Used Car Seats – How to Borrow/Buy/Sell a Used Car Seat SAFELY

HOW TO BORROW, BUY, OR SELL

A USED CAR SEAT SAFELY

When in doubt, don’t borrow, buy, or sell a used car seat – it’s just not worth the risk.  However, many used car seats are still safe – and can be sold/loaned out safely.  Here is what you need to know in order to make sure the used car seat is safe.    

FOR THE SELLER (see below for tips for the borrower/buyer)

1.  MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE SEAT
If you were not the original owner of the seat and/or do not know EVERYONE who used the seat, you can not sell the seat safely as you will not be able to answer question #2 below.

2.  MAKE SURE THE CAR SEAT WAS NEVER IN ANY CRASH
Even if the child was NOT in the seat at the time of the crash, the seat can be damaged by the forces it experiences during a crash.  Most car seat manufacturers state that the seat should never be used again if involved in any type of crash.  However, a few car seat manufacturers allow the use of their seat after a minor crash.  

A minor crash is one that meets ALL of following criteria:

  1. The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site; AND
  2. The vehicle door nearest the child restraint was undamaged; AND
  3. There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants; AND
  4. The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
  5. There is no visible damage to the child seat.

If the car seat was in a minor crash, you will need to read the owner’s manual to the car seat to see what the manufacturer recommends regarding continued use of the seat.  When in doubt, throw the car seat out.

3.  MAKE SURE ALL PARTS ARE PRESENT AND IN GOOD WORKING ORDER
Get out the owner’s manual to the car seat and check that all the parts mentioned are present on your car seat.  Check for cracks in the plastic, fraying of the harness straps, and other damage to the seat.

4.  INFORMATION GATHERING
In order to check for recalls and determine if the seat has expired, you will need to know the following info.  If you have a digital camera, take a picture of the labels where you find this information as it is easier than writing it down – and you can then include these pictures in your post when you go to sell the car seat.

- make (manufacturer) & model of the car seat
- model number & date of manufacture

There will be a mailing-label size sticker somewhere on the car seat (often hard to find) that will give you the model number and date of manufacture along with the manufacturer’s name.


There are other dates and labels on the seat that often confuses parents.  The tag sewn into the harness straps that has a date on it (see picture below) – this is not the date of manufacture for the car seat.  


There are large stickers on the sides of every car seat that discuss installation & height/weight guidelines – often these stickers have a tiny date at the bottom which is the date when the sticker was last revised, not the date of manufacture for the car seat.   

- Expiration date***

Some seats have the expiration date imprinted in the plastic on the underside of the car seat.  Look very carefully in a room with good lighting as it is easy to miss in many cases.  It will say something like “Do NOT use this car seat after December 2011”.  


Some car seats have the expiration date listed on the same sticker where you found the model number and date of manufacture.  


Others will mention it in the owner’s manual.  If you can’t find it anywhere, the easiest thing to do is to call the manufacturer and ask them.  

***WHY DO SEATS EXPIRE??

Isn’t this just a way for the car seat manufacturers to make more money?  You wouldn’t give your kids milk that is beyond its expiration date, or medicine beyond it’s expiration date – so too, your child shouldn’t be riding in an expired seat. One of the main reasons seats expire is that they are made of plastic.  Plastic becomes brittle and weak as it ages – two qualities you don’t want in a car seat that has to withstand severe crash forces. Therefore it is important that the plastic is new enough that the car seat will be able to perform properly. Curious why some car seats have a six year expiration date (from the date of manufacture) while others last nine years – the plastics used in these seats are different and the nine year seat may also have some steel reinforcement.

The Car Seat Lady recommends that…

  • if you are selling a rear facing only seat, it should have at least one year of use left
  • if you are selling a convertible seat (rear facing to forward facing) it should have at least 2-3 years of use left, as these seats are typically used for at least 2-3 years before kids transition to combination seats (seats that start as a 5 point harness car seat and then turn into a booster).  
  • if you are selling a booster seat it has enough time to get your child through the age of 10 (more than 50% of kids still need a booster at the age of 10)

5. CHECK FOR RECALLS
It is not uncommon for a seat to be recalled.  Typically, most recalls can be addressed and you can continue to use the seat safely thereafter.  The easiest way to check for recalls is to call the manufacturer – you will need to give them the model name, model number & date of manufacture of your car seat, so have that information handy when you call.  You can also do-it-yourself by checking this online recall list – http://www.carseat.org/Recalls/179NP.pdf

QUESTION

YES

NO

The seller knows the entire history of the seat
The seat was never in a crash
**If it was a minor crash, it is a manufacturer that allows the use of their seat after a minor crash
All parts are present and in good working order
There are no recalls, or the recalls have been addressed
The seat has not yet expired AND has enough time left to last the child until they will need a new seat

FOR THE BUYER

(OR EVEN IF YOU ARE JUST BORROWING A SEAT

FROM A FRIEND OR RELATIVE)

1.  MAKE SURE THE SELLER KNOWS THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE SEAT
The seller should ideally be the original owner and only user of the seat – as this way they are guaranteed to know the entire history of the seat.  If they were not the original owner of the seat and/or do not know EVERYONE who used the seat, you can not buy/borrow the seat safely as you will not be able to answer question #2 below.

2.  MAKE SURE THE CAR SEAT WAS NEVER IN ANY CRASH
Even if the child was NOT in the seat at the time of the crash, the seat can be damaged by the forces it experiences during a crash.  Most car seat manufacturers state that the seat should never be used again if involved in any type of crash.  However, a few car seat manufacturers allow the use of their seat after a minor crash.  

A minor crash is one that meets ALL of following criteria:

  1. The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site; AND
  2. The vehicle door nearest the child restraint was undamaged; AND
  3. There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants; AND
  4. The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
  5. There is no visible damage to the child seat.

If the car seat was in a minor crash, you will need to read the owner’s manual to the car seat to see what the manufacturer recommends regarding continued use of the seat.  When in doubt, don’t buy/borrow the seat.

3.  MAKE SURE ALL PARTS ARE PRESENT AND IN GOOD WORKING ORDER
Get out the owner’s manual to the car seat and check that all the parts mentioned are present on the car seat (don’t just take the owner’s word for it).  Check for cracks in the plastic, fraying of the harness straps, and other damage to the seat.

4.  INFORMATION GATHERING
The seller should have posted a picture of the sticker on the car seat that gives the manufacturer’s name, model number & date of manufacture of the car seat.  


They should also give you the model name of the car seat (Note: for some Cosco, Safety 1st, Eddie Bauer seats this was not possible as many of these seats did not use to have individual names).

Please note, that there are other dates and labels on the seat that often confuse parents.  The tag sewn into the harness straps that has a date on it (see picture below) – this is not the date of manufacture for the car seat.  


There are large stickers on the sides of every car seat that discuss installation & height/weight guidelines – often these stickers have a tiny date at the bottom which is the date when the sticker was last revised, not the date of manufacture for the car seat.   

- Check the expiration date (most seats expire 6 years from the date of manufacture)

Some seats have the expiration date imprinted in the plastic on the underside of the car seat.  Look very carefully in a room with good lighting as it is easy to miss in many cases.  It will say something like “Do NOT use this car seat after December 2011”.  


Some car seats have the expiration date listed on the same sticker where you found the model number and date of manufacture.  
Others will mention it in the owner’s manual.  

If you can’t find it anywhere, the easiest thing to do is to call the manufacturer and ask them.

***WHY DO SEATS EXPIRE??

Isn’t this just a way for the car seat manufacturers to make more money?  You wouldn’t give your kids milk that is beyond its expiration date, or medicine beyond it’s expiration date – so too, your child shouldn’t be riding in an expired seat. One of the main reasons seats expire is that they are made of plastic.  Plastic becomes brittle and weak as it ages – two qualities you don’t want in a car seat that has to withstand severe crash forces. Therefore it is important that the plastic is new enough that the car seat will be able to perform properly. Curious why some car seats have a six year expiration date (from the date of manufacture) while others last nine years – the plastics used in these seats are different and the nine year seat may also have some steel reinforcement.

The Car Seat Lady recommends that…

  • if you are buying a rear facing only seat, it should have at least one year of use left
  • if you are buying a convertible seat (rear facing to forward facing) it should have at least 2-3 years of use left, as these seats are typically used for at least 2-3 years before kids transition to combination seats (seats that start as a 5 point harness car seat and then turn into a booster).  
  • if you are buying a booster seat it has enough time to get your child through the age of 10 (more than 50% of kids still need a booster at the age of 10)

5. CHECK FOR RECALLS
It is not uncommon for a seat to be recalled.  Typically, most recalls can be addressed and you can continue to use the seat safely thereafter.  The easiest way to check for recalls is to call the manufacturer – you will need to give them the model name, model number & date of manufacture of your car seat, so have that information handy when you call.  You can also do-it-yourself by checking this online recall list – http://www.carseat.org/Recalls/179NP.pdf

If you can say YES to all these questions, the seat should be just as safe the day you buy/borrow it as the day it was bought new.

QUESTION

YES

NO

The seller knows the entire history of the seat
The seat was never in a crash
**If it was a minor crash, it is a manufacturer that allows the use of their seat after a minor crash
All parts are present and in good working order
There are no recalls, or the recalls have been addressed
The seat has not yet expired AND has enough time left to last the child until they will need a new seat

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also discusses the resale of infant car seats in their Handbook for Resale Stores and Product Resellers

Last updated 7/11

Comments
3 Responses to “Used Car Seats – How to Borrow/Buy/Sell a Used Car Seat SAFELY”
  1. Brittany says:

    Hi I have a question? I recently bought a car seat that I didn’t notice till after I bought it that it had a label on the side that said “for display only- not for customer use” I believe it came from target. Can I use this car seat or is it not the same as one on the shelf in a box or do they just put that because when its on display people can touch it and may mess with or something? Also in your opinion what is a great car seat around the $100 range?

    • I would not buy a car seat that says “not for customer use” – and would take it back to Target (assuming this is where you bought it from) and ask/demand a refund for them selling you something that should not have been sold.

  2. Wow. This is an incredible article. At first read, I was shocked that car seats have an expiration, but I like the analogy you use. If you have expired milk or medicine, you wouldn’t put it anywhere near your kid; a car seat should be treated no different. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. Thanks again.

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