Graco 4Ever DLX All-in-1 Car Seat
Like the Fountain of Youth or the Holy Grail, a true “forever” car seat has been eluding desperate searchers for years. Yes, there already are seats that rear-face, forward-face, and turn into a booster, but they are often lacking in at least one function, and when that happens, what’s the point?
So when Graco launched the 4Ever DLX 4-in-1, which rear-faces, forward-faces, and turns into both a highback and a backless booster, it was easy to get excited but also easy to have reservations. Will it really do what it claims, and do it well?
Short answer is, yes! The Graco 4Ever DLX is a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat.
4Ever DLX Specs:
- Rear-facing: 4-40 lbs. and child’s head must be 1″ from gray headrest adjuster handle
- Forward-facing (with harness): 20-65 lbs and 49″ or less
- Highback booster: 40-100 lbs. and 43-57″
- Backless booster: 40-120 lbs. and 43-57″
4Ever DLX Features:
- No-rethread harness with 10 position headrest
- Forward-facing lockoff for seatbelt installation
- Adjustable base with 6 recline positions (3 for rear-facing, 3 for forward-facing)
- Easy-to-read bubble level indicator
- Steel reinforced frame
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam
- Premium push-on lower LATCH anchor connector
- Dual integrated cup holders (simple assembly – cup holders are required so don’t lose them)
4Ever DLX Measurements:
- Lowest harness height (with infant insert): 7″
- Highest harness height: 18″
- Tallest booster height: 18.75″
- Crotch buckle positions: 5″ and 7″
- Widest external seat width: 19.5″ (at cup holders)
Installation/Fit to Vehicle:
In general, the 4Ever DLX is easy-to-install which is always a good thing. It installed nicely both rear-facing and forward-facing modes in all the vehicles I tried it in, with seatbelt or with LATCH (use one system or the other to install, not both simultaneously). The 4Ever DLX has premium push-on LATCH connectors which are always appreciated because they are easy to attach and easy to detach from the lower LATCH anchor bars in the vehicle.
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).
LATCH Weight Limit: 45 lbs. For forward-facing kids over the LATCH weight limit, install the 4Ever with seatbelt and tether.
Center LATCH Installation with Non-Standard LATCH Spacing: Graco does NOT allow a LATCH installation of the 4Ever DLX in center seating positions where you would have non-standard spacing due to borrowing lower anchors. You may only install with LATCH in the center position if your vehicle has dedicated LATCH anchors for the center.
Inflatable Seat Belts: Graco has determined that the 4Ever DLX CAN be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford/Lincoln vehicles.
Here is a video explaining how to move the LATCH strap from rear-facing to forward-facing mode.
Rear-Facing: This seat lacks a lockoff for rear-facing installations with seatbelt so we recommend that you use the lower LATCH anchors to install the seat when it’s rear-facing. You can install rear-facing with the seatbelt if you have a compelling reason to do so but you MUST lock the seatbelt at the retractor if you are using seatbelt to install the 4Ever DLX.
The 4Ever DLX has a total of six recline positions but only 3 of them are for rear-facing. You’re allowed to use positions 1-3 but you need to make sure that the bubble level on the side of the seat shows an acceptable recline range.
Realistically, you will probably be able to use recline positions 1&2, or positions 2&3 to achieve an acceptable recline position as per the bubble indicator. It all depends on the slope of the vehicle seat cushion in your backseat. One of those positions will make the car seat more reclined, the other will make it a little bit more upright.
Newborns and babies under 6 months old should be more reclined but still within the acceptable range as per the angle indicator. Older babies and toddlers will usually prefer to ride rear-facing in a more upright position as long as it is still within the acceptable angle range of the indicator. By the time they are crawling, most babies prefer to be seated rear-facing in a more upright position because they want to sit up and see the world.
I was impressed by how well the seat fit in my 2014 Civic in its most reclined position #1. The front seat in the Civic isn’t all the way back, but it’s in exactly the same position I have it in for regular use, which is quite comfortable for my husband and me.
Adjusting the recline positions doesn’t make a big difference in the amount of space that the seat takes up front-to-back, however in positions 2 and 3 there is a little more room between the 4Ever and the front seat. This is how it looked in my Odyssey, in position 3. There was plenty of room there.
Forward-Facing: There is a red lockoff hiding under cover in the middle of the forward-facing beltpath for seatbelt installs when your child is forward-facing. In the video above, you can see the placement of this forward-facing lockoff because it’s the same as the lockoff on the 4Ever model used in the video.
If your forward-facing child weighs more than 45 lbs. you MUST install the 4Ever DLX with seatbelt + tether because your child is over the LATCH weight limit for this seat. If your forward-facing child weighs less than 45 lbs., then you have the option to install this seat with lower LATCH anchors + tether. Never use LATCH and seatbelt simultaneously to install. If you install with LATCH when forward-facing, you will need to remember to switch to a seatbelt + tether installation once your child reaches 45 lbs.
There are technically 3 positions for forward-facing, (4-6) but position #4, which is the most reclined of the three forward-facing positions, MUST be used for children who weigh less than 40 lbs. In position 4, the seat is quite reclined. This didn’t pose an installation problem in either car, although in a very small backseat there might not be enough room for a child’s legs in that most reclined forward-facing position.
Booster Mode: In highback booster mode, position 6 (the most upright position) is required. Graco also does not allow any overhang over the edge of the vehicle seat when the seat is being used as a booster seat, so that could be a problem with shallow vehicle seats. The good news, though, is that LATCH use is permitted in highback booster mode. (The LATCH connectors are incorporated into the back of the seat, so LATCH is not an option in backless booster mode when the back of the shell is removed.)
Fit to Child:
When a car seat is rated for use from 4 lbs, it’s important that it actually fit a smaller than average newborn. We used a Huggable Images preemie doll to check the fit with the infant insert, and it did work well, as long as you push the baby’s bum back so it sits on the “bump” created by the insert. This positioning placed the harness straps right at the doll’s shoulders level on our preemie doll. However, this created a large gap between the doll and the crotch strap, so a rolled washcloth might be needed to keep a smaller-than-average newborn from slumping in the seat.
The nicely contoured infant body insert must be used if the child’s shoulders are below the bottom slots without it. It may only be used rear-facing. There is also an infant head pillow, which also can only be used rear-facing, and only when you’re also using the body support. (The head support slides into a strap on the back of the body pillow, so it wouldn’t make much sense to try to use it separately anyway.)
I used the 4Ever rear-facing for my 2-year-old, who weighs 30 lbs. and wears size 2T shirts. He fit wonderfully, with plenty of room to grow.
Although my 37-lb., 43-inch, 5-year-old is forward-facing, I put her in rear-facing just to see how she fit. Not only did she have plenty of growing room left (the headrest was three clicks from the top), the seat left plenty of room behind the driver’s seat in my Odyssey.
I did use the seat forward-facing for her. It sits higher than the seats she normally uses, but she didn’t mind the climb. Because she’s under 40 lbs., we had to use the very reclined position 4. I thought it looked awkward, but she didn’t complain.
She still has plenty of room before she maxes out the 4Ever forward-facing by height, too. My finger is marking where the tallest harness position (18″) is in relation to her shoulder.
It’s important to note that when using the 4Ever as a highback booster, the belt guide doesn’t go much higher than the highest harness positions. That means that a child who outgrows the harness by height won’t have much more time before the highback booster is also outgrown by height. On the plus side, you saw how much room my average 5-year-old has left in the harness, and she’d have a bit more growing room in highback booster mode, too.
I tried her in booster mode although she doesn’t meet the minimum weight requirement of 40 lbs. to use the seat in booster mode yet. The booster was hard for her to buckle. I think part of that was because of the height of the base, but part of it is that she doesn’t ride in a booster yet and isn’t used to buckling herself. The shoulder belt fit well in both the Civic and the Odyssey. The lap belt fit was ok, but keep in mind that at 37 lbs. she’s not big enough yet to use this seat in booster mode.
Here’s a video demonstrating forward-facing and highback booster mode. In it, you’ll see that Darren’s son Jon had a very good fit in the highback booster:
The first thing I noticed about the 4Ever as a backless booster is that it’s BIG! It sits about two inches higher than the Graco TurboBooster, and it’s quite a bit wider, too.
I enlisted my 10-year-old for help. He’s right at the top limits of the seat at 57″ (though only 67 lbs). In the Odyssey, the booster made him so tall that he almost didn’t have enough headrest height to support his his, and the shoulder belt fit was poor – it wasn’t centered on his clavicle. In the Civic, though, the belt fit was fantastic. That’s proof that booster fit will vary by vehicle and seating position, so make sure you always try them out!
Ease of Use/Cover/Maintenance
All in all, the 4Ever is very easy to use. Because the seat is a 4-in-1, I was concerned there would be all sorts of complicated quirks, but it’s really quite intuitive to use.
Some things I especially loved:
- 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 a cubby in the shell, but that’s no big deal.
- The cover removes very easily. When I do car seat reviews, the part I dread most is having to remove the cover for our “naked” photos, because that’s often the most frustrating part. With the 4Ever, the cover comes off nicely in three parts, using some tabs and elastic loops/hooks. Getting it back on was just a tad bit more difficult because you have to remember where the elastic loops hook to. You can machine-wash the cover in cold water on the gentle cycle, then hang to dry.
The 4Ever converts to a backless booster easily. Disconnect the harness, pull back the cover, move the red tabs, and pull off the back. That’s it!
4Ever DLX is FAA approved for airline use *with the harness*
4Ever DLX has a 10-year lifespan before expiration
4Ever DLX must be replaced after any crash
Graco 4Ever DLX Advantages:
- No-rethread harness with 10 positions
- Installs easily with LATCH or seatbelt
- Lockoff for forward-facing installation with seatbelt
- Relatively compact for rear-facing
- Fits small babies well
- Converts easily to highback and backless booster mode
- Easy-to-remove cover
- Harness doesn’t need to be removed for booster use
- Can use LATCH in highback booster mode
- Instruction manual is clear and well written
- 10-year lifespan before expiration
- Can accommodate basically all children who weigh less than 40 lbs. in the rear-facing position (it’s nearly impossible to outgrow RF by height)
(In fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform consumers of specific 4Ever issues)
- Forward-facing recline positions are dictated by the child’s weight (under/over 40 lbs.)
- Not very tall as a highback booster
- May be difficult for a child to buckle themselves when using the seat as a booster
So, does the Graco 4Ever DLX do everything it claims to? Mostly, yes. Because of its height, it is one of the longest-lasting rear-facing seats on the market for tall kids who still weigh less than 40 lbs. Forward-facing, the tall max harness height combined with 65 lb. weight limit should easily get most kids to an appropriate age and size to transition to booster use.
Its shortcomings mostly occur in booster mode, but even those aren’t horrible. Although the booster isn’t much taller than the harness, it will still get most kids to an age and size where a backless is acceptable. As a backless, it’s chunkier than most other boosters, but it can get the job done.
Will the 4Ever last “forever”? Is it the only seat a family will ever need? That depends, but in general, I’m going to say yes. It will fit most newborns well, and will certainly move with a child through most rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seat needs. It also has a very generous 10-year lifespan although wear and tear from frequent usage will always take its toll. You might want to invest in a spare cover to replace the original after a few years.
It might not be the best choice for people who enjoy getting new car seats often (*coughcough*), but for parents who want to stick with one seat for a long time, the Graco 4Ever DLX could be an excellent option.
Currently, the Graco 4Ever DLX retails for $299.99 but can often be found on sale for less. It is relatively expensive upfront but represents a good value considering the 10 years before the seat expires.
Please visit Graco’s website for more information.
Thank you to Graco for providing a 4Ever for our review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions and comments are entirely those of CarseatBlog.
Updated February 2024