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Best Seats for Extended Rear-facing

Posted in: Blog, Rear-Facing Seats

Looking to keep a big kid rear-facing as long as possible?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids remain rear-facing until reaching the rear-facing height or weight limit for their convertible seat. Kids usually outgrow rear-facing in height – which, for most seats, is 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 pretzeled a child’s legs look – which is not unsafe or uncomfortable! – the more likely a parent is to turn the child forward-facing. Therefore, seats that offer more rear-facing leg room often let kids ride rear-facing 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 as long as possible.

Seat Why We Love It MSRP
Clek Foonf Best safety features for rear AND forward-facing (optimized for side seat installations) $449 and up
Clek Fllo Best safety features for rear-facing (optimized for center seat installation) $379 and up
Graco Extend2Fit Budget friendly seat (sale price $150) that's very roomy for child yet takes up little room into front seat (optimized for side seat installations) $199 and up

Listed alphabetically below are seats for keeping “off-the-charts” kids rear-facing as long as possible (all with 45+ pound rear-facing weight limits and tall seated heights). Note that all of these are also great for keeping smaller kids rear-facing as long as possible too!

What do we recommend?

If a Clek is in your budget, we’d suggest splurging – and if it isn’t, the Graco Extend2Fit (or Extend2Fit 3-in-1) is a fabulous option that won’t break the bank and will keep your little one safely rear-facing until kindergarten.

The top 3 sets of pictures below are of 2 big kids – a 6y10m girl and 4y1m boy – in a few of these seats (Clek Foonf, Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1, Nuna Rava). Both kids are within the rear-facing height and weight limits for the seats EXCEPT the 6y/o girl is too tall for rear-facing in the Clek seats as she is more than 43 inches tall. The 4y/o boy is 38 pounds and 43 inches tall.

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Big Kids in Diono Radians

 

Lower Anchors vs Seat Belt

Remember that there are lower anchor weight limits – such that with all 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. Below is a list of the maximum child’s weight above which you can no longer install with LATCH, and must install with a seat belt.

Clek Fllo (35 pounds), Foonf (25 pounds)

Diono Radians, Olympia, Pacifica, Rainier (35 pounds)

Graco Extend2Fit, Extend2Fit 3-in-1 (45 pounds)

Nuna Rava (35 pounds)

Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air 3-in-1 (40 pounds)

Some of these seats will be more likely to install securely with LATCH, while others prefer a seat belt installation rear-facing.

Prefer LATCH: Diono, Graco, Safety 1st

Prefer Seat Belt: Clek, Nuna

LATCH: The Graco Extend2Fit is a great option if you are looking to use LATCH as long as possible for a rear-facing child. For the Graco or Safety 1st seats, install with LATCH as shown in this video. The Diono seats are frequently limited by their low LATCH weight limit of 35 pounds – as in our experience you are much more likely to achieve a secure rear-facing installation with LATCH than with the seat belt on a Diono seat. Getting a Diono tight with LATCH will typically require more brute force than the other seats here.

SEAT BELT: The Clek seats have well designed seat belt locking devices that in our experience offer a secure seat belt installation in just about any vehicle, and the Nuna has a seat belt tensioning plate that in conjunction with the seat belt’s own locking mode ensures an easy, secure seat belt installation. Therefore, with the Clek & Nuna seats we recommend skipping LATCH on all rear-facing installations and just using the seat belt. This video shows the rear-facing Nuna Rava seat belt installation, this one shows the rear-facing Clek Fllo seat belt installation (for the center seat), and this shows a technique you can use on a rear-facing Clek Foonf or Fllo when installing on one of the side seats.

Which ones are the narrowest? The Clek Foonf & Fllo and the Diono Radians are the narrowest on the outside – but are very roomy on the inside. The Nuna Rava is also pretty slim on the outside, but less roomy on the inside.

The Clek seats, and the Graco Extend2Fit when the foot rest is pulled out, offer the most amount of rear-facing 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. The Nuna Rava is the most cramped in the leg room of these extended rear-facing seats.

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). With all of these seats you are allowed to sit them more upright for kids who can sit upright unsupported – and the more upright the child’s car seat, the less room it will take up into the front seat.

For the Diono seats, use an angle adjuster (sold separately by Diono for $10) to sit the Diono more upright.

For the Clek Fllo, removing the anti-rebound bar will typically sit the car seat more upright (although you are removing a safety feature). The Clek Foonf will take up 1.5 inches less room into the front seat typically than a Fllo (using the anti-rebound bar) so we’d suggest Foonf if you are tight on space.

On the Graco, Nuna & Safety 1st there are multiple recline positions allowed for rear-facing – choosing the more upright ones will give more room in front.

If you have very little room in back AND want your baby to be more reclined, the Nuna Rava or the Graco Extend2Fit without the foot rest pulled out are your best bets.

The Nuna Rava will be outgrown the soonest forward-facing as it has the lowest top shoulder strap slot of all of these seats. The Diono, by a tiny margin, has the highest top shoulder strap slot on all of these seats, and will last a little longer forward-facing. For most kids, the Graco Extend2Fit & Clek Foonf/Fllo will fit them until they are ready to transition to a booster. The average kid will get until about their 6th birthday (forward-facing) in a Clek.

Please note that 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.

While the Graco & Safety 1st turn into boosters, they will not fit a child in booster mode long enough, and you’ll still end up buying a high back booster that can accommodate a taller child eventually.

The 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.

We find the harness straps on the Diono seats to be 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.

The Safety 1st straps are a little better than the Diono straps – but you’ll still have to use your bicep to get the straps all the way snug.

The Graco Extend2Fit straps can be a little stiff to tighten on the smaller kids – but for big kids rear-facing the straps pull very smoothly.

If you are buckling your child snugly in these seats, it is necessary to loosen the straps when taking the child out, and tighten them every time you buckle them in.

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