Given that rear facing is safer than forward facing, why would you ever want to turn your kid forward facing? Well there comes a time when the child is too tall or too big to fit in the rear facing car seat thus necessitating the shift to a front facing one.
However, you have to remember that rear facing is up to 5 times safer than forward facing and hence as much as possible try to keep the child in the rear facing car seat until they have exceeded the height and weight limits of their seats.
According to recommendations from the AAP, you need to keep your child in rear facing for up to a minimum of two years before switching to forward facing. You can then switch to a car seat with a harness until the child is about four years old.
Types of Car Seats That You Can Use in Forward Facing
- Convertible Car Seat - Include 3 in 1/all in one car seats and can be used in rear facing then turned to forward facing when the child exceeds height and weight limits
- Combination Car Seats with Harness - These are seats that you may use with a harness if your child weighs in at between 40 and 90 pounds or without the harness as a booster at between 80 and 120 pounds.
- Forward Facing Only Car Seats - These can be used forward facing with a 5 point harness and can never be used rear facing or as a booster. They are safe for children between 40 and 80 pounds.
Our Favorite Forward Facing Car Seats
Reasons to Switch to a Forward Facing Car Seat
Contrary to popular opinion, you do not have to purchase a forward facing car seat if you have a convertible car seat with higher height and weight limits that your child has yet to exceed. As long as your child is within the height and weight limits of their convertible car seats, you can continue to use it until they are ready for a harnessed booster seat typically when they are approximately 5 to 7 years of age.
However the following are some reasons to upgrade to a forward facing car seat:
You want to hand down the rear facing car seat to a younger child, while the older child is now ready for rear facing. Most forward facing car seats weight and height limits will allow the kid to use it from between the ages of 7 up to 12 when they would be ready for adult eat belts.
Many Pre-K kids will usually start rejecting to ride in rear facing and will ask for a booster. A forward facing car seat is more upright than the convertible, yet still has the 5 point harness and hence by transitioning your child to these seats you can appease the kid while still keeping them safe.
Forward facing combination car seats are typically very tall and will usually last until the child no longer needs to use a car seat. As such by using these seats, you can keep the child harnessed for longer than you would in a normal convertible car seat.
When to Switch from 5 Point Harness to Booster
I always advise that you keep the child in the 5 point harnessed seat for as along as possible. However, when toddlers are about the age of 4-5 years they will usually start asking to travel in a booster. To determine if your child is ready for a booster seat involves two elements: height and maturity. Most kids will attain the required criteria by the time they are 6 or 7 years old.
Maturity - You can tell if the kid is old enough to shift to booster when they are old enough not to lean forward in their seat, sit improperly, wriggle out the seat or generally do something in the seat that shows immaturity.
They are tall enough that the shoulder belt lies in the middle of the shoulder rather than the neck. The shoulder belt needs to be in the middle of the shoulder, go over the collar bone and then pass over the sternum at a good angle. Check out the picture guide to car seat safety on the appropriate way to use harness and booster seats.
Installation Tips for Forward Facing Car Seats
As usual you need to read and thoroughly understand the car seat manual before you install and use the forward facing car seat. You need to find a car seat that installs securely in your car and has the most snug fit for your kid.
To Switch a 3-in-1 or Convertible from Rear Facing to Forward Facing
- Shift the shoulder straps to the harness guides that are above or at your child's shoulders. Check your car seat manual since some convertible car seats are designed such that the top harness slots have to be employed when using the seat in forward facing.
- Using the instruction in your seat owners manual adjust the recline angle so that it fits the age and model of the car you are using.
- If installing using car seat belt ensure that the belt is locked and tightened snugly and that it passes through the forward facing belt path.
- If you are using LATCH, ensure that the toddler weighs no more than 65 pounds. If the kid weighs more than 65, use seat belts as the LATCH is not strong enough to hold the weight of a child heavier than 65 in the instance of a crash.
- As much as you can use the top tether to anchor the car seat more securely on the car. The tether offers more safety as it prevents the seat from moving too far forward or from side to side in a crash.
Video on How to Install a Forward Facing Car Seat
Forwarding Facing Car Seat Reviews
The Recaro Performance SPORT is a racing inspired seat which makes it one of a kind as it makes use of some of the safest racing technologies.
Comes with top of the range safety technologies such as a stripe alerting parents of twisting, twist resistant 5 point harnesses.
It also comes with some of the best side impact protection technologies such as memory foam to keep your child safe and secure.
- Comes with the innovative HERO safety system that properly positions the seat belts and chest clips and prevents twisting to keep the child as safe as possible.
- Easy to adjust no re thread 5 point harness system makes it easy to install and use the car seat.
- Has an ergonomic shell structure, memory foam and padded harnesses so that your kid can ride in utmost comfort.
- Racing inspired side impact protection limits head and neck movement thus reducing the risk of injury to the child in the instance of a crash.
- Certified for travel in airplanes when used with plane seat belts in harness mode.
- The car seat has nooks and crannies where food may get in even though the seat is machine washable
- Adjusting the height of the car seat is not so easy as you may have to completely uninstall the car seat to do it, which is quite the hustle.
- The seat may not be suitable for toddlers that have not learned to control their necks and heads as it is too upright.
The Safety 1st Grow and Go car seat prides itself as a seat that you can use with your child right from infancy until they are toddlers
You can use it in rear facing from 5 pounds to 40 pounds and in forward facing as a harnessed seat from 22 pounds to 65 pounds. You can then remove the harness and transition to belt positioning booster that you can use for up to until the child is 100 pounds.
- One of the easiest car seat to install and for the child to get in and out of due to its easy to access harness holders on the sides of the seat
- The Quickfit Harness makes it easy to adjust the height of the harness and headrest in one quick step for the best fit for your growing child
- A small car seat this seat is one of the best if you have a compact car as it offers up to 7 inches more space when installed in rear facing
- The car seat pad easily comes off and is machine washable and dryer safe which makes the car seat great for when you have messy toddlers
- Has two integrated cup holders which means it would be great for long journeys where you child may need to drink often
- While it is advertised as fit for infant to toddler, many parents find it too roomy for newborns though it is perfect for toddlers and older kids
- A little bit on the bulky side at 18 pounds and hence even if it is FAA approved it may not be the most convenient to travel with
The American made Evenflo Mestro booster seat is a 2-in-1 combination booster seat that you can convert from a 5 point harnessed booster seat to a positioning booster for your growing child's needs
Made for children between 22 pounds and 110 pounds, the brilliantly designed car seat meets and exceeds federal safety standards by up to two times
It is also an incredibly lightweight car seat which makes it installation onto the car or lugging it around an airport is very convenient.
- It has been tested to the highest federal crash safety standards and in-house Evenflo manufacturer standards and proven to be up to two times safer
- It is easy to install and use through its easy to tighten and loosen upfront harness adjustment
- You can use it for an extended period of time with your toddler given its multiple crutch buckle and 4 point harness positions
- Comes with an auto adjusting seat belt path which ensures a tight and snug fit for your child.
- Integrated cup holders offers easy access to drinks without increasing the seat's footprint making this a good car seat to use if you have a small car
- The front clip that is supposed to hold the pad in place is not very tight as it should be
- The car seat will not fit in the security conveyor with the cup holders on it and hence you would have to suffer the inconvenience of removing them every time you travel through an iarport
The Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 car seat is one of the best car seats that will provide the utmost in comfort and safety for your child.
It has a 5 point secure harness and given that it is a 3-in-1 car seat it can fit children in rear facing from 27 to 49 inches and from 22 to 65 pounds. You can then use it as a belt positioning booster when the kid is between 30 and 100 pounds then as backless booster from 40 to 100 pounds and 40 to 57 inches.
- Comes with comfortable and machine washable seat pad, and buckle covers
- Provides your child with utmost comfort with 3 position incline, integrated cup holders for their drinks and storage compartments for their toys
- It has a 5 position headrest and an easy to adjust harness for your growing child
- The 5 point harness which is appropriate for children who weigh up to 65 pounds so that your child can stay in extended rear facing for as long as possible
- While the car seat is rather sturdy the seat pad is made of rather flimsy and cheap materials
- The installation of the car seat can be quite difficult particularly if it is the first time you are installing using LATCH.
The Britax Pioneer harness to booster seat is made by one of the foremost manufacturers of baby car seat known for exceptional safety standards
It comes with a range of safety and convenience features that will aid in the installation and securing of the car seat to ensure that your child is safe and comfortable.
In recognizance of its superior standards of safety the car seat won an NHTSA award in 2015 so you can be certain that your kid will ride safely in this forward facing car seat.
- Provides superior side impact protection through energy absorbent foam lined shells
- Comes with the Safecell Impact Protection System for your child that includes stage release switches, impact absorbing tether and steel frame
- You can use it in harness mode for small children weighing in at 25 pounds up to 70 pounds and as a belt positioning booster when the child is older
- Has easily accessible lower LATCH anchors and connectors that make it easy to install the seat and strap in the child
- The easily adjustable 9 position harness will grow along with your child meaning you will not need to buy another seat until the child transitions to seat belts.
- Some parents have complained that the car seat tends to squeak a lot when the child is not in it
- The seat back may be too high in some cars which may obstruct the drivers view
- The installation of the car seat may be quite a nightmare and you may have to consult the manual a lot to install the seat.
Most of the forward facing car seats disccussed are great and will safely and securely carry your child through their toddler years. Even so, my favorite choice for best forward facing car seat is the Recaro Performance SPORT. It offers top class safety, ease of installation, a god looking design and can be used for airplane travel