The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published its most recent look at child safety booster seats Thursday. The seats, which provide children too big for a car seat with the right angle to fit into an adult lap and shoulder belt, are recommended until a child is 57 inches tall. For some, that could mean until they are 12 years old.
IIHS found more seats than ever earned "Best Bet" status. Britax, Evenflo, Ferrari, Graco, Harmony, Recaro and Safety 1st all had seats on the institute's "best bet" list. Both booster seats with high backs and those without backs performed well.
"Parents should have an easy time finding a top-rated booster seat since there are more this year than ever before," says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research.
A "Best Bet" booster correctly positions belts on a typical 4-to-8-year-old child in almost any car, minivan or SUV. The lap belt should lie flat across a child's upper thighs and the shoulder belt should cross over the middle of the shoulder.
The cheapest "best bet" was the Graco Connext backless seat, which costs $18. The most expensive, the Ferrari Beline SP, which has both high-back and backless modes, is $300.
Parents should not be in a hurry to move children up from a child seat to a booster. "It's best to keep kids in the rear seat in a regular child restaurant for as long as possible, up to the height and weight limits of the seat," said Jessica Jermakiah of the IIHS.
The institute said seats have made big improvements since it began testing them five years ago. In all, there are 58 seats ranked on its website, including seats that weren't new in 2013. The group tested the boosters based on how they positioned a child-sized test dummy to use a car's seat belts.
There are only two booster seats the institute warns people not to buy: The Safety 1st All-In-One and Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite. Both are made by Dorel Juvenile Group, which has several other seats on the "best bet" list.