Forward-Facing Basics

Posted in: Forward-Facing Seats

Since rear-facing is much safer than forward-facing, we should ask why anyone (besides the driver) would ride forward-facing. Even flight attendants and astronauts sit rear-facing! Still, once your chlid is too tall or too heavy for his convertible seat’s rear-facing mode, he must sit forward-facing and this section will help you make this transition.

Who sits forward-facing?

Kids who have outgrown their child safety seat’s rear-facing height or weight limits. If your child is still within the height and weight limits for rear-facing, he should REMAIN rear-facing. Rear-facing is 5 times safer than forward-facing!

What seats can be used forward-facing?

There are three types:

  1. Convertible seats. These can be used rear-facing OR forward-facing
  2.  Combination seats. These can be used forward-facing OR as booster seats.
  3. Forward-facing only seats. These are seats with a 5 point harness that are only forward facing and can never go rear-facing nor turn into a booster.

Where does the seat go in the vehicle?

The center of the back seat is the safest place in the car–it is 43% safer than the side seats.

When is my child too big for his forward-facing seat?

There are three things to look for to see if your child is too big for his forward-facing seat:

  1. Weight limit. Your child must not exceed the maximum weight limit for the 5 point harness. If your seat turns into a booster, make sure to read the manual carefully as the weight limit for the harness will be much lower than the weight limit for the booster. Maximum weight limits for the harness currently range from 40 to 90 pounds, depending on the seat you have.
  2. Head Height limit. Your child’s ears must not be taller than the top of the child safety seat.
  3. Shoulder Height limit. Your child’s shoulders must not be higher than the top harness strap slot used for forward-facing 5-point harness mode.

130 Responses to “Forward-Facing Basics”

  1. Serena says:

    If my little still fits in his 5-point harness but is past the 40lbs that they say is max for rear-facing is it still safe for him to be rear-facing? He is 4yrs and 43lbs.

  2. Jana says:

    What is your opinion on manufacter installed car seats with a 5 point harness? My MIL gives me such a hard time not using the built in child seat in her mini van for my 2yo. All I can say is it can’t be as safe as my car seat but I honestly don’t know enough to mount a sound argument. Please help.

    • Built in car seats are very safe… as they don’t have any of the errors in installation that plague other car seats. If you are using a rear-facing seat for your 2 year old, then keep doing so. If you are using a forward facing seat for your 2 year old, then definitely use the built in seat in her minivan.

  3. Ian says:

    Which (brand) combination of 2 forward-facing car seats (for a 3-yr and 1-yr old) and 1 booster (5-yr old) would you recommend for a 2012-2014 Touareg or Jeep Grand Cherokee? In other words, what are the narrowest and best combined?

  4. Tony says:

    When choosing between a new forward facing seat due to the child outgrowing rear facing is there a safety preference between a convertible or combination seat? (Current seat is Britax Advocate used forward facing but we need to replace an infant carrier. If there is no difference in safety we would like to move baby into Advocate and toddler into combination).

    • There is not a safety preference between a convertible and combination seat – as they serve the same function when both are used forward-facing with the 5 point harness.

  5. Linda says:

    I have a very tall 2.5yo who is in 4 and 5yo clothing. She is getting too tall for the recaro proride I have. What do you recommend?

    • Make sure you have moved the head rest up on the ProRide so that the shoulder straps come from at or slightly above her shoulders. The Britax Frontier & Pinnacle offer the highest shoulder strap slots of any harnessed seat currently on the market.

  6. Elise says:

    I have a combination seat for my 2 year old. He is very tall, so the top strap is below his shoulder but he is only 30 pounds. What would you recommend?

    • Please double check the owner’s manual to your car seat as most likely there is a way to adjust the straps higher (that might be hidden) as it would be highly unusual for a tall 2 year old to outgrow a combination seat in height. The seats that currently have the highest shoulder strap slots are the Britax Frontier & Pinnacle.

  7. iz says:

    What if the car manual itself put a caution not to put in rear facing when the baby in is in front seat (beside driver seat)? Since only at the front seat they have airbag.

  8. Vita says:

    What would you recommend for petite baby? She outgrew her infant car seat and I am looking into getting a convertible one. She is petite but chunky baby.. I like Diono but seems it’s more for taller kids, I am also looking into the Clek one.. Thank you!

    • Vita says:

      Also looking for one that would recline into sleeping position for long distance travel..

      • Vita – a petite child who just outgrew her infant seat needs to be rear-facing in a convertible seat, not forward-facing yet. There are no rear-facing seats in the US that allow you to change the recline position while the car seat is installed. The Clek Foonf when installed forward-facing with rigid LATCH is the only seat that allows you to change (and its a slight change) the angle of recline while the seat is installed. Just because a seat accommodates taller babies doesn’t mean that it is bad for smaller kids. I love the Clek Foonf for smaller kids as they get the best view out the back window since it sits so high up (I love the Foonf for bigger kids as it has a super high rear-facing capacity so even big kids can last a long time rear-facing).

  9. Jc says:

    When you move your child to front facing, why is the middle seat still the safest? I would assume that in an accident, the side seat would be safer as they would be stopped from flying forward my the front seats.

  10. Lyndsay says:

    My 17 month old is 32 lb and 35 inches tall. She is off the growth charts for weight for age, so is there a weight recommendation to switch to forward facing? 40lb? She is content still RF so I don’t plan on moving her sooner, but since she is a bigger kid I don’t know if it’s safe to move her sooner.

    • Lyndsay – you need to follow the weight/height guidelines of her current seat in the rear-facing direction. If she outgrows that seat rear-facing before the age of 2, I would strongly recommend getting her a different seat that can accommodate a larger child rear-facing. Surprisingly, she is most at risk from being forward facing sooner as her head is heavier than the average 17 month old (since she’s so big) but her bones are no more developed than any other 17 month old – which means she is at increased risk for brain and spinal cord injuries if she were to ride forward-facing. The least expensive option that has a high enough rear-facing capacity to take her until 2 rear-facing is the Evenflo Sure Ride (40 pound rear-facing weight limit with very tall seated height – so she won’t be too tall for it rear-facing). The Diono Rainier & Clek Foonf & Clek Fllo all go rear-facing to 50 pounds and about 43 inches.

  11. Emily says:

    Hi.I have a Chrysler town and country and I need to install two forward facing car seats in the back, but there is only one place to tether, what do I do??? Also, since the seats have such a incline since the fold up. what do you find the easiest way to get them tight? Thanks!

    • You need to rearrange who sits where so that only one forward-facing seat is installed in the 3rd row (as you only have one tether anchor). Visit someone trained to get help with the installation – – one trick is to install the car seat with the vehicle’s seat back reclined, then sit the seat back upright and it will typically tighten the car seat further, then tighten the tether strap.

  12. Tonya says:

    My 17 month girl is in a rear-facing convertible car seat positioned behind the passenger seat. I would of course prefer to place her in the center but my husband is tall so the drivers seat doesn’t allow enough room for her seat to be there rear-facing. My question is if whether it’s safer to be rear-facing but behind the passenger seat OR front-facing but in the center?

  13. Ryan says:

    Can you recommend an inexpensive (less than $100) forward facing, light weight seat that’s good as a backup / travel seat? My 3 year old is 40″ & 35#.

  14. Beth Boswell says:

    My son is 3 years old and about 30 lbs. he’s still rear facing atm but we have a dilemma. My 1 year old son is now too big for his infant carrier so I need to move him into a convertible. My old kids cannot get into the back seat no matter what I do with both convertible seats facing rear so I have to turn my 3 year old forward. I’m feeling really stressed about it though as I intended to keep him rear longer than this. What can I do? Is there a way to make ff safer? Getting a new vehicle isn’t an option unfortunately.

    • How about putting the 3y/o rear-facing in the 3rd row and the 1y/o rear-facing in the 2nd row (or vice versa) to preserve the access to the 3rd row. This way each of the younger kids gets an older kid sitting next to them.

  15. Erin says:

    Hello! My just-4-y-o is 44″ and 44lbs. He is height/weight appropriate for continued use of the 5-point harness in our Recaro; HOWEVER, his shoulder are now taller than the highest slot. I worry about switching to booster/3-point harness because he just turned 4 (and still seems so little even though he’s in the 99th height percentile), BUT I know that shoulders being higher than the harness is a no-no. So what scenario is better? 5-point with too high shoulders or 3-point booster on a very young child?

    • I would suggest buying a seat that starts as a 5 point harness car seat and then turns into a booster – but has higher shoulder strap slots than your current seat. Good options to consider would be a Britax Frontier/Pinnacle, Graco Nautilus/Tranzitions.

      However, I would also double check that your Recaro straps are really in the highest position – as I’m surprised that a 44″ kid is too tall. I have a hunch you may have missed a higher slot as most Recaro seats have a head rest that you must move up to move the shoulder straps with it.

  16. S Brown says:

    Which is safer forward-facing: center with shoulder belt installation and no tether, or side with shoulder belt installation and tether? My husband’s 2004 Jetta wagon has no center tether point but does have side tethers in the cargo area. Our 4-year old just exceeded rear-facing weight on our Diono Radian RXTs and we have to turn him forward. Should we install in the center without the tether or pick a side and tether? Can we get a dealer to retrofit a center tether point in a 2004-era car that has side tethers? Also, your forward-facing install video saved my sanity today when installing in my newer car. Much appreciated.

    • A 2004 vehicle in the US is required to have at least 3 tether anchors (unless it is a tiny 2-door convertible, or a massive truck weighing more than 8,500 pounds… neither of which applies to your vehicle).

      Your 2004 Jetta wagon has 3 tether anchors – all are located on the back of the vehicle seat.

      If you had a vehicle where you could tether on the side, but not the center, I’d pick tethering on the side.

  17. Courtney says:

    Hello, I am having issues installing my safety 1st continuum in my 2010 chrysler town and country. The seats of my van have a pretty deep incline and when i install the seat without reclining the vehicle seat the bottom on the seat isnt touching the bottom of the van seat. I feel like the seat needs to be more upright plus the manual states you are not supposed to recline the vehicle seat. Any suggestions on how to overcome this?

    • Courtney says:

      I also forgot to mention this is a forward facing install, i do have to use a pool noodle to get the angle right when its used in rear facing mode

      • Pool noodles are only allowed for rear-facing installations.

        Try the following:
        1. Recline your minivan’s vehicle seat as far back as it goes.
        2. Install the child’s car seat as tight as you can (connect, but just don’t tighten the tether strap yet).
        3. Sit the vehicle seat back upright (you may need an extra person to help you get it back up)
        4. tighten the tether

        This should resolve the issues you were having.

  18. Maryann says:

    I realize this article is old so I might not even get a response but I was hoping you might have suggestions. My almost 9 year old is 51 inches tall and 39-42pounds. In my vechile she’s currently in a high back booster but I honestly would prefer her in a 5 point harness. Also we have an issue with her being unable to ride in her father’s car, because it is a 1982 wagon with only lap seat belts in which she can’t ride with a high back booster. Is there any carseats with 5 point harness that would go for her height of 51 inches?

    • The Britax Frontier/Pinnacle may fit a 51 inch child with the harness – however I would not recommend using this seat, or any forward-facing car seat for that matter, with the 5 point harness if you are not using the top tether (which since the 1982 wagon has no tether anchors, would be impossible to use).

      The front seat of the 1982 wagon likely has a shoulder belt – and if it is a type of shoulder belt permitted to be used with a booster then she could ride in front with a high back booster. Clearly this is not ideal, but if she had to ride in this vehicle would be better than in back with a lap belt. If the shoulder belt is attached to the door on a motorized track (as was common in the early 80’s) you can NOT use this with a booster or car seat.

  19. Ella says:

    Can a reclining carseat be used for a forward facing. My child is 5 but we want a car seat we can recline.

    • A deep recline forward-facing is not safe as the distribution of the crash forces on the forward-facing child’s body is not ideal compared to when the child is upright. A slight recline can be found on quite a few forward-facing seats – but don’t expect anything significant with regards to the recline. The only truly safe way to recline is when riding rear-facing.

  20. Sarah Garcia says:

    Hi! I know this is an older post, but hoping to get an answer. My 5 year old just hit 50 lbs and is 43″ tall. I am debating between the foonf and the Diono Rainer. I like that the foonf uses latch and belt in forward facing, but I am worried he will outgrow the seat before we get our $500 Worth. I was leaning toward the rainer as it can be used as a booster, but then I read there are issues with seat belt staying tight and secure when using the rainer as a booster? Do you have a suggestion for our situation? I will gladly shell out the money if one is safer in forward facing then the other! thanks

    • If your child is going to need a 5 point harness for more than a year or so, neither of these is a wise investment. You should look at a Britax Frontier/Pinnacle (not the Pioneer) if you want a harness that will last longer. The Rainier is outgrown in booster mode the day the child outgrows the harness mode… so is not a booster I’d recommend.

  21. Tara says:

    Hi. We have a convertable evenflo triumph. With a two year old that has just reached the minimum height and weight for forward facing. While not ideal, due to extreme motion sickness issues we’ve been recommended to try forward facing now. Can you explain the difference between the two positions available in forward position, forward reclne and full upright. There doesn’t seem to be info anywhere.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    My 8 month old is very tall and coming within 1 inch of the top of her infant car seat. We have Maxi Cosi 80 convertible car seats that my 2.5 year old is using she is also tall 38″ but only 30 lbs. I am debating buying additional maxi cosi’s for the infant(we already know how to install them and they have washable covers) or if I should by a different seat for the 2.5 year old that will grow with her. Any recommendations?

  23. Shaine says:

    I have a 2 1/2 year old that is 44onches tall and 44 pounds and we have a 5 point harness forward facing car seat. I have started noticing that his head is topping the top of the car seat and his buckle is just behind his shoulder. I am wondering because of his age if this is still ok or if I need to do a booster due to his size? Thanks!

    • Forward-facing seats require the shoulder straps to always come from at or above the child’s shoulders. It is possible that your straps are not in the highest position – but if they are, the child has outgrown the seat. It would be great to have this child rear-facing longer – and the Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 would accommodate this child rear-facing until 50 pounds. Unfortunately the Extend2Fit is not the highest capacity forward-facing seat – that title goes to the Britax Frontier which would be the seat that will take this child the longest using a 5-point harness. Kids are not ready for boosters (where they use the vehicle’s seat belt across them as their restraint) until they are mature enough to sit properly in the seat belt without squirming, slouching, etc… which for most kids isn’t until 5-6 (kids also need to be AT LEAST 4 year AND 40 pounds as well before going into a booster – but the maturity is what typically takes the longest).

  24. Stephanie says:

    Hi! Hoping I can get a point in the right direction since I’m having a hard time finding anything related to my question online;
    My almost 3, 33lb, 39″ toddler is forward facing. I know rear is best, but it’s not an option for us. We have a minivan and our toddler sits behind the driver while his little brother is rear facing behind the passenger. My husband is a big guy, particularly in height, so he has to significantly recline the seat when he drives (in addition to already having the seat slid all the way back). This leaves about 2″ of space between our toddlers knees and the back of the seat, and absolutely no space from his shins down (he has to point his toes down or cross his ankles).
    I hate it, and I’m concerned that any accident, even a minor one, could cause the driver’s seat to break and lead to shattered legs and crushed knee caps. He feels there’s more danger when I drive, since the seat is so much further away (I’m short so there’s more that 12″ between my seat and my son’s feet when I’m behind the wheel)… so, long story short, what’s the right answer? Any data on forward facing car seats and their distance from the back of the seats in front?

    Thanks for any help you can send our way!

    • In situations like this, the much greater concern is the child’s increased risk for head injury because when the front seat is this close to the child, the child stands a very high chance of hitting their head on the front seat during the crash – and this is a well known cause of brain and spinal cord injury. When car seats are crash tested – with the car seat installed properly AND the tether strap used – the dummy’s head is allowed to move up to 28 inches forward! The 28 inches is measured from a point that is approximately at the back of the head rest (on the seat where the child is sitting) and measured straight forward to the front of the car. The driver’s seat is definitely within this 28 inches – meaning that the child’s head will likely hit it. Since you have a minivan I would suggest moving the child to the 3rd row if possible (make sure you find a position that has a top tether anchor) and leave the seat behind the driver empty.

      The chance for leg injury is also greater when the driver’s seat is into the child’s 28 inch zone – but legs are fixable, brains and spinal cords aren’t.

  25. Elisabeth says:

    I need a recommendation. My LO is 18 months old, 29 inches long, and weighs 25 lbs. My father-in-law’s truck has a back bench but it is not one that has a full size cab like a car. Lately I noticed my LO’s feet are almost all the way up the seat in rear facing. I have tried to get her to sit cross legged style but she still seems uncomfortable. I know it is best to keep them rear facing until 2 yo, but she is so uncomfortable. She is fine in the other vehicles, its just the truck. Would it be okay to place her forward facing in his truck only?

    • She is not uncomfortable – despite how it looks to you. You would be uncomfortable, but you don’t have a toddler body – you have an adult body. Her joints are much looser which gives her much more range of motion. It is fine for her to put her feet all the way up the seat – there is no reason you need to force her to change her position. The fact that his truck has a very small back seat means that she should ride rear-facing as long as possible in his car – as when she goes forward-facing she will be at significantly increased risk of a head injury from hitting her head on the back of the front seat (since it is closer to her than in a larger car).

  26. I have a 3.5 year old and an 18 month old. Both are in Britax convertible car seats (one rear facing and one forward facing). I would really like to get a car seat for my husband’s car but don’t want to buy another convertible car seat since my oldest wont use it for that much longer. I was thinking about buying one of the forward facing only that transitions to a high back booster (probably Britax Pinnacle due to out board position). Anyway I wanted to see your opinion on safety of the convertible seat vs. forward facing only. I have been searching and can’t find anything on if you should keep your child in the convertible until they max out on height weight, or if both seats offer the same safety. Any help would be appreciated!

    • A forward-facing car seat is a forward-facing car seat – it doesn’t matter the other things the seat could do (i.e. go rear-facing if it was a convertible, or turn into a booster if it is a combination seat) – all that matters is how you are currently using the seat. Therefore, there is no difference between the Britax convertible that you are using forward-facing or the Britax Pinnacle if you use that forward-facing with the 5 point harness. Make sure you are using the tether strap on EVERY forward-facing seat.

  27. Margie grover says:

    My son is huge. He’s 3 and in a forward facing car seat. However..the straps are at the max limit as he is a big solid boy. What should I do

  28. Margie grover says:

    The straps are too tight for him and he cries. Can you recommend a brand that has longer straps?

    • In my 19 years as the car seat lady, when a parent of a 3 year old says that the straps are at the max and are too tight, the seat has not been properly adjusted for the child. Sometimes it isn’t obvious how to get the straps properly adjusted – or something is caught. Please call the customer service for the company that makes his car seat – and/or visit someone trained in your area to get one-on-one help with the car seat – as there is likely something that can be fixed if he is within the height and weight parameters for the seat. The car seat that has the highest capacity (weight and height) is the Britax Frontier or Pinnacle.

  29. katy says:


    my son just turned 6, he is about 49 inches tall which is the height limit on the harness for his graco seat. It turns into a booster next. He is still within the weight range for the harness. Is it safe to keep him in the harness if his shoulders are still below the top strap hole? I would like to keep him in the harness as long as possible.

    • If he is under the weight limit AND his shoulders are below the top slot, you can keep him in the harness – but once his shoulders reach the top slot OR he reaches the weight limit (whichever comes first) he must stop using the harness for this seat.

  30. Sylvia Thomas says:

    Hi, I have 3.5year old twins (30 lbs each) and need forward facing car seats (they get car sick rear facing) for my BMW X5. What is the safest option that would last me the longest? Thanks!!

    • 30lb 3.5 year olds won’t need a seat with the highest capacity as these kids aren’t in the 95th%. Kids who get motion sick will typically feel better if they sit higher off the vehicle seat (which means avoiding seats that turn into boosters as these typically sit lower on the vehicle seat). The Clek Foonf will sit them the highest and will last them until they are ready for a booster.

  31. Amelia says:

    I have a very tall and heavy almost 3 year old. He’s already 38 lbs. What would be an ideal car seat that is thin and not that expensive (I have to outfit three different cars) for his next seat?

    Thank you!

  32. Kelie says:

    My oldest nugget’s shoulders are above the top shoulder height limit. She’s just over the 50lb lower booster weight limit for the Radian RXT. I’m nervous about switching her from the 5 point harness to a booster/seat belt but I’m also worried that she’s not properly seated in the 5 point. Should I make the switch?

    • She actually needs a new seat as kids who are too tall for harness mode (like she is) are also too tall for booster mode – as the top shoulder heights for both modes is the same (crazy, I know!). If you want her harnessed, look into the Britax Frontier or Pinnacle (not the Pioneer). Otherwise, if she is mature enough to sit properly in a booster, the Maxi Cosi RodiFix is a favorite of ours – especially for taller kids.

  33. Kristen says:

    My son will be turning 6 in Sept and currently weighs about 47/48 pounds. I have him in a 5 point harness booster seat but am wondering if it’s safe to move him to the backless booster. If not can you suggest any boosters that convert to backless and have a latch system. I just can’t get passed the idea of him sitting in something that’s not connected, just doesn’t seem that safe to me. Would love to get your thoughts.

    • He should move into a high back booster as his next step – we recommend the Maxi Cosi RodiFix as a great high back booster that uses rigid LATCH. The reason to LATCH a booster is so that when the child is NOT in it the booster doesn’t fly around – it doesn’t really offer much in terms of extra protection for the child whether it is LATCHed in or not.

  34. Henry says:

    Good morning! Thank you for all the information you provide here. We have a 1988 Olds Cutlass Ciera wagon with the 3rd row rear-facing jump seats. They have a lap belt only, and obviously this is pre=LATCH system. Occasionally we have to put our 8 year old son in the rear-facing “way back” seat. I know that car seat manufacturers don’t really have info on whether you can use their products in the way back since it’s not been tested and only a couple of car companies make those way-back seats still. Of course his head shouldn’t come above the back of the seat since there is no headrest, but I was trying to figure out the most safe configuration possible. Currently he has an adjustable high back booster. but is this safety compromised with only a lap belt? Would a 5-point harness high back be better? Should I install new seatbelts? Should I just put him in the seat with a lap belt only, since there’s no info on booster seats back there? He is about 57lbs and 47″.

    • I would avoid having any child or adult ride in a lap only belt. There is no safe way for anyone to ride in this 3rd row – and it should be avoided at all cost as the risk for injury to the brain, spine, and abdominal organs is substantially higher than in other spots in this vehicle.

  35. Renee says:

    Could you please explain why vehicle seats can not be reclined to install forward facing seats? Even if your seat is flushed against the seat that is reclined. Thankyou

    • The vehicle seat back is an integral part of the restraint for an adult in a seat belt as well as for a car seat – as the seat back provides necessary support for the adult/car seat. The seat back in many cases doesn’t have to be fully upright (straight up and down) – it can have a slight recline of a few degrees. You need to read your vehicle’s manual to see how much they allow it to recline. A good rule of thumb is that it should be anywhere from fully upright to no more than 20 degrees reclined.

  36. Shaniece says:

    Hi my daughter will be 2 in dec. But she has outgrown her infant car seat by weight and i am looking to buy her a new car seat that will transition over once she goes from forward facing to booster but i dont know where to even start or which ones are for which. She is about 36 pounds now.

  37. Maria GB says:

    Hi carseat lady! My nearly 23 month old son is too tall for the rear-facing slots on his Evenflo SureRide DLX 65 Convertible Car Seat. Can I use the forward-facing slots and keep him rear facing? It seems way too soon to turn him around, he’s long and lean, not sure weight at the moment but definitely not 40 lbs yet. Thanks for your help!

  38. Kristi says:

    Hey Carseat lady. My 2 1/2 year old is a very tall boy. His shoulders are about the straps in this nextfit chicco carseat, does that mean it is time to get him into the next size carseat? Thank you!

  39. Kristi says:

    Hey Carseat lady. My 2 1/2 year old is a very tall boy. His shoulders are above the straps in this nextfit chicco carseat, does that mean it is time to get him into the next size carseat? Thank you!

    • The straps should come from at or below the shoulders when rear-facing in the Next Fit or any other rear-facing car seat. Moving the head rest up in the next fit can be VERY hard sometimes – try again as I think you may be surprised that it moves up farther than you think (again, keep the shoulder straps at or slightly below his shoulders).

  40. Kati says:

    My son is going to be 5 and weights 48 pounds. He has a tall back booster seat. We no longer use the 5 point harnesss or the lower latches. I use the vehicles seat belt to secure him in the seat. Am I supposed to also use the top tether to secure the booster?

    • If your seat allows the use of the tether in booster mode the tether will help secure the seat so it doesn’t fly around when your son is not in it (so the empty booster doesn’t become a projectile).

  41. Allison Drew says:


    My son is 4.5 years old and currently is 45 lbs and 45 inches tall. He is still in his 5-point Chicco nextfit but I just noticed that his shoulders are just above the highest shoulder strap slot. I’m a bit uncomfortable switching him to a booster just yet as he is still very comfortable in his current seat though it now appears he’s outgrown it given how long-torsoed he is.

    Do you have a recommnedation on another seat that has higher shoulder straps or perhaps one that will convert to a booster? I don’t want to spend 400 bucks on another seat that he may rapidly grow out of after his next growth spurt but at the same time don’t want to rush to a booster if I can avoid it!

    Thanks so much!
    Allison Drew

  42. Amy says:

    I love our Britax seats, my son is currently in a Frontier and my daughter in the Marathon. I haven’t had the convertible seat forward facing, but would a convertible seat be more comfortable forward facing on a long drive vs the forward only seat?

    • Depends on the child. It sounds like one child is rear-facing… keep them that way, especially for a long drive as they get to lay reclined which is better for staying asleep on the long drive.

  43. Amanda Jane Johnson says:

    My 23 month old is currently in a Chicco Keyfit30. I don’t know his exact measurements but he’s between 25-30 pounds and I think maybe 32″.(I’ll find out at his 2 yrcheck). I just bought a Britax Pioneer today. My plan is to move him into it (ff) after his birthday, and once he’s 30#, 30″ officially. He sits in the very middle of my Honda Odyssey. Is this a good plan or should I get a convertible seat even though he’s likely to be too big for it rearfacing? I thought it seemed like a waste to buy a convertible whenimnot going to use it rear at all. I’m just mostly wondering if the harness to booster seat is as safe for a young toddler as a convertible ff.

    • Your 23 month old likely outgrew the Chicco KeyFit30 many months ago – as no child ever gets to the weight limit, they are all too tall first. Too tall is when the child’s head is 1 inch below the top of the seat. Your child will ideally stay rear-facing in a convertible car seat for another few years – there is no reason to turn the child forward-facing on their 2nd birthday. He is definitely not too big for a convertible seat rear-facing – as quite a few of them can take the 95th% child rear-facing until at least age 4. Your odyssey’s center seat is quite narrow so you’ll need to be choosy with what you select to go there. The Clek Foonf is a great option that will last him a long time rear-facing and then a long time forward-facing and is narrow enough to fit in the 2011 & newer odyssey center.

      The Pioneer is very difficult to install securely – and is not a seat we recommend (for older kids needing a high capacity harness seat like this, you want the Frontier which has the click tight mechanism to give you a secure installation).

  44. Komal says:

    Hi! I have twin girls. They will be 13 months in 2 weeks. One is about 23-24 lbs and the other is a little smaller at around 21-22 lbs. Both are about 22-23 inches in height. I currently have the Chicco keyfit 30 which is for kids up until 30lbs and then 30 inches height. Since it is Amazon Prime Day I am trying to be smart and buy the next car seat they will need for forward facing even though I know it will not be for a while. I was looking at the Diono Radian R120. It is currently on Amazon for $266. Not sure this is a great price. Any advice would help!

    • The kids were 22-23 inches around 1 month of age. They are likely 30+ inches now and too tall for the KeyFit30 (they are too tall when their head is 1 inch below the top). They need to be rear-facing for at least another year – hopefully a while longer. See here for convertible seats we recommend that have high rear-facing capacities –

  45. AP says:

    Hi there and thanks for all you do!

    I have a 2.5 year old who is happily rear-facing in a Chicco NextFit. However, he is now 38-40 lbs (depending on the day he’s on the scale) and at or near the RF limit for the seat. We are replacing it with an Extend 2 Fit for use in the car.

    However, we can’t wrangle carseats as heavy as either of these for air travel, which we do pretty frequently (and usually with a rental car or taxi on the other end).

    We have a Cosco Scenera Next we’ve been using for him, but he’s now near the limits for that (both RF and FF). We thought about an Evenflo Sureride to get the longest possible FF harnessed capacity (he’s also 38″ or a bit taller, and mostly torso), since the straps go so high…but someone has also suggested a Graco Wayz for the booster use later.

    Can you advise–one of these for travel, or something else entirely?

    • Try using a Clek Fllo for both your own car and airplanes – – as shown here. Or use the GoGoBabyz to get the E2F through the airport (fllo is narrower, so easier)

  46. Erin says:

    We are purchasing an expedition soon and I’m wondering if putting a forward facing combination seat in the 2ND row captain chair would be an issue with the headrest or if it would be better in the middle 3Rd row seat. I’d prefer to put both carseat in the second round (my 3.5 yr old to forward facing as she is still rf, and my 1yr old will stay rf and take-over her contender). Also any suggestions for a seat for my soon to be ff?

    • Wait for the 2018 expedition (the 2017 hasn’t been changed in more than a decade – and it shows!) –

      The 2018 is also going to be much safer than the ’17.

  47. Kelly says:

    My husband has a 95 Ford ranger with no back seat and without airbags. Would it be safe to install a rearfacing seat in the front?

    • Yes, if there are no airbags you may install a rear-facing seat there. If the front seat moves, move it up so that the rear-facing car seat is braced against the dashboard (otherwise the car seat can smack into the dashboard in a crash which is not good for the baby’s head). Your seat belts most likely do not have a locking feature for a car seat – so either look for a car seat with a built-in locking device (called a lock-off usually) OR use a locking clip (a much less ideal solution as locking clips are hard to use).

  48. Kaylee says:

    My son is 5 pounds away from the maximum weight on his 5 point harness and he is 3 years old I haven’t been able to find a car seat that the harness goes over 50 pounds. In my state he has to be in the harness until he is 4 and it makes me nervous as to what I’m supposed to do

    • There are many seats that go over 50 pounds with a 5 point harness – but many of them can’t accommodate a child who is tall and heavier. The Britax Frontier has the highest capacity of any harness on the market and can truly accommodate a child who is very big – and would be the best investment in a seat for him.

  49. Stephanie says:


    I have a soon to be 6 year old who is 35 pounds and about 3’5″. I would like her to stay in a carseat with a 5-point harness for as long as possible. We have to buy a new carseat and I’m wondering which one will be the best for her at this point. Since forward-facing, she’s been in a Safety First Comfort 65 something. I can’t remember the full model number.

  50. Anne says:

    Thanks for all you do.
    My son is 2yr 11mo. Is 40+lbs and 40″ and has been off the growth charts his whole life. I unfortunately felt forced to move in forward facing when he exceeded the 40lb rear facing weight limit and should straps coming above shoulders rear facing in his chicco nextfit. I have a 20lbs. 29″ 8 mo old that is getting close to needing to move out of his infant car seat (head is getting close to 1″ front top). Looking for recommendations regarding who gets the new seat. Should I move the almost 3 year old to combination seat, or get him a different convertible that can go back rear facing longer for him? Or just get the 8mo old a rear facing convertible. Any advice is great appreciated!! Thank you!

  51. Dear Car Seat Lady,
    We have been following your guidelines religiously. Our daughter is 3 years old, 30 lbs and 38 inches. She is still RF, but when we drove to family for Thanksgiving I measured her head and she is just a smidge less than one inch from the top of our Greco. It’s supposed to be a convertible, so we tried turning it around as I was not sure how safe it would be to continue to RF for the drive home. That’s when we discovered one “foot” on the seat is broken, so it won’t “stand” the way the manual says it should when FF. We have another car seat we can install at home for her that is only for FF (a gift from people who don’t know about RF, but we kept it as it would not expire til long after she might need it). The question is – should we go ahead and FF her? I looked at prices of buying a new RF car seat at her height and, well, at Christmas I just don’t want to drop $100+ unexpectedly. What do you think?

    • At her size, she could get another 2+ years rear-facing in a Graco Extend2Fit (and then use it later forward-facing too).
      She may outgrow the forward-facing only seat from your friend’s in height before she is ready for a booster (40 pounds) as some of the less expensive seats have limited height capacity for forward-facing (child is too tall when shoulders reach top shoulder strap slots forward-facing).

  52. Deborah Smith says:

    My Grandson is 41/2 yrs and 37 lbs and about 38” tall. He is in a Grace convertible car seat. The problem we have is the strap between his legs where in connect to is so tight that he complains of it hurting him and also we feel at times we might pinch me. We have moved it to the front adjustment by the way. So we’re looking at a 5 point hardness booster seat but want to make sure we’re not going to run into the same problem for him. Any brand suggestion.

    • The Graco Nautilus 65 with Safety Surround (this particular Nautilus model – but not all the others) has 3 crotch buckle positions and is a good option, as is the Britax Frontier (which offers a super easy installation compared to other seats).

  53. Kevin says:

    Hi, my daughter (2y 4mo) is in a rear-facing Diono Radian, but she is already using the highest of the 5 shoulder strap slots. She is a bit tall for her age (38”?) but I still find it hard to believe the seat can’t accommodate taller shoulders. (The headrest can adjust higher, but there are no higher shoulder strap slots.) Does this sound right to you? I would think a switch to forward facing would not help the shoulder strap height issue.

    • Something is amiss here – as at 2y she can not be too tall for rear-facing in this seat. The shoulder straps need to come from AT OR BELOW the shoulders for rear-facing. Forward-facing, the straps must come from AT OR ABOVE the shoulders. The very top slot is ONLY for forward-facing on this seat. Please call Diono with further questions.

  54. Jacqueline says:

    You have stated that there is not a safety preference when choosing between a forward-facing convertible vs a harnessed combination seat. But if the combination seat has a latch system vs a seat belt for the convertible forward facing- would that impact which one you would recommend? My three year old has just outgrown his rear-facing Chicco NextFit and we are considering switching him forward facing using the Chicco MyFit because we could use the latch system if we switch.

    • All car seats in the US have the option of being installed with a seat belt or the lower anchors (the caveat with the lower anchors is that there is a weight limit – varies by seat – after which you may no longer use the lower anchors and must install with the seat belt). The seat belt or the lower anchors are equally safe means of securing a car seat. Rigid lower anchors (as found only on the Nuna Pipa and the forward-facing Clek Foonf – and no other car seats in the US) are safer than lower anchor straps as they rigid lower anchors hold the car seat more tightly coupled to the vehicle. Lower anchor straps are equally safe as a seat belt in securing the car seat to the car.

      The weight limit for the lower anchor strap is a child’s weight of 40 pounds on the chicco myfit and 40 pounds on the Next Fit forward-facing (it is 35 pounds when the child is using the next fit rear-facing) – so switching seats won’t give you any more time with a lower anchor installation.
      Remember for every forward-facing car seat to use the tether strap.

  55. Auriel Garcia says:

    I recently bought my 1 year old a new braco size4me convertible car seat. It has three recline position. One is reclined just as much as the infant car seat (and is labeled rear facing) one that is straight up, and one that is in between (which are labeled front facing). My car cannot fit the car seat completely reclined rear facing. Can I use the inbetween level as rear facing even though it is labeled as front facing mode???

    • You may only use the recline positions allowed for rear-facing when the seat is rear-facing. A Graco Extend2Fit would fit your car better (and fit your child rear-facing for longer).

  56. Stephanie says:

    The harness on my son’s convertible, forward facing seat is below his shoulders. He is still 10″ under the seats height limit; does he need a new seat?

    • Yes. But, before you buy a new seat, reread the manual and call the manufacturer’s customer service to make sure you really have the shoulder straps up as high as they go – in many cases you’ll be pleasantly surprised to realize that you simply didn’t have them up as high as they can go.

  57. Abraham says:

    My twins are 2 yrs old, about 25-26lbs, and 32-34 in. My car is a subaru outback, with limited recline space and we adults are tall. Our pediatrician says to swtich them to forward-facing seats, recommending a Britax or Diono convertible seat. By my reading it seems early, and they seem small for forward facing, but it would be much more comfortable and convenient in the car overall. Doctor confidently says forward is safe. Your thoughts?

  58. Timothy Lyden says:

    My 5 year old is pretty big for her age and we want to keep her in a 5 pt harness as long as possible. What are some brands that have the best weight limits for car seats?

  59. Lilia says:

    Is it safe if my child’s head is above a little in an infant carrier car seat?

  60. Jennifer S says:

    I have a 35lb 40″ tall 3 year old getting close to maxing out on RF for our Diono Radian RXT. I’d like to switch my child over to a combination (FF & Booster) seat and use the RXT for the baby who is outgrowing out her infant seat. What combination seats do your recommend for a tall skinny 3 year old? I’d like this to be the last carseat we buy for this child.

  61. Brianne says:

    My five-year-old is in a forward facing britax marathon classic car seat and her head height seems fine, but her shoulders are above the tallest slot and her shoulders don’t fit between the sides any longer. I’m hesitant to move to a booster seat, but I’m thinking that’s the only option at this point… Is that correct?

    • There are seats with higher harness capacities than her Marathon Classic – that will later turn into boosters. She can not stay in her marathon classic any longer as with any forward-facing seat, the shoulder straps MUST come from at or above the child’s shoulders. The Britax Frontier has the highest harness capacity of any seat – meaning it will accommodate the tallest child – and is also wide at the shoulder area. It will later turn into a high back booster for her.

  62. April says:

    I have a 37 lb, 37in tall kiddo who is turning 3 in a couple of weeks. My husband wants to switch her to forward facing in her Britax Boulevard car seat since she’s only 3 lbs from the max weight for RF. I’m obviously a little anxious about this, but is she close enough to turn around? Am I being unreasonable by wanting her to get to the MAX, even if it’s “just” 3 lbs away?

    Also, I’m so confused by the heigh requirement for the car seats. It says max shoulder height is around 18″ for both RF and FF. How does this make since?

    • 3 pounds is about 6 months of weight gain for a child this age. For rear-facing, this child must have their head at least one inch below the non-moveable shell (if you have a Boulevard) or at least one inch below the top of the head rest (if you have a Boulevard Click Tight). The shoulder straps should come from at or below the shoulders for rear-facing and at or above for forward-facing.

  63. Megan says:

    Just wanted to thank you for this great resource for parents!

  64. Gabby says:

    Wondering if you can clarify “too big for the seat” if their ears are above the top of the seat. Does this mean too big for the harness in the seat or too big for the high back booster? We are about to switch but I don’t want to use the high back booster if he is truly too big for it. (ears are now over the back of the seat).

    • Please read carefully the instruction manual to this seat – for both harness and booster modes – as it will explain how to know if the child fits as well as adjustments you may not have realized existed on your seat (many have an adjustable head rest that can get taller which caregivers often don’t realize is on the seat). Any child who is forward facing – in a harness or in a high back booster – must have the car seat/booster support at least to the top of the ears (and some seats require more support than this – which will be covered in their manual). You can also call the manufacturer’s customer service with further questions.