Graco makes great stuff, but is the Nautilus 65 LX another awesome product?
The Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 Harness Booster harness booster car seat from Graco is both sturdy and cute. The company brags that this 3-in-1 is the last car seat you’ll ever buy, since it fits kids up to 120 lbs (in the booster seat). While the versatility got my attention, the durability and safety kept my interest. While it is a good choice, there are a few issues with the car seat that can leave parents frustrated.
Safety First, As Always
We all know that you need a good car seat for your baby. Even my grandmother, who hails from the generation of throwing children in the seat next to you and hoping for the best, is always asking me if I bought a nice car seat for my little love. That’s because many years (and a few accidents) have taught her how important it is to keep those most precious passengers safe.
Steel for safety. The safety of the Nautilus 65 LX is undeniable. The Nautilus LX was created with the company’s SafeSeat engineering for durability and reliability. The plastic frame is combined with steel parts for safety. You know that any car seat that has a steel reinforced frame is going to be a pretty safe choice, but it gets up to a bulky 20.52 pounds, which makes switching it from car to car a bit of a chore.
Test and test again. Graco has tested this product thoroughly to ensure that it’s completely safe. It’s been tested in crashes over and over again, and it was even tested for side impact safety, which isn’t required (yet) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It was independently tested by the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to prove that it has the ability to withstand a crash at two times the national standard. In summary, it meets or exceeds all requirements for safety in the US.
Bracing for impact. The Nautilus car seat was built with EPS, which is a type of foam that absorbs impact. This is super good because it helps draw that harm away from your kid in an accident (not to mention that it will hold up to a very energetic toddler who is hard on the seat!). That foam combined with the 5 point safety harness means that your child is safe during an accident.
If you can’t stand the heat…The company states that the car seat was created to withstand high car interior temperatures during those really hot months. This is important because, after all, a car can reach around 125 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter on blazing summer days. Although the company says they’ve accounted for this, there were some complaints on the NHTSA website about the buckles warping in extreme heat, which rendered the car seat unusable until Graco sent replacement parts. Definitely something to consider if you live in a sunny spot.
Can it Really Grow With Your Child?
Okay, so this car seat is really safe. That’s pretty obvious. But what about it’s other biggest selling feature: the different modes? It seems like the switch is simple and easy to do. Once you figure out exactly what you are doing, that is.
Meeting even more standards. This 3-in-1 car seat is meant to go from a regular car seat for older babies, to a belt-positioning booster seat, to a backless booster seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids should stay in a car seat for as long as they can safely fit, according to the manufacturer’s height and weight limits. Then, they should move to a booster seat for just as long. Ideally, kids should have some kind of booster until about age 8 to 12, depending on their size. This car seat meets all those requirements in one.
Simple transitioning. The fact that making this car seat work for all stages will require some disassembling goes without saying. Both the company’s website and the Amazon page give instructions on how to convert the seat. Since I don’t have the car seat in hand, I got a little confused just reading directions. So like any modern mamma, I hit YouTube in search for a video to show how it’s done. Surprisingly, it looks pretty simple. You can have it switched from a car seat to a booster seat in about 5 minutes. You can hide the straps you no longer need in a harness storage compartment so there are no extra straps flying around. Plus, it requires no tools, which is great news for those of us who are, um, mechanically challenged.
Read our roundup of the best car booster seats.
Installation: Easy, but with some Frustrations
I have yet to meet a car seat that I don’t hate installing into the vehicle. Between my kids, my siblings, and my nieces and nephews, I have used my fair share of car seats. The Graco Nautilus seems to be no exception to frustrating car seats.
Relaxed and reclined. Nothing is worse than seeing your kid’s head bobbing around uncontrollably during a snooze in the car. This car seat is supposed to help avoid that problem with 3 reclining positions. The overall tilt of the car seat only changes by about an inch, which wasn’t really enough for me. If you have a big minivan or SUV and you can really get it to recline all the way, it might work better. Otherwise, it looks like the nap time head bobbing is here to stay.
Latching or belting? As if parents needed more questions to answer, you have to decide if you want to latch or seat belt this car seat in. Latching is the recommended method for safety. The Graco Nautilus latches in considerably well, but it never seems to get tight enough. The fit may not be as snug and secure as some of us OCD parents would like, especially if it’s reclined. There was some rocking back and forth when getting the kid in and out of the seat, even though it was latched.
Latch Harness Installation Video
Straps and Buckles Made for Parents who Hate Straps and Buckles
Sort of in the same line as installing the car seat into the car is installing your child into the car seat. I think all parents have spent a good chunk of their lives in a tug-of-war with the ever-winning car seat straps. Too tight, too loose, twisted- all of these create safety issues and comfort issues.
Easy to loosen straps. Adjusting the fit of the 5-point harness (aka the car seat’s seat belt)is extremely easy in this car seat. It may just be a little too easy though. Getting the belts tight enough seemed to be a challenge. I think it’s the way the harness connects to the seat, but it took some real muscling to get the straps to how tight they should be.
No rethreading! Hallelujah! If you have ever spent an hour trying to rethread those dastardly car seat straps into a bigger slot for your growing kid, then you will appreciate this feature! With one simple movement, you can adjust the straps up as your kid keeps sprouting up. No need to take apart the whole car seat. Just grab and handle and pull up the whole headrest and shoulder straps. This is a novel idea in car seats, but I hope it’s one that sticks around.
The bottom buckle. Graco clearly wanted the Nautilus to accommodate growing kids. That’s why the bottom buckle (you know, near the crotch) is adjustable outward to make room for a bigger kid. But moving that buckle is a pain. The company says it should be easy, but after struggling with it, a hammer had to be used to knock the buckle into submission. That’s just a wee bit ridiculous for a belt that’s supposed to be easily adjustable.
Replacing Harness Buckle Video
Features for Your Kiddo
The prime audience for car seats is definitely parents (I’m looking at you, machine washable padding!). The Graco Nautilus LX 65 keeps kids in mind, too. Here’s just a few things your kid will love about the seat:
- Contoured armrests- because toddlers want to be comfy too!
- Removable body support padding- but not too comfortable, because they’re a big kid now.
- Colors- Choose from girl-friendly or gender neutral.
- Cup holder- the value of this during a road trip is inexplicable.
- Goodie compartment- works for treasures or snacks, which are equally important to a kid.
Like other Graco car seats, the reviews on this one are consistently high across the most important websites. There are plenty of reviews so those numbers come with a high confidence level.
- 4.7 stars, 129 reviews- Kohls
- 4.8 stars, 69 reviews- Buy Buy Baby
- 4.7 stars, 3272 reviews- Walmart
- 4.7 stars, 123 reviews- JCPenney
- Durable, sturdy, and extremely safe
- Fun extras for kids
- Machine washable pads
- Easy to convert to booster seat
- No rethreading harness straps
- Buckles can warp in heat
- Bottom buckle is a pain to adjust
- Latching into car is difficult
- Harness can be too loose
- Reclining feature doesn’t work so well
Ease of Use Ratings
Car seats sold in the United States are safe. They meet or exceed federal safety standards. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates each car seat on Ease of Use because injury is more likely to be caused by improper installation and usage than by the seats themselves.
The Nautilus 65 in forward-facing mode received an overall rating of 4 stars and 3 stars in booster mode.
When it comes to 3-in-1 car seats, the Graco Nautilus LX 65 3-in-1 car seat is a great choice. You’ll get a safe seat at an affordable price. The car seat fits kids up to 65 pounds, and the booster support kids up to 120 pounds. You’ll really never need to buy another car seat or booster seat again. You can machine wash the pads and you don’t need to re-thread the harness straps as your kid grows. Although there might be some minor irritations with getting it just right, you will know that your kid is safe and comfy in this seat.