Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 front facing car seat for toddlers

Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 front facing car seat for toddlers: click on the image to see the Amazon discount for the Matrix color variant of the seat

One of my best friends wants to buy a car seat for her little daughter. She came to me to ask for help, so we did the research together. We spent last evening looking at various models and we came up with a list of points one needs to check when buying a car seat for their children. We were mainly concerned with two points: safety and durability.

I still remember a TV ad which I saw many years ago. It was about a family, mother, father and daughter, in their car, coming back from a trip. The father was driving and the 6-7 years old girl was on the back seat, in the middle. She was silently playing with her Barbie doll. She did not wear a seatbelt. A deer jumped from the bush, straight in front of the car. We see the father pushing the brake to the floor, the girl flying through towards the front of the car, still holding onto her doll, then the screen goes black, but we still hear the noise of the terrible crash and of shattered glass. Then there’s silence and we can see again. We realize that the girl is now dead, outside the car, somewhere, while her doll had been left behind on the car hood. If the child were in a car seat, safely protected by seat belts, she would have lived to tell the story. That’s what the ad was about. I was very impressed. I would buy the safest car seat for my children.

Graco Nautilus converted into backless booster

Graco Nautilus converted into backless booster

There’s a tip to help you keep your spending at a minimum: instead of buying a simple car seat and then upgrade to a succession of new ones as the child outgrows them, you better get one that converts to a booster, so you can use it even when the child gets bigger. Doing so will result in saving a good amount of money, because car seats aren’t exactly cheap. However, in order to make sure your seat will be good for many years, you have to pay attention to its quality. This may result in prices that are in the mid to high range, but it’s worth paying more for your child’s comfort and safety. I’ve got an additional tip here: Amazon is an excellent source of unexpected discounts. I’ll give you this example from last night: the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 car seat costs around $180, but we found it on Amazonfor $137.98 only, with free shipping (not to where we live, but good to know for US people). We might even order it soon. Actually I want to surprise my friend and buy it as a gift for her daughter’s birthday which will be in two weeks. I love it that Amazon has the gift-wrapping option for this car seat. If you think it’s a good idea to buy one as a gift, make sure you check the Gift option box during checkout, otherwise it will ship in its original packaging.

Why my friend and I thought Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 was the best toddler car seat choice

Safety comes first

We loved the steel reinforced structure of this car seat and the fact that it has a five-point harness system. Graco tested their seat and got results which meet or exceed US safety standards. We are in Europe, but I guess that EuroNCAP and NCAP classifications are similar, so if the seat is good for the US, then it’s also good here. If you want to see more details about safety tests, go to Amazon.

Comfort is also important

Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 car seat "in action"

Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 car seat "in action" - click on the image to read reviews and see more details on Amazon

A child is not a bag of potatoes which needs to be transported from point A to point B without damage. The child needs to feel comfortable in the seat. The Graco Nautilus 3-in-one car seat has adjustable head support, wide armrests, cushioned seat, cup holder and side storage compartments. This is a great idea, because toddlers can use a cup or eat some snacks with no help from adults. Why stop the car each time your offspring is thirsty or hungry? Beware, though, slow down while she drinks from the cup and make sure the cup is made from a soft material. You might need to brake exactly at the wrong time and leave your child without a tooth or two. You don’t want that, I’m sure.

Versatility will save you money

This car seat works as an extended five points harness for children 20 pounds to 65 pounds. It can be transformed into a high back booster, suitable for children 30 pounds to 100 pounds. Moreover, it can be turned into a backless booster, suitable for children 40 to 100 pounds. The seat has a three-position recline which makes it very easy to install and offers comfort to the child.

Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 is available in five color variants: Matrix, Dori, Gabe, Lagrange and Miley. Check out all of them before you buy, because they have different discounts. If color isn’t a big deal for you, you could get a very nice deal. Images with all finishes are available from the Matrix link. Just follow it and click on the little seat icons to see them bigger.

What other people say about the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 car seats

Amazon is an endless supply of reviews for almost any product you may think of. In this case, we found no less than 942 reviews, out of which 623 were five-star and 212 four-star. With so many happy people, this car seat from Graco is on our shortlist.

… comfort, memory foam! DD loves it, she sleeps very comfortably in it without slumping over like she used to.

The five point harness is critical to our son’s safety and it is very easy to use. Though, it is slightly different than Britax, so there is a few days of getting used to a “new” system. After that, there is no problem.

We purchased this car seat in Jan. 2011 for my 4 year old (38 lbs, 42″). The car seat is comfortable. The only complaint (until now) was that the button to release the latch is very stiff and hard to push.

There are people who are less happy, as with any other product.

I don’t know why so many parents rated this seat so highly. I expect that many parents are using this in an unsafe manner contrary to how the user guide says it should be used. That they didn’t fully read the manual and notice that their child shouldn’t sit on the crotch strap.

Finally, whenever she fell asleep, she had no head support on the sides, so I had to put a stuffed animal or small pillow to keep her head comfortably.

Some reviews are contradictory: one person says the seat is too high on dangerous chemicals, while other person says he chose this seat because it had the lowest toxicity, I don’t remember according to which standard. Anyway, I encourage you to read more on Amazon before you buy this car seat or any other one.

I’m still in doubt whether to choose Graco Nautilus or go for the Britax Frontier 85 Combination Booster Car Seat. They both seem to be high quality, with the mention that Graco is cheaper. What would you choose?