When assessing booster fit, ask these key questions.
- Does the booster seat position the shoulder belt across the clavicle/collar bone, about midway between the neck and shoulder?
- Does the booster seat position the lap belt low and flat across the hips/top of the thighs?
- Can the child comfortably bend her legs over the front of the booster without slouching to do so?
- Does either the booster seat or vehicle head restraint provide some support behind the child's head?
- Is your child comfortable and not tempted to move the belts or themselves out of position after a period of time?
All states have laws for the use of child restraints, but some are stricter than others. Currently, most states have laws that cover children up until age 7, but many others don't require child restraint use above the age of 5. Variations and confusion in booster seat state laws, seat cost and inconvenience, and child discomfort are reasons that children 5- through 7-years old are not always restrained in booster seats—but they should be as they can help reduce injuries in a crash.
Consumer Reports recommends booster seats be used until the child can comfortably and safely fit the vehicle belts alone. If you're unsure if your child fits the vehicle belts without a booster, ask the same questions as above but without the use of the booster.
To provide the best protection, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends using a booster seat for children until they are at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. Also, all children under age 13 should ride in the rear seat.
For more information on how to choose the right infant, convertible, or booster seats, see our latest Ratings and buying advice. For more on driving with kids, see our Kids and Car safety special section.