Graco Contender 65 Review - Kid Safety First (2023)

Graco Contender65 – Overview

The Graco Contender 65 convertible car seat that allows children to enjoy many of the premium features found on much more expensive seats without their parents having to pay a premium price.

The Contender’s recommended fullprice is an incredibly low $139.99but, in fact, you can actuallyfind 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 Contender65 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 certainlythe case that there are no meaningful differences between theSize4Me 65,MySize 65andFit4Me 65car 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 listof the Graco Contender 65’s main featuresand then look at some of those all important featuresin more detail.

Graco Contender 65 at a Glance

Full Price$139.99
Rear-Facing Weight4 - 40 lbs
Rear-Facing Height1" below headrest button
Forwards-Facing Weight22 - 65 lbs
Forwards-Facing Heightup to 49"
No-rethread HarnessYes
LATCH InstallationYes
Harness Height Range7 - 17.5"
Infant InsertYes
Top TetherYes
Cup HolderYes
Seat Expiration7 years
FAA Approved for FlightsYes

Graco Contender65 – Main Features

#1 Height & Weight Limits

The Contender 65is suitable foruse 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 Contender65 can be used right from birth and will continue to be suitable foryour child until they areeither more than65 lbsin weight or49 inchesin height. These are prettycommon 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 slightdownside with the Contender65 (and the other Gracos) isthat itsrear-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 withsome other convertible seats on the market.

Your child should still be ableto 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 considera genuineextended rear-facing seat. You will need to beprepared 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 touse the seat for the full 40 lbs weight limit, unlikemany 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 / InfantInsert

The Graco Contender 65comes 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-consumingchanges 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 superiorInRight 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 65car seat are pretty self-explanatory.

They are:

  • 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

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.

Where to Buy the GracoContender 65

Check Best Price of the Contender 65

Read User Reviews

Find Graco Convertible Seats in Canada

Safety Information

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 canfind your nearest NHTSA Centre here.

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