The 10 Best Car Seat Protectors
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in October of 2016. All parents know that to transport a baby in a vehicle safely you need an appropriate car seat. Unfortunately, the use of one can damage your upholstery. Not to worry. These protectors will help to prevent just that, though make sure they are safe for use with your specific model, and can also be a buffer against food and drink spills. We've included some options ideal for use with pets, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
February 10, 2021:
During this update we made a lot of changes due to availability issues with some of our previously recommended models. We also wanted to expand the offerings a bit to include a few more options suitable for use with pets, specifically the Active Pets A275 and Viewpets 024-BLK, as people need to keep their vehicle's upholstery protected for different reasons. The former offers a higher level of defense due to its hammock-like construction that safeguards both the seat it is on, and the backs of the front seats. We also know readers will appreciate versatile models like the Babyseater Protector1, which has an incorporated garbage can to help you keep your vehicle a little cleaner, and the Smart Elf Oxford, which is bundled with a kick mat, with storage pockets and an integrated tablet holder, that you can hang off the back of the front seat to protect it against errant feet.
May 22, 2019:
In this update, the Brica Seat Guardian retains its top spot, as it meets all the requirements for durability, convenience, and affordability. Its slide-proof construction keeps your child’s seat safely in place, while your vehicle’s upholstery stays free from damage. The Bebe By Me Royal Oxford also remains in a prominent position, as it’ll hold up for years of heavy use. Featuring high-quality fabric and custom stitching, it’s handcrafted by a boutique family business that’s been in operation for three decades.
Joining the list is the Rumbi Baby Non-Slip, which covers an entire bench seat. It’s great for both child and pet passengers, and its non-slip material protects leather or fabric seats from indentations, rips, and spills. It also conveniently comes in a bucket seat model. We removed the Smiinky SM-252 due to issues with availability.
For safety, check with your car seat’s manufacturer as to whether the use of this type of product is permitted. (The owner’s manual would be the best place to start.) While some allow for such a buffer, others may tell you nothing should be placed between their product and the vehicle’s seat. Anything that interferes with a car seat’s proper installation compromises the protection it offers your child. In addition, when installing a car seat protector, be sure to follow the directions closely that come with it.
Why You Need A Car Seat Protector
The quality and safety of these items varies widely from product to product, however, so it’s very important for you to have the right protector for the job.
Using a booster seat can be rough on your car’s interior, especially if you have a more delicate, luxurious fabric inside, like leather or suede. And if you frequently need to switch your booster seat between other vehicles, you are essentially doubling the amount of wear and tear you're putting on your car's upholstery, which can quickly lead to dents in the seat and premature wear The problem is further exacerbated if you’re using certain booster seat models that have designs with sharp corners or edges that can dig into your car’s interior, possibly leading to more serious damage on the seat that you might not be able to fix.
While these problems pale in comparison to the benefits of ensuring a secure fit for your child’s booster seat, finding a good car seat protector enables you to have the best of both worlds: a pristine interior and a safe ride for your little one. The quality and safety of these items varies widely from product to product, however, so it’s very important for you to have the right protector for the job. An inferior model can lead to your booster seat’s installation shifting over time, making the fit looser and more dangerous for your child.
When you do find the ideal combination of protector and booster seat, not only will you enjoy the benefits of a much cleaner interior, but depending on the style of car seat protector you end up using, you may even have exrta some places to store your child’s things. It’s a sight easier than fishing for them blindly on the ground.
A Brief History of Car Seat Protectors
The booster seat may date back to 1962, but one of the first patents for a car seat protector only dates back to 2006. It was a soft, flexible mat the user placed on the vehicle’s seat, providing a non-slip surface on which to place the booster seat. It featured a pocket panel that hung off the front of the seat for storage.
Rubberized rectangles made up the non-slip surface for the booster seat to sit upon, effectively holding it in place.
Interestingly enough, one of the reasons for the advent of the protector was to reduce the the chances of the booster seat slipping upon the surface of the vehicle's seat itself. While many websites claim the opposite is true, the dense plastics manufacturers use in the construction of most booster seats may not get the best traction on materials like leather and vinyl. Katherine Gold and Lynn Rosen, the car seat protector inventors, designed the first car seat protector to combat this issue, while also being easy to clean and maintain.
The nylon used in the initial model was washable and inexpensive to produce, making it ideal for such an application. Rubberized rectangles made up the non-slip surface for the booster seat to sit upon, effectively holding it in place. Finally, a retaining member secured the car seat protector to the vehicle's seat.
There’s not much of a difference between that first soft car seat protector and the ones we see on the market today. There are now models that cover both the bottom and back of the vehicle's seat for enhanced protection, and the materials used to create them have changed, but that's about it. If you are so inclined, you can still quite easily find models that only cover the bottom of the vehicle's seat, just like the very first version.
The Ins And Outs Of Owning A Car Seat Protector
In short, you want a protector that will do its job, while it also lets the booster seat do its job. There seem to be two different schools of design when it comes to the car seat protector: the hard-style protector and the soft-style. This refers mainly to the materials used in fabrication. Soft-style models are a flexible sheet or mat, while hard-style protectors are solid and inflexible.
The hard surface means that it’s going to be much easier to clean than soft-style models.
Most manufacturers make soft-style protectors from nylon or polyester, with a gripping material like rubber or PVC to create a secure hold on the booster seat. They’re easy to install and easy to take out. While not in use, they take up much less space than hard-style models due to their flexibility. However, over time crumbs and juice may seep into the fabric, deteriorating the look. But at least it’s better and much less costly to replace than damaging your actual upholstery.
Hard-style protectors are usually crafted from hard rubber or dense polyurethane. They are akin to car mats in how they look and feel, but instead of protecting your car's floors, they protect your vehicle's seats and provide a solid base for the booster seat. The hard surface means that it’s going to be much easier to clean than soft-style models. But if you have a lighter-toned protector, they might have a tendency to stain more easily than darker soft-style or hard-style models. Car seat protectors of this type are more susceptible to scratches and scuffs, as well. Again, it’s a worthwhile trade to replace a relatively inexpensive accessory instead of reupholstering your vehicle's seat. While knowing the difference between the two types of car seat protectors is important, making sure the booster seat you have is compatible with a car seat protector at all should be a top priority.
Always consider the instructions of the booster seat manufacturer when purchasing a car seat protector. There are some manufacturers who do not recommend car seat protectors with their products for safety purposes. Incorrectly installing a booster seat is one of the leading causes of death for children involved in a car accident. So, always err on the side of caution and follow the manufacturers recommended use guidelines. Ideally, you’ll be shopping for a car seat and car seat protector simultaneously, so you can ensure the correct combination.