Car Seat 5Pt Harness vs Booster

Updated on November 03, 2009
H.J. asks from Saint Paul, MN
15 answers

So I recently began researching into car seats again. A little background...we have always been big into car seat safety and have never put a price on our kids seats, I could not have been any happier for doing this after I was rear ended by someone at 45 mps while I was at a dead stop. Although I was seriously injured my daughter was not THANKFULLY. So needless to say I take car seat shopping very VERY seriously. Anyhow I was looking into booster seats and noticed that the ratings for a lot of booster seats are 4 stars as far as securing the child which our current car seats 5 point harness is also a 4 star. My daughter reaches the weight and height requirements for the booster seats. She is cutting it close to being too big for the 5 point harness that we have but for some reason I am having a hard time transitioning her to a booster I feel at 4 years old she is still too young. Am I just over paranoid because of the accident or is she ready??

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So What Happened?

I want to give a big thank you to all who responded. I do want to say that this brings my attention to see what they are taking into consideration for rating when it comes to 5pt vs. booster. There must be a standard difference between the two as I can see how the 5pt is a better way of holding the children as far as spreading out the impact but they have a lot of the booster rated the same as 5pt so I will look into that. Also I really want to mention the web-site
They are currently going through a 2009 round of seat testing and that although not to put a damper on anyone's purchases the Graco nautilus actually has one of the worst ratings as far as safety. and there is only one Britax that it rated good for both FF and RF position's...although on average they rank higher as a company. I also want to say I did not say any of this information to make anyone mad we all have are different views and thoughts I just wanted to post what I have learned. I also know that there are many different things that can play a role in the purchase of the seat and that is understood. It has to fit in the car you have, function well for you and work well for you child and be comfortable. Thanks Everyone!

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answers from Milwaukee on

I don't know what you have decided, but I will go with a 5 point harness for my daughter when she is ready to move out of her carseat. See this video about a boy named Kyle and it may help you decide.

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answers from Rapid City on

Your accident didn't make you paranoid. It made you more aware of what can happen than most parents ever will be. That 5-point harness distributes crash forces across her body better than just a seatbelt, and it ensures that she is always in the best position in the event of a crash.

My daughter is in a Britax Regent, 5-pt harnessed, forward facing only seat. She is not quite 4, nearly 40 lbs, and tall for her age. She will remain in that seat until she doesn't fit in it any more. When we go somewhere, it takes awhile to get there, and she often falls asleep in the car. If she's asleep, she isn't likely to be sitting in the best position for absorbing crash forces. And I never have to worry about her putting the shoulder belt behind her back or under her arm.

Caryn F- Your pediatrician is an expert in the health of small children, but not in car seat safety. Race car drivers use 5-pt harnesses because they are safer, most infant seats now have 5-point harnesses because they are safer. As long as the top of the harness is at or above shoulder level on your child, and your child is within the height and weight limits for the seat, it is safer than a belt-positioning booster seat.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My 6yr old son rides in the Graco Nautilus and so does my 2yr old daughter. My son is tall for his age and still uses the 5pt harness (he still has a few pounds before out growing it). I would HIGHLY recommend this seat..... Please please please keep your daughter in a 5pt harness as long as you can. The regular seat belt will not keep your daughter as safe if you are in an accident..

INFO ON Graco - Nautilus 3-in-1 Multi-Use Car Seat:

Nothing's more important than keeping your child safe. The Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 car seat is designed for both versatility and safety, offering right-size comfort and protection as your child grows. Nautilus is a harness seat, a high-back booster and a backless booster. Because it adapts as your child grows, from age 1 to age 10, you can buy one Nautilus instead of a toddler seat, booster seat and backless booster. One seat instead of three, without compromising on safety. Nautilus is the last car seat you'll ever need to buy.

Graco - Nautilus 3-in-1 Multi-Use Car Seat:
3-in-1 multi-mode Car Seat for longer use
Extended 5-point harness for use from 20 - 65 lbs.
Converts into high-back belt positioning booster for use from 30 to 100 lbs.
Converts into backless booster for use from 40 to 100 lbs.
3-position recline for proper installation and comfort
Overmolded arm rests with easy access side storage
One-hand height-adjustable head support grows with the child
Features open loop belt guides
Premium soft goods package with full-body pillow for added comfort
Includes EPS, energy-absorbing foam
Machine-washable fabric seat pads
Can only be used as forward-facing car seat

Recommended Use:
20 to 65 lbs. 5-point harness (use until they agrow straps or weight)
30 to 100 lbs. High-back booster
40 to 100 lbs. Backless booster

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answers from Omaha on

5 pt harness for AS LONG AS THEY FIT IN THE SEAT! There was a Wall Street Journal article not too long ago that questioned if boosters were more harmful than helpful.
We have the Britax Regent and I wouldn't have it any other way...I plan on keeping my son in it til he's 80 lbs or too tall for it.



answers from Des Moines on

I also emphatically advocate the use of the 5pt harness. I had quite the dilemma when my son, who is only 3, outgrew the height requirement for his convertible seat this summer. He did not yet meet the low end weight requirement for many of the boosters, so it was difficult to find something that would work for long term (instead of getting another slightly larger convertible seat). I settled on the Britax Frontier because he can be in the harness up to 80 lbs and then use it as a seatbelt booster up to 100 lbs. Many other convertible boosters only go to 40 lbs, which is the same as the carseat I had. I am confident that this is the last seat that we'll need for him. It received good ratings, especially when using the harness. Our previous seat was a Britax and I do think that they make a good product overall, including ease of correct installation and comfort for the child. We had friends visit for a week this fall and the seat they brought was such a pain to get adjusted correctly.

I will also add that I did purchase a (much less expensive) high back Graco Turbobooster for use when he takes short trips in town with either grandma. The safety ratings are only accurate when the seats are installed and used correctly, and for some reason, neither grandma seems to be able to tighten the straps or position the harness correctly in the convertible seat (despite repeated demonstration) and are unable to install the seats themselves. However, using the seatbelt with the belt path indicated directly on the seat seems to be easier, and the seat can easily move from car to car. I guess when it comes down to it I'd rather have him in a seat correctly, than in a loose harness that isn't doing anything.

Best of luck with your researching and pregnancy!



answers from Omaha on

Depending on her height and weight I would say that your child is definately ready for a booster seat instead of a car seat. You are probably having the "my baby isn't that old" syndrome. I am sure you are anxious because of your accident but at your daughters age she should be just fine in a booster seat.



answers from Minneapolis on

I had put the same question on here awhile ago and ended up buying the Graco Nautilus and couldn't be happier. It starts out as a five point harness that has the latch system to attach it to the car then can grow into a regular booster. the back can also raise as the child gets taller which is important to me since my son is tall. Saftey is my first concern in the car and the harness is the safest way to go.



answers from Rochester on

I just went through that paranoia a few weeks ago! My daughter turned 4 at the end of September, and I didn't realize she was big enough for a booster seat until our pediatrician told me she was at her check-up. My brain was telling me that she's too young, even though she is a big kid. My pediatrician told me that it is actually safer for them to be in a booster seat instead of the 5 point harness once they get that big. I'm not sure why, but I guess it is because of the way the seat is designed. I looked at our seat, which is an Alpha Omega 3 in 1, which goes up to 100 pounds, and the manual says that she is big enough, and not to use the headrest in the highest position (which she needs because of her height) unless it is the booster. I transitioned her to the booster seat (which was very easy, actually), and besides one time of trying to squirm out of the seat when I put her in it, she has stayed still and obeyed the rules. She likes being able to reach things more easily, too. My daughter is a fireball, so if she can sit still and not pull on the seatbelt, I think your daughter will be fine. I think you'll have to look at your specific carseat and your daughter's height and weight to decide what to do. It's so hard to let them grow up, isn't it?


answers from Minneapolis on

A 5pt harness is always safer, as it restrains the body in 5 points, instead of just 3 in an adult belt. This means less stress on the body as the crash force is distributed across the strongest parts of the body instead of just 3. If you look up booster seat crash tests and car seat crash tests on youtube you will find alot of good crash tests to see both sides of how a child is held into a car seat vs a booster.

That being said, I don't think any 3, 4, even most 5yr olds are ready for a booster seat. With the vast selection of seats out now that harness to 65 or even 80lbs, there is no reason for a child under age 5 to be in a booster seat.

There are a couple options for your daughter at her age and size.
The Graco Nautilus is a great seat. It is $150 at Wal Mart or Target, and it will harness from 22-65lbs forward facing only, an fits most kids in the harness until around age 7, then it becomes a high back booster, and if necessary down the road a no back booster to 100lbs. For the price you will get a seat you daughter can use until she is big enough for the adult belt (8yrs old, 80lbs, 4'9" tall). The harness portion of the car seat is good for 6yrs, and the booster portion is good for 9yrs. This seat will last through two kids.

Britax Regent will harness to 80lbs. We have htis seat, my 7yr old has no problem fitting in it. Its a beast, but its so comfy! Like a recliner for the car! Its top harness slots are 19" and most kids can easily ride in this seat until age 8+. You can find it on the cheap now as the model has been discontinued, so you ca nfind it for $150. Its a great seat, I highly recommend it.

Britax Frontier will harness to 80lbs. Its top slot is a bit lower tha nthe other two I mentioned, but its a great seat tha tmakes a fabulous booster down the road. It run around $280, so its a haul but its a great seat.

Ther are a few convertible seats too that will harness your daughter like the Britax Marathon, Sunshine Kids radian, TruFit, but these seats don't convert to boosters so I wouldn't bother with them. For the money, I would purchase one of the others listed above. I would recommend the Graco Nautilus.

Way to be wise, mama. She's not ready for a booster, a 5pt is always safer as long as possible.



answers from Duluth on

I have heard that a child is ready for a booster (obviously, this is beyond height and weight requirements) when he/she will sit in the booster appropriately. My oldest, I think, was in a booster at 2. Now that I have another 2, I am horrified to think that he was in it that young! I'm sure he met the numbers, but what was I thinking!! That said, he fussed and squirmed and HATED the five point harness, but sat very nicely in a booster, because he could move when he needed to. He had learned to unfasten the five point harness and did it repeatedly...I guess I felt safer w/ him in a seat than constantly taking one that I've heard that advice, I'm p retty sure my second child will wait quite a while. They need to be able to sit IN THE CORRECT POSITION while driving--not sitting upright, with the belt positioned correctly, makes using a booster useless.



answers from Minneapolis on


I know you have had several responses, but I had to add my two cents. We bought two Britax Frontiers, one for each vehicle. When I went to the car seat tech at the police dept. to double check my install, the tech told me the Frontier was the best designed seat, as far as safety and comfort go, by far. She said when the seat first came out, all the techs at their convention applauded and were "giddy" over the safety features. It definitely made me happy I purchased that brand and model. It's a great 5 point harness with awesome side impact protection. And my 4 year old loves it- she is very comfortable in it. I'm pretty sure she'll be in it until she is 8ish. Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi H.-
I'd say bummer on the hyperemesis-- hopefully that will resolve for you.
You have to decide if you're comfortable with a booster-- and if it fits your child better. My twins were ready for booster because of their size.
If you're interested-- we have 2 we're not using anymore- just took them out as the girls are tall and now 8yo.
I live in New Brighton if you want to take a peak. Both in good shape-- no accidents- graco with high back removable.

About me: 49 yo perfusionist, wellness coach also doing a nationwide online biggest loser for $$, wife, mom to 8 yo twins and helping care for father with end stage cancer

B. J
[email protected]



answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter was in a 5pt.harness til her 8th birthday!

Britax Regent
Britax Frontier
Britax Marathon
Graco Nautilus
Sunshine Radian
Apex 65

Just a few seats that harness past 40lbs.



answers from Madison on

5 pt harness is always...ALWAYS...the safer option. If you have the means to put your child in a quality, properly-installed seat with a 5 pt harness that should be the choice you make.

It may be helpful to remember that car seat height/ weight reccomdations are just that...recommendations. They are guidelines for the MINIMUM requirements...

Kyle David Miller...
Crash tests...



answers from Minneapolis on

We just went through the same researching/ experience to get a new car seat. We decided on the Britax Parkway SG Booster seat. I like this seat b/c it is a 4pt harness (they call it). It uses a seatbelt, and the belt keeps the booster positioned well, but there is also a strap between the legs that attaches to the lap belt. This is positioned in a safe place for children, across their legs and not their abdomen, and it keeps them from slidding out of the seat. The seat then converts to a backless booster when ready. They are fairly inexpensive ($100) I really like the idea of the 5 pt harness, but I also felt a lot of them were just glorified Convertable car seats, they did not convert to a backless booster, and pretty expensive too.
The Britax was well rated with Consumer reports too.

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