So, off the bat, we’re not looking for the better option in literal terms.
Our goal is to pinpoint which of the two is better for you, and we’ll do it through a detailed side-by-side comparison.
To speak plainly, as you read this guide, make mental notes about what’s important to you and check how the seats compare in those aspects.
Let’s start with the basics.
UPPAbaby Mesa infant car seat – specs, features, and key benefits
Basic specs of the UPPAbaby Mesa
|overall size (inches)||26.5 x 17.5 x 23|
|dimensions of the base||21.3 x 14.5 x 10.3|
|weight of the carrier (lbs)||11|
|base weight (lbs)||20|
|min and max weight (lbs)||4-35|
|height capoacity (inches)||35|
|expiration||7 years after manufacturing|
Features at a glance
- Tightness and level indicators on the base (color-coded) – these give you direct feedback on whether you installed the seat correctly.
- Adjustable headrest and the five-point harness – you adjust both in one motion, without re-threading.
- Comes with a newborn insert – makes the seat extra comfy for smaller babies, even preemies.
- Additional EPP padding (specialty foam) for better shock absorption, especially on side impact
- Self-retracting LATCH connectors and color-coded installation paths.
What I love about it
The UPPAbaby Mesa is a well-rounded infant car seat and performs well all-around. However, in a few aspects, it stands out from the crowd with innovative solutions.
I’ll focus on the latter.
Fire-resistant without fire retardants
The premium versions of the UPPAbaby Mesa (Jordan and Henry) use Merino wool for the padding. These two are the first baby car seats ever to meet the federal safety guidelines without fire-retardant chemicals.
Mesa can no longer claim to be unique in this because other brands brought their own chemical-free solutions to the market.
Call me a romantic (or a sucker), but I still give credit to the pioneers.
Other benefits of Merino wool
The benefits of using Merino wool as car seat padding don’t end with fire resistance.
- An excellent insulator – keeps the baby warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Naturally hypoallergenic – it doesn’t off-gas or produce allergens (like foam might).
- Highly absorbent – capable of absorbing moisture up to 30 percent of its weight.
- Resistant to dust mites – contains trace amounts of permethrin – a naturally occurring chemical that’s perfectly safe for humans but kills dust mites.
Above and beyond the industry safety standards – EPP foam
Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) Is a specialty foam with a unique set of characteristics that make it perfect for car seats:
- It’s more flexible than other foam types, which means it’s harder to damage it permanently.
- It absorbs force on impact – this effectively lowers the G forces that reach your baby in an accident.
- It’s water and chemical resistant.
Bottom line – EPP is vastly superior compared to EPS foam (used in many other car seats).
Graco Snugride car seat – specs and features
There are many car seats in the Graco’s Snugride line – too many if you ask me.
I won’t even go down that wormhole at this point. Instead, I’ll use a seat that’s in the same price range as the UPPAbaby Mesa and belongs to the upper echelon of the Snugride line.
Let’s go with the SnugLock 35 Elite.
Towards the end, I’ll point out the key differences between this version and the lower tier seats from the line, like the 35 LX and DLX.
Specs of the Graco Snugride (SnugLock 35 Elite version):
|seat dimensions||27.72 x 18.07 x 16.03|
|base width||14 inches|
|weight||Car Seat + Base – 10.5 lbs (7.5 without the base)|
|weight capacity||4 – 35 lbs.|
|maximum height||32 inches|
|expiration after manufacturing||7 years|
The variations are slight as you move up in styles and prices:
- The base version costs less (much less) than the Elite. Still, it packs all the essential features, including the anti-rebound bar, adjustable base, level indicator, and a rapid-remove pad.
- In 35 LX, SnugLock technology is introduced – cuts the installation time to under a minute, whether using the LATCH system or the seat belt.
- The DLX version introduces premium extra-rich head support.
- The Snugride Elite adds a few touches like the all-weather boot but costs the most (this is the car seat we’re using for this comparison).
What stands out about this Graco
Off the top of my head, I’d put the Graco Snugride in the top 3 best infant car seats on the market if the value for money is the deciding factor.
I’ve chosen the Elite for the comparison, but the truth is the key features of the Snugride are there even in the base version.
Secure install with direct audio and visual feedback
Plainly speaking, it all clicks into place, and the indicators turn a green or level up when you do a good job.
The base is spring-loaded and adjustable to four angles. You choose one that’s right for your car by getting the bubble indicator to stay between the two lines.
SafetyCore absorbs energy in a frontal crash
The newer models in the Snugride lineup introduced what Graco calls a safety core impact absorption.
It’s basically a chamber designed to distribute energy away from the baby in a frontal crash.
Comparing the infant car seats side-by-side
Safety features and safety ratings
There’s no anti-rebound bar or a shock absorption chamber on the Mesa, but the EPP specialty foam is superior to the EPS foam of the Snugride.
The crash data I analyzed shows that the Mesa absorbed G forces better in the head area.
On the other hand, the test protection of the Graco Snugride was slightly better.
Verdict: the car seat safety features and ratings are too close to call – it’s a tie.
Score: UPPAbaby Mesa vs. Graco Snugride – 0.5 : 0.5
Materials – an easy point for the Mesa
With Merino wool as an option and top-of-the-line EPP foam, the material category goes to UPPAbaby Mesa.
On a subjective note, it also carries a premium aura that I don’t see in the Graco lineup.
Score: UPPAbaby Mesa vs. Graco Snugride – 1.5 : 0.5
Ease of installation
This is a category where the UPPAbaby Mesa (usually) reigns supreme.
That’s especially true for the LATCH install. The color coding and self-retraction are just so intuitive and convenient that it leaves little to no space for improvement.
Yet, I wouldn’t say that it’s better than Graco’s SnugLock.
Bottom line: The car seat base installation is a tie and better in these two than in most infant car seats.
Score: UPPAbaby Mesa vs. Graco Snugride – 2 : 1
Size and bulk – no lightweight car seat here
All size and weight-related aspects are pretty similar, from the overall dimensions to the weight capacity range.
There is a slight difference in the maximum height category (35 inches for the Mesa and 32 for Snugride), and it evens out through the extra pounds of weight in the Mesa carrier.
Both handles have an advantage and a drawback – the Mesa carrier features a convenient one-hand release handle while Graco Snugride boasts an ergonomic design.
The one-hand release makes more of a difference for dynamic about-town parents, and the ergonomic design is gentler on your arms.
None of the two is a convertible car seat in a literal sense. Yes, the size is adjustable…but only in rear-facing mode.
Verdict: half a point for each car seat.
Score: UPPAbaby Mesa vs. Graco Snugride – 2.5 : 1.5
Value for money – a blowout win for Graco
This category was always going to be Graco’s.
The low-tier of the Snugride lineup is home to a few excellent seats with surprisingly low price tags.
Score: UPPAbaby Mesa vs. Graco Snugride – 2.5 : 2.5
Final score – a neat tie
UPPAbaby Mesa is the better car seat if money is not a factor, but Graco Snugride is the better value – that’s as simple as I can put it.