Which Booster Car Seat?

11 March 2014

In my last post, I shared that my twins were rapidly outgrowing their Britax Marathon convertible seats and would need to move into booster car seats before the fall. And with that knowledge comes the question "which booster car seat is the best for us?"

Choosing Booster Car Seat 101

  1. There are 2 main types of booster car seats - harnessed and non-harnessed. The harnessed ones have shoulder harnesses for a 5-point fit while the non-harnessed do not. Under the non-harnessed category, you also have the highbacks and the backless. I prefer the harnessed because my girls are on the small side even though they are tall. Harnessed seats are recommended for kids under 40lbs. 
  2. Check the current list of Best Bets as tested by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). This is important because there are some popular brands that have been on the best bet list for a longtime but fell off the list in 2013. The Britax models I would have normally gone for, were rated "Check Fit"
  3. Check the ease of use ratings from the NHTSA. Because if you've ever sprained a thumb and twisted your back after spending an hour trying to wrangle a car seat into the latch position, you know how important ease of installation is.
  4. Check if it's available in Canada... yeah! Good time to remember it's not one big, happy, North American family. Some US car seats are illegal in Canada
  5. Check for price and the extra conveniences like cup holders and armrests

This exercise led me to a fairly short list of 3-in-1 and combination car seats with price points that fit every budget. I'm still a little bummed about having to exclude the Britax family of seats so I'll be checking their IIHS rating again before I pull the trigger though the Evenflo Maestro is looking pretty good.   (Was recalled a few weeks after I wrote this. Firmly back on the Britax wagon!)

Note: Most of the seats are available in more than one Canadian retailer. I just chose the first one that popped up in my search.

3-in-1: The 3 in 1 car seats can be used in 3 different  install positions - rear-facing, forward-facing and booster. This is like a convertible-booster combination seat

Combination car seats can be used in 2 different  install positions - forward-facing and booster. They are also referred to as harnessed boosters as they will come with a 5 point harness and are good from 25lbs up.

Boosters: There are 2 types of booster car seats - harnessed and belt-positioning. All harnessed boosters are belt positioning boosters but the reverse is not the case. Kids have to be at least 40lbs to use belt positioning boosters

Air plane use: Most combination booster seats are approved for airplane use in the harnessed configuration.

(Check out the Britax website for a more insightful description of the two type of boosters)

Britax also explains the different types of side impact protection very well on this page

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