Graco TrioGrow SnugLock 3-in-1 Car Seat Review

Graco TrioGrow

The Graco TrioGrow makes so many things simple.

If you’ve seen the ads on your social feed, you’ll know it installs in less than a minute. And that’s true.

But it also makes safely rear-facing a child well into toddlerhood—even in a smaller vehicle—simple. Most delightfully, it makes my job as a Child Passenger Safety Technician simple, because it is, simply, a simple seat to recommend.

Before I extol the seat’s virtues, it is critical to establish for whom the TrioGrow will not work. While it is most definitely one of the most compact seats on the market, some vehicles are impossibly tiny and/or transport very leggy passengers in the front seat. As always, try before you buy if you have any doubts about fitting a seat in your vehicle. And while the weight and height maximums of this seat will allow kids up to about the 75th percentile for height and weight (this isn’t an exact science, so this is my ballpark range) to rear-face and forward-face long enough, if you are looking for a seat to accommodate a very tall or very heavy child, this would not be my top choice. (Check out my review of the Extend2Fit!)

Stated another way, this seat will work for most children who are not exceptionally tall or heavy for their age, and it will work for most vehicles.

Its primary advantages are that it is compact front-to-back when used rear-facing and that it is very easy to install correctly in all three of its modes. As a CPST, I look for car seats that do not require CPST training to install and use correctly. (Yes, I am looking to put myself out of business!) The TrioGrow makes correct car seat installation simple thanks to its SnugLock technology (more on that to come) and an easy to follow manual.

Graco TrioGrow Rear-facing mode

Graco TrioGrow Rear-Facing Fit to Child

  • 5–40 lb (2.2–18 kg)
  • 18–43″ (46–109 cm)
  • Minimum of 1″ (2.5 cm) between top of child’s head and top of headrest adjustment handle

One of the reasons why Graco-brand seats are one of my top recommendations for rear-facing is that they are very rarely outgrown before a child has hit one of the stated maximums.

Let me explain: Many seats on the market have stated maximums of 40 lb and 43″ for rear-facing. Those maximums look great on the box if we consider that an 80th percentile male only hits 40 lb around his 4th birthday, and a boy who is 43″ by that age is 90th percentile. On paper, any seat with those maximums should fit children in the 80th percentile and below until they are at least 4 years old, which is fantastic.

However, much to many of my clients’ chagrin, many a seat winds up being outgrown far earlier than expected because the child no longer has the required 1″ of space between the top of the car seat and the top of their head, even though the child is well under either the weight and height maximums on the box.

There must be some perfect ratio of headrest size and child-head-torso-measurement that Graco has mastered, because Graco seats are almost always outgrown by the child reaching the stated height or weight maximum and not because the child lacks the required head clearance. It’s just frustrating as a caregiver when a product doesn’t do what it says it’s supposed to do on the box, and so many car seats that I have tried just can’t live up to the measurement maximums they promise. Obviously, kids come in all sizes and there will be some exceptions, but in my experience thus far as a CPST, kids are able to use their Graco seats in rear-facing mode until either the stated height or weight maximum is reached.

The TrioGrow comes with a bum cushion and head cushion. The bum cushion can be used, if needed, until the child weighs 20 lb (9 kg). The headrest is also optional, but must not be used without the bum cushion.

I tested the TrioGrow on a few different sizes of kiddo and liked the fit for them all.

This newborn demo-doll (her name is Carmen) fits well using the included bum cushion. I have had feedback from colleagues that average-sized, non-plush newborns also tend to get a good fit.

My nephew here is 8 months old and weighs 22 lb (10 kg). Definitely a comfy fit for this little munchkin!

The kiddo who got the most mileage in the TrioGrow is one of my twins (Cub Twin B, the bigger one, if you’re keeping track). At age 3 and about 35 lb and 37 in, he seemed very content using the seat for several months. Although this seat doesn’t feature an adjustable leg rest like the Extend2Fit, I found the seat pan deep enough that he still had decent legroom.

Graco TrioGrow Rear-Facing Installation

The TrioGrow has three possible recline positions for rear-facing. Select the one that gives you the correct angle in your vehicle for your child’s age. Note that children under 3 months old will need the metal ball in the light blue zone, while older children can have the seat anywhere in the light or dark blue zones.

Graco TrioGrow Vehicle Lap/Shoulder Belt Installation

In most circumstances, I would suggest installing the TrioGrow using the vehicle seat belt because it is just. so. easy.

Sure you can use the lower anchors, but they have the hook-style connectors that can be a huge pain to connect and remove in deeply set lower anchor bars, and really, the SnugLock technology is where it’s at for quick, sweat-free installs.

The TrioGrow ships with the lower anchors in the rear-facing belt path, so to prepare for a seat belt install, you will need to move them and store them in the forward-facing path as shown in this video: (Note there is no audio.)

To prepare for a rear-facing install, you must also insert the anti-rebound bar. Compared to other seats with anti-rebound bars, I am a big fan of how easily and securely the TrioGrow bar clicks into place. Also note, when preparing your seat that you must install the cupholders.

Installing the TrioGrow with the seat belt is so simple, thanks to both the practical design of the cover, which allows you full access to the belt path, and to the SnugLock arm that saves you any sweating over tightening the belt.

How the seat sits in your specific vehicle will dictate which of the three possible reclines you should use. For a child under 3 months, the seat must sit with the metal ball in the pale blue zone on the angle indicator, and for children over 3 months it can be anywhere in the light or dark blue zones. The dark blue zone produces the most compact angle possible, and whether you can achieve that will depend on the slope of your vehicle seats.

Once you’ve got the seat reclined as required, lift up the SnugLock arm, pass the seat belt through the belt path and under the arm. Buckle, pull up on the shoulder belt to remove slack and then push that arm down to lock it.

Note that, as indicated directly on the seat, the belt will pass either in front of the crotch buckle (when it is the inner slot) or behind the crotch buckle (when it is in the outermost position).

Graco TrioGrow Lower Anchors Installation

If you insist upon doing a lower anchor installation, you will want to make sure you are tightening the strap from the inside of the seat while applying downward pressure.

Once you’ve tightened the lower anchors, close the SnugLock arm over the lower anchor strap.

Honestly, the seat belt is just so much easier, and it’s the way to go in particular if this seat needs to come in and out of the vehicle frequently or if your preferred seating position does not have lower anchors.

Graco TrioGrow Rear-facing Vehicle Fit

The TrioGrow is exceptionally compact in the vehicles I have tried it in. It is slightly more compact than the Graco 4Ever and about the same as the Extend2Fit installed without the foot panel.

Excellent fit in my parents’ 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander, even behind the driver’s seat (Grandpops is tall!)

Graco TrioGrow Forward-facing Mode

Graco TrioGrow Forward-Facing Fit to Child

  • 22–65 lb (10–29.5 kg)
  • 27–49″ (69–125 cm)
  • Top of the ears must be below the top of the headrest, and harness must be at or slightly above the child’s shoulders
  • Maximum harness height 17.5″ (44.5 cm)

The main child-fit complaint I have for the TrioGrow is that the top harness slot is only 17.5″.

The maximum harness height is not a measurement you’ll find on any box (though I wish you could), and it translates to the child’s torso height. Depending on whether or not a child carries their height mostly in their legs or mostly in their torso, you could have two children who are the same height, but one who has outgrown their TrioGrow and one who has not. This is because for forward-facing, the harness must be level with or above the child’s shoulders, not below the child’s shoulders. So some kiddos will not yet be at the 49″ height maximum for this seat, but because of a long torso, will not have any room left to grow with the harness. By no means is 17.5″ the lowest harness height out there; it’s on par with the Extend2Fit, and the Graco 4Ever only has half an inch more harness to it. So honestly, this harness height will be sufficient for most kiddos. Simply note that if your kid is clearly going to be quite tall and seems to be proportioned with that height in their torso, this seat may need to be replaced with another harnessed seat before the child is ready to move into a booster.

My daughter at age 6 and 45″ tall fits well in the TrioGrow in forward-facing mode with room to grow in the harness.

And here she is at 6.5 and 46.5″, she has one click left of harness height:

Graco TrioGrow Forward-Facing Installation

The TrioGrow has three recline adjustments possible for forward-facing mode (positions 4, 5, 6). The recline you select will depend on the shape of your vehicle seats. Sometimes a bit of trial and error will help you figure out which recline suits your vehicle best. You want to make sure the base of the car seat sits flat on your vehicle seat. If the base overhangs your vehicle seat, ensure that it is not by more than 20%.

For forward-facing mode, remember to remove the anti-rebound bar.

Graco TrioGrow Forward-Facing Vehicle Lap/Shoulder Belt Installation

The weight limit for installing the TrioGrow using the vehicle’s lower anchors is 45 lb (20 kg), so that’s a great reason to install the seat with the seat belt from day one.

Remember that you need to move the lower anchor strap to the rear-facing belt path if you are installing the seat with the seat belt in forward-facing mode.

The SnugLock bar rotates 360°, so you can rotate it upwards to close it over the seat belt in the forward-facing position. As with rear-facing, the seat belt installation is extremely easy: Lift up the cover to route the seat belt. Tighten the slack gently before closing the SnugLock bar over it: (video has no audio)

Test for secure install by tugging side to side and front to back at the belt path.

Remember to secure the top tether.

Graco TrioGrow Forward-Facing Lower Anchor Installation

Once the lower anchor strap is secured, tighten by pulling from the inside of the seat. Close the SnugLock bar over the lower anchor strap. Secure the top tether and check for tightness.

Graco TrioGrow Forward-Facing Vehicle Fit

The TrioGrow’s three forward facing reclines allow you to get a good fit in many different vehicles. The biggest issue—and this is the case for any seat in forward-facing mode—is funky headreasts. Funky headreasts are ones that cannot be removed or are not supposed to be removed and that lean forward. (Always check your vehicle owner’s manual.) Always test a car seat in forward-facing mode if you have headrests like these so you know if it fits.

Graco TrioGrow Booster mode

Graco TrioGrow Booster Fit to child:

  • 43–57″ (110–145 cm)
  • 40–100 lb (18–45 kg)
  • Highest shoulder belt guide 18.5″ (47 cm)
  • Minimum age 4*

* CPSTs recommend boostering no earlier than age 5.

The TrioGrow in booster mode provides excellent belt fit on my daughter. The belt sits low on her hips and the shoulder belt sits centred between her shoulder and her neck.

The TrioGrow will not be the only booster a child needs. It does not convert to a backless booster, and by the time a child reaches the 57″ height minimum typically required to ride without a booster, the TrioGrow will be outgrown.

Graco TrioGrow Booster Conversion & installation

It is easy to convert the TrioGrow to booster mode. You do not need to remove the harness; it gets tucked into the compartment in the backrest, under the seat cover. You do need to remove the buckle. Don’t be like me and misplace the buckle … tuck it away somewhere safe!

If you are using the TrioGrow as a booster in a position that has lower anchors, you can secure the lower anchors and close the SnugLock arm similar to how you would for a forward-facing harnessed installation. Remember that using the lower anchors for a booster is for convenience; it ensures the booster doesn’t become a projectile and makes it easier for the child to climb in and out without shifting the seat. You can absolutely use the TrioGrow as a booster without using the lower anchors, but emember that if you are not using lower anchors, you’ll want to keep the seat buckled in when not in use. The manual states securing the top tether as optional in booster mode.

Route the shoulder belt through the shoulder belt guide, which should sit just slightly above the child’s shoulder. The lap belt is routed under both arm rests.

Graco TrioGrow Booster Fit to vehicle

The TrioGrow must be in position 6 when used as a booster. The base of the seat must be completely supported by the vehicle seat. As with harnessed mode, you may run into issues with non-removable headrests.

Once the child is properly seated in the TrioGrow, ensure proper seat belt retraction. The seat belt should move freely through the shoulder belt guide if the child leans forward and should not lock itself. If the seat belt doesn’t retract properly or locks itself when the child moves forward slightly, it is not a good fit for that seating position.

Note that because the TrioGrow sits higher than a regular booster seat, it can be tricky for children to buckle themselves.

My favourite things about the Graco TrioGrow:

  • Ultra compact for rear-facing
  • Easy and fast installation thanks to the SnugLock bar
  • Sturdy anti-rebound bar that doesn’t wiggle and cannot be kicked off by the child
  • Long-lasting fit for most children in rear-facing mode
  • No rethread harness to easily adjust as child grows or for different child passengers
  • Good belt fit in booster mode

Things I like less about the Graco TrioGrow:

  • I wish the harness had one more inch of height to accommodate taller kids with long-torsos until booster readiness. That extra inch would leave me comfortable recommending it for almost all kids!
  • Although by no means terrible, I would love it if Graco convertible seats in general had more reliably easy to tighten harnesses.

The TrioGrow retails around CAN$419, but I have seen it as low as CAN$300 on sale. It has recently shown up at Costco at that price, with other retailers carrying it for $349.99 around the same time.

2 responses to “Graco TrioGrow SnugLock 3-in-1 Car Seat Review”

  1. Anna Marie Clifton

    Do you have the dimensions of the depth when installed for an infant (0-3 months and also 3+ months). We have an extremely compact back seat and I have very long legs in the front seat. Looking to see the actual # of inches we need to make this fit.

    Thank you!

    1. Lindsay

      Hi Anna Marie, unfortunately it’s impossible for me to give you a measurement. I could install this seat in 10 different vehicles, all with differently angled seat pans and seat backs, and come up with 10 different measurements. The best I can tell you is that if this seat DOESN’T fit there’s not another option that will.

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Welcome to my Wolf Pack!

My name is Lindsay and I am a 40-year-old mama of four trying to live an eco-friendly, budget-friendly life! I am a substitute teacher and Child Passenger Safety technician in Calgary, Alberta. Join me on my adventures!

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