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Why Rear-Facing Is Better: Your RF Link Guide

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Evidence-based justification for extended rear-facing

It’s all the rage among parents nowadays: extended rear-facing. If you’re turning your child to face forward before age 2, then you’re old-schooling it and increasing your child’s risk of injury in a crash. Many pediatricians still hold onto the now ancient recommendation of turning kids forward-facing at age 1 and 20 lbs., even though their own professional organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, hasn’t recommended that since before 2002. You were probably in grade school then.

Why is it so critical for kids to stay rear-facing?

When you use the carseat right, it protects them and you from potentially being forever changed if you get into a crash.

Simple Physics Lesson

A carseat will always move toward the point of impact (Newton’s 1st Law). In a frontal collision—statistically the most common type of severe/fatal crash—the entire back of a rear-facing carseat will protect the head, neck, and spine of a child as it rotates down toward the front of the vehicle. Even in a side impact, which is a more serious type of crash due to its proximity to passengers, there is usually an element of frontal movement, such as a vehicle moving forward through an intersection, as it’s hit from the side. So a rear-facing carseat will rotate down and forward, then toward the side where the impact occurs.

Click each graphic to see the motion:

rf-physics-animation ff-physics-animation

Compare this to a forward-facing child in a harnessed carseat. In a frontal crash, the carseat still rotates down and forward toward the front of the vehicle, and the child will be flung forward into the harness and forward of the carseat shell. In a side impact, again the carseat rotates down and forward toward the front of the vehicle; the child comes forward into the harness and out of the carseat shell and there is rotation toward the vehicle door where the impact occurs. Because the harness is holding only the shoulders and hips, the head, arms, and legs are flung violently forward. If the harness is loose, which is one of the most common mistakes a caregiver makes, there’s a high likelihood of the child hitting the vehicle seat in front or the side pillar. According to this study, rear-facing children 12-23 months are 5.53 times safer in a side impact than forward-facing children and there’s no indication that safety magically disappears at 24 months.

Anatomy 101

The folklore is that a child’s neck muscles aren’t developed enough to keep a baby’s neck safe in a car crash, which is why they have to face the rear of the vehicle. I suppose that’s true in a way: it does take babies time to develop their musculature so they can hold their heads up to keep their airways open. But the muscles don’t protect the fragile spinal cord, which is the bundle of nerve fibers that forms the central nervous system and is connected to the brainstem. No amount of baby push-ups will strengthen your child’s muscles to the point of protecting his spinal cord.

The bones of the spinal column are what actually protect the spinal cord and in infants and young children; they aren’t completely fused together for years. One of the most important cervical bones, the Atlas (C1), is what attaches the head to the spinal column. Drawings show where it ossifies, or fuses, at varying times: the anterior arch fuses around age 7, while the posterior neural arches fuse around age 3. Before it fuses, the Atlas and Axis (C2), the 2nd vertebra that the Atlas nestles into, are made of bone and cartilage, which is very pliable. These two vertebrae are held in place by ligaments, which are very elastic (lax) to allow the child to grow.

atlas-side-view axis-side-view simplified-upper-cervical-spine

Studies of infant cadavers have shown that vertebral columns can stretch up to 2” but that the spinal cord is damaged after only ¼”. Given that a baby’s head accounts for ¼ of its total body size versus 1/7 an adult’s size, plus the immaturity of its vertebrae and laxity of the ligaments holding those vertebrae together, rear-facing seems the obvious choice.

The child’s large head shifts the fulcrum of movement, where the head swings forward, higher, elongating the spinal column and potentially causing catastrophic damage to the spinal cord. Before age 8, this fulcrum is in the upper cervical spine, at C2-C3. After age 8, the fulcrum shifts down to C5-C6, where it stays into adulthood. When you hear the term “internal decapitation,” it encompasses this movement of the upper cervical spine since the head swinging forward must happen in order for the ligaments to stretch and pull the head from the Atlas.

Another devastating injury that doesn’t show up on x-ray is called Spinal Cord Injury without Radiographic Abnormality (SCIWORA). This is when the spinal cord stretches because of the elasticity of the ligaments and cartilage in the spinal column. An x-ray will show normal bone alignment and no fractures, but the spinal cord may be irreversibly damaged. Remember that this bundle of fibers can only stretch up to ¼” before having catastrophic damage.

The evidence is clear. Rear-facing carseats protect the most fragile part of a developing child’s body: the head and spinal column. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing to a minimum of age 2 and instructs their pediatricians to counsel parents about rear-facing to age 2 and longer as the carseat allows. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends rear-facing  as long as possible.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended since 2002 that after age 1 and 20 lbs., children should ride in a rear-facing convertible seat until reaching the weight limit of that carseat. They amended that policy in March 2011 to recommend rear-facing to age 2 or until they reach the “highest weight or height allowed” by that convertible carseat.

 

Note how the legs fly away from the back of the vehicle seat during the test. In the forward-facing seat, the properly secured dummy bends nearly in half during the crash test. Photo courtesy Kathy Weber, ret., UMTRI, and SafetyBeltSafe USA.

Note how the legs fly away from the back of the vehicle seat during the rear-facing test on the left. In the forward-facing seat, the properly secured dummy bends nearly in half during the crash test.  Photo courtesy Kathy Weber, ret., UMTRI, and SafetyBeltSafe USA.

Forward-facing children under the age of 2 are 75% more likely to be injured.  (Car Safety Seats for Children: Rear Facing for Best Protection

Here’s an article showing why children up to the age of 2 are more than 5 times safer riding rear-facing.  (Rear-Facing Car Safety Seats Getting the Message Right)

SafetyBeltSafe USA’s opinion on how long children should ride rear-facing. (How Long Should Children Ride Facing the Back of the Car?)

After reviewing studies from the U.S. and Sweden, a study published in the highly regarded British Medical Journal advises keeping children rear-facing until age 4.  (www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/jun11_2/b1994?view=long&pmid=19520728)

Leg injuries account for 28% of significant injuries faced by forward-facing children in crashes  (Jermakian, J.S., et al. “Lower Extremity Injuries in Children Seated in Forward Facing Child Restraint Systems.” Traffic Injury Prevention 8 (2007): 171-179.)

This analysis shows how leg injuries are common among forward-facing children (Bennett, T.D., et al. “Crash Analysis of Lower Extremity Injuries in Children Restrained in Forward-facing Car Seats During Front and Rear Impacts.” Journal of TRAUMA® Injury, Infection, and Critical Care 2006;61:592-597

A tightly installed rear-facing carseat allows the vehicle and carseat to absorb crash forces and increases “ride down,” the amount of time it takes a body to come to a stop in a crash.  The longer the ride down time, the less chance of injury.  (http://www.car-safety.org/rearface.html)

Rear-facing carseats provide excellent protection in side impacts as well.  Because there’s usually a vehicle moving forward, as through an intersection, that element of forward motion can easily throw a child’s head clear of the carseat if he’s forward-facing.  If rear-facing, his head will stay protected inside the carseat.  (http://www.carseatsite.com/rf.htm)

Infants and young toddlers have spines made of soft bone and cartilage that doesn’t begin to harden until around age 3.  As a result, the spinal column can stretch up to 2 inches; however, the spinal cord will rupture after being stretched after only ¼ inch.  This damage cannot be repaired.  (http://www.carseat.org/Technical/tech_update.htm#rearfacFF)

Evenflo is now requiring that children be age 2 before forward-facing in their convertible and combination carseats.
 

Approximately 75% of kids in Sweden rear-face until at least age 4.  From 1999-2006, only 4 rear-facing children under age 4 were killed in crashes and their deaths were due to circumstances unrelated to the direction the carseat was facing (fire, drowning, excessive intrusion).  During that same timeframe, 6 kids under age 4 facing forward in booster seats were killed; 3 of these crashes were potentially survivable crashes had the children been in rear-facing carseats.  (http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/jun11_2/b1994)

Anecdotal evidence suggests that infants around ages 10 mos.-18 mos. enter a fussy stage that makes it difficult to put them into any carseat, rear- or forward-facing.  Many parents prematurely switch the rear-facing carseat forward-facing thinking that the child is objecting to riding rear-facing, when the child is objecting to being restrained at all.  Visit the Car Seat Safety forums at www.car-seat.org and you’ll hear from other experienced parents regarding this phase.

The above video shows how the dummy stays contained in the seat during a rear-facing crash test.  The tape on the dummy’s head is for measurement and doesn’t affect its head during the test.

This video is the companion video to the one above and shows a side view of the crash test.  Note how little the head moves.

The above video shows a properly installed forward-facing seat.  Note the seat belt stretch and how far forward the dummy bends.

The above video from Norway shows the differences between rear- and forward-facing carseats in an animated crash.

The above video from the Buckle Up Brutus at Ohio State University demonstrates the difference between rear-facing and forward-facing in crash tests.

If you need more convincing, take it from Dr. Marilyn Bull, a noted pediatrician from one of the country’s best pediatric hospitals, Riley Children’s Hospital in Indiana. This video was produced for, and used in, the current Child Passenger Safety Technician course.

Vehicle crashes are the number 1 killer of children.  Protect your children to the best of your ability.  Follow best practice.

Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit All-in-One: Rear-Facing Space Comparison

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One of our most popular blogs is the Rear-Facing Space Comparison where we rate convertible seats based on the amount of room they take up in my vehicle compared with other seats in the group.

I was eager to add the new Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit to the comparison but I knew this was going to be more work than usual based on the many rear-facing installation options you have with this particular seat. This seat has 4 recline positions on the base that can be used to achieve an acceptable rear-facing recline position as per the angle indicator. The angle indicator is a liquid bubble level that has to be in the range of the blue line shown on the window. 4Ever Extend2Fit also has Graco’s unique 4-position legrest extension feature (truthfully there are 3 extension positions, the first position is fully retracted) AND the coveted 50 pound rear-facing weight limit.

 

I summarized my findings in the space comparison ratings but I wanted to supplement that information with the full scope of my conclusions here.

I started with the 4Ever Extend2Fit in base position #1 (most reclined), no legrest extension, head rest flush with shell. This is how the seat would be installed for a newborn or younger baby. I gained 3.5″ of room (based on the worst performing seat in the peer group). This measurement translates into a “B” rating in the comparison.

 

 

Base position #2 (more upright), no legrest extension, head rest flush with shell. This is how the seat might be installed for an older baby who has good head and neck control and can tolerate being seated in a more upright position. In this position I gained 4″ of room. This is a B+ rating in the comparison.

 

 

Base position #3 (very upright), no legrest extension, head rest fully extended. In this position the bubble level was outside of the acceptable range for rear-facing. This was NOT an acceptable installation as per the angle indicator so I’m not counting it. However, for those who are curious, it only gave me an extra half inch of room beyond what I got with the base in position #2. My measurement with the seat in this position was +4.5″ of space.

 

 

At this point, it seemed likely to me that you would only be able to use 2 of the 4 base positions in any particular vehicle to achieve an acceptable recline angle in the range allowed. But as I found out when I started to install using the legrest extension, the recline angle can change when you start to use this feature. More on that in a little while.

I went back to base position #2, extended the legrest 1 notch, head rest is still fully extended. Because I’m using the legrest extension now, I’m starting to lose space. Now I have +3.5″ (which is what I had with the seat fully reclined reclined in position #1 and no legrest extension). Again, this rates a “B” in the comparison.

 

Here we are in the same #2 base position, with the legrest fully extended and the head rest fully extended. As you can see, it’s taking up a LOT of space now. At this point I’m measuring a gain of only 1″ (based on the biggest space hogs in the peer group). In the comparison, this is a C- rating.

However, I was surprised to see the bubble level indicator in the middle of the blue line range now. When I installed using the same #2 base position without using the legrest extension, the bubble was much closer to the end of the allowable range. This made me wonder if I could get an acceptable installation using recline position #3 on the base with the legrest panel fully extended…

 

 

Final installation: Base position #3, legrest fully extended, head rest fully extended.  The liquid bubble is on the most upright end of acceptable range but it is within the range. I picked up a extra half inch of space with the base in position #3. The measurement is now +1.5″ which is a little better but still rates a C- in the comparison.

 

The other thing to keep your eye on when using the legrest extension feature is the amount of overhang allowed. When you start extending the legrest panel you increase the space between carseat and the vehicle seat and that positions the base closer to the edge of the vehicle seat cushion. Thankfully, Graco put a little blue sticker label on the edge of the base to show what the acceptable amount of overhang is. Overhang past that blue line is NOT acceptable. Too much overhang could be an issue in backseats with shallow cushions (e.g., Jeep Wranglers, some compact cars, extended cab pickup trucks, etc.). Luckily, you don’t have to use the legrest extension so you can just ignore that option if overhang becomes an issue.

 

Summary:

The Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit is a versatile 4-in-1 product with a 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit and a very unique legrest extension feature. You may use base positions 1, 2, 3 or 4 to achieve an appropriate RF recline angle as per the angle indicator but don’t expect that all 4 positions will yield an appropriate recline position in your vehicle. You may use any of the legrest panel positions rear-facing without restriction. The only rules are: make sure your recline angle is in the allowable range and make sure you don’t have too much overhang of the base.

Having so many rear-facing installation options creates more potential for finding a suitable recline angle, giving your child some extra legroom and taking up less space in your vehicle. However, the reality is that once you start using the legrest extension feature, the seat definitely takes up more front-to-back space in the vehicle. I lost 2-3″ of space in my vehicle when I extended the legrest fully and that was using the more upright #2 & #3 recline positions. The seat would have taken up even more room if I had extended the legrest in the most reclined position.

Parents who are taller than average and/or driving vehicles with limited legroom in the backseat may find that they aren’t able to take advantage of the legrest extension feature without seriously compromising the space upfront for the driver or passenger. I found it interesting that in my vehicle the less expensive Graco Extend2Fit convertible actually takes up slightly less space without the legrest extension than the 4Ever Extend2Fit model. With the legrest fully extended, both seats had the same +1.5″ measurement.

Regular Extend2Fit convertible on left; 4Ever Extend2Fit on right

 

 

 

If front-to-back space is a big issue in your vehicle, and you don’t think that you will ever be able to take advantage of the legrest extension, then you might be better off with a different convertible seat since it doesn’t make sense to pay for a feature you won’t ever use. The original Graco 4Ever All-in-One, Graco Milestone All-in-One, Graco MySize 65 convertible & Graco Contender 65 convertible are all options that did better than average in our Rear-Facing Space Comparison but don’t have the Extend2Fit legrest feature.

The Carseat Lockoff Guide

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What is a lockoff and which carseats have them?

As LATCH weight limits shrink due to federal standards, more and more carseats require using the seatbelt to install once the child reaches a certain weight. In some cases the LATCH weight limit can be as low as 25 or 30 lbs. (child weight). The problem with seatbelt installations is that most parents have no idea how to lock the seatbelts in their vehicle in order to properly install a carseat or infant seat base. Ask the average parent or caregiver what a “switchable retractor” is or a “locking latchplate” and you’ll probably get a very confused look in response.

This is why every car seat in North America should come with a built-in lockoff! If you are installing with a seatbelt instead of lower LATCH anchors and your carseat has a lockoff device – use it and you will never have to worry about LATCH weight limits or understanding pre-crash locking features on vehicle restraint systems.

Function of built-in lockoff device: A lockoff device can serve more than one function but its main purpose is to cinch or clamp the seatbelt in such a way that it cannot loosen and your tight carseat installation stays tight!  

Current list of carseats that feature lockoff(s)

2017 Best Convertible Carseats for Extended Rear-Facing: the definitive guide for savvy shoppers!

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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 22 lbs. to use the seat forward-facing – you could define Extended Rear-Facing as anything beyond 12 months and 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 three groups. The first group is a list of seats that are very tall and rated to 40 lbs. in the rear-facing position. The second group is a list of seats with higher RF weight limits but they aren’t the tallest seats on the market and most of them are likely to be outgrown by height before the weight limit is reached. The third group includes very tall seats with higher RF weight limits.

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 WHO & 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’s weight and height are average, slightly above 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 (price, features, ease of use, etc.).

In most of 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.

Tall convertible seats with 40 lbs. RF weight limit:

These seats in this group are well-suited for children who are either average height & weight for their age or more tall than heavy. If your child is at or above the 75th percentile for height but average or below average in weight, these seats will accommodate your child’s growth nicely. These seats are also excellent choices for children who carry most of their height in their torso. If your child’s weight and height are average, 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 (price, features, ease of use, etc.).

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

These ClickTight 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. And a complete review of the Marathon 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, optional anti-rebound bar is available for purchase separately, ARB models are sold with the anti-rebound bar
  • 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 & NextFit Zip

Even tall, skinny kids will be able to rear-face in the NextFit until they reach the 40 lbs. weight limit.  These models are very well padded and the Zip version has a zip-off cover for easy cleaning. 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; 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 35 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 35 lbs. rear-facing or 40 lbs. forward-facing
Evenflo SureRide (aka Titan 65)

This is the rare extended rear-facing seat available for less than $100! 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 MySize 65 (aka Size4Me)

The MySize 65, Size4Me, Head Wise & Fit4Me are all versions of the same seat. These popular convertibles are impossible to outgrow by height before reaching the 40 lbs. weight limit. They also don’t cost an arm and a leg which is great for famillies on a budget. Some models come with a “rapid-remove cover” for easy cleaning. 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 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less
  • Features: No-rethread harness with 8 height positions, premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Pros: Fits average-sized newborns well; 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; 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 22-65 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 & Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 

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, both the Pria 70 and Pria 85 models are very nice seats with a ridiculous amount of padding that will get most kids to age 3-4 rear-facing. Special edition designer fashions are available if typical carseat covers aren’t your style. We have a full review of the Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 here.

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

  • Specs: Rear-facing 9-40 lbs. (Pria 85 starts at 14 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; 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; only models that come with TinyFit insert are suitable for use with newborns; 40″ standing height limit for rear-facing is limiting

Convertible seats with higher RF weight limits

The seats in this next group are more likely to be outgrown RF by height than weight. They are better suited for children who are at or above the 75th percentile in weight but who are average or below average in height. 

Clek Foonf & Clek Fllo

The Clek Foonf and 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 so they will likely be outgrown by height before the weight limit is reached. However, since they are rated to 50 lbs. in the rear-facing position they are a great ERF option, especially for kids who are more heavy than tall. We have a complete review of the Clek Foonf here. And a complete review of the Clek Fllo 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, Foonf LATCH limit for rear-facing is 25 lbs., not suitable for young babies unless you purchase the additional “Infant Thingy” insert.

Diono Radian RXT & R120

The Diono Radian RXT & R120 models both have a rear-facing weight limit of 45 lbs. but they aren’t as tall as many of the models listed in the first group. They will likely be outgrown by height before the weight limit is reached. They are still very popular ERF seats but are especially well-suited for kids who are more heavy than tall. 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

This convertible model from Diono add depth for increased side-impact protect and is rated to 50 lbs. rear-facing. However, it isn’t any taller than the previous Radian models. Like Radian, the Rainier is a great option for ERF but will likely be outgrown by height before the weight limit is reached. These seats are best suited 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

Very tall convertible seats that also have high RF weight limits

The seats in this last group offer the best extended rear-facing opportunities to children at the top of the growth charts in both height and weight.

Graco Extend2Fit

Extend2Fit is a convertible seat from Graco with a unique legrest extension feature which can provide additional legroom for an older rear-facing child if you have enough space in your backseat to accommodate that (it does take up more room when legrest is extended). Extend2Fit is very tall and rated to 50 lbs. in the rear-facing position, making it one of the best choices currently for kids who are both very tall and very heavy. The child outgrows this seat rear-facing when the top of their head is 1″ from the plastic adjuster on the top of the headrest or when they reach 50 lbs. The same child modeled this seat but these photos were taken a year and a half after the others so she is obviously taller and a little heavier. She is 37 lbs. and 43″ tall in these pics. As you can see, she still has plenty of growing room left in the rear-facing position. 

Graco Extend2Fit with full legrest extension Graco Extend2Fit - height room RF Graco Extend2Fit - height at max setting

  • Specs: Rear-facing 4-50 lbs., head at least 1” below plastic adjuster at top of headrest; Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less
  • Features: No-rethread harness with 10 height positions, 6 recline positions on base (4 for RF; 3 for FF; position #4 can be used RF or FF) , 4-position legrest extension (for RF use only), premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Pros: Best-in-class legroom for older kids when legrest is extended; can use LATCH rear-facing to 45 lbs.; doesn’t take up a lot of room front-to-back when installed RF without extending the legrest, fits average-sized newborns well.
  • Cons: No lockoffs for seatbelt installation; takes up more room front-to-back when installed RF with legrest extended.

Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit

4Ever Extend2Fit All-in-One is a new rear-facing/forward-facing/booster seat that works well in all modes. This 4Ever model offers Graco’s unique legrest extension feature which can provide additional legroom for an older rear-facing child if you have enough space in your backseat to accommodate that (it does take up more room when legrest is extended). 4Ever Extend2Fit is very tall and rated to 50 lbs. in the rear-facing position, making it one of the best choices currently for kids who are both very tall and very heavy. A child outgrows this seat rear-facing when the top of their head is 1″ from the plastic adjuster on the top of the headrest or when they reach 50 lbs. The same child modeled this seat but these photos were taken 2 years after the original photos so she is taller and heavier. In these 4Ever Extend2Fit photos she is 42 lbs. and 44.5″ tall. As you can see, she still has plenty of growing room left in the rear-facing position. 

  • Specs: Rear-facing 4-50 lbs., head at least 1” below plastic adjuster at top of headrest; Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less
  • Features: No-rethread harness with 10 height positions, 6 recline positions on base (4 for RF; 2 for FF), 4-position legrest extension (for RF use only), premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Pros: All-in-One (RF/FF/Booster) features grow with your child; best-in-class legroom for older kids when legrest is extended; doesn’t take up a lot of room front-to-back when installed RF without extending the legrest, fits average-sized newborns well.
  • Cons: Heavy & bulky; rear-facing latch weight limit is 35 lbs. (over 35 lbs. must install with seatbelt); no lockoffs for easier seatbelt installation; takes up more room front-to-back when installed RF with legrest extended.

  

 

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.

 

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 child to sit and smile in carseat after carseat….

Will work for sushi - clara

Updated: February, 2017