What's the Best Booster Seat for 2017?

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CARS.COM — Booster seats range from basic and inexpensive models to high-end versions with ultra-lux padding and multiple cupholders. Which are safest?

Related: Cars.com’s Car Seat Checks

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, safe boosters exist on both ends of the spectrum and caregivers have more options than ever this year. Thirteen out of the 16 new booster seats tested earned IIHS’s best bet rating, its highest, bringing the total number of best bet boosters on the market to 118.

To earn a best bet, the booster must provide good safety belt fit for average 4- to 8-year-olds in almost any vehicle, maintaining the optimal seat belt position. Boosters that earn the good bet rating provide acceptable belt fit in almost any vehicle, and those that IIHS labels check fit could work for some children in some vehicles but do not offer a universal good fit. Lastly, IIHS says seats that earn its not recommended rating should be avoided for safety issues with their fit.

Boosters are an important safety measure for children ages 4 and older who no longer fit in harness-equipped, forward-facing child-safety seats. By raising the child up, they ensure that the car’s seat belt, designed for adults, properly fits flat across a kid’s upper thighs and snugly over the shoulder and across the chest.

In a crash, injuries from improper seat belt fit can be severe, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Damage to a child’s neck and spinal cord could result if the seat belt is not properly routed across the shoulder, and internal-organ injuries are more likely if the belt is routed across the stomach instead of the hips. IIHS reports that children ages 4 to 8 are 45 percent less likely to sustain injuries in a crash if they are in boosters than if they are using seat belts alone.

Children should ride in boosters until the belt fits properly by itself, usually until a child reaches 4 feet 9 inches tall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. IIHS, meanwhile, reports that motor vehicle deaths of children ages 4 to 8 rose to 13.8 per million children in 2016, up from 11.5 in 2012. Likewise, deaths of children ages 9 to 12 — many of whom still need boosters — rose to 12.4 per million children in 2016, compared with 9.7 in 2012.

This type of safety is affordable. The 13 new best bet models range in price from about $40 (the highback Cosco Finale and the backless Chicco GoFit) to about $150 (highback Maxi-Cosi RodiFix). Among the previously rated good fit models currently on the market, two are just $13 (the Harmony Youth Booster and the Diono Hip).

Three of the newly rated boosters earned the check fit designation, including the Harmony Folding Travel Booster (highback), Kiddy Cruiser 3 (highback) and Ride Safer Delighter Booster (backless). None has earned the not recommended badge this year, but in last year’s test, IIHS deemed the Safety 1st Summit 65 a not recommended.

The following boosters earned the best bet designation for 2017: 

  • 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)

Click here for the full list of best bet boosters.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Jennifer Geiger
News Editor Jennifer Geiger joined the automotive industry in 2003, much to the delight of her Corvette-obsessed dad. Jennifer is an expert reviewer, certified car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats — many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer Geiger

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