What To Do With Old or Expired Car Seats?

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Written by: Fatima O. Millers, CPST

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Your car seat is an important safety device for your child and one that you rely on heavily. But when it’s time to replace it or toss it, what should you do with your old car seat? 

Fortunately, there are some ways to handle those old car seats and keep them out of landfills as long as possible.

To safely and responsibly get rid of an unwanted or expired car seat, consider these options:

  • Repurpose the car seat at home
  • Trade-in the car seat
  • Recycle the car seat
  • Pass the car seat on to friends and family
  • Donate the car seat to charities

What you shouldn’t do with an old/expired car seat

Before talking about what you can do with an old car seat, let’s cover a few things that you should not do with a used car seat.

It is never a good idea to give, donate, or sell your used car seat to someone else – even if they are family members or friends if:

The car seat has been in an accident: 

It’s important to dispose of a car seat that has been in a moderate to severe crash and never reuse it again. 

If your car seat has been in a car accident, it’s considered the end of its lifetime.

A single collision can compromise the safety of your car seat. the crash forces could crack, break, or deform parts of the car seat.

The car seat has been recalled

Car seats can be recalled. So, before you decide what to do with your old car seat, check to see whether there have been any recalls of the car seat. If so, contact the manufacturer to follow their instructions to address the problem.

Not every recall is a safety recall, but every recall is important to follow up on, even if it’s just a minor fix. 

The car seat is expired

Yes, car seats have an expiration date. You must check your old car seat’s expiration date before you decide what to do with it.

An expired car seat doesn’t ensure the structural integrity of its components. In other words, it’s NOT safe.

The webbing, plastic, foam, and buckles experience wear and tear over time. This weakens their ability to provide safety and protection if they’ve been in use for too long.

Check under your car seat or manual for the expiry date and ensure you dispose of it properly if it’s expired.

Most car seats are good for six years or more from the manufacture date.

what to do with an old car seat

What to do with old car seats?

Could you pass it on to family or friends?

If your car seat is still safe to use, it can have a second life. The easiest way to do that is to pass it on to friends and familywhot need a new car seat. 

Before you do make sure that your seat meets the following criteria: 

The car seat isn’t expired 

The car seat hasn’t been recalled

The car seat has no clear or hidden damages 

The car seat hasn’t been in a crash

The car seat still has its manual

The car seat is clean 

Trade-in programs

Target offers gift cards or store credit that can be used to buy a new car seat, stroller, or other baby gear in exchange for your old car seat.1.2

This trade-in program is a great way to responsibly get rid of your unwanted car seat without dealing with recycling it. 

When you trade your car seat at Target, they recycle materials from the old car seats to create new products such as pallets and plastic buckets.

These types of programs only run periodically for limited times each year. Keep your eyes peeled for the next program if you have an old car seat hidden in your garage.

Recycling centers 

Another recommended way to dispose of your old car seat is to take it to a local recycling center.

Many recycling plants will accept old car seats to repurpose the plastic and other parts for use in new products.

You can contact your local recycling center to find out if they accept old car seats and what the process is for disposing of them. 

There are also other paid recycling programs available that can help you get rid of your old car seat.

Car Seat Recycling for example offers affordable mail-back services to help you safely and responsibly recycle your old car seat. 

They send you a recycling kit that includes a shipping bag and a prepaid shipping label.

All you have to do is put your car seat in the bag and drop it off at the nearest UPS office. You will also get a $10 or a 10% off coupon to be used on Clekinc.com.

Donate it to charities

As long as it has not been recalled damaged or expired and all straps are properly attached. You can contact local charities that accept used car seats like women’s shelters.

Make sure you call ahead to ensure that they accept car seat donations. Many charities are strict about used car seats due to safety concerns. 

You can also donate your unwanted car seat to local CPSTs. Child passenger safety technicians can use it for safety demonstrations and train parents how to use a car seat.

So, reach out to a CPST in your neighborhood or city to see if they’d like to have your old seat. 

Throw it in the trash

When your car seat can’t be reused or recycled, you will likely have to throw it away. 

Before sending it off to the landfill, make sure that nobody will use that car seat after you. The last thing you want to do is risk another child’s life.

Start by cutting off the straps and detaching the buckles. You can also use a permanent marker to write on the seat “NOT SAFE” or “DO NOT USE”. 

Better yet, remove any foam padding and break the car seat shell with a hammer so that nobody will be able to use it.

Once everything is taken apart, you can safely dispose of the car seat in your regular garbage. 

Repurpose your old car seat at home

If you don’t feel like throwing away your old car seat in the trash, you can repurpose it at home.

Many people have found creative and unique ways to turn a car seat into something else like a pet bed, planter box, or even an outdoor swing. 

With some creativity and the right tools, you can easily turn an old car seat into something new and special that can be used in your home.

If you don’t want to use it at home, donate it to an animal rescuee shelter. It will make a great bed for dogs and cats.

What’s next

Once you’ve disposed of your old car seat, it’s important to take the time to research the right type and model of the new car seat for your child’s age, weight, and height.

Additionally, when looking for a new car seat consider buying a convertible car seat that can accommodate your growing child.

This way, you will only use one car seat for your baby’s entire car seat journey. Plus, you will save the environment and money in the long run!

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.

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