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Blog: Product Review: Graco 4Ever™ All-in-One Car Seat By »

May 30th, 2016

Most often when new parents, or even second-time parents, are prepping for baby, one of the most daunting items to choose is the ‘right’ car seat. Depending on the couple, a funky colour might catch their eye, a brand name that they know and trust might be where they lean, or a quick Google search can help dwindle down the seemingly never-ending choices.

Well, when we were researching…sorry, let me rephrase, when I was researching car seats (my husband said, ‘anything you like honey’…until he saw some of the price tags!) I actually didn’t look for very long because all I was thinking about was the infant stage and nothing beyond that. I found the Graco Modes Click Connect Travel System that came with the bucket style car seat, the separate stroller seat and chassis and I was sold. (P.S. A ‘bucket’ style car seat is one in which you install a base in your car, which allows you to click the car seat in and out). What I didn’t realize at the time, was just how quickly our little guy would out grow his first car seat.

Thus…I needed to go back to the drawing board, or research table in this case, and find the next ‘stage’ car seat for our 1 year old. I still wanted him rear-facing, was looking for something to grow with him (so I selfishly wouldn’t have to research again in 8 months!), didn’t want to deal with a big bulky seat, and was trying to be cost-efficient but not at the expense of compromising quality and safety.

Graco 4ever Car SeatSo when I was asked to review the Graco 4Ever™ All-In-1 Car Seat, which is marketed as, ’10 Years, 1 Seat. The only car seat you’ll ever need’, I jumped at the opportunity. A car seat that has the capability to rear-face, forward-face, turn into a high-back and a backless booster…is this too good to be true? See my findings below:

PROS

Versatility:

This 4-in-1 car seat provides safety and convenience for you, and comfort for your little one as it can transition from baby seat to booster…did you read that right?…to booster…to 120lbs…the same seat!

First Stage, from the very first car ride home: rear-facing, 5-point harness, with a plush infant body support, for infants from 4-40lbs.

Second Stage, for your fast growing toddler: forward-facing, 5-point harness, for toddlers 22-65lbs.

Third Stage, for your belt wearing ‘youth’!: a high-back, belt-positioning booster, for 40-100lbs.

Fourth Stage, for your ‘You’re still my baby. Why are you growing up so fast?’ child: a backless, belt-positioning booster, for 40-120lbs.

Growth spurt? No problem! There’s a one-hand, 10-position adjustable head rest to fix that.

Well, what happens to the harness straps, chest clip and buckle when you convert to the high-back belt-positioning booster? Oh that little hiccup? No biggie – just place them into the integrated harness storage compartment located in the back pad. It’s all in the details folks!

10 Year Expiration/Safety:

With the above versatility, it’s a no brainer that this seat would need a longer expiration date than most, and thus has a generous 10-year lifespan.

Other than passing all Canadian car-seat standard tests, this car seat has a steel reinforced frame and energy absorbing foam which helps provide it’s continuous strength, durability and protection.

Easy Install:

I was quite happy and proud of myself with the ease of installing this car seat into my van…because let’s be honest, it’s a daunting task and I have no patience for not getting it right the first time!

Graco’s patented InRight UAS (universal anchorage system) or ‘latch’ (which stands for lower anchors and tethers for children) system allows for a one-second attachment (it takes literally one-second!) with an audio click cue to ensure it’s secure. I installed using the UAS, but you also have the option for seat belt installation, and I noticed that the belt paths were pretty clearly labelled and colour-coded (love that!) both on the seat and in the manual.

The easy-to-read level indicator also helped me ensure correct positioning for the install, and another thing is that I found the seat base quite flat, which not only helped with the install, but I didn’t see any edges pushing into my upholstered seat.

Harness System:

When modern technology makes my life easier…and in this case eliminated rethreading harnesses…I say thanks! Graco’s patented Simply Safe Adjust Harness System let me adjust the height of the harness and headrest, with one hand, in one motion – thus ensuring my little MJ was always properly secured.

One great thing to note here as well, is that since the rear-facing mode can accommodate children to 40lbs, and since you can keep readjusting the headrest height, it’s impossible to outgrow rear-facing by height, which means your 35 pound 2.5 – 3 year old can still rear-face, which I think is great.

Comfort:

Well it definitely looks comfy…I can’t actually attest to the fact that it is, because I’m just a wee-bit over 120lbs…it’s still baby weight…over a year later…whatever.

Annnyways, the seat has plush inserts to keep your little one comfortable. MJ is still rear-facing (he’s 16 months and about 23 pounds) and has fallen asleep many a time…which wasn’t always the case with his love-hate relationship with the car.

The six-position recline is also a great feature, and might I add one that you can use if you only have one-hand to do so. Parents need octopus limbs to be able to juggle everything, so when I tried to pull up the harness/headrest adjuster with just my left hand, and then pull the recline handle with just my right, I could, and it was definitely a win. Just like I hate reading instructions, I loathe putting things down to open a door, or adjust a strap!

Positions 1, 2 and 3 are used in rear-facing mode and in position 1 (the most reclined position) I still had my seat in my regular driving position, which is always better than having to get closer to the wheel.

Cup Holders:

Once in the high-back, belt positioning booster, my ‘little big guy’ will be able to enjoy the cool perks of the integrated cup holders.

Seat Cover:

Speaking of cup holders, if the seat is growing with your child, then it will probably…no it will definitely be the bearer of many spills, food crumbs and other goopy messes you can’t even explain. Kids are messy, you can’t help it, you can’t avoid it, but in this case you can do more than just spot clean the unidentified substances, you can quite simply (by using tabs and elastic loops/hooks) remove the seat cover and machine wash it. Getting it back on requires some technique, and I’m sure the cleanliness will only last for a New York minute, but I’ll take it!

Price:

The Graco 4EVER retails for $449.99, which seems relatively expensive up front, considering you can purchase some travel systems (car seats and stroller together) for between $200-$300 dollars. However, when you take into consideration the 10 year expiration, the versatility to potentially eliminate another purchase (or two!) of the next stages of car seats/boosters, it actually represents a good value.

CONS

Transportation:

My biggest con, and it doesn’t even correlate to this car seat specifically, but all ‘non-bucket’ style infant seats, is that you will have to carry your newborn in and out of the car, place them in and out of the stroller, and really manipulate them more than you have to (in my opinion). With the bucket, you can place them in it in your home, carry them outside all nicely bundled, and click them into the car. Then, once you get where you’re going, if it’s a short trip (it’s not recommended to keep your child in a bucket seat for long periods of time), you can just place your car seat on your stroller, or make the decision to take them out. You don’t have that option with this seat. I just found that a bucket seat made life much easier with MJ, who was born in the winter.

Versatility:

As much as this is a pro, it might be a con too. Think about this scenario: Fast-forward 2 years from this purchase and baby #1 is using this seat in stage 2 of the 4 conversions, and baby #2 is on the way. Now what? Spend $449.99 on another one? Whereas, if you had the bucket car seat, you could have baby #2 use that, while #1 uses a new stage 2 convertible purchase. Confused? At the end of the day, there are still two car seat purchases taking place, it really just depends on what works (feasibly and financially) for your family.

Recline/Size:

Depending on the size of your car, the recline positions may cause a tight situation. Position 4 (the first recline position of forward-facing) could pose a problem with cars that have small back seats, as the child’s leg room might be quite tight.  Depending on the recline position, you may also lose visibility out of your side windows. I found it ok with the seat behind the driver’s side, but have read that behind the passenger is the issue.

10 Year Expiration:

Just a note that even with its 10-year lifespan, you could lose time between when it’s manufactured and when you start to use it (which is the case with any car seat, really).

Seatbelt Locking Device:

This seat doesn’t have a built-in lock off device for installations with seatbelts, so you’ll have to read your owner’s manual to understand how the seatbelt locks, which ultimately holds the car seat tight while driving. Some cars have switches or locking plates (don’t know the technical terms!), so get to know your vehicle prior to installing this car seat (or any car seat) with a seatbelt.

Price:

As mentioned above, this can be a Pro or a Con, depending how you view it.

Final Verdict

Too good to be true? As far as what I’ve currently used the seat for, it does everything it claims to do. I truly like that you can rear-face until 40lbs, as I believe the longer you rear-face, the safer your child is. I think that the versatility of this product is one that isn’t seen in the market and really fills a niche that is quite appealing to parents (me included) and can realistically grow with your child. Literally.

Eliminating multiple purchases, gaining time back by not having to research the next stage of car seats and keeping little MJ safe and comfy, makes me happy.  And you know what they say right?  “Happy wife, happy life!”

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