Graco Contender 65 – Overview
The Contender’s recommended full price is an incredibly low $139.99 but, in fact, you can actually find them online at the moment for under $125 if you know where to look.
The Contender is Graco’s entry-level convertible car seat, with a low price tag to match, but the compromises are largely to do with convenience features rather that safety features as you will read about below.
No Graco Contender 65 Review could fail to mention the Graco Convertible Car Seat”clone issue”.
There are a number of similarly named Graco convertible car seats that look almost identical and it can be quite difficult for parents to tell them apart and make an informed decision as to which one to buy.
Whilst it is certainly the case that there are no meaningful differences between the Size4Me 65, MySize 65 and Fit4Me 65 car seats, there are a few differences between those seats and the Graco Contender 65 seat. There’s not much in it, but you need to know about those small differences.
So, let’s start with a list of the Graco Contender 65’s main features and then look at some of those all important features in more detail.
Graco Contender 65 at a Glance
|Rear-Facing Weight||4 - 40 lbs|
|Rear-Facing Height||1" below headrest button|
|Forwards-Facing Weight||22 - 65 lbs|
|Forwards-Facing Height||up to 49"|
|Harness Height Range||7 - 17.5"|
|Seat Expiration||7 years|
|FAA Approved for Flights||Yes|
Graco Contender 65 – Main Features
#1 Height & Weight Limits
The Contender 65 is suitable for use from 4 lbs, which makes it an excellent choice for those who have, or who are expecting, very small babies.
Most convertible car seats start from 5 lbs and upwards and so the Contender (and the other Graco convertibles) have one up on the competition in that regard.
So, the Contender 65 can be used right from birth and will continue to be suitable for your child until they are either more than 65 lbs in weight or 49 inches in height. These are pretty common maximum weight and height limits for convertible car seats and so there has been compromise on this aspect in order to achieve the low price point.
One slight downside with the Contender 65 (and the other Gracos) is that its rear-facing weight limit is just 40 lbs. Again, this is within the normal range for convertible seats, but does not allow the sort of extended rear-facing that you can achieve with some other convertible seats on the market.
Your child should still be able to rear-face until they are at least 3 years of age (which is a year longer than the minimum recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics), but if you are determined to rear-face even longer than that, you will need to consider a genuine extended rear-facing seat. You will need to be prepared to pay a lot more money for this added option.
Remember, just because you can switch your baby around to forwards-face at 22 lbs it does NOT mean that you have to. Rear-Facing is much safer than forwards-facing and I recommend that your child remains that way as long as they are within the required height and weight limits.
Unusually, the rear-facing height limit is not related to your child’s standing height, but in fact requires the top of their head to be at least 1 inch below the headrest adjustment button when it is fully extended (see image above).
Most kids will be able to use the seat for the full 40 lbs weight limit, unlike many other convertible seats that have higher theoretical rear-facing weight limits but where, in practice, the height limit is reached long before the child is able to take full advantage of any alleged extended rear-facing limits.
The overall limit of 65 lbs or 49 inches ought to mean that most children could use the Graco Contender 65 seat until they are 6 or 7 years of age.
#2 Harness Height / Adjustment / Infant Insert
The Graco Contender 65 comes with an infant insert which helps to provide added support around the vulnerable parts of your baby’s body and also boosts them up so that they can be seated in a safe and secure manner. (see video below)
The Contender 65 also comes fitted with a harness adjustment system that you would ordinarily only expect to find on a much more expensive seat.
The Simple Safe Adjust Harness system allows you to increase the height of the headrest and the shoulder harness straps without having to rethread the harness or make any other awkward and time-consuming changes to the seat’s configuration.
In order to increase the height of the headrest and shoulder harness straps, you simply have to squeeze and pull the red/gray handle that sits on the top of the seat before pulling it upwards until you get the correct fit. So, the harness and headrest adjust together with a single movement without you ever needing to remove / rethread harness straps.
As someone who first bought car seats when these “no rethread” harness mechanisms didn’t exist, I can tell you that this automatic adjustment system is worth its weight in gold!
#3 LATCH Installation
Unlike the Size4Me seat (and the other clones), the Contender 65 comes with a standard LATCH installation system. It does not come with the superior InRight LATCH installation system that can be found on the Size4Me and which involves a simple push button LATCH method.
If you are confident about being able to use standard LATCH connectors, or know where to get assistance, this won’t be a problem.
#4 Recline Positions & Indicator
This is another area in which the Contender 65 has slightly reduced capabilities when compared with the Size4Me seats.
Yes, it comes with the very useful recline level indicator on the side of the seat, which tells you when your recline is in a suitable position, but no, it doesn’t have as many recline options as the Size4Me.
Whereas the Size4Me comes with 3 recline positions, the Contender 65 has only 2 and this is reflected in the price.
If you need any extra amount of recline, you can always consider using pool noodles or similar to achieve a safe position.
#5 Safety Test Results
The seat comes with EPS energy-absorbing foam for enhanced impact energy management.
Graco boasts that the Contender 65 seat has achieved or exceeded all applicable US safety standards during side impact testing.
During the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) tests, its Peak Crash Force scores were apparently found to be 2 x the applicable car seat standard.
#6 Other Features
The other features found on the Contender 65 car seat are pretty self-explanatory.
- EPS foam lined head wings for side impact protection
- Cup holder
- Shell height of 28 inches
- Machine washable seat pads
- 3-position recline with indicator
- 7-year expiration
- FFA approved for aircraft use
Video of the Graco Contender 65
Graco Contender 65 – My Verdict
This is an excellent convertible car seat for those on a tight budget, or for those who need a cheap and light extra seat for use in a second vehicle or other occasional carers.
It lacks some of the convenience features that are found on the Graco Size4Me, such as the InRight LATCH system and the extra recline position, but that is reflected in the lower price. It is usually about $30 cheaper than the Size4Me and other Graco clones, but you need to check the prices as they change quite a lot from week to week.
Graco Contender 65 – Nice Color Options
There are plenty of fabric color options to choose from, including:
Where to Buy the Graco Contender 65
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
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