Top Rated Child Booster Seats: IIHS Awards 27 Best Bets
Parents searching for a great fitting booster won’t have to look far anymore because manufacturers are doing a great job of getting belt fit right, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The IIHS has just released their 2014 survey of 41 booster models and a record 27 models received their “Best Bet” designation, more than any other year since they began rating boosters in 2009. Belt fit is determined by fitting a 6 year old dummy in each booster and seeing how the seat belt lies across the shoulder and the thighs. The booster is then given a rating of either “Best Bet,” “Good Bet,” “Check Fit,” or “Not Recommended.”
A recent Safe Kids Worldwide survey shows that the vast majority of parents, 9 out of 10, still don’t know how long their kids should be using boosters and are moving them from booster seats when they are still too small. Parents based their decisions on things like state laws, which often lag far behind safety standards, their child’s comfort, and their spouse’s opinion. It’s often said that children need to be 4’9” (57”) tall and around age 8 to ride safely without a booster seat, but our experience here at CarseatBlog is that our children have been much taller and older than that before they fit in our seat belts well. Seat belts are designed to fit adults and children don’t become adult-sized until around ages 10-12.
If your older kid or tween objects to riding in a booster, try the Safety 1st Incognito Kid-Positioning Seat. It doesn’t look like a booster seat and boosts bigger kids up just enough; it’s an awesome choice for them and their carpool friends.
One thing the Safe Kids survey doesn’t address is parents who move their children to boosters too early. Moving a child from a harnessed seat to a booster, especially a backless model, before the child is big enough can be deadly. It’s especially important to follow the minimum weight limit listed for the booster seat and remember that a child should remain harnessed until age 4 at the *very* minimum. If a kid puts the shoulder belt under her arm or behind her back, she can be ejected from the booster seat in a crash.
To see if your child can ride safely without a booster seat or kid positioner, have him try the 5-Step Test:
- Does the child sit all the way back on the vehicle seat?
- Are knees bent comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
- Does seatbelt cross the shoulder properly? (it should be centered over the collar bone)
- Is the lap portion of the seatbelt low – touching the thighs?
- Can the child stay seated this way for the entire ride, every ride (awake and asleep)?
Bonus step – feet planted firmly on floor
What do the ratings mean? A “Best Bet” rating means it 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 baby’s bathwater.
What does good belt fit look like:
New or updated for 2014 booster models are listed in the tables below. Previous models that retain their ratings are listed after each section of the chart.
Previous models that retain their “Best Bet” ratings include the Britax Parkway SG, Britax Parkway SGL (highback mode only), BubbleBum, Clek Oobr (highback mode only), Diono Monterey (highback mode only), Diono Radian R100, Diono Radian R120, Diono Radian RXT, Evenflo Amp, Evenflo Big Kid Amp, Evenflo Big Kid Amp High Back (backless mode only), Evenflo Big Kid LX (backless mode only), Evenflo Big Kid Sport (backless mode only), Evenflo Maestro, Evenflo RightFit, Evenflo SecureKid 300/400, Ferari Beline SP (backless mode only), Ferari Dreamway SP (highback mode only), Graco Affix, Graco Backless TurboBooster, Graco Nautilus (highback mode only), Graco Nautilus Elite (highback mode only), Graco Nautilus Plus (highback mode only), Harmony Carpooler, Harmony Dreamtime, Harmony Olympian, Harmony Transit Deluxe, Harmony V6 Highback, Harmony Youth Booster Seat, Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro, Kiddy World Plus, Recaro Performance Sport, Safety 1st Boost Air Protect (highback mode only) and Safety 1st BoostAPak.
Remember, even “Good Bet” boosters make excellent boosters if they fit your child and vehicle well:
|Manufacturer and Model||Can Use LATCH||Review||CarseatBlog Recommended Seat|
|Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1 (Highback mode only; Backless mode rated Best Bet)||Y|
|Cybex Solution Q-Fix||Y||Review||Y|
Previous models that retain their “Good Bet” ratings include the Combi Kobuk Air Thru, Evenflo Symphony LX, Ferari Beline SP (highback mode only) and Maxi-Cosi Rodi (highback mode only).
Check Fit boosters simply mean you should check the fit of the seat belt on your child in your vehicle. The fit of the belt may be excellent on your child, as may be the case with a larger child while the belt fit may be marginal on a younger sibling.
|Manufacturer and Model||Can Use LATCH||Review|
|Dream On Me Coupe Booster|
|Dream On Me Turbo Booster (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)|
|Eddie Bauer Deluxe Belt-Positioning Booster (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)|
|Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 with Safety Surround (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)||Review|
|Harmony Folding Travel Booster|
|Maxi-Cosi Rodi AP (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)|
|Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)||Y|
|Safety 1st Store ‘n Go (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)|
Boosters on the Not Recommended list are there because of poor seat belt fit in most situations. In these cases, it’s unlikely that child size or vehicle belt geometry will make a difference.
|Manufacturer and Model||Can Use LATCH||Review|
|Kids Embrace Batman No Back Booster|
For the complete 2014 IIHS Status Report, visit their website: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/49/9/1
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!