Before we get started on this I want to be completely transparent with this post. When I heard about this seat, I reached out to Graco and asked if I could review it. It’s one that has the potential to completely change the car seat market and I really wanted to find out for me and for you, if it was all it’s cracked up to be (spoiler alert: it is). I did receive the car seat for free to review, but am not being paid at all to write this, nor was I given suggestions about what to write. All my opinions are mine and mine alone and are not at all influenced by the free car seat. I pinkie swear and promise and all of that.
So, you may have heard about the Graco 4Ever car seat. It’s being billed as the last seat you’ll ever need and the seat that grows with your child. As soon as I heard about a 4-in-1 car seat (rear facing, forward facing, high back booster, backless booster) I was intrigued. It’s the first of its kind and it enters a very thin market. As of now, there are very few seats in the 3-in-1 market that actually do all 3 jobs well, so to have a 4-in-1 was embarrassingly exciting. And I have to say, I’m pleased. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
-Rear facing: 4-40 pounds, no listed height limit because every child will outgrow by weight before height
-Forward facing: 20-65 pounds, 49 inches or less.
-High back booster: 30-100 pounds, 38-57 inches.
-Backless booster: 40-120 pounds, 40-57 inches
-Expiration: 10 years
Rear Facing Mode (This is long, but the other sections are much shorter)
In rear facing mode there are 3 different recline options and a very easy to see bubble level indicator. It works like the bubble on a level and you have to have the bubble within the line in order for the seat to be properly reclined. In my car this can only be done on reclines 1 and 2, but it’s pretty upright. In fact, that’s one of the best parts about this seat. In rear facing mode, many convertibles are monstrous, but the 4Ever is incredibly compact. I have not measured for myself, but I have been told by other techs that it is the most compact rear facing seat on the US market.
Here’s the Chicco Nextfit, which is very compact, as upright as it goes (in my car) and the 4Ever in the same spot. It may not be easy to see the difference but the 4Ever gives me one more click of space between myself and the steering wheel.
The installation for rear facing (henceforth RF because lazy) is extremely easy with lower and slightly more complicated with the seatbelt. With the belt, you have to move the LATCH straps to the forward facing (henceforth FF) belt path first and it can be a little tough to thread the belt through without unsnapping the padding to reveal the belt path. The other minor inconvenience is that the seatbelt runs across the cup holder in some vehicles. It isn’t a huge deal and so far it hasn’t impacted the installation on any cars I’ve tried it in.
The really remarkable thing about this seat in RF mode, which is true of many of the Graco convertibles is it’s height limit. The seat is incredibly tall, to the point that there isn’t even a height limited listed for RF because every child will outgrow the seat by weight before height. For comparison, here is the Nextfit next to the 4Ever in their lowest and then highest harness limits. Note also that the 4Ever is lower so there’s even more height available.
The seat comes with strap covers and the tightening strap is smooth as butter. Eli has been very comfortable in this seat with ample leg room and the low sides make it easy to load him in and take him out.
I don’t have a picture with Will with the infant insert because I left it at home, but he fit totally fine without it.
All in all, in RF mode this seat has been amazing for us. Super compact, easy to install, easy to use.
Forward Facing Mode
The second mode for this seat is forward facing. It is similarly easy to install with LATCH and the seatbelt install is easier than the RF position. There are 3 recline options- the first of which you MUST use if the child is 20-40 pounds (at which point they should really be rear facing, so this shouldn’t be an issue!)
For this version I have my cousin Evan as our model. He is 5 years old, weighs 63 pounds and is 48.5 inches tall. He is a very, very tall kid, so just know that most 5 year olds will have significantly more room to grow here. He typically rides in a high back booster but I wanted to see if he would fit in the seat. He is about as close to the stated limits as he could be and he fits with about a half inch of room left. I can put Eli in forward facing, but I don’t want him to know it’s an option, so I’m going to use Evan for all pictures for FF. Evan said the seat was pretty comfortable and was very excited about the cup holders.
All in all, in forward facing mode, it’s a nice long lasting seat that is easy to install and use. I have no negatives about the seat for FF.
High Back Booster Mode
The 4Ever becomes a high back booster with adjustable shoulder belt guides. I will say that while it is approved for use at 30 pounds that I would strongly suggest keeping a child harness as long as possible, at least to the limits of their seat. At such a low weight, there is a higher risk for “submarining” or sliding under the belt in a crash. This seat passed crash testing at that weight, but there’s no reason to move to the booster mode until you have to.
Now, to change the seat to booster there is a set of instructions that are relatively straightforward. You stow the harness and the crotch buckle then snap the seat back cover together. It takes about 3 minutes to switch from one mode to the next.
The seat is one of several on the market that does allow the booster to be installed in the car with LATCH which is great because it means that if the seat is unoccupied, it won’t become a projectile in a crash.
Now for the belt fit. As stated before, Evan is 63 pounds and 48.5 inches at 5 years old. He’s well within the limits of the high back (and backless) booster mode. A proper belt fit makes the shoulder belt rest across the middle of the collar bone and the lap belt rides low on the thighs and never on the belly. Which this seat does beautifully for our model here.
When Evan leaned forward and sat back the belt moved smoothly through the guides and retracted properly. All-in-all, the high back booster mode was easy to switch into and out of and fit our average sized model well.
This was the mode that was most daunting to me. It only took a few minutes to remove the back and the directions were easy enough to follow, however, putting it back together was a different story. There aren’t directions in the manual for reassembling and it took me at least 15 minutes and another person. If you’re going to go from backless mode to high back or harness mode, I strongly suggest you take some pictures so you know where everything was. I was just about ready to scream by the time I got it back together.
The seat also came with a shoulder belt guide that I didn’t bring with me and you’ll see in a minute why that’s a problem. Evan, who is well within the limits of the backless mode gets a great lap belt fit low on his thighs, but his shoulder belt fit stinks. It’s too far forward and too close to his neck, which would cause him to move too far forward in a crash. He needs the shoulder belt positioner, which, oops. So I can’t show you how it looks, but I can show you a situation where you’d need it. Since Evan is still within the high back booster limits, I’d just keep him there if he was my kid.
For fun, I put Evan’s sister Mary, who is 58.5 inches and 112 pounds in the backless mode. She’s too tall, but she still get a decent belt fit and fit comfortably in the booster.
With the exception of transitioning from backless to harness, which I’m sure I could do faster now, the seat was unbelievably easy to use and to transition from mode to mode. The manual is decent, though the organization of it is not my favorite. The seat is comfortable without being so plush that it’s super warm and the it is generally well thought out and put together.
Besides the minor inconvenience of the covered belt path in RF mode and the level bubble being only on one side of the seat, I can’t think of anything more I would want or would want to change. I can’t promise you that this is truly the last seat you’ll ever need as some kids need lower profile boosters before they can pass a 5 step test to ride without a booster (this is a tall backless booster and may put some kids’ heads close to the car ceiling), it will definitely last most kids from birth to the limits of the seat. I wish the price could be a bit lower, but hopefully it’ll come down with time and as more seats enter the market. It’s a good seat and it’s worth the money if you will truly take care of it and keep it clean for its entire lifespan.
If I was looking for a long lasting seat with a high rear facing limit (better for taller than heavier kids given the 40 pound limit) or a convertible for a very compact (front to back) car, this would absolutely be at the top of my list. It’s still what we use in our car, so that should tell you something considering I have 4 other car seats in my storage closet. Eli likes it, Evan likes it, Will didn’t scream in it and even Mary didn’t mind it. I’m not sure how many seats could get so many different ages and sizes fitting as well as this one.
Bottom line: the 4Ever lives up to its hype. I would not hesitate to recommend it freely as a wonderful, long lasting, comfortable and easy to use seat.