2017 IIHS Booster Seat Ratings Bonanza: Where Does Your Booster Seat Rank?

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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.

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Graco SlimFit All-in-One Review

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2017-2018 Graco SlimFit All-in-One Quick Review

A common carseat conundrum that caregivers encounter is the issue of space in the backseat. Whether it is due to a small vehicle, a growing family, or vehicle limitations on where carseats can be installed, space can be an issue. With this in mind, Graco introduced the SlimFit All-in-One that is intended to solve some or all of your carseat space woes, especially compared to the similar Graco Milestone. Let’s take a look!

Specs:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. and top of head is 1″ below red adjuster handle
  • Forward-facing (with harness): 22-65 lbs and 49″ or less
  • High-back booster: 30-100 lbs. and 38-57″ and at least 4 years old
  • No-rethread harness with 10 position headrest
  • Adjustable base with 4 recline positions (2 for rear-facing, 2 for forward-facing)
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Premium push-on lower LATCH connectors (LATCH limit: child weight of 45 lbs.)
  • Dual cupholders which can be rotated away to save space
  • Ten-year expiration date

  

Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height (with infant insert): 7″
  • Highest harness height: 18”
  • Tallest booster height: 18.75″
  • Internal rear-facing height: 27.5” (that’s one inch below the headrest adjustment lever of 28.5” )
  • Crotch buckle positions: 5″, 6.25″, 7.5″
  • Seating depth (interior): 12″
  • Deepest point on base: 15″
  • Internal seat width: 12″
  • Widest external seat width: 18.5″ (at wings, although if you use both cupholders it is wider at the armrest area)
  • Widest point across armrest area: 17″ (both cupholders retracted) or 19.75″ (both cupholders extended)
  • Widest point on base: 13.75” (at the middle)
  • Narrowest point on base: 13.25” at back and 13.25″ at front

Overall, the SlimFit is very similar to what we found in the Carseatblog review of the Milestone with some minor differences noted here. This is because the SlimFit and the Milestone are nearly identical in terms of their features and are essentially the same product with the exception of fashions and a minor change or two. Above, you can see the Milestone without its optional single cupholder (left) and the Slimfit with its two cupholders retracted (right). They are so similar, in fact, that I was skeptical about whether the SlimFit really offered any additional advantages over my beloved Milestone. Could I really fit a SlimFit anywhere that I couldn’t fit my Milestone with its cupholder removed? Because I love the Milestone so much, I was more than willing to try the SlimFit and see if I could find a seat I loved even more. I am happy to say that I think I have!

Installation

First of all, the installation of the SlimFit is very easy, just like my beloved Milestone.

Take me home, country roads…

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But not that kind of home. Like, my actual house. Not the eternal home.

Sometimes when it comes to the topic of child safety, I struggle to think of a topic to discuss. Obviously, there are topics that are super important and commonly brought up such as installation, coats in car seats, tether usage, fit to child, etc. However, as I was driving the peaceful winding road to get Liam from school, I paid more attention to the common scene in front of me. Two preteen boys were sitting in the back of a truck on hay bales, each with a wiggly, happy dog held steady by the boys’ knees. As I got closer to the school, I passed the local high school and saw the usual rowdy bunch of kids riding home in the beds of pickup trucks driven by their friends, laughing and smiling in the wind and sunshine. For most people around here, it’s a scene of youth. It’s how it’s always been, and how it will always be.

When we think of child passenger safety, we think of babies. Little kids. Kids in boosters. We don’t often think of those wild, free, tousled hair, uninhibited teenagers. Yet they are at the height of the incredible feeling of invincibility, taking risks left and right and scaring the crud out of their parents. Talking sense into them sometimes feels more difficult than other age groups, and enforcing rules sometimes seems even harder.

As I watch the boys laugh when the truck hits a bump, I wonder about the person driving. I’m assuming it’s the father of one of the boys. I wonder what sets him at ease with having two children in the bed of a truck. Surely it’s not lack of knowledge. Sure, not everyone knows how to install a car seat properly but most everyone knows it’s not safe to ride without a seatbelt or in the bed of a truck. So what is it? Tradition? Culture? Both?

Well obviously, because if you didn’t survive you couldn’t share the meme.

According to the USDOT in 2012, while only 19% of people live in rural areas, 54% of crash fatalities occur on rural roads. Road maintenance, lack of lighting, and roads with only one lane each way probably has a lot to do with it, situations like what I described above may also be contributory. Here in Union County, which straddles both NC and SC, we’ve had more than our share. Just in the last two weeks alone we’ve had 4 people killed after colliding with a tractor-trailer, a person airlifted out after an 18 wheeler (that doesn’t belong on these back roads) smacked into the car, two high school students killed, and just last week my neighbors lost their only daughter after she was rear-ended while sitting at a red light. All within a 10-mile radius. Our roads are beautifully lined with wildflowers and old barns with a history beyond what I can comprehend, but they are also trails of sadness with the multiple crosses, memorials, flowers, and candles.

Insert name here.

Tradition is heavy here. It’s hard to make changes to something that has been commonplace for so long, something that “we’ve all done and are just fine”. Roads change, vehicles change, populations change. Generations change. Every day I see it- farmers are changing from the traditional ways of our grandparents to the innovative and creativity of the younger generation. Our generation craves information, efficiency, new ways of doing things. Hopefully with that will come a recognition of the fact that while some horrible things are out of our control, it’s amazing what knowledge we are armed with to protect ourselves and our children.

I silently willed my thoughts into the rearview mirror of that man driving. Urging him to recognize that one sideswipe or bump in the road is all it takes to change this everyday memory into yet another cross on the side of the road. When driving, we are all one Facebook post away from our own roadside vigil. Tradition runs strong, but nothing says strength like taking knowledge and adapting for survival.

2017 Britax Endeavours Infant Seat Review – the newest member of the Britax carseat family

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Britax Endeavours Rear-Facing Only Carseat Review

Two years ago, Britax introduced the B-Safe 35 Elite to its infant seat lineup, which includes a deeper shell and more modern design. See our B-Safe 35 Elite review here. Now Britax improves upon the B-Safe 35 Elite design with the Britax Endeavours. The Endeavours still has all the Britax basics: SafeCell Impact Protection in the base, two layers of side impact protection on the carrier shell, large canopy, and ergonomic handle. But it also adds a new steel anti-rebound bar, which can reduce rebound rotation by up to 30% in a frontal crash, and the ability to install the carrier using Euro-style belt routing with the shoulder belt routed behind the carrier.

Weight and Height Limits:
  • Rear-facing 4-35 lbs., AND 32” tall or less, AND child’s head is 1” below top of head rest
B-Safe 35 Overview (New features are marked in bold):
  • Complete Side Impact Protection – deep protective shell is designed to absorb crash forces
  • Steel anti-rebound bar on base that reduces rebound rotation by up to 30%
  • SafeCell impact-absorbing steel frame base – these red cells compress in a crash to absorb crash energy
  • Can be installed without base using standard or Euro-style belt path routing
  • Energy absorbing EPP foam
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (before 11 lbs./after 11 lbs.)
  • Ergonomic handle can be in any of the 4 locked positions in the vehicle
  • Deep seat pan
  • Deluxe push-on style lower LATCH connectors
  • Built-in slide lockoffs for installation with seatbelt
  • Dual recline angle indicators
  • Extra-large canopy
  • Smooth bottom base
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 6 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • Made in the USA!
2017 Endeavours Fashions

  

Endeavours Base

If you want to purchase additional Endeavours bases to use in other vehicles, they are available separately for $139.99 in the U.S. and $179.99 in Canada. The Endeavours base is also compatible with current B-Safe 35 and B-Safe 35 Elite models if you already own one of those seats. The Endeavours base is NOT FAA-approved for use on airplanes but the carrier is.

Measurements:

No re-thread harness with 6 positions: 5”-11 ½”
External widest point: 18”
Width of base at belt path: 13 3/8”
Width of base at widest point: 13 ½”
Internal shell height: 20 ½”
Crotch strap depth: 4”, 6”
Seat depth: 12”
Carrier weight: 11.2 lbs.

Installation

The anti-rebound bar may or may not make contact with your vehicle seat back and that’s OK