Types of Booster Seats Posted in: Booster Seats
Are there different types of boosters? Which type of booster is right for my child? Which type is right for my vehicle?
There are three different types of booster seats: Backless boosters, High-Backed boosters, and Combination seats. Read on for a description of each. Also note the Booster Warnings section at the bottom of this page for general information. Of course you should always read both your booster seat instruction manual and your vehicle owner’s manual before installing or using a booster.
These are specialized cushions children sit on. The booster raises the child up off the vehicle seat, leading to a better seat belt fit. Backless boosters all have seat belt guides which keep the seat belt over the correct place on the child’s body. Sometimes armrests serve as the seat belt guides, other seats use metal tubes or rings. In this photo, you can see the seat belt runs through two red rings on either side of the booster.
- Lightweight, compact, and usually inexpensive…so perfect for playdates and travel.
- Often preferred by older children as they appear less “babyish”
- Optional shoulder belt adjuster guide. However, if the shoulder belt is not scratching the child’s neck, it’s not necessary to use the belt guide.
Note: The vehicle seat MUST come up to your child’s ears in order to use a backless booster. This is because the top of the ears is the same height as the bottom of the skull, which needs protection in a crash. If the seat back does not come up to the top of the ears/bottom of the skull, the child is more likely to suffer whiplash injuries in a crash. If your child’s ears come up past the vehicle seat, he should use a high-back booster, where the high back of the booster itself will prevent whiplash.
High Back Boosters (BPB/Combo)
There are two types of High Back boosters: Belt Positioning Boosters (BPB) and Combination Seats.
Belt Positioning Boosters (BPB): Like a backless booster but also has a back and head support which goes up past the child’s ears. Normally used as a high-back booster, many of these models also allow you to remove the back, turning the seat into a backless booster – this option is very helpful for travel and for storage.
Combination: Functions either as a car seat with a 5-point harness for children up to at least 40 pounds OR a belt positioning booster for kids over 40 pounds (you simply remove the harness and use the vehicle’s safety belt to secure the child). The back is usually not removable on these models.
- A high-back booster with an adjustable headrest will usually give the best positioning of the shoulder belt.
- Provides necessary head support in vehicles with low seat backs (backless boosters cannot do this, as mentioned in the Note above).
- Better than a backless booster at keeping a sleeping child placed properly in the safety belt.
- The results of a large study suggest that the effectiveness of booster seats does not vary by the type of booster – high back or backless.
- Some will argue that this study does not reflect the variety of high back boosters currently available – with some having significant side wings that simply weren’t available when this study was being conducted.
- If a high back booster is going to be safer than a backless booster, it would likely be the high back that has the deepest wings along the head and chest – which would decrease the chances of the head and chest contacting hard structures in the car. The other feature that might make one high back booster safer than another is rigid LATCH – which would prevent the lateral movement of the booster in a side impact, and thereby stand a better chance at keeping the child’s body better contained by the shell of the booster.
- Make sure the seat belt contacts your child’s shoulders and chest. If the seat belt is not making this contact, try a different booster that might improve the belt position, or try a different spot in the car where the seat belt geometry might allow for a better fit.
- Make sure the lap belt is resting low and flat on the top of the child’s thighs. If the booster places the lap belt on your child’s stomach, find a different booster seat.
- When selecting a high-back booster, make sure to choose one with shoulder belt guides that allow the shoulder belt to slide freely. Some shoulder belt guides limit the in and out of the shoulder belt – when the child leans forward, the shoulder belt pulls forward, but when the child leans back the shoulder belt does not go back in and therefore stays very loose. This is dangerous.