Battle of the Booster Seats
- What: Evolve Versus Nautilus
- When: After your child outgrows their convertible car seat
- Why: Keep kids harnessed longer
- Where: Amazon
Has your child finally outgrown their convertible car seat? If your kid has hit the upper height limit, where their shoulders go above the five point harness, you need a new car seat. A 3-in-1 combination booster seat will keep your child in a five point harness longer, and last well into the booster seat years to boot. Here we compare two of the most popular choices from Evenflo and Graco. You can also see the individual reviews for both the Graco Nautilus Elite and the Evenflo Evolve.
If you have a choice between the Graco Nautilus and the Evenflo Evolve, get the Nautilus. You might pay more, but you get a higher quality seat. For starters, the Nautilus comes with easily adjustable shoulder straps. When you adjust the headrest by lifting up, it automatically raises the shoulder straps, much like our Britax convertible seats. The Evolve, on the other hand, comes with four shoulder strap slots. My seven year old hits the topmost setting already, so we won’t get as much longevity out of the harness option. Plus, to switch the shoulder strap settings, you need to uninstall the seat. I don’t know if anyone else hates installing car seats as much as I do. But I avoid any extra installations if at all possible.
Both the Nautilus and the Evolve weigh roughly the same (a lot, in case you’re wondering). It can be painful to move them around in a vehicle, much like trying to pick up a child who has gone rigid. They also measure about the same width, so if you need to fit three across, you might want to look at other narrower options. I had no trouble fitting either in our two seat third row of the Mazda5, even with a Britax Marathon convertible car seat already installed in the other position.
The Nautilus features better LATCH connectors. I have a strong preference for the click on type. You simply push the connector into the seat until it clicks into place, grabbing the vehicle anchor. The Nautilus has those types of connectors, while the Evolve only has a simple J clip that you have to angle correctly to attach. This type of clip commonly appears on the top tether anchor of many car seats, where it works great. But I find it much more difficult to attach to LATCH connectors hidden in the vehicle seat cushion.
The chest clip on the Nautilus works much the same as on the convertible car seats we’ve owned. You squeeze the top and bottom of the clip and slide it out to open it. On the Evolve, you push down on the middle button of the chest buckle. It might not sound like a huge difference, but if you depend on your older child unbuckling themselves, it can be a deal breaker. My child finds it much harder to push on the button than to squeeze the sides while harnessed into the seat. Conversely, if you need to keep your child restrained and don’t want them to be able to undo the chest buckle, you might prefer the Evolve seat.
The harness loosening strap also proves easier to release with the Graco Nautilus. You push down on the front of the button, conveniently located near the front of the car seat, to release the five point harness. On the Evolve, you have to reach further in underneath the cloth, to the back of the button, and press down there. Harnessed kids have a much harder time loosening the straps, meaning they need more assistance to buckle and unbuckle themselves, as well as to fit the harness properly.
The Evolve does boast two cup holders to the Nautilus’ one, but the Nautilus includes two cubby holes, one on each side, to hold all your child’s random things. The Evenflo provides a cushy seat, but because I don’t ride in it, I care most about safety and ease of use. It loses every contest in the ease of use category, which makes it feel less safe. But regardless of which seat you buy, I hope this guide helps you make the right choice for your child and your vehicle.