A study published in “Pediatrics” found that children younger than 2 were 75 percent less likely to die or be seriously injured in a car crash when riding in a rear-facing car seat. Since young children’s vertebrae and ligaments are still growing and strengthening, riding in a rear-facing car seat helps protect their fragile bodies and keeps them more than five times safer than toddlers in a forward-facing car seat. With some convertible car seats now allowing children to remain rear-facing up to 45 pounds, the best seat for most toddlers in one that keeps them rear-facing the longest, provided you use and install it correctly.
Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL
The entire Radian line wins parent approval due to its slim design, sturdy steel alloy frame, energy absorbing foam, head support, SuperLATCH installation and colorful designs. Most important, it allows toddlers and young children to safely rear-face up to 45 pounds, the highest weight of any convertible seat available in the United States.
The folding frame is ideal for travel, and the car seat allows kids to forward-face up to 80 lbs. in a five-point harness.
Britax Boulevard And Roundabout
Both of these seats in the Britax line are popular among parents. Details like their patenting Harness Ultra Guard System that keeps straps in place, a versa-tether that allows tethering in all positions, an energy-absorbing foam liner and soft fabrics in a variety of fun colors and patterns make Britax seats a top pick for both kids and parents. Notoriously easy to install, Britax convertible seats are suitable for infants from 5 lbs., while the upper limits of the seat vary, depending on the model.
The Roundabout50 and Boulevard both allow toddlers to rear-face up to 35 lbs., while the forward-facing limit is 50 lbs. for the Roundabout and 65 lbs. for the Boulevard. The Roundabout is cheaper by about $140 in 2010, but the Boulevard features head wings for true side impact protection, as well as an infant insert to better position small infants.
Consumer Reports rated the inexpensive Scenera higher than many more costly seats, proving you do not always have to spend a bundle to get a safe product. Though the seat does not feature energy absorbing foam, it performed well in crash tests and allows kids to rear-face up to 35 lbs. or forward-face up to 40 lbs. Lightweight and easy to install, even in compact cars, the Scenera works well as a travel seat, secondary car seat or for parents on a budget who want to keep their child rear-facing without spending a lot of money.
Graco MyRide 65
Available in many color options, the My Ride 65 keeps kids rear-facing up to 40 lbs., longer than the higher-priced Britax seats. Retailing for about $160 in 2010, the My Ride 65 features energy absorbing foam, dual cup holders, side impact protection, headrest pillow and an infant insert. Once your child hits 40 lbs., the seat allows you to harness her in a forward-facing position up to 65 lbs..