Load legs were first introduced to Americans in 2004 by Britax on the Baby Safe, a short-lived rear-facing only seat popular in Europe, but we weren’t quite ready for it. It had an anti-rebound bar, rigid LATCH, and a load leg: things American consumers simply didn’t understand, or want to pay the hefty price tag for at the time. Today’s shoppers are more sophisticated and researching such features is second-nature now.
Let’s address why load legs—aka foot props or stability legs—exist. Here on this side of the Atlantic, we find them on rear-facing only infant seats, but in Europe, you will find them also on forward-facing carseats. Load legs limit downward rotation toward the front of the vehicle. Statistically, frontal crashes account for the majority of crashes so we design carseats to protect children in them. Carseats move toward the point of impact, so rear-facing carseats rotate down and toward the front of the vehicle in a frontal impact.
According to FMVSS 213, the safety standard to which all U.S. carseats are tested, rear-facing carseats may rotate downward up to 70° and still pass testing. During this downward rotation, the child will also ramp up (slide up) the carseat. As the child slides up the seat, crash forces are felt in the neck and shoulders as they make contact with the harness.
Harnesses, seat belts, and LATCH belt webbing are designed to stretch for energy management. This stretching of the webbing—plus any removal of slack in the harness—and vehicle seat cushion compression causing downward rotation, is called “payout.” Payout happens before ride down, which is when the carseat and vehicle come to a stop. The more movement a child has during a crash, the more chance for injury, which is why child passenger safety technicians emphasize snug harnesses and installations. Eliminating the downward rotation by using a load leg means the child stays down in the seat and payout is reduced. This is a good thing because the less time that’s spent on payout, the more time that’s spent on ride down, which is when the carseat itself starts absorbing energy. The carseat stays more upright allowing the back of the carseat to absorb energy instead of the harness; the crash forces are distributed along the child’s back instead of concentrated on the neck and shoulders.
Another benefit from load legs, especially in smaller vehicles, is that by allowing the carseat to stay more upright in a crash, there’s less of a chance a child will ramp up and out of the carseat and strike the vehicle interior with their head. Head injuries lead the list of injuries to rear-facing children in vehicle crashes.
The video below compares a Cybex Aton 2 without its load leg to an Aton 2 with its load leg. You can see how a load leg affects downward rotation. Be sure to notice the position of the dummy’s head on each side of the video.
Another thing to point out with load legs involves FMVSS 213 and testing with load legs. The test sled for 213 doesn’t have a floor, so load legs can’t officially be included in federal testing. When manufacturers test their carseats with load legs, they add a floor piece onto the sled so the load leg has a place to rest. This is why load legs aren’t required to be used and bases with this accessory have a storage area for them to be tucked away.
DEALS TRACKER: We find the lowest prices for January 2019 on car seats, strollers and baby gear. Bookmark this deals page and check back frequently for the latest bargains and promo code offers, so you find them here first before they sell out!
We’re the baby gear deal experts so we know where the really good deals are, on the stuff consumers actually want to buy. We scour Amazon and other retailers daily to find the best bargains. We don’t just rely on automated tools and other deals pages, so we find the best deals for you first. This is the resource other deal pages use to find deals!
What you need to know about Amazon pricing: it’s FICKLE. When a product’s price is reduced we rarely know how long it will remain at that price. Sometimes it’s a few days, sometimes it’s a few hours. The best advice we can offer you is to ACT QUICKLY if you see a great deal on something you really need or just seriously want. Just adding something to your cart does not guarantee you that item at that price – you must complete the checkout process to seal the deal. Most items on our list offer FREE SHIPPING & FREE RETURNS to Prime members but always double check this before you put the item in your cart and checkout. Not a Prime member? There’s a 30-day FREE trial. It’s a no-brainer! Try it out and score some great deals. You can always cancel before the 30 days is up if you’re not sold on the many benefits of an Amazon Prime membership.
Looking for more info on a certain carseat or booster? Check out our REVIEWSpage. We have in-depth reviews of over 100 carseats and boosters. Prefer to shop at other stores? If you received great advice from us or discovered a good deal here and share it with friends, please mention us and share* our links to Amazon, Albee Baby, Diapers.com, Target.com, Walmart.com, Kohl’s, and BuyBuyBaby.
Select Editors’ Picks:
These carseats are among our Editor’s Picks and are reader favorites, too!
This list will be updated any time we see a great deal or promotion code below recent average prices, so you don’t have to wade through dozens of normally priced models to find the bargains. You can help us (and your fellow shoppers) by leaving us a comment if you find a deal on a carseat, booster or popular stroller that isn’t posted yet. We recommend that you bookmark this post, as we will update it regularly throughout the holiday season! If we see a bargain price on a popular model from our Recommended Carseats List, we’ll update as soon as possible! This post and others at CarseatBlog contain affiliate links. Please read About CarseatBlog for our affiliate policy and see our Marketing Disclosure.
More deals will be posted as they become available. Find a deal that isn’t listed here? Leave us a comment and let us know what you found! If you found a great deal here and share it with friends and social media, please be courteous and mention us and please consider using and sharing our links to Amazon, Albee Baby, Diapers.com, Target.com, Walmart.com, Kohl’s, and BuyBuyBaby.
*If you monitor our page and share, please consider mentioning us. We spend a lot of time searching out deals and compiling the best ones. We’re happy if you spread the word, but please be courteous and use our links and credit our website when you do. Thank you!
Every year, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) releases their annual fit ratings of belt-positioning booster seats. Because proper seat belt fit on children is so important to their safety in a crash, having a booster seat that adjusts the seat belt easily for both parent and child is paramount. Fortunately, since the IIHS has released their ratings for years and given access to their testing protocol to manufacturers, we have many more excellent choices than ever before. This year IIHS evaluated 13 booster models as Best Bets.
What makes a “Best Bet” booster seat? The booster should correctly position the seat belt on a typical 4-8 year old child in most vehicles. A correctly positioned seat belt will fit low on the lap, touching the thighs, and cross the shoulders about half-way over the collarbone. The shoulder belt should move freely through the belt guide if you have a highback booster.
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.
What Does Good Belt Fit Look Like?
Most kids need boosters until ages 10-12, news that can be shocking to many first-time parents. Seat belts are designed to fit adult bodies and until children reach adult size, they need a restraint that helps the seat belt fit them or they are at risk of severe injury or death in a crash. The 5-Step Test was designed to help parents determine when their kids fit safely in a seat belt without needing a booster seat.
Sometimes it can be confusing and not at all clear as to whether the seat belt is sitting on the child correctly or not. When evaluating belt fit, it’s always best to dress the child in tight-fitting clothes that don’t bunch; the worst outfit to choose is jeans and a sweatshirt.
Highback boosters with headwings generally have the shoulder belt guides attached and adjust in height. Please check your instruction manual on how to raise the headwings to adjust the shoulder belt position on your child’s shoulder. It’s not comfortable for your child to have the headwings pressing down on your child’s shoulders, or even behind their shoulders like we frequently see because parents don’t know to lift the wings up.
New Best Bet Boosters Tested for 2019
This is not an all-inclusive list – many boosters were rated in previous years. You can search all the booster ratings, current and previous years, by manufacturer HERE.
For the second time in as many years, there are no new boosters on the “Not Recommended” lists; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still Not Recommended boosters from past years still being used or for sale as leftover stock. One seat, the Safety 1st Summit 65, is still being manufactured. It is worth looking at the list to make sure a booster you’re using or considering isn’t on this list. These boosters demonstrate consistently poor belt fit.
What about the Incognito and Mifold?
The Safety 1st Incognito and Mifold are belt positioners, but not boosters; they don’t raise children up to position the seat belt on their bodies. As such, IIHS doesn’t rate them.
Given the number of Best Bet boosters available, chances are high that your booster kid is using one. However, if you’re using a booster that doesn’t garner that coveted Best Bet label, remember to do a fit check yourself in every vehicle you use the booster in since seat belt geometry varies so much. If you have a booster on the Not Recommended list, we do suggest that you find a dedicated belt-positioning booster from the Best Bet list and it need not break the bank.
If you’d like more guidance on which booster to choose, we have our own list of Recommended Carseats with a section on booster seats.
We’ve been sitting on a little secret and we’re excited to finally share the news! Chicco is launching their NextFit Zip Max Extended-Use Convertible in January 2019! This new model takes everything that we love about the original NextFit to the next level. With some structural and non-structural changes, the NextFit Zip Max has a lower rear-facing weight minimum (4 lbs.) and a higher rear-facing weight maximum (50 lbs.). Max also has more leg room (both RF & FF) thanks to an integrated extension panel. Additionally, this new model has an enhanced infant insert, smooth harness adjuster, zip-off cover plus all the original features that we know and love like SuperCinch LATCH connectors, 9-position no-rethread harness, lockoffs for RF & FF, liquid bubble level indicators, and more. Check out the video for all the details!
NextFit Max Specs & Features:
Rear-facing 4-50 lbs., 49″ or less
Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less
Integrated leg extension
EZ zip & wash cover
Breathable 3D Air Mesh backrest
Enhanced newborn positioner for babies 4-11 lbs.
Harness strap covers, buckle cover & hip strap covers