The best rear-facing baby car seats
In a front-on collision, extended rear-facing car seats offer a higher level of protection to a child’s delicate head, neck and spine, compared to a forward-facing toddler seat.
Although you can never guarantee what type of collision you would be in, we would recommend opting for an extended rear-facing car seat for as long as possible.
Especially as the most dangerous car accidents are typically frontal collisions, and they’re also one of the most common.
The best extended rear-facing car seats
These Best Buy rear-facing car seats for babies or toddlers are straightforward to install, comfortable for your little one, and were impressive in our tough front-on and side-collision crash tests.
Scroll down to below our top recommendations and you’ll find the models we wouldn’t recommend.
(Table last updated in December 2020)
Extended rear-facing car seats to avoid
These extended rear-facing car seats aren’t quite as impressive as they should be, compared with others we've tested.
Some score poorly due to crash test results. Others score poorly because they're so hard to install correctly that there’s a real risk you’ll do it wrongly, meaning the car seat won't provide protection in a crash in the way that it's supposed to.
(Table last updated December 2020)
Extended rear-facing car seats explained
When a car crashes in a frontal collision, all the occupants continue to move forwards until their seatbelt or harness stops them, holding them in place so they don't hit the inside of the car.
However, this force can cause a lot of strain on the areas of the body held back by the seatbelts, and also on the head and limbs, which are flung forward after impact.
Babies’ bodies are different from adults, as they’re not fully developed. They can suffer severe injuries to their neck, spine and internal organs from the force of a crash, especially if they’re not strapped in properly or are in the wrong car seat.
But in a front crash in a rear-facing seat, the baby’s head is cocooned by the padding and the shell of their car seat, which supports the head and back, limiting the movement of the head on the neck, and reducing the force on the neck.
However not all parents know this. When we surveyed 1,800 parents in March 2020, 52% thought it was safest for children to travel facing forwards from nine months old.
Rear-facing baby car seats offer four types of protection:
- They make sure that a baby’s head doesn't move around, reducing the chance of neck and spine injuries.
- They stop the head banging into other surfaces, such as the car door or window.
- They surround the baby with a protective shell to prevent them from being hit by bits of car, glass or other debris.
- They distribute the pressure from the child restraint as widely as possible over the strongest parts of the body. In an infant, the strongest part of the body is the back.
Height and weight limit for extended rear-facing car seats
Extended rear-facing car seats are typically suitable from six months or a year old, and they are the car seat you move to after your baby has outgrown their first car seat.
They enable your little one to remain rearward facing until they reach 18kg, or until they are 105cm tall for i-Size car seats, both of which are around four years old.
We recommend keeping your baby rearward-facing for as long as possible.
Try to wait to move them to a forward-facing seat once they are at least 15 months old, reach the weight limit for the car seat, or when the crown of your child's head is above the top of the seat, which means they are too tall and their head won’t be as protected in a crash.
Is there enough legroom in rear-facing car seats?
Although a child’s legs may appear more vulnerable when they're facing the back of the car, the aim of a child car seat is to protect the vulnerable head, neck and internal organs, which are much harder to heal than broken leg bones.
Older children may look squashed in extended rear-facing car seats, but children are much more flexible than adults and can sit comfortably in cross-legged positions.
It might also seem like there’s limited space for their legs, but many rear-facing child car seats can be installed with varying leg space, so that they allow for a very compact installation but can give your child as much room as possible.
Make sure to visit the manufacturer website or refer to the instructions to ensure you’re positioning the car seat correctly to make the most of the space available.
If you’re worried about damaging your car’s rear seats, it’s possible to pick up protective covering to stop dirty shoes from messing the fabric.
Why you should get your extended rear-facing car seat fitted
If you do opt for an extended rear-facing car seat, we’d recommend that you have the seat fitted at a retailer that specialises in this type of seat.
We’d also advise you to read the instructions several times and watch installation videos online to be sure it’s installed correctly.
A car seat is only as good as the way it is fitted, and some rear-facing car seats in our tests are so complicated to install that there’s a real risk it could be installed incorrectly and not provide the best protection in a crash.
Extended rear-facing swivel car seats
Placing a child in a rear-facing car seat can be a struggle and it can put a lot of strain on your back.
But a number of manufacturers have introduced child car seats with a 360-degree rotation feature that can rotate to any position you choose, making it a whole lot easier to get your little one in and out of the car.
These swivel car seats allow for extended rear-facing, forward-facing and – cleverly – a stop in-between where you can turn the seat towards the door to help you put your child in the seat and buckle them up.
Using extended rear-facing car seats in more than one car
Depending on the type of car seat, it will be fitted with the vehicle’s seatbelt or into Isofix fitting points built into the car, if it is an Isofix or i-Size seat.
Alternatively, some rearward-facing car seats come with a separate base, and the base is fitted with the car's seatbelts or into its Isofix points and the child car seat clicks onto the base.
If you will be using your extended rear-facing car seat in more than one car, then it may be worth investing in multiple Isofix bases for your car seat, which stay installed in each car.
This makes it much quicker and easier to swap the car seat between cars as you simply need to pop it onto the base and it’s ready to be used.