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A car set may not be the most exciting purchase, but it is one of the most important. With so many types of car seat to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. You want your child to be comfortable and feel secure on car journeys, but most importantly, you want to know that they will be safe. So, how do you know which type of car seat to choose from, and even then, how do you know which model is the best?
A 3-in-1 booster seat is a great option if you’re looking for a car seat to last your child a long time. They can typically be used from around 20lb – or around 1 year old (depending on the child, of course), making them a good choice if your child is ready to move on from an infant car seat.
The good thing about them is that they can be adjusted as your child grows, making them good value for your money and time. Some of them can last until your child is 100lb – meaning you won’t need to make another car seat purchase for a while!
We’ll take a look at the specifications and safety features to see the difference between the Graco Nautilus 65 vs Nautilus 80 Elite, two models of car seat manufactured by Graco. We’ll also look at reviews from real parents about the performance of both models to see how they work for families every day.
Bottom line up front: The Graco Nautilus 80 Elite is no longer available, but we would recommend the Graco Extend2Fit car seat as an alternative for you to look into. However, the Graco Nautilus 65 is still our top choice!
Main Differences Between Nautilus 65 vs Nautilus 80 Elite?
The main differences between Nautilus 65 vs Nautilus 80 Elite are:
- The main difference is the Nautilus 80 Elite lasts longer. It can be used for children weighing up to 120lb. This makes it a good choice if you don’t want to worry about buying another car seat for a while.
- The Nautilus 80 Elite allows your child to stay in the 5-point harness for longer. This might reassure some parents in terms of their child’s safety, as the child is more secure in a 5-point harness.
- The Nautilus 80 Elite is slightly more expensive than the Nautilus 65.
Which Type of Car Seat is Best for Me?
There are a few different categories of car seats, so here’s a quick rundown:
Infant car seats
For that precious newborn stage, an infant seat is an option for you if you want a car seat that you can take in and out of the car, which is perfect if your baby is sleeping and you don’t want to disturb them. They’re rear-facing and can usually connect to a travel system – again, this is very convenient for parents who want to go out and about with their baby. (If this is what you’re looking for, you can check out our guide to Graco infant car seats).
All-in-one car seat
If you want to make an investment in a car seat that will last you a long time, an all-in-one car seat would be a great choice. They can be positioned differently depending on the height and weight of your child. The only drawback is that they’re bulky – if you’re happy to leave the car seat in your car and you don’t need to swap it between vehicles, it’d be fine, but they tend to be too heavy to keep swapping around.
Convertible car seats
These are car seats that can adapt as your child grows. Usually, they go from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing 5-point harness, to a high-backed booster, but it depends on the model. Parents like the adaptability of these car seats.
These are good for when your child is ready to sit a little more upright. They come in two varieties: a high-backed booster and a backless booster. A high-backed booster seat allows for greater protection than a backless booster, but a backless booster is very light and portable, making it easy to carry around, and a good option for an older child.
Toddler booster seat
These do not have their own harness system, giving your child a little more room to move, which some children like – but they offer lower protection than the other models. Generally, it’s not recommended to move your child into a booster seat until they can be trusted to sit still and not wriggle too much.
Car Seat Safety
With any car seat, it’s worth knowing a few things about safety:
- Make sure that you read the instructions thoroughly and double-check that your child is the correct height and weight for the position they are sitting in. It’s always good to periodically check to make sure your child hasn’t had a growth spurt and needs to move on to the next stage.
- Always buy a new car seat – you never know if a used car seat has been in an accident or if it has been damaged in some way. Even if it looks fine on the outside, it might have an internal crack or fault that would mean it isn’t as safe as a brand-new car seat. Also, there are occasionally recalls on car seats – which is another reason why it is important to buy new ones.
- Always check the expiration date on your car seat – these are usually printed on the base or sides of the seat. Car seat technology can change over time and the materials can wear down after a while, which is why it’s important to buy them new and purchase a new one once you reach the expiration date. They usually last around 6-10 years from manufacture.
- Finally, make sure your child is strapped in properly and that the car seat is correctly installed – if in doubt, see if there are any car seat inspection stations near you. They’ll be happy to help you to install the car seat securely, giving you peace of mind.
Here’s the information you need to know:
- Size: 18D/20W/28H (inches)
- Weight: 20lb
- Colors: Landry (grey print and green), Sylvia (grey print and pink), Sully (grey print and turquoise)
Here are the weight limits for each position:
- Harness mode: 22-65lb
- High-back booster: 40-100lb
- Backless belt-positioning booster: 40-100lb
The expiration date is 10 years after the date of manufacture – it will be printed on the label on the back of the car seat.
The Nautilus 65 is a 3-in-1 Harness Booster Seat. It offers three positions: a 5-point harness seat, a belt-positioning booster, and finally a backless booster.
In terms of safety, it boasts steel reinforcement and EPS foam (expanded polystyrene – it absorbs energy, making it impact resistant). It has undergone side impact testing on the 5-point harness system position. It has been crash-tested and meets or exceeds U.S safety standards.
As far as extra features go, it has a harness system that adjusts the headrest and the harness together for ease of use. It has an open-loop belt guide to help you correctly position the car seat. It has a cup holder and storage pockets for your child’s drink and those special toys they just can’t leave at home. A great feature is the machine washable seat pads, harness and buckle covers – anything that is machine washable with a small child is a definite bonus!
We looked at parent reviews to see what they had to say about the Nautilus 65. It has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon, and there are plenty of good points that parents have noticed:
- Parents say it is safe and well-made, and they feel that their children are well protected, and they like the rigorous testing and the way it is designed for safety. Some parents who had been in a car accident reported that their child was kept safe by the Nautilus 65.
- They also feel their children are comfortable and happy when in the car seat
- They like the machine-washable parts
- Children liked the compartments to hold their toys, keeping them occupied on long journeys. They also like the cup holder
- A lot of parents had difficulty adjusting the straps, saying they are stiff and difficult to tighten. This can be a problem if you do not have the strength to tighten it fully.
- They also had difficulty when it came to adjusting the latch buckle between the legs. It is a fiddly procedure and a couple of parents had to watch YouTube videos to figure out how to do it because it was not clear from the instructions on how it worked. They disliked the design of this and felt it was unnecessarily difficult and frustrating.
Nautilus 80 Elite
Editor’s Note: The Graco Nautilus 80 Elite is no longer available. However, we would recommend the Graco Extend2Fit as a great alternative!
Here’s the information you need about the Nautilus 80 Elite:
- Size: 18D/20H/28W
- Weight: 20.52lb
- Price: Check it on Amazon!
Here are the height and weight limits of each of the 3 positions:
- 5-point harness mode: weight – 22-80lb, height – 27-52 inches
- High back booster mode: weight – 30-100lb, height – 38-57 inches
- Backless booster mode: weight – 40-120lb, height: 40-57 inches
Nautilus 80 Elite Features
The Nautilus 80 Elite is also a 3-in-1 harness booster. It can be used as a harness booster, a high back booster, and a backless booster. However, it can be used as a harness booster for longer than the 65, which parents like, as it feels safer. This is the main advantage of the Nautilus 80 and a reason why parents may decide to choose it.
As far as safety goes, it’s pretty similar to the 65. It has a steel-reinforced frame and is engineered and crash tested to meet or exceed US safety standards. Again, in the 5-point harness booster form, it has been impact tested for occupant retention. Both models have been designed to be very safe, which is obviously the most important thing.
Also, like the 65, it comes with a cup holder and storage compartment. It also boasts premium fabric, but only the seat cushion is machine washable – the rest has to be cleaned with mild soap and cool water. For comfort, it has a 5-position adjustable headrest – which is great for keeping a growing child happy.
The Nautilus 80 Elite has a star rating of 4.0 out of 5, making it lower rated than the 65. Here’s what parents have to say about it:
- Very safe, well made and secure for their children. Again, parents who had been in a car accident said that their child was protected by the Nautilus 80 Elite and would, therefore, purchase it again.
- Parents thought it looked nice and well designed, and easy for children to climb into
- They also liked the adjustable headrest
- Children liked the cup holder and pockets
- Some parents had real problems tightening the straps
- Others found it difficult to install the car seat in the first place
- Some felt that the car seat was very large, making it difficult to fit people in the middle seat in the back of the car (our guide to narrow booster car seats might help if this is a problem you have, too)
- A few parents found the straps were uncomfortable for their children, leaving them with marks. One parent said that her child had a long torso and felt uncomfortable in the seat
Nautilus 80 Elite Alternative: Graco Extend2Fit
Here’s the information you need about the Graco Extend2Fit:
- Size: 21.5D/23.5H/19.5W
- Weight: 19lb
- Price: Check it on Amazon!
Here are the height and weight limits of each of the 3 positions:
- Rear-facing harness mode: weight – 5-50lb, height – Up to 49 inches
- Forward-facing harness mode: weight – 22-65lb, height – 38-57 inches
- Highback booster: weight – 40-100lb
Graco Extend2Fit Features
The Graco Extend2Fit is a 3-in-1 harness booster too. It has a 3/5 star label rating from NHTSA, with a 4/5 rating for the instructions. This 3-in-1 car seat has side impact protection but doesn’t have an energy-absorbing base. The body has a steel-reinforced frame with a plastic body.
There’s a lot of value offered with the Graco Extend2Fit, especially with the leg room extender for kids with longer legs. If you have a child that’s in the upper percentiles for weight or height, the Graco Extend2Fit is a safe and wonderful car seat for you to consider.
The biggest complaint a lot of parents have is how difficult this car seat is to install. If you’re someone with larger hands, you may find it difficult to latch the tether through the belt. There is no seat belt installation option available, which may make things difficult if you’re looking to quickly transfer the car seat in between cars.
- The seat cover is machine-washable, making for an easy cleanup
- The Graco Extend2Fit lasts for ten years
- Comes with an extension for leg room, making it easier (and more comfortable) to leave your child rear-facing for longer
- The level indicator is easy to read, making the installation process less frustrating
- Approved by the FAA
- The car seat doesn’t come with an infant insert pillow
- There are dual square cup holders on this car seat, but square cup holders may make it difficult to put round cans or bottles in
- The car seat can be difficult to install for people with larger hands
The Nautilus 65 and the 80 Elite are pretty similar. They’re both nicely designed and look attractive, they both have cup holders and pockets for your children to use.
They’re both on the large side, but that doesn’t matter too much if you have room in your car and plan to keep the car seat in place once installed. Parents praised their safety features and found them to be sturdy and well-made, and found that they felt reassured of their child’s safety in case of an accident.
The biggest difference is this: the Nautilus 80 Elite can be used up to 120lb, and the harness booster can be used for a child weighing up to 80lb. This means the 80 not only lasts longer but allows a child to be in the 5-point harness for longer.
Many parents felt that it was reassuring to keep their children in the 5-point harness for as long as possible. This does give the 80 a big advantage over the 65. The only other main difference is the price, but there’s not a huge difference…
A few reviewers had issues with both the 65 and the 80, however. Some parents struggled with both models in terms of both fitting the car seat and tightening the straps. This is a shame as it seems to be a small problem that is annoying if you are using the car seat every day. Adjusting the buckle that goes between the child’s legs was a real issue for some parents using the Nautilus 65, although some figured out how to do it thanks to a video online.
However, a lot of parents seemed to have similar complaints about the 80. They found the straps hard to tighten, which is obviously a concern as you want your child to be buckled in as tightly as possible.
The main thing that swayed us against the 80, though, were the complaints of discomfort for the children using it, with the straps digging in and sometimes even leaving marks. That, along with the fact that the 80 has a slightly lower star rating, has led us to choose the Nautilus 65. Although the 80 is a better value in terms of how long it lasts, every parent wants their child to be comfortable, especially on long journeys, which makes the 65 our choice.