When it comes to safe ways of transporting children in cars, best practices tell us rear-facing is the way forward. Although most US parents still forward-face by shortly after 1, best practices indicate it’s safest to continue doing so until at least 4, as is the case in both Sweden and Norway. To make this possible, though, we need seats with high weight and height limits in rear-facing configurations.
Currently, there are only a handful of seats that allow you to rear-face until 50 pounds in the United States: the Clek Fllo, the Clek Foonf, the Diono Rainier, the Graco Extend2Fit, the Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1, the Nuna Rava, the Safety 1st Advance EX 65 Air+, and the Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air. Other 50 pound seats have come and gone, such as the Diono Pacifica. However, the market continues to grow as US manufacturers realize that parents are increasingly interested in following global best practices in car seat safety. This brings us to the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit. It combines the 3-in-1 (rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster) modes of the Graco 4Ever with the 50 pound rear-facing weight limits of the Graco Extend2Fit. How does it compare to the other 50 pounds seats on the market? Pretty well. Let’s take a closer look below.
The Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit is a 3-in-one car seat and the successor to the Graco 4Ever All-in-one. It As a convertible seat, you can use it from the day your baby is born to take him or her home from the hospital rear-facing. While most parents use infant seats, using a convertible seat with a newborn is perfectly safe as long as the seat fits your baby in terms of harness adjustability, recline angle, head support, and of course, the lower weight limit. Once your child maxes out the weight or height limits for it in a rear-facing configuration, you can turn it forward-facing until reaching the weight and height limits there. Once your child outgrows it forward-facing, you can turn it into a high-back booster and then a low back booster. In other words, it’s potentially capable of being the only car seat your child ever needs. Additionally, because it has a 10 year lifespan, you’ll be able to use it with multiple children if you’re interested in doing so, or at least use it to make the most of the 50 pound rear-facing limit and 65 pound forward-facing weight limit, in addition to the booster modes.
Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit Limits for Weight and Height
Rear-facing: 4 to 50 pounds. Best practices suggests rear-facing as close as possible to 50 pounds before forward-facing, since rear-facing is the safest way to place a child in a moving vehicle. The absolute height limit is 49″, and your child’s head also needs to remain 1″ below the adjustment handle for the no-rethread harness. The shell height is a very generous 29″ when fully extended, and per Center for Disease Control growth charts (which are the same for boys and girls), a 50th percentile child won’t reach 50 pounds until 7 years old, and 49″ until 7:5 (7 years, 5 months). As a result, this is one of the rare seats where weight is actually the bottleneck instead of height for rear-facing; the Graco Extend2Fit and Nuna Rava, which both also feature 50 pound and 49″ weight and height limits respectively while rear-facing, are designed the same way. The main takeaway here though is that you’ll be able to rear-face virtually every preschooler (all of whom should be rear-faced) and kindergartner (who still benefit from rear-facing, although they can also be forward-faced) without worry.
Forward-facing: 22 to 65 pounds. The forward-facing height range ends at 49.” This height limit, as noted above, will be reached by a 50th percentile child at 7:5. The weight limit won’t be reached by a 50th percentile child until 10, but it’s overruled by the height limit. If you were to max out the rear-facing limits before forward-facing, this suggests you could rear-face the average child until 7 and then forward-face until 7:5 before converting to the booster modes. In practice, you could move directly from rear-facing into boostering, as the Swedes do, as most children will be able to sit appropriately in high-back booster seats by 7, which means there aren’t any safety advantages in continuing to forward-face at that point. There is no harm, however, in continuing to forward-face until your child outgrows that configuration by weight or height.
High-back / low-back booster: 40 to 100 pounds as a high-back booster and 40-120 pounds as a backless (low-back) booster. The height range in both configurations is between 43″ and 57″ and Graco added a minimum age range of 4 years. This is far better than previous car seat recommendations where manufacturers stated boosters could be used as early as 3 (a very unsafe idea), but it’s crucial to remember that preschoolers should never be in boosters and kindergarteners are almost never ready for boosters either. On the other end of the scale, kids should stay in boosters until they pass the 5 step test for seat belt readiness, which most kids won’t pass until they’re between 10 and 12.
Dimensions and Key Features of the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit
The 4Ever Extend2Fit’s shell is 19″ wide at the widest points (across the cupholders). The seat itself weighs 25.8 pounds with padding and 24.3 pounds without padding. The 4Ever Extend2Fit is 23″ tall, and 21″ deep. It can be used for 10 years from its manufacturing date, and its harness height ranges from 7″ at the low end to 17.5″ at the highest position. I measure the shell height at 29″ with the headrest fully extended. The width at the shoulders is 12.” Two crotch straps are included; the inner slot is 2″ from the back of the seat without padding and 4.5″ with padding while the outer slot is 6.5″ from the seat back. The seat depth is 13.” You can choose between 6 recline positions (4 rear-facing, 2 forward-facing).
Using the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit (Installation, Child Fit, and Additional Bonuses)
The 4Ever Extend2Fit was easy to install in both rear- and forward-facing configurations, as well as in high-back and low-back booster modes. I was particularly a fan of the inclusion of the extender beneath the seat to provide additional leg room; this debuted in the original Extend2Fit and it does add comfort when rear-(but not forward) facing. The leg extension is adjustable and has 4 positions of travel. For additional comfort on long road trips, 2 cupholders are included.
The no-rethread harness made adjusting the seat easy enough for kids of varying sizes, and I was happy to be able to achieve a good fit for newborns, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary-aged students, and middle-schoolers.
It’s important to note that you need to use both the harness pads and the body support if your child weighs 25 pounds or less. The seat is FAA approved for harness use; keep in mind that you can’t use it as a booster on a plane because you need lap and shoulder belts for a booster seat. The seat has a 10 year lifespan, but Graco stipulates it needs to be replaced after any crash, including minor ones.
Special Notes When Installing the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit Rear-Facing
When rear-facing, you can choose between recline positions 1 through 4; 5 and 6 are reserved for forward-facing (and are marked as such on the side of the seat). You can also use the leg extension by pulling it out and clicking it into one of the 4 positions available. To access the belt paths for both rear- and forward-facing, you can pull forward the bottom cover.
You can install the seat via either seat belts or LATCH, but I always recommend seat belt installations since they make 3 across installations easier and because seat belts are just as safe as LATCH. Additionally, a seat belt installation means you won’t have to switch to seat belts later on once your child reaches 35 pounds, as this is a requirement for rear-facing. Keep in mind that you can’t use inflatable seat belts with the 4Ever Extend2Fit (which is the case with the vast majority of car seats currently on the market).
Special Notes When Installing the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit Forward-Facing
It’s important to note that you can only choose between recline positions 5 and 6 when forward-facing; if your child weighs 40 pounds or less, you’ll need position 5. If your child weighs more than 40 pounds, you’ll need position 6. As noted earlier, you’re not allowed to use the leg extension in any position when forward-facing. You’ll also need to use the built-in seat belt lockoff (it’s red and located behind the seat) when installing the seat in forward-facing position for children who weigh more than 40 pounds. If you need to uninstall the car seat once you’ve used the lockoff, you’ll want to unbuckle the seat belt to lower belt tension before trying to open the lockoff in order to prevent sore fingers and pirate speech.
As noted above, while you can use LATCH, I’d recommend seat belts for forward-facing. The forward-facing LATCH weight limit is 40 pounds; once your child weighs that much, you’ll need to switch to installing the seat with seat belts if you haven’t already.
Why Buy the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit
Overall, I’m thrilled to see the 4Ever Extend2Fit. It joins the growing ranks of seats allowing children in the United States and Canada to rear-face to 4, 5, and even longer by featuring a 50 pound rear-facing weight limit and the highest height limit currently available at 49 inches.
It’s hard to find things wrong with the seat without being very picky; it could be narrower, but seats like the Clek Fllo and Clek Foonf satisfy that need by allowing rear-facing to 50 pounds while coming in at a svelte 17.” It could fold into a more travel-friendly configuration, but you can turn the Diono Rainier into a backpack while still being able to rear-face to 50 pounds, forward-face, and booster. It could be cheaper, but the Graco Extend2Fit is already available to let you rear-face until 50 pounds for less than $200, and unlike the 4Ever Extend2Fit, it doesn’t feature a booster mode.
The 4Ever Extend2Fit fits nicely in its niche and is one of the best car seats on the market for safety and budget-minded parents. When you consider that this could potentially be the only car seat you ever need for a child, its value increases exponentially.
You can buy the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit in Clove and Jodie here. Unfortunately, it’s not yet available in Canada, but Canadians can buy a similar seat, the Diono Rainier, here.
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