Parents don’t need to max the credit card or eat ramen for a week for good child-car safety, according to the ratings for the 16 new 2017 booster seats tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
While there was a consistency of quality with 13 of 16 seats earning Best Bet ratings, the prices of the Best Bets varied from the $40 highback Cosco Finale and backless Chicco GoFit to $250 for a highback Maxi-Cosi RodiFix.
“You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a quality booster seat. Unlike more complicated harness-equipped restraints, a booster is a simple device that doesn't require any special features to do its job,” IIHS Senior Research Engineer Jessica Jermakian said in a statement. “Boosters need to elevate the child and guide the lap belt so that it lies flat on the upper thighs and not up against the tummy and position the shoulder belt so that it fits snugly across the middle of the shoulder.”
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These ratings covered only booster seats, not car seats, which are to be used for infants and small children. The IIHS began in 1959 as a joint effort by three of the nation’s largest automotive insurers to promote highway safety. Since 1969, it has been an independent research organization.
For testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety uses a dummy named Jasper (Juvenile Anthropomorphic Seat-belt Position Evaluation Rig) that’s the size of an average 6-year-old. Engineers check how the three-point lap and shoulder belts fit Jasper when he’s belted into the booster seats.
The IIHS says the lap belt should “lie flat and on top of the thighs, not higher up on the abdomen,” and the shoulder belt should “fit snugly across the middle of the child's shoulder.” A bad fit could lead to the kid wriggling out of the belt or putting it in an unsafe place.
A “Best Bet” designation means “providing a good belt fit for typical 4- to 8-year-olds in almost any car, minivan or SUV.” A “Check Fit” means the seat “could work for some children in some vehicles.”
None of the new 2017 booster seats received a Not Recommended rating. Only the Safety 1st Summit 65 has received that rating and remains on the market.
Despite the Safety 1st Summit 65’s rating that tells parents to avoid the seat, the IIHS makes clear this isn’t akin to a recall.
“If you already have one of the seats on the not recommended list, don't throw it away,” the website says. “Any booster seat is better than none at all. But take a look at the belt fit, and if it's not doing a good job, replace it when you can with one that works better.”
Best Bets: Chicco GoFit (backless); Cosco Finale (highback); Cosco Finale DX (highback); Diono Monterey XT (backless mode); Diono Monterey XT (highback mode); Evenflo Spectrum (backless mode); Evenflo Spectrum (highback mode); Graco Wayz (backless mode); Graco Wayz (highback mode); Maxi-Cosi RodiFix (highback); Nuna AACE (backless mode); Nuna AACE (highback mode); Peg-Perego Viaggio Shuttle (backless).
Check Fit: Harmony Folding Travel Booster (highback); Kiddy Cruiser 3 (highback); Ride Safer Delighter Booster (backless).