2016 IIHS Booster Seat Ratings: Is Your Booster A Best Bet?

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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?
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Adjusting a Carseat’s Recline Angle Using Pool Noodles or Rolled Towels

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How to Fix Your Rear-Facing Recline Angle Using Noodles or Rolled Towels

2014-chrysler-town-and-country-rear-interior-view-motor-trendPerhaps you don’t have a vehicle like the one on the left, but vehicle seats like those send shivers up most child passenger safety technicians’ spines. When we see a vehicle seat cushion with a slope that deep, we know we’ll have to even it out when installing a rear-facing carseat.

Rear-facing carseats require adjustment to a particular recline angle – that angle can vary from one carseat to another and is specified by each manufacturer. Most (but not all) infant carseats have a base that has a built-in recline feature so you can adjust the angle in order to achieve the correct recline on any vehicle seat. However, if your carseat doesn’t have a built-in recline feature, or if it isn’t enough to get the seat reclined appropriately – you can usually use a cut foam pool noodle or rolled towel.

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Convertible carseats all have some way to adjust the angle when the seat is installed rear-facing. Most convertibles on the market today can be installed properly rear-facing without needing anything extra. However, if the recline feature isn’t enough to achieve the necessary angle specified by the manufacturer, you can usually use a cut foam pool noodle or rolled towel to fill the gap and support the carseat at that recline angle. The seat below is the perfect example of a situation where you might need to use a pool noodle or rolled towel.

Tribute reclined line level to ground

Which is better—noodle or towel?

Honoring All Who Served

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CarseatBlog would like to thank all veterans who have served our country as well as all active military personnel who are still serving all over the world. We appreciate the sacrifices they have made for us. We also tip our hat to the families of those who are serving and who have served. We know many of our readers are military families and we acknowledge the unique challenges that come with that territory. As far as we’re concerned, you deserve thanks and praise for all you do too!

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Guest Blog: Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 and Milestone All-in-1 Comparison

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Faceoff: How Do the Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 and Graco Milestone All-in-1 Compare in Terms of Features, Ease-of-Use, and Installation?

I recently purchased a Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 car seat. At 30 lbs, my 3.5 year old daughter hardly needs the 50 lb rear-facing weight limit, but she’s had a recent growth spurt in her legs and so I thought she might enjoy the option of the added legroom. Her current favorite seat is the Graco Milestone and so I was curious as to how these two 3-in-1 seats from Graco would compare.

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The Graco Milestone (left) and Extend2Fit 3-in-1 (right) side-by-side in store at Babies R Us.

First, let’s define 3-in-1 in this situation, since there is no industry-wide accepted meaning. Both the Milestone and the Extend2Fit 3-in-1 car seats are able to be used rear-facing, forward-facing, and as highback belt-positioning boosters. Unlike the Graco 4Ever car seat or the upcoming Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit All-in-One, neither of these seats becomes a backless booster.

Both the Milestone and the Extend2Fit 3-in-1 car seats are rated to accommodate children from infancy to 100 lbs; however, a major difference is their rear-facing weight limits. The Milestone can be used rear-facing from 5-40 lbs, which is typical amongst current seats. Provided that they meet any height requirements, a 40 lb rear-facing limit will allow most children to rear-face until they are well into the preschool years. The Extend2Fit 3-in-1 car seat offers a 4-50 lb rear-facing weight limit, which is the highest available in the United States. Neither the Milestone nor the Extend2Fit 3-in-1 seat has a rear-facing standing height limit and so the only height limitation specifically for rear-facing is that the child have 1” of clearance between the top of the head and the red or gray headrest handle — which can be moved into any of ten positions. As a result, even tall children will be able to rear-face in either of these seats for a very long time. For heavier children, the 50 lb rear-facing weight limit on the Extend2Fit 3-in-1 means that even a boy in the 97th percentile for weight can rear-face past his 4th birthday.

These two seats have many similar features such as push-on lower anchor connectors, no re-thread harness, infant padding, removable harness pads, a convenient storage compartment for stowing the harness when the seat is in high-back booster mode, machine-washable soft goods, and Graco’s “roller bar” harness system on the back of the seats which allows the caregiver to tighten the harness quite smoothly. However, there are also some notable differences, which are summarized in the table below:

Milestone Extend2Fit 3-in-1
Ball-style level indicator with one rear-facing recline age range Bubble-style level indicator with two rear-facing recline age ranges (0+ and 3+ months)
Four recline positions: Two recline positions only for rear-facing, one only for forward-facing, and one for either forward-facing or belt-positioning booster Six recline positions: Three recline positions only for rear-facing, one for rear-facing or forward-facing, one only for forward-facing, and one for either forward-facing or belt-positioning booster
12” legroom when rear-facing 12 – 17” legroom (depending on the setting of the 5-position extension panel) when rear-facing
No specific feature for holding the harness back when loading/unloading; however, the loops on the harness straps prevent the buckle tongues from sliding all the way down “Fuss Free” buckle pockets for holding the harness out of the way when loading/unloading
Covered back Exposed back allows access to the harness straps
No special weight-specific rules for forward-facing Harness covers must be used if the seat is used forward-facing for a child under 25 lbs. Recline 6 must be used for a forward-facing child over 40 lbs.
One cupholder that can be moved to either side or removed to save space Two required cupholders

Rear-Facing Fit to Vehicle

Extend2Fit 3-in-1 in a 2010 Subaru Impreza

The true test of a seat that claims to be both compact and spacious is how (or whether) it will fit in a small vehicle.