If you’ve been searching for a convertible 3-in-1 seat that probably means you’re ready for your child to be forward facing soon. For what will most likely be the last car seat you need, the Graco Nautilus 80 Elite 3-in-1 and the Graco Nautilus 65 LX 3-in-1 should definitely be on your radar. My vote goes to Graco Nautilus 80 Elite primarily because you can get an extra year of use out of it. It’s a tad bit pricier than Nautilus 65 LX but it will last you a long time.
What do I need to know before getting a convertible car seat?
Both Nautilus 80 and 65 LX are alike in many ways. The design and fabrics are almost the same with just a few different color/patterns options. I wouldn’t have been able to differentiate between the two unless I saw the name of the model or the pattern.
We will start by looking into the key features of each of the car seats:
- Ease of installation
- Car seat expiration
- Child’s weight limit
Graco has it’s own testing standards in addition to the government testing requirements. According to their testing, the seats can withstand double the force of the government regulation requirement. In other words, it is engineered & crash tested to meet or exceed the US standard FMVSS 213.
They both also have Graco’s Safety Surround technology. That helps with impact protection according to the European standard(currently there is no Side Impact standard in the US).
Graco Nautilus 80 Elite and Graco Nautilus 65 LX are composed of EPS energy absorbing foam to provide effective energy management. The reinforced steel frame of the car seat provides strength and durability to ensure the child’s security. Overall, both seats are pretty sturdy.
To truly appreciate the 3-in-1 factor of the Nautilus, you have to test out how easy it is to adjust the height of the harness and headrest in one quick motion. This is the Simple Safe Adjust Harness system that grows or adjusts with your child’s height without having to take the seat out.
It’s safe to say,(and provided they are correctly installed) both the Nautilus are pretty tough and secure seats for your little one.
Ease of installation
I found it fairly easy to install but I do admit, I did watch Graco’s video tutorial to do it. My husband followed the instructions manual and it took him quite some time to catch on. I recommend reading the manual and also watching a video or two to see how other parents, car seat technicians or Graco has installed it.
Getting to use the Latch system was absolutely fantastic! Especially the one at the back of the seat. It was taut and it barely budged.
Size wise, Nautilus seats are fairly large seats. I’ve managed to install it in many sedans (Accord, Acura, Kia, Camry) and SUV/Hybrids (Audi, Range Rover, CRV) so far no issues but it does take a lot of room.
For some of the older car models, the seat belt method worked out fine since they did not have latch hooks.
It does require some assembly straight out of the box but it wasn’t too bad. Do keep in mind that when you move between the stages (from a 5-point harness stage to highback belt and there onto a backless belt positioning booster) you may need to take the car seat out of the car for reassembly and then install it again.
Integrated belt lock-off
Nautilus 80 has an added system which makes the car seat super secure. Attaching the seat belt in the car seat with the integrated belt lock-off buckle helps hold the belt and of course the car seat, tightly in place. I normally tighten it to the max and then loop it through the lock-off. It barely moved an inch even if I tug at it after that.
Currently, Nautilus 65 LXdoes not have the integrated belt lock-off feature.
Car seat expiration
I cannot stress enough how important it is to check the manufacturer’s expiration date. Over time the components inside degrade essentially becoming a safety issue in case an incident does happen. The expiration date varies from car seat to car seat but generally, it’s between 6-10 years.
I’ve known a few people that did invest in a car seat only to find out it expires after 3 years, kind of going against the reason for buying a long-term car seat. Always reach out to the manufacturer in case you do receive a car seat with a close by expiration date.
Both the Nautlis 65 and 80 have a ten-year expiry date so it should last you a long time. Just be sure to check the date when you receive your car seat.
5-Point harness mode
One of the main differences between Nautilus 80 and Nautilus 65 LXis the weight and height limit that for the 5-point harness. Nautilus 80 goes up to 80 lbs and 52 inches in height versus Nautilus 65 LX which goes up to 65 lb and 49 inches in height.
Here’s a quick summary of the weight and height limits for all three stages:
- 5-Point Harness Mode
Weight: 22-65 lb – up to 80 lb for 80 Elite
Height: 27-49″- up to 52″ for 80 Elite
- High Back Booster Mode
Weight: 30-100 lb
- Backless Booster Mode
Weight: 40-120 lb
Keeping the car seat in mint condition can be a tough job, but it has to be done.
The seat cushion is machine-washable so one less thing for you to worry about. The buckle can be cleaned up with a damp cloth while the harness straps are recommended to be spot cleaned. For the rest of the body and all plastic parts, just use a mild soap and water and leave it out to air dry.
I found the actual harness a little difficult to clean, to be honest. The belt pads with the rubber lining kind of leave slight water marks which drive me insane. It get’s clean but the leftover marks and the time that is taken for such a small task seems like a waste.
3 position recline
Both Nautilus 65 LX and 80 Elite come with the ability to recline in 3 positions. To be honest, it’s not much of a recline. I tried all three and they are so slight that it really did not make much of a difference. Not an exciting feature since it barely made a dent in providing any extra comfort.
The cup holder comes integrated with both the Nautilus 80 and 65 LX. It’s pretty handy while you’re driving around and your child can easily access their drink with you having to stop every few minutes. Plus it has cubbies on both sides for your kids to store any small toys, colors or any other distractions.
Cleaning it out is a pain though. You really have to gather all the crumbs and fun little surprises your kids leave in there for you.
Harness belt pads
The harness has these rubber lined belt pads that are supposed to stay put near the shoulders and in a way stop the belt from scraping against the neck. Unfortunately, the lining of the pads ends up scraping the neck. Perhaps changing the pad to a softer one with a cloth based lining may help.
The seats are also FAA approved car seats, so either can be taken on the plane with you for your little one’s comfort. Bear in mind that it is pretty bulky and heavy to carry. I’ve seen a few parents taking a travel trolley to place the car seat on so that they don’t have to carry it throughout the airport.
- No re-thread harness
- FAA approved for use in airplane
- Steel reinforced frame
- Energy absorbing EPS foam
- Height adjustable head support
- Integrated cup holder
- Convertible (3 stage seat)
- 10-year car seat life
- Integrated belt lock-off (80 Elite)
- 5-point harness for children up to 80 lbs
- Heavy/Bulky – takes up more space than an average sized adult
- Not enough recline
- Harness seatbelt rubber lining pads
- Instructions manual not as easy to follow
ReviewsGraco Nautilus 65 Lx
4.8 stars, 28 reviews – Walmart.com
4 stars, 147 reviews – Toysrus.com
4.7 stars, 161 reviews – Target.comGraco Nautilus 80 Elite
4.5 stars, 58 reviews – Walmart.com
4 stars, 947 reviews – Toysrus.com
4.5 stars, 71 reviews – Target.com
Main differences between Nautilus 65 LX and Nautilus 80 Elite
There is a slight difference between the two convertible car seats.With Nautilus 80, they added a built-in seat belt lock-off that helps to secure the car seat in place. Here’s a quick summary of the Nautilus 80 Vs Nautilus 65 LX.
- Weight limit for the 5-point harness – 80 Elite allows for up to 80 lb.
- Built-in Seat Belt Lock-off – Easier installation with the seatbelt with the lock-off for 80 Elite.
- Price – There is some price difference with the Elite being more pricier than Nautilus 65 LX
Which booster car seat model made our Best Booster Seats list? Read to find out!
Nautilus 80 or Nautilus 65 LX?
There are obvious weight and price differences between the two car seats. I know the built-in seat belt lock-off is great to have for securing a car seat but it is not a ‘must-have’. I was able to use/install the seat without it multiple times over.
It comes down to the added 15 pounds and 4 inches of weight/height limits that 80 Elite has added for the 5-point harness. You’re pretty much just paying for that if you compare both the Nautilus 80 and Nautilus 65 LX.
For me, the extra $$ is worth the added weight. It will help me go through another year or so with the harness mode. I already have a fidgety toddler and the 5-point harness gives me the peace of mind to drive long distances without having to worry.