The Safety 1st Grow and Go (3-in-1 Car Seat) – Discover the Pros and Cons in our 2018 review

Grow and Go All-in-One Car Seat

Over thirty years ago (1984 to be precise), Safety 1st released the famous yellow diamond sign that read “Baby on Board.” It’s hung in millions of cars over the years. Since then, as the name suggests, this company has put safety first and foremost in all their products.

In recent years, they’ve become philanthropic, donating to parent-founded charities such as The Way Home, Inc. and longer-running organizations like the March of Dimes.

What makes this company stand out is probably their participation in popular events, such as Mom 2.0 and The Biggest Baby Shower. They were also a proud sponsor of Safe Kids Day, highlighting all the work of Safe Kids Worldwide, including a valuable message about preventable injuries.

Using the proper car seat and installing it correctly is one of the biggest ways to prevent injuries to your child. That’s why we’re taking a look at the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 convertible car seat. Does it live up to the standards of Safety 1st, and most importantly, does it live up to yours? Let’s take a closer look.

Why choose a convertible seat?

rear-facing position

First, you need to know the difference between infant seats, 3-in-1 seats and convertible seats. There are infant seats, always rear-facing, usually designed to hold preemies as low as 4 lbs up to a maximum of 30 lbs. Once your child outgrows this, it’s no longer an option.

Convertible seats are those that you can use rear-facing to begin with, and then switch it to a forward-facing seat when your child is ready and last until they’re 60-90 lbs, more or less.

Some brands (like Safety 1st) use the 3-in-1 term for a convertible seat. However, some brands differ in that the 3-in-1 seat cannot be used rear-facing. They have inserts for small toddlers, which can be removed when they’re big enough. The back of the seat can be removed to use as a backless booster when they’re ready for a booster seat.

How do you decide which is best? Consider these questions:

  • Is this your first child or do you have a newborn? Consider starting with an infant seat, as some experts believe they are the safest options for very young babies.
  • Is this your last child? Consider starting with a convertible seat so it will grow with your baby and you won’t need to buy a second (or third) seat for her.
  • Will you be switching cars a lot? Many convertible seats don’t have a base that allows you to carry the baby from one car to the next. This means you’ll have to pick up a sleeping baby and might disturb her or reinstall the seat every time you switch cars.
  • Are you on a tight budget? Convertible car seats will save you money in the long run so you won’t be buying two or even three seats for her.
  • Do you have a small car? Convertible seats can be heavier and larger, so it could pose a challenge with front passenger leg room or if you need to seat 3 passengers in the backseat.

When looking for a convertible seat, pay special attention to ease of use. If the instructions aren’t clear or overly-complicated, chances are you could miss something and end up with an improperly installed seat. Your convertible seat should also have a 5-point harness and good side-impact protection.

What makes the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 different?

The Grow-and-Go is designed with ease of use in mind. This means not only installation, but daily usage and cleaning as well.

Key features

  • No-rethread, 5 position harness with separate newborn position (has to be rethreaded)
  • Infant insert with more head and neck support
  • An easy-to-remove, machine-washable cover
  • Harness holders that keep the straps out of the way when you’re getting your child in and out of her seat
  • 3 recline angles (with numbered guide on the side of the seat) to lessen the need for a pool noodle or towel for leveling
  • A level line to guide positioning
  • Can be used with lower anchors or seat belt in rear-facing position
  • QuickFit harness allows you to adjust the harness and headrest at the same time
  • 2 built-in cup holders
  • 10-year lifespan before it expires
  • Earned a “Good Bet” rating from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

What are the child size ranges for the Safety 1st 3-in-1 convertible car seat?

The car seat built to GROW for extended use through 3 stages

1) Rear Facing 5-40 lbs 19-40 inches
2) Forward Facing 22-65 lbs 29-49 inches
3) High Back Booster 40-100 lbs 43-52 inches

* Note that there are other Grow and Go car seat models, including the Grow and Go Air Sport and the Grow and Go EX Air. They have identical weight limits, except for the EX Air. In the rear-facing position, the EX Air has a weight range from 5 – 50 lbs instead of 5 – 40. They also tend to be more expensive than the original Grow and Go.

How big is this seat, and will it work with your vehicle?

As we mentioned before, there is no separate base, and the seat will not work as a portable infant carrier. Though it is designed to offer extra leg room for front seat passengers, it may still be bulkier than most infant seats in the rear-facing position, therefore might not fit well in compact cars. Though it is FAA approved as a harness seat, it will be heavy and doesn’t fold up for easy carrying through an airport.

baby on booster
  • Height of shell w/ headrest: 26 inches
  • Newborn rethreaded harness position: 6 inches with insert
  • No-rethread harness height: 10 – 17 inches
  • Highest booster belt guide position: 18.5 inches
  • Seat depth: 12.5 inches
  • Weight: 15.4 lbs

Safety tip: A tricky thing to remember is that the LATCH anchor weight limit is 40 lbs. After that, you need to use the seat belt for installation. Install it from the beginning with the seat belt so you won’t accidentally forget to switch them out when your child reaches 40 lbs.

How safe is the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 convertible car seat?

The Grow and Go is designed to lengthen the time used as a rear-facing car seat, which is what most experts believe is the safest position for a young child. You may be eager to turn them forward facing because you’re worried about their leg room. Children are much more flexible and comfortable with their legs bent than adults. Crash data has proven a lower rate of leg injuries with rear-facing seats. Plus, they provide much better head and neck protection.

Some parents like forward-facing so it’s easier to hand food and drinks to their child while driving. Turning back to hand your child a snack is a distraction, much like texting. If a young child is snacking in the car seat while you’re driving, it also increases the risk of choking, and will delay your response time. Save the snacks for when they’re older and can help themselves.

There are a few good safety features to remember. Grow and Go has removable infant padding to ensure a better harness fit while in the infant (lowest) harness position. You must use this insert while using the infant harness position, which could mean using it until your baby is around 6 to 9 months. As a booster, the high back and shoulder belt positioner helps you adjust the seat belt to the safest position for a booster seat rider.

As the biggest manufacturer of child restraints, Safety 1st uses extensive crash testing to ensure they exceed federal safety standards.

Real-mom testimonials support the safety standards of the Grow and Go. One mom reported the car seat did great in a 45 mph crash. Her toddler (18 months) was perfectly fine and even slept through the accident.

Possible flaws: Several parents reported they had difficulty tightening the straps in the rethreaded (infant) position, so the car seat flopped around. Others could not get a proper recline angle so the child’s head wasn’t supported enough while sleeping. Both of these issues could be due to a flaw in the car seat design or with the model of car and type of backseat (i.e. bucket seats). If in doubt, call the company or do some research to see if your vehicle is compatible with this seat.

A few people didn’t like the wide chest clip because it made their baby uncomfortable and left marks on the skin. One parent in Arizona said the chest clip melted and warped in the heat while they weren’t in the vehicle.

How hard is the Grow and Go 3-in-1 to install?

Keeping the recline and belt positions accurate could be a challenge for new parents. There are 3 recline positions. For newborns who need head support, you must use recline position 1. For older babies and toddlers in the rear-facing position, you can use positions 2 or 3. Then in the forward facing and booster mode, you’re back to position 1. Always consult the owner’s manual when installing.

The 5 position no-rethread harness slots are only for older babies and toddlers. While your child is a newborn and young infant, you’ll need to use the infant (lowest) rethread harness slots. This means you’ll have to manually thread the harness through these slots. For new parents who’ve never had experience with rethreading car seat straps, there’s a higher chance of incorrect installation. You very well may need some help from experienced parents to get it right.

Since getting these straps tight enough is an issue for several people, you may want to consider using an infant car seat for your newborn and then switch to this one when she’s big enough to use the 5-point no-rethread harness positions.

Possible flaws: Parents discovered the splitter plate sometimes got stuck on some plastic ribs between the bottom of the seating area and base, which could be why it’s so hard to tighten them for some people. This may or may not have been addressed by the company. Call and ask them and be sure to check for product recalls as well.

Optional Accessories

While there aren’t any specific add-ons for the Grow and Go, here are a few things other parents like to use with it:

Munchkin Auto Seat ProtectorNot only does this protector keep your vehicle seats cleaner, but the non-skid surface helps prevent the car seat from slipping, which could be very handy if you have slick vinyl or leather seats. The front pocket is great with the booster position for storing crayons, small books, tissues, and snacks for your older toddlers.

Lebogner Car Seat Protector + Kick Mat Seat Back Protector – If you have a problem with the forward facing child who always kicks the seat in front of her, leaving dirty shoe marks all over the upholstery, this combo pack is a great option. The seat back protector also has pockets to keep storing crayons, coloring books, etc. within easy reach of your child for those long car trips.

Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cup – For the older toddlers who can handle cups easily, you can make use of the Grow and Go’s cup holders with this non-spill, spout-free, 360 degree drinking edge cup! It comes in a 2 pack and is BPA free, plus the handles make it easier for small hands to hold.

Best Car Seat Hub’s Final Verdict

Let’s sum up the positives and negatives about the Grow and Go 3-in-1.

  • 3-in-1 use as rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seat to fit a wide age and size range
  • Easy booster conversion for vehicle belt use with storage for harness straps
  • Quick fit 5-position harness makes it easy to secure your baby as she grows
  • Harness holders keep the straps out of the way so you can get your baby in and out without getting tangled in loose straps
  • Provides more front seat leg room in the rear-facing position than other car seats on the market
  • Easy to remove machine-washable and dryer safe cover
  • 10-year expiration
  • Made in USA
  • Cup holders not removable
  • Newborn straps must be rethreaded and are hard to tighten for a lot of parents
  • Takes up more space when fully reclined (rear-facing) so it might lessen the front passenger leg room
  • May not fit well or at all in compact cars or in certain vehicle seat types such as bucket seats.
  • Can’t use LATCH with the booster option
  • Wide chest clip may be uncomfortable for some babies

As a convertible car seat, the Grow and Go does the job, but may be better for children old enough to use the 5-position harness as opposed to the newborn setting. For use with older children in rear, forward and booster modes, it’s a great option.

The IIHS rated it a “good bet” for the booster seat setting, and there are positive testimonials from moms who were in car crashes, so we are pretty confident in the safety features. It’s also more affordable than many other convertible seats.

Grow and Go Gotm 3-in-1

We love the fact that the cover is easy to remove and machine wash. Moms will definitely appreciate that feature, but we’d like the cup holders to be removable for dishwasher cleaning as well.

If you have a compact car or a newborn, this is probably not the seat for you. We recommend an infant seat for the littlest ones. Do your research to find out if your car is compatible with the Grow and Go, and check for product recalls.

Overall, the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 convertible car seat is a solid option for older babies, toddlers, and young elementary age children, especially if you don’t want to spend the time and money changing car seats every few months. It’ll last through several growth spurts, which will happen quicker than you realize.

Check Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Price


  1. Lora Swenson says:

    We have been told that the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-n-1 Convertible is not safe. Can you explain what we should be looking for regarding national safety standards, and the Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-n-1 Convertible ranking, and how we can be assured of it’s safety? Has it ever been recalled?

    Thank you

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Hi Lora, thanks for your question. All car seats on the market must meet or pass federal safety standards, or they cannot be sold. We did find at least one customer who reported that this seat performed excellently in a 30-45 mph crash in which her 18 month old slept through it and was uninjured.

      There seem to be no current recalls as of Nov. 15, 1018, however keep this link on hand to check. The NHTSA keeps excellent up to date listings on current recalls for all kinds of car seats.

      Of course, if your pediatrician recommends that you use a different seat, or if you feel uneasy about it, it’s never a bad idea to purchase another brand.

  2. Mary says:

    I just had the same situation occur as you mentioned in your article about heat melting and bending one side of the chest clip while not in the vehicle. Didn’t even happen on the hottest day! Contacted the manufacturer and they indicated that as long as it still clips and locks it’s safe though they are happy to send a replacement at no charge 🙂

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Hi Mary, thanks for your comment. We’re glad the company has offered a replacement, which is probably the best option since you’d rather be safe than sorry. As for the seemingly mild temperatures, we wrote an article for Live Grow Play Austin that shows how the inside of a car can climb to over 100 degrees F even on a 68 degree F day. So your situation is certainly possible.

  3. Eve M says:

    I just bought this car seat and it has a strong smell , Is this normal?

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Hi Eve, thanks for your question. This doesn’t seem to be a normal occurrence according to customer reviews, though we did find a couple of parents who noted a cigarette smoke smell and one who noticed a “medicine” type of scent. It could be chemicals from flame retardants or some other scent the product may have absorbed in the warehouse. Try contacting the seller and/or Safety 1st to ask for a replacement cover or for their recommendations on how to proceed. It could be that washing the cover itself will remove the smell, but contact them to be sure.

  4. Kaitelin says:

    I just bought this carseat for my three year old and on the tallest setting for the headrest his head is already above the headrest. I’m worried he’ll outgrow this to fast. Is it still safe for him if his head is already over the headrest?

  5. Metha Andayani says:

    I watched numeral videos on how to properly install rear facing with vehicle belt. But for some reason, the car seat keeps tilting during the drive. Any suggestion?

    1. Emma Lachey says:

      Hi Metha, thanks for your question. There are a few things you can try to adjust the car seat’s tilt, and we recommend them in this order.

      1. Be certain to thoroughly read your owner’s manual for the seat to see if they have any specific troubleshooting tips.
      2. Call the manufacturer to see if they can offer specific advice depending on your car model, etc.
      3. Visit a local car seat technician or your pediatrician to see what they recommend.
      4. Some parents use objects like towels or pool noodles to support the bottom and lift it to the proper angle. Here’s a video from a mom illustrating how to do this:

      Hope this helps!

  6. S. Martin says:

    I have found that the red button is hard to press and very difficult to release the straps to get the child out. Is there some trick to get the button to release the metal parts that are inserted into the buckle? I have to press the button numerous times before it finally releases each clip.

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