What Is the Difference Between the Graco Nautilus & the Nautilus Elite?

Choosing a safe, long-lasting and comfortable car seat is a top priority for parents of young children. The Graco Nautilus and Nautilus Elite 3-in-1 travel systems offer parents peace of mind, comfortably securing children up to 100 pounds with three travel options to accommodate kids as they grow 2. While these two models provide many of the same features and accessories, there are four distinct differences.

Locking Clip vs. Shoulder Belt Lock-Off

When installing a car seat using a vehicle seat belt, a snug fit prevents the seat from moving around. The Nautilus comes with a metal locking clip that fits around the shoulder belt, securing it in place above the plate (the plastic loop fitted with the metal piece that snaps into the buckle). Although the Nautilus provides a space to store the clip when not in use, many find it hard to use or easy to lose.

The Nautilus Elite replaces the locking clip with built-in shoulder belt lock-offs (plastic clamps). Attached to both sides of the car seat, these clamps provide convenient and simple installation on either side of the car. Once the shoulder belt is threaded through the correct slot and fastened, the lock-offs clamp onto the belt, securing it in place.


Although both models feature expanded polystyrene, an energy absorbing foam, this is strictly a safety feature designed to absorb crash impact while providing sufficient cushion from the reinforced steel molding within the seat. While the original Nautilus model provides only this basic padding, the Elite improves comfort satisfaction, featuring additional layers of back support, more padding in the headrest, softer seat fabric, quilted covers and plush Graco-Pedic memory foam in the bottom of the seat 2.

Side Wing Adjustment

Both Nautilus models are equipped with side wings, which are padded foam flaps that act as a headrest while providing optimal head support and safety. However, in the base model, the wings are permanently fixed in one position, leading to discomfort for some children. The Elite model improves upon this feature, providing adjustable-width side wings that rotate to an ideal position with the press of a button located on the top of the car seat.


While the original Nautilus model is available in a wide variety of color blends, patterns and fabrics, the Elite model is only sold in two designs: Monti and Gabe. However, Graco's custom-design seat covers for the original Nautilus also fit the Elite model, allowing for flexibility in the appearance 2.