What Do I Mean by Best Rear Facing Convertible Seat?
This means trying to find out which seat has the combination of maximum height and weight limits that best suit your child’s body shape. Some are better for taller kids and others are better for heavy kids. In this post, I will give you the technical information that you need to make the right decision for your child.
Of course, if you are buying a convertible car seat for your newborn child (or even a 1 year old child), you won’t necessarily know how tall or heavy they are going to be when they are 3 or 4 years old. You should, however, be able to make a pretty good guess though based upon the physique of the child’s parents and any older siblings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children should remain in rear facing car seats until they are at least 2 years.
These are not guidelines that have been plucked out of thin air. They are, in fact, based upon respectable scientific studies into the relative safety of rear facing car seats as against forwards facing car seats.
In short, the US research (that simply confirms previous Swedish research) shows that kids aged 1 and above are more than 5 times safer in rear facing seats.
Since the AAP and NHTSA have raised awareness of the massive safety benefits of extended rear-facing, all of the major child car seat manufacturers have sought to manufacture products that can be used in the rear-facing position for as long as possible.
Many of the convertible car seats that are available on the US market have such generous rear-facing child height and weight limits that almost any child can remain in the rear-facing position until the age of 4, provided you choose the correct seat at the outset for your child’s body shape.
Sadly, road traffic collisions remain the biggest cause of deaths amongst US children aged 1 and above. Extended rear facing is just one very simple and effective way that you can keep your child as safe as possible on the road.
What Height / Weight Limits Should I Be looking for?
The logical starting point is to consider the available age/height/weight data in relation to American children, with the aim to find a seat that will probably allow your child to remain rear-facing until the age of 4 years.
All of the data below comes from the CDC website and relates to boys and girls between the 5th and 95th centiles. Note: some of the numbers have been rounded up or down slightly for ease of reading.
Boys at 4 years of age:
Height range: 38 to 43 inches
Weight range: 30 to 45 pounds
Girls at 4 years of age:
Height range: 37 to 42 inches
Weight range: 28 to 44 pounds
For the purposes of this post, I am going to discount any seat that does not allow a child on the 95th centile to remain rear-facing until they are at least 4 years of age.
Based upon the CDC data, this means that any seat must have a maximum rear-facing weight limit of at least 45 pounds and a rear-facing height limit of at least 43 inches.
There may well be other convertible car seats that would allow your particular child to remain rear-facing until they are aged 4 years or over (perhaps because they are very tall, but slim and light), but the seats listed below are considered by me to be the best within this category simply because they can accommodate almost all children up until the age of 4 years.
The 5 Top Convertible Seats for Extended Rear-Facing
#1 & #2 – The Clek Foonf & Clek Fllo Seats
The Clek Foonf and Fllo Convertible Car Seats boast the highest rear-facing weight limits on the market; namely 50 lbs, with a height limit of 43 inches (provided that the top of the head must be at least 1 inch below the top of the headrest).
In reality, your child is likely to outgrow the seat by weight long before they exceed the maximum height limit, but they should reach 4 years of age before that stage according to the CDC data.
If your child is likely to be heavy for their age, but likely to be of average to small height, then you may be able to take full advantage of the very generous weight limit.
Please note that this seat is NOT suitable for newborns UNLESS you buy the Clek Infant-Thingy Insert, which makes it suitable for use from 5 lbs upwards, Without the infant insert, the usable weight limits are 14 to 65 lbs.
Both of the Clek convertible car seats are quite expensive, but in return you get some pretty impressive safety features, including a metal substructure, 3 layers of energy-absorbing foam, and an anti-rebound bar.
They are also 2 of the slimmest convertible car seats that you can buy (just 17 inches across), which means that you would almost certainly be able to fit 3-in-a-row in a standard family-sized vehicle.
Video Comparison Review of the Foonf and Fllo Seats:
Note: The Clek Fllo is the younger sister to the Clek Foonf convertible car seat. It offers a lighter, more compact, and slightly cheaper alternative to the Foonf.
#3 – The Graco Extend2Fit SeatsThe Graco Extend2Fit convertible car seats also boast the highest rear-facing weight limits on the market; namely 50 lbs, with a height limit of 49 inches (provided that the top of the head must be at least 1 inch below the plastic headrest adjuster).
You will note that the Graco Extend2Fit has a significantly higher maximum child height limit than the Clek seats (6 inches more), subject to the caveat in relation to the top of the head position.
The other major plus point in favour of the Extend2Fit seats is that they are much cheaper than the Clek seats.
They also have multiple recline positions, a steel reinforced frame, and LATCH connectors.
They do not, however, come fitted with an anti-rebound bar.
Video Review of the Graco Extend2Fit Seat by “Baby Gizmo”
#4 – The Diono Radian RXT Seat
The Diono Radian RXT has been on the market for many years and has proved to be very popular amongst parents. Although Diono have introduced newer alternative convertible car seats onto the market, they have never discontinued the Radian RXT – presumably because is continues to sell in huge numbers.
The latest version (shown above) looks a lot more modern and sleek than the original model.
The rear-facing weight limit is 45 lbs and the height limit is 44 inches (provided that the seat shell must be at least 1.5 inches above the child’s head).
It comes with the sort of safety features that one expects to find on a premium car seat, including steel reinforced frame and impact protection systems.
It is also a very slim seat, measuring just 17 inches across.
Although it is considered to be a convertible car seat, it can also be used as a harness to booster seat as your child gets older, since the overall forwards-facing weight limit is 80 lbs (120 lbs in booster mode) and the overall height limit is 57 inches.
It is usually priced somewhere between the Clek seats and the Graco Extend2Fit seats and, when you take account of its extended lifespan, it represents excellent value for money.
#5 – The Diono Rainier Seat
The Diono Rainier is one of the newer convertible car seats and many thought that its introduction would spell the end of the road for the Radian RXT. This is not proved to be the case and the Rainier has some significant differences to the Radian RXT.
One major difference is that it comes fitted with added side impact protection head wings and higher weight limits. The height limits are the same as the Radian RXT.
The trade off for these extra features is that it is wider than the Radian RXT and bulkier all around.
The rear-facing weight limit is 50 lbs and the height limit is 44 inches (provided that the seat shell must be at least 1.5 inches above the child’s head).
Just like the Radian RXT, the Rainier can also be used as a harness to booster seat later on. The overall forwards-facing weight limit is slightly higher than the Radian, at 90 lbs (120 lbs in booster mode) and the overall height limit is 57 inches.
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
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