One of the questions I get a lot include, “What is the best booster seat?” and “What are the top-rated booster seats?” Here’s what I know, and what I use:
Booster seats are car seats designed to be used by children between the ages of 4-8 years-old. The seat belt in a car is designed to fit an adult sized body. The booster seat adjusts the child’s height, so the belt can fit the child properly. The belt should come across the child’s hips and chest, not tummy and neck. Using a booster seat instead of a seat belt alone decreases your child’s risk of serious injury in a car crash by 45%. That’s huge!
While every state’s laws may vary slightly, the recommendation (by the AAP) is to stay in a booster (a full 5-point harness seat can also be used) until a child is 4’9” (57”) tall and between 8-12 years-old. In Utah, the child restraint laws indicate that a child needs to stay in a booster until at least 8 years-old (only sooner if the child is over 4’9”).
There are two kinds of booster seats: high-back booster seats or backless booster seats. The high back booster seat is designed to give head and neck support when the vehicle seat doesn’t provide it (e.g., many SUVs and minivans). I personally prefer the high-back booster seat because I don’t have to worry about what the car is like that I’m putting the seat in. I also like that if my child happens to fall asleep, there is a bit of head support so there isn’t so much head bobbing (which has to be uncomfortable). Finally, I prefer the high-back because the seat belt strap threads through the seat and I can adjust it perfectly to ensure it fits my kid properly.
While there are lots of great boosters out there, my personal favorite is the Graco Highback Turbobooster Car Seat. I own 3 of them. It gets good safety ratings, is lightweight (and consequently easy to transfer from car to car), and has some nice features (comes in different colors, has easy to use cup holders, has head and neck support, easy to adjust height when my kid grows, and the cover is washable). In terms of booster seats, I think it’s a great bang for your buck.
Find the color to match what works for your style. I’ve included an affiliate link here (random color):
I’ve said it a million times, I’m inherently frugal. It’s who I am. I’m built that way. I use hand-me-down clothes, love a sale, etc., but safety is where I make exceptions. Buy the best car seat your budget will allow. While a car seat that is 3 times the cost will not give you 3 times the improved safety, increased cost often buys you increased safety features. Last month, I bought another convertible seat (our last one expired). As I researched the best seats, I decided on the Britax Advocate. It’s awesome. It even comes with side impact for the passenger (my 9 year-old) sitting next to the seat. But prepare yourself; it’s big, tough to get in the car (I was totally sweating and had to YouTube how to get the thing in my car properly), and expensive. I hope to never test it out, but should I ever wreck with my baby in the car, I’ll be glad I splurged for the best product.
WHERE TO GET IT
A quick online search shows lots of places, including Hayneedle.com and Amazon. Here’s an affiliate link for Amazon:
I wrote this article back in 2009 about new car seat regulations. Here it is:
There’s a brand new recommendation from The American Academy of Pediatrics to keep toddlers rear facing in a car seat until the age of 2.
This replaces the previously held recommendation of rear facing until 1 year and 20 lbs. The latest research indicates that the toddler is five times safer when rear facing versus forward facing. Furthermore, a child is 75% less likely to die or experience serious injury when riding in a rear facing car seat. (Henary B, et al. Inj Prev. 2007; 13:398-402)
As I have educated parents about the new recommendation, most parents have been concerned about their child’s legs fitting against the back seat. This is an understandable common complaint. However, lower extremity injuries are rare with rear facing seats. (Bull MJ. Durbin DR. Pediatrics. 2008; 121: 619-620) Furthermore, keep in mind it’s much easier to fix a broken leg than broken neck.
As for which seat to use, you can use the infant seat until you reach the maximum height (when the infant’s head is within a couple of inches of the top of the seat) and/or weight (usually 22-32 pounds) suggested by the car seat manufacturer.
In my practice, I find that most infants are transitioning out of an infant car seat by 9 months (the taller infants even earlier). After the infant seat, you will need a convertible, rear-facing car seat. Most convertible car seats will then allow you to transition to a forward facing car seat as the toddler is older (until you reach the maximum height and weight limits for the seat model). If you need help in getting your car seat installed properly, I recommend the following: