The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 is a budget-friendly car seat with slightly better than average scores in several metrics, making it a contender for families with less money to spend. This Graco is nicer than previous models with soft fabric and thicker padding than many Gracos. It has a better than the average crash-test score, and it is easy to install using the vehicle belt. While there are some things to like about the Graco, it isn't the best quality, and it still struggles with a canopy handle collision problem. If your wallet allows you to spend more, you should probably consider other options. Nevertheless, if your budget is limited, this seat is one to consider as it provides better than average crash results with easy installation.
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Review
Pros: Inexpensive, better crash results, easy install with belt
Cons: Harder to use, lower quality
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
When Russell Gray and Robert Cone launched the Graco company in 1942, but it only fabricated car parts. After Gray left the company, the remaining partner hired an engineer to move Graco into a new kind of product, including the first baby swing. This innovative swing was trendy, making Graco a household name. Graco is currently a leader for baby products.
The SnugLock 35 crash test results are somewhat better and worse than average, with one sensor reading being close to the best result while the other sensor offering a result closer to the worst result in the review.
For the head sensor (HIC score), the Graco results are 606, where the maximum allowed is 1000, and a lower number is better. The best results in the review are those of the Chicco Keyfit 30 (see comparison below) with a 330.
The chest sensor data is better with a result of 46, where the maximum allowed is 60, and a lower number is better. The best for this sensor is 44 earned by the Cybex Aton 2, and a comparison is below.
These results mean the combined results for this Graco are better than average for the group. While we wish the HIC sensor result was better, the combined results are good considering the budget-friendly price of the seat.
Ease of Install - LATCH
The SnugLock 35 has the clip-style LATCH anchors that are often easier to put on and harder to take off. Given that this process should be easier than installation using the vehicle belt, it is a bummer that the clip style makes it more challenging.
The anchors are easy enough to attach to the vehicle (above left), and the LATCH strap tightens across the lock off (above right), which will help further tighten the strap when closed. The base feels super stable. This installation method is the second easiest method for the Graco, rivaled only by installation using the vehicle belt.
Ease of Install - Belt
You can install the SnugLock 35 using the vehicle belt and the base. This installation method is the easiest for this seat.
Installation is simple, and the belt lock-off on the base helps tighten the vehicle belt so you can ensure a snug fit.
The base includes both an adjustment foot (above left) to ensure that you install the base correctly and a level (above right) with an indicator range for correct installation.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
You can install the SnugLock 35 without the base using the American belt path. It is average compared to the competition for ease of installation using this method.
Installation is straightforward and includes using the vehicle belt across the lower portion of the carrier and pulling it tight across the bottom for a snug fit. The carrier feels secure, and we didn't need to use a towel or pool noodle. The American belt path does not require the use of the vehicle shoulder strap.
Ease of Use
This Graco is more challenging to use than most of the competition in part thanks to what appears to be a design flaw of the handle and canopy.
This canopy handle problem results in rubbing and difficulty opening the canopy while using the handle.
This buckle and harness are typical Graco and on par with discontinued Graco infant car seats. The buckle is stiff and hard to push, and the chest clip doesn't slide as smooth as it could, and while neither are impossible, they aren't the easiest either. Tightening and releasing the harness is average with an accessible button and a relatively smooth sliding strap located at the foot of the carrier. This Graco has a rethread height adjustment with a T splitter. The holes are large and easy enough to use. The harness has four shoulder height positions, and the crotch strap has 2.
The handle moves on a pivot point when you press the button on each side simultaneously. It suffers the same handle canopy collision problem we've seen in past Graco seats, and, unfortunately, they didn't resolve this problem in the new lineup. This design means the handle and canopy rub against each other, and it is difficult to use both at the same time and worse if you plan to carry the carrier. The handle will not go past the canopy when the canopy is down, and you have to force the canopy under a raised handle. All four handle positions are allowed when driving.
Carrier and Base Connection
The carrier clicks onto the base with ease, earning a relatively high score for this test. We didn't need extra pressure to make the connection, and we didn't have any false connections. Releasing the carrier is easy with the carrier back release lever that can also lift the carrier off the base.
LATCH Anchors and Manual Storage
The LATCH anchors stow in a compartment at the rear of the base. This location keeps the straps out of the way, and they don't cause any carrier to base installation problems. There is a manual compartment in the center of the base that pops open and somewhat protects the manual from damage.
This Graco's comfort and quality are on par with what you'd expect for a product at this lower price point.
This seat has thinner padding all around with less supportive stiff foam throughout. The fabric is canvas and softer than the infant insert that comes with the seat.
The canopy is long enough and looks okay if a bit rumpled (above left), and it has a peek-a-boo window with Velcro closure (above left). It opens fine, but it is challenging to keep it open while the handle is upright for carrying as the two are the same height. The overall fit and finish aren't terrible but do reflect the budget-friendly price and could impact its lifespan or durability.
The SnugLock 35 carrier weighs 8.5 lbs making it one of the lightest carriers in the group and potential consideration if you need to move or carry the carrier for longer distances regularly.
Graco infant car seats are generally only compatible with Graco strollers. None of the Graco strollers we've tested have performed that well in our reviews. Because the SnugLock is relatively new, we hope adapters for strollers outside the Graco lineup will appear in the future. The Thule Urban Glide 2 offers a universal adapter, the Thule Infant Car Seat Adapter. While this will work with the Graco seat, it is a strap in place adapter we worry many parents will fail to use properly.
Car Seat Features
Car Seat Installation
— Juliet Spurrier, MD and Wendy Schmitz