Rear facing child car seats
Rear-facing baby car seats: the cons
By Lisa Galliers
Article 1 of 3
Rear-facing child car seats: the cons
Which? has been testing child car seats for fifty years, and we support parents keeping their children facing to the rear for longer. However, we know there are some drawbacks to extended rear-facing seats, so we explore these in detail.
Best child car seats - find out which car seats we recommend
Tricky to install
While the first Scandinavian rear-facing Group 1 child car seats we tested did OK in our crash tests, they were so difficult to install properly that we couldn’t recommend them.
Some seats can be big, heavy and hard to install.
Luckily, things have improved since we first looked at extended rear-facing seats, and we’ve even found some that have become Best Buys.
But some of them can still be big, heavy and hard to install in your car. And this is an issue, because if it’s hard to install, there can be a high risk of doing it wrong. An incorrectly installed car seat won’t protect your child as well as it should in a crash.
We recommend you try any seat in your car – with your child – before buying. This allows you to check if the seat fits in your car, if your child is happy in the seat, and whether you can still use the passenger seat, or the rest of the back seat fully.
While the introduction of the latest R129 i-Size regulations has helped make it easier to keep your child facing rearwards until they’re at least four years old, there are car seats available to keep children rear-facing for much longer.
The BeSafe iZi Plus, for example, can be used rear-facing until your child reaches 25kg, which is around seven years old.
Extended rear-facing seats can seem fairly pricey, but if you work out the overall cost versus how long you’ll use the seat, it can work out less, per day, than the cost of a pint(568ml) of milk. Forgoing one coffee-shop coffee a week and you could have your car seat costs covered in no time.
Expect to pay up to around £400 for one of the latest extended rear-facing car seats approved to the new i-Size/R129 regulation. These are approved for use up to 105cm, or around four years old. We’ve found some available for much less, though.
We’ve found extended rear-facing car seats that are Best Buys, as well as some that are Don't Buys.
Check out our guide to the best extended rear-facing car seats and find out which are the top scoring seats from our most recent tests.
Where to buy?
We don’t recommend buying a car seat online because of the poor advice we’ve seen on some sites and also because we believe it's better to get a car seat expertly fitted into your car.
This is especially true if you’re considering buying an extended rear-facing seat. We know that some can be really tricky to install, so much so that we’ve made some Don’t Buys, despite good crash-test results.
This may seem crazy, but if a seat can’t be installed correctly, it may not provide full protection for your child if you’re in a crash.
We’d advise going to a specialist retailer that sells extended rear-facing car seats and is an expert in installing the seats into cars. You’ll be able to find them by doing an online search. This way you’ll know that the seat is properly installed and will help to offer maximum protection.
Legroom in rear-facing car seats
Older children may look squashed in extended rear-facing car seats, because it can seem there is limited space to put their legs, but children are much more flexible than adults and can sit comfortably in cross-legged positions.
The aim of the car seat is to protect the head, neck and internal organs, which are much harder to heal than broken leg bones.
Although a child’s legs may appear more vulnerable when they're facing the back of the car, the aim of the car seat is to protect their head, neck and internal organs, which are much harder to heal than broken leg bones.
Space in your car
You might struggle for space if you’re fitting an extended rear-facing car seat in a conventional medium family hatch. You may also find it difficult to accommodate your whole family, even in large cars – which is why it’s important to try any car seat in your car before you buy it.
The car seat may fit but, if it’s used with an older child, it may mean taller passengers (or, in fact, any passengers) can’t use the front passenger seat any more. If you’ve got a big family, or lots of people to transport, this could cause problems.
Some rear-facing seats we’ve tested were relatively bulky compared with good forward-facing models, while some of the more recent ones aren’t so large, although they will take up a bit more room in your car than many forward-facing models.
Children travelling rearward-facing
In a 2018 Which? survey of 5,316 parents, 42% incorrectly thought that it was safest for children to travel forward-facing in their car seat from nine months old.
You do not need to change your Group 0+ baby car seat to a Group 1 toddler car seat on your baby’s first birthday, either. In the same survey 34% thought this was true, but it’s not.
Travelling rearward-facing is the safest way for a small child to travel.
Travelling rearward-facing is widely known to be the safest way for a small child to travel. This is why the new R129 car-seat regulation makes it mandatory for babies to travel reward-facing until they are 15 months old, and something Which? has been advising for many years.
That doesn’t mean you need to turn them forward-facing as soon as they’re 15 months old. If your baby is still within the height and/or weight limit for their baby car seat, you can keep them in their seat until they outgrow it. At which point, you could swap them to another rearward-facing car seat and keep them facing the back for as long as you, and they, want.
One of the most common reasons for parents turning their child forwards too soon is that they think their child is not happy facing backwards. Car sickness and boredom are also reasons parents give for wanting to turn them around.
96%Number of parents and carers who own a car seat*
We often criticise extended rear-facing seats for their poor view for the child, but infants are used to travelling rearward-facing – they won't know it’s more interesting to travel facing forwards unless you encourage them to think that.
Some parents also want to be able to keep a closer eye on their child than they’re able to when the seat is facing away from them. But it’s worth remembering that interacting with your child while driving is a distraction in itself, which could result in a collision.
*2018 Which? survey of 5,316 parents