Extended Rear Facing – What’s all the fuss about?
Every parent wants their child to be as safely secured as possible when travelling in their vehicle. In addition, the use of child car seats is a legal requirement in most countries.
However, as we've pointed out before, there is a difference in many US States between what the law requires and recommended best practice. This is particularly the case when it comes to rear facing car seats and has left many parents confused. To confuse matters further, many car seat manufacturers are making extended rear facing car seats that can be used in the rear facing position for longer.
Should parents now buy extended rear facing as opposed to a regular rear facing seat? If you've been left wondering about this topic and how long to keep your child rear facing then please read on!
What is Extended Rear Facing and why is it important?
An extended rear facing car seat allows your child to stay in a rear facing position for longer than a standard car seat. Rear facing is widely recognized amongst car seat safety advocates as the safest position for your young one and we recommend that children should be kept in this position as long as possible. Only extended rear facing car seats will allow you to do this.
Extended rear facing car seats have higher weight and height limits so that your baby doesn't grow out of the seat as quickly as in a standard rear facing seat.
The AAP guidance is primarily based on a 2007 University of Virginia study finding that children under two are 75 percent less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries in a crash if they are facing the rear. However we recommend going beyond the AAP guidance and using an extended rear facing car seat to maximise the length of time your child stays in this position, ideally at least until they are four.
The one minute video below vividly shows you the difference a rear facing seat makes compared to a forward facing seat in the event of a crash. The recommendation at the end is to keep your child rear facing as long as possible and at least until they are four years old.
The important thing to remember is that the body is much more protected in the event of a crash if it is rear facing compared to forward facing. You are significantly improving your child's safety by keeping them rear facing for as long as possible.
This is supported by the fact that Sweden have the world's lowest highway fatality rate for children under six. Although this is partly due to Sweden's exceptional road safety record it is worthy of note particularly for those living in the U.S.
The U.S. continues to hold the record for the highest highway fatality rate, which won't be helped by the fact that children move to forward facing generally much earlier. Indeed, in the U.S. use of extended rear facing seats is not the norm but this needs to change if their car seat safety statistics are to improve.
What to look for in an Extended Rear Facing Car Seat
The weight limit of the car seat is the key feature to look for to identify an extended rear facing seat. For instance, most rear facing infant car seats have very low weight limits between 30-35lbs. Some babies will reach this before they are even one year old at which point you will need to buy a new seat.
Many Convertible car seats have slightly higher rear facing weight limits than infant car seats up to around 40lbs.
- However, extended rear facing seats will accommodate children up to 50lbs in the rear facing position. This is the minimum weight that we recommend you should look for in a convertible car seat. We have picked out our recommended options that meet this minimum weight criteria below.
The other feature that sets apart an extended rear facing car seat from a regular one is the maximum height of your child the seat can accommodate.
As with weight limits, most infant (rear facing only) car seats have low height limits compared to convertible car seats. A height limit of 29-32 inches is common whilst with standard convertible car seats you will usually get slightly higher, 37-40 inches.
- However, an extended rear facing car seat will have a higher height limit and you should aim for 43-44 inches as a minimum. Our selection of seats below meet this criteria.
Best Extended Rear Facing Car Seats
The Clek Foonf is a premium convertible car seat featuring extended rear facing up to 50lbs. The Canadian car seat manufacturer Clek makes seats that are stylish and extremely robust and have high-tech safety features. For example, the Foonf features rigid lower LATCH connectors and an anti-rebound bar.
The seat can be used rear facing for children from 14-50lbs in weight and 25-43" in height. Furthermore it can be used forward facing for children 20-65lbs and 30-49" in height.
NHTSA Ease of Use Ratings - Clek Foonf (2012 model)
- Premium quality plush fabric - this is a luxury seat.
- Comfortable, stylish and very solid convertible car seat.
- Rigid lower LATCH connectors and anti-rebound bar included.
- Lets you keep your child rear facing for longer than most other car seats available in the US (up to 50lbs and 43" in height).
- The seat is tall (26.5" shell height with headrest fully extended) and therefore your child is unlikely to outgrow it in height before they reach the weight limits.
- As confirmed in the NHTSA ease of use rating for the 2012 model of this seat, installation is not particularly easy. The installation is complicated and its therefore important to read and follow the instructions or get some help from an expert so you know how to do this properly.
- LATCH weight limits are lower than the weight limits for securing with the seatbelt and so you must switch to using the seatbelt for installation once your child has reached this limit (25lbs for rear facing and
- Can't be used for newborns or small babies without purchasing the Clek Infant Thingy (sold separately).
- The seat is very heavy (38lbs including base and anti-rebound bar), however this is to be expected with such a robust convertible car seat.
The Diono Rainier has the highest weight limits of convertible car seats we've found. The seat can be used for children weighing 5-50lbs and up to 44" in height rear facing and up to a massive 90lbs forward facing!
NHTSA Ease of Use Ratings - Diono Rainier All-In-One
- Solid steel frame construction and aluminium reinforced sides.
- Energy absorbing EPS foam in headrest and torso.
- Infant body support cushions and memory foam for comfort.
- SuperLATCH™ connectors with Secureweave™ webbing.
- 12 position headrest
- Lets you keep your child rear facing for longer than most other car seats available in the US (up to 50lbs and 44" in height).
- The seat is tall (25" shell height with headrest fully extended) and therefore your child is unlikely to outgrow it in height before they reach the weight limits.
- Can be tethered rear facing.
- Folds flat for storage.
- The seat is very heavy, however this is to be expected with such a robust convertible car seat.
- No re-thread harness
- No built in lock off for seatbelt installation
- LATCH weight limits are lower than the weight limits for securing the seat with the seatbelt. You must switch to securing the seat with the seatbelt when your child reaches 35lbs in the rear facing position and 40lbs in the forward facing position (including using the tether).
- Fitting can be difficult in some vehicles and may require a Diono Angle Adjuster (sold separately)
If the seats above are outside your budget then Graco have solved this problem for you with their great value Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat. Not that this seat is inferior to the other more expensive extended rear facing seats. Indeed, the quality of this seat and ratings given by customers and experts is very high.
As with the other seats, the Graco has a weight limit for rear facing of 50lbs. It can also be converted and used up to 65lbs forward facing. In addition, it incorporates a three position sliding tray that extends with your child's growing legs for comfort.
a home run for Graco! A top choice for extended rear-facing.
NHTSA Ease of Use Ratings - Graco Extend2Fit
- Excellent value at under $200.
- Two cup holders
- Steel reinforced frame.
- InRight LATCH connectors
- Easy to install.
- No re-thread harness
- Six position recline and ten position headrest.
- FAA Approved for use on aircraft.
- No seatbelt lock-offs for seat belt installation.
- The level indicator on the seat to confirm it is installed level is only on one side.
- Harness strap covers cannot be used in forward facing mode.
- LATCH weight limit is slightly lower (45lbs) than if using the seatbelt installation for rear facing (50lbs).