Just as there are many options for buying rear and forward-facing car seats, there are also many options for booster seats. Booster seats come in high-back or backless versions and should be used until a child is at least 9 years old and 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
Don’t feel any urgency to move your child from a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat. You can keep your child in a forward-facing car seat until they reach the seat’s height or weight limit. One reason to delay the move is because safety seats provide more security, with five points of contact with your child's body compared to three with a booster. This means a safety seat has more points to spread crash forces if a collision occurs.
Once your child is ready to move to a booster seat, keep these tips in mind.
Low-back boosters: Also called “backless boosters,” these seats are typically lightweight and more compact. Your child’s ears should not rise above the top of the vehicle seat or head rest.
High-back boosters: Choose this option if your child’s ears rise above the top of the vehicle seat or head rest. This will help prevent whiplash in the event of a collision.
Combination seat: These seats can transform from a safety seat to a booster. It is recommended that you keep your child in a forward-facing position for as long as possible, to the highest height or weight of that position, before moving to a booster seat.
Why does my child need a booster?
If your child is not yet at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall, a booster seat will help your vehicle’s seat belt fit your child correctly. The seat belt should fit your child “belt to bone.” This means the belt will rest along your child’s chest and collar bone, and across the lap on the hip bones. It should not rest on soft parts of your child’s body, such as the neck or stomach.
Booster seats expire between six and 10 years after their manufacture date. This is because the seats are mainly made from plastics that break down and become brittle over time. Direct sunlight exposure can make them wear out faster. Never purchase a used safety or booster seat unless you know the original owner and are certain it has never been in a collision.
Be sure to register your booster seat by filling out the card that came with the seat or registering online with your car seat manufacturer. If you need help, visit the NHTSA website to find your car seat’s manufacturer and online registration page.