I decided a while ago that I wanted to keep Arlo in a rear facing car seat for as long as possible. After a van sharply rear-ended my stationary car whilst Arlo was in the back, I realised that you can be the most careful driver in the world but you can’t account for other drivers. Rear facing is five times safer than forward facing. I wanted those statistics on my side.
Here’s a snippet from Rearfacing.co.uk
We narrowed our choice down to a few car seats, based on availability and the models that were known to fit our car (a 1999 Ford Focus). Allow me to run you through our thought process.
(Imagines Sam swiftly closing his browser in alarm).
I say ‘we’, but at this point in the proceedings, Sam was pissed off at the mere utterance of the words ‘car seat’ – poor boy feels the brunt of my indecisiveness. Fastest way to get him out of my hair is to threaten him with a pros and cons list.
Initially, I was quite set on the Besafe Izi Combi. It has won Which awards, it looks like a very robust seat with deep sides, it reclines, and it sits very high up so Arlo would have no problem looking out the window.
Yes, the weight limit is lower than the other car seats we were looking at, Arlo would be in it until around four years of age. That didn’t bother me because the likelihood is that we will have a little brother or sister for Arlo before he reaches that weight limit. So Arlo would be upgraded to a higher weight limit seat when number 2 needed to use the Besafe.
(Sam visibly quakes in his boots).
But hang on, if we are going to upgrade Arlo at age four, which seat will we be buying then? Most definitely another seat which still offers the option to rear face. So, a Britax Two Way Elite or Britax Multitech (both last up to around six or seven years rear or forward facing).
So, if we know we are going to buy one of these seats for Arlo eventually, why not just cut out the middle man/seat and buy one now?? If we like it, we can just buy another one for number 2.
(Sam cracks open the rum).
But wait, how will we fit in two rear facing seats when we probably can’t fit one behind the driver’s seat?? We’ll have to get a bigger car.
(Sam hides the credit cards).
And anyway, Sam will have to learn to drive when we have two children as I am living by the mantra of less driving more drinking when we have more than one child.
(Sam has fled the country).
However, we had reservations about the Besafe seat as we had been warned that it really is a giant seat, and as we weren’t near enough to a stockist to try it out in our car (more rear facing stockists in the UK please!), we were concerned it might be a bit too big, and leave virtually no leg room in the front. And what use is a recline feature if you don’t have the space for it in your car?
When I spoke to the really helpful guys at In Car Safety Centre (one of the few UK stockists who import their rear facing seats from Scandanavia, where rear facing is much more prevalent), they pointed out something that hadn’t even occurred to me. We had planned to put the seat behind me (driver’s seat) because I have my seat further forward that Sam does, so this would leave more room on the passenger side. But the car seat needs to rest against the back of the front seat. Installing behind the driver’s seat meant that there was a possibility I would need to move my seat further back or forward to meet the back of the car seat – no good in terms of reaching the pedals and being able to drive comfortably.
So, bearing in mind that the seat would need to go behind Sam, we decided to go for the Britax Two Way Elite, the more compact seat.
We ordered it online from In Car Safety Centre and it arrived within a few days.
Sam, being of logical mind, said it was a piece of piss to install and he reckons he would have no problem moving it from car to car in under ten minutes – useful for holidays and trips with Arlo’s grandparents (The Two Way Elite is compatible with a lot of cars, so it’s likely to fit fine in a hire car if we ever want to take our own seats on holiday – another potential bonus).
It was also the cheapest of all our options. £200 for the seat and £20 for the optional headrest we purchased.
Even though it has a small ‘footprint’ for a RF seat, we were still surprised at how little leg room it left in the front when reclined at the 45 degree angle. However, as Arlo gets bigger and we move the seat to a more upright position, leg room in the front will be increased. To be honest, we could move it more upright now, but we wanted to stop Arlo’s head lolling forward as he still does quite a bit of sleeping in the car. I am still curious to test out the Besafe in our car just to see if it does, indeed, leave less room. But I guess we will never know.
The passenger seat is about two inches further forward than the driver’s seat when the car seat is positioned at its lowest angle.
It is a bit of a squeeze for Sam. He has 16 inches of space for his feet, but only six between the seat and the dashboard at its narrowest point, so his knees are pushed up against the dash and he says it’s not the most comfortable of rides.
We haven’t yet tested out the leg room comfort levels on a long car journey, but that’s fine as I don’t think my car would come out of a long car journey alive anyway, and we have no plans to test that theory. Mostly, it’s just me and Arlo in the car, so losing that space on the passenger side was only a small sacrifice.
So far, I really like this seat. It’s simple, it’s comfortable, it’s portable if we want it to be, and it will last a bloody long time. If we do decide to turn Arlo forward at any point between now and six or seven years old, he will still be strapped in with a five point harness rather than a three point seat belt. My only negative is that the straps are a little fiddly to get in position to slot into the locking mechanism. But then I find this to be the case with most car seats.
(Special mention to Baby Nest in Croydon. This is by far my favourite baby shop (they have every single pram, buggy and double imaginable and if you go on a weekday you can try them all and it’s usually not that busy so you get tons of one on one help). They advised us in great detail on replacing Arlo’s infant car seat after my crash, and they were so helpful with my endless questions about rear facing seats over a number of months. We really wanted to buy from them, but in the end, they didn’t stock the seat we chose to go for).
Any suggestions of age appropriate car toys that can be used safely with a rear facing seat would be much appreciated! I haven’t been able to find anything yet.
This is an old blog post. We’ve now been using the Two Way Elite for over a year and my son is two and a half. Click here to read the latest blog post on this car seat.