Types of Booster Car Seats
The goal of all booster car seats is to properly position a car’s seat belt and provide the proper protection for a child. In order to choose the best type of booster car seat to ensure the safety of your child, understanding the different types of seats available is essential.
There are three main types of booster car seats, which include:
- The backless booster car seat
- The high back belt positioning booster car seat
- The combination booster car seat
Each one of three types of booster car seats offers different advantages and disadvantages, and which one is the best type for your needs, keep on reading.
The Backless Booster Car Seat
As the name suggests, this type of booster car seat does not have a back. It is the most basic of all booster car seats. Essentially, it is a specially designed cushion for children to sit on while they are in the car. This type of booster raises the child up off of the seat of the vehicle, which provides a better fit for the seat belt. Backless booster car seats have seat belt guide, which place the seat belt over the correct location on the child’s body. Some models use arm rests to serve as the seat belt guide, while others use metal tubes or rings.
The main benefit of the backless booster car seat is that it is lightweight, compact and is typically inexpensive, which makes them easy to transport and switch between cars. They often offer an optional shoulder belt adjuster guide, which will help to keep the shoulder belt in the right place.
Do note that this type of booster car seat should not be used unless the seat of your vehicle comes up to your child’s ears. If the back of the seat does not come up to your child’s ears, he is more likely to suffer whiplash if a crash does occur while using this type of booster.
The Belt Positioning High Back Booster Seat
Like a backless booster car seat, this type of booster car seat properly positions the seat belt of the car on the child’s body; however, the back offers an added level of protection by support the back and head. This type of booster car seat should be used for children whose ears do not yet reach the top of the seat of the vehicle and will help to prevent whiplash in the event of an accident. Many belt positioning high back booster car seats feature backs that can be removed, which allow you to turn the seat into a backless booster.
The Combination Booster Car Seat
The combination booster car seat function as either a car seat with a five point harness, which can be used with children who weigh up to 40 pounds (some models do go up to 50 and even 90 pounds,) or they can be used as a belt positioning booster seat for children who weigh more than 40 pounds. When your child is ready to make the transition from the five point harness to using the seat belt of the vehicle, just remove the five point harness. There are also guides that will allow you to properly position the seat belt on your child’s body.
The main benefit of this type of booster car seat, as you may have guessed, is that it can function as both a traditional car seat and a booster seat. This means that you can provide your child with the utmost protection. On the downside, this type of booster car seat is usually large, bulky and heavy, which means that it can be difficult to transition from one vehicle to another.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Booster Car Seat
There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration when choosing a booster car seat for your child. By taking these factors into consideration, you can choose the best booster that will provide the highest level of protection for your child and will be the most convenient for you. Some of the top factors to take into consideration include the weight and height of your child, the ease of use and the size of the booster seat, among other things.
To learn more about the top factors that we recommend you should take into consideration when choosing a booster car seat, please keep on reading.
Your Child’s Height and Weight
Your child’s weight is the most important factor to take into consideration when choosing a booster car seat. As mentioned above, children are not ready to start using a car’s safety belt until they are at least 4’9” tall and are at least 40 pounds, which is typically between 8 and 12 years old. If you start using the car’s seat belt without the assistance of a booster seat before that time, your child could be in grave danger of sustaining a serious injury if an accident does occur.
Backless or High Back?
When deciding if a backless or a high back booster is the right choice for your child, you need to consider the height of your child. As mentioned in the ‘types’ section of this buyer’s guide, a child’s ears should reach the top of the back of the vehicle’s seat before using a backless booster seat, as they are at a greater risk of developing whiplash if an accident happens if they do not. If your child’s ears do reach the top of the back of the vehicle’s seat, that doesn’t meant that you have to use a backless booster seat; you can still use a high back booster seat at this point. Remember that when choosing a booster car seat, safety is of utmost concern, and you should choose the type that makes you and your child feel the most secure.
The Fit of the Booster Car Seat
You also want to make sure that the booster seat fits properly into your vehicle. If you are limited on space, you may want to avoid using a booster seat that is wide and takes up too much room. To determine the fit, take the measurements of the back seat of your car. Check the dimensions of the booster seat and compare them with the measurements of the back seat of your car. If you are shopping in a store, ask if you can test out a floor model in your car so that you can really see how it will fit; some stores will allow you to do this.
Ease of Use
You also want the booster car seat to be as easy to use as possible. The best booster car seats are easy to install in a vehicle and easy to position your child in. The easier it is to place the seat into the car, the easier it will be for you to remove it and use it in different vehicles. Also, the easier it is to position your child in the seat, the less struggle there will be for you and for your child.
Another important factor that you should take into consideration when choosing a booster car seat is the price. These seats vary widely in price, with lower end models starting at around $40 and higher end models starting at around $80 (though they can cost significantly more.) Generally, belt positioning high back boosters and combination boosters are more expensive than backless boosters. Also, the more features the seat offers, the higher the price tag will likely be. Don’t let the price be your deciding factor, though; higher priced booster car seats don’t necessarily offer more protection. Safety should always be your top priority.
Features Booster Car Seats can Offer
There are several available features that booster car seats can offer. The goal of these features is to improve the safety of the seat, as well as improve the comfort and convenience of the seat. As mentioned above, the more features that a booster car seat offers, the higher the price tag tends to be. In order to determine whether you want or need certain features, it is important to have a firm understanding of these features.
Here is a look at some of the top features booster car seats can offer.
Side Impact Protection
If you are shopping for a either a belt positioning high back or a combination booster car seat, you may want to look for one that offers side impact protection. This feature adds an additional layer of protection for your child, as it helps to distribute the force of a crash and also helps to shield the child from the intrusion of the vehicle in the event of a crash. Additionally, side impact protection will contain the child’s head and body, and keeps the head, neck and spine in proper alignment, which limits injury.
Lap Belt Guards
Lap belt guards work in conjunction with the safety belt of the vehicle to prevent the child from sliding under the lap belt portion of the vehicle’s safety belt in the event of an impact. This feature will help to minimize the risk of abdominal injury, should an accident occur.
Belt positioning high back and combination booster car seats can also come equipped with the LATCH system. This feature thoroughly secures the booster seat into the car by using clips that attach to the seat to the vehicle. With this feature, not only is your child better protected, but so are you, as it will prevent the seat from becoming a projectile in the event of a crash and your child isn’t sitting in the seat.
Built In Cup Holders
This is a handy feature that all three types of booster car seats can offer. Built in cup holders provide your child with a place to put his or her drinks, snacks or other items, keeping them in arm’s reach.
Built In Lights
High back belt positioning and combination booster car seats can also come equipped with built in lights, which your child can use to read while driving in the car.
Best Booster Car Seat Brands
There are several brands of booster car seats, which can make it difficult to determine which one is the best. Here are our picks for the best brands of booster car seats.
Britax produces some of the safest booster car seats on the market. This manufacturer produces all three types of booster car seats, and all are constructed of the highest quality materials and the latest technological advances.
Graco has long been a trusted name in the baby / child product industry. Their booster car seats constantly receive high ranking scores from the AAA and the NHTSA.
Another producer of high quality, durable and safe booster car seats is Evenflo. They make all three types of boosters, and all of their models offer outstanding features.