Graco Nautilus Review

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
November 23, 2021
little girl sleeping inside the car

If you’re looking for a car seat for your toddler, you’ll notice you have plenty of options both online and in stores. Unfortunately, too many choices can overwhelm and paralyze even the most research-abled parent, so it can be challenging to narrow your search to focus on what will work for you and ignore what won’t. 

We want to help alleviate the stress of car seat shopping by reviewing some of the most popular seats by the biggest brands to help you decide if they are right for you. Today we are doing a Graco Nautilus review; it’s a three-in-one car seat explicitly designed for toddlers and older. This seat is from one of the top brands in baby gear, so we want to make sure it lives up to the standards consumers would expect.

To help you get a good idea of what this seat is all about, we’ll go over some of its most important and exciting features. Then we’ll talk about how to decide on the right car seat for your little family member, and finally, we will give our overall impression of the Nautilus and tell you whether or not we would recommend it to parents.

What Does the Nautilus Have to Offer?

The Nautilus is a three-in-one convertible car seat that can grow with your child from their toddler years through the end of their need for additional safety in the car. This seat holds children from 22lbs all the way up to 100lbs by converting from a front-facing car seat to a belt-positioning booster to a backless booster. 

In the first stage, the Nautilus features a five-point harness for children up to 65lbs. It is side-impact tested, features EPS foam, and has a height adjustable headrest. It also features a recline feature for comfort and an integrated cup holder and storage area for convenience. The steel-reinforced frame keeps durability and safety at the forefront of the design, and open-loop belt guides will help you to ensure you place your seatbelts correctly. 

The specifications of the seat are as follows: 

  • Depth: 22 in.
  • Width (outside): 20 in.
  • Height: 29 in.
  • Weight without base: 20.92lbs

This car seat won’t expire for ten years, so you can use it as long as necessary or even for multiple children if you prefer. The seat is small enough to fit into compact and mid-size cars, and can also fit well with other car seats in the same row, so it’s a reliable option for most vehicles and situations. 

In terms of safety, the Nautilus doesn’t leave much to chance. Graco tested this seat to ensure it could withstand a crash at twice the national standard through the New Car Assessment Program. They also crash tested the seat multiple times for all types of impacts, including side-impact crashes, which the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration does not yet require for car seat safety. 

Graco also understands that not everyone lives in a four-season area, and some southern parts of the country have days when cars parked in the sun can reach ungodly temperatures, so they accounted for these high temperatures with specialized materials. Although this is the case, some complaints of warping buckles appear on the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s website, so Graco may have some explaining to do on that count. 

What to Look for in a Car Seat: A Buyer’s Guide 

Pink Baby Car Seat

Although this is specifically a Graco Nautilus review, we think it’s essential to give you as much information as possible about how to pick the right car seat so that you feel confident in your choice. 

Safety is number one when you’re looking for a car seat, but there are plenty of other things you may want to take into account when you’re on the hunt for a car seat for your child, no matter their age. Some of the main points you’ll want to consider are as follows:

  • Type of car seat
  • Safety features
  • Bonus features

Types of Car Seats

Child in a Car Seat

Non-parents or new parents sometimes think that a car seat is a car seat, but that’s far from the truth. There are several types of car seats on the market that you should know about before you decide what seat fits your family’s needs. The four primary types are rear facing, forward facing, convertible, and booster. You can find some of these in travel systems, but they are also sold separately, so you can decide which option is best for you. 

A rear facing car seat is one that faces the back of the vehicle when installed properly. These seats are meant for infants and children under two years old, although height and weight restrictions on the seats vary based on the manufacturer. A forward facing seat is the exact opposite. It faces the front of the vehicle and is meant for toddlers and older children, but, again, height and weight restrictions will vary on each seat.

If you’re looking to save some money by purchasing a seat you can use for many years; a convertible car seat may be the way to go. Convertible seats can turn from rear facing to forward facing and then to booster seats, or do any combination of these conversions. These seats tend to be slightly larger and heavier than your typical one stage seat. 

Finally, a booster seat is a car seat meant for older kids who haven’t quite made it to the height requirements to ride safely in a regular motor vehicle seat belt yet. Boosters come in three styles: backless boosters, high back or belt-positioning boosters, and combination. The combination boosters are most common since they allow you to use the seat longer and with more options for a wider variety of vehicles.

Safety First

We all know that parents want to keep their kids safe at all costs, especially in the car; so finding the right car seat is vital. Luckily, car seats are one of the best regulated and safety tested products on the market, so you can feel secure in purchasing a well-rated seat no matter what added features it may have. However, some companies go above and beyond to provide an even safer experience than most. 

If you want to ensure added safety for your child in their car seat, look for seats that have side-impact ratings. These ratings are not yet required by law, so a manufacturer who tests side-impacts anyway is probably more concerned with overall safety than those who do not. You can also look for seats with BPP foam, which works like a bicycle helmet in case of a crash to take the shock of the impact away from your little one. 

Other safety features you can look for include a LATCH system to help attach to your car quickly and easily, removable pillows, lateral headrest, impact protection shield, chest pads, and seat belt guides. All of these features are bonuses that companies add to help impact your child’s safety in the car, and although not all of them will work for everyone, they are nice options for some circumstances.

Bonus Features

When you’re thinking of a new car seat, you should look at more than just safety. You want your child to feel comfortable as well. Some features that can add comfort and convenience are built-in storage, removable or permanent cup holders, built-in seat protection, washable pads and cushions, and padded straps. 

You can also look for seats that come with additional products you would likely have wanted anyway, like strap covers, a backward mirror for parents, or a sun shield. All of these features will add convenience and comfort with minimal effort. Padded armrests and other things that will help to make your child more comfortable are well worth it, especially if you’re a family that is on the road often, so bonus features are definitely worth an extra look.

How it Compares

Graco isn’t the only well-known baby gear name in the convertible car seat game. Evenflo and Baby Trend both have car seats that are similar to the Nautilus for your consideration. Let’s take a look at how those seats compare to the Nautilus to help us decide which will give you the most bang for your buck. 

Evenflo Evolve 3-in-1 Combination Seat

The Evenflo Evolve seat is very similar to the Graco Nautilus in a lot of ways. It is side-impact tested, transitions from a toddler seat into a belt-positioning booster and then a backless booster, and it has added safety features like LATCH. Its seat is washable just like Nautilus, and it has buckle protectors to help avoid burns in the hot summer months. The only area where it seems to fall behind is the length of time until its expiration. 

The Nautilus seat doesn’t expire for ten years, which gives you plenty of time to use it for one child or multiple. The Evolve seat expires in only ten years, which means you have two fewer years to utilize this transitional seat. If you were looking for something that could grow with your child or that you could use for two different kids, you’d probably want to go with the Graco model.

Baby Trend Hybrid Booster 3 in 1 Car Seat

The BabyTrend Hybrid LX is a brightly colored and exciting convertible seat. It is similar to the Nautilus in intention only, as it has some significant issues that Graco managed to avoid with the Nautilus. BabyTrend tried to make this seat easy to use by giving parents multiple installation options, but all that really did was muddy the waters and make installation seem impossible.

We were unimpressed by the difficulty of getting the seat in and out of the car and set to safety standards as well. Many reviewers suggested that this seat was impossible to manipulate so that it wouldn’t move more than an inch when latched down, which is a significant safety hazard. Overall, we’d say Nautilus wins in this battle.

Overall Impressions and Recommendations

The Graco Nautilus fits many of the criteria you’d want in a car seat. It is convertible, which means less money in the long run, it comes with added features like cup holders and storage, and it’s side-impact tested for added safety. We have full confidence in this product and would recommend it to any parent who may be interested. 

Let’s go over the pros and cons of the Nautilus, so you can see whether or not it will work for your family.

PROS

  • Exceeds safety standards for mandatory crash tests
  • Side-impact tested
  • Transitions are simple
  • Convertible
  • Easy installation
  • Light compared to similar models
  • Recline enabled
  • LATCH system enabled
  • Easy to loosen straps
  • No rethreading required
  • Bonus features: armrests, cup holders, removable body padding, and storage

CONS

  • Buckles may warp in extreme temperatures
  • The bottom buckle is difficult to adjust
  • The harness can come loose with crumbs
  • Latching into a vehicle can be difficult, especially with a single installer
  • The recline feature is not user-friendly

As you can see from our lists and other information provided in our Graco Nautilus review, the pros outweigh the cons of the Nautilus. This car seat is a fantastic option for toddlers and older children. We think parents will love it for many years as their child transitions from a forward facing toddler seat all the way up to the backless booster and then into their normal vehicle seat. 

With safety and security at the forefront of everything Graco stands for, we know that this seat will continue to be one that can withstand the test of time, accidents, spills, and multiple children. It will fit well in most vehicles and comes in vibrant colors to entice any parent or child to enjoy car rides without the worry of anything going wrong.

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