Type: Convertible seat, booster.
Limits: 4-40 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. in harness mode forward facing and 30-100 lbs. as a belt-positioning booster. Backless booster 40-120 lbs.
NHTSA ease of use rating: Four out of five stars (rear or forward facing).
IIHS rating for booster mode: Best bet.
Pros: All-in-one seat works from 4 lbs. through booster mode. No rethread harness. Six recline positions; ten position adjustable headrest. Side impact protection.
Cons: No belt lock-offs, harness can be tricky to tighten when rear-facing. Heavy. Only one side has level indicator.
Comments: The all-in-one car seat is the Fountain of Youth for car seat makers—the mythical seat that works from birth to college (ok, as a belt-positioning booster to 120 lbs., or when kids age out of booster seats and can correctly fit in a regular seat belt. That’s usually around age ten or later).
Yet like Ponce De Leon, Graco’s quest for the perfect all-in-one seat has been one of frustrating missteps. Their last effort, the SmartSeat, received mixed reviews from parents, many of whom cited negatives like the seat’s bulk and a harness that was hard to use.
Amid that backdrop, we now have Graco’s latest effort in this category: the Graco 4Ever. This seat is similar to the new Graco Milestone, which sells for $205. The big difference is the booster mode: the 4Ever converts to a backless booster for use up to 120 lbs. The Milestone works as a belt-positioning booster to 100 lbs . . . but no backless mode.
There are some other small differences as well—the 4Ever has two built-in cup holders. The Milestone has a single cup holder attached to the side of the seat. The 4Ever has six recline positions and a headrest with ten positions that can be adjusted with one hand. The Milestone has only four recline positions. In the not too distant past, the 4Ever was $70 more than the Milestone—that gap has narrowed to about $15. That makes the 4Ever a better buy in our opinion for the backless booster mode alone.
FYI: There are two versions of the 4Ever: the base model and a version that adds additional side impact protection (Safety Surround). The latter is $330.
Graco clearly has put a lot of thought into the 4Ever. Little touches like the harness that stores away in booster mode (you don’t have to remove it from the seat) are very nice. Unlike the giant SmartSeat, the 4Ever is easier to fit in a vehicle in rear-facing mode. The steel reinforced frame and EPS lined seat are pluses. You also get premium “push-on” LATCH connectors, which you would expect at this price point.
Reader feedback and online reviews are very positive about the 4Ever. Readers love how the fabric snaps off for cleaning. The 4ever is easy to install and adjust. The seat earns a Best Bet in booster mode by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
What’s not to love? Readers say in rear-facing mode, the seat’s harness can be tricky to tighten. The lack of a belt lock-off for seat belt installs is a curious omission for a $200+ seat. Minor quibble: there is a level indicator, but only one side. And the fabric isn’t as soft to the touch as you’d expect for a $200+ seat, say some critics. The 4Ever is also quite heavy—fine if you won’t be moving this seat from vehicle to vehicle, but a pain otherwise.
On the plus side, in the past few months, the price for the Graco 4Ever has drifted downward—from $300 when it debuted to $220 on Amazon as of April 2017. If $300 for a Graco convertible car seat sounded a bit rich, $220 is much more in the ballpark.
We’ll give this seat an A-. Graco’s all-in-one 4Ever seat comes as close as you can get to that mythical all-in-one nirvana.