Graco Contender 65 Review – Side Impact Tested in Real Life

Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat Review

The brakes were screeching, but it was too late. Little Suzie was sitting behind her mother when they got T-boned on the driver’s side…

The crash was loud. Glass has shattered. Airbags deployed. It was a bad accident. The door was dented. It was hard to believe that nobody got hurt.


For some, this is just luck. As a matter of fact, it’s more than that. The parents made the necessary precautions. They got the rights seat, and they have installed properly. That’s it.

The car seat did its job. It protected the child from impact.

It has only become a recent trend to offer side impact protection. Graco is in the lead. They not only protect your little one from the front, rear, and side crashes, but it has protection from the deadliest of them all rollovers.

It’s good to know that this family has a guardian angel looking over them. So yes, the Graco Contender saved a life that day.

Before we get any further, let me give you a quick preview. This car seat comes with two modes rear-facing 5 to 40 pounds and front-facing 20 to 65 pounds. As you can see, this can be used for many years to come. While you adjust the headrest, the straps are adjusted as well.

The latch system makes the installation easy. This Graco seat is top of the line when it comes to safety if it has front, rear, side, and rollover protection.

Let’s get this Graco Contender 65 review started. If you stick with me until the end, I will tell you the pros/cons. Some of them are unexpected, to say the least.

Who is the Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat?

This car seat is for parents who don’t want to blow a lot of money. Also, it’s for those who value convertible car seats.

Plus, for those who want to do extended rear-facing.

What can the Graco Contender 65 car seat do for you?

The main reason I like the Graco Contender is that they don’t cost a crazy amount of money. It’s practical, and as you have seen above, they provide good protection.

Matter of fact it’s a cheap car seat without being cheap.

This car seat is good from the infant stage through the extended rear-facing up to 65 pounds. If you want to save money, this car seat helps you do so. You buy it once, and it costs less than an infant carrier and harness combined. If you prefer extended rear-facing, it’s a safe bet that you can do it until they get to 3 years old.

This car seat is lightweight, so you can easily carry it.

The number one selling point was that there’s no more manual strap rethreading ever. That’s my kryptonite. I can’t ever get it right. The solution is genius. When you adjust the headrest, the straps are adjusted in the meantime. It’s like magic for the moms like me.

This car seat comes with a cup holder. Sadly there’s only one. I usually prefer two, so my kids can put drinks in one and toys in another. Also, it’s a great distraction while you’re strapping them in.

Related: [Revealed] The Best Graco Car Seat

Graco Contender 65 shortcomings

Every car seat has flaws. Let’s see what I didn’t like about his Graco convertible.

It’s a bulky car seat. There’s no way around that. The truth is that most convertibles are so. Yet this one restricts the front row. If you have a compact car, you might reconsider.

They brag about the latch system, which makes it easy to install. This is true to a certain point. They are using the old version of the latch system, so it’s not that easy.

The price is quite acceptable. And here and there you get the feeling of being cheap. It’s not that padded, so it offers less comfort.

Being bulky, it’s hard to move your child in and out. The fabric can’t be removed, so you’re left with spot cleaning. Also, pick a darker color, so stains aren’t visible.

Last but not least, I have to mention that the straps tend to twist. Well, more likely, they get twisted every time I have to put my fussy baby in. It’s hard to straighten out while you’re trying to keep your crying child in place. There are better solutions for the twisting.

It doesn’t have a good recline position. So you need a towel or a pool noodle to get your little one in comfort.

These would be the negatives of this Graco Car seat. What do you think? Are they that bad? If not, let’s get to the next section.

How To Get The Most Out Of Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat?

The first thing you have to consider when you get the car seat is where you will install it. Here are some tips. The safest place to put it is in the middle. Now I know, I know that doesn’t work for everyone. So here’s the second spot which is right behind the driver.

Keep in mind that this car seat is bulky. To the front row has to be cramped a bit so it can fit.

The next thing you need to know is how to install it correctly. According to a recent study, 75% of car seats in the US are installed incorrectly. This means that when a crash happens, it won’t be able to do its job. If you have doubts, always reach out to a licensed professional.

Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat ReviewPros:

It allows extended rear-facing to about 3 years

It’s sturdy and has a lot of space to grow

It’s a cheap cars seat without using cheap materials


It’s bulky and limits the front seats

You can’t remove the material, so spot cleaning is your only choice

Conclusion for the Graco Contender 65 Review

As you have seen above, this car seat is real life safer. In one of the most dangerous types of crashes, T-bones, the child was protected from harm. Graco made a good and affordable convertible car seat. Yes, it has a few flaws. And it has everything that your child needs to be safe and comfortable.

Parents who want to do extended rear-facing can do it with ease.

We have reached the end of the Graco Contender 65 Review. I hope you have learned a lot about this car seat. If this is the right fit for you, get it now. Last time I checked, supplies were almost out.

If you have feedback or questions, post it below.

Catch you next time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Is the Graco Contender 65 FAA approved?

Yes the Graco Contender 65 is FAA approved.

How do I adjust my Graco Contender 65?

You can adjust the Graco Contender 65 the following way. You release the harness straps and then pull it tight according to the needs. You can set the recline position for the optimum recline angle. Also, you can adjust the headrest according to the height of your little one.

How wide is the Graco Contender 65?

The Graco Contender 65 is 20.8 inches wide.

What is the expiration date for the Graco Contender 65 Convertible car seat?

Typically the expiration date is between 6 to 10 year from the date of manufacture. Also the seat can be used from a few months old up to 7 years old.

Can the Graco Contender 65 Convertible car seat be installed in forward facing and rear facing?

Yes the Graco Contender 65 Convertible car seat can be installed both forward facing and rear facing. In forward-facing mode it can be used up to 65 pounds. You can do extended rear-facing mode until 40 pounds. As you know the rear-facing position is the safest for kids. They are the most protected in rear face mode. Now the rear-facing position is limited to 5-40 pounds. These two positions offer the most comfort and safety for your child. The maximum weight supported (weight limit) by this convertible is 65 pounds. This would be the weight recommendation for the Graco contender. Make sure you check the headrest height to be appropriate.

How comfortable are these Graco car seats?

These car seats offer a lot of comfort. It’s a great seat for a growing child. There’s ample seat padding and seat cushion. No matter if you’re using the seat in rear or front facing mode they will be comfy. It has a one hand 8-position head rest. Since you don’t need a lot of power to adjust the headrest no wonder graco is known for the ease of use. There’s so much room in this car seat. You child will have sufficient leg room. Plus this car seat uses simply safe adjust harness system. The seat weight is just 15.6 pounds so it’s easy to use. Even on the passenger side there’s enough leg room to spare. It can be used until 49 inches tall this is a quite generous harness height limit.

What other car seats compete with the Contender 65?

Well, there are quite a few that are in direct competition. There’s the Britax boulevard clicktight convertible car seat, graco 4ever dlx 4 in 1 convertible car seat, cosco scenera and the britax marathon clicktight convertible car seat.

How do you install the contender 65?

Before you start the installation process make sure to read the car seat manual. This will help you get the tight install right out of the gate. Next step is to check the easy-to-read level indicator. Then you can choose from the vehicle seat belt or the latch belt installation. Typically the latch is known for the ease of use. You want to release then you have to push the latch button part it’s the red button. If you want to make the install tight then you have to pull on the latch straps. Belt install is easy you have to feed it through the belt path and remove the slack. You’re done. There are both pros and cons for each install.

How do you clean the contender 65?

With the contender 65 you have the usual washing machine and make sure you use mild soap. Make sure you keep harness webbing out of water.

Does the contender 65 have a cup holder?

Yes there’s a single cup holder with the contender 65.

What kind of safety features does the contender 65 have?

It comes with the Graco protectplus engineered safety. It also has the anchor latch strap for extra safety. With the protect plus your little one is getting full body support. It’s not those push button release ones when it comes to the buckle portion. Here are some other seat graco features: one side harness system, harness strap slot, restraint adjustment strap, bar clip, adjuster strap. This convertible car seat also serves as an infant seat. The seat pad is comfortable for little ones after you have adjusted the buckle positions.

Which is the better choice Graco or Chicco car seat?

Most people prefer Chicco car seats.

Last Updated on October 27, 2023 by Brian Beasley

Written by Linda Reid

Hey there, I'm Linda, a mom of three cool kids. I've tried so many car seats, you could call me a "Car Seat Detective." Searching for the perfect car seat can feel like finding a needle in a haystack, but don't worry! I've committed to researching and reviewing car seats that are super safe, cozy, and great for growing kids. Together, we'll find the perfect car seat that keeps your child safe and cozy, and makes you feel like a super-parent!