Car restraint seats and booster seats can be quite confusing for many parents. There are tons of models with varying weight limits for various ages of children. It can be difficult to know which type of seat to buy and when it’s appropriate to move your child to a different type of seat.
One thing is for certain: when your child reaches 40 pounds, he or she can be moved from a child-restraint seat to a booster seat. While there’s plenty of research on child-restraint seats and systems, there aren’t as many resources for booster seats.
However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has tested 41 models and made recommendations for the best bets and booster seats to avoid. See the list here, but remember that booster seats styles are often updated or discontinued, so you may need to consider more than one seat while shopping around.
Here are some additional tips for buying the right booster seat for your child.
Don’t Rush to Switch
Many child-restraint seats have weight limits of up to 80 pounds so don’t rush to get a booster seat just because your child has reached 40 pounds. Check to see if the seat you child is currently using will provide adequate protection.
Booster Seat Styles
Some booster seats have high backs; others have no back at all. There are pros and cons to each style.
High-back seats have a routing guide so they tend to position the shoulder seat-belt strap better. Plus, high backs are more comfortable choices if your vehicle doesn’t have rear head rests. Backless boosters are cheaper and provide better lap-belt placement. If you opt for a backless booster, make certain to get one with a clip that keeps the shoulder belt in the correct place.
Test It Out
When you buy a booster seat, make sure it fits your child well. Booster seats are intended to raise the child up to the level of an adult seat belt so he or she is better protected in a crash. The lap belt should fall across the upper thigh rather than the abdomen. That’s so the force from a crash is absorbed across the bones of the pelvis and not the soft tissues of the stomach in the event of a collision. The shoulder belt should fit across the middle of the shoulder, not too close to the child’s neck.
Some stores will let you test a floor model in your vehicle before you buy it. If not, make sure you can return the seat if it doesn’t fit your child properly.
Just because a seat is expensive doesn’t mean it offers more protection. One of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s best bets costs around $20.
If you already have a booster seat that’s not on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety list or is one of the seats that’s not recommended, don’t rush out to buy a new one. Check to make sure the seat fits your child and fits your vehicle. And remember, the most important thing is that your child is protected in a booster seat when riding in your car.