Every year, thousands of children experience vehicular accidents, which can result in injuries, trauma, and even death. So the US takes extra precautions when putting children on the road.
Many States enforce laws on car seats and how to properly use them. In most areas of the country, car seats are mandatory for children ages 12 and under. Car seats have saved the lives of many children, including 325 children ages 5 and below, in one year.
But car seats are not built to last forever. Like food, formula, and medicines, car seats also come with their expiration date. And the sooner you know about it, the safer your child is inside the car.
Do Car Seats Expire?
Children, on average, can use up to three kinds of car seats before being able to use a standard seatbelt. And buying a new one for all your kids every other year can get very pricy quickly. Some parents may opt for a secondhand car seat or hand down an older one to their younger kids.
Many parents might rationalize that an expiration date is a manufacturer’s way of getting easy money. However, car seat makers put those limitations for safety reasons.
Car seats can get worn down and become more brittle as time goes on. Exposure to different weather conditions can affect the materials. These issues are not easy to spot with the naked eye, but they can affect the integrity and safety of the seat.
Manufacturers also regularly update and improve their technology. So older car seats are missing out on the latest bells and whistles of newer models. Recalls and new regulations can also affect your seat’s shelf life.
How Long is a Car Seat Good For?
No regulations enforce expiration dates on car seats in the US. However, car manufacturers decide how long a car seat is good for. Generally speaking, most seats can last between 6 to 10 years.
Regularly caring for your car seat can elongate its lifespan. Your area’s climate, the frequency of use, and the materials used to make your kid’s seat are factors in its durability and longevity.
If you frequently go out and use your car seat on the road, it will look worn down in a few years. And exposing it to changing weather can put a strain on the plastic and metal materials.
What Happens if You Use an Expired Car Seat?
Safety is the number one priority when using a car seat. Although you will not go behind bars for using an expired one, there is a higher risk of your child getting hurt on the road.
As mentioned above, car seats wear over time, and they can become more fragile as time goes on. They might crack during a crash or break during an untimely moment.
You might want to skip using an overused car seat for your child’s comfort. Wear and tear on the fabric can dampen your kid’s mood, and worn-out straps can cause irritation.
What Can I Do with an Expired Car Seat?
Unwanted baby stuff is easy to get rid of, either through selling it or donating it. A car seat is a far different story, though.
Unwanted car seats are bulky items that are harder to get rid of. And because they are expired, you might want to think twice about offering them to friends and family members. So what can you do with them?
You can throw it away along with your garbage. But make sure it is unusable by slicing it into pieces and writing a label on it (such as DO NOT USE or EXPIRED.) You can also smash it like a birthday piñata before taking it to the dump. (We don’t judge!)
Some stores like Walmart and Target might also offer a trade-in program in exchange for gift cards and/or store credits. These offers happen for a limited time, so keep your eyes and inboxes open. Plus, these offers are big money-savers when buying new baby supplies and food.
Now, maybe you have a friend, family member, or colleague who is short on money and desperately needs a car seat. You may consider giving your car seat to them as a donation.
However, you need to be extra careful about giving away your car seat. Make sure it has no damages (visible and invisible), has not been recalled in the past, and still has its manual.
There are risks attached to giving and using an expired car seat. At the end of the day, your child’s life is on the line.
Where can I find my car seat’s expiration date?
Every car seat comes with a sticker with the manufacturing and expiration date. The sticker can be on the sides, the back, or even underneath.
Is it illegal to use an expired car seat?
There are no laws that prohibit the use of an expired car seat. However, for safety reasons, you should still avoid using one if it goes beyond its intended due date.
How do I dispose of my car seat safely?
You can dispose of your car seat by taking it to trade-in programs, recycling it, or even smashing it. Passing it down can be an option, but follow safety precautions and double-check your product’s durability.
Nothing last forever, and that includes car seats.
Car seats have expiration dates placed by manufacturers to ensure users’ safety. Most seats last for 6 to 10 months, depending on how well-made and well-kept they are.
While you do not have to worry about getting a ticket for using an expired seat, there is a risk of using one for your child. A worn-down car seat will not be as protective as a brand-new one, especially since manufacturers regularly innovate their products. Who wants to sit on something probably covered in sweat and milk spills?
Disposing of an expired seat can be difficult, but you have the option to donate it to a trade-in program or use it as a smash-hit stress reliever.
You can also donate your expired car seat to someone you know. But then again, it is a risky move, especially considering a child’s safety.