Customer Reviews: Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat, Matrix
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Color: Matrix|Item Package Quantity: 1|Change
Price:$189.71+ Free shipping
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on September 27, 2015
My 20 month old son & I were in a rollover accident a few weeks ago in my explorer. I broke my wrist and collar bone. Thanks to THIS car seat my son made it out with only a few bruises and scrapes!! We landed upside down and the seat didn't move at all. I am very thankful for this seat. I didn't purchase it from Amazon, I also paid $189.99 for ours but I reccomend this seat to everyone. Pay the extra money. This car seat is great !! :)
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on May 19, 2009
I own 2 Britax Frontiers in Pink, and the Graco Nautilus in pink as well. As a Mother who owns both models, I will tell you the major differences between these two seats from my point of view.
#1 Frontier is more expensive (which is why I got the Nautilus for my spare)
#2 Frontier is SO much easier to adjust the shoulder height strap. With a simple squeeze of a lever, the straps go up. The Graco needs to be rethreaded. This is BIG pain when you have another child who wants to use the seat. With the Frontier, it is no biggie to pull the lever.
#3 Frontier seat material is prone to wear where the child's bottom and legs rub on the seat. It also shows WAY more stains and soaks up spills quicker than the Graco.
#4 Frontier has 3 crotch strap adjustments for easy fitting. The Graco only has 2 which makes the older kids sit on the strap. This can get uncomfortable. My oldest DD takes the pad off of the crotch strap on the Frontier (she says it makes the seat look like a "baby seat" with the pad), but she can not do this with the Graco, as the crotch strap rubs on her legs causing red irritation when wearing shorts. The graco pad is very thick and wraps the entire strap (between the legs) and then goes up to sit on the belly. She does not seem to mind sitting on it, but it does not look too comfortable to me.
#5 Padding on Frontier is WAY thicker (on both seat and seat back)and more comfortable to sit on. I can't imagine that the Graco would be comfortable for long trips.
#6 Heads slump forward for younger kids when sleeping in the Graco. The "wings" around the head are very fat (giving the appearance of a "yonger child's seat") and are so close to the child's head that it causes it to go forward when sleeping. The frontier has wider "wings" and are perfect for sleeping children. The "wings" are farther away from the head and are angled just right as to allow sleeping and looking out the window. The "wings" are thinner and have more of a "big" kid look. This thinner look in NO WAY implies that Graco is safer for the thicker "wings", as Britax states that its wings are "true side impact protection". Graco does not state this. The plastic around wings appear to be of stronger material on the Frontier, even though they are thinner. Frontier also has the "hugs" system on the harness to minimize forward head movement. Graco does not.
#7 The Graco has only a 12.5 inch seat width for the child to move around in. The Frontier has a 12.5 seat area around the tush, but opens to a spacious 17 inch wide seat. This may not be an issue for the younger kids, but the older ones need more space. This may, however, be an issue for small cars.
#8 Cup holder and "hidden" storage are neat in the Graco. The Frontier has 2 cup holders, but they can not both be out, as one hits the door when installed on far right or left. The cup holders also do not go smoothly in and out when installed in the vehicle, as the seat blocks the cup holder from retracting. This does not happen when the seat is not snugged down, but when installed..... This is not too much of an issue as we just leave them out. This is only an issue when I have a third child trying to walk to the back 3rd row between 2 Frontiers with cup holders out!

Bottom line. If you need a car seat around the time that Britax has a sale, I would get it over the Graco. The price difference at that time would only be $50. I think that your big kids will be happier in the Frontier. If you have a smaller child, remember, he/she will be a big kid soon!
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on March 25, 2013
Many reviewers have commented here that the crotch strap is incredibly short. I spent some time agonizing before I finally ordered, since I did not want to have to return it. But it turns out, the crotch strap is plenty long. I even bought a second one for my other child. Here's what you need to do.

1. Once your child is too large for the smallest setting on the 5 point harness, follow the instructions to REMOVE THE BODY SUPPORT. This is the thing that looks like extra padding in what would be the lumbar region if you could somehow squeeze an adult into the seat. In my copy of the manual it is shown on page 6 under "Features". If you fail to REMOVE THE BODY SUPPORT, yes, indeed, the crotch strap appears to be ridiculously short. So, in conclusion, REMOVE THE BODY SUPPORT per the instructions.

2. Also, as many have commented, move the crotch strap to the second slot. Make sure you are using the second slot in the hard plastic base, not just the second slot in the fabric insert.

3. Congratulations, you now have a ton of space in the crotchular region. I have a 56 lb 43 inch tall son who, even while wearing ski pants, fits just fine in the seat when configured according to points 1 and 2. He is not 'sitting on' the crotch buckle as so many have alleged. I think a child who doesn't have enough room is likely too large for the weight limit on the harness anyway, in which case you remove the harness and migrate to #2 of the "3-in-1" scheme and secure the child in the booster with the vehicle belt.

The kids love them.
The price is right. They are quite a bit cheaper than the corresponding Britax model.
A consumer research magazine, which I'm not sure if I can name here, rated this seat highest among convertible seats for safety and usability.
Looks better than the Britax, at least in my car.

CONS: Not many, but here they are.
-Straps feel a bit flimsier than the Britax.
-Clips/buckles are a bit harder to operate than the Britax. Maybe they will get better with use.
-In my opinion, the metal junction plate is too small compared to the width of the straps. The metal junction plate is shown on page 38 in my copy of the manual. It looks sorta like something Batman or a ninja might throw at a villan if it was sharpened. It is there to hold the loop ends of the shoulder straps behind the seat. The slots in the plate are only about 3/4 as wide as the straps, thus the straps get bunched up a bit, which is a weaker configuration than if they had enough space to lay flat. But that consumer magazine rated it tops for safety, so it probably doesn't matter. Again, the Britax does not have this issue.

I don't feel the cons are worth paying another $100 or whatever for the Britax, but that's my budget. The main thing is that the crotch strap is not an issue. Go try it in a store if you don't believe me.

Edit: After a month of use, the clips/buckles on one of the seats has loosened up a bit and is easy to operate. The other one is still a bit stiff. However, the flimsier straps tend to twist up so they are not flat in the buckle slot. That's a little disappointing. I'd knock off a half star for that.

Edit #2: A year later, and everything is holding up fine. On their own accord, Graco sent me a new center strap and 3 point buckle assembly for both seats. The old one seemed fine, but the new one is beefier and operates more smoothly. The center strap is still plenty long. I would guess that if you buy a new seat today, you're going to get the new buckle assembly. I still think the straps are too flimsy and they do still twist up. Yo, Graco! How much extra can it cost you to use a strap wide enough to match the buckles? Thank you.

Edit #3: Almost 3 years now. Still going strong, no issues, other than the strap-twisting.
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on December 23, 2011
Edit 1/27/15: this seat lasted right up until it expired and even then it was still working flawlessly. We gave it to someone in need last year when it had 11 months left before it expired (my son was ready for a backless booster anyway.) I just messaged the person I gave it to in order to make sure she actually replaced it as it was expired, and she loved the seat so much that she replaced it with the same one but in pink. I stand by my original review...great carseat. Also, I believe graco now makes one like this that rear faces which is exactly the suggestion I made in my original review. I'm done having kids, but if for whatever reason I need a new seat I would buy another like this (or likely the newer version that rear faces.)

I purchased this seat in early 2009 for my then 2 year old son, it was his first forward facing seat. My son is now 5 years old and this seat is still going strong. I have also used this seat for my best friends 18 months old a few times and it works great for him too.

What I love/like

1. Easy to install, had worked in every car we have used it in so far. The install with this seat is very firm without a lot of fighting with the belts to get it that way.
2. Very solid, sturdy, and well made.
3. Comfortable for my son.
4. We love the features. My son very much enjoys having his own cup holder and storage pockets where he generally stores a few hotwheels cars :)
5. I love that it is so versatile and that it harnessed up to 65lbs. My children are small for their age so its likely that this seat will harness my until age 8 (when the seat, but not the backless booster will expire.) It still fits my 10 year old daughter (we tried it just to see, she weighs 61 lbs.) As for the average child, my best friends average size 7.5 year old fits in this seat with the harness and still has lots of room to grow.
6. Due to the way the straps are inserted and the rollers they travel over we have never had an issue with twisted straps in this seat.
7. We love the thinner profile on this seat, unlike my other sons Apex 65 seat (I have a review on that seat too) this seat is narrow enough to fit within the seating area yet still spacious enough for it to be comfortable for the child sitting in it.
8. This seat has a standard 6 year lifespan, however the backless booster portion of the seat has an 8 year lifespan meaning 2 additional years of use when compared with most other seats.

What needs improvement: (I still think the seat deserves 5 stars and these are small issues that don't bother us.)

1. The seat is a bit complicated to remove the pads for washing. Not horrible, but it does take longer than our other seats.
2. As others have mentioned, a third crotch strap location would be great. It works just fine for my thin/average children, but I image a larger or heavy set child or even a larger toddler still in a bulky diaper might have issues.

All in all we love this seat and if we were to need to replace our seats again I would purchase another one of these for my youngest again in a heartbeat. This seat is an amazing value and works wonderfully.

Now this has nothing to do with the seat itself, but it would be awesome if they made a version that could rear face toddlers before they are ready to be forward facing.

A note about car seat safety:
The law in most states says that a child can forward face at 1 year old AND 20lbs, but facts show that it is safest to rear face your child as long as possible, at least to age 2. The neck and spine of a 1 year old is not equipped to handle the force of impact and rear facing allows them the time they need for their spinal cord to grow and mature.
It is also safest to keep your child in a 5 point harness as long as possible. Just because the law/the seat SAYS you can place your child in a booster at either 30 or 40lbs does NOT mean this is a safe option.
Never buckle your child into their safety seat wearing heavy clothing such as winter coats or snow pants. Always remove these bulky items and cover the child up OVER the straps with a blanket or coat turned backward. The bulky items can compress in a crash causing there to be too much space between the child and the straps causing additional injuries including spinal cord injuries.
Make sure the straps are snug and the chest clip as at armpit level.

I will step off my soapbox, but I wanted to share these items because these are some very common mistakes I see and education is key :) Remember, any child safety seat is only as good as the manner in which is is installed an used. Even a 500.00 seat won't protect your child if you don't take the time to ensure you are using it correctly.
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on August 21, 2015
I wish I didn't buy this just because it was a best seller. We really got what we paid for. I wish I spent more money for a better seat. This car seat is terrible. I loathe the thought of taking it out and transferring it to another car when we need to. There is no head support when my daughter falls asleep. I feel awful when I see her head drooping down.
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on June 10, 2008
I had set out to purchase another Britax Marathon for my husband's truck as a backup... just incase they would ever need to leave home when I'm away. When we went to Babies R Us to make the purchase I started comparing the Marathon to similar models. That's when we came across the Nautilus. While the Nautilus cannot be used as a rear facing seat it does convert through all the stages of growth. After strapping my daughter into and checking it out we were sold. We especially like that the head portion adjusts to the child's height. We would be saving $131... Whoo Hoo. One problem... Babies R Us was out of stock and had a waiting list for this particular seat. IMO the popularity of this seat verifies that it is a good deal. Setup of the seat was simple.
For those considering the Britax Frontier (we did since we love Britax)- you cannot use the Frontier for children under the age of 2. Our daughter is only 13 months, thus the Frontier wouldn't work for us.
The only con I've come across thus far is that the Nautilus is very heavy... would be a deterent if you plan to move this carseat frequently.
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on August 11, 2015
I just got this today, and so far I LOVE IT! I have a 3 year old who is the size of a 6 year old in height and weight, who is not yet ready for a regular booster seat. I was getting it ready to put in the car and had her sit in it. The straps are at perfect height, her ears are below the top. and OMG ITS SO EASY TO ADJUST THE STRAPS! The video in the add is 100% accurate! While I was trying my kid in it, she didn't want to get out! I'll update after I get it in the car and test the ride, but I seriously doubt my mind will change.

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on January 29, 2009
The crotch strap.

This seat looked ideal in every way. I liked it right out of the box, and when I put it together. It was exactly what I was looking for.

Then, I sat our average-sized 3 1/2 year old in it, boxed it up and sent it back, very disappointed.

The crotch strap, in the closest position, was beneath the back of my son's crotch. In the farther (and only other) position, it was even with, and slightly pressing against, the front of my son's crotch. In other words, no room to grow whatsoever. There is no way possible that this seat would allow my son to sit comfortably in a five-point harness all the way up to 65 pounds. At that point, the strap would be well beneath his crotch and be uncomfortable and dangerous. No way... and I really wanted it to. If there was one additional slot for the strap, an inch or so farther out, this seat would be PERFECT, in my opinion.

So, I gave this seat a 3 out of 5. For a younger child, or one just reaching my son's age and size (again, he is very average in weight, height), I would probably rate this seat a 5. But, since it clearly will not be able to do what it says it should do, up to 65 pounds, I cannot give it a 5. I honestly don't know how any child can be accomodated in this seat up to 65 pounds, unless they are a very, very skinny 65 pounds.

If Graco updates this seat to add one extra slot an inch or so farther out for the strap, I would buy it again immediately. I was, and am, a little angry that the seat won't work as advertised. Buyer beware; look up the few other comments on the crotch strap first. Then, please, go to the store and "test sit" this seat before buying, and please consider how big your child will be at 3 1/2, or older. Otherwise, you may find the same disapointing fact I did.
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on May 31, 2008
My Wife, a Pediatrician, did a ton of research - with the first priority being safety, safety, and, I'll say it again, safety.

We were Britax users for our first car seats and found it a fine car seat, though pricey.

So, this time around, with our son growing too long for the Britax seats that we had, we decided to look at all the options.

Price was not part of the equation.

Design was not either.

Safety was it.

We highly recommend this Graco car seat (We have three now)

1) The price blows Britax away.

2) The design is very nice. Our son loves the drink holder as well as the toy "compartment" in the arm rests. He "hides" toys in the arm rests and has a lot of fun fooling us.

The installation was simple.

The headrest is extremely easy to use and to "fit".

The five point harness is critical to our son's safety and it is very easy to use. Though, it is slightly different than Britax, so there is a few days of getting used to a "new" system. After that, there is no problem.

Overall, we are very happy with Graco.
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on May 6, 2011
Let me start off by stating that I have owned this seat for about 3 years now, no 5 stars because I just opened my box and love what I see lol. My oldest son recieved this Graco Nautilus in 2008 for over $200 and his Britax was handed down to my daughter. This seat recieves average use and has never been in an accident. In 2010 a piece on the button latch broke off making the latch either fall out or seem welded together. Thankfully my son was about old enough to use this as a booster chair so that is the way it has been, buckles were removed. No handing the chair down to my daughter on this one and even though the Britax is still going strong it is 5 yrs old and will be replaced for my youngest son. I don't like to skimp on safety for my kids so Graco is not going to be my next purchase.
This recieved 2 stars for the 2 years of use I got out of it. I posted a picture of the damaged buckles, I noticed the plastic cover on the 2 strap buckles was cracking on both sides so that is included in the picture.
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