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Best Convertible Carseats for Extended Rear-Facing: the definitive guide for savvy shoppers!

ERF - Liam with phone and csb logoIf you’re in the market for a convertible carseat that will allow you to keep your child rear-facing for “as long as possible” – you’re in the right place! This guide will help you navigate many of the most popular options currently available in the U.S. market and help you to identify which seat(s) may in fact allow your child to stay rear-facing for as long as possible.

First, let’s define the term “Extended Rear-Facing” because that term is often thrown around loosely and to my knowledge there isn’t a general consensus in the Child Passenger Safety field of what that term means exactly. In its most basic sense, Extended Rear-Facing can be defined as use of a carseat in the rear-facing position beyond the bare minimums generally established and accepted by carseat manufacturers for forward-facing usage. Since many (but not all) convertible and combination carseats still allow toddlers as little as 12 months and 20/22 lbs. to use the seat forward-facing – you could define Extended Rear-Facing as anything beyond 12 months and 20/22 lbs.

ERF-foonf-side-viewHowever, that’s not what most parents and advocates think of when they hear the term. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until at least age 2 to turn a child forward while NHTSA and the CPS Technician Certification Curriculum define “Best Practice” as rear-facing to the limits of the carseat.

For the purposes of this guide, we will focus our attention on the convertible seats that have proven themselves to last longer than most of the seats on the market today, specifically in the rear-facing position. For the record, this isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list so there are probably a few good ERF seats that weren’t included simply because I didn’t have access to them during the project period.

Convertible seat recommendations have been sorted into two groups. The first group is a list of seats that are most likely to be outgrown by weight (at 40 lbs.) rather than by height. The second group is a list of seats with very high weight limits that are more likely to be outgrown by height. It’s up to you to try to figure out which of those two categories will accommodate your child in the rear-facing position for as long as possible.

CDC growth chart boysIf you already have your child’s stats from a recent visit to the doctor – great. If not, use the links below to the CDC Growth Charts and plot your child’s height and weight on the graph.

Boys under 2 years oldBoys over 2 years old
Girls under 2 years oldGirls over 2 years old

Keep in mind that just because a baby might be 20 lbs. at 5 months old doesn’t mean he or she will be 40 lbs. by age 2. A baby’s weight gain almost always slows down – usually by 9-12 months old as they become more mobile. However, if mom is 5’9″ and dad is 6’3″ and built like a linebacker then it’s reasonable to assume that this child’s growth pattern may continue to be way above average.

  • If your child is above the 75th percentile for height but average or below average in weight then you want to look at convertible seats in the first group because these seats aren’t likely to be outgrown by height before your child reaches the maximum rear-facing weight limit of 40 lbs. These seats in this group are also a good choice for children who have a very long torso (for example: wear pants in 12 months size but need onesies that are 18 or 24 month size).
  • If your child is above the 75th percentile for weight but average or below average in height then you might want to focus on the seats in the second group that are rated beyond 40 lbs. in the rear-facing position. 
  • If your child’s weight and height are average, slightly above average or below average, and your child doesn’t have a very long torso, then ANY of the seats on this list will last your child a very long time in the rear-facing position and you should make your decision based on all the other factors.

In all the pictures below, my beautiful, gracious and very accommodating model is 40″ tall and 34 lbs. at 4 years old. She is average (around 50th percentile) in both height and weight for a 4-year-old.

*Please note: most of the pictures purposely depict misuse because I was attempting to show how much growing room she still had height-wise. In cases where the carseat had an adjustable head rest, I raised it to its maximum height to show how much growing room there could be for a taller child. The proper placement of harness straps on a rear-facing carseat is to have the straps coming from a point that is “at” or “slightly below” the child’s shoulder level.

Convertible seats that your child won’t outgrow by height before reaching the 40 lbs. RF weight limit:

Britax ClickTight Convertibles (Marathon CT, Boulevard CT & Advocate CT)

These new CT convertibles from Britax are so tall that there is no way any child could ever outgrow them by height before reaching the 40 lbs. RF weight maximum! The Marathon CT doesn’t adjust as tall as the Boulevard CT (pictured) and Advocate CT models but is still tall enough to be a true extended rear-facing seat. We have a complete review of the Boulevard CT here

ERF - Britax Boulevard CT ERF - Britax Boulevard CT ERF - Britax Boulevard CT

  • Specs: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs.; Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., up to 49″ tall
  • Features: ClickTight installation system, no-rethread harness with 14 height positions, base with 7 recline positions, allows RF tethering, optional anti-rebound bar (ARB) will be available in early 2015
  • Pros: Easiest convertibles to install with seatbelt using CT system; CT system acts as a lockoff device; rebound management features via RF tether or ARB; various energy-absorbing features built in; doesn’t take up a lot of room front-to-back when installed RF; well padded; fits newborns well; Made in USA
  • Cons: Heavy; designed for seatbelt installations so it’s not especially LATCH-friendly; Marathon model not as tall as Boulevard and Advocate models but still tall enough to be a true ERF seat.

Chicco NextFit

Even tall, skinny kids will be able to rear-face in the NextFit until they reach the 40 lbs. weight limit. We have a complete review of the Chicco NextFit here.

ERF - Chicco NextFit ERF - Chicco NextFit ERF - Chicco NextFit

  • Specs: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs.; Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., up to 49″ tall
  • Features: SuperCinch LATCH system; no-rethread harness with 6 height positions; base with 9 recline positions; 2 position chest clip; lockoffs for seatbelt installation
  • Pros: Easiest seat to install with LATCH (up to 40 lbs.); easy seatbelt installation using lockoff; doesn’t take up a lot of room front-to-back when installed RF; can use LATCH rear-facing to the limit of 40 lbs.; extremely well padded; fits newborns very well
  • Cons: Heavy and bulky; Can’t use SuperCinch to install with LATCH once child weighs more than 40 lbs. and is forward-facing

Evenflo SureRide (aka Titan 65)

This is the rare extended rear-facing seat available for less than $100! The model pictured is the Titan 65 model with SureSafe (has premium push-on lower anchor connectors) that is available exclusively at Walmart. Evenflo does limit the child’s height to 40″ tall which is very conservative because as you can see this 40″ tall child has a mile of growing room left above her head. Still, it’s a nice seat at a great price that will get most kids to age 3-4 rear-facing.

ERF - Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65 ERF - Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65 ERF - Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65

  • Specs: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., 19-40″; Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 28-54″
  • Features: 6 sets of harness slots; SureSafe model has premium push-on lower LATCH connectors (all other models have basic hook-style connectors)
  • Pros: Fits newborns well; lightweight; budget-friendly; can use LATCH up to 50 lbs. (forward-facing), made in USA
  • Cons: Large gap between harness slots 3 and 4; deep sides make loading and unloading RF child cumbersome; continuous harness; no lockoffs for seatbelt installation; 40″ standing height limit for rear-facing is limiting

Graco Size4Me/MySize/Headwise/Fit4Me

The Size4Me and its clones (MySize, Headwise and Fit4Me) are popular mid-price-point convertible seats that are impossible to outgrow by height before reaching the 40 lbs. weight limit. We have a complete review of the Graco Size4Me here.

ERF - Graco Size4Me ERF - Graco Size4Me ERF - Graco Size4Me

  • Specs: Rear-facing 4-40 lbs.; Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., 49″ or less
  • Features: No-rethread harnes with 8 height positions, separate lower LATCH anchor connector straps for both RF & FF belt paths, premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Pros: Fits average-sized newborns well; no need to switch the LATCH connector strap from RF to FF belt paths because they give you a separate strap for each; can use LATCH rear-facing to the limit of 40 lbs.; doesn’t take up a lot of room front-to-back when installed RF
  • Cons: No lockoffs for seatbelt installation; sparsely padded; rated down to 4 lbs. but may not be a good fit for smaller newborns or preemies

Graco 4Ever All-in-One & Graco Milestone All-in-One

The Graco 4Ever All-in-One and Graco Milestone All-in-One are rear-facing/forward-facing/booster seats that work well in all modes. Both the 4Ever (pictured) and the Milestone are seats that just can’t be outgrown by height in the rear-facing position. Look how tall they are! We have a complete review of the Graco 4Ever here and a complete review of the Graco Milestone here.

ERF - Graco 4Ever  ERF - Graco 4Ever ERF - Graco 4Ever

  • Specs: Rear-facing 4-40 lbs., (Milestone starts at 5 lbs.); Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., 49″ or less
  • Features: No-rethread harness with 10 height positions, 4Ever base has 6 recline positions (3 for rear-facing), Milestone base has 4 recline positions (2 can be used for rear-facing), both models can be used as a booster when harness is outgrown, premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Pros: All-in-One (RF/FF/Booster) features grow with your child; can use LATCH rear-facing to the limit of 40 lbs.; doesn’t take up a lot of room front-to-back when installed RF
  • Cons: Heavy and bulky; No lockoffs for seatbelt installation

Maxi-Cosi Pria 70  (model without TinyFit)

Maxi-Cosi does limit the rear-facing child’s height to 40″ tall which is conservative because as you can see this 40″ tall child still has plenty of growing room left above her head. Still, it’s a nice seat with a ridiculous amount of padding that will get most kids to age 3-4 rear-facing. We have a full review of the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with TinyFit here.

ERF - Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 ERF - Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 ERF - Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 ERF - Maxi-Cosi Pria 70

  • Specs: Rear-facing 9-40 lbs., 40″ or less; Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., up to 52″
  • Features:  No-rethread harness with 9 height positions, deep head wings with Air Protect technology, premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Pros: Low sides make it convenient to load and unload child from seat; narrow; very well padded; doesn’t take up a lot of room front-to-back when installed RF; can use LATCH rear-facing to the limit of 40 lbs.; Made in USA
  • Cons: No lockoffs for seatbelt installation; headwings are deep and close together which might bother some kids who aren’t used to it; only models that come with TinyFit insert are suitable for use with newborns; 40″ standing height limit for rear-facing is limiting

Safety 1st Advance 70 Air +

Safety 1st does limit the rear-facing child’s height to 40″ tall which is very conservative because as you can see this 40″ tall child has a lot of growing room left above her head. Still, it’s a nice seat with a deep protective shell that will get most kids to age 3-4 rear-facing.

ERF - Safety 1st Advance SE 65 Air+ ERF - Safety 1st Advance SE 65 Air+ ERF - Safety 1st Advance SE 65 Air+

  • Specs: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., 40″ or less; Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., 49″ or less
  • Features: No-rethread harness with 10 height positions, 4 position base (2 positions for RF), Air Protect + technology
  • Pros: tons of RF legroom; can use LATCH to the RF weight limit of 40 lbs.; Made in USA
  • Cons: Very wide, deep sides make loading and unloading RF child cumbersome, takes up a lot of room front-to-back when installed RF; no lockoffs for seatbelt installation, 40″ standing height limit for rear-facing is limiting

 

Convertible seats with RF weight limits beyond 40 lbs. (more likely to be outgrown by height than by weight):

Diono Radian RXT/R120/Olympia

These seats all have a rear-facing weight limit of 45 lbs. but they aren’t as tall as many of the models listed above. They are still very popular ERF seats and are especially well-suited for kids who are more heavy than tall. Olympia is part of the new Diono convertible line up but it has a 45 lbs. rear-facing weight limit like the Radian R120 (pictured) and Radian RXT. We have a complete review of the Radian RXT here.

ERF - Diono Radian R120 ERF - Diono Radian R120 ERF - Diono Radian R120

  • Specs: Rear-facing 5-45 lbs., up to 44″ tall and requires at least 1.5″ of shell above head; Forward-facing 20-80 lbs., less than 57″ tall
  • Features: 5 sets of harness slots, aluminum reinforced 12 position adjustable headrest, full steel frame, allows RF tethering, folds flat for travel or storage
  • Pros: Optional Angle Adjuster (not pictured, sold separately) allows the seat to be installed more upright for older kids who have complete head and neck control; rebound management features using RF tether; low sides make it convenient to load and unload child from seat; narrow
  • Cons: Heavy; takes up a lot of room front-to-back without optional Angle Adjuster; LATCH limit for rear-facing is 35 lbs.; lacks lockoff for seatbelt installation; finicky install in some vehicles, may not fit newborns well

Diono Rainier & Pacifica

These newest convertible models from Diono add depth for increased side-impact protect and are now rated to 50 lbs. rear-facing but they aren’t any taller than the previous Radian models. Like the Radian models, the Rainier and Pacifica are a great options for ERF, especially for kids who are more heavy than tall. We have a complete review of the Diono Rainier here.

ERF - Diono Rainier ERF - Diono Rainier ERF - Diono Rainier

  • Specs: Rear-facing 5-50 lbs., up to 44″ tall and requires at least 1.5″ of shell above head; Forward-facing 20-90 lbs., less than 57″ tall
  • Features: 5 sets of harness slots, aluminum reinforced 12 position adjustable headrest, full steel frame, allows RF tethering, folds flat for travel or storage
  • Pros: Optional angle adjuster (not pictured, sold separately) allows the seat to be installed more upright for older kids who have complete head and neck control; rebound management features using RF tether; low sides make it convenient to load and unload child from seat; narrow
  • Cons: Heavy; takes up a lot of room front-to-back without optional Angle Adjuster; LATCH limit for rear-facing is 35 lbs.; lacks lockoff for seatbelt installation; finicky install in some vehicles, may not fit newborns well

Clek Foonf & Clek Fllo

The Foonf and similar Clek Fllo convertibles are highly regarded for their advanced safety features and high rear-facing weight limits. They aren’t as tall as many of the models listed above but since they are rated to 50 lbs. in the rear-facing position they are another great ERF option, especially for kids who are more heavy than tall. We have a complete review of the 2014 Clek Foonf here.

ERF - Clek Foonf ERF - Clek Foonf ERF - Clek Foonf

  • Specs: Rear-facing 14-50 lbs., 25-43”, able to sit upright alone, head is at least 1” below top of headrest; Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 30-49” tall
  • Features: 5 sets of harness slots, structural headrest, anti-rebound bar (ARB), REACT safety system, lockoffs for seatbelt installation
  • Pros: Advanced safety features, rebound management using ARB, narrow, Crypton super fabrics
  • Cons: Very heavy, pricey, LATCH limit for rear-facing is 25 lbs., current models aren’t suitable for young babies but that will change in the future when the “Infant Thingy” insert becomes available.

Looking for info on which convertible seats take up the least amount of room when installed rear-facing? Check out our popular Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison.

rear-facing in prius

Special thanks to my lovely little assistant and her mom, who is a fellow CPST-I. I couldn’t have completed this project without their help. If you’re wondering how one bribes a 4-year-old to sit and smile in carseat after carseat….

Will work for sushi - clara

 

BUYER BEWARE – Illegal “Car Safety Seats” for Children

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - death by bunniesParents – if you see something for sale online that claims to be a “child safety seat” or “booster” or “car seat” but it comes from a manufacturer that you have never heard of and it doesn’t say that it meets federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) please be suspicious and do some research. It may be a legitimate product but it may also be an illegal death trap.

Currently Amazon is FLOODED with products from China claiming to be child restraints that are being sold by 3rd party sellers. Please don’t be duped into thinking these are a safe alternative to a car seat or booster seat that meets FMVSS 213 standards. As much as the seller wants you to believe that this product is “Compact and reasonable design make it enjoy the safety of traditional child seat”, it is neither safe nor reasonable.

A few examples of what’s available through 3rd party sellers today on Amazon:

Child Safety Car Seat 3 Colors Portable /Kids/infant/children Baby Car Safety Booster Seat Cushion Multi-function Chair Auto Harness Carrier 5-15kg

Sold by ZheJiang PT Car Accessories Manufacturing Company

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - no name

Child Car Seat 6 Colors Vehienlar Thickening Seat Cover Car Portable Annbaby Child Safety Seat Infant/baby Car Seat (Dark Blue)

Sold by ZheJiang PT Car Accessories Manufacturing Company

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - vehienlar

docooler Convertible Car Safety Booster Seat Cover Cushion Harness Carrier for Baby/Kids/Infant/Child/Toddler

Sold by Docooler

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - docooler

Bluesky Home Need Child Safety Seat for Car (Auto Thick Cushion Cover Harness Protector)

Sold by Willtoo(TM)

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - bluesky

I could keep going because there are even more products than this on Amazon right now but hopefully I’ve made my point.

A few years ago Jennie got her hands on one of these types of products and did a lovely “review” of it:

YIREN-Trouble: A Review of an Illegal Chinese Car Seat

Illegal Chinese Car Seat

I know most of our readers don’t need any further convincing that putting a child in one of these contraptions in a moving car is a really, really, bad idea. But just to highlight how bad the outcome really could be – check out this video courtesy of Surrey County Council & Britax. 

Britax B-Safe 35 & B-Safe 35 Elite Infant Seat Preview

Happy Birthday B-Safe 35Greetings from the Britax launch event in NYC! Today Britax USA officially introduced the newest member of their carseat family to the world. Welcome, Britax B-Safe 35 & B-Safe 35 Elite rear-facing infant seats!

Check out yesterday’s Sneak Peek blog for all the official specs and features. Today I will focus on pictures and first impressions.

Britax B-Safe 35 Top View Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Fit

What I love:

  • Unique, center-pull lower LATCH anchor installation with premium push-on lower anchor connectors
  • SafeCell impact-absorbing technology in the base
  • Dimensions small enough to fit preemies well
  • Wide beltpath guides on carrier for easier installation without base
  • Spring-loaded adjustable base with 3 positions
  • New cinching lockoffs for seatbelt installations
  • New smaller chest clip design
  • Extra large canopy
  • Easy-to-remove cover on Elite model
  • Designed to take up less space in the vehicle
  • Made in USA, a rarity for infant seats!

Seats will be shipping in early December and should be available in stores by mid December.  Price point for B-Safe 35 is $209. Elite is $249. “Shower Collection” fashions (bright colors) will be available in early March. Oh Canada – you will be getting your new B-Safe 35 (and yes it will be rated to 35 pounds!) sometime in January!

Britax B-Safe 35/Elite Base Britax B-Safe 35/Elite Base Bottom View

Britax B-Safe 35 Base Seatbelt Lockoff Britax B-Safe 35 Lockoff Closeup

Britax B-Safe 35 Recline Angle Indicator Brtiax B-Safe 35 Elite in B-Agile Stroller

ABC Expo 2014: What’s New from Baby Trend, Chicco, Evenflo, Recaro & UPPABaby

Here’s a quick run down from ABC of some of the new and updated products that are coming soon (or already available, in some cases) from Baby Trend, Chicco, Evenflo, Recaro & UPPAbaby.

babytrend

New EZ Flex 32 Infant Seat

  • 5-32 lbs.; up to 32″ tall
  • No rethread harness
  • 4 piece insert
  • New 4 position base
  • Sleeker handle
  • BRU Exclusive
  • Going to Canada with anti-rebound bar

Baby Trend Flex 32

Baby Trend Flex 32 Base Baby Trend Flex 32 Base - LATCH Storage

Inertia Infant Seat has renamed “Kussen” and will be sold under new MÜV Brand.

muv logo

MUV Kussen - Inertia

 

 

chicco

New labels and fashions for KeyFit 30; New Chicco Bravo Stroller

Chicco - New KeyFit Marketing Chicco KeyFit 30 Chicco Bravo Stroller & KeyFit - Empire fashion   Chicco Bravo stroller - Ombra fashion closeup Chicco Bravo - Rain Chicco KeyFit 30 - Rain

NextFit Convertible with “ComfortFlex Harness Management” pads – harness strap covers for the lower portion of the 5-point harness. They keep the buckle tongues from sliding down during loading. In hot weather you can also tuck the metal buckle tongues into the top of the pad to keep them from heating up too much.

Chicco NextFit - ComfortFlex pads Chicco NextFit with ComfortFlex pads

KidFit Booster wasn’t available for viewing because it will likely be a Target Exclusive. No price point yet.

No update on NextFit going to Canada so that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

 

evenflo

New fashions and buckle pockets being added to more models.

Evenflo Symphony - Blue Evenflo Maestro with Buckle Pockets Evenflo Maestro Buckle Pockets Evenflo Tribute New Purple Fashion for SecureKid LX Evenflo Embrace 35Evenflo Collection

New Stroller Frame coming soon

New Evenflo Stroller Frame

 

recaro

New Performance Coupe Infant Seat

Recaro Performance Coupe

  • 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall
  • No rethread harness with 5 height positions
  • HERO harness technology
  • Temperature balancing fabrics and memory foam
  • Easy to remove cover

Prototype of new Easylife umbrella stroller – comes with adaptor for the Coupe infant seat, weighs just 12 lbs, and folds up tiny!

Recaro - easylife umbrella stroller

New “Plum” fashion for Performance Sport

Recaro Performance Sport - Plum

 

uppababy - logo

New fashions for MESA Infant Seat. ETA late Spring 2015.

Denny (red), Pascal (light grey) & Georgie (royal blue).

UPPAbaby MESA - Denny UPPAbaby MESA - 2015 fashions