If you want to talk affordable, Graco is your brand. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Graco has been around for 60 years with the purpose of providing affordable strollers for all families with toddlers, infants, and children of different ages and sizes. Definitely a versatile brand that has a wealth of products, they also have had their fair share of safety issues which I'll get into in the "Things to note" section.
While as of now we do not review car seats on our site, Graco is a brand that has manufactured and produced safe and reliable car seats for over two decades. Some of their car seats and features have won innumerable awards for their ease of use and safety. When it comes to safety in the car, Graco has mastered how to manufacture a car seat that complies by all the car safety standards while adding their own unique and functional features that make the car seat comfortable and safe. In this review I'll briefly discuss some of Graco's popular car seat features.
While reading, continue to keep in mind that Graco is one of the most affordable brands out there for both car seats and strollers. They pride themselves on being accessible and affordable for all families, and they also have value products that include a car seat and stroller for a modest budget.
You should know that all car seats must comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, Graco has continued to set the safety bar high by implementing their own standards on top of the ones already set.
Graco operates out of Atlanta, Georgia where they have their own crash test facility with cars and dummies. Just like those Acura commercials you see of cars being safety tested at high speed with dummies... Yeah that's exactly what Graco does but with car seats. Additionally, Graco has done a wealth of research partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to put together some guidelines to help families make knowledgable decisions about what car seats and strollers to buy when their children are of certain age, height, and weight. I've included a table to help guide you when buying your car seat.
So, to make this a little less complicated and summarize what Graco recommends you do. You should ideally have your child in a rear-facing car seat until age two. The American Academic of Pediatrics did a study and found that two year olds are 90% less likely to sustain an injury in a rear-facing car seat. Not until they are over age two or outweigh the car seat should they be put in a front-facing car seat.
Graco also introduces what they call Safeseat Engineering in their strollers AND car seats. Their Safeseat Engineering feature puts an emphasis on three key areas of safety when it comes to testing: catastrophic crashes (mostly car seat related), extreme environments, and side impacts. This is similar to Britax safety systems they have in place. You're probably asking "well, which is better then?" Hopefully, the "Things to note" section should help answer that question.
Graco has even more safety features that they implement in their carseats. The United States does not have a side-impact safety standard, thus designing a safe carseat is tough because there is nothing to go off of. However, Graco took initiative and designed carseats based on the European side-impact safety standards. They do side-impact testing on their two key technologies: True Shield technology and Safety Surround technology. Both aim to offer extreme protection against side impacts. Their goal is to protect your child from head to toe.
And last but most certainly not least is Graco's made to fit feature. Like I stated above, Graco has a ton of carseats for kids of all ages. They do testing to determine how certain car seats can be optimized to fit in a range of vehicles. This testing and optimizing, so they say, can ensure that your child remains comfortable and safe.
Things to note
Ah, another recall. In May of 2017. Graco recalled around 25,000 car seats that failed to comply with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety standards. The My Ride 65 convertible car seat's harness would break in the event of a crash causing the child to be unrestrained.
Going further back, in 2015 Graco paid $10 million for a delay in recall of defective child carseats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulators found that buckles were defective and during an emergency, parents had trouble taking their baby out of the car seat. That seems a bit dangerous. Of that $10 million, Graco was forced to spend $7 million on improving their safety standards and implementing a safety program. This could have been a wakeup call for Graco, and only after that did they implement these robust and comprehensive standards for their products. There hasn't been a problem since 2017, but I would definitely keep a look out.
Graco has had there fair share of problems over the past 5 years. It seems they have learned their lesson and implemented plenty of precautions and safety features in their products. Yes, Graco is an affordable brand that has done a great job of marketing themselves to be accessible to all families; however, the recalls and lack of compliance with safety standards has definitely tarnished their image over the past five years. If you're under a budget and are looking for a safe and comfortable car seat, I would recommend Graco. However, if you're interested in spending a bit more for additional safety and style features in your stroller, I would move more towards Baby Jogger, Bugaboo, or Chico.