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Graco Milestone Carseat Review

Graco MilestoneParents have been buying 3-in-1 car seats – rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster in one – since the dawn of time, tempted by claims of “the last seat you’ll ever need!”, but rarely (if ever) has a good 3-in-1 been available. I myself was sucked in by the claim when middle child was ready to move out of her infant seat – and it was so bad that I replaced it within months.
So when I was asked to review the CarseatBlog Recommended Graco Milestone All-in-1, which rear-faces, forward-faces, and turns into a high-back booster, I admit I was skeptical. Sure, Graco had nailed the combination seat with the introduction of the Nautilus about eight years ago, but could they do the same for the 3-in-1 with the Milestone?

Compared to the more expensive Graco 4Ever All-in-1, there are a few differences to note about the Milestone. The biggest change is that the Milestone does not convert to a backless booster like the 4Ever does. For the price, the 4Ever also adds two additional recline positions and an improved infant insert that should fit smaller newborns a bit better (4Ever is rated down to 4 lbs.) The 4Ever also includes a nicer bubble level indicator and two cup holders. For more info, please see our complete review of the Graco 4Ever All-in-One.

Graco Milestone - gothamMilestone Ayla
Available at Amazon.com: Gotham and Ayla

Milestone BazilMilestone GretchenMilestone Domino
Available at Target: Bazil, Gretchen, Domino

Milestone Kline
Available at Wal-Mart: Kline

Milestone Specs and Features:

  • Milestone no coverRear-facing: 5-40 lbs. and top of head is 1″ below red adjuster handle
  • Forward-facing (with harness): 20-65 lbs and 49″ or less
  • High-back booster: 30-100 lbs. and 38-57″
  • No-rethread harness with 10 position headrest
  • Adjustable base with 4 recline positions (2 for rear-facing, 2 for forward-facing)
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Premium push-on lower LATCH connectors (LATCH limit: Child weight of 42 lbs.)
  • Single cup holder
  • Ten-year expiration date

Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height (with infant insert): 7″
  • Highest harness height: 18”
  • Tallest booster height: 18.75″
  • Internal rear-facing height: 27.5” (that’s one inch below the headrest adjustment lever of 28.5” )
  • Crotch buckle positions: 5″, 6.25″, 7.5″
  • Seating depth (interior): 13″
  • Deepest point on base: 15″
  • Internal seat width: 13″
  • Widest external seat width: 19″ (at wings and at armrests)
  • Widest point on base: 13.75” (at the middle)
  • Narrowest point on base: 13.25” at back and 13.25″ at front

Does it live up to the “All-in-One” name? Read on to find out.

Milestone beltpathsInstallation/Fit to Vehicle

The Milestone is pretty easy to install, which makes this busy parent happy. (I was even able to switch the LATCH belt to the rear-facing position and install the seat in five minutes – when it was nearly dark out.) It installed nicely in rear-facing and forward-facing modes in my 2005 Odyssey with the seat belt and with LATCH. The belt paths are clearly labeled and color-coded both on the seat and in the manual (blue for rear-facing, orange for forward-facing, green for booster). The LATCH and tether straps are easy to loosen when you need to, but stay secure otherwise. (I have an extremely hard time loosening a push-button style tether adjuster in the captain’s seats of my Odyssey, but with this tilt-style adjuster, it took mere seconds.) The premium push-on LATCH connectors click right in.

LATCH Weight Limits – For forward-facing LATCH installations, it’s important to note that the lower connectors need to be discontinued once the child reaches 42 lbs., in accordance with the new LATCH regulations. For kids over 42 lbs., install the Milestone with seat belt and tether.

Switching LATCH Connectors – Unlike some of the other Graco convertibles (like the MyRide and MySize/Size4Me/Headwise) that have separate LATCH straps for the rear-facing and forward-facing beltpaths, the Milestone only has one, which means it needs to be manually switched between modes. The process isn’t complicated – it’s just a matter of sliding it under the red bar from RF position to FF position – but two separate LATCH straps on this model would have been nice.

Milestone LATCH

Lockoff Device – This seat does NOT have a built-in lockoff device for installations with seat belt so it’s very important to understand how your seat belt locks if you’re going to install with seat belt and not with LATCH connectors. Remember – once your child reaches 42 lbs. you must discontinue using the lower LATCH connectors and switch to a seat belt installation (plus tether) instead. All vehicles made after 1996 have seat belts that can lock in some way to hold a carseat tightly in place during routine driving. Most vehicles have switchable retractors but some vehicles or specific seating positions have locking latchplates instead. It’s important to know what your vehicle has and to understand how these features work before you install this carseat with a seat belt. See your vehicle’s owners manual for specific information on how to install a carseat in your vehicle using the seat belt. If you have questions, please visit our car-seat.org forum and we’ll be happy to help answer them.

Recline Positions – The Milestone has four recline positions, and the recline is easily adjusted by pulling an adjuster on the front of the seat. Rear-facing, use either position 1 or 2 to achieve an acceptable recline angle as per the angle indicator. When forward-facing, positions 3 or 4 are allowed. When using the seat in booster mode, recline position 4 (fully upright) must be used.

Rear-Facing Angle Indicator – Our model pictured has a sticker with a bold red line for an angle indicator. New models ship with a ball indicator.

Milestone 4 recline Milestone RF level Milestone ball indicator

The seat fit well in my 2005 Odyssey in both rear-facing recline positions. The front seat isn’t all the way back in this picture, but it’s in exactly the same position that my husband and I both use it for everyday driving. There is a decent amount of room between the Milestone and the front seat, so it could be moved back for adults with longer legs (or to accommodate a long-legged passenger behind the Milestone).

Milestone RF top position

Surprisingly, adjusting the recline positions doesn’t make a big difference in the amount of space that the seat takes up front-to-back. In fact, I thought the seat was too upright and went around to the other side to check. Nope, just about right according to the angle indicator. Moving the headrest up doesn’t take up much more space either – it’s really the shell that takes up room, not the headrest. The Graco Milestone could be a good choice for tall parents who need a lot of legroom up front and/or vehicles with small backseats.

Forward-facing, you can use positions 3 or 4. I didn’t notice a big recline difference between the two positions. The Milestone is tall, so visibility could be an issue depending on how it’s used and where it’s installed. I didn’t have any visibility issues, but that may be because I’ve had a tall booster in my vehicle for one kid or another since around 2008 – I’ve learned to compensate.

In high-back booster mode, position 4 (most upright) must be used, and it’s important to note that the vehicle headrest can’t cause a gap between the booster and the vehicle seat. The Milestone does not require vehicle head support in high-back mode, so it’s fine to remove a problematic headrest as long as the vehicle doesn’t prohibit it. This could cause a potential compatibility issue in cars with fixed headrests. However, because the main shell of the seat is rather short, and the extendable headrest sits quite a bit forward of the shell itself, it is likely to work with jutting headrests.

Graco also does not allow any overhang of the booster seat, so that could be a problem with shallow vehicle seats.

LATCH use is permitted in booster mode, provided that it doesn’t interfere with seat belt usage or other seating positions.

The Milestone manual does not specifically address non-standard LATCH spacing, although it does refer to “seating positions equipped with LATCH.” The Milestone manual states not to use LATCH and the seat belt at the same time to install the seat when using the 5-pt harness. Also not addressed in the manual is the question of inflatable seat belts. According to the latest version of the Inflatable Seat Belt document published by SafeKids, Graco does not allow use of inflatable belts for installing seats in harnessed mode, but does allow them for boosters.

Fit to Child

NewbornOn the bottom end of the size range, this seat would likely fit an average to large newborn well. The doll used in these pictures is 20″ long and is similar in size to an 8 or 9 pound newborn. I removed the optional harness strap covers because they tend to get in the way more than anything else when you have a newborn in this seat. The separate head and body insert cushions supported the small doll well and the harness straps were slightly level below the doll’s shoulders in the lowest harness position. Unlike the similar Graco 4Ever (which is rated down to 4 lbs.), the Milestone is not designed to accommodate preemies or very small newborns.

Note: Harness strap covers, head support insert and lower body insert are all optional in most cases. The only exception is that the infant body insert must be used if the newborn’s shoulders are below the bottom slots without it.

Graco Milestone 20" newborn doll  Graco Milestone with 20" newborn doll

Rear-facing older child – I used the Milestone rear-facing with my almost-five-year-old, who weighs 38 lbs. and is about 40”. (She was game, so I figured why not.) She fit well, with lots of room to grow. Really, because there is no rear-facing height limit and the seat can be used rear-facing as long as the child has 1” between the top of the head and the headrest adjuster, I can’t imagine any child outgrowing this seat by height. Yes, you can use it rear-facing in any of the 10 headrest positions. Jenny is shown here using the third-from-the-bottom position. She’s been forward-facing since she turned four and was a little worried about where she’d put her feet, but she quickly figured it out and didn’t complain a bit.

Milestone RF legroom

Forward-Facing – We used the Milestone forward-facing, too. Jenny was on the fourth click from the bottom, with tons of room to grow. She fit well and fell asleep the first afternoon she rode in it. Her almost-nine-year-old sister, Allie, tried it out and fit with a bit of growing room – Allie was on the second-from-the-top click. Jenny is learning how to buckle herself and found the Milestone pretty easy to buckle, though she didn’t have a 100% success rate.

Milestone harness Milestone harnessed 8YO Milestone harnessed 8YO slot

When used forward-facing, the Milestone is comparable in size to the Nautilus (which is a forward-facing only seat).

Milestone comparison to Nautilus SS

Booster mode – It’s important to note that when using as a high-back booster, the #4 recline position (most upright) must be used. Also, the belt guide doesn’t go much higher than the top harness slot. That means that a child who outgrows the harness by height won’t have much more time before the high-back booster is also outgrown by height. However, my average-height almost-nine-year-old still has a bit of room in the booster and at her age, I’d be comfortable putting her in a backless booster if the Milestone were her seat and she outgrew it in booster mode.

Allie has been using a booster for a couple of years and had no trouble buckling the Milestone in booster mode. Jenny has never ridden in a booster and couldn’t buckle at all. Most kids will probably fall somewhere in between these two – and ease of bucking also depends greatly on the vehicle (where is the buckle located, is it floppy or fixed, etc).

Milestone 8YO in booster Milestone little kid in booster Milestone little kid in booster lapbelt

The lap and shoulder belt fit on almost-9-year-old Allie was great. Leg support was typical of what you will find on most combination seats. It didn’t look especially supportive to me, but Allie didn’t complain about it. Lap and shoulder belt fit on 5-year-old Jenny was acceptable but she’s not big enough or mature enough to ride in a booster yet. Leg support for this little shorty was good.

Ease of Use/Cover/Maintenance

I hate removing car seat covers – really, really hate it. The Milestone wasn’t too bad – the cover comes off into three parts and once I figured it out, it wasn’t difficult to remove. It was fairly easy to replace, although with at least three different types of attachments (tabs, elastic loops/hooks, snaps) it was a little tricky. You can machine-wash the cover in cold water on the gentle cycle, then drip-dry.

All in all, the Milestone is very easy to use. Because the seat is a 3-in-1, I was afraid it might be tricky, but there really wasn’t anything complicated.

Some things I especially loved:Milestone buckle cubby

  • You don’t need to remove the harness to use the seat in booster mode. You do need to tuck it out of the way in the shell, but that’s easy. There have been times when I wanted to just stick Allie or one of her friends in Jenny’s Nautilus, but putting another booster in the back of the Odyssey was easier than removing the harness from the Nautilus.
  • It converts to a high-back booster easily – just tuck the harness away, install LATCH if desired, and adjust the headrest so that the red belt guide is just above the child’s shoulder.
  • The no-rethread harness made switching from one kid to another a breeze.
  • Milestone buckle positionsMoving the crotch buckle from one position to another is super easy – no need to uninstall and turn the seat upside down and move a clip while trying not to gouge your hand in the belt path. Just turn the webbing sideways, work it up to the next position, and make sure it’s completely pulled out of the “channel.”

FAA-Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines

The Milestone is approved for airline use with the harness. It has a 10-year lifespan, and it must be replaced after any crash.

 Advantages

  • No rethread harness with tall height limits
  • Installs easily with LATCH or seat belt
  • Can accommodate all children under 40 lbs. rear-facing (can be used rear-facing in all headrest settings)
  • Good value that will truly last some kids from birth to beyond 8 years old.
  • Should fit average-sized newborns adequately
  • Converts easily to highback booster mode
  • Easy-to-remove cover
  • Harness doesn’t need to be removed for booster use
  • Can use LATCH in booster mode
  • Instruction manual is clear and well written
  • 10 year lifespan before expiration

Disadvantages

(In all fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific Milestone issues) 

  • Lacks a lockoff device for installations with seat belt
  • No backless booster mode (compared to Graco 4Ever)
  • Made in China

Conclusion

Graco Milestone Rear-Facing: recline position 1So, am I convinced that the Graco Milestone does the job as an All-in-One seat? Yes, I’d definitely consider buying one if I still needed a rear-facing seat. It fits newborns well, and because of its height, it is one of the longest-lasting rear-facing seats on the market for tall kids who weigh less than 40 lbs. Forward-facing, it has harness heights comparable to many forward-facing-only seats, and will easily get most kids to an appropriate booster age. The booster isn’t much taller than the top harness position, but it will still get most kids to an age and size where a backless booster is fine. It would be nice if it had a backless booster mode, but to be honest I’d probably spring for a dedicated backless booster anyway. It has a generous 10-year lifespan, so unless you’re passing it down from one child to the next, it’s unlikely to expire before the child outgrows it.Recommended-150px

The Graco Milestone All-in-1 currently retails for $229 and is a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat.

Please visit Graco’s website for more information.

Thank you to Graco for providing a Milestone for our review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions and comments in this review are entirely those of CarseatBlog.

Updated May 18, 2016