My sister has a car seat that her child outgrew and she offered to give it to me. Is it safe to use an older seat?
An older model of car seat may not have as many features as the latest design, but that’s not as big of a concern as the seat’s expiration date. Every car seat is rated to last a certain number of years by the manufacturer.
Why do car seats expire? There are a few reasons:
- Materials break down with time. The protective materials used in the shell of the seat eventually wear down. A car seat is much like a helmet – it’s designed to be strong enough to protect against an impact without being so hard that it causes injury. Once this material breaks down, it may become too hard or too weak. This can happen because of heat exposure inside your car or simply due to time and exposure to air.
- Seats haven’t been tested for use beyond a certain number of years. Harnesses can stretch after being used for a long time. Latches and other moving parts can eventually become worn. Materials can weaken as time passes.
- Crash test standards change. An older model may not meet the current safety regulations.
Seat expiration is determined by the number of years after the seat was made, not from the date it was purchased. All car seats are imprinted with either an expiration date or the date of manufacture.
Finding the Expiration Date
Look underneath the bottom of the car seat. You should find either the date of manufacture or the date of expiration stamped in the plastic or printed on a label under the seat. If an expiration date is listed, use that to determine when you should stop using the seat. If a manufacture date is listed, you’ll need to determine how many years the seat is rated to last. This can be found in the owner’s manual or by contacting the company.
How long until my new seat expires?
In our comparison chart, you can find the duration until expiration for current models. The typical lifespan of a car seat is 6 years, but some models are rated for 7, 8, and even 9 years. This depends on the materials used within the seat. A higher price doesn’t necessarily mean the seat will expire later. If you plan to use your car seat for another child after the first outgrows it, then it’s important to compare the years until expiration between seats.
What do I do with my car seat once it has expired?
Rather than simply throwing your expired seat in the trash, it should be recycled or destroyed. This way you can be sure that nobody will take the seat and try to sell or reuse it, thus putting a child at risk.
Contact your local recycling facility to find out if they will accept the entire seat or parts of it. You can also call your local Safe Kids coalition to find out if they have additional information on recycling.
If you choose to destroy and dispose of the seat, make sure to cut apart the fabric cover and write “do not use” on the shell of the car seat with a permanent marker.