The best features to look for in car booster seats will depend very much on the stage of growth of the child for whom it is being purchased. There are many styles and a couple of different types to accommodate children at different stages. Since a safety device of some kind will have to be used in the vehicle from infancy until the child reaches the weight of about 100 pounds, it is best to plan ahead and look for flexibility and a seat that will fulfill the family’s needs for the longest amount of time.
Smart shoppers will start looking at booster seats before the child reaches 20 pounds in weight or about one year of age. Most convertible or 3-in-1 booster seats can accommodate children beginning at that weight and going up to around 100 pounds. These seats are almost always forward-facing seats and are meant to be used once the child has outgrown the rear-facing car seat.
While a child weighs between 20-65 pounds or ages 1-3, a five-point safety harness is necessary to properly ensure the child’s safety. The convertible booster seat should have this feature. This is the first phase after the rear-facing car seat.
Smaller children need adequate head protection while riding in a vehicle so the booster seat should have a designated head-rest that is either removable or not so restrictive that it causes discomfort for a growing child. Since children also like to sleep in cars, it should provide support when the child is sleeping and the head lolls to one side.
The second stage of booster seat use will start once the child reaches around 65 pounds in weight. The five-point safety harness will no longer fit the child so it must either be removable or fit close enough to the back of the seat that it does not cause discomfort.
During this stage, the car safety belt will be used with the booster seat. It is important to closely examine the points of contact with the seat belt to make sure the booster seat won’t easily be damaged by regular use. The belt should not rub against fabric but hard plastic for best durability.
The final stage of booster seat usage will begin once the child becomes uncomfortable or feels closed in by the high back of the seat. This generally occurs when the child weighs approximately 80 pounds. At this point, the booster seat should have the capability of functioning as a backless booster.
What is important in this stage is that the booster seat be appealing and light weight as well as still being able to secure the child with proper safety belt fit. It is important that the child like the backless booster seat and be able to take ownership of it. It should be easy to carry and properly place in the car so the child can do it.
There are many different styles of booster seats and the majority of them are not the 3-in-1 style. To purchase a different booster seat for each stage would cost between $30-100 each. The 3-in-1 convertible type ranges in price between $100 and $300. Choosing a convertible booster seat will save time and money in the long-run.