A car seat is one of the most important investments you will make as a parent. It is an absolute must-have item to keep your child safe and comfortable in your vehicle. Infants and toddlers, especially, need something to keep them in place while you drive. The days when a baby could sit in someone’s lap during a grocery run or a visit to the pediatrician are ancient history.
With so many models in the market and so much pressure to choose the safest one, shopping for an infant car seat can get overwhelming. To help you out, we have made a head-to-head comparison of two of the most popular brands: Graco and Chicco.
Graco is an American company that has been creating baby gear for more than 65 years. Besides an enormous range of car seats, they also make strollers, complete travel systems, and even nursery furniture. From their very first product in 1953—the Swyngomatic automatic baby swing—they have established a solid reputation as innovators whose main goals are comfort and convenience.
Around the same time (1958) in Italy, Chicco was born. From their headquarters in Milan, they manufacture baby products that have a distinctly European sense of style. However, Chicco (pronounced “key-co”) is not just about fashion. Collaborating with pediatricians, ergonomists, and parents, they engineer baby gear focusing on safety and comfort.
The biggest difference between the two brands is the price. It is important to note, though, that cheaper does not mean less safe. All car seats sold as brand new must pass the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety standards in crash testing, proper labeling, and flammability. Both Graco and Chicco certainly have complied with these guidelines, so why the price variance? To find out, we delved into the details of four of their bestselling car seats.
Battle of the Infant Car Seats: Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 vx Chicco KeyFit 35
Infant car seats are considered the first stage of car seats. (The other stages are Convertible and Booster). In accordance with American Academy of Pediatricians recommendations, they are rear-facing and designed to be used from newborn age up to one year. If you are planning to give birth in a hospital, it is an essential item because most hospitals won’t discharge you without one.
These two models by Graco and Chicco have comparable characteristics, such as a carrying handle, a canopy, and a headrest for a snug fit. Both are also adaptable with a stroller frame to create a travel system. Here’s a quick chart of their basic similarities and differences:
|Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35||Chicco KeyFit 35|
|Product Weight||7.5 lbs||10.6 lbs|
|Product Dimensions||27.7 x 16 x 18 inches||28 x 16.5 x 22.5 inches|
|Size Limits||4 to 35 lbs 32 inches maximum||4 to 35 lbs 32 inches maximum|
|Installation||SnugLock LATCH||SuperCinch LATCH|
|Retail Price||$149.00 (Click here to check the latest promotion)||$249.99 (Click here to check the latest promotion)|
|Stroller Compatibility||Graco SnugRider 3 Elite Stroller||Chicco KeyFit Caddy Frame Stroller|
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat: Key Features
- SnugLock Technology installs with vehicle seat belt or LATCH
- Storage compartment for LATCH connector and instruction manual
- Adjustable base with 4 recline positions
- 5-point front-adjust harness
- EPS energy-absorbing foam
- Rotating canopy provides shade and sun protection
- Removable newborn head and body supports
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35: Pros
This infant car seat is a budget-friendly option that has slightly above-average crash test scores. Installation using the base and a vehicle seatbelt is super easy, while the lock-off on the base allows you to tighten the belt for a secure fit.
Connecting the carrier to the base is relatively effortless. To release the carrier, there is a lever in the back which can also be used to lift it. At only 7.5 pounds, the SnugRide carrier is one of the lightest around.
The storage compartment in the base is a nice touch. The LATCH anchors stow away neatly and don’t cause any trouble when not in use. The instruction manual, too, has its own slot for easy access if you need to consult it.
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35: Cons
Unfortunately, the SnugRide’s light weight and low price seem to be due to the thinner padding and less supportive foam. Furthermore, it is only compatible with the stroller frame from the same company. Graco baby strollers, incidentally, are somewhat mediocre compared to other brands.
There also appears to a design flaw in the handle and canopy. While the canopy is decent with its peekaboo window and Velcro closure, it is hard to keep it open with the handle in the upright position. The two parts rub against each other and you can hardly use both at the same time.
The most disappointing feature of this car seat, however, is the clip-style LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). Although it is very stable when installed, the clip style makes it more challenging to use this installation method rather than using the vehicle seatbelt.
Chicco KeyFit 35 Infant Car Seat: Key Features
- Easy-Extend Headrest System with no-rethread harness
- Anti-rebound bar provides added stability and legroom
- SuperCinch force-multiplying LATCH tightener
- ReclineSure leveling foot and RightRide bubble levels
- LockSure steel-reinforced seatbelt locking system
- Full-coverage canopy with UPF 50+ sun protection
- Removable ergonomic newborn head and body positioner
Chicco KeyFit 35: Pros
The KeyFit 35 is an updated version of the über popular KeyFit 30 that has superlative safety ratings and is made with premium materials. As the name says, the newer model is suitable for a maximum baby weight of 35 pounds instead of 30. Chicco have also added an anti-rebound bar that is more effective at preventing movement and gives added protection during and after a car crash.
The LATCH installers have their patented SuperCinch system that makes installation a breeze. If you would rather use the seatbelt, the steel-reinforced LockSure will prevent the belt from stretching out. Either way, installation is superior to the Graco SnugRide.
Another feature we like is the ability to build a travel system with other stroller brands and not only Chicco. By purchasing a car seat adapter, you can use it with BabyJogger, Britax, Bugaboo, and UPPAbaby, just to name a few.
Chicco KeyFit 35: Cons
The first disadvantage of the KeyFit 35 is, of course, the price. It is more expensive than the Graco infant car seat by $100, even though the overall quality makes up for it. If you prefer a Chicco and think that a 30-pound weight limit is adequate, then the Chicco KeyFit 30 is still available for only $199.99.
Another drawback of the KeyFit is the canopy. It takes two hands to pull it over the carrier. This may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it could be a hassle when you’re in a rush.
Finally, this car seat is pretty heavy at 10.6 pounds despite being almost the same size as the Graco. This could be difficult for mom to lift especially right after a delivery.
Battle of the Convertible Car Seats: Graco Extend2Fit vs Chicco NextFit Zip
A convertible seat has the ability to be both rear- and forward-facing. It’s a transitional item that can be used for infants and toddlers. Unlike the infant-only car seat, it is meant to be permanently installed in your vehicle and does not pair up with any stroller.
The advantage of a convertible is you don’t have to buy a separate infant seat, assuming you have only one child. Some models—the all-in-ones—can even be used all the way to 8 years old. The car seats by Graco and Chicco that we will look at here are considered two-in-one, from age zero to toddlerhood only. Their primary characteristics are:
|Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat||Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat|
|Product Weight||19 lbs||25 lbs|
|Product Dimensions||22.1 x 19.2 x 25.2 inches||21 x 19 x 26inches|
|Size Limits||Rear-facing 4 to 50 lbs Forward-facing 22 to 65 lbs 49 inches maximum||Rear-facing 5 to 40 lbs Forward-facing 22 to 65 lbs 49 inches maximum|
|Installation||InRight LATCH||SuperCinch LATCH|
|Retail Price||$145.66 (Click here to save up to 27%)||$299.99 (Click here to check the latest promotion)|
Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat: Key Features
- 4-position extension panel provides additional legroom
- 6-position recline
- 10-position headrest
- Simply Safe Adjust no-rethread harness system
- Fuss-free harness storage
- Integrated dual cup holders
- Machine-washable seat pad
Graco Extend2Fit: Pros
The Extend2Fit is situated towards the higher end of Graco’s product range, but it still is budget-friendly compared to Chicco. This seat is very lightweight and easy to use. Moreover, it has the best crash test results in its group, outperforming more expensive brands like Britax and Nuna.
It has thoughtful extra features as well, such as the dual cup holders on either side. There is an extendable footrest that adds more room when rear-facing—good to have since the weight limit in this position is a whopping 50 pounds. This means your baby can remain comfortably and safely rear-facing for as long as possible.
This car seat uses Graco’s Simply Safe harness system that has ten positions, letting you adjust without having to uninstall and rethread. When not in use, you can keep the harness out of the way in its own storage compartment so that it is easier for your child to get in and out of the seat.
Graco Extend2Fit: Cons
On the other hand, the Extend2Fit takes up a lot of space. It is 19 inches wide which makes it a challenge to fit three seats across or two seats with one adult. When extended, the footrest also limits the space for front-seat passengers.
Installing this seat with the push-button LATCH is fairly straightforward, but it only has a one-sided pull strap for tightening. Self-ratcheting and center-pull straps would have been better. In addition, this seat ranks among the most difficult to install with a seatbelt.
Finally, while this model is a good-looking option with sufficient padding, it doesn’t feel as durable as its competition. The fabric weave is a bit loose and may not last long. It is also more difficult to remove the seat pad, although it is machine-washable.
Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat: Key Features
- Duo Guard protection with rigid shell and EPS foam
- Steel-reinforced frame
- 9-position ReclineSure leveling system
- SuperCinch force-multiplying LATCH tightener
- LockSure steel-reinforced seatbelt locking system
- Includes Cup Folder
- Zip-and-wash seat pad
Chicco NextFit Zip: Pros
The first thing that makes the NextFit an excellent choice is safety. Just like the KeyFit infant seat, it has a steel-reinforced frame and interior. It offers two layers of side-impact protection: a rigid shell, and EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam surrounding baby’s head and torso to absorb energy during a crash.
Installation is incredibly easy using the cinch tightener and numbered straps that tell you which way to pull. Your child’s comfort isn’t compromised with the exceptionally thick padding and nine recline positions.
Best of all, cleanup is no sweat with Chicco’s zip-off seat pad. A functional yet stylish zipper runs along the perimeter of the seat, allowing you to remove it in seconds. Reattaching it is uncomplicated, too. Simply place the seat pad back, secure it around the release button, thread the crotch strap through, and zip it up again.
Chicco NextFit Zip: Cons
Compared to the Graco Extend2Fit, this car seat is not as flexible in the rear-facing position. It can accommodate an infant from 5 to 11 pounds with the newborn positioner, and 12 to 40 pounds without. That limit is pretty much standard, but the Extend2Fit exceeds it with its 50-pound ceiling.
At 25 pounds, the NextFit is extremely heavy. This is not a huge concern if you intend to keep it in your car permanently. However, if you are bringing it on a plane (since it is FAA-approved for aircraft use), then the weight and bulk can be an annoyance.
Lastly, although there is a thermal-insulated cup holder that can go on either side of the car seat, the size won’t accommodate some sippy cups.
In general, Chicco car seats are more expensive than Graco’s. However, the overall quality and durability of the materials Chicco uses give them the edge. Furthermore, both the Chicco KeyFit infant car seat and NextFit convertible seat are easier to install and adjust.
Nevertheless, Graco has some advantages, too. Besides the lower cost, they are lighter and less bulky. Their crash test ratings are more than acceptable and the storage compartments in the base are very handy.
Both Graco and Chicco are well-established names in the baby gear industry, but it’s the little details that make the difference. Now that you are aware of the pros and cons of each brand, you will be able to make the best decision for you and your baby.