Since 2009, the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), has been annually releasing their booster ratings, based primarily on fit of the 6 year old dummy, and, as we all know, fit is the best indication of performance. No matter how much bling your booster has, if it doesn’t place the seatbelt properly on your child, it can’t do its job. For a quick review, let’s look at what a seatbelt should look like on a child with an excellent booster and belt fit.
Markers of a poor booster fit include a lap belt that is either too high on the tummy (putting the organs and spine at risk) or too low on the thighs (and yes, there is such a thing as too low!). You may also see a shoulder sash that comes off the edge of the child’s shoulder, or touches the child’s neck, or hovers in front of the child’s chest instead of crossing the torso firmly and evenly. To understand more about why it is so crucial that children who are at least 5, have outgrown their harnessed seats, and do not yet fit an adult belt safely continue to use belt positioning boosters until they are 10-12 years of age, read here for the science! And just what DOES a big kid in a booster look like? Is that even realistic? Read here for more information on very big kids in boosters! Not sure if your younger Little is even ready for the booster? Read here to make that call.
What Does The Rating Mean?
There are some things you need to consider before reading the evaluations.
1. Keep Calm
2. Don’t Panic
3. Keep using your booster for now, even if it’s not on the best bet list!
IIHS tests the fit against the Hybrid III 6 year old child dummy. While crash test dummies do an excellent job mimicking statistical generalities, they are not representative of individual children. While a booster may not give a great fit on the dummy, or even on a particular real child, it might give a GREAT fit on your child, and that’s what matters. Keep in mind this is NOT a crash test. All seats on the list have been self-certified as passing the stringent FMVSS 213 requirements for belt positioning boosters.
If you read this article, review the list, examine the fit of your specific child, and realize that maybe it’s not ideal, you may wish to consider purchasing another booster. At that point, reviewing our list of recommended high back and backless boosters might help you organize your shopping list.
The good news? Nearly 3 quarters of the 41 seats IIHS reviewed made the ‘best bet’ list. CSFTL’s collective hat is off to you, IIHS. We truly believe it was your positive influence in the industry that gave rise to so many well designed boosters at such a variety of price points. Compare that to the 2009 report, in which not even a sixth of the boosters evaluated earned that illustrious rating.
The IIHS breaks down its ratings into four groups: Best Bet, Good Bet, Check Fit and Not Recommended. While we again remind you that none of this matters if YOUR child achieves a good belt fit in the specific booster, we feel that the short IIHS “Not Recommended” booster seat list is well-chosen and worthy of the designation.
Note: The Not Recommended list mentioned here is developed by IIHS and refers only to booster seats.
*The Dream on Me Turbo Booster has no relation to the Graco TurboBooster, another very well designed seat with a similar name
The above are only the newly evaluated seats. A complete list of all seats current and retired can be found at www.iihs.org/boosters
Not Recommended seats routinely provide a poor belt fit. IIHS believes they should be avoided.
The Safety 1st Alpha Omega/Alpha Omega Elite/All-in-One has consistently been featured in the not recommended list since 2009. This is nothing new and we at CSFTL are urging Safety 1st to either redesign or completely discontinue this seat.
2014 IIHS Not Recommend Boosters
Kids Embrace Batman backless booster
Safety 1st Summit 65 10/2015 *
Eddie Bauer Highback Deluxe 65*
The addition of the Olympia and Pacifica to the list is sure to be a disappointment to the folks at Diono. However, at CSFTL, we have evaluated the fit with our own collection of children and training dolls and are not at all surprised by the inclusion. The shoulder belt generally ends up hovering in front of the child’s chest (or even the child’s face), rather than crossing the chest and shoulder firmly.
The Kids’ Embrace booster issue was also not a particular surprise to us. We touched on it in our review. We all noted that the lap belt was too low on the child’s thighs, which increases the risk of injury.
Check Fit boosters have varied results depending on the size and shape of child and the kind of vehicle.
Only a small handful of seats remain in this category. We at CSFTL have seen each of the mentioned seats successfully provide a good belt fit on specific children, so, again, checking the fit and not dismissing it entirely is paramount.
You may have noticed that the Safety 1st Store ‘n Go, when used in backless mode, garners a ‘check fit’ rating, while the Store ‘N Go purchased as a backless only earns a best bet rating. This is because the shoulder belt adjuster clip, which comes standard in the backless only mode but must be ordered separately for the full seat, makes a sufficient difference in the fit in some vehicles that IIHS felt it warranted its own rating.
2014 IIHS Check Fit Boosters
Dream On Me Coupe Booster (backless)
Dream On Me Turbo Booster (backless mode)
Eddie Bauer Deluxe Belt-Positioning Booster (backless mode)
Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 with Safety Surround (backless mode)
Harmony Folding Travel Booster (highback)
Maxi-Cosi Rodi AP (backless mode)
Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 (backless mode)
Safety 1st Store ’n Go (backless mode)
Good Bets provide an acceptable belt fit for most children in most vehicles.
This is also a very short list. Diono will be pleased that one of their three new seats made it onto the good bet list. The new Diono Rainier has an adjustable headrest, to which the shoulder belt guide is attached. This allows the shoulder belt to be positioned correctly and furthermore adjusted based on the size of the child. The Diono Rainier does have other significant drawbacks in booster mode, which we will cover in an upcoming review. However, if your child does happen to meet all of the fit qualifications for use, it’s quite likely the belt fit will be good.
2014 IIHS Good Bet Boosters
Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1 (highback mode)
Cybex Solution Q-Fix (highback)
Diono Rainier (highback)
Best Bets provided a good belt fit for almost all children in almost all vehicles.
This is by far the most top-heavy section, with a whopping 25 out of the 41 new seats reviewed for 2014. There really aren’t any surprises on it. We’re thrilled to see so many options for parents. In addition, Graco is to be commended for having so many new and well designed seats on the best bet list. Britax also upgraded the design of their combination seats, moving them all into the Best Bet category.
2014 IIHS Best Bet Boosters
Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1 (backless mode
Baby Trend Hybrid No Back (backless)
Britax Frontier 90 (highback)
Britax Pinnacle 90 (highback)
Britax Pioneer 70 (highback)
BubbleBum Neon (backless)
Cybex Solution X-Fix (highback)
Diono Solana (backless)
Dream On Me Turbo Booster (highback mode)
Eddie Bauer Deluxe Belt-Positioning Booster (highback mode)
Evenflo Chase (highback)
Evenflo Symphony 65 (highback)
Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 (backless mode)
Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 (highback mode)
Graco 4Ever All-in-1 (backless mode)
Graco 4Ever All-in-1 (highback mode)
Graco Milestone All-in-1 (highback)
Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 with Safety Surround (highback mode)
Kids Embrace Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (highback)
Maxi-Cosi Rodi AP (highback mode)
Maxi-Cosi RodiFix (highback)
Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 (highback mode)
RECARO Performance BOOSTER (highback)
Safety 1st Store ’n Go (highback mode)
Safety 1st Store ’n Go No-Back (backless)
Do you have a question or concern about your booster? First, read this guide to fitting your booster correctly. Then, keep using the one you own, and make an appointment with a Child Passenger Safety Technician today to help you evaluate the belt fit. If it’s an urgent concern, feel free to contact us via the contact us button on this website, or through any of our social media channels.
This article contains our summary of the IIHS 2014 Booster Evaluations. For more information and to view the full report, please visit http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/child-boosters.
*October 15, 2015 Correction and Update:
The IIHS sent CSFTL, Inc notice that two boosters from Dorel Juvenile had been incorrectly assigned a ‘best bet’ status when they in fact should have been qualified as ‘not recommended’. We have updated the information in this article to reflect their status change.
This is consistent with our findings when we reviewed the seat (alternately known as the Safety 1st Summit 65 and the Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65) here. The shoulder belt created a poor fit in the models, and thus we at CSFTL, Inc. decided not to recommend the seat for general use. We are pleased to see IIHS update their recommendations to reflect what we found to be an issue.