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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks boosters as a Best Bet, Good Bet, Check Fit, or Not Recommended

JennyJust a few years ago, the list of belt-positioning boosters that fit kids really well was on the short side. Now the vast majority of boosters fit children well in a variety of vehicles making it easier than ever before to keep the “forgotten children”—kids who are prematurely transitioned to seat belts before they’re big enough to fit well—comfortable and safe in boosters. This year, the IIHS evaluated 53 new booster seat models and 48 earned the highest rating of “Best Bet.”

What is a “Best Bet”? The booster should correctly position the seat belt on a typical 4-8 year old child in most vehicles. But remember, your vehicle may not be “most” vehicles and may have a different belt geometry. Always try before you buy, if you can, and hold onto the box and receipt in case you need to return the booster.

A “Good Bet” means that the belt fit will be acceptable in most vehicles and these boosters shouldn’t be automatically shunned because they aren’t “top tier.” “Check Fit” means just that: it may fit a larger child better than a smaller child in some vehicles or vice versa. I’ve used “Check Fit” boosters quite successfully before with my kids in my cars—it definitely doesn’t mean you should chuck the seat out with the bathwater.

Here’s an excellent example of a Best Bet booster, the Graco 4Ever in backless mode, that fits well in one vehicle but not in another. You can see that in the vehicle on the left, the shoulder belt fit is poor whereas in the vehicle on the right, the shoulder belt fit is excellent. The lap belt fit in both vehicles is excellent. We need to have excellent fit for both shoulder belt AND lap belt in order for the booster seat to be safe.

4Ever backless

What does good belt fit look like?

IIHS lap belt fit

IIHS shoulder belt fit

Chicco KidFit Zip Air

What about that new Internet sensation, the mifold Grab-and-Go Booster? IIHS didn’t evaluate it because they felt it wasn’t a true belt-positioning booster. A booster lifts a child up 3-5″ and essentially makes them bigger to position the seat belt properly over the hip bones whereas the mifold repositions the seat belt, so IIHS researchers felt it wasn’t comparable to boosters for ratings purposes. You can read more about that here.

New Best Bet Boosters Tested in 2016

(this is not an all-inclusive list – many boosters were rated in previous years)

IIHS-BEST-BET-BOOSTER-color
Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Aidia Explorer 2-in-1 (backless mode)
Aidia Explorer 2-in-1 (highback mode)
Aidia Pathfinder (highback) Review
Aidia Scout (backless) Review
Baby Trend PROtect Yumi (highback)
Baby Trend PROtect Yumi 2-in-1 (backless mode)
Baby Trend PROtect Yumi 2-in-1 (highback mode)
Britax Frontier ClickTight (highback) Y Review Y
Britax Parkway SGL (highback mode) Y Review Y
Britax Pinnacle ClickTight (highback) Y Review Y
Britax Pioneer (highback) Y Review
BubbleBum Pink (backless) Review Y
Chicco KidFit Zip (backless mode) Y Review Y
Chicco KidFit Zip (highback mode) Y Review Y
Chicco KidFit Zip Air (backless mode) Y Review Y
Chicco KidFit Zip Air (highback mode) Y Review Y
Evenflo Big Kid (backless mode)
Evenflo Big Kid (highback mode)
Evenflo Platinum SafeMax (highback) Y
Evenflo SafeMax 3-in-1 (backless mode) Y
Evenflo SafeMax 3-in-1 (highback mode) Y
Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 (highback) Y Review
Graco 4Ever All-in-1 with Safety Surround (backless mode) Y Review Y
Graco 4Ever All-in-1 with Safety Surround (highback mode) Y Review Y
Graco Milestone All-in-One with Safety Surround (highback) Y Review Y
Graco Nautilus 80 Elite (backless mode) Y Review Y
Graco Nautilus 80 Elite (highback mode) Y Review Y
Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 (highback) Y Review
Graco TurboBooster (backless mode) Review Y
Graco TurboBooster (highback mode) Review Y
Graco TurboBooster with ComfortCore (backless mode) Review Y
Graco TurboBooster with ComfortCore (highback mode) Review Y
Graco TurboBooster LX with TrueShield (backless mode) Review Y
Graco TurboBooster LX with TrueShield (highback mode) Review Y
Harmony Big Boost Deluxe (backless) Review Y
Harmony Dreamtime 2.0 (backless mode) Review
Harmony Dreamtime 2.0 (highback mode) Review
KidsEmbrace Fun-Ride Backless Batman (backless)
KidsEmbrace Fun-Ride Spider-Man (backless mode)
KidsEmbrace Fun-Ride Spider-Man (highback mode)
Lil Fan Club Seat 2-in-1 (backless mode) Review
Safety 1st Continuum (highback) Review
Safety 1st Elite EX 100 Air+ (highback)
Safety 1st EverFit (highback)
Safety 1st Grow and Go Air (highback)
Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air (highback)
Safety 1st MultiFit (highback)
Safety 1st UltraMax Air 360 (highback)

Check Fit Boosters
Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Britax Parkway SGL (backless mode) Y Review Y
Lil Fan Club Seat 2-in-1 (highback mode) Review
Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 (highback) Y

Not Recommended Boosters
Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Cosco Easy Elite (highback)
Cosco Highback 2-in-1 DX (highback)

For the complete 2015 IIHS Status Report with listing of all previously ranked boosters, visit the IIHS website: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/51/9/1

There are a total of 118 Best Bet boosters available right now, 9 Good Bet boosters, and 27 Check Fit boosters. Odds are high that the booster you choose for your child will work well, but it’s always best to check the fit in every vehicle you use the booster in since seat belt geometry varies so much.

Please note that many very good boosters are not included in our Recommended Carseats list.  This may be simply because we have not yet reviewed them.  In other cases, we may feel they were very good products, but just didn’t offer quite as much as others we did recommend.  Even if a product is not listed as a “CarseatBlog Recommended Seat,” it may still be worth consideration if it works well with your child and vehicle.