Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
Does your booster rate as a Best Bet?

It’s that time of year again: fall has arrived, the air is crisp, turkey day is around the corner, thoughts are on naughty and nice lists, and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) released 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 16 booster models and 13 earned their highest ranking of Best Bet. We now have an overall total of 118 Best Bet boosters available in the retail market from which to choose!

Beginning this year, IIHS used a new dummy designed specifically for these tests called Jasper (Juvenile Anthropomorphic Seat-belt Position Evaluation Rig). IIHS worked with Humanetics, the dummy’s manufacturer to design Jasper, which represents a 45 pound 6 yr old.

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.

“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. 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.

New Best Bet Boosters Tested in 2017

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.

IIHS-BEST-BET-BOOSTER-color
Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Chicco GoFit (backless)
Cosco Finale (highback) Review
Cosco Finale DX (highback) Review
Diono Monterey XT (backless)
Diono Monterey XT (highback) Yes
Evenflo Spectrum (backless) Review
Evenflo Spectrum (highback) Review Yes
Graco Wayz (backless) Review
Graco Wayz (highback) Yes Review
Maxi-Cosi RodiFix (highback) Yes Review Yes
Nuna AACE (backless) Yes
Nuna AACE (highback) Yes
Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle (backless) Yes

Check Fit Boosters
Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Harmony Folding Travel Booster (highback)
Kiddy USA Cruiser 3 (highback) Yes
Ride Safer Delighter Booster (backless) Review

Not Recommended Boosters

For the first time in 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 have demonstrated consistently poor belt fit.

For the complete 2017 IIHS Status Report with listing of all previously ranked boosters, visit the IIHS website: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/child-boosters

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.