The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids stay rear-facing until reaching the rear-facing height or weight limit for their seat. Buying a seat with high height and weight limits will therefore allow your child to sit rear-facing for longer.
Picking a car seat with both a high height AND weight limit for rear-facing, as well as generous room for the legs, will help ensure your child stays rear-facing for as long as possible.
Kids usually outgrow rear-facing seats in height. For most seats, a child is too tall for rear-facing when the child’s head is 1 inch below the top of the seat. Leg length doesn’t typically affect how long a child can stay rear-facing. However, we know that the more scrunched a child’s legs look, the more likely a parent is to turn the child forward-facing, even though this leg position is not unsafe or uncomfortable! Therefore, seats that offer more rear-facing leg room often let kids ride rear-facing longer.
High rear-facing capacity: The Foonf can be used rear-facing until a child is 44 inches or 50 lbs. This means even a 95th percentile boy can use this seat rear-facing until his 4th birthday.
Fantastic safety features: The Foonf allows rear-facing for a very long time (already a great safety feature). When used rear-facing the mandatory anti-rebound bar adds stability, prevents rebound, and adds leg-room and the optional q-tether can provide added safety as well. The Foonf also has Rigid LATCH for forward-facing installations, which is a fantastic safety feature we highly recommend. Finally, the straps pull very smoothly, making it easy to get your child buckled in properly on every ride.
Extremely narrow on the outside but still super comfy: The Foonf is narrow and streamlined on the outside but very roomy and comfy on the inside, even for bigger kids. Great for installation next to other car seats.
Fits well behind the driver or passenger: The Foonf can sit fairly upright so it’s a great choice for placement behind even a taller driver or passenger. (Older kids often prefer to sit more upright in the car) Because it sits quite high off the vehicle seat, the Foonf can cause an obstructed view out the rear window when installed in the center of many vehicles, especially as a child grows and the headrest moves up.
Longevity: The Foonf has a 9 year lifespan so it’s also a good candidate to pass down to younger siblings.
Optimized for a seat belt installation when used rear-facing: With built in seat belt lockoffs, the Foonf can be placed slightly over towards the door to accommodate another car seat or passenger next to it. A seat belt installation also means there’s no need to worry about LATCH weight limits when used rear-facing.
High rear-facing capacity: The Fllo can be used rear-facing until a child is 44 inches or 50 lbs. This means even a 95th percentile boy can use this seat rear-facing until his 4th birthday.
Fantastic safety features: The Fllo allows rear-facing for a very long time (already a great safety feature). When used rear-facing the optional anti-rebound bar adds stability, prevents rebound, and adds leg-room and the optional q-tether can provide added safety as well.
Extremely narrow on the outside but still super comfy: The Fllo is narrow and streamlined on the outside but very roomy and comfy on the inside, even for bigger kids. Great for installation next to other car seats.
Fits well in the center seat: The Fllo installs very nicely in the center of most vehicles due to its easy seat belt installation. Because its narrow it typically allows both front seats to come back all the way.
Longevity: The Fllo has a 9 year lifespan so it’s also a good candidate to pass down to younger siblings.
Optimized for a seat belt installation when used rear-facing: Because it comes with built-in seat belt lockoffs, the Fllo fits very nicely in the center seat, where a LATCH installation is not typically possible. The Fllo’s built in lockoffs mean the seat can be placed slightly off-center to accommodate another car seat or passenger next to it. A seat belt installation also means there’s no need to worry about LATCH weight limits when used rear-facing.
Extremely high rear-facing capacity: All of these versions of the Graco Extend2Fit can be used rear-facing until a child is 49 inches or 50 lbs. This means even a 95th percentile boy can use this seat rear-facing until his 4th birthday. Often 5 and 6 year olds will fit comfortably rear-facing in this seat.
Very easy installation with LATCH (especially the 3-in-1 models): The Extend2Fit and Extend2Fit 3-in-1 install quite easy and quickly with LATCH on the side seats. The 3-in-1 models are easier to install because of a nicely designed slit in the fabric cover which allows you to pull the lower anchor strap easily with more leverage.
Good fit in smaller vehicles or behind tall front seat passengers due to leg extender and multiple recline options: The Extend2Fit and Extend2Fit 3-in-1 work really nicely behind taller adults! The leg extender can be extended to accommodate a child’s long legs, or can retract to allow a tall adult to sit in front of the car seat. Likewise, the seat permits multiple recline positions. With many options–reclined with foot extender out, upright with foot extender out, reclined with foot extender halfway out, etc,–you’re likely to find one that works for both the child and the adult in front of them.
Longevity: 10 year lifespan so it’s also a good candidate to pass down to younger siblings.
Optimized for a LATCH installation: We find this LATCH installation very easy for parents to master. However, it means the car seat must usually go on the side seats and not in the center. Note: The 3-in-1 versions have a 40 lb lower anchor weight limit for rear-facing, while the “regular” Extend2Fit has a 45 lb lower anchor weight limit for rear-facing. All versions of the seat can be used rear-facing to 50 lbs when installed with the seat belt, but we find the lower anchor installation to be much easier and recommend using lower anchors until the child reaches the weight limit for them on your version of this seat.
Budget-friendly: Definitely more budget friendly than some of our other recommendations!
Listed alphabetically below are seats for keeping “off-the-charts” kids rear-facing as long as possible. All of the seats listed have rear-facing weight limits of 45 pounds or above. (Note that all of these are also great for keeping smaller kids rear-facing as long as possible too!)
Child 1: 6 year 10 month old girl, 45 pounds and 47 inches
Child 2: 4 year 1 month old boy, 38 pounds and 43 inches
Both kids are within the rear-facing height and weight limits for the seats EXCEPT the girl is too tall for rear-facing in the Foonf because she’s over 43 inches tall. Note the Extend2Fit 3-in-1 is installed with lower anchors because it is an older model with a 45lb maximum lower anchor rear-facing weight limit (compared to a 40lb limit on current 3-in-1 models)
Remember that there are lower anchor weight limits – so when using any of these seats you will eventually need to install them with a seat belt in order to use them to their maximum rear-facing capacity.
Separate from these weight limits, some seats are more likely to install securely with LATCH, while others prefer a seat belt installation when rear-facing.
Seats that prefer rear-facing installation with lower anchors:
Seats the prefer rear-facing installation with the seat belt:
Medium leg room: The Diono seats – by virtue of having very low sides offer a generous amount of leg room, particularly to children wishing to sit frog-legged, cross-legged or with one or both legs over the edge of the seat.
Least leg room: The Nuna Rava and Nuna Exec are the most cramped in the leg room of these extended rear-facing seats.
For use behind a taller driver: Most compact: Graco Extend2Fit and Extend2FIt 3-in-1. These often provide several inches more space for front seat occupants.
Surprisingly, the Clek Foonf, Diono (with angle adjuster), Graco Extend2Fit’s and Nuna Rava all stand a good chance at fitting behind a taller driver, especially when the driver sits fairly upright. All of these seats can be installed more upright for kids who can sit upright unsupported, and the more upright the car seat, the less room it will take up into the front seat.
If you have very little room in back AND want your child to be more reclined: Nuna Rava or the Graco Extend2Fit without the foot rest pulled out are your best bets.
Here’s our Buying Guide for Front-to-Back Spacesavers, where we discuss in depth a variety of infant and convertible seats that are best for small vehicles or tall front seat occupants.
Notes for specific seats:
Diono: Use an angle adjuster (sold separately by Diono for $10) to sit the Diono more upright. Without the angle adjuster the Dionos take up a very large amount of space into the front seat.
Clek Fllo: Removing the anti-rebound bar will typically sit the car seat more upright (although you are removing a safety feature).
Clek Foonf: Will take up 1.5 inches less room into the front seat than a Fllo (using the anti-rebound bar) so we’d suggest Foonf (not Fllo) if you are tight on space.
Longest lasting: The Diono, by a tiny margin, has the highest top shoulder strap slot on all of these seats, and will last a tiny bit longer forward-facing.
Almost as long-lasting: The Graco Extend2Fit & Clek Foonf/Fllo will fit most kids until they are ready to transition to a booster. The average kid will get until about their 6th birthday (forward-facing) in a Clek.
Outgrown soonest: The Nuna Rava and Exec will be outgrown the soonest forward-facing as they have the lowest top shoulder strap slot of all of these seats.
A note about longevity and these seats’ booster modes
Diono: The booster mode on the Diono seats is outgrown at the same time the child outgrows the forward-facing harness mode – so you’ll need to buy the child a booster when they outgrow the Diono forward-facing.
Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 and Nuna Exec: These turn into boosters but they will not fit a child in booster mode long enough, and you’ll still end up eventually buying a high back booster that can accommodate a taller child.
If you are buckling your child in snugly in these seats, it’s necessary to loosen the straps each time you take your child out, and tighten them each time you buckle your child in.
User friendly straps are therefore really important–because you must use them every single time you use the seat!
Winner: Clek seats, hands-down, have the most user-friendly straps – they pull the smoothest of any seat we’ve found and the straps simply don’t twist.
Runner Up: Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 model (ONLY this model). The straps on this seat pull very smoothly due to a roller system on the back of the seat. This model lost top place because its straps tend to twist more than do the straps on the Cleks.
Third place: Other Graco Extend2Fit models, since their straps can be a little stiff to tighten on smaller kids. Straps pull smoothly for rear-facing bigger kids.
Fourth place: Evenflo and Nuna straps require some muscle to pull tight.
Last place: Diono. These straps are the most difficult amongst this bunch of seats. Specifically, tightening them on a rear-facing child is much harder than it is on other seats. You’ll have to use your bicep to pull these tight enough.
Anti-rebound bars: These prevent a rear-facing car seat from rebounding towards the back of the vehicle during a frontal crash, avoiding a forward motion for the child. Mandatory on Clek Foonf and optional on Clek Fllo. Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 featuring Anti-Rebound Bar has an optional anti-rebound bar.
Tethering for rear-facing: See here for a discussion of the Australian tether system, currently offered by Clek.
FTC Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this page. No monetary compensation was provided, however, a few of the reviewed products were supplied by the manufacturer or distributor to help facilitate the review. All opinions are those of The Car Seat Lady, LLC.