Child Booster Seats: Which Are Best, Which To Avoid?

October 13, 2011

Protecting your child in the family car should always be a top parental priority and this includes the transition from infant to convertible to booster child safety seats. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has just released new evaluations of booster seats that should be required reading for parents. At the very least, it will give you some valuable insight into what seats are recommended.

In its testing, the IIHS rated 31 booster seats as “Best Bets,” a record for the agency, along with another five that garnered “Good Bets” rating. These are booster seats that correctly position the vehicle safety belt on a typical child aged four to eight years old, and work in almost any car, minivan, crossover or SUV. As for cost, the Best Bets, says the IIHS, range anywhere from less than $15 to several hundred dollars.

The Institute says Harmony Juvenile Products continues to be a standout among booster seat manufacturers with all five of the Canadian company’s currently-produced seats rated as Best Bets.

There also 41 booster seats in the “Check Fit” category. These are booster seats that may provide good fit for some children in some vehicles, although not as many as the Best Bets or Good Bets. If you are considering a booster seat that falls in the Check Fit category, the IIHS recommends you make sure the lap belt lies flat across the child’s upper thighs and the shoulder belt crosses snugly over the middle of the shoulder. If it doesn’t meet these two parameters, look for another booster seat, ideally on the Best Bets or Good Bets lists.

Several seats not recommended

Six booster seats, however, are not recommended, since they do not provide the proper fit for children. Parents are advised to avoid buying the Evenflo Chase, Evenflo Express, Evenflo Generations 65, Evenflo Sightseer, Safety 1st All-in-One, and Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite.

Booster seat ratings were initiated by the IIHS in 2008 and are the only evaluations for parents that give them specific information on which booster seats do the best jobs of improving belt fit for children in the widest range of vehicles.

During the four years that the IIHS booster seat program has been in effect, booster seats have continued to improve, from a low of 10 Best Bets in 2008 to 21 last year. This is due to the booster seat manufacturers using the Institute’s test protocols in the design and updating of the seats.

Another point that parents should pay attention to is the fact that there are many different models from the same manufacturer, some of which appear on the Best Bets, the Good Bets and the Check Fit lists. Anne McCartt, the Institute’s senior vice president for research, says, “It’s important for consumers to look at model numbers and manufacture dates when consulting our ratings.”

2011 IIHS Booster Evaluation Results

Best Bets

Britax Frontier 85
Britax Frontier 85 SICT
Britax Parkway SGL (highback mode)
Chicco KeyFit Strada (highback mode)
Clek Oobr (highback mode)
Cosco Pronto (highback mode)
Cybex Solution X-Fix
Diono/Sunshine Kids Monterey (highback mode)
Eddie Bauer Auto Booster (highback mode)
Evenflo Big Kid Amp
Evenflo Big Kid Sport (backless mode)
Evenflo Maestro
Evenflo Symphony 65 e3
Ferrari Dreamway SP (highback mode)
Graco Argos 70 (highback mode)
Graco TurboBooster – Baldwin (highback mode)
Graco TurboBooster Elite (highback mode)
Harmony Cruz Youth Booster/Harmony Carpooler
Harmony Dreamtime (backless mode)
Harmony Dreamtime (highback mode)
Harmony Olympian/Secure Comfort Deluxe
Harmony Youth Booster Seat
Kids Embrace Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR (highback mode)
Recaro ProSPORT
Recaro Vivo
Safety 1st Boost Air Protect (highback mode)
Safety 1st S1 Rümi Air
The First Years B570 Pathway

Good Bets

Britax Parkway SG (highback mode)
Combi Kobuk Air Thru (backless mode)
Combi Kobuk Air Thru (highback mode)
Evenflo Symphony 65
Maxi-Cosi Rodi (highback mode)

Here is the link for the complete list of models in all categories, along with photos and instructions on how to check the fit of booster seats.

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