If you go look at “baby” listings on craigslist right now you will more than likely see hundreds of listings for used car seats. If you prefer to never miss a “good” deal, you might even find yourself browsing through this section frequently waiting for the perfect used car seat at the right price.
You might be surprised to learn that quite a few of those car seats are expired. Yes, E-X-P-I-R-E-D. Believe it or not car seats do have expiration dates. These dates are usually set anywhere between 3 and 7 years from the original manufacture date (note how I did not say “purchase” date).
You are probably rolling your eyes right now wondering why on earth car seats of all things would expire. Believe it or not, there are a few reasons why car seats have expiration dates!
1) The most important reason why car seats expire has to do with ever changing safety standards. Car seat safety standards are updated fairly often (there was an update just last year, actually). By having a car seat that is not expired, you are more likely to have a seat that meets elevated and tested safety standards.
2) Another reason for car seat expiration dates has to do with the wear down of materials. Most car seat shells are made of plastic. Over an extended period of time, that plastic becomes compromised leading to increased risks for injuries to the child using the expired seat.
Aside from these concerns, there is one more MAJOR thing to consider when deciding whether or not to purchase a car seat. Remember, the shells of car seats are made of plastic. Because of this, a simple fender bender can compromise the plastic even if the damage to the seat shell is unseen. While I would like to believe everyone selling their used car seats on craigslist are one hundred percent honest about a seat’s condition, there is just no way to know for sure. Also to consider: you will not receive a recall alert for a used car seat, you will not know how or where it was stored, and you will not know if the straps have been washed (this gets rid of the flame retardant).
I understand that many people purchase used seats because of affordability or to live a more echo friendly life. Should you decide to acquire a used car seat, be sure to check the expiration date with the manufacturer and ask the previous owner if it was involved in a wreck (hint: cops will usually cut the straps of car seats that have been involved in a wreck. For this reason, purchasing a car seat that is “missing” straps is NOT recommended). Lastly, if there is anyway to get a used car seat from some one you personally know and trust, DO THAT INSTEAD!
If this has convinced you to purchase a new seat instead, I highly recommend browsing amazon for car seats that have been returned (they are labeled as “open box”). I actually saved $140 on my daughter’s car seat by going this route!
If you are considered low income, check with your state or local fire department about getting a seat for little or no cost to you.
Have questions or comments about new or used car seats? Let us know in the comments!