Do Car Seats Expire & Why?

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Written by: Fatima O. Millers, CPST

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Passing down a car seat from one child to another or sharing it with a friend’s newborn might seem like a generous act, and it is. However, it’s crucial to remember that car seats have expiration dates for safety reasons.

Car seats typically last six to ten years from the date of manufacture. Some may even expire based on the purchase date, so holding onto your receipt is wise for warranty-related concerns.

Wondering how to check your car seat’s expiration date? 

To check your car seat’s expiration date, look for the label on the seat itself, which should list the manufacture date. 

car seat expiration date
Car seat label

Many manufacturers also include the expiration date on this label. But if only the manufacture date is provided, you’ll need to consult the manual to figure out how long the seat can be used safely.

Why do car seats expire? Here are 6 main reasons 

Car seats expire for several reasons, all of which are related to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the seat over time. 

Here’s a breakdown of why car seats have expiration dates:

1. Wear and Tear from Use

Using a car seat a lot can cause parts of it to wear out. This includes the straps, buckles, and parts that adjust the seat. Even if you’re careful, these parts can start working less well over time. This is especially true if you use the same car seat for several children over many years.

2. Updates in Safety Standards

Safety standards and regulations for car seats are continually evolving as new research becomes available and technology advances. A car seat designed to meet the standards of a decade ago may not comply with the latest safety requirements, making it less safe than newer models.

3. Unknown History

For car seats that are handed down or purchased used, the history of the seat may be unknown. This includes whether the seat has been involved in a car accident, which can cause unseen damage and weaken the seat’s structure, making it unsafe for use even if it looks intact.

4. Missing Parts or Instructions

Sometimes, parts of a car seat can get lost over time, or you might lose the instructions. Without these, it’s harder to make sure the car seat is used or installed correctly, which can make it less safe.

5. Lack of Support for Older Models

Car seat manufacturers might discontinue their support or parts for older car seats. This can make it hard to fix or take care of the car seat, which might make it unsafe.

6. Car Seats and Crashes

If your car seat has been in a moderate or severe car crash, it immediately expires. 

Car Seat Expiration After an Accident

A car seat must be considered expired after a moderate or serious accident, even if it hasn’t reached its official expiry date. Several manufacturers advise getting a new car seat even if the accident was small.

This is because damage to a car seat might not always be easy to see. It’s safer to get a new car seat than to risk using one that might be damaged. 

But, Before you decide to buy a new car seat, try these steps:

  • Check the car seat for any signs of damage. If you find any, you should replace the car seat.
  • Look at your car, especially where the car seat is placed, for any damage. If you find damage there, it’s time for a new car seat.
  • If you don’t see any damage on the car or the car seat, talk to the car seat manufacturer. Follow their advice, and if they recommend getting a new one, then do so.

Is it Illegal to Use an Expired Car Seat?

Using an expired car seat is not safe, but is it against the law? The answer varies by state, as each has its own laws and rules about car seats. 

You can find out about the laws on your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or other official agencies in your state like the State Highway Patrol.

Got an expired car seat?

If you have an expired car seat and are wondering how to dispose of it responsibly, our detailed post offers clear guidance. Here’s a summary:

Avoid Passing It On: Do not donate or give away expired car seats, as they may not meet current safety standards and could put children at risk.

Recycling Programs: Look for car seat recycling or trade-in programs. Retailers and manufacturers often host trade-in events where you can recycle your expired seat and may receive a discount on a new one. Check next Target’s trade-in event.

Follow the Manufacturer’s Advice: Contact the car seat manufacturer for disposal recommendations. Some have specific recycling or disposal programs for their products.

Disassemble for Disposal: If recycling isn’t an option, dismantle the car seat. Cut the straps, remove the fabric, and clearly label the plastic shell as expired to prevent reuse.

Local Recycling Centers: Check with local recycling centers to see if they accept car seats. You might need to disassemble the seat into recyclable parts.

Community Resources: Reach out to local safety organizations, fire departments, or police stations. They may offer disposal or recycling services or can advise on safe disposal methods.

Check our comprehensive post on how to repurpose your expired car seat.

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Please note: The content provided on Car Seat Parent, including all materials and information, is not intended to serve as medical or health advice. Always consult with ahealthcare professional regarding your specific circumstances, especially when it concerns the safety and well-being of your child in relation to car seat use.

About Fatima O. Millers, CPST

Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Fatima delivers insightful car seat reviews and recommendations. Combining her CPST expertise with an engineering background, her advice is both safe and practical.