One of the most important decisions parents must make is their selection of a car seat. There are many highly rated car seats to choose from, but this choice needs to be made based on a number of personal considerations as well as on the quality of the car seat itself. We undertook an in-depth comparison of the Graco Contender 65 and Britax Boulevard car seats to help you establish your own set of criteria and, ultimately, choose the ideal car set for your needs.
How to Choose the Best Car Seat
The best car seat for your child will always be one that fits safely and easily into your vehicle. It must also have enough size and flexibility to remain safe and appropriate for your child as he or she grows. You should look for a seat that you can correctly install quickly and move from one vehicle to another with decent efficiency. Finally, you have to find a car seat that fits your budget. Both the Graco Contender 65 and the Britax Boulevard models deliver good value and are worth your consideration.
Your choice of car seat is an important decision, but it need not be a source of anxiety. Car seats sold in the U.S. market must meet some fairly rigorous safety standards, so whatever model you choose will have been designed to satisfy those requirements. However, it’s important that the car seat you choose is easy for you to manage, and that you can easily tell when it is properly installed and secured.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) certifies child passenger safety technicians who are available to assist you with correct installation of your car seat and answer any questions you may have. People with this certification are employed at local police and fire departments, hospitals, Automobile Association of America (AAA) offices, and other locations. The NHTSA provides a searchable database for locating a technician in your area on its website.
Correct Installation Is Essential
A Safe & Easy Installation, Every Time
The ClickTight Installation System makes correctly securing the car seat as simple as buckling a seat belt. With one click, you know you’ve accurately installed the seat.
The best and safest car seat in the world is nearly worthless if it is too difficult to install correctly. You should consider how often you will be moving your car seat from one vehicle to another when you evaluate different seats.
Directions should be easy to understand and follow correctly because correct installation is the biggest key to safety. Flipping through the instruction manual if possible before you buy is a good idea. While it may seem boring, especially if this is not your first car seat purchase and you feel you already know everything you need to, remember that changes and improvements are constantly being made in the design and production of car seats.
Basically, there are two ways to install and attach a car seat in a vehicle. You will use either the seat belt system or the LATCH system. (This acronym stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.) Newer-model cars have the LATCH system, and if your vehicle has this system, it is important to know where the LATCH attachments are located in the vehicle.
How many LATCH options there are and their specific locations will depend on your vehicle. Even though the middle rear seat is the safest position for your child, not all vehicles offer the LATCH system in that location. We don’t expect you to rush out and purchase a new car to fit your car seat, but car seat accommodations are something to think about when it does come time to shop for that new vehicle.
If you are using the seat belt system, it is especially important that you are familiar with how this system works and how to keep it tight to maintain sound, secure installation. Your car seat should have diagrams that direct you how to install it correctly right on its surface. The user’s manual should be kept somewhere near the car seat, such as in your car’s glove box or tucked into a diaper bag.
Car seat sizes vary. You need to know how much room you have in the back seat because a seat with an especially wide base may not fit in a smaller car. You also need to consider how many people in addition to the car seat passenger will ride back there at times, so you can envision the seat’s fit accordingly.
Once you have considered safety, ease of installation and correct sizing both for the child and the vehicle, you may also want to think through features such as a color scheme to match your nursery decor and a range of upgrade features.
Different Types of Car Seats
If you’re purchasing a car seat for a newborn or a child soon to arrive, a convertible seat is often a great choice. That baby will grow quickly, and a seat that accommodates him or her at different sizes will make your life much simpler.
If you’re buying a car seat for a larger child, you will probably want a forward-facing seat. These are approved for children two years old and older. Some car seats adapt to become booster seats for older children over 40 pounds, or this style seat can be purchased separately. Seats specially designed for infants only are also available. Most function as baby carriers as well, with the baby basket snapping into and out of the base. Use of a rear-facing seat is usually recommended for as long as possible.
Convertible car seats fit into three categories and offer the greatest versatility in this category. Some convertible models are rated for children up to 40 pounds; others are rated for children weighing more than 40 pounds. All-in-one seats can be used as rear-facing, forward-facing, and also as booster seats for older children.
Remember that children must be at least two years old or have reached a specified height or weight before switching to the forward-facing mode. Once a child is over 40 pounds, the booster style seat is suitable. A convertible seat can be turned into that style for children up to about age 8, depending on their size.
Graco Contender 65 vs. Britax Boulevard
Both the Graco Contender 65 and the Britax Boulevard are convertible car seats designed for infants and toddlers weighing between 5 and 65 pounds. Both are able to seat children weighing up to 40 pounds seated in a rear-facing position. Because they have similar features, it can be difficult to choose between these two popular brands.
In recently published rankings, both the Britax Marathon ClickTight and Britax Boulevard models achieved top ratings. This ClickTight feature gets high marks. We took a close look at the Graco Contender 65, which is rated highly among car seats considered “Best Buys” for offering good value at their price points and scoring high in all critical categories.
Both the Graco Contender 65 and Britax Boulevard car seats have been extensively tested for safety. Both are engineered to provide strong side-impact protection. The Graco Contender 65 has energy-absorbing foam cushioning that is more than double the standard amount required for peak crash force testing. The Britax Boulevard utilizes highly rated SafeCell technology, which involves an impact-stabilizing steel frame, base, and harness pads. It also features a patented technology to minimize forward movement in the event of a collision.
The Graco Contender 65 and the Britax Boulevard are the same width and similar in depth. The measurements of the Contender are 23.43 by 18.5 by 22.05 inches; the Boulevard measures 26 by 18.5 by 21 inches. Both models are narrow enough to fit into smaller cars without taking up too much of the back seat. In a very small car, the extra height of the Boulevard may present a problem, especially when the seat is in the rear-facing position and passengers are also seated in the front.
The Graco Contender 65 and the Boulevard both feature comfortable fabric coverings and quality foam padding. The Contender also has a built-in cup holder. Both models have removable cushioning that provides extra comfort for small babies and can be removed to allow more space for larger children.
The Boulevard can recline into three positions, compared to the Graco Contender 65 which has a two-position recline feature. The Boulevard’s adjustable headrest can be moved into 10 different positions while the Contender’s headrest offers 8 settings.
Ease of Use
Both the Graco Contender 65 and the Britax Boulevard are quick and easy to install in your car. Both are easy to move to another vehicle. Both models have harnesses that are easily adjusted without great difficulty. The Contender is designed so that it can be moved with just one hand, which is definitely a valuable feature for any busy parent.
The Boulevard’s seat cover can be removed for cleaning without having to remove the harness, making it easier to clean than the Graco Contender 65. The Contender’s removable cushions are machine washable, and the rest of the seat can be cleaned with a cloth.
The Graco Contender 65 comes in several models priced on Amazon from around $85 to $180. The Boulevard models range in price from around $240 to $300. The Britax Boulevard has outstanding safety features and is very easy to install, making it worth the higher cost for many families. The Graco Contender 65 is an excellent choice for those looking for a less expensive model or a secondary car seat. Its strong safety and comfort features are especially impressive given its substantially lower price than the Britax seat.