As a result, they’re all super comfy, incredibly safe and very well-built. In fact, all three models are designed to meet the full requirements of US FMVS standard 213, and boast steel-reinforced frames to help protect your baby from harm.
They’re also equally easy to use, and all three options manage to avoid the pitfalls that are most commonly associated with 3-in-1 car seats: Offering genuine comfort and support in a variety of different configurations.
There are some fairly important differences though: From the number of configurations, right through to the inclusion of handy little extras, like a bubble indicator or buckle tidies. To help you pick the right all-in-one car seat, we’ve put together this article, which explores the pros and cons of each seat.
Graco 4Ever All-In-One Car Seat
First things first, let’s start with Graco’s most popular car seat: The 4Ever. As the name implies, this product is designed to grow with your child, and Graco’s marketing leans heavily on the idea that it is the only car seat you’ll ever need to buy.
Now, this might seem like a bold claim; we were certainly skeptical, but after spending some time with this seat we have to admit that it does definitely deliver on that promise.
Unlike the other seats we’ve reviewed here, it actually has four configurations: allowing you to set it up as a rear-facing car seat, a front-facing car seat, a booster with a back, and a regular booster seat for older children.
It’s very well-built too, and the foam inserts that pad out the base and back offer plenty of support. We’re confident that it’s comfortable enough to keep your little one happy on long drives, and it also boasts three recline positions in both its front- and rear-facing configurations so you’ll be able to pick the perfect angle for your little one.
Graco hasn’t held back on the mod-cons either: The seat boasts two cup holders (which are perfect for storing a drink and a snack). Plus the seat cover is fully removable for easy washing, and there’s a host of little conveniences, like the super-handy, 10-point adjustable headrest that’s been designed so that you can raise or lower it one-handed.
When it comes to actually fitting the seat, everything is nice and straightforward; all of the belt paths are color-coded for convenience, and you have the option to fit the seat using either your car’s seat-belts, or the LATCH system. LATCH fitting tends to be much more convenient, but has to be phased out once your child is heavier than 65lbs.
Graco has also built a very handy little spirit level into the seat, which makes setup a little bit easier.
All cars built after 1996 do have locking seat belts, but the way in which this functionality is switched on/off varies according to the make and model of your car, so do spend some time reading through your owner’s manual or browsing online before you install the seat.
If your car was built before 1996 you can purchase special seat belt locking devices from Graco.
The only slight downside? It’s a heavy seat, and because it’s meant to grow with your baby, all of the straps have been made to accommodate children that sit within the upper height/weight limit. This isn’t a huge issue, but you may find yourself tightening and untangling straps for a little while, particularly if you’re intending to use the seat from birth.
Graco Extend2Fit Car Seat
The Extend2Fit isn’t quite as versatile as the 4Ever, but it still boasts three different modes (rear-facing car seat, forward facing car seat, and backed-booster seat).
This is more than enough to see most children through to the point at which they no longer need a car seat at all, and we’re really impressed by just how comfy the seat was in each individual mode as well.
It’s also worth pointing out that the seat supports 6 different reclining positions – 4 when in ‘rear-facing’ mode, and two when flipped around and used as a forward-facing car seat. This gives you a lot of extra flexibility, and means that you can have the seat lying almost all the way back which is perfect for those first few months.
In the 4,5 and 6th reclining positions, the seat is also wonderfully compact. We even managed to fit it in the back of a small hatchback, which is pretty unusual for a 3-in-1 car seat!
Best of all though? The Extend2Fit features a higher rear-facing weight limit, which is a big plus for safety-conscious parents that want to keep their children facing backwards for as long as possible.
The Extend2Fit does have a few other unique features too, including an extendable, 4-position footrest that offers a whopping 5” of extra leg-room while the seat is facing backwards. This is a huge boon if you plan on using the rear-facing configuration for an extended period of time, as it provides a lot of extra comfort.
Graco have put a lot of extra effort into the minutiae as well: Providing special pockets for the buckles, so that you don’t have to fish around underneath your baby before you strap them in, and also a set of two cup holders, which, as noted above, can be a lifesaver if you want to keep toys, snacks and drinks within easy reach.
There are a few slight issues though: Unlike the 4Ever, Graco’s Extend2Fit does not have an easily-removable cover. It’s still machine-washable, but you’ll have to wrestle it off the frame via a sequence of annoyingly well-hidden elastic loops if you want to do this.
In its forward facing position, we did also find that the seat was an odd-fit for some headrests. The manual insists that the back of the seat must make contact with any headrests, but the top of the seat is set quite far forward, even in the final and mist up-right position, which may be an issue if you have very flat/non-protruding headrests.
Graco Milestone Car Seat
Offering the same, 3-mode flexibility as the Extend2Fit, Graco’s Milestone is another strong contender. This particular seat is the last flexible of the three seats that we’ve covered here, but it still benefits from Graco’s unwaveringly high standards of build quality.
It’s positioned at a slightly lower price point too, which makes it much more accessible for those of us who are shopping on a budget.
You do lose some functionality though; there are less overall reclining positions (4 rather than 6) and a lot of the modern conveniences are missing. You won’t find extra cup holders, or a built-in bubble indicator to help you get everything nice and level.
You might struggle if you have a tall child too: We noticed that the height limit on the front-facing car seat isn’t that much smaller than the height limit on the booster configuration, and the correct seating positions indicated in the manual leave us to conclude that a child who’s likely to outgrow the seat from a height perspective, will also be just about ready to outgrow the booster too.
Oh, and there’s only one LATCH belt. This isn’t a huge issue – it’s more a convenience thing than anything else – but it does mean that switching the seat between its rear- and front-facing configurations is a fairly involved process.
That said, the Milestone is still a great all-rounder. The covers are all easy to remove and wash, the seat is nice and padded, and the fabric inserts offer smaller children plenty of support. It’s just as easy to fit as the 4Ever and Extend2Fit models too; offering the same, color-coded diagrams and simple fastening systems to ensure that you can get it set up in less than 15 minutes.
It does actually accommodate children that are right on the lower end of its weight limit as well. With car seats rated from 5lbs and up, we often find that very small babies that sit just on the 5lb mark aren’t really supported all that well, either because the straps aren’t positioned correctly, or because the ‘supportive’ insets force your baby to sit in an uncomfortable position.
With the Milestone, we were really pleased to see that everything looks to have been set up with a small 5lb baby in mind, and we’re confident that it’ll be a good fit for little ones that are right on the cusp.
And it’s worth mentioning that the safety and security provided by this car seat are almost unrivaled by other seats at this price point. The steel-reinforced frame and EPS foam actually make it twice as safe as the requirements mandated by European safety standards (click the above pic for more detail), and like all Graco products, it has been side-impact tested too.
Which one is right for you?
Still struggling? To make choosing a bit easier, we’ve put together a handy comparison table, which breaks down the key differences:
If you’re big on modern conveniences, and want a seat that will be easy to set up, look after and maintain, the 4Ever is definitely worth considering – not least because it’s super easy to take the cover off this particular seat, which is always a big plus when you’re dealing with long drives.
The Extend2Fit loses some points in this area, but gains them for offering that little bit of extra support, and then we have to consider things like the extendable footrest, and the reduced front-to-back profile of the seat, which can be a real space-saver in small cars.
Ultimately, all three options have their pros: They’re all top-rated, 3-in-1 car seats that offer unrivaled safety and comfort, and each individual option is equally easy to set up and use. Where they differ, it tends to be by design, which means that each seat has been deliberately configured to suit a slightly different style of parenting.
By weighing up the pros and cons of each seat – and consulting the table above – you should be able to work out which option will suit your little one best. That said, we’re confident that most parents would be happy with any one of the three choices that we’ve presented here!
Last update on 2018-12-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API