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Buying guide for best graco convertible car seats

Buying products for a baby can be overwhelming — there's so much out there, and while not all of it is necessary, one thing you definitely need is a car seat. If you've found your way here, you're probably considering buying a Graco convertible car seat. Choose the right mode,l and you'll only ever need one Graco convertible car seat for your child to take them from birth to when they no longer need a car seat.

Many U.S. states require children to use some form of car or booster seat until they reach 57 inches tall. Fortunately, Graco convertible car seats feature adjustable designs to accommodate your child as they grow, though the age and weight range supported varies from one model to the next. They may also be able to convert from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat. Finding the right seat means considering the needs of you and your little one.

Read on to learn more about Graco convertible car seats and what you should look for in your model.

The majority of Graco convertible car seats have adjustable headrests that can be raised as your child grows.

Key considerations

Convertibility

Convertible car seats are so-called because they convert from at least one car seat type to another, but Graco convertible car seats often have three or four configuration options.

Four-in-one car seats will give you all of the following options, but two-in-one and three-in-one models can only be used in two or three of these configurations.

  • Rear-facing: This is when the car seat is positioned so that your baby is facing the back of the car, in the opposite direction of travel. This is the only safe position for infants, but many parents are choosing to use the rear-facing position for longer.
  • Forward-facing: In the forward-facing car seat, your child is facing the direction of travel and secured with a harness. This is the next step when your baby has outgrown the rear-facing position.
  • High-backed booster seat: Once your child is too large for the harness, a forward-facing car seat can be converted into a high-backed booster seat. This is essentially the same as the forward-facing configuration, but your child is strapped in by the car's seat belt rather than a harness.
  • Backless booster seat: Eventually, your child will start to feel confined by the sides of a high-backed booster, but they may not yet be tall enough to go without a booster altogether. When this happens, you may be able to remove the back of a car seat to turn it into a backless booster.

Extended rear-facing seats

Although babies can, in theory, switch to a forward-facing car seat once they weigh around 20 pounds, it's best to keep them rear facing as long as possible.

Studies have shown that children up to 23 months old are 75% less likely to die or be seriously injured in a collision in a rear-facing car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to keep their children in a rear-facing position until at least 2 years of age — in fact this is the law in some states. However, kids are still likely to be safer in the rear-facing position beyond the age of two, which is where extended rear-facing seats come in handy.

Seats in the Graco Extend2Fit series are suitable for kids of up to 50 pounds in the rear-facing position and also feature an extending panel to give 5 extra inches of rear-facing leg room as your child grows.

LATCH system

If you've been shopping for car seats, you've probably heard of the lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) system. This is an alternative to using your car's seat belt to fix the car seat in place. As long as you have a car with LATCH anchors and tethers (the majority made after September 1, 2002 do), this is an easier way to fix your car seat in place with less margin for error.

All Graco convertible car seats are LATCH capable, but bear in mind that LATCH systems are no longer safe to use once the combined weight of your child and their car seat exceed 65 pounds.

Features

Recline positions

Some Graco convertible car seats feature adjustable recline positions so you can recline your little one for naps or sit them upright when they’re more alert or to avoid reflux.

Harness

Graco convertible car seats feature five-point harnesses that have been crash tested for safety. If you choose a model that converts to a booster seat, the harness will be removable, too.

Side impact protection

All options have some side impact protection, but Graco car seats with TrueShield technology offer additional protection.

Graco convertible car seat prices

Basic Graco convertible car seats cost between $100 and $150. This includes two-in-one and basic three-in-one models. Since Graco is a brand you can trust, these models are still safe, but they don't have as many features as higher-end models.

Mid-range Graco convertible car seats cost roughly $150 to $200. In this price range you'll find some basic extended rear facing models and those with extra side-impact protection.

High-end Graco convertible car seats cost from $200 to $300. These are the best models with all the most impressive features, such as InRight LATCH systems and ProtectPlus engineering.

Tips

  • Check which fabric parts of your chosen car seat are machine washable. Some Graco car seats allow you to remove all of the fabric parts to machine wash them, whereas others only let you take out the infant insert for washing.
  • Look up the dimensions of any Graco car seats you're considering. Convertible options tend to be large enough to see children through into double digits. This can be an issue in compact cars, especially for extended rear-facing models, as they take up more space.
  • Learn how to properly adjust the straps and remove the body support. This will make it easier for you to safely adjust the seat to fit your growing child.
  • Decide whether you want a Graco car seat that meets ProtectPlus Engineered standards. These models have been through extensive safety testing, exceeding those mandated by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) testing.

Other products we considered

You need to choose the right option for you and your baby — if none of our top Graco convertible car seats are right for you, we have some alternatives for you to consider.

The Graco Extend2Fit 3 in 1 Car Seat is designed to accommodate children of up to 50 pounds in the rear-facing position. It has an extender to give your child an extra 5 inches of legroom so they can stay rear facing for longer before feeling cramped. It can also be used as a forward-facing car seat up to 65 pounds and a high-backed booster seat after that. The TrueShield technology gives extra side-impact protection.

There's also the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit 4 in 1 Car Seat, which has all the same features as the 3 in 1 but can also be converted into a backless booster seat for older children.

If you already have an infant car seat or are looking to buy a car seat for a child who's ready to go forward-facing, the Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3 in 1 Harness Booster Car Seat is an excellent option. It converts from a standard forward-facing car seat with harness to a high-backed booster.

Pay attention to the maximum weight limit for each stage of the car seat as this varies between models.

FAQ

Q. Do Graco convertible car seats undergo safety testing?
A.
All Graco car seats meet FMVSS for child car seats, and some offer even more protection. Graco has a dedicated crash test facility in Atlanta, Georgia where all Graco car seats are tested to verify that they meet these standards. We touched on it above, but Graco also has its own ProtectPlus Engineered safety standards that its top convertible car seats adhere to. In order to meet these standards, car seats go through extremely rigorous tests, including front-, side-, and rear-impact crash testing; roll testing; extreme temperature tests; and New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) peak crash force tests.
 

Q. Are Graco convertible car seats suitable for newborns?
A.
Yes, the majority of Graco convertible car seats are safe for babies as small as 4 to 5 pounds when in rear-facing mode, so they're even safe for most premature babies (once they're ready to go home), multiples, and other babies with low birth weights. However, some convertible options start as forward-facing car seats then convert into boosters, so these aren't suitable for children until they're ready to progress from their infant or extended rear-facing car seat.
 

Q. Why choose Graco convertible car seats over other brands?
A.
Graco is known for making mid-priced car seats that rival some of the costliest options on the market. They have excellent safety records and are highly durable. Even those that aren't specifically designed as extended rear-facing seats can generally accommodate kids in the rear-facing position for longer than your average car seat. Plus, some models can last from infancy right up until your child is 10 to 12 years old.

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