Gas mileage. Entertainment system. Parking ease. Paint job. The list of things to consider when buying a new car might seem as long as the miles you’ll put on your new ride during its first year. One big question for car buyers who also are parents is whether to go for a built-in booster seat or not. Then come all the little questions: Are they as safe and effective as detachable booster seats? Are they comfortable? Are they expensive?
“As the father of three young girls, I can talk about how useful [built-in booster seats] are in real life,” says Rick Lovering of Lovering Volvo in Nashua, New Hampshire. “My wife uses them and so do I.”
Built-in car seats vary from car to car, but regardless of make or model, the principal is the same.
“[The booster is] built into the car so you can use it when you need it and fold it flush with the seat instead of schlepping it from car to car,” says Lovering. “It’s one less thing you have to worry about.”
He particularly loves not having to worry about accidentally leaving a booster seat in his spouse’s car. With a built-in booster seat, the booster is always right where you left it.
Another issue to consider in the great built-in vs. detachable debate is safety—but perhaps not in the way you imagine. All booster seats are designed for keeping children safe while onboard a vehicle, but Lovering notes an advantage that built-in seats have over booster seats: they are much less likely to become loose and fly forward should disaster strike.
“In an accident, any item that isn’t secure could become a projectile,” he says.
That includes booster seats.
When buying a car and related accessories, cost is undoubtedly on your mind. Kids are already expensive (no matter how wonderful and adorable they are.) So what costs more—a built-in booster seat or a detachable one?
Lovering says that a built-in seat on the XC90, a new Volvo SUV, costs $250.
“If you shop for [detachable] seats for kids, they can easily get into that range,” he says. “It’s not that expensive of an option when you consider the overall cost of the car.”
Per the manufacturer’s website, the XC90’s booster cushion and backrest are designed for children ages 3 to 10 (specific height and weight restrictions are stated explicitly on the seat). Made from comfortable materials that are highly impact-absorbent, the seat features an adjustable backrest for your child’s back and neck. This support is critical in case of a rear-end collision. The backrest can be tilted for when your child’s ready to doze off for a while, too.
According to Lovering, the only downside to using a built-in booster is the feel of when the booster is not in use.
“I have heard that some people can feel the difference,” he says. “I honestly don’t feel it.”
Some people may notice the difference but not mind. Others may not realize that the built-in booster is even there until they read their owner’s manual.
“I’ve had customers come to me later and tell me they didn’t even realize they had it,” he says.
Overall, Lovering is a fan of the built-in booster idea.
“It gives you flexibility. It’s out of the way. You don’t even know it’s there,” says Lovering. “I’d be very hard-pressed with a reason not to [go with a built-in booster seat.”