Hardworking Graco 4Ever All-In-One! Review and Giveaway

img_6072Through the years we have reviewed many seats. Some that have claimed to do it all — rear facing, forward facing and then become a booster — but most have fallen short in one mode or another. Does the Graco 4Ever do it all?  Rear facing (from 4 lbs!), forward facing, high back booster and then a backless booster.  Yes!  Well, mostly yes!

Seat Specs:

Rear Facing:
For children who are 4-40 lbs (1.8-18kg) AND 18-43”(46-110cm) tall AND with top of the head at least 1”(2.5cm) below the red headrest/harness adjustment handle

Forward Facing with a 5-Point Harness:
For children who are 22-65lbs (10-30kg) AND 27-49” (69-125cm) AND able to walk unassisted AND at least 1 year old (we recommend rear-facing to at least age 2 or the limits of the child restraint)

Highback Booster:
For children who are 40-100lbs (18-45kg) AND 40-57” (102-145cm) AND at least 4 years of age (although most children are not booster ready until at least 5-6 years of age)

Backless Booster:
For children who are 40-120lbs (18-54kg) AND 43-57” (110-145cm) AND at least 4 years of age (again we recommend children not be in a booster until age 5-6 to be mature enough).

Graco 4Ever Features (See video tour)

  • 10 position, easy to adjust, no-rethread harnessimg_6073
  • Install with UAS to a maximum child weight limit of 45lbs (unless your vehicle states a lower limit)
  • Harness pads for comfort
  • 6 easy-to-use recline positions (1-2-3 for rear facing mode, 4-5-6 for for forward facing mode, and 6 for high back booster mode)
  • Thick and comfortable infant padding and head padding (optional)
  • UAS can be used in high back booster mode to prevent the seat from becoming a projectile (optional in high back mode, not able to be used for backless booster mode)
  • Smooth harness adjuster
  • Storage for unused UAS adjusters in rear- or forward-facing mode (see video on re-routing the straps to the other belt path)
  • Storage for the straps and crotch buckle for booster mode (no lost parts when converting the seat to booster mode!)
  • Easy to read colour coded manual with corresponding stickers on the seat for each mode
  • Machine washable cover with easy to open and close snaps
  • Built in cupholders (come ready to install and marked with Left and Right ~ must be used on seat)
  • Expires 10 years from date of manufacture
  • Currently the Graco 4Ever is available at Babies R Us for $449.99 and available in Cameron (grey) and Studio (black and white stripes)

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Graco 4Ever Measurements

  • Two crotch buckle positions: 5” inner and 7” outer
  • Lowest harness slot (with body pillow in):  approximately 7”
  • Highest harness slot (without body pillow):  approximately 18”
  • Shoulder belt guide of highback booster: approximately 18.5”
  • Widest point of seat (at cupholders): 19”  
  • Widest point of base: 15.5”
  • Seat depth:  13”
  • Internal seat width:  13”
  • Seat Weight:  22.5 lbs

Fit To Child

Rear-Facing Mode:

The fit on the just under 8 lb newborn was lovely.  The harness tightened easily and still had room to tighten more.  We didn’t have access to a smaller baby but as the harness straps were below the baby’s shoulders and the harness could be still tightened, it did lend itself to fitting a tiny newborn.  The seat itself has lovely thick padding and the added infant insert is made up of two pieces; a body insert as well as a removable head support.  Many small infants would need the insert to bump their bodies up to ensure the straps were at or just below the child’s shoulders as required by the 4Ever.  As the child grows the head support can be removed.  The seats instructions let you use just the body support but you can not use just the head support without the use of the body support.  

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This six month old was very content in the seat at a full recline, and fit with and without the insert.  The fit was much nicer and seemingly more comfortable with just the body support.  The head support seemed to at this point just push the head forward. Whether to use both pieces, or just the body support alone, will depend on your child’s shape and comfort in the seat, and will change as they grow.  

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This three year old, at 30 lbs and 37”, was very comfortable in the seat and had lots of growing room.  Leg room was pretty fantastic.  When the seat was at its most upright position it did give a lot of forward head slump when she was sleeping but it didn’t seem to bother her and she just moved her head to make herself more comfortable.  She did love the cup holders but they would be hard to reach for a child who was younger and smaller.

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Forward Facing Mode:

My three year old (32lbs and 38″) rides rear facing in our vehicles but was very comfortable trying this out forward facing.  The 10 position harness adjuster made for a comfortable fit with the straps easily positioned just above her shoulders.   The seat was fairly upright in my 2014 Odyssey at recline 6, but the 4Ever does allow for recline 4, 5 or 6 to be used for forward facing.  That would alleviate head slump for younger forward facing children.  Be aware that the recline position must be chosen before you install.  No reclining once the child is in the seat.  

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At 6 years of age (42lbs and 46”), this child still had growing room in the seat.  She found it very comfortable and the leg support was phenomenal.  The seat pan slopes back and combined with the depth of the seat, it fit both our younger and older harnessed children nicely. The no-rethread harness makes it a snap to change it up between different kiddos.  

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Booster Mode (with and without back): Watch how to convert to a booster

Booster fit can vary between children and vehicles.  Our 6 year old tester had quite a good belt fit in the captain’s chair of the 2014 Odyssey (lap belt low on the hips and shoulder belt laying across the chest and mid shoulder).  She did find it a little more difficult to buckle as the seat sits very high and the buckle stalk was floppy.  However, she isn’t typically in a booster so buckling is newer to her and might become easier with practice.  When she reached over to buckle we did notice the shoulder belt kept popping out of the shoulder belt guide.  It was easy to fix but wondered if in real life use it would continue to do this.  

When tried again later with our 8 year old tester (50lbs, 51″) the shoulder belt stayed in the guide properly and it wasn’t an issue.  She was just under the shoulder guide though, and therefore has just about outgrown the seat in high back booster mode.  Note: the shoulder belt guide is only slightly higher than the  highest harness slot.  For those who max out the harness height, the high back booster will only fit for a short while longer.  Those parents will have to decide whether the child is ready for a backless booster, or choose a taller dedicated high back booster.  

 

6 year old ~ 42lbs, 46″

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8 year old ~ 50lbs, 51″ – about to outgrow the high back portion

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Backless fit on both the 9 (58 lbs, 54”) and almost 11 (68lbs, 59”) year old testers was variable.  In the captain’s chair of the 2014 Odyssey, the shoulder belt was wanting to almost slide off the child’s shoulder.  However in the third row outboard position the fit was exceptional.  The 8 year old model however had really nice backless fit everywhere we tried it.  Note: the 11 year old has outgrown the booster in the standing height but she does not 5 step in the vehicles in which she rides. She most definitely rides in a backless booster — just not this one. In this instance a booster with higher standing height limits is needed.  

As the 4Ever backless booster sits very high up off the vehicle seat, children who are tall or long in the torso may have poor fit at the upper height limits of the backless portion.  Parents might consider a lower-set backless booster for kids in this situation. It will be impossible to know in advance, however, if you will find yourself in this situation if you are purchasing this seat for an infant or toddler. Rest assured that backless boosters are inexpensive and is a bridge that can be crossed years from now. 

 

9 year old ~ 58lbs, 54″

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Almost 11 years of age ~ 68lbs, 59″

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For size comparison of the backless booster option here we have a tried and true favourite Graco Turbobooster vs. the backless Graco 4Ever (Turbo is green in these photos).

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Fit To Vehicle

The seat was tried rear facing in a 2014 Honda Odyssey, a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL Limited and a 2006 Volkswagen Golf.  No major install issues were noted and the seat installed easily in all of them.  The bottom of the 4Ever is smooth and has no rough edges.  It is wide, however, and I don’t expect it to fit into narrow centre positions of many vehicles or in very many three across scenarios.

The 4Ever has 6 recline positions. Positions 1- 2-3 are for rear facing, 4-5-6 are for forward facing, and 6 is for booster mode.  This variability made for easy fit to vehicle.  I don’t expect that you would need to use a pool noodle or rolled towel to adjust the angle but both are allowed, if needed, in rear facing mode only.  

An infant rear facing will need the seat to be fully reclined with the bubble indicator still within the blue allowable area while the vehicle is on level ground.  It is important to note that the 4Ever manual does not address the needed recline for newborns specifically, but it is absolutely critical that the seat be as reclined as much as possible to protect a newborn’s airway. Chin-to-chest position is dangerous and parents should take care to recline the seat as needed. Once a baby has more head control the seat can be reinstalled more upright. But forward head slump is possible with the seat installed more upright.

The seat can be used more upright and in recline position 2 or 3 for older rear-facing babies and children, as long as the bubble on the indicator is still in the blue area.  In the Odyssey, the fully reclined 4Ever still gave the driver loads of legroom and would allow a newborn to be seated there no problem. When the 4Ever was installed behind the passenger seat in the Golf at its full allowable recline, I could not safely sit in front of the seat at 5’8” tall.  When installed more upright I gained several inches of legroom and could easily sit comfortably and safely in front.  

Full recline 2006 VW Golf ~ My knees were touching!

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    Seat upright as allowable in a 2006 VW Golf ~ Lots of legroom!

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If you are wanting to use the seat from birth in a compact car we would recommend trying the seat first to ensure it fits.  For older rear facing children it was amazingly compact and the head rest design of the seat seemed to mesh well with the vehicle headrest in front.  

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Forward facing the seat was a breeze to install with both UAS or seat belt (one or the other, not both at the same time).  You can use recline 4, 5 or 6 for harnessed use forward facing.  For vehicles with shallow back seats and limited front-to-back space — such as extended cab trucks or a Jeep Wrangler — you may need to install the 4Ever in its most upright position to allow the car seat to sit on the vehicle seat properly or to give the child a safe amount of space to sit properly in that vehicle position.  

The 4Ever allows no more than 20% of the base to overhang the vehicle seat.  The seat’s headrest seems to jive excellently with those pesky non-removable forward headrests.  Graco allows the seat to be reclined (recline 5 or 6) and that may cause there to be a gap between the car seat and the vehicle seat around the lower back area.  As long as the install is tight at the belt path (with either the UAS or seatbelt) 1″ or less, and the base of the seat is flat on the vehicle seat, then it is acceptable.  I found that the 4Ever didn’t work well with the headrest up in the higher slots with vehicle head restraints that jut forward and are not removable.    

Forward facing 2014 Odyssey(recline 6 ~ fully upright)

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Recline 4 ~ 2014 Honda Odyssey

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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

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In high back booster mode you can use the UAS and top tether to secure the seat. If you don’t have lower anchors in that position, then you will need to teach the child to buckle up the seat when not in use to keep it from being a projectile in the event of a crash.  The UAS connectors are removed with the back when converting to backless booster mode, so in backless mode the child must re-buckle the seat as it cannot be latched in.  You must only use the seat in position 6 in booster mode, and no overhang off the vehicle seat is allowed.  

 

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Overall Impressions:

The Graco 4Ever is an impressive seat!  It truly has 4 usable modes and a 10 year expiry will allow for many years of use.  It is fairly easy to move from rear facing to forward facing and then to a booster (whether it is backless or with a back).  The stowage of the straps and crotch buckle for booster mode is ingenious.  No lost parts!  The 4Ever would be an ideal seat to be shared between multiple children of variable ages and weights.  The harness height adjuster is smooth and simple.  The higher weight and height limits for rear facing will allow most children to rear face to 4 years of age and the high harness height will get all but the tallest of children to a reliable booster age.  It may however not get all children to an age where they can 5 step (as was the case of the 11 year old above) before it expires or they outgrow the standing height limit. It’s quite remarkable though that one seat can truly fit well from birth through age 10+ — it is still a lot of seat and I think the Graco 4Ever truly can be called an All-In-One seat!  Which is why the 4Ever has earned a spot on our list of favourite convertible seats (even though it’s more than just a convertible).

Thank you Graco Baby Canada for providing the seat for us to review; all opinions given are our own!

One lucky reader can experience the 4Ever for themselves – Graco Baby Canada is giving one away! To enter please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Also post a blog post comment here and share something you learned from watching one of the videos we linked to above. Tell the Rafflecopter widget “I entered” and we’ll manually approve comments as we’re able. Good luck!


 

img_3479Laura Hagen is a mother to three young girls and is one of the founding members of Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs.  She is a Technician-Instructor with CPSAC and can often be found cheering on her children from the side of the swimming pool.  If she isn’t answering emails promptly it is because she is prepping for a birthday party with 12 pre-teen girls.

 

 

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