Graco makes several versions of the SnugRide infant car seat, and experts say the SnugRide 30 is the pick of the litter because it offers the most bang for a parent's buck. Good crash-test ratings, ample padding and a smaller, more lightweight shell are among the perks. But reviewers say some pricier seats offer higher-end safety features and greater ease of use, including simpler installations and no-rethread harnesses. The infant seat's reputation for safety has also been tarnished by a recent recall.
Safe, but lacks extra side-impact protection. The Graco SnugRide 30 has energy-absorbing foam, a five-point harness with chest clip and hook-style LATCH connectors. Graco boasts that the seat has been "rigorously crash tested," meeting or exceeding all standards, and the SnugRide 30 fared better than most other SnugRides in independent crash testing. Experts note that while the SnugRide lacks the beefed-up side-impact protection of some pricier seats, it still meets the same safety standards as every other infant car seat on the market. The handle can be left fully upright while driving, though experts note that two other handle positions aren't allowed, creating confusion and a potential safety risk.On February 11, 2014, Graco recalled nearly 3.8 million convertible car seats due to an issue with the buckle that makes it difficult to remove a child from the seat, increasing the risk of injury when an emergency exit from the vehicle is required. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also recommended that Graco recall millions of infant car seats, including the SnugRide 30 for the same issue – something Graco has declined to do. For that reason, we recommend being sure that any SnugRide seat you buy has the new style of buckle by visiting www.gracobaby.com.
Few bells and whistles, but still installs well. Experts give the Graco SnugRide 30 solid reviews on installation. Though the seat has older hook-style LATCH connectors and lacks seat-belt lock-offs to ease belt-only installation, it was still easy to get a proper installation in several vehicles, they say. The seat has an adjustable-recline base, but lacks a more sophisticated level indicator that helps parents obtain the right angle. Parents report few problems with the front-adjust harness, though some say the buckle can be too stiff. Experts also caution that adjusting the harness height can be confusing because of several possible configurations. Reviewers say the wide rubber grip on the handle makes carrying the seat comfortable. The SnugRide 30 has a machine-washable cover, which parents appreciate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not reviewed the SnugRide 30 for ease of use, but all other seats in the SnugRide line get an average 3 out of 5 stars.
A good fit for all but the smallest and largest babies. The Graco SnugRide 30 can accommodate babies from 4 to 30 pounds and up to 30 inches tall, though Graco cautions that babies must have at least one inch of shell above their head. The seat includes an infant head-support insert. While experts say it provides a better fit for average-weight newborns than higher-capacity SnugRides, they caution that this isn't the case with preemies even though the seat is rated for 4-pound babies. Older babies and small toddlers who are still within the seat's height and weight capacities may also run out of headroom because padding makes the seat narrow at the top of the shell, they note. Most reviewers say the SnugRide 30 is well padded and comfortable, and they like the vast selection of colors and patterns. At 7.5 pounds, it is relatively lightweight and easier to carry than heavier seats, and the smaller shell is a better bet for fitting in compact cars. Parents say the canopy provides enough coverage but can be tricky to maneuver under the handle. The SnugRide 30 is compatible with a wide range of Graco and non-Graco strollers, but it is a "Classic Connect" seat that won't work with Graco's newer "Click Connect" models.
Solid service reviews. The Graco name is ubiquitous in baby and child equipment. Reviewers report generally good responses when contacting the company. The Graco SnugRide 30 has a one-year warranty with proof of purchase and expires six years from date of manufacture. The manual can be easily downloaded from the website. Graco advises customers to replace any car seat involved in a crash, no matter how minor.
1. Baby Bargains
"Baby Bargains" covers all major infant car seats in depth. Authors Denise and Alan Fields consider performance, ease of use and the brand's track record to come up with their overall rating for each seat. Reviews are comparative, thorough and unbiased.
Review: Car Seats: Picking the Right Child Safety Seat, Denise and Alan Fields, 2013, 10th edition
This website, run by professional child passenger safety technicians and instructors, praises the Graco SnugRide 30 for its better fit for smaller babies, narrow profile, 7.5-pound weight and stroller compatibility. But it lacks lock-offs or push-button LATCH, and the canopy could be better.
Review: Graco SnugRide 30 Review -- The SnugRide Infant Seat for Smaller Babies!, Darren Qunell, Sept. 2, 2011
Editors of ConsumerReports.org test 29 infant car seats on safety, ease of use and fit to vehicle. The ratings are reliable and unbiased, and they include editors' "highs" and "lows" for each seat -- helpful for parents who want a quick summary of each seat.
Review: Infant Car Seat Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
The Graco SnugRide 30 receives 4.2 out of 5 stars in more than 125 reviews. Most reviewers praise the comfort, fit and stroller compatibility. A few parents complain of hot fabric and overly large warning labels, while others say the straps aren't big enough for bigger babies and the buckle is hard to release.
Review: Graco SnugRide 30 Infant Car Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014