My family has a car seat that their children outgrew and offered to give to me. Is it safe to use an older seat?
An older car seat model may not have as many features as the latest design, but that is not as big of a concern as the expiration date of the seat. Each 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 over time. The protective materials used in the seat shell eventually wear out. A car seat is much like a helmet, designed to be strong enough to protect itself from an impact without being so hard that it causes injury.
Once this material breaks down, it can become too hard or too weak. This can happen due to exposure to heat inside your car or simply due to time and exposure to the air.
The seats have not been tested for use for more than some years. Harnesses can stretch after being used for a long time. Latches and other moving parts can eventually wear out. Materials can weaken over time.
The crash test standards change. An older model might not meet current safety standards.
Seat expiration is determined by the number of years after the seat was manufactured, not from the date it was purchased. All car seats are printed with an expiration date or the date of manufacture.
Find the expiration date
Look under the bottom of the car seat. You should find the date of manufacture or the expiration date stamped on the plastic or printed on a label under the seat. If an expiration date appears, use it to determine when to stop using the seat. If a date of manufacture is listed, you will need to determine how many years the seat is rated to last. You can found this 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 the expiration of the current models. A car seat’s typical lifespan is 6 years, but some models are rated 7, 8, and even 9 years. This depends on the materials used inside the seat.
A higher price does not necessarily mean that the seat will expire later. If you plan to use your car seat for another child after the first one outgrows it, then it is important to compare the expiration years 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 must be recycled or destroyed. This way, you can be sure that no one will take the seat and try to sell it or reuse it, thus putting a child at risk.
Contact your local recycling facility to find out if they will accept all or parts of the seat. You can also call your local Safe Kids coalition to find out if they have additional recycling information.
If you decide to destroy and discard the seat, be sure to cut the fabric cover and write do not use on the car seat shell with a permanent marker.