One of the most popular infant car seats on the market, the Graco SnugRide 35 is loved for its reasonable price, high 35-pound weight capacity, comfortable padding and large canopy. The top-selling SnugRide is also compatible with a wide range of strollers, a definite plus. But reviewers note that 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 35 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, but the seat receives average marks in independent crash tests. 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 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 35 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.
Lots of positives and negatives. Experts give the Graco SnugRide 35 mixed reviews on installation. Installing the seat with a base and LATCH connectors is fairly easy, but it can be tricky using only seat belts with difficult-to-operate lock-offs, they say. The seat has a built-in level to indicate when the seat is properly reclined. There is a front-adjust harness with thick straps that resist twisting. However, parents must rethread the straps from the back to adjust them for height, a process experts say can be tricky because of small slots and confusing loops. Some reviewers complain that the buckle can be stiff and difficult to undo, an issue that has cropped up with other Graco seats. Reviewers say the wide rubber grip on the handle makes carrying the seat more comfortable, but some complain it takes two hands to lower the handle. The SnugRide 35 has a machine-washable cover, which parents appreciate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the seat 3 out of 5 stars for ease of use, criticizing incomplete labels and the effort involved in rethreading the harness.
High weight capacity and ample padding. The Graco SnugRide 35 can accommodate babies from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches tall, but Graco says to discontinue use regardless of height if a child's head is less than an inch from the top of the shell. Experts say the included infant insert does a good job of fitting smaller babies but caution that most children will outgrow the seat by height long before they approach 35 pounds. Some parents echo that point, saying they thought their child would fit in the seat longer. Most reviewers say the SnugRide 35 is well padded, and they like the wide selection of colors and patterns. At 9.5 pounds, the seat is comparable to or slightly heavier than similar seats, and some reviewers say the wide base takes up too much room in the back seat. The canopy is big enough to keep babies covered and is designed to stay put on its own. The seat is compatible with a wide range of Graco and non-Graco strollers. "Click Connect" models allow an easier, one-click attachment to newer Graco "Click Connect" strollers, while "Classic Connect" seats are compatible with older models and require a two-step attachment.
Solid service reviews. The Graco name is ubiquitous in baby and child equipment. Reviewers report generally good responses when contacting the company. The SnugRide 35 has a one-year warranty with proof of purchase and expires seven years from the 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, names the Graco SnugRide 35 to its recommended seat list. A thorough review demonstrates installation, noting a range of both pros and cons.
Review: CarSeatBlog's Recommended Car Seats List, Editors of CarSeatBlog.com, February 2014
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
4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Since all car seats meet federal safety and crash performance standards, NHTSA rates car seats only on ease of use. The Graco SnugRide 35 earns an overall ease-of-use score of 3 stars out of 5. Editors say the labels should be clearer and the harness can be tricky to rethread because of small, misaligned slots.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, Editors of NHTSA, Not dated
The Graco SnugRide 35 receives 4.2 out of 5 stars in more than 100 reviews, with owners praising the seat's comfort and safety. Some complain that the seat is too big and heavy. Others find the buckles stiff and say their babies outgrew the seat by height far before approaching the 35-pound limit.
Review: Graco SnugRide 35 Infant Car Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014
6. Good Housekeeping
The Graco SnugRide 35 earns praise for clear instructions, easy installation, a machine-washable cover and an included cold-weather boot. But editors note the harness is tricky to rethread for growth and say the sun canopy can block the handle.
Review: Infant Car Seat Reviews, Editors of Good Housekeeping, Not dated
Michelle Horton likes the Graco SnugRide 35, since it's compatible with a wide variety of strollers, and notes the high height and weight capacity. But it's not the best choice for someone with a competing travel system, she says.
Review: Babble Blogger Favorites: Infant and Toddler Car Seats, Michelle Horton, Nov. 12, 2012
Editors like the Graco SnugRide 35's plush padding and high height and weight capacity. They also praise the ease of installation and compatibility with Graco strollers. But the seat can be heavy and hogs back-seat space since it's wide, they say.
Review: The Best Infant Car Seats, Editors of BabyCenter.com, Not dated
The Graco SnugRide 35 is ranked first of 10 popular infant car seats. Editors praise the seat's easy installation, safety features and accessories. They wish Graco offered longer than a one-year warranty.
Review: Graco SnugRide 35, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, Not dated
Heather Corley praises the Graco SnugRide 35 for its high weight capacity, easy-to-adjust recline, built-in lock-offs and range of colors and patterns. She also likes that it's compatible with several strollers. She does not note any cons.
Review: Top 6 Infant Car Seats, Heather Corley, Not dated
The Graco SnugRide 35 is praised for its long life and stroller compatibility. The short review is light on details and notes no cons.
Review: Top 10 Car Seats, Sarah Yang, Not dated
The Graco SnugRide 35 is one of Baby Gizmo's Editor's Choice Top 5 car seats along with the Maxi-Cosi Mico, Cybex Aton, Chicco KeyFit 30 and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 30-30, but there is no accompanying review. It's also unclear when the list was compiled.
Review: Infant Car Seats, Hollie Schultz, Not dated