When the Graco Extend2Fit was released in Canada in 2017, I was still a newbie Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) and didn’t have a little rolodex of seat stats in my brain to make quick mental comparisons.
I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal.
These days, while I may not know what month we’re in, I can easily thumb through that mental rolodex to come up with the various height and weight limits of seats on the market, how they tend to fit in various vehicles, even their retail and sale price. It’s not great for making dinner conversation, but it is very useful as a tech and a car seat reviewer!
The measurement that sets the Graco Extend2Fit apart from others is 50 lb (22.7 kg). That is the maximum child weight for rear-facing mode, and it is one of only a handful of seats available in Canada with a limit that high.
What’s so great about a 50-lb rear-facing limit?
Some of you may be thinking … but wait, 50 lb … my 7-year-old weighs that, and they’re not rear-facing!
Meanwhile, others will be thinking, oh thank goodness! My 2-year-old is already 40 lb (18 kg) and I’d like to continue rear-facing them!
So here’s the deal: kids all grow so differently. At age 5½, my daughter now weighs what my son weighed around age 3 ½. My identical twins are at least 5 lb (2.2 kg) and 1” (2.5 cm) apart in size.
For plenty of children, a seat with the much more common 40-lb weight limit can easily keep them rear-facing until age 3, 4 or even 5. For others, even to make it to age 2, 40 lb just isn’t enough!
Hang on … we’re supposed to rear-face how long?
Wait—age 3, 4 or even 5?! If you’re surprised by the idea of keeping a child rear-facing as a preschooler, you’re not alone.
Messaging about child passenger safety has been evolving over the past two decades, with my teenaged and twenty-something cousins having been flipped forward facing like clockwork at age 1. (And for my generation, our parents may have had us facing the front even earlier!) My son was born in 2012, and I was getting grief for him still being rear-facing at 18 months.
The most common general belief among caregivers these days is that we should rear-face our kids until they turn 2. However, turning 2 is not a milestone for flipping your kiddo’s seat. In 2018 the American Association for Pediatrics revised its “age 2” criteria for turning forward-facing. The current recommendation is to keep children rear-facing until they outgrow their rear-facing convertible seat, and ideally, well past age 2. A car seat installed rear-facing drastically reduces the incidence of injury to the neck and spine, which are more fragile in younger children.
As mentioned above, plenty of kids can indeed be rear-facing through preschool (as my daughter was) using many of the seats on the market, but children on the higher end of the growth curve need more room to grow so that they can safely rear-face through toddlerhood.
What about their legs?
The Extend2Fit can accommodate a child up to 50 lb or up to 49” (124.5 cm) tall in rear-facing mode.
You may rightly be thinking that a child who is approaching 49” tall might be lacking in leg room in a rear-facing car seat. And while the child’s legs and feet touching the vehicle seatback while rear-facing is not a safety concern, having extra legroom may appeal to both caregivers and children when it comes to choosing a car seat.
The Graco Extend2Fit is so named because of its foot panel that can be extended to fit the child’s growing legs.
As with all convertible seats on the market, you can install the Extend2Fit using either the lower anchors or the vehicle seat belt.
Note that this seat has a lower anchor weight maximum of 45 lb (20 kg). This means that whether your child is using this seat in forward-facing or rear-facing mode, if they weigh 45 lb or more, you must install it with the seat belt.
Both the lower anchor and the seat belt installation in rear-facing mode are straightforward and user-friendly.
For a lower anchor install, I like to pull the seat cover off a bit to be able to reach my hand through the belt path and grab the tail of the lower anchor strap from the inside to tighten. However, it’s a bit finicky to reattach the seat cover.
@carseatcubsHad to put my son’s seat back so why not one last vid. Graco E2F rear facing. Full video on YouTube. ##carseatsafety ##cpst♬ Vogue (Edit) – Madonna
If you tighten the lower anchor strap without pulling up the seat cover, the best technique is to make sure you’re pulling the tail upwards alongside the seat rather than pulling it outwards, away from the seat.
@carseatcubsIt’s bugging me that I forgot to put the headrest down in this video but not enough to film it again!♬ original sound – Maman Loup / Car Seat Cubs
Remember that when installing, you want to put downwards pressure on the seat either using your hips from behind the seat, or with one arm pressing into the seat pan. As I’ve recently discovered from TikTok commenters, a lot of folks have the idea that they should be physically climbing into their rear-facing seats to tighten them. Do not do this!
When installing with the seat belt, the belt path is wide, and it is easy to feed the seat belt through.
Rear-facing fit to vehicle:
When the Extend2Fit was first released in Canada, it had very specific requirements for the foot panel, which may still be present in the owner’s manual if you purchase one today.
The foot panel had to be extended to position 3 for a child weighing over 22 lb (10 kg), and the extended foot panel significantly increased the front-to-back space occupied by the seat. Therefore, you may have heard that the seat was too large for compact vehicles. This is no longer the case.
As of April 2021, Graco Canada has completed testing with Transport Canada and, retroactively, the foot panel requirement has been removed, which means that the use of the foot panel is entirely optional, regardless of the child’s weight.*
You can find the updated manual on Graco’s website, and the change applies retroactively to all regular (not Platinum version) Extend2Fits sold in Canada since its release in 2017 on Graco’s website.
Of course, the foot panel is what gives the child that extra legroom, and this may be why you want the seat. If you are purchasing this seat for use in a compact vehicle, it may not be possible to take advantage of that foot panel. (And remember, the foot panel is purely a comfort feature; it doesn’t increase safety.)
*Note that there is one stipulation: if the seat is being installed using a vehicle lap-only belt (the kind of belt found in the back seat of older model vehicles), the foot panel MUST be in position 4.
The Extend2Fit has an angle indicator on the side of the seat. The pale blue circle is where the little silver ball must sit for babies aged 0–3 months so that the seat is adequately reclined for a newborn. There is then the dark blue range which is acceptable for older babies, toddlers and preschoolers depending on their comfort and the fit to vehicle.
The Extend2Fit has three recline positions for rear-facing, which you can adjust using the grey handle on the base. Which position you need to use to get the ball within the correct range will depend on the slope of your vehicle seat.
Because I’m a weirdo with a vehicle seat in my bedroom, I tested out a couple of install options to give you an idea of how much front-to-back space the Extend2Fit takes.
When installed fairly upright (with the ball in the dark blue) and the foot panel completely closed, the seat is actually about 0.5” shorter in length than the Graco 4Ever, making it a very compact install. If you love that foot panel and have the front-to-back space available, as I do in my Odyssey, then the installation is what I’d consider as “medium” size. The seat is no longer compact, but it’s also not as long as many seats on the market.
The good news is, installed without the foot panel and reclined for ages over 3 months, the seat is going to fit in even the most compact cars, and if it doesn’t, there isn’t really anything that will be smaller. The great news is, if you have the front-to-back space available, you get to use the foot panel!
The Extend2Fit has an overhang allowance indicator on the seat base, which shows you how much the seat’s base can hang over the vehicle seat. If the seat overhangs by too much and you are unable to correct this with your installation method, then you’ll need to try a different seating position or the seat may not be suitable if your vehicle seats are very short.
Remember that at a child weight of 45 lb, you must install the Extend2Fit with the vehicle seat belt.
Installing with the lower anchors is straightforward: remember to switch the lower anchors to the forward-facing belt path.
Because the seat cover opens to expose the belt path, it’s easy to tighten the lower anchors by pulling from the inside of the seat, and it’s equally straightforward to tighten the seat belt if installing by this method.
@carseatcubsGraco Extend2Fit forward facing with lower anchors ##carseattech ##cpst ##carseatsafety ##carseattiktoks ##carseatcubs♬ The Office – The Hyphenate
The convenient seat cover opening also makes it easy to thread the vehicle seat belt if you’re using this installation method. You can pull out the slack easily as well!
@carseatcubsRear-facing seatbelt install tips! Applies to any seat but this one is the Extend2Fit. ##cpst ##carseatsafety ##carseattiktoks ##parentsoftiktok♬ original sound – Car Seat Cubs / Maman Loup
In forward-facing mode, the seat has three acceptable angles. The one you select will depend on what gets the base to sit flat on your vehicle seat.
Forward-facing fit to vehicle:
For the vast majority of vehicles, the Extend2Fit will be a good fit thanks to the flexibility offered by the three possible forward-facing reclines. In the case of very short vehicle seat pans or forward-leaning, non-removable headrests, it’s always wise to test the install before you buy.
As with rear-facing, there is a sticker on the base that shows you how much the base is allowed to overhang the vehicle seat when installed forward-facing.
Fit to Child:
In both rear and forward-facing modes, I find the fit-to-child excellent on my kiddos. The included infant cushion can be used for smaller babies but doesn’t have any weight restrictions for usage. Both the included head cushion and bum cushion are for use in rear-facing mode only. The seat also comes with harness covers that my children prefer to remove. (Not required.)
I find the design of the headrest on this seat is flatter so it has less of an issue with pushing kids’ heads awkwardly forward as with the Graco 4Ever. The headrest also provides ample room for long torsos in rear-facing mode. Kids should be able to fit right up to the height maximum, unlike some seats that are outgrown sooner due to a lack of 1″ of clearance between the top of the car seat and the top of the child’s head.
Pros of the Graco Extend2Fit:
- No-rethread harness makes it easy to adjust.
- Premium lower anchor connectors make it easy to secure and remove connectors on deeply recessed lower anchor bars.
- Foot panel, when vehicle space allows, gives lots of extra leg room for rear-facing toddlers and preschoolers.
- Upright seat position and ultra compact size when used without the foot panel.
- High weight and height limits for rear-facing mean you can keep larger kids rear-facing longer.
- Ideal seat for transporting different sized rear-facing kids: because of the high weight limit and no-rethread harness, you can easily adjust the seat for a 1-year-old or a preschooler, depending on who’s riding that day.
- High weight and height limit may allow a child to ride safely longer in rear-facing mode, which doesn’t require use of the top tether (when the only seating position available for a car seat is a position that does not have a top tether anchor).
Cons of the Graco Extend2Fit
- Foot panel may not be usable in very small vehicles.
- Top harness height of approximately 17.5” (44.5 cm) is average but may not accommodate forward-facing children that are taller or have long torsos until they are ready to move to a booster seat.
- The cover, while washable, is challenging to remove and put back on.
- Limited leg room for rear-facing kids when not using the foot panel: most children will happily cross their legs, prop them up on the vehicle seat back or flop them to the sides, but this is sometimes a concern for caregivers.
I used to hesitate to recommend the Extend2Fit for a lot of families out of concerns that the required foot panel position would take up too much space. Now that the foot panel is optional for almost every install (unless you’re using a lap-belt only vehicle belt), it means this seat can squeeze into close quarters if needed, while still giving kids lots of leg room in larger vehicles that can accommodate it.
For a lot of kids, a rear-facing limit of 50 lb isn’t critical: they’ll be 4 or 5 by the time they hit the usual rear-facing limit of 40 lb. But for bigger kids who are surpassing 40 lb closer to age 2 or 3, the Extend2Fit is a must!
If your child is heavy and tall, keep in mind that you may need to buy a combination seat to keep them harnessed until they are booster ready, as they could outgrow the forward-facing harness on the Extend2Fit too soon.
While it’s one of my twins who normally uses the Extend2Fit, my daughter who is now 5½ will occasionally still ride in it because she finds it super comfortable to ride “backwards,” and she likes being next to a window that opens in our van.
Overall, this is a user-friendly, long-lasting and mid-range priced seat (with a frequent sale price of CAN$200–250) that will work well for many children and vehicles!