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Consumer Reports has just released ratings of 51 boosters, including high-back, backless and models that convert from high-back to backless.  In their article, CR gives some great advice for parents:

First, they recommend not moving your child to a booster until she or he has reached the height or weight limits of the forward-facing 5-point-harness system in the current car seat.  CarseatBlog recommends the industry standard advice for a minimum of 4 years and 40 pounds before kids begin to use a booster.  Some organizations now recommend 5 years, especially for squirmy kids that cannot remain seated properly.

Next, CR also advises that laws for booster use can vary from state to state, so be sure to find out what the law says in the state where you are using the booster. They also warn that state laws don’t always reflect best practice, or might be based on weight rather than age/height. CR and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that kids use boosters until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and 8 to 12 years old.  We agree!  Depending on vehicle and child, some kids will not fit correctly without a booster until well beyond 8 years old.  How can you tell if your child still needs a booster?  Have them take the 5-Step Test.

The full ratings for boosters from Consumer Reports are available to subscribers.  CR’s top ranked high-back to backless boosters are the Evenflo Big Kid models starting around $30.  The Chicco KidFit and KidFit Zip are top performing models in all CR’s testing as well.  A CarseatBlog Editors’ Pick, the Graco Affix, is also among the higher rated models in CR’s evaluations.  Among high-back only models, the top performer in their testing is the Cybex Solution, though these are currently difficult to find at retail and among the most expensive on the market.  For backless models, the Harmony Youth Booster was the top pick.  It’s also a CarseatBlog Editors’ Pick and a bargain for under $11 at Walmart.

Most models did well in Consumer Reports evaluations.  We note that Consumer Reports had low ratings for some compact/budget backless boosters.  Notably, the Mifold booster had the lowest score in their ratings.  CR stated, “… kids using the Mifold may still be tempted to slouch because it lacks a cushion for their knees to bend comfortably over.”

In addition to CarseatBlog’s expert staff picks for Recommended Boosters, we also advise parents to check out the IIHS Booster Evaluations as well.  Even models highly rated by CarseatBlog, Consumer Reports and the IIHS may not work well for you, with your child, in your vehicle.  So, as always, we recommend purchasing from a store with an easy, free returns policy just in case it doesn’t work well for any reason!