy back and headrest. But you can also install these seats in seats with a low back and with or without a headrest. Small wonder high-backed models are more popular with parents and their kids compared to their backless counterparts.
If you have a smaller kid who needs lots of comfort and support, it’s best to choose a high-backed option because these seats tend to fit smaller children better. Plus, they offer better padding in all the right places. Any downsides? Yes, there are cons, too.
High-backed boosters for cars are generally costlier than backless models. Besides, they’re heavier and bulkier obviously because they lack a padded back and headrest. So moving these seats between cars is more work and effort versus transferring backless models.
Weight and Height Limits
Booster seats are car seats, which means they have weight and height limits. The lower height limit for the typical booster is 38″ while the biggest height limit I’ve seen is 57″. And 57″ is the same as 4’9″, which is the height most US states require before a child can shift from a booster seat into adult seatbelts.
In terms of weight, the limits live somewhere between 40 and 120 pounds, with 120 pounds being the highest it ever gets. The higher the weight and height limits, obviously, the better.
Seat Weight and Longevity/Lifespan
When it comes to things like car seats, being heavy isn’t always a bad thing. Well, it could be a bad thing if you’re looking for a lightweight car seat for air travel. But being heavy could also mean that the seat has more solid, potentially longer-lasting parts.
Speaking of longevity, most car seats have a lifespan of between 6-10 years from the date of manufacture. If two booster seats have similar features and ease of use and sell at more or less the same price but one has an extended lifespan, definitely pick that.
I like car seats with a 10-year lifespan. And the Evenflo Revolve 360 Gold, a rotating car seat that also converts into a booster seat when needed, is a great example.
The versatility of the Booster Seat
Nothing works better than a versatile booster car seat. You want to choose a versatile booster seat, one that blends well with your lifestyle and car design and size. You need a streamlined booster seat that’s slim enough to fit in the backseat of your compact SUV, minivan, or other compact vehicle.
Truth be told: finding booster car seats that work well in tight spaces is extremely difficult. And I bet that’s why you’re here. Thanks for stopping by; it’s highly appreciated. In the reviews section below, you’ll encounter booster car seats that appeal to owners of compact and small cars due to how narrow and compact they are.
Consider the dimensions of your car and back, the shape and curvature of the backseat, and the overall layout of the vehicle when shopping for a suitable booster. Definitely shun seats that are too wide or voluminous because odds are you won’t be able to fit 3 across.
Related: Best Compact Car Seats
And if you can get an option that switches from high-backed to backless booster mode with ease, grab it. Because that’s what versatile looks like.
Finally, get a seat with adjustable seatbelt anchors and headrests. A seat like this tends to fit better, is more comfortable, and works for different size kids (and grows with your kiddo).
Simplicity and Safety: Is It Safe and Easy to Use & Maintain?
Is the booster seat easy to clean? Is it easy to install? If it’s LATCH-equipped, are the connectors easy to hook into the vehicle’s lower anchors? And if the booster switches between backless and high-backed configurations, does the conversion happen smoothly, or is the process a pain in the you-know-where? Do the seatbelts (lap belt and shoulder belt) work efficiently and is it retractable?
Related: How to Clean a Baby Car Seat
Having lower anchor connectors makes it possible to keep the booster secured to the vehicle the whole time, during use, and when the seat is empty. BTW, the lower anchors’ job isn’t to hold the weight of child + booster seat. Rather, the purpose is to anchor the seat and prevent it from moving when you’re putting the kid in for buckling.
Another safety feature on a car booster seat is the side wings. Take a look at the image below to learn what side wings are. Side wings are ONLY found on high-backed boosters, never on backless models.
One reason kids fit somewhat better and stay upright easier in a high-backed booster is that the side wings rein them in so to speak. And depending on how deep and padded the wings are, they can add a whole layer of safety to the restraint.
But, what type of booster seat is safest? Are high-backed booster car seats safer than backless designs? Yes, high-backed models are somewhat safer compared to backless models according to Consumer Reports.
Having side wings (head wings and chest wings) increase the overall safety of high-backed booster car seats. These added safety features specifically improve side-impact protection. That’s the main reason CR recommends keeping the back on and not converting to backless mode.
Great-to-have Extras: Cup Holders and Lower Anchors
Kids, especially big ones, love cup holders. It’s the same way adults love using the lower anchors to secure a car seat as opposed to installing via the seatbelt.
Make sure to select something whose LATCH connectors are easy to link to the anchors and not a pain in the…
I’ve already mentioned the benefits of LATCH in booster car seats above and don’t want to repeat everything I said here. Oh, and if the cup holders are deep, rotatable, and collapsible, that’s great.
Fitting 3 Across With Booster Seats is Difficult, But…
It’s doable. The problem with seating 3 across using car booster seats is getting your hand or the little passenger’s hand in to work the buckle when installing the seat. This problem gets a whole lot worse in really tight spaces. So what are you supposed to do to solve the problem?
I watched a video created by the Car Seat Lady on how to fit 3 booster seats across without it feeling like the last thing anyone would want to do.
The PROBLEM is that accessing the buckle to unbuckle or re-buckle the seatbelt especially when installing/uninstalling the booster seat next to another booster or another car seat can be extremely challenging. And here’s the advice the Car Seat Lady gives:
Don’t buckle or unbuckle the booster seat. Instead, teach your kid to get into it and out of it without unbuckling it. How do you do this? Watch the video below to learn how to teach your child to climb into and out of a buckled car booster seat:
Here’s how to do it:
Step #1: Instruct your kid to take the shoulder belt, lift it, and place it behind their back.
Step #2: Tell the child to pull upward on the lap belt portion of the seatbelt and sort of sneak under it or slide out (see how the kiddo does it in the video below). When pulling the lap belt, be careful so that you don’t make it go into the locking mode.
Step #3: To get back in, ask the kid to lift the loose lap belt off and climb back in/squat back in.
Step #4: Ask the kiddo to put the shoulder belt in front of them.
Step #5: Instruct the child to tighten the seatbelt and that is it. That is, snug up the seatbelt, pulling up on the shoulder belt to get rid of all the slack in the lap belt while making sure the lap belt doesn’t have any twisted sections. The final goal is to make sure that the seatbelt is nice and snug so that our little rider stays fully protected in a crash.
What’s the Best Slim Fit Booster Seat 3 Across? Here It Is
The WAYB Pico Travel Car Booster Seat is the narrowest car booster seat on my list of recommended high-backed and backless boosters for fitting 3 across in a medium-sized vehicle or 2 in a small car.
But it’s not necessarily the best option; the crotch buckle is pretty wide and positioned awkwardly so that no child who isn’t skinny could fit in it without enduring discomfort.
Best Narrow Booster Car Seats for Your Compact Car: Conclusion
My analysis of all 6 options concluded that the Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 Booster (16″W) is the best high-backed booster for different 3-across situations while the Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Backless Booster is one of the best narrow backless booster.
These options aren’t without a flaw or two, but none of these shortcomings could be a deal breaker for the typical caregiver. Read the narrow car booster reviews above and if my top pick doesn’t impress you as the best choice for the money, check out the others and take your pick.
If I missed an option you believe should be on this list or have anything else to say about my recommendations, please tell me about it in the comments box below.