How much Headroom? A Height Comparison of Rear Facing Convertible Car Seats

Rear facing is the safest way for kids to ride in the car, no doubt about it. Ideally, kids should ride rear facing until they are 3-4 years old. Most convertible car seats on the market now will easily fit the average 3-year-old rear facing, however, all seats are not created equal in terms of height room. A rear facing seat is generally outgrown when the child’s head is 1″ from the top of the shell or they reach a stated height limit (of course, there are exceptions to both these rules; it’s important to follow the instructions for your specific seat) so the height of the shell is an important number to take into consideration. Even looking at just the measurements doesn’t always give the whole story, because the shape of the seat has a lot to do with when the child will outgrow it. For comparison’s sake, I’ve created a photo guide using the same child sitting in a variety of convertible car seats.

Our model for trying all the car seats rear facing. He's 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso.

Our model for trying all the car seats rear facing. He’s 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso.

To do this test, I rounded up my 5-year-old, Sam (and a lot of m&ms to convince him to sit in all these seats). Sam just turned 5, and he weighs 42 lbs, is 43″ tall and has a torso height (seated, butt to shoulder) of 15.5″ and a seated height (butt to top of the head) of 22″. His torso is on the shorter side for his height, but he is at the perfect size to compare the height of the seats I tried.

I also rounded up a ton of seats. Lots I had access to, and whenever possible I installed the seat first. I did have to take some pictures with seats uninstalled, but I did adjust them to their reclined for rear facing position first in order to mimic the angle. If the seat had an adjustable headrest, I adjusted it to its tallest setting allowed for rear facing. Sam has, obviously, outgrown the majority of these seats in either weight or height, but the purpose is to demonstrate the actual height of the seats as measured by a child sitting in them. I’ve listed them roughly from the shortest to the tallest in accordance to his head. Then I gave each seat a rating of short, medium, or tall; based solely on Sam’s fit, without taking into consideration the stated weight or height limits of the seat. Ready? Let’s do it!


Combi Coccoro- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Combi Coccoro- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Combi Coccoro

  • Weight limit: 33 lbs.
  • Shell height: 22″
  • Stated height limit: 36″
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top
  • Rating: Short
Evenflo Tribute- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Evenflo Tribute- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Evenflo Tribute

  • Weight limit: 35 lbs
  • Shell height: 22″
  • Stated height limit: 37″
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top
  • Rating: Short
Cosco Scenera- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Cosco Scenera- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Cosco Scenera (discontinued but see the Cosco Scenera Next)

  • Weight limit: 35 lbs
  • Shell height: 23″
  • Stated height limit: 36″
  • Shell height limit: Head even with the top
  • Rating: Short
Britax Marathon- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Britax Marathon- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Britax Marathon 70 (discontinued but see the Britax Boulevard G4.1).

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 24″
  • Stated height limit: 49″
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top of the shell (not including extendable headrest)
  • Rating: Short
Evenflo Symphony- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Evenflo Symphony- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Evenflo Symphony

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 23″ (in the top rear facing position)
  • Stated height limit: 37″
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top of the headrest in the 2nd position.
  • Rating: Medium
Graco MyRide- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Graco MyRide- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Graco My Ride 65

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 24″
  • Stated height limit: none
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top
  • Rating: Medium
Safety 1st Easy Fit/Guide/XRS- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Safety 1st Easy Fit/Guide/XRS- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Safety 1st Easy Fit (aka the Guide 65 and XRS 65)

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 25″
  • Stated height limit: 40″
  • Shell height limit: Head even with the top of the fully extended headrest
  • Rating: Medium
Evenflo Sureride- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Evenflo Sureride- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Evenflo SureRide

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 25″
  • Stated height limit: 40″
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top
  • Rating: medium
Safety 1st Complete Air- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Safety 1st Complete Air- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Safety 1st Complete Air

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 27″
  • Stated height limit: 40″
  • Shell height limit: Head even with the top.
  • Rating: medium
Radian

Diono Radian- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Diono Radian

  • Weight limit: 40-45 lbs
  • Shell height: 25″
  • Stated height limit: 44″
  • Shell height limit: 1.5″ from the top of the shell
  • Rating: Medium
RECARO ProRIDE- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

RECARO ProRIDE- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

RECARO ProRIDE (replaced with Performance RIDE)

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 25″
  • Stated height limit: 22.5″ seated height (bum to top of head)
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top.
  • Rating: Medium
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible

  • Weight limit: 45 lbs
  • Shell height: 24″ (in the top rear facing position)
  • Stated height limit: 49″
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top of the headrest in the 7th position.
  • Rating: Medium
First Years True Fit- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

First Years True Fit- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

First Years True Fit (discontinued)

  • Weight limit: 35 lbs
  • Shell height: 26.5″
  • Stated height limit: none
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top of the shell
  • Rating: Tall
Nextfit

Chicco NextFit- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Chicco Nextfit

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 26″
  • Stated height limit: 49″
  • Shell height limit: none
  • Rating: Tall
Safety 1st Elite Air- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Safety 1st Elite Air- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Safety 1st Elite Air (discontinued)

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 28.5″
  • Stated height limit: 43″
  • Shell height limit: Head even with the top of the shell
  • Rating: Tall

(Safety 1st has released the Elite Air 100)

Clek Foonf/Fllo- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Clek Foonf/Fllo- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Clek Foonf/Clek Fllo

  • Weight limit: 50 lbs
  • Shell height: 26″
  • Stated height limit: 43″
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the top of the fully extended headrest
  • Rating: Tall
Graco Headwise/MySize/Size4Me/Fit4Me/Contender- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Graco Headwise/MySize/Size4Me/Fit4Me/Contender- 5 and is 42 lbs., 43 inches, with a 15.5 inch torso

Graco MySize/Head Wise/Fit4Me/Size4Me/Graco Contender

  • Weight limit: 40 lbs
  • Shell height: 28″
  • Stated height limit: none
  • Shell height limit: 1″ from the red adjustment handle in the top headrest position
  • Rating: Tall
There you have it! Remember, the physical height room is not the only factor to take into consideration. Take a look at the weight limits and the stated height limits as well – a seat is outgrown when the child reaches any of the three limits (weight, stated height, or height in relation to the top of the shell) as directed by the manufacturer. For more detailed info, please check out our recommended seats page, which has more details and reviews of most of the seats listed. We hope this guide will show you how a real child fits in each one of the seats and help you determine which seat is the best for your Little – especially if your Little is a little bit tall.

Originally written by Emma Douglas. Edits maintained by CSFTL.