Rear Facing for the Biggest Littles

(Last Updated On: October 1, 2021)
The Nuna RAVA is a comfy place for a snooze

The Nuna RAVA is a comfy place for a snooze

At one time, the child passenger safety community relied on data from a major study that suggested that children were over 5 times safer when riding rear facing than forward facing.  We followed that guidance, suggesting to many, many parents that keeping their children rear facing as long as possible is best practice.  Unfortunately, attempts to replicate the data in that study failed, leaving us with the amended guidance that rear facing remains significantly safer.

Major health and safety organizations including the American Association of Pediatricians strongly recommend that kids ride rear facing until they’ve outgrown the rear facing limits of their car seat.  Scientists, statisticians and child passenger safety advocates agree on the immense safety benefit of rear facing to very young spines.

Until the last decade, the rear facing weight capacity of most car seats in the United States maxed out at 35 pounds. Car seat manufacturers have responded to both the safety recommendations and the increasing weight of American children, introducing — beginning in 2009 — seats with a 40 pounds rear facing weight capacity. Less than ten years later, rear facing to 40 at a minimum has become the industry standard, with some manufacturers designing car seats that reach to 50 pounds. 

Weight Limits

For most children, a 40 pound rear facing limit is adequate: according to the CDC growth percentile charts, a male child in the 97th percentile boy won’t reach 40 pounds until well over age three. (40 pounds is barely even marked on the charts that end at 36 months!). While rear facing is safer for three year olds and we would prefer to see all children rear face until close to age four, a properly used and tethered forward facing car seat is certainly a safe choice for children over 24 months who have outgrown the rear facing capacity of their convertible car seats.

What About Bigger Kids?

Kids on the go

Kids on the go

Still, some kids, like mine, are larger than their peers. When my first baby outgrew his rear facing only car seat at three months old, no car seats on the market rear faced past 35 pounds. I simply chose the seat with the tallest shell, knowing he would need the tallest seat out there. Three years later, when my second child was born, there were two companies making convertible seats that rear faced past 40 pounds. That has changed fast, and now there are a variety of seats that rear face to 50 pounds!

We’re thrilled that larger children in North America now have great safe options that they didn’t just a few years ago. But there are other situations where kids might need seats that rear face past 40 pounds: children with special physical needs often are much better supported by rear facing, caregivers with older vehicles that can not have tethers retrofitted may benefit from children rear facing until they have the maturity to sit in a booster, and rear facing might work better to achieve safety for three seats across a small back seat. In other words, having the option to rear face larger young children benefits many families, not just those like mine with great big Littles.

Choosing the Right Convertible Car Seat

If you, like me, know that your big baby is destined to be the one whose size all the grandmothers at the library comment on, you might be wondering how best to choose a long-lasting convertible car seat. 

When shopping for a long-lasting convertible seat there are two factors to take into consideration: weight and height. When a child reaches either the weight limit or the height limit of a rear facing seat they have outgrown it. In other words, whichever limit your kiddo reaches first is the one that you’ll follow. 

Weight Limits

It’s pretty rare, but a small number of children will outgrow the rear facing weight capacity of their convertible seat when they reach the stated rear facing weight limit. High weight limit seats go to 45 or 50 pounds rear facing. If you’re looking for a seat that will accommodate the heaviest kids rear facing, it’s easy to find that information. We even have a handy dandy comparison tool where you can directly compare the weight limits of various convertible car seats!

Height Limits

Most children will outgrow their rear facing car seats not by weight, but by height, when the length of their torso is too long for the shell of their convertible seat. Shopping for the tallest convertible seat is less easy than shopping for a seat with the highest rear facing weight limit: because the key measurement is from your Little’s bum to top of the head, there’s no number on every box to make a simple comparison.  

All convertible car seats have a rear facing height limitation: most require the child’s head to be within 1 inch” of the top of the shell of the car seat, some have a standing height limit of 49 inches tall. That means when you’re shopping for the tallest seat, you’re looking for the seat that offers the most space from the child’s bum to the top of the car seat’s shell.

Currently, Graco convertible car seats, including the very popular Extend2Fit and the Britax One4Life are among the longest lasting seats by height that are sold in North America. 

Car Seats with a 40+ Pound Rear Facing Weight Limit

If you find yourself looking for a car seat that can accommodate rear facing past 40 pounds, here is a list:

Britax One4Life 

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: head 1 inches below top edge of headrest
  • Forward facing: weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: less than 49 inches tall 
  • Booster mode: weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range: 44-63 inches tall
  • Read our review

MSRP $380

Chicco NextFit Max

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: 43 inches or less
  • Forward Facing: 22-65 pounds, height range: 49 inches or less
  • Not available in Canada
  • Read our review

MSRP $329

Clek Foonf 

  • Rear facing weight range: 14-50 pounds, height range: 25-43 inches tall (19-33 inches when the infant-thingy is installed) 
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 30-49 inches tall
  • Canada: rear facing weight range: 5-40 pounds
  • Read our review

MSRP $479

Clek Fllo 

  • Rear facing weight range: 14-50 pounds, height range:25-43 inches (19-33 inches when the infant-thingy is installed) 
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 30-49 inches tall
  • Canada: rear facing weight range: 5-40 pounds
  • Read our review

MSRP $399

Cybex Eternis S

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: 17-48 inches and top of the child’s head must be 1 inch below the top of the headrest
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 28-49 inches tall
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range: 44-57 inches tall
  • Read our review

MSRP $380

Cybex Sirona S

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range:17-49 inches tall and the child’s head must be 1 inch below the top of the headrest
  • Forward FacingFF: 22-65 pounds, height range: 28-49 inches tall
  • Read our review

MSRP $499

Diono Radian 3QX

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, 18-44 inches tall
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range:30-57 inches tall
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range:40-57 inches tall

MSRP $369

Diono Radian 3QXT

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: 18-44 inches tall
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 30-57 inches tall
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range 40-57 inches

MSRP $399

Diono Radian 3QXT+

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: 18-44 inches
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 30-57 inches tall
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range: 40-57 inches tall

MSRP $499

Diono Radian 3RX

  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds, height range: 44 inches or less
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 57inches or less
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range: 57 inches or less

 

Diono Radian 3RXT

  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds, height range: 44 inches or less 
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 57 inches or less
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range: 57 inches or less

MSRP $279

Evenflo EveryStage

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: 17-48 inches, the child’s head must be 1 inch below the handle at the top of the headrest
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 29-49 inches tall
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range: 44-57 inches tall
  • Read our review

MSRP $229.99

Graco Extend2Fit

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: up to 49 inches tall
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: up to 49 inches tall
  • Read our review

MSRP $229.99

 

Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-100 pounds, height range: 43-57 inches tall
  • Read our review

Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: the child’s head must be 1 inch below the handle at the top of the headrest
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: up to 49 inches tall
  • Booster mode weight range: high back booster: 40-100 pounds | backless booster: 40-120 pounds, height range: high back booster: 43-57 inches tall, backless booster: 43-57 inches tall
  • Read our review

MSRP $369.99

Graco Premier 4Ever DLX Extend2Fit

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: the child’s head must be 1 inch below the handle at the top of the headrest
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds,  height range:up to 49 inches tall
  • Booster mode weight range: high back booster: 40-100 pounds, backless booster: 40-120 pounds, height range: 43-57 inches tall

MSRP $359.99

Nuna EXEC

  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds,  height range: 49 inches or less
  • Forward facing weight range: 25-65 pounds,  height range: 49 inches or less 
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-120 pounds, height range: 38-57 inches
  • Not available in Canada

MSRP $649.99

Nuna RAVA

  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds,  height range: 49 inches or less 
  • Forward facing weight range: 25-65 pounds,  height range: 49 inches or less
  • Canada: rear facing weight range: 5-40 pounds

MSRP $449.95

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Kinetic

  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds,  height range: 49 inches or less 
  • Forward facing weight range: 25-65 pounds,  height range: 49 inches or less

Safety 1st Grow and Go Comfort Cool

  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds,  height range: 19-40 inches
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds, height range: 29-49 inches
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-100 pounds, height range: 43-53 inches

MSRP $229.99

Safety 1st MultiFit EX Air

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds, height range: 49 inches or less
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds,  height range: 29-49 inches
  • Booster mode weight range: 40-100 pounds, height range: 43-52 inches

MSRP $189.99


Footnote

Injury Prevention’s retraction of the original study