Britax Pioneer vs Graco Nautilus 65: Car Seat Comparison

by Danielle Olson |

Which is the better car seat, the Britax Pioneer or the Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1?

As a mom who has gone through the ringer with car seats, I know it’s important to do my homework. So here is the bottom line: 

If you are looking for comfort, quality and style, and don’t mind paying a bit more, the Britax Pioneer is the winner.

If you want to save a few dollars, save some space in your car and get the benefit of a 3 in 1 car seat, go with the Graco Nautilus.

Image of the Britax Pioneer G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, DominoImage of the Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster - Polar

Britax Pioneer  VS  Graco Nautilus 65

Safety Considerations

Car seats are one of the most difficult baby items to buy – because they matter the most. The biggest safety threat to children from birth through age thirteen is car accidents. Though an accident may not always be preventable, a safe car seat can keep your child from injury. Studies have shown that car seats used properly reduce car accident casualties by 71%.

The construction of car seats has come a long way in recent decades, including numerous new safety guidelines. Before picking out a seat, be sure to get the right kind and size for your child.

Once your child outgrows the infant seat, they should move to a rear-facing harness. After that, they will move to a forward-facing harness, and eventually a backed booster, and then a backless booster seat until they are safe to sit with only a seat belt.

The Britax Pioneer and the Graco Nautilus 65 are both forward facing boosters, which convert to backless boosters. These would be used for children between 22 and 100 pounds after they outgrow a rear-facing car seat.

Britax Pioneer Quick Facts

  • Works as a five-point harness and a high-backed booster
  • 9 position harness with Quick-Adjust
  • 2 position buckle
  • 2 layers of side impact protection and side impact tested
  • Safe Cell side and base impact protection
  • 9 awesome color options
  • Steel frame
  • Push button LATCH Connectors
  • Seats children from 40 to 100 pounds
  • Fits children from 30 to 62 inches
  • Multiple reclining positions
  • Two cup or snack holders
  • Product Weight: 21 lbs
  • Product Dimensions:
    Minimum: 19″ W x 28″ H x 21″ D
    Maximum: 19″ W x 35″ H x 21″ D
  • There is an upgrade version, the XE
  • 9 year lifespanImage of the Britax Pioneer G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, Domino

Britax Pioneer’s Perks

There are a number of things I love about the Britax Pioneer. Britax is known for quality, period, and this car seat delivers that once again. The Britax Pioneer has colors that will brighten even the rainiest driving days, with cool patterns and fun colors, and even funner accent colors. You can’t beat the safety of a car seat with a steel frame, or double padding with side impact protection.

Comfort is the name of the game for this car seat. I absolutely love that the buckle has two positions – which can be a huge safety issue for very small children. As they grow, moving the buckle forward makes the seat more comfortable for larger children. The nine position harness with Quick Adjust (one button adjustment of the harness) and the push button LATCH mean that adjusting and moving the Pioneer is a breeze. Latches can be extremely difficult to use, especially those which you need to hold with one finger while finding the latch (under what seems like 200 layers and pounds of seat), but the push button LATCH makes it easy to latch your seat into place without having to fit your entire hand under the seat.

The price tag on the Britax Pioneer is the only thing that may make car seat purchasers look elsewhere. Keep in mind that this car seat can be used for multiple modes (two) and has a 9-year lifespan, so it does provide a lot of value for the cost.

Image of the Britax Pioneer G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, Domino

Car Seat Saver

A car seat saver(a fabric pad that goes under the car seat) is available and a good idea for protecting the seats in your car.

Graco Nautilus 65 Quick Facts

  • Works as a five-point harness, high backed booster, and booster seat
  • Accommodates children from 22 to 100 pounds (120 pounds for the LX)
  • Fits children from 27 through 57 inches tall
  • 5 colors, including girly pink
  • Two cup holders
  • Washable fabric covers
  • Car seat weight is 20 pounds
  • Steel frame
  • SimplySafe Adjust adjusts the harness and headrest in one motion
  • Three reclining positions
  • Product Dimensions: 18″ W x 28″ H x 18″ D
  • There is also an upgrade version the 65 LX
  • 1o year lifespanImage of the Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster - Polar 

Graco Nautilus’ Perks

The Graco Nautilus has a lot of the perks that the Britax Pioneer exhibits. The car seat has a steel frame and was side impact tested, so safety measures up. The headrest and harness are easily adjusted in one motion, making adjustments simple. In addition, the car seat has three reclining positions, making the ride much more comfortable for the child. Another huge perk of this car seat is its lifespan of 10 years and three modes of use. No one wants to have to buy another car seat simply because of its expiration date. This car seat moves from a forward-facing five-point harness seat, to a backed booster, to a backless booster.

Image of the  

More on the Graco Nautilus 65

Find the Graco Nautilus’ product instructions here.

Britax Pioneer vs Graco Nautilus 65 Comparison

Safety

Safety, of course, is the most important aspect of a car seat. I love that both of these car seats have a steel frame. They also have both been tested for side impact safety, which is one of the biggest car accident threats facing small children today.

You can’t lose with either of these products, so for the safety category, the Pioneer and Nautilus tie. 

Size

The size of the Graco Nautilus is just a bit smaller than the Britax Pioneer, which may be a concern for the smaller car. Forward-facing car seats and boosters can take up some space in a car, and it’s a consideration especially if you need more than one in a seat row. Review the size of each car seat before purchasing to ensure it fits as needed in your vehicle. If you want a narrow 5 point harness booster, read our Best Booster Seats article.

Both seats weigh about the same, so their weight is less of an issue with forward-facing and booster seats versus an infant car seat because you will not be carrying it often.

The Graco Nautilus beats out the Britax Pioneer in the size category.

Look & Feel

The Britax Pioneer is the clear winner in the look category. It offers nine bright and eye-catching color schemes, some with fun patterns. Though the Graco Nautilus has a girly pink, its other colors are mostly neutral grays. Although, a nice gray does hide quite a bit.

The only thing I really don’t like about either of these two car seats is that the cup/snack holders do not remove for easy washing. These tend to get very messy, and it’s hard to clean holders which don’t remove (and go into a dishwasher).

Comfort is a big deal when you consider the amount of time your child will be sitting in the car seat. Though reviews told of comfort for both seats, the Britax is also the clear winner here with the double foam padding, the multiple reclining positions, and the two position buckle.

 

Price

The Britax Pioneer is going to cost a bit more than the Graco Nautilus. If the price is a deciding factor for you, you may want to go with the Graco Nautilus. The Nautilus has most of the great features of the Pioneer, with a more affordable price tag.

The Britax Pioneer will expire in 9 years, while the Graco Nautilus will expire in 10 years. These are some of the highest expiration lifespans in the car seat industry, and you’re getting a great deal with both. The Graco Nautilus can be used for three car seat modes, while the Pioneer can only be used through two. The Graco Nautilus is the winner in overall value for the price, however. 

Usage

Without question, the Graco Nautilus with its three modes of use compared to the two with the Britax Pioneer wins for usability. This can be added years into the already-high value of the Graco Nautilus. The final booster mode may be used for up to three or more years, making this an extremely great deal.

With each step up the car seats, safety is reduced. So, you want to stay in the “smaller” mode of car seat use as long as possible. You will inevitably need a backless booster, but don’t be too eager to move to it. I do question if a three-mode versus two-mode car seat is as safe, since additional features must be built in with each added mode, possibly diminishing the safety. However, the multi-mode car seats save parents literally hundreds of dollars per child and car seat.

Reviews

The only negative review of both car seats is that it can be difficult to change between modes, which is a pretty standard complaint of multi-mode car seats.

Who’s the winner?

Though I love both models, and they are very comparable, the Britax Pioneer holds my attention the most. Between its amazing colors, stellar safety, and luxurious comfort  – you simply cannot go wrong with this model. It can be used for two modes of car seat use, and that’s a big benefit and cost savings.

However, the Graco Nautilus moves between three modes and has a lifespan of 1 year longer than the Pioneer. For those on a budget, the Graco Nautilus is clearly the better buy. This car seat can be used for many years and will provide ample safety and comfort. If I was focused on value, I would definitely opt for the Graco Nautilus.

Danielle Olson on EmailDanielle Olson on Facebook
Danielle Olson
Danielle was born and always will be a farm girl, searching for God’s natural truths in an unnatural world. She’s a doula, health coach, natural health activist, and currently obtaining her naturorthopathic doctorate degree. When she isn’t reading about holistic healing, you will likely find her chasing a sweet little boy or a small flock of rebellious chickens in the Midwest mud.

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