Let’s talk 3 in 1 car seats.
When a seat says it is a “three in one,” that means it works through the three main stages of your baby’s development: newborn, toddlers and booster age:
• Newborn: Here your baby rides rear-facing in a five-point harness until the limits of the seat (usually 40 lbs., but some seats now work up to 50 lbs.).
• Toddler: Once your baby outgrows the rear-facing limits, you turn the seat forward facing and use the five-point harness.
• Booster: These are for older kids, where the vehicle’s seat belt replaces the built-in five-point harness. The seat becomes a belt-positioning booster, which makes sure your vehicle’s seat belt is correctly positioned across a child’s body. The seat also provides side impact protection.
In the old days, these three stages had three distinct seats: infant, toddler (also known as convertible), and booster.
Three in one seats combine all three functions into one seat. Or at least that is the promise!
Since you aren’t paying for three separate seats, you would think three-in-one seats would be less expensive. Yet some can get very pricey . . . but there is good news: we found one model that is easy to use, simple to install and doesn’t burn a hole in your bank account—the Graco SlimFit.
This seat scored well in third-party crash tests and overall ease of use in our research . . . at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
Yes, this seat is a 3 in 1—it is used for infants (rear-facing to 40 lbs.), toddlers (forward-facing (22-65 lbs.) and older kiddos as a belt-positioning booster up to 100 lbs. Here are the pros and cons:
What We Liked
• Integrated harness and 10-position headrest. As you move the headrest higher, the harness adjusts with it—no need to rethread the harness and fit it through harness slots.
• Narrow. The Graco SlimFit is just 17″ wide (with the cup holders folded in). Hence, this seat may work better in smaller vehicles—or if you need to install three seats across a back seat for a carpool.
• Affordable. With some new car seats priced like they are pulled from a hotel mini bar, it’s nice to find a safe, well-designed seat that is affordable.
What Needs Work
• Limited recline. There are just four total recline settings (two for rear-facing, two for forward-facing). While we found this acceptable in our testing, we realize some folks may want more recline positions.
• Doesn’t convert to a backless booster. Some “all-in-one” seats convert to backless boosters for older kids up to 120 lbs. The SlimFit only works to 100 lbs. as a belt-positioning booster.