Graco Contender 65 Review

​​Purchasing endless clothes, products, games, and toys for a growing child can be prohibitively expensive.

Unlike with adults, your child is essentially doubling and tripling in size in just a few short years. You’ll have to adapt your home to the various needs of your child at different ages.

Platforms and surfaces that were baby proof before may be within easy reach of a curious toddler. And one of the most important recurring purchases includes purchases focused on getting your child from one place to the next.

Car seats tend to be some of the most expensive purchases parents have to make. Not only do they need a satisfactory rear-facing seat for when their child is quite young—but they’ll also need an option that faces forward when their child is too old and too large for their first seat. In many cases, families can go through two or even three car seats for one child.

However, that doesn’t always need to be the case.

The Graco Contender 65 aims to be a car seat that sticks with your child from birth until they’re old enough to sit either with a booster or without any aid at all.

Adjusting and adapting for various ages using a system of adaptors and adjustable restraints, the Contender 65 sets itself apart as one of the best options for parents who need a product to last more than just a few months.

However, is it possible for a child’s car seat to work from 0-65 pounds? And just how difficult is it going to be to adjust the seat throughout the different stages of early development?

To answer those questions (and many more), we took a close look at the Graco Contender 65, tried to uncover what makes it different from the tight competition, and ultimately tried to uncover what types of families would best benefit from a car seat like this for their next road trip.

What Is the Graco Contender 65 and How Is It Different?

Any parent who’s been around the baby products world once or twice will certainly be familiar with Graco.

Graco products are some of the biggest in the baby industry—and range from strollers and hair chairs to their extensive line of car seats. Graco has also been around for over 70 years and had its start as a metalworking company.

After one of their engineers invested a baby swing after gaining inspiration from his child, the company moved quickly into making simple and easy-to-use products for the first years of life.

The Contender 65 carries that history alongside it—and since Graco has been making car seats for decades now, the same engineering that went into this seat may have gone into your first car seat.

However, what makes the Contender 65 different than the competition and even different from other products offered by Graco is the focus on adjustability, which is crucial in the baby products industry.

Anyone which a child knows that many of the sizing and weight suggestions for babies and toddlers are a bit of a guesstimation. As a parent, you may find yourself purchasing three-year-old clothes for a two-year-old, or still dealing with diapers after the recommended age of potty training.

Every child is different, and development takes its unique course each time. That’s why it’s so important for products like the Contender 65 to adjust to a broad range of sizes and weights.

The car seat also features far more than straps and a means to transport your child. Some of the other features on this car seat include:

  • An automatically re-adjusting side-harness system
  • An 8-position headrest
  • One cupholder
  • One detachable reverse car seat adaptor
  • An infant body support pad
  • A removable head support pad
  • And much more!

Graco pulled out all of the stops on this one—opting for a product that’s going to stick with your child without breaking the bank. And while not all is perfect about the Contender 65 (more on this later), there’s quite a bit that makes this product especially unique.

What Makes the Graco Contender 65 Unique?

Quick adjustments and a focus on adaptability, as previously stated, is much of what makes the Contender 65 unique.

For example, in reverse mode, you’re able to place on the infant support pad to keep poor posture from affecting your child. Likewise, once they get older, this pad can be removed to not provide too much lumbar support at such a young age.

Likewise, the Contender 65 comes with features that you may not use for several years. For example, the entire head portion of the seat can rise once your child reaches four or five years of age and needs more head support. The idea of adding in this feature, which may only be useful towards the end of this product’s like, is certainly admirable.

Graco itself is also quick to point out that their products are easily adjustable, and claims that the headrest setting specifically is adjustable with just one hand. And while this may or may not be true as we’ll discuss a little bit later on, the focus on marrying complex adjustability with ease of use is truly admirable.

However, all of that focus and engineering does come with a bit of a price tag.

Pricing

Car seats for children and babies are often one of the most expensive singular items you’ll need to purchase for your child. And much like with cribs and smaller beds, there’s a serious amount of competition you need to be made aware of.

Before we get into Graco’s greatest contenders, however, it is important to note that—while the Contender 65 is by no means affordable, it is also not necessarily overpriced.

Depending on where you shop, you may be able to pick up the Contender 65 for somewhere between $100 and $150. This puts this Graco product firmly in line with many of the comparable options that dominate the market.

Likewise, Graco’s car seat is adjustable and doesn’t always need to be in the reverse position. The Contender 65 comes packaged with everything you need to transport a child up to 65 pounds, but some of the comparable options tend to sell these aspects separately.

For example, you may be able to find a great adjustable car seat for your child for much less—but when you factor in the extra cost that the reversible adaptor may add, you’re often looking at a similar or even more expensive bottom line.

That’s why we think the Contender 65, while not the cheapest product on the market, provides some seriously great value. This is especially true when you consider the possibility of needing two separate car seats otherwise.

Public Perception

Now that we’ve covered all of the background and pricing of the Contender 65, how does it compare when perceived alongside some of the biggest contenders and rated by parents across the world?

As a whole, Graco tends to do fairly well with the young parent crowd. Their products are popular but not prohibitively expensive—so it’s not uncommon to see almost every American family owning one or more Graco products. Graco holds a reputation for quality which also seems to extend into perceptions on the Contender 65.

Parents are quick to note that—once the product is in the correct position—there are almost no issues to be noted. The cushioning is widely reported to be supportive enough to ensure your child keeps in alignment without being so hard as to cause discomfort.

Likewise, the side support helps your child conform to the swaying of a car during tight turns, and everything included will ensure you keep to federal regulations at all times.

Parents are also appreciative of the removable elements of the car seat for more reasons than one.

While the infant body support cushion needs to be removed at a certain age for better support, it can also be removed when life happens, and a spill or stain needs to be taken care of. Likewise, as more parts are removed as your child ages, they can be repurposed into other baby products or passed down to younger siblings.

However, not all parents appreciate the adjustable nature of this car seat. And in some cases, the lack of versatility can make parents hesitate before making a purchase.

One of the biggest drawbacks to the Contender 65 is the lack of stroller support. Many parents may be familiar with or appreciate car seats that can quickly be removed and placed into a stroller. For infants and toddlers specifically, this ability means that your transportation can do double duty on the road and around town.

You won’t be able to do this with the Contender 65, as the focus is on adjustability for all ages instead of on adjustability for a stroller. There are no attachments you can buy to contract this problem.

Likewise, this means that the Contender 65 is going to be far more difficult to attach and detach from your car than you may have been expecting. While adjustability of the headrest and other such features is easy, the actual installation process has been reported as stressful at best for many parents. This is especially true in reverse mode.

Overall, public perception of this Graco product remains mostly positive. Provided ample time is spent on installation and you don’t mind a lack of stroller adaptability, there are no other major problems to report.

How It Compares

Graco Contender 65
Image via Amazon

As we’ve discussed before, the Contender 65 is fairly unique in the market. And while the baby product market is certainly saturated with car seat after car seat, some of the only real direct comparisons we can make with this product is to others from Graco.

The Graco Sequel 65, for instance, is another Graco car seat that manages to adjust from infancy all the way up to age 8. However, the Sequel 65 manages to focus on more features—including reclining, a second cupholder, and more headrest positions for greater control over exactly where your child’s head falls on the head rest.

It’s also worth noting that the Sequel 65 tends to cost somewhat more, as well as features a bulkier design that may not work in all cars. The same is true with the Graco My Ride 65, which boasts easier washability at the expense of adjustability.

Overall, the Contender 65 is a great all-around car seat within the Graco family of products, which tends to focus on some of the other aspects families desire with some of the others within the same category.

As a whole, the Contender 65 is between average and liberally priced within the car seat industry as a whole. It might not be the most affordable product on the market, but it certainly is one of the better bets you can make.

What We Think

The Graco Contender 65 has proven to be not only one of the best options within the Graco company but within the car seat industry as a whole. It’s federally approved, great for most young children, and is capable of being one of the longest-lasting products in a young child’s life.

Play your cards right, and you can get eight years or more out of this car seat—as well as pass it down to any younger children that may be on their way up.

While you won’t be able to quickly install this car seat or place it on a stroller, the bottom line is that what the Contender 65 is designed to do, it does exceedingly well.

Featured Image via Amazon

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