The best extended rear-facing car seats under $200 (and even $100!)

The best extended rear-facing car seats under $200 (and even $100!)

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Experts agree that children are safest riding in rear-facing car seats, but the seats for extended rear-facing with the highest rear-facing weight and height limits are often more expensive. We looked at expert recommendations and safety legislation before analyzing the seats currently on the market to find the best bets at budget prices.

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  • What age can my child ride facing forward?

    What you need to know

    Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend that kids ride rear-facing in the car as long as possible, also known as extended rear-facing. Rear-facing seats are safest because they support your child's head, neck, and spine more effectively in the event of an accident.

    Once your child reaches the car seat's rear-facing weight and height limits, you'll have to turn it to face forward. But lots of kids are able to ride rear-facing until age 4 or even longer. Many states have passed laws requiring rear-facing until age 2, including California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.

    Convertible car seats with generous height and weight limits that extend their window of use in the rear-facing position used to be the most expensive models on the market, costing upwards of $300 and sometimes $500 or more. But in recent years, car-seat makers have responded to parents' growing demand for extended rear-facing seats. Now you'll find these seats at every price point, and even bargain seats will hold children up to 40 or even 50 pounds rear-facing. That's easily enough to accommodate your average 4-year-old! (For help putting height and weight limits in context, check out these growth charts for kids from birth through age 8.)

    These same seats can then be used to hold children forward-facing in a five-point harness until they weigh as much as 65 pounds. For seats under $200, that's a lot of use for the money.

    Here are some of our favorites.

  • Graco Extend2Fit

    A super-popular seat, for a reason

    The Extend2Fit hasn't been around long, but it's a blockbuster because it solves a rear-facing issue that drives parents crazy: scrunched-up legs. In general, kids are very flexible and don't mind having their legs in weird positions, but the Extend2Fit sure makes parents more comfortable – a leg rest slides out from the seat and gives kids a place to prop their legs so they don't end up folded oddly or splayed alarmingly over the back seat. It also has very generous weight and height limits, holding children rear-facing from 4 to 50 pounds in weight and until their heads are 1 inch or less below the headrest handle. Forward-facing, kids are good from 22 to 65 pounds and up to 49 inches. There are seats with bigger forward-facing height maximums, so if you have a taller child, you may want to keep looking. Otherwise, the Extend2Fit has it all, and at 19.2 inches wide, it's not a giant monster of a seat (though it is heavy at a shade over 24 pounds, so you won't want to move it around a lot).

    Available at Amazon starting at $179

  • Cosco Scenera Next

    A major bargain that's great for travel

    This inexpensive seat is rather bare bones – the padding isn't plush, and it lacks extras. But it's rated for rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches, which is impressive for the price. One downside: the seat only forward-faces to 40 pounds, so you'll need to buy another seat to get your child through the booster-seat years. Many parents buy the Scenera Next as an extra for the grandparents' car or for travel, because it's so light (about 10 pounds) and easy to carry around. It's also only 17 inches wide, so it may fit into tight spaces better than other seats.

    Available at Amazon starting at $58.56

  • Cosco Apt 50

    Inexpensive but mighty, with washable fabric

    The Apt 50 is about the same price as the Cosco Scenera Next, and has higher weight and height limits in forward-facing mode (22 to 50 pounds and 29 to 43 inches), which means you can use it longer overall. But before that, it's rear-facing from a generous 5 to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches. The Apt 50 doesn't have luxurious padding or extras like special tightening and leveling systems or a sunshade. But for this price, does it matter? Many parents do appreciate the cup holders on either side of the seat, and like that the seat's pad is easy to remove and machine-washable. Head's up: The Apt 50 is wider than the Scenera Next – at 22 inches at its widest point, it may not fit in snug spaces.

    Available at Amazon starting at $56.99

  • Safety 1st Guide 65

    Narrow and comfy for infants

    Narrow enough to rate as one of our Best car seats that fit 3-across in most vehicles, the Guide 65 is also lightweight (15 pounds). It's rear-facing up to 40 pounds and 40 inches and forward-facing from 22 to 65 pounds and 34 to 52 inches. Parents who travel frequently say the Guide 65 is great to take on flights, too. The standard model has removable lumbar padding that helps prop babies up safely, and a removable cup holder, too. (The "sport" model of this seat doesn't have extra padding and isn't as nice for infants.) Note: Cosco and Safety 1st brands are both made by the same company, and the Cosco MightyFit 65 is basically the same as the Safety 1st Guide 65.

    Available at Amazon starting at $79.99

  • Evenflo SureRide

    Great for tall kids

    Evenflo is known for making inexpensive car seats that are easier than most to install, and the SureRide DLX hits this target. Parents say it's particularly simple to install using LATCH. It holds children safely rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches, then forward-facing from 22 to 65 pounds and 28 to 54 inches. That's a generous height limit, so consider the SureRide if you have a kid on the tall side. Its removable body pillows make it suitable for most newborns, and it's narrow enough to be one of our Best car seats that fit 3-across in most vehicles. Since the SureRide is lightweight (9.8 pounds) and inexpensive, parents often consider it for travel – but note that it doesn't fit rear-facing easily on many planes.

    Available at Amazon starting at $99.99

  • Evenflo Sonus 65

    Kids climb in and ride in comfort

    At a great price for its high quality, the Sonus has a lot to offer. First of all, the (mostly!) expansive weight and height limits: rear-facing 5 to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches; forward-facing 22 to 65 pounds and 28 to 50 inches. We say "mostly" because the forward-facing height tops out at a relatively low 50 inches; compare that to the Evenflo SureRide at 54 inches. If you have a tall child, you may want to choose another seat. However, the Sonus is slender (18 inches wide) and light (10.8 pounds), so it's easy to carry and fits in tight backseats. It does take up a lot of vertical space when installed rear-facing, so keep that in mind if you don't have a lot of legroom to spare in your car. One feature kids love about the Sonus 65: its low sides allow little ones to scramble in by themselves like a big kid. Parents love the cushy padding, too. Evenflo sells a similar seat called just Sonus for about half the price, but its forward-facing weight limit is only 50 pounds.

    Available at Amazon starting at $149.99

  • Graco Contender 65

    Good for cars with limited legroom

    The Contender holds children rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds. The rear-facing height limit is unusual: It's not a specific number of inches. Graco says children can ride until their heads are an inch from the red harness adjuster button when fully extended. In practice, only the tallest kids will outgrow the Contender 65 height-wise in rear-facing mode before the weight limit indicates it's time to switch. Forward-facing, the Contender 65 takes kids from 20 or 22 to 65 pounds, depending on your seat's date of manufacture. The forward-facing height limit is 49 inches. Parents will note that the forward-facing height limit is unimpressive, so if you have a taller kid, this one's not for you. However, this seat takes up less room front-to-back in rear-facing installs, so if you have a car on the small side, you may want to consider the Contender 65. At 19 inches wide at its widest point, it's pretty slim, too.

    Available at Target starting at $111.99

  • Graco Sequence 65

    Takes up less room rear-facing

    Similar to the Contender 65, the Sequence 65 (sold at some retailers as the Sequel 65) holds children rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds and until the child's head is 1 inch above the adjuster handle on the fully extended head rest. Forward-facing, the Sequence 65 goes from 22 to 65 pounds but only up to 49 inches, so taller children will top out sooner here than in other seats. Other than the nice price, one of the Sequence 65's claims to fame is that, like the Contender 65, it doesn't take up as much room front-to-back when installed rear-facing as other seats. Though it won't fit in a subcompact car like the Extend2Fit will, the Sequence 65 works great in compacts on up.

    Available at Amazon starting at $159.99

  • Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1

    A multi-stage seat at a bargain price

    One of an increasing number of "three-in-one" seats designed to fit kids from birth until the booster years, the Grow and Go gets our pick because it's under $200 and not as much of a beast as most multi-stage seats. With a width of 19 inches, it's relatively slim, and at 18.7 pounds, while not exactly light, compared to a seat like the Britax One4Life at 30 pounds, it's easy on the arms. The Grow and Go rear-faces from 5 to 40 pounds and 19 to 40 inches. It converts to forward-facing for kids 22 to 65 pounds and 29 to 49 inches, and works as a high-backed booster for kids 40 to 100 pounds and 43 to 52 inches.

    Available at Amazon starting at $139.99

  • Britax Allegiance

    Britax's bargain line has a lot to offer

    Britax has long been known as a manufacturer that makes topnotch car seats with a price tag to match, but the brand branched out and introduced a less-expensive Essentials line in 2018. At under $200, the Allegiance and the very similar Emblem car seats are fantastically comfortable, have buckles and other parts that work more smoothly than those on other bargain brands, and come with a handle on top that makes it a lot easier to move the seat around. Both models safely hold children rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds and until the child's head is an inch from the top of the head rest (in the Emblem) or the head pad (in the Allegiance). Forward-facing, these seats take kids from 20 to 65 pounds and up to 49 inches tall. This forward-facing height limit is on the lower side, so if you have a tall child, choose another seat. Otherwise, the Allegiance and Emblem are great picks that feel a lot more expensive than they are.

    Available at Amazon starting at $189.99

  • Watch the video: Whats extended rear-facing and why should you consider it? Sponsored (December 2022).

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