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A Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat Review By a Real Mom

There are so many different types of car seats out there, you are probably overwhelmed trying to figure out which one to choose. I’ve been there. A car seat is one of the most important products you will buy for your growing baby, so of course, you want to be sure that you are making the right decision. I chose the Graco Contender 65 convertible car seat. It grows with your child, which is a nice perk of anything that you buy.

Safety is also extremely important, and this car seat provides you with the peace of mind that you are searching for. Before purchasing, I did my own research and read many Graco Contender 65 reviews. There were a few standout features, like the Simply Safe Adjust harness system and level indicator, that aided me in choosing this car seat. I am so pleased with the quality and safety of the Contender. I am going to share with you all the important details of this car seat, as well as my experience using it.

Quick Stats and Measurements

  • Depth:17.5 in
  • Height: 24.75 in
  • Weight: 16.05 lbs.
  • Rear-facing weight limit: 40 lbs.
  • Forward-facing weight limit: 65 lbs.
  • Height limit: 49 in.


  • 5-point harness system
  • 8- position adjustable headrest
  • LATCH system and easy-to-read level indicator
  • Removable head and body support
  • Machine-washable seat pad and two buckle positions
  • 1 integrated cup holder

What’s in the Box?

There isn’t much that comes in the box besides the car seat itself and the instructional manual.

How Safe Is the Graco Contender 65?

The Graco Contender’s seat is Safe Seat Engineered. The two buckle positions allow the car seat to grow with your child, ensuring they’re safe and snug every time you take them for a ride. This car seat also has EPS foam, which gives it the ability to withstand a crash. Also, it is side-impact tested.

When I was researching car seats, I discovered that Graco is one of few brands that side-impact tests, and that alone made me feel more secure with my decision. It has been crash-tested enough to exceed US safety standards.

Another feature I want to touch upon is the Simply Safe Adjust harness system, which automatically adjusts the harness and the headrest height as your child grows. I can say from my own experience that this is true. It has been so easy to be sure that as my son grows, his car seat grows with him and conforms to his ever-changing height and weight. I worry so much less because I know the Contender keeps my child snug and secure.

side impact tested label
Side Impact Tested Label

How Comfortable Is It?

In all honesty, the Graco Contender 65 car seat is a little on the bulky side. This is fine though, because it takes up the exact amount of space that it should: just one back seat in your car. Some padded inserts can be removed when your little one is no longer an infant, and you can adjust the shoulder straps as your child grows, as well. These features ensure that children stay both safe and comfortable.

My son has never given any indication that his car seat is uncomfortable. We use it every single day with no issues. The same is true for the occasional long rides. However, my husband is over 6 feet tall, and he will tell you that when the car seat is rear-facing, the front seat passengers lose a little bit of legroom. But that’s a small price to pay for safety.

How Easy Is It to Install Rear Facing?

Luckily, this car seat is very easy to install rear facing. I have always struggled with putting things together, so I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do it. It is much easier than I thought, so that was a huge relief for me. I am sure that the average parent will find this car seat even easier to install in their car, so that is one less thing for you to worry about.

All you have to know is where to find the anchors in the seat of your car, to ensure that it is installed properly. The instructions are very straightforward, and I have never had any issues with installing this car seat. The most important thing to pay attention to, though, is the easy-to-read level indicator on the side of the car seat. This will tell you whether or not it has been correctly installed and is safe to start using. This and the LATCH system are what makes the installation process hassle free. The best part is that if you misplace the instruction manual, you can download a copy straight from Graco’s website.

Rear-facing label

How Easy Is It to Install Forward Facing?

You probably guessed that since it is so simple and quick to install this car seat rear facing, the same would be true for forward facing. This is absolutely true and, personally, I thought it was even easier. My son’s car seat never leaves the car unless the cover needs cleaning, so it has only been taken out a handful of times. Though I didn’t dread installing it when he was rear facing, I didn’t think that it would be just as easy when he was ready to transition. I’m so glad that I was wrong.

It is a very similar process with the anchors and checking the level; the only main difference is that there is one extra anchor to deal with, but it’s no big deal.

Forward-facing label

How Easy Is It to Use?

The big question on your mind at this point is most likely, “How long does it take to buckle my child into their car seat?” Well, I think you will be very pleased with the answer. Let’s break it down.

Straps and buckles

Buckling is fast and simple. There is a strap that goes between the legs, as well as two shoulder straps that extend to the waist. The buckle on the bottom strap clips right into the waist buckles, and then the chest clip pops together easily. All you have to do is pull the strap at the bottom of the seat until the straps are snug and the chest clip is level with your child’s armpits.

Switching between modes

This is very easy. To make the switch, it’s as simple as releasing the anchors and flipping it around.

Ease of use ratings

You can check out the ratings for this car seat, or basically any brand or model, by clicking here. You will see that the NHTSA evaluates each car seat and rates certain aspects from 1-5 stars. The Graco Contender 65 convertible car seat has an overall 4-star rating, meaning it is an above-average safety restraint for my particular child’s age, height, and weight. This is a great tool to see what position your child needs and how effective your car seat is.

How Do I Clean It?

Now and then, kids get car sick. It happens, and it is a completely normal part of raising a child. They may even have a diaper accident. So what about their car seat? When I was looking for a car seat for my son to use, these were questions that I wanted answered. I also wanted a quick solution. I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that the cover of the Contender 65 is machine washable. It is very easy to remove the straps and buckles to take off the cover, and then all you do is run it through a cold gentle cycle in your washing machine. That’s it! It will have to drip dry, but I promise it doesn’t take very long, maybe 2-3 hours to dry completely.

The buckles, straps, and other parts of the car seat can be wiped down with water and mild soap. I have never had any issues with this, and we’ve owned this car seat for over 4 years. No stains and no shrinking. So you can relax knowing that if the cover gets dirty, there is nothing to worry about.

Where Do I Find Important Information?

The expiration date is one of the most important pieces of information about your car seat. It expires 7 years from the manufacturer’s date. You can also find the model number of the Contender 65 right on the label, too. This will be extremely useful for potential recalls. Both of these things are found on the back of the Graco Contender 65 convertible car seat.

[insert image <Model and man date label> here]

What’s the Warranty?

Everything you need to know about Graco’s limited warranty can be found here. The warranty applies to anything made by Graco. You will also find the customer support line and chat at the link as well, which you can use for any questions or concerns, as well as inquiries about replacement parts.

How Long Is the Graco Contender 65 Good For?

According to Graco, Contender 65 is good for 7 years from the manufacturer date. So you can use this convertible car seat for as long as your child needs, without replacing it. Although it doesn’t have the capability to be used as a booster, you still get a lot of longevity from it at a very reasonable price. That is one of the top reasons why I chose this car seat for my son.

Is the Graco Contender 65 FAA Approved?

Yes! I have brought this car seat along on a couple of flights, and I can honestly say it was a great choice. It is a little bulky, and you’re responsible for bringing it to the gate and board with it in hand, but beyond that, it is the safest option for your little one if they still require a convertible car seat. If you are wondering where to find this information, the answer is right on the back of the Contender 65! Take a peek below to see what label you’ll be looking for. All Graco brand car seats tell you right on the product if they are FAA approved.

FAA label

Have There Been Any Recalls?

To my knowledge, there haven’t been any recalls of this car seat model. When you open the box, you will find a postcard on which you can fill out your information and mail-in, and you will be contacted if your particular car seat is part of a recall. Of course, I did this when we purchased the Contender 65, and I have not heard anything about a recall, or seen anything about one anywhere on the internet or in the news.

If you are unsure if your child’s car seat has been part of a recall, you can check here. All you need is the model number, which you can find on the back or the side of the base of the car seat. This chart was created using Graco’s official website, to accurately compare all the details of these car seats.

What I Like About It

One of the main reasons I ultimately purchased the Graco Contender 65 was the price for the value. I knew I wanted a simple convertible car seat that was easy to use. I read some reviews and they were all generally positive, and we were using other Graco products, so I made the leap and bought this one.

I also love how comfortable it is. Even on longer car rides, my son has never complained about being uncomfortable, the straps digging, or any other problems. I will be the first person to complain if I’m uncomfortable during a long ride, so my child being comfy is important to me.

The last thing that I love about this car seat is how easy it is to transition from rear facing to forward facing. When my son was ready to make the switch, it only took a few minutes to unbuckle it, flip it, and buckle it in again. It really is as easy as it sounds.

What I Don’t Like as Much

Something that I enjoy with baby products (and most things) is longevity. It is recommended that your child is secured with a 5-point harness until they are around 65 pounds and then a booster starting around the age of 7. If I have another child, I would probably like to try out a Graco car seat that converts to a booster once the weight limit for the car seat has been met. Since Graco has proven its ease of use, I would consider taking the leap to try out one of the all-in-one car seats, like the Graco 4ever DLX 4-in-1. This would prevent additional purchases, and I just want to see what it’s like. Other than that, there isn’t anything that I really dislike about the Graco Contender 65 convertible car seat.

How Does It Compare?

Let’s go over how this car seat stacks up compared to other popular Graco car seats.

Graco Contender 65 vs MyRide 65

There are very subtle differences between the Contender 65 and the MyRide 65. We decided to try out the MyRide 65 for our younger son because we love Graco so much and wanted to see how another model would compare to the Contender 65 that we already owned. Yes, it is a little bit cheaper, and I honestly wanted to see if the price made a difference in the quality. The short answer is that it doesn’t.

First off, it is a little bit lighter, and it has a second cup holder. Neither of these features influenced our purchase or my opinion; they are just things that you notice right away. From my personal experience, the MyRide 65 is a little harder to install. The straps are much more difficult to tighten, and I often have trouble adjusting them without the help of my husband. I can’t say whether or not this is the same for forward facing as it is for rear facing because my little one is still too small to make the switch. However, if it is anything like the Graco Contender 65, I’m thinking it will be a little bit easier.

Overall, both the Graco MyRide 65 and the Contender 65 are equally safe and passed the same crash tests. You can still adjust the headrest and the harness with ease. However, if I had to do it all over again, I would still choose the Graco Contender 65 because of how much easier it was to install.

Product DetailsGraco Contender 65 convertible car seatGraco MyRide65
Weight16.05 Lbs15.22 lbs
Dimensions17.5 inches, 24.75 inches high17.25 inches, 26 inches high
Price139.99 USD119.99 USD
Maximum Weight Recommendation65 lbs65 lbs
Minimum Weight Recommendation5 lbs5 lbs
Rear-facing Weight Limit40 lbs40 lbs
Forward-facing Weight Limit65 lbs65 lbs
Integrated Cup Holders12

Graco Contender 65 vs Size4Me

The first thing you will see is that the Size4Me is very similar to the Contender 65. The easy-to-read level indicator offers the same hassle-free installation, and it features the same LATCH system. It is a convertible seat just like the others, so it can be used for rear-facing and forward-facing your child. It also has the adjustable harness and headrest height.

To be honest, two things stand out between the Contender 65 and the Size4Me. First is that the Size4Me has a Rapid Remove cover, making it super fast to take it off for cleaning. However, the Contender 65 has a lower price point compared to the Size4Me. I have said it many times, but the Graco Contender 65 is one of the most affordable car seats made by the Graco brand. Beyond those points, there are no substantial differences between them. In the end, I would still choose the Contender 65 if I had to choose between them.

Product DetailsGraco Contender 65 convertible car seatGraco Size4Me
Weight16.05 Lbs19.30 lbs
Dimensions17.5 inches, 24.75 inches high18.5 inches, 23.4 inches high
Price139.99 USD179.99 USD
Maximum Weight Recommendation65 lbs65 lbs
Minimum Weight Recommendation5 lbs4 lbs
Rear-facing Weight Limit40 lbs40 lbs
Forward-facing Weight Limit65 lbs65 lbs
Integrated Cup Holders11

Graco Contender vs Extend2fit

The main goal of the Graco Extend2fit is to allow your child to ride rear facing longer. It has a higher maximum weight at 50 pounds, compared to 40 pounds with the Contender 65, as well as the MyRide 65 and the Size4Me. So if you like this idea, then this may be a better fit for you, though the high limit is not completely necessary. The 5 inches of extra legroom is also helpful for an extended rear-facing infant. Again, this will be a preference.

You will notice that the harness system is similar to the Graco Contender 65, as it features the Simply Safe Adjust harness. There is also the InRight LATCH system to automatically adjust the headrest and harness all in one motion. The Extend2fit is also ProtectPlus engineered, meaning it has gone through rigorous crash testing. Of course, the seat pads and cover are machine washable as well. This car seat has a lot of great perks, but it is still just as safe as the Contender 65.

Product DetailsGraco Contender 65 convertible car seatGraco Extend2Fit
Weight16.05 Lbs19.75 lbs
Dimensions17.5 inches, 24.75 inches high21.73 inches, 25.16 inches high
Price139.99 USD199.99 USD
Maximum Weight Recommendation65 lbs65 lbs
Minimum Weight Recommendation5 lbs4 lbs
Rear-facing Weight Limit40 lbs50 lbs
Forward-facing Weight Limit65 lbs65 lbs
Integrated Cup Holders12
Product DetailsGraco Contender 65 convertible car seatGraco MyRide65Graco Size4MeGraco Extend2Fit
Weight16.05 Lbs15.22 lbs19.30 lbs19.75 lbs
Dimensions17.5 inches, 24.75 inches high17.25 inches, 26 inches high18.5 inches, 23.4 inches high21.73 inches, 25.16 inches high
Price139.99 USD119.99 USD179.99 USD199.99 USD
Maximum Weight Recommendation65 lbs65 lbs65 lbs65 lbs
Minimum Weight Recommendation5 lbs5 lbs4 lbs4 lbs
Rear-facing Weight Limit40 lbs40 lbs40 lbs50 lbs
Forward-facing Weight Limit65 lbs65 lbs65 lbs65 lbs
Integrated Cup Holders1212


Each of these car seats promises hassle-free installation, several safety features which include side-impact testing, a 5-point safety harness, and two buckle positions to help keep your growing child secure. At the end of the day, I will still choose the Graco Contender 65 over other convertible car seats. It has everything that you need, and it is very affordable. It is perfect for a forward-facing toddler and holds a rear-facing infant from 5 pounds all the way to 40 pounds. Even though it only has one cup holder, it offers a couple of different color options. Besides, as a parent buying a car seat, the main concerns that you should have are safety, comfort, and ease of use. The Contender 65 checks all of these boxes.

Full Seat View

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