The Graco 4Ever is the most popular convertible car seat at the moment, and for good reason.
It is the only 4-stage car seat which you can use from the day your baby is born until age 9! In addition the seat is safe and comfortable, and very easy to install.
Let’s look at the specs, pros, and cons of this 4-in-1 seat, how to use it, and how to decide if this versatile seat is right for you.
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The 4Ever is a 4-stage convertible car seat which functions as a rear-facing infant car seat, a forward-facing car seat for toddlers, a high-backed (or belt-positioning) booster, and a backless booster.
It is 21.5″ wide and weighs 22.75 lbs.
Let’s compare this car seat to others in the market:
Both of Britax’s ClickTights have an advantage over the 4Ever car seat: the ClickTight easy installation system, which pretty much beats every other system on the market.
The Graco does have an easy LATCH installation system, but it doesn’t have a parallel system for parents who want (or need) to use their car’s seatbelt.
That said, Britax’s car seats are just that – car seats. They aren’t boosters, and weren’t meant to be boosters. Both of Britax’s seats have a maximum height limit of 49″, compared to the 4Ever’s 57″. It’s pretty much the difference between buying a booster when your child is 6-8 years old, and buying no booster at all when your child outgrows the seat around age 10.
All three seats are good for ten years.
Like the 4Ever, the Diono Radian RXT is a convertible car seat intended for use from birth to booster. Also both are high-quality car seats intended for children up to 120 lbs and 57″.
The differences between them are minimal yet significant: The Graco offers easy LATCH installation, while the Radian RXT has a higher forward-facing weight limit (80 lbs instead of 65 lbs). Though the Radian RXT doesn’t turn into a backless booster, both offer the same maximum height and weight limits – 57 inches and 120 lbs.
The Diono seat has a higher rear-facing weight limit (45 lbs instead of 40 lbs), though, and that’s important, because it keeps kids in the safest position for longer. That said, the Graco can fit babies from 4 lbs, while the Radian RXT can only fit babies who weigh 5 lbs or more. And it’s lowest harness position is at 6″, while the Radian RXT’s is 9″ – a big difference when you’re talking about little babies.
Another major difference is the seat’s width – 17″ for the Diono Radian RXT, but 21.5″ for the Graco. This doesn’t matter to every parent, but it will make a significant difference for those who need to squish 3 safety seats into the back row.
Also, the Radian RXT folds flat and can be carried as a backpack.
The Symphony and Symphony DLX are “all-in-one” car seats from Evenflo. Both of them can be used as rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and high-back (belt-positioning) booster seats. Of the three, only the 4Ever seat can be used as a backless booster.
When it comes to height and weight limits, Graco takes the cake again with their 4 lbs minimum weight – the Symphony seats have a 5 lbs minimum weight. However, the rear-facing and forward-facing maximum weights are the same for all three seats, at 40 lbs and 65 lbs respectively. The maximum height for all three seats is 57″.
The Symphony’s maximum weight in booster mode is 110 lbs – 10 lbs less than the 4Ever’s maximum weight.
While this isn’t a bad seat, there’s no sign of an easy installation system or no-thread harness.
Like Evenflo’s Symphony seats, the SafeMax is an “all-in-one” car seat which can be used rear-facing, forward-facing, or as a belt-positioning booster. And like the 4Ever, this seat has a maximum weight limit of 120 lbs when used in booster mode.
However, like the Symphony seats, the Evenflo SafeMax shows no sign of any easy installation or harness adjustment systems.
Like the 4Ever, Graco’s Extend2Fit can be used for infants who weigh 4 lbs or more. Better, though, the Extend2Fit lets children rear-face until they reach 50 lbs. However, the Extend2Fit’s maximum weight limit is 100 lbs – far less than the 4Ever’s 120 lbs. Both seats have easy LATCH installation systems.
The Extend2Fit has several niceties that I like, such as an extendable panel which provides extra leg room, but it lacks one important feature: The seat can’t be used as a booster. It’s just a convertible rear- to forward-facing car seat.
That said, there is a 4Ever Extend2Fit car seat, which gives you the benefits of both worlds: extra leg room, extended rear-facing (up to 50 lbs), and the options of both high-back and backless boosters. Even better? It a width of just 19 inches!
The Chicco NextFit is one of the most popular car seats on the market, and for good reason: It has nine recline positions, an easy seatbelt-tightening system, and easy fabric removal. Plus, this seat was rated one of the best in crash protection.
However, the NextFit can only be used as a car seat, not as a booster, and its lower weight limit is 5 lbs, not 4 lbs. Also, the NextFit can only be used for 8 years, while the Graco is good for ten.
Meanwhile, both seats allow for easy harness adjustment, and have a recline indicator and an easy LATCH system – all important safety features. They also both have cup holders and machine-washable fabric . Those may not be safety features, but they definitely add points for convenience. Also, both seats have a place to store their LATCH tethers when not in use.
The Graco Nautilus is an excellent 3-in-1, but it’s not rear-facing car seat. The seat – which is similar in many ways to the 4Ever – can be used as a forward-facing car seat, high-back booster, and backless booster.
Though Nautilus can be used for children who weigh between 20-100 lbs, it’s important to remember that the only reason you would place a 20 lbs child in a forward-facing seat is if s/he is too tall for all the rear-facing seats. Given that the 4Ever has a height limit of 57″ and a headrest which can be extended, there’s no real reason to choose the Nautilus over it.
Note: When rear-facing, the top of a child’s head should always be at least one inch (2.5 cm) below the top of the seat. In this case, Graco says explicitly that the top of the child’s head should be at least 1″ below the adjustment handle.
Really, there’s no comparison between the all-in-one 4Ever and Maxi-Cosi’s Pria seats. Why? Simply put, Maxi-Cosi’s Pria 70 and Pria 85 seats never even pretended to be all-in-one, and are not appropriate for newborns.
To use the Prias (both the 70 and 85) from birth, you’ll need a special infant insert (with the Pria 85, you may need to fork out extra money), At the other end of the spectrum, children outgrow the Pria seats when they hit 52″, instead of Graco’s 57″.
Also, the 4Ever’s lowest harness position is at 6″, while the Pria 85’s is at 9″. The Pria 70’s goes as low as 5″ – but only if you use their insert.
All three seats offer easy harness height adjustment and are good for ten years. However, the Prias do not offer any kind of easy-installation system.
Both Prias have higher forward-facing weight limits (all three have a rear-facing weight limit of 40 lbs), but the Prias are convertible car seats in the sense that they can be used as a rear-facing car seat and a forward-facing car seat. Neither Pria is meant to be used as a booster seat.
Graco’s SlimFit is a 3-in-one seat, but with a slight advantage over some of the company’s other combination seats: it’s slimmer. While the 4Ever is 21.5″ wide, the SlimFit is 19.88″, making it much more likely to fit into smaller cars or a back row crammed with three safety seats.
Though the SlimFit does rear-face, forward-face, and turn into a high-back booster, its height and weight limits are inferior, with the SlimFit’s minimum weight at 5 lbs and its maximum at 100 lbs. Both seats can accommodate children who are up to 57″ tall.
Similar to the 4Ever, the Graco Milestone can be used for ten years and has a maximum height of 57″. However, the Milestone can only be used for babies weighing at least five pounds, and its maximum weight limit in booster mode is 100 lbs.
The reason? The Milestone converts from rear-facing car seat to forward-facing car seat, and then to high-back booster. It does *not* convert to a backless booster: even the 4Ever’s maximum weight limit for use in high-back booster mode is 100 lbs. (As a backless booster it can be used for children up to 120 lbs.)
Care for the two seats is similar, as is the ease of headrest and harness adjustment and LATCH installation.
Diono Radian R120
The Diono Radian R120’s specifications are similar to the RXT’s: 5 lbs minimum (the 4Ever can fit babies from 4 lbs), rear-facing up to 45 lbs (as compared to the Graco’s 40 lbs), and forward-facing up to 80 lbs (compared to 65 lbs).
While we’re not absolutely sure that the 4Ever is a better choice than the Radian RXT, it’s pretty clear that it beats the Diono Radian R120 hands down.
First of all, the Radian R120 is only good as a harness car seat for 8 years (it can be used as a booster for 10), while the Graco is good for ten years, no questions asked.
Also, the Radian R120’s lowest harness slot is at 10.5″ – four inches higher than the Graco and an inch and a half higher than the Radian RXT. What this means is that even though this seat *should* fit babies who are at least five pounds, you may well find that your baby is too small to fit the harness. Rear-facing harnesses should be at or below the child’s shoulders, and these harness slots may not allow that until your baby is older.
That said, the Diono Radian R120 is still taller and slimmer, and like the Radian RXT, the Radian 120 folds and can be carried as a backpack.
Graco Contender 65
Like the Extend2Fit, Graco’s Contender 65 is a convertible car seat, not an all-in-one seat. Used rear-facing, it accommodates babies between 5-40 lbs (the 4Ever can be used from 4 lbs), and forward-facing children who weigh between 20-65 lbs.
One major difference is that the Contender 65 can be used until a child reaches a height of 49″, while the 4Ever can be used until a child hits 57″.
Also, this seat needs to be tossed after 7 years (instead of 10).
RECARO Car Seats
RECARO offers various car seats, some better quality than others. For instance, RECARO’s Performance RIDE’s straps may loosen when the seat is used in a forward-facing position, impairing the seat’s ability to fully protect your child.
On the other hand, RECARO’s ProRIDe has a harness indicator to let you know when the straps may be in danger of twisting.
Neither seat has an easy LATCH installation system like the Graco, and neither is intended for use as a booster: both are convertible car seats which can be installed rear-facing or forward-facing and have a maximum weight limit of 65 lbs.
Graco’s Size4Me car seat is a convertible seat which allows babies weighing between 4-40 lbs to rear-face, while those weighing between 20-65 lbs can forward-face. Unlike the 4Ever, this seat cannot be used as a booster.
Like the other Graco models mentioned in this review, the Size4Me offers the company’s easy latch installation.
It’s worth noting that for some reason the Size4Me seats don’t come up first in Google searches, and clicking on a link which *should* lead to the seat’s page on their site gives an error message. This is doubly weird because there are two Size4Me seats. However, the seat IS still available on Amazon.
Graco Smart Seat
The Smart Seat is no longer available, either on Amazon or on the company’s site.
The Smart Seat’s base still is available on Amazon, but don’t buy it: It’s not compatible with *any* of the company’s other “all-in-one” seats.
Graco’s Safety Surround technology protects a child’s head and meets both Graco’s side impact testing and Europe’s Draft. While some of Graco’s products still use the Safety Surround technology, they have removed the 4Ever with Safety Surround page from their site.
On Amazon, the product can be purchased from a single seller, and a quick look at retail sites hints that this product may soon be obsolete. Should you buy it while it’s still out there? Maybe, but I wouldn’t.
The reason? Companies usually remove products either because they are faulty, or because they’ve been replaced with something better. I say, go for the better: The previous version of the 4Ever was not that great. Today’s version is much better – and probably incorporates the Safety Surround technology, together with additional safety features.
The seat cushion is machine washable, and the buckle can be cleaned with a damp cloth. Other metal and plastic parts can be washed with mild soap and cool water. Be sure not to immerse the harness straps, though – they’re spot-clean only.
The car seat comes in several modern patterns, perfect for either gender. Some of the more popular colors are Kylie (light gray and white car seat with pink accents), Nova (blue-gray with medium gray accents), and Cameron (light gray with medium and dark gray accents). Other colors include the black- and white-striped Studio, light gray and black Matrix, bright pink and black Azalea, red and light gray Cougar, and teal and light gray Basin.
It can be purchased at a local Toys R Us or Target store, as well as on Amazon.
Though Graco has recalled car seats in the past over difficult-to-open car seat buckles, the 4Ever was not part of any recall. There have been no warnings issued about this car seat, and there was never a need to offer replacement parts.
The 4Ever car seat expires after ten years – by which time your little one will probably be able to use your vehicle’s seatbelt.
Remember that this is a convertible car seat, not an infant seat. This means that it’s not (yet, at least) compatible with any strollers that we know of.
Since the seat is not meant to be taken in and out of the car, it does not have a base. This seat does have a handle, but it’s not a carrying handle – it’s an easy-adjust handle, used to raise or lower the headrest and harness straps.
The seat can be installed in four different ways: rear-facing, forward-facing, as a high-back booster, and as a backless booster.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find too many videos showing seatbelt installation. Graco, however, provides a link to the seat’s online manual, where you can view the company’s written instructions on how to install and adjust the seat.
You can view the video I did find here – but bear in mind that I don’t know the credentials of the mom who made it.
This car seat can be used rear-facing for babies between 4 and 40 lbs (1.8-18.1 kg), and whose heads are at least one inch below the seat’s handle. Forward-facing, it can be used for babies and children who weigh between 22 and 65 lbs (10-29.5 kg) and who are between 29-49 inches (73.6-124.6 cm) in height.
The seat also comes with an infant insert which lowers the lowest harness setting to 6″ (though one site said 7″) for tiny infants.
It’s important to note that even though this seat can technically fit a 4 pound (1.8 kg) preemie, the harness straps may not fit every preeemie properly.
Also, keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible – even if they are over 22 lbs (10 kg). The reason: Children who rear-face are five times safer in a side-impact crash than their forward-facing counterparts.
When used as a high-back booster, it can fit children who weigh between 30-100 lbs (13.6-45.5 kg) and are between 38-57 inches (96.52-144.78 cm) in height. Backless, the booster has a higher weight limit – 120 lbs (54.54 kg). The height limits, though, are pretty similar: 40-57″ (101.6-144.78cm).
In other words, when your child hits 57 inches, they’ve grown out of this booster. Chances are, by the time they get there, they’ll be at the right weight to use a regular seatbelt.
To install the seat rear-facing using LATCH, watch this video:
Here’s how to install the seat forward-facing or as a high-backed booster:
Want to use it as a backless booster? Here’s how:
This is just a really cool video that shows – clearly, not squished in a car – how it actually works.
The 4Ever car seat boasts an “easy LATCH system.” It doesn’t take one second like the company claims it does, but it does make proper installation easier. Installing the seat only requires lifting the headrest and unfastening the fabric. Also, the seat has an easy system for storing the harness and LATCH tethers when not in use.
It also features an angle indicator and a color-coded installation system: The seat should recline into the orange when used as a forward-facing car seat, into the blue when used rear-facing, and into the green when used as a booster. There’s also has a slot which makes tightening the LATCH belts easier.
One of the nice things about this seat is its no-rethread harness. It has a handle at the top, allowing you to extend the headrest – and automatically adjusting the harness along with it.
What I really liked about the high-back booster mode is that the seat features a slot for threading the seatbelt’s harness. Lots of boosters don’t have this feature, but it’s important: Children can be seriously injured in a crash if the seatbelt is touching their necks instead of sitting in the middle of their shoulders, where it should be.
It’s important to note that there are two versions of the 4Ever car seat: the previous version, and the current version. One of the differences between the two is that the previous version was only good for seven years, and the current version is good for ten.
There are several other differences as well, but the bottom line is: Not all the information you see online is up-to-date and referring to the model sold in 2018 (which is what we’re referring to here).
The 4Ever is a good, solid car seat and booster which can truly claim to be the only safety seat a child will ever need, and that’s why it ranks high up in our list of the top 5 convertible car seats!
And while it doesn’t boast the highest rear-facing weight limit, 40 lbs isn’t bad at all.
If your children are long and lanky, the above-average height limit will let you continue rear-facing past your child’s second birthday. And if you’re looking for a sturdy seat which will last your child through his safety seat years, this is the one for you.
Do you own this car seat? What do you think? Want to know something not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments!
Chana Roberts has spent over 100 hours researching, testing, and writing about products for families. She cares deeply about safety and everything kid. Chana is a freelance writer, editor, and mompreneur, with a passion for helping small businesses succeed.