Booster Seat Recommendations

Updated on January 19, 2009
N.T. asks from Merrimack, NH
10 answers

Hi All,

My almost 6 year old daughter has just about outgrown her 'car seat'. She is in a Britax Marathon and has been since she was about 8 months old. I am so happy with their product and most importantly felt like this was the safest choice for us. Britax also makes a booster seat called the Britax Frontier. I wonder if anyone has this and if so, how is it working for you? For those of you who have school age kids (5+) what kind of car seat/booster do you use? Do you use the car seat belt as the main restraint or a five point harness still? My daughter really wants to use the 'car seat belt' like a 'big kid' but I worry about just how safe they are without that five point harness. Her body seems too little to me to just have a seat belt. Am I being too neurotic?

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answers from Boston on

hi N.,
i dont know anything about that brand of carseat, as i have a 16 month old in an eddie bauer carseat, but i DO know that you are NOT being nerotic at all. the 5-point harness system is MUCH safer than the regular seatbelt for small children. if they are small eneogh to still be in a carseat, they are too small for a regular seatbelt. seatbelts are designed for "average sized" people and adults, so she shouldnt be using one until shes out of the carseat.


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answers from Boston on

I saw something on YouTube recently about a family who lost one of their children because one of the seatbelts did not "activate" during an accident and the child was in a regular booster with the regular seatbelt and did not survive. The other child survived because her seatbelt happened to work. It was a strong warning to continue the 5-point harness as long as possible, especially because it would always work regardless if the car seatbelts worked or not (since you can use the LATCH system to strap the seat in). The parents of this passed child recommended the Britax Regent also - and they obviously did their research to save their other child). I also have a Marathon for my 3 year old and I LOVE their product - seems so safe and won't budge in the car... it's great. I will definitely be checking out the Regent once she grows out of this seat. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!!

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answers from Providence on

if she is over 45 lbs, she needs to use the car seat belt, not a 5 point restraint with a booster seat. Last year, we had a long discussion with an EMT who was car seat trained. He talked about the kids he has pulled out of wrecks. He said a traditional seatbelt used with a booster seat,as a seatbelt positioner (get the one that lines the seatbelt up over their shoulder and onto their hips.... the britax and graco with the back do this well), is the safest option for kids 45 lbs and over. Then, keep them in their booster seat until they can sit comfortably on the back seat (this varies in all cars and in different seating positions in the car)...

What does this look like?
This is critical. Their butt must be against the back of the seat and their knees must bend and feet touch the floor. If they slouch to do this, the seatbelt will move up over their abdomen and injure internal organs in a crash. The belt should come across their shoulders between their shoulder and neck, not across neck or outside shoulder. This will also cause injury if it's not right. In Massachusetts the law is they must be in booster seats until they are 8 years old, In RI it's seven, BUT you need to judge the size of your child and the fit of their seatbelt in each of your vehicles. (ie, the third row of my pilot has much smaller seats so is safer w/o booster seats much earlier than the second row of my pilot, my husband's subaru has bucket seats in the back and takes much longer for them to fit into correctly).
Also, we were in a rollover accident three years ago, my 6 year old was sitting in a booster seat behind the driver and was totally fine coming out of the accident (a few cuts, not even stitches), my 3 year old was in her britax car seat and the plastic on the seat failed and cracked allowing the seat to move. Despite this, she was also fine, b/c the structure of the seat (and it's internal harness) held her in place and kept the roof of the car from crushing her. My point, carseats and booster seats save lives. This was a very serious accident in which I (As the passenger in the suicide front seat)had to be cut from the vehicle. They are fine and the booster/car seats are why. I know what you mean about wanting to keep them in internal harnesses as long as possible, but as long as they are not wiggly kids who refuse to sit still and unbuckle their belts mid trip.... the seat belt with a booster is safer.
Safe riding!



answers from Springfield on

How big is your almost 6yr old. I have a very tall 7yr old that is almost at the new limit that massachusetts set. I think at 6yrs old your daughter should understand that she needs to stay buckled in her seat and that the lap/shoulder belt should be fine I've never owned a britax none of them ever fit in my car right so I'm not sure how wide or narrow the booster is but we have a graco booster and my son is thin and the booster is narrow he fits in it nicely.



answers from Boston on

I have 2 girls one is 9 and the other is six. They are both small framed children and I just did not feel a booster seat with a lap belt was safe for them. I just recently purchased a dodge caravan 2004 with the integrated car seats. The cushions pull down which act as a booster and they have 5 point harnesses. I love this for them, I feel they are safe, and my 9 year old who is the size of an average 6-7 year old feels comfortable with it. You are not being too neurotic.



answers from Hartford on

Neurotic is not the word I would use. ;) You are being safe!

My 3.5 year old son (40 inches, 40 lbs) has been out of his 5 point harness for a while now.

We just have the booster with the back so the belt slides through and hits him exactly where it is supposed to. It's a Graco and it works just fine.

Good luck!



answers from Boston on

We have the Britax Frontier. We love it. Our daughter is now five and graduated to the Frontier after outgrowing her Britax Roundabout. Our pediatrician's advice was, keep your kid in a 5 pt. harness for as long as she'll agree to it. The Britax is both a 5-pt. harness and can also be a belt positioning booster. We're still using the 5 pt. harness. It's pricey but we liked it because it's got the side-impact protection and it's narrow enough to be able to fit other carseats in our sedan. I did recently receive a safety recall notice in the mail, however. Apparently if you loosen the belts separately, something can loosen in the back, possibly causing the belts to fail in the case of a crash. They sent us new little rubber stoppers to install in our seat. We always loosen the chest belts simulataneously anyway, so it's not an issue for us, but it is something to consider. I'm sure if you purchase one now, it will have that flaw corrected. My friend has a Graco that she likes very much. It too can be both a belt-posioning booster and a 5 pt. harness. I am like you: auto safety is VERY high on our list of priorities, and it's worth examining all the options before you decide. Good luck!



answers from Boston on

Hi N.,

You are not being neurotic at all! My 6 1/2 year old son is in a Britax Regent. It is a HUGE seat, but my son loves it because it is comfy, and I like it because it has the 5 point harness. I have 2 other children, a 3 1/2 year old boy and a 7 month old girl. When my 7 month old grows out of her car seat, she will go into the Britax Boulevard that my 3 1/2 year old is currently in, and he will switch to the Regent if he is big enough (he is little) and my 6 1/2 year old will be getting a Britax Frontier. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about them, and I really trust the Britax brand. My oldest will be in a 5 point harness as long as I can keep him in one! Besides, he HATES high back booster seats...they get a big thumbs down from in for comfort! :)



answers from Boston on

I would also recommend the Regent. When my almost 4 year old outgrew his Triumph, a car seat tech recommended putting him the Regent. He can now stay in the 5 point harness for quite some time (or until he outgrows the MA height/weight limit for carseats/boosters). I'm always shocked by people who use a lap belt at such a young age with their kids and can't believe a police officer recommended a lap belt for a previous poster with young kids! I got a Marathon for my 11 month old and I'm glad to hear that your daughter lasted in their until almost 6!



answers from Boston on

I have a 4-year-old girl who out grew her Britax car seat when she was 3. I went to a local police station, that has a special car seat istallation program to have them check on our car seats when my daughter was 3-years-old and my son was almost 1-year-old. They told me she and my son were both too big for the car seats they were in. I moved my son into the Britax Marathon and got a lap belt booster seat, with back, upon the officers' recommendations for my daughter. Well, my daughter loved it, but she could easily release the seat belt, and did. She could twist and turn and reach to retrieve a book or toy that would have previously been out of reach. She could lean over and unlock the door (we quickly learned where the switch was so the door could not be opened from the inside.) It just wasn't safe. We went right out and got a 5 point harness booster seat.

Obviously, your 6-year-old is much more mature and will act more responsibly than my 3-year-old, but it just seems so much safer with the 5 point restraint. My sister told me she's going to keep her kids in 5 point harness booster seats as long as the seat size allows, I think I'll do the same. Once you switch to a lap belt, it may be hard to switch back, if you want to, without your 6-year-old feeling like she's not getting big after all.

Good Luck.

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