Booster Seat Safety

Updated on January 12, 2009
J.C. asks from San Diego, CA
12 answers

Hi Everyone,
We are in the market for a booster seat for my 5 year old daughter. What do you recommend as far as safety and price? I saw the Britax booster just got recalled and consumer reports didn't even rate it. Thanks so much for your help!!!

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answers from Los Angeles on

J., we just received the "caps" from Britax to secure the belts to the seat better. I guess the problem was if you were loosening and tightening the belts a lot the belts could become loose. We haven't had any problem with ours, but will put the new caps on just in case. We have 2 britax Frontier boosters for our boys ages 4 & 5. They were fairly expensive ($200+ each); but, I really wanted a 5 point restraint for as long as possible. The frontier can be used in harness mode up to 80lbs. We still have another 30+ lbs to go before we have to use the belt positioning booster. There were not a whole lot of seats that would allow you to go to 80lbs with the 5 point restraint.



answers from Honolulu on

Thanks for the head's up on the Britax recalls.

I did some research and here is the link which lists ALL the Britax models which are recalled. (just keep scrolling down, to see the Britax models. Other brands are also listed. This is a current up to date listing of recalled seats).
There are lots.

Luckily, we have the Britax "Parkway" which does not appear on the recall list.
We really love this model and my kids love it too.

We also have the "Compass" booster seats.. which are real good. You can get them on

Good luck,



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi J.,

The safer choice is to keep your child in a HWH (high-weight harness) seat as long as possible before going to a booster. Two choices are the Britax Regent and the Sunshine Kids Radian80. A harness seat is safer than a booster seat. A forward-facing harness seat is outgrown when 1) the child exceeds the manufacturers maximum weight for the seat, or 2) the childs shoulders are higher than the top harness slot of the seat. Do listen to Jamie C's advice about looking at the Kyle David Miller web site.

Boosters help make the vehicle seatbelt system (designed for an adult) fit a larger child. If you decide to go the booster route, then choose a booster that your child fits into well. The seat belt should lay flat on the child's thighs, not leaning against the stomach. This is critical, since the seat belt must lay against bone (hips), not soft tissue (stomach). A shoulder harness MUST be used with a booster and should lay between the shoulder and the neck.

High-back or no-back booster? High-back boosters (HBB) have the advantage of giving the child a place to put their head if they fall asleep in the car. Some HBB have additional side crash protection. However, be aware that some HBB require that a vehicle head restraint (headrest) exist behind the back of the HBB booster. It's a good idea to read the owners' manual online before purchase. Low-back boosters are small, very inexpensive, and transport easily from car to car.

Finally, your child will no longer need a booster seat when she can pass the "5-step test" (see Note: she may no longer need a booster in YOUR car, but she may still need one in your neightbors car-pool van. Do the 5-step test in every different vehicle she rides in. The laws are minimums only (in CA, 6yrs or 60 lbs) and do not mean your child is safe without a booster at 6/60.

Let me know if you have any questions about car seats.

Because I care,

-- M. Cohen


answers from San Diego on

Whatever you do......make sure it has a five point harness!
Look at this has a list of recommended safe seats. If you watch the video....get a box of tissue!
Sad, but true and they made the foundation to help other people.



answers from Los Angeles on

I did a lot of research on this a few months ago and these were my top picks:

Britax Frontier if money is not an issue. The recall issue is a simple fix, and the newer made seats have the problem fixed. Yes, it's expensive $280, but just think of it as less than a dollar a day for a year, and your child will be in it for much longer than a year. (Accommodates weight up to 80# with 5 point harness and 100# as seatbelt positioning booster). Has the expected comfort of a Britax.

Graco Nautilus if money is an issue. Great reviews, and accommodates children similarly. One thing this seat has over the Frontier is that it converts to both a seat-positioning and backless booster seat. Not as comfortable as Britax, but your child won't know the difference.

First Years: Compass Folding Adjustable Booster if you want a just-in-case booster seat if you're gonna carpool an extra person, or if your child is going to ride in someone else's car.

Combi Dakota (no latch) or Clek Olli (has latch) if you want a backless booster seat (better for older kids).

5-point harness as long as possible is best.
Also, make sure you check the weight/height limitations on all the seats you're considering. The frontier & nautilus exceed the other carseats in this regard.

Happy Hunting.



answers from Los Angeles on

We have 2 Graco's. Got them both at Target. They have the backs on them and then when she is old enough, the backs come off. Also a cup holder. The one I have for my daughter has flowers on it. She liked it and it is safe, so that is what we have.

Our nanny just has the booster portion in her can, again it is the Graco, which has the nice padding etc. That was at Big Lots for only $15.00. It is the same one as Target has, just no back on it.



answers from Los Angeles on

At that age, I got my son a 5-pt harness Britax REGENT. It's huge, but he was able to be in it till age 8! He's in a booster bottom now at 8.5.

I just bought my daughter the Graco Nautilus, and I doubt it will last her that long. It's fine for now (and I have my Regent as a back up) but if I were you, I'd skip the Nautilus and go for BIG - something that will last your daughter a few years.



answers from San Diego on

I am researching this right now too. I want my daughters to be in a 5-point harness for as long as possible so I am looking for booster seats that offer that. I know everyone says the Britax is the best, but I just can't afford $280. I am going to buy the Graco Nautilus from Amazon. It is priced at $129 and seems comparable to the Britax. The reviews were really good. Check it out! Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

As a Child Passenger Safety Technician and Instructor, there are not many safety differences in booster seats. You should make sure the booster seat fits the contour of your vehicle seat and that it has the features you want. Otherwise, there are not huge differences due to boosters being seat belt positioning devices. They do not offer the protection the 5-point harnessed seats do; instead they help position the lap and shoulder seat belt properly on your daughter's body. Just make sure she is over 40 pounds at bare minimum! Good luck!


answers from Los Angeles on

I highly recommend the Recaro Vivo.

Good Luck hunting!



answers from Los Angeles on

We have two Britax seats as well (a Roundabout and Boulevard for my oldest) Whatever you choose, stick with the 5 point harness. I know the boxes all say a 5 year old can go in a booster and many parents go that route because of that and it is so much easier, but definitely not as safe. I have driven my daughter's friends to field trips and they all bring their boosters in my car and they don't sit still. They lean forward, reach to the sides and the seats are moving around since they aren't secured in and the seat belt holding them in is no longer tight around them. It always made me nervous what would happen if we even were involved in a minor accident.
My daughter is now 6 1/2 and she has no problem being in the 5 point harness, even when her friends ask why she is still in a baby seat :)
Good luck in your search,



answers from San Diego on

Graco Turbo-Booster with removable back/head rest support.