Best Graco Infant Car Seats

best graco infant car seats

Choosing the right infant seat can oftentimes be challenging for families. With these notes on the Graco Infant seats, I am hoping you are able to make the right choice for your family.

Some Factors Before You Take the Plunge

How do we make the best choice?

  • Comfort– Will your baby be comfortable? The main purpose of a car seat is to keep your child safe in the event of a collision. As long as you use it correctly your child should be comfortable.
  • Affordability– Will I have to take out a second mortgage to afford an infant seat? Price does NOT equal safety. Graco offers a range of infant seats from 100$ to 300$. Some community organizations do offer program seats for those less fortunate.
  • Stroller compatibility– Do I need to buy a stroller combo to get the right seat? Choosing the right stroller will depend entirely on what you intend to use the stroller for. If you are a jogger or if you are just going to use the stroller around the mall.
  • Fabrics– What is my padding made with? Is it a soft texture? With Graco infant seats they only put the best of the best out to market. Sometimes people worry about what chemicals are used and with good reason. However, when it comes to Graco seats everything produced is produced with a parent’s set of eyes to ensure your child’s safety is #1.  The sleek soft textures of the Graco Infant seats leave a baby feeling comfortable while they ride in style.  Available in multiple color patterns.
  • Right fit for your vehicle– Will this fit my vehicle? While this is one of the most compact option for infant seats on the market today, it is always best to make sure your choice is the right fit for your vehicle. Infant seats are NOT universal.
  • Easy Install Features – Easy LATCH or J hook LATCH? Seatbelt? With many of the new features offered by Graco, easy install features can be found on the majority of their seats. Always install with either the seatbelt or the LATCH system.

The Beginning

From the 2 lines showing up on the pregnancy test, to the phone call from the adoption agency or the email confirmation from your surrogate mother. First-time parents, those expanding their families, and caregivers have many things come to mind when preparing for their new arrival. Crib, diapers, formula or breast milk, and the most complicated of them all, CAR SEATS.

My daughter Elizabeth / Image from Eran Jones

Choosing the right infant seat is not as simple as it seems. Not all seats fit all vehicles and not all seats need to be extremely costly. Finding the best sale might not always be what is best either. It comes down to making sure your vehicle can accommodate your child’s restraint system.

“I have a seven-seater SUV. I have plenty of room for my three kids.”

It is a misconception that three seatbelts or three top tethers mean that three seats fit automatically.  A lot comes into play, like belt placements, bench space, and bolsters. Something to look at is your vehicle manual. Even if your vehicle has multiple seating positions, it doesn’t equal a perfect fit.

Fun Fact:

Did you know that up until 2019, the Rav4 had a prohibition of using the center seat belt while someone was occupying the outboard driver-side seat? This prohibition means it is illegal in most states and provinces to use all 3 belts at once. 

This included children in car seats as well as adult passengers. Although the prohibition is no longer there and the belt overlap has been corrected, it is still a very small space to work with and to this day, not many have achieved fitting 3 seats safely.

Rav4 Pre 2019 Online Manual* With exception of certain years

Finding the Right Car Seat

As a Canadian child passenger safety technician, it is one of my daily tasks to help caregivers ensure they have the right seat.

There are many brands on the market today that are available to both the Canadian market and the American market.  One thing to note is that seats bought in the US can ONLY be used in the US. Canadian shoppers must find stores in Canada to purchase their seats and ensure that their seats have the National Safety Mark on them.

Stroller Compatibility

It is not always wise to purchase a seat and stroller combo. Sometimes the stroller offered in a combo is not always the easiest to maneuver. 

Choosing the right infant seat for your family and then finding a stroller compatible with your seat is sometimes the best way to go. Strollers come in different styles and functionalities. Some are more for the jogging and adventurous families and some are simple and enough to go to market

Now the big question! With so many different makes and models out there, how do I choose? One of our many tech-favorite infant seats is the Graco Infant Seats, but which ones are the best?

About Graco Infant Seats

Graco Infant Car Seats

One of the more affordable and pretty versatile for all types of vehicles is the Graco infant seats. Graco Children’s products have been around since 1942 when they were called Graco Metal Products. They have evolved over the years to become a trusted brand for children’s products. Not only are they affordable, but they are also durable. They have been available in the US and Canada for over 40 years.

Graco owns their own testing facility in Atlanta. This allows them to conduct their testing to pass the Federal Safety Standards and beyond.

Let’s break down some prices and features of the infant seats offered by Graco Baby USA. Before we get started, please note: Each country uses different terms and abbreviations for the anchorage system used to secure the seat. You will see many social media pages use terms such as LATCH,UAS, and ISOFIX

Graco has 3 categories of infant seats. The basic SnugRide®, the SnugLock® and the SnugFit® series.

SnugRide® 35 Lite LX Infant Car Seat

With a minimum weight limit of 4lbs and a maximum weight limit of 35lbs. Like with every Graco infant seat there is also a height limit of 32inches. Something many folks do not know is that there is also a one-inch from the top of the shell limit. Meaning if your child has a longer torso, they might reach one inch from the top of the shell before the weight or height limit is met.

It comes with a simple head and body insert which must be removed at 12lbs. Many folks forget about this, as they also tend to forget to read the manual. This seat does NOT come with harness pads and buying harness pads from the store is not permitted. Please reach out to Graco if they have harness pads available for you to purchase.

Available in a variety of colors and patterns, Graco gives you the option to ride in safety and in style.

The base is a simple J hook style LATCH/UAS* and has an adjuster foot to help you get the proper recline for your vehicle. This infant seat fits the majority of vehicles and is one of the more compact options on today’s market. It is very user-friendly when caregivers take the time to read the manuals. This is your basic model from Graco. This infant seat is in the lower price range.

SnugRide® SnugLock® 35 Infant Car Seat

Graco Baby

With the same weight and height requirements, this model offers some different features. This model listed has a one-piece body insert that cradles the infant. The body insert does vary on which model you purchase. You will see on this model that the infant seat does come with harness covers. This does help prevent them from rubbing on your child’s neck.

The SnugLock® series consists of 3 different models. These differ slightly by different inserts and the LX model comes with a one-hand adjustable handle.

The Elite model comes with a slightly bigger SnugLock® DLX base. The SnugLock® feature of the base makes the installation of the base a breeze. Designed to install with the seatbelt making it easier to change vehicles when needed.

This car seat is in the mid-price range.

SnugRide® SnugFit 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

Very different than seats Graco has had in the past. It has a non-rethread harness that adjusts from the headrest. It has a quick easy removable pad, making it easier clean.  It also comes with a quick adjust handle for that one-handed adjustment. 

Equipped with a rebound bar it adds an added layer of rebound protection. This base has the SnugLock® technology built in. Making it really user-friendly and easy to install with the seatbelt. It offers 5 different recline positions to make sure you get the right fit for your vehicle. 

This one does have a little larger footprint than the others so be sure to test it out in your vehicle before purchasing. This is a similar model and installation to the SnugLock series. This is seat is in the higher end of the price range offered by Graco. 

Pros of Graco Infant Seats

What I like most about Graco, is the ease of installation for caregivers. Many times when clients book to have their Graco seat checked, little adjustments are needed as long as parents have read the manual.  Out of many manufacturers, I can say with confidence that Graco has the most detailed and easy-to-read instructions on how to install and use their seats.  Not only is the manual clear on the dos and don’ts they have an amazing customer service team.

I really enjoy that when shopping for a seat from Graco, I know that I will be getting my money’s worth when making a purchase.

The functionality and compact size of the infant seats make it easier for parents with tighter spaces to work with.  With many of their seats ranging from a 7 to 10-year expiry date, means it can be passed down to younger siblings as the child grows.

I also really value Graco for its continued ingenuity and advancements in child passenger safety.  Following the highest of standards when keeping our children safe on the roads.  Graco Children’s products push for the maximum limits to be used on their seats.

Some of my fellow technicians have chimed in with what they love about Graco Infant Seats:

  • “Variety of price points yet the basic seat is essentially the same.” J.Kampman CPSAC CPST
  • “Lightweight and compact fitting majority of vehicles.” S.Spenser CPSAC CPST

Cons of Graco Infant Seats

Of course like with anything we as consumers purchase or use, there are always some things we find less appealing in a product. Some of the things I have disliked in the past are the bases that came with a level line instead of a bubble. This made it difficult for caregivers as well as technicians to get it right.

I can say from experience, that after using premium LATCH/UAS* to attach a seat or base, we get spoiled with the ease of installation. So that when we get a Graco base with the J hooks we all tend to roll our eyes. On the base model, the J hook adjuster strap seems to always jam up and makes it difficult to loosen the base after installation.

And the infamous rear-adjust seats that use to be produced by Graco made it extremely likely for misuse to happen.  It has been discontinued, however, some are still floating around. These models harness is all adjusted in the back. Meaning if you have an already upset infant that they are getting tied into the seat, you will have a harder time making sure they are snug and secure.

How to Install the Base: A Few Extra Notes

How To Install The Base

After you have chosen the right Graco seat for your family, it will then be time to install the seat in your vehicle. It is important to read your manual to make sure all the instructions are clear.

You are going to make sure you are on a level surface. Place the base on the bench of the vehicle. Install with either the LATCH/UAS  or the seat belt. Never use both.  In models with SnugLock features, it is recommended to use the seatbelt for securing your base. If you are paying extra for the feature you might as well use it.

If you have a base with a level line you are going to want to make sure that you look at that line while stepping back to see if it is level with the ground. Do not base this level line on your vehicle frame. If you have a model with a bubble you will have an easier time making sure it is level. Ensure the bubble is in the proper zone indicated on your base.

A good trick for tightening the adjuster strap is to use the inside vs outside method. This makes it so you are going with the grain of the strap and not against it when tightening. Graco has a YouTube channel available with all the different ways to install their seats.

Price vs Safety

As a parent, before becoming a technician, I had always thought that the more padding the comfier my child will be. I also believed that the more expensive the seat, the safer it was.  Which is not true at all.

Our main concern is always comfort and safety. However what makes it that a seat is a hundred dollars vs three hundred?  In all honesty, it’s the materials used for all the extras. Extra padding, extra features, premium LATCH/UAS*, and all other extra features.  When used correctly the seat does its job to protect your baby from survivable collisions.

Each individual company has its own testing periods and crash tests. Not all companies make these videos available to the public. These tests cost a lot of money, which is why the seats with all the extras will also be more expensive to produce.

FAQs

Question: How can we trust a company if they’re doing the tests?

Answer: Although each company in the United States does its own individual testing, it must follow the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 (FVMSS 213). They go through a rigorous set of tests to ensure they pass safety standards designed to help protect your children.  Meaning if they fail any of those standards it is back to the drawing board.  Most countries have their own federal standards and they do vary on which standards are required to approve or disapprove a car seat to be sold.

Canada has Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS).

Remaining Nonbiased

As a child passenger safety technician, it is important that we don’t show favoritism to any specific seat. We do have our favorite features of specific seats.

Conclusion: Which Graco Infant Car Seat is the Best?

It doesn’t matter what Graco Infant seat you use. All are equally safe when used correctly. This means reading your manual, installing according to manufacturers’ instructions, and not taking any shortcuts when installing.

Graco is equipped with a really good team of customer service reps and 90+ of them are trained passenger safety technicians and are always ready to answer your concerns. If you prefer some hands-on help there are two organizations readily available to help you find a local technician near you. In the US you have Safe Kids Worldwide, and in Canada you can reach out to the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada.

1-800-275-5574  (US)  1-800-345-4109 (Canada)

You can visit http://www.gracobaby.com for your US shopping needs, and in Canada http://www.gracobaby.ca

*Models featured are linked to seats available in the US. For Canadians please make sure you’re on the Canadian website

Saving Lives, One Car Seat At A Time.

Eran J Child Passenger Safety Advocate

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