IIHS Tests 60 Child Booster Seats, Judges 11 Not Recommended

December 22, 2009
Child in booster seat -- from IIHS instructional video

Child in booster seat -- from IIHS instructional video

Frustrated with the lack of information on booster seats, and the lack of federal requirements for them?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has taken up the fight, and tested 60 popular boosters, gauging them depending on how well they fit children and on how well the booster seats themselves fit vehicle seatbelts.

In the Institute’s latest tests—which have been refined since its first booster tests last year—eleven of the booster models fitted seatbelts so poorly that it judged them Not Recommended. Nine of the models were judged Best Bets, while six were included as Good Bets.

"Parents can't tell a good booster from a bad one just by comparing design features and price," said Anne McCartt, the IIHS senior vice president for research, in a release with the results. "What really matters is if the booster you're considering correctly positions the safety belt on your 4-8 year-old in your vehicle. Our ratings make it easier to pick a safer booster for kids who have outgrown child restraints."

According to the IIHS, an effective booster seat should route the vehicle lap belt across the child’s upper thighs and allow the shoulder belt to be positioned mid-shoulder. Belt fit is especially important, as after all the purpose of a booster seat is to elevate the child to that the belt will fit and properly protect him or her in a crash.

Price is not consistent with how well a booster seat fits, the IIHS found, noting that its recommended choices started at about $20 but some cost more than $250.

So-called three-in-one models make up about half of the models that aren’t recommended, because they position the lap belt too high and the shoulder belt too far out—and for the rest of the poor-scoring models poor shoulder belt fit was the most common issue.

Seven of the models on the Not Recommended list are made by Dorel Juvenile Group, which is the largest children’s gear distributor in the U.S., the IIHS notes.

The IIHS first tested booster seats last year, and many of the models not recommended then have already been discontinued. The organization will continue to look at new booster-seat models throughout the year, as it looks at new vehicle models for its Top Safety Pick award.

We’ve included the list of models that are Best Bets, Good Bets, and Not Recommended below, but for more information you should consult the full ratings list, including model numbers and photos of the seats for verification, and view this video on proper booster fit. Also, visit this page for more information on choosing the right safety restraint for your child.

Combi Dakota backless/clip
Recaro Young Sport
Recaro Vivo
Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR
Evenflo Big Kid Amp backless/clip
Eddie Bauer Auto Booster
Cosco Juvenile Pronto
Britax Frontier
Clek Oobr

Combi Kobuk backless/clip
Maxi-Cosi Rodi
Evenflo Symphony 65
Britax Parkway SG
Graco TurboBooster SafeSeat Wander
Graco TurboBooster SafeSeat Sachi

Harmony Secure Comfort Deluxe backless/clip
Combi Kobuk
Evenflo Express
Eddie Bauer Deluxe
Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
Evenflo Sightseer
Alpha Omega Elite
Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1
Safety 1st All-in-One
Alpha Omega Luxe Echelon
Alpha Omega


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