When Can You Ride Without a Booster Seat?




A booster seat is designed to accommodate children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat. It raises them so the lap and shoulder belt fit securely over their strongest parts (not across their face or neck, nor off their shoulders).

Children typically use booster seats until they reach 18 kg or 40 pounds, at which point they switch to using the car’s seat belt instead of a booster seat.


Kids may no longer require a booster seat when they outgrow their five-point harness car seat and weigh 40 pounds or more. Similarly, parents can use the booster until their forward-facing child safety seat meets its height or weight limit (check manufacturer’s instructions).

Belt-positioning boosters help prevent injuries by raising your child up so the lap and shoulder belts fit securely across their hips and chest, away from their belly or neck. They also prevent slouching in the seat.

Many convertible and harness-to-booster seats feature harnesses rated for kids up to 65 pounds or more, so these children should not ride in these seats until they reach six years of age or until their seat has an adult-restraint harness system installed.


Around four years old and 40 pounds, most children can safely be buckled into a booster seat. You might be amazed at how well they work – while you are busy doing other things like avoiding potholes or dealing with toddlers who try to kill you, having your kid safe while you focus on other tasks is invaluable. So the big question: when can I ride without one? For the latest answer on this matter, consult your insurance agent or the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Although there is no definitive answer to the above query, here are a few tips and tricks that can make the experience seamless.


When your child is tall enough to fit a lap and shoulder belt safely (see Safe Kids Seat Belt Fit Test), then you can ride without needing a booster seat. Make sure the belt lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach.

Most states and booster seat manufacturers recommend using a booster for children over 4 years of age who weigh at least 40 pounds; however, age isn’t as important as your child’s weight or height when fitting the seat properly.

Booster seats come in two basic varieties: backless and high-back. A high-back booster may be best suited for vehicles with headrests or low seat backs, while a backless booster works on vehicles without headrests at all. Check your manual to determine which type is suitable for your vehicle; regardless of which option you pick, make sure your child wears a seat belt on every trip and sits in the back when possible.

Car Seat Requirements

When a child is old enough to ride without a booster seat, they should be able to safely buckle in an adult seat belt by themselves. Generally, this occurs when they reach 4’9″ height or between 8 and 12 years of age.

Some states require children to use a booster seat until they can ride without one. If your state doesn’t have such a law, you can use the Safe Kids Seat Belt Fit Test to determine if your child is big enough for safety in an adult car’s lap and shoulder seat belts.

Children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat should be repositioned in a booster seat. These are designed to raise a child up so that the lap and shoulder seat belts fit securely over their strongest parts of body.