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When doing their research, many parents look for a high quality and reliable convertible car seat that's also affordable. They want to protect their child, and so they're also looking for exceptional safety. AND they want a car seat that is easy to use and install, and something that fits well in a wide variety of vehicles.
But they don't want to spend a fortune, and don't need all the bells and whistles of many of the luxury models of convertible car seats. The Graco Contender 65 was designed exactly for those parents: it's a simple, reliable, safe, simple car seat, offered at a reasonable price.
Who is the Graco Contender 65 Most Suitable For?
The Graco Contender 65 may be the Goldilocks of convertible car seats: not too big, not too small, not too heavy, not too expensive, not too flimsy, but just right.
In terms of price, it's middle-of-the road: far more affordable than big, all-in-one premium car seats, but also more expensive than cheap, disposable car seats.
In terms of size, it's also in the middle. At just over 15 pounds, it's light and maneuverable, but not as light as the most portable car seats, and not as heavy as steel-framed car seats. It's narrow enough to fit 3-across in mid-size or large vehicles, and not so tall that it blocks the view out the back, but there are much smaller, more compact car seats available.
It has nice fabrics but not the most plush, good versatility for child fit and positioning but not the best, decent installation but not the easiest. In other words, it isn't the single best convertible car seat for any one use or feature, but it's an excellent all-around car seat; it's affordable, versatile, portable, safe, and has a good range of adjustments to keep a child protected and comfortable for several years.
It's also produced by Graco, a company with an excellent reputation for quality, comfort, and safety.
For parents who don't want the expense of a top-of-the-line car seat, but who also don't want a car seat that feels cheap and flimsy, the Graco Contender 65 may be the exact car seat they are looking for.
Pros and Cons of Graco Contender 65
Overview of Graco Contender 65
The Graco Contender 65 is made of plastic and dense, energy absorbing foam, so it's both easier to clean and lighter in weight than a steel-framed car seat. But it has also been extensively crash tested, and made with Graco quality, so it's perfectly safe and reliable.
Installation is relatively simple with the included LATCH system or a vehicle's belt system. And the single harness and headrest adjustment provides simple, one-handed adjustment with one hand and no rethreading, so it always fits correctly. The integrated cup holder can't be spilled or knocked over by an active child, and the cushions are machine washable. It's an excellent convertible car seat for the price.
What are this model’s NHTSA ratings? All car seats sold in the USA must meet strict federal safety standards, so the NHTSA does not rate car seats for safety. Instead, they offer ratings and evaluations for ease of use.
According to the NHTSA, the Graco Contender 65 has earned (for the rear-facing installation):
The Graco Contender 65 has an overall rating of 3/5 for the forward-facing installation, for different reasons.
- Side impact protection? Yes
- Energy-absorbing base? Energy-absorbing foam
- Metal frame? No
Ease of Use
Ease of Installation
Comfort and Quality
Graco Contender 65 Specs
Rear-facing child weight
5 -40 pounds
Rear-facing child height
1 inch below handle
Forward-facing child weight
22 – 65 pounds
Forward-facing child height
Car seat weight
Car seat dimensions
26" high x 20.75" wide x 27" deep
Car seat expiration
Graco Contender 65 Features
Ease of use
Quality and comfort features
What is included with the Graco Contender 65?
The Graco Contender 65 comes with removable head and body support cushions to fit properly over time.
Graco Contender 65 Installation
Graco doesn't have installation videos on their YouTube channel, but YouTuber My Best Car Seat has a helpful video that shows both forward-facing and rear-facing installation, which you can watch here:
Since the LATCH strap needs to be re-routed when converting seating modes, this video shows how to re-route the strap.
And since some people find the LATCH release difficult to use, this video shows how to operate it.
Graco Contender 65 Manual
The Graco Contender 65 manual can be found here:
Graco Contender 65 vs. Graco My Ride 65
Graco Contender 65
The Graco Contender 65 and the Graco My Ride 65 are extremely similar car seats. Both of these convertibles:
- Are backed by Graco crash testing and side impact testing to meet or exceed federal standards
- Have a 7 year life span from the date of manufacture
- Have a machine washable seat cushion
- Have EPS energy absorbing foam
- Have a removable infant insert and toddler headrest
- Have up-front harness adjustment
- Have easy-to-read level indicators for correct installation
- Do not have recline options
The Graco My Ride fits children from 4 – 40 pounds rear-facing, and from 20 – 65 pounds front facing, so it fits children just slightly lighter in weight than the Contender, and has two cup holders instead of one. It is also slightly heavier (at 15.8 pounds) and is much narrower (at just 17.28 inches) and much taller (at 34.49 inches) than the Contender 65.
Unlike the Graco My Ride, the Contender 65 has a no-rethread harness with 8 positions (instead of 5), two buckle positions, and an adjustable headrest. It is much simpler to adjust the Contender, with more options for a more accurate fit.
The Graco My Ride 65 is an incredibly slim car seat, which may be perfect for 3-across installations, and other instances where you need a narrow seat. However, it is also extremely tall, which can take up a lot of space in rear-facing installations. If you need a simple, reliable, convertible car seat with these kinds of unusual dimensions, the Graco My Ride 65 is a great choice.
Despite being so similar, having similar weight ratings, and being made of the same materials, the MyRide 65 is moderately more affordable than the Contender 65. Graco's MSRP suggests that the MyRide cost $20 less than the Contender.
For most purposes, the Contender 65 is worth the extra money, because having a good range of harness and buckle positions fits a child much better for longer, making it more comfortable. And the simplicity of a one-hand, no-rethread harness is well worth $20 for the time it will save you over the years of use.
However, there are often specials and discounts available on the Graco My Ride 65. If it's the right size for your vehicle, and you can get it for a bargain price, it may be worth sacrificing a little bit of convenience to save the money.
Graco Contender 65 User Review
The Graco Contender 65 is a great car seat for parents who need a car seat that is simple, reliable, safe, and reasonably priced.
The variety of harness and buckle positions, along with the removable cushion and adjustable headrest, help it protect children from 5-65 pounds in comfort.
It is a Graco product, so it can be trusted for high quality, good support, and long-term use.
Graco Contender 65 (click image for more info)
It's not a fancy car seat, but it's an excellent investment in a child's safety and comfort for their first several years, when they need it most.
With two kids of my own, I’m passionate about child safety! I’m a research nerd who’s on a mission to make the world a safer place for kids – starting with car seats!
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