PROS / The Graco Contender 65 can support a child in the rear-facing position until your toddler weighs 40 pounds before switching to its front-facing position.
CONS / The Contender has straps and buckles that are difficult to tighten or unlatch.
VERDICT / The Graco Contender 65 will stay with your child for up to eight years, but you'll have to wrestle with the buckles and straps every time you use it.
The Graco Contender 65 is a convertible baby car seat that will support a child from birth to grade school. Starting as a rear-facing car seat, the seat supports a child in the first year of life. Then, once your child is 40 pounds, you can switch it to its front-facing position to secure your child until he or she weighs 65 pounds.
The seat includes a cup holder and a no-thread strap harness adjustment. Unfortunately, like all convertible car seats, you'll have to buy a separate travel system if you want a stroller for your infant. Also, the Contender has some issues with the straps and buckles. They are hard to buckle up and undo.
The Graco Contender 65 meets all federal safety requirements. The seat includes LATCH connectors, side-impact protection and energy-absorbing foam. It is also FAA compliant. The toddler car seat is versatile and will protect your child for longer than just his or her first year.
The only major issue with convertible baby car seats is the lack of convenience. Infant car seats allow you to detach the carrier and attach it to a stroller, but the Graco Contender 65 convertible car seat will stay in your car permanently, meaning that you have to buy a separate travel system for your infant. Also, the seat does not have a canopy to shield your child from sunlight. On the other hand, it comes with a cup holder, and the adjustable harness allows you to make adjustments without threading the straps.
Be aware that within the Contender series there tends to be an inconsistency in the straps and buckles. Some models have loose buckles that are easy for kids to detach on their own, while others have straps that are too tight and hard to work with. The 65 model that we reviewed has strong buckles that are very difficult to undo, even for adults, and the harness straps are far difficult to tighten, as well.
This car seat comes with a standard one-year warranty, which will give you plenty of use before it runs out. Graco has great customer service responded quickly to our email questions. There is also a toll-free number if you have questions you want to have answered on the spot.
The Graco Contender 65 is a convertible baby car seat that will stay with your child from infancy to grade school. The car seat will keep your child in a rear-facing position up to 40 pounds before alternating to its front-facing position until your child weighs up to 65 pounds. However, the model we reviewed has some frustrating aspects, like difficulty in tightening straps and undoing buckles.