IIHS Booster Seat Rankings

Booster Seat Basics

The purpose of a booster seat is to provide a proper fit with a seatbelt designed for an adult. By boosting the child, the safety restraint can better protect them in the event of a crash. Proper fit includes a lap belt that fits flat across the child's upper thighs and a shoulder belt that sits in the middle of the shoulder firmly.

What kind is best for me?

There are two kinds of booster seats: highback and backless.

  1. Highback boosters can sometimes be converted into backless boosters and are especially recommended in vehicles that do not have head restraints in the back seat.
  2. Backless boosters are often more affordable and popular with older children. They may require a plastic clip to properly position the shoulder belt.

Fitting The Seat

Though parents may opt to skip the booster seat, this can lead to increased chances of injury in the event of an accident. Using booster seats lowers injury risk by 59 percent compared with belts alone, according to a 2003 study by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Any child that has outgrown a child restraint and measures less than 4 feet, 9 inches tall should be using a booster seat. This ensures that the seat belt will properly restrain the child while protecting vulnerable areas. As a 2006 study by the Center for Injury Research found, child safety seats reduce the risk of fatality among children ages 2-6 by about 28 percent compared with seat belt alone.

Car Seat Safety Guidelines

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many parents incorrectly buckle their children in safety seats. Ensure that your child rides safely by following these safety tips provided by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:

Type of SeatsGeneral Guidelines
Infant seats
(Ages 0 – 2)

Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until age 2 or until they reach the weight or height limit.

Once the height or weight limit is met, they should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible seat.

Convertible seats
(Ages 2 – 4)

When your child is 2 or older, or outgrown their rear-facing seat, they should transition to a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible.

Convertible seats
(Ages 4 – 8)

Once your child's weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat, they should move to a booster seat.

Seatbelts
(Ages 8+)

When your child is 4 ft. 9 in or between 8-13 years old, they can begin to use a traditional seat belt.

Children under 13 should always ride in the back seat.

All Ages

Check to ensure the car's seat belt is threaded through the safety seat frame the same way as the routing shown on the diagram in the instructions that come with the car seat.

Always fasten your child into the safety seat and fasten the seat to the car with the seat belt.

The middle of the rear seat is USUALLY the safest position in a crash.

It's better to wait when transitioning your child from one class of restraint to another than to do so too soon.

The Best And Worst Booster Seats of 2014

In their recent study, the IIHS compiled a list of booster seats from the best bets to those not recommended for use. In addition, the IIHS provides a complete list of model numbers and manufacture dates. Below are a few of the most popular seats.

Best Bets

  • Britax Pinnacle 90
  • Cosco Pronto
  • Evenflo Right Fit
  • Graco 4Ever All-in-1 Car Seat
  • Safety 1st Store 'n Go

Good Bets

  • Combi Kobuk Air Thru
  • Diono Rainier
  • Evenflo Symphony 65
  • Maxi-Cosi Rodi

See the full "Good Bets" list.

Not Recommended For Use

  • Kids Embrace Batman
  • Safety 1st All-in-One
  • Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite

See the full "Not Recommended" list.

Regardless of the booster seat style you choose, the most important factor is fit—fitting your vehicle and fitting your child.