Baby Gear

How Long Are Car Seats Good For & How to Dispose Them?

All car seats, regardless of their model, will eventually expire. So, they are good to use only for a limited period (usually several years). The most important reason for this is your children’s safety. After all, all fabrics degrade over time, especially when they’re used on a daily basis and when they’re exposed to high or low temperatures. Normally, a car seat lifespan ranges between 6 and 10 years but I have detailed this information in the sections written below.

Why Do Kids Car Seats Expire? – Main Reasons

Although the government of the United States hasn’t really issued a car seat regulation, especially when it comes to the product’s expiration date, each manufacturer is responsible for these types of recommendations. Some parents think that this is just a marketing technique to sell a higher number of car seats. In reality, behind a car seat replacement decision there are important safety reasons. Usually, all car seats expire after 6-10 years since the manufacturing date. Here are the main reasons why you should replace your baby’s expired car seat:

  • The car’s materials wear down – these products, although sturdy, aren’t made to last a lifetime. At some point, the seat will develop tiny fractures or belts might become loose and too elastic after several years of constant use. Also, car seats need to be replaced because they are always exposed to low and/or high temperatures. All these breakdowns can easily make the seat fall apart in a crash;
  • You’re in need of replacement parts that aren’t manufactured anymore – models and designs are changing on a regular basis and, because of that, producers don’t always keep spare parts of older models. Therefore, in case you’ll need to replace a component of the car seat, you might not be able to find it, especially past the product’s expiration date;
  • The technology improves while standards change – some people pass down their child’s car seat to their family members, relatives, and even friends. At first glance, the seat might look great, but that doesn’t mean it’s still safe enough to use it. Companies come with new and improved lifesaving technologies, so the expiration date plays an important role if you want to keep up with the latest safety standards;
  • There’s a recall – sometimes, a certain car seat model might become part of a company’s recall. If that happens and you don’t know about it, at least you are aware of replacing the product with a new one as soon as the current seat expires;
  • Each car seat model is tested for a specific and limited lifespan – after a certain limited period, car seat manufacturers stop testing their products so they won’t be able to guarantee that the older versions will perform well in case of an accident.

LATCH Systems

Besides all these reasons mentioned above, one of the most important thing that changed car seats for the better was the invention of the LATCH system. It’s relatively new because it wasn’t introduced until recently (in the ‘90s). Since 2002, all vehicles, as well as car seats, must come equipped with this system, as a standard safety feature. It involves lower anchors that keep the baby in place in the car seat as well as a top tether that prevents or lowers the risk of tipping in case there’s a crash.

Besides safety, there are also other benefits that the LATCH system provides such as an easier installation process of the car seat. Nowadays, it’s a lot simpler to install or even remove a car seat from your vehicle. Unfortunately, some people don’t install their baby’s car seat in a proper manner which leads to plenty of accidents. In fact, studies have shown that approximately 46% of car seats are not installed correctly.

Where Can You Find the Product’s Expiration Date?

Most car seats provide an expiration date written on the label which is placed on the product’s sides or the car seat’s base part. Some models even feature the date of manufacture. Usually, the majority of models will expire within 6 years since their fabrication. Only a few brands market car seats that last longer than that. One thing you must consider is the manufacturing date instead of the purchasing date. If you want to use the car seat for a longer time or if you plan to expand your family and have a second child, you should definitely buy the newest car seat release.

If you don’t find the expiration date on the label or on the car seat itself, you should give the producer a call or check the product’s instruction manual.

Does the Car Seat’s Price Matter?

Don’t let yourself be tricked into buying an expensive seat, thinking that it will last longer and it will come with a longer lifespan. That is simply not the case. When creating a car seat, all manufacturers in the United States must meet certain strict requirements and safety standards, including an expiration date.

If you do your research well, you might find several great seats at a decent price. On the other hand, I don’t recommend purchasing a used car seat. This decision has its risks. For instance, it might have been involved in a car crash.

How Long Can You Use a Car Seat?

Car Seat Lifespan Based on Brand/Model

Some car seats last only 6 years while a few of them can be used for as long as 10 years. These periods vary depending on the manufacturer. Let’s see how long a car seat can be safely used, based on its brand and model:

  • Britax – 6 years (infant seats), 9 years (booster seats);
  • Diono – 8 years (car seat harnesses), 10 years (booster seats);
  • Graco – between 7 and 10 years, based on the model;
  • Recaro – 6 years;
  • Evenflo – 6 years or more for some models;
  • Chicco – 6 years;
  • Safety 1st – between 6 and 8 years, based on the model;
  • Cosco – 6 years;
  • Maxi-Cosi – 10 years (they are created to be used for a whole decade but, according to the manufacturer, their car seats don’t truly expire).

How Can You Tell If a Car Seat Has Expired and Needs to Be Replaced?

Most times is very hard to realize whether or not a car seat has expired only by looking at it. If the product shows visible signs of tear or missing parts, you will clearly notice that something is not right. However, the best thing to do is to look at the small white sticker placed somewhere on the seat which provides details regarding the product’s fabrication date, model number, serial number, and the expiration date. Some brands even print this information directly on the seat’s plastic shell.

Here’s how you can find the date of expiration for several major brands of car seats:

  • Britax – you will find a white sticker near the top part of the car seat right by the place where your kid’s head should be. It’s located under the fabric padding;
  • Peg Perego – in this case, the sticker is placed on the seat’s bottom part;
  • Graco – the bottom part features an expiration date printed on the plastic shell;
  • Recaro – you’ll see a sticker on one side of the seat. It’s usually located near or under the padding;
  • Evenflo – the sticker is either placed on the back or located on the bottom of the seat. It depends on the model;
  • Chicco – you should find the sticker on the back of the product;
  • Safety 1st – look for this seat’s expiration date printed directly on the product’s plastic shell, on the back part;
  • Cosco – you will see how long you can use the seat if you check the back part of the car seat or its bottom for a white sticker;
  • Maxi-Cosi – the expiration date is imprinted on the seat’s bottom, right into the plastic. Some models feature this information on the back.

How to Dispose of the Car Seat When It Expires

Throw It Away (in a Proper Manner)

If your child’s car seat has expired and you no longer have to use it, you will most likely wish to get rid of it. After all, this kind of product isn’t small and it occupies plenty of storage room. The simplest solution that most people think of is throwing it in the trash. Still, you may want to take a moment and think this through. According to experts, this isn’t a very wise method to dispose of a car seat.

What you should do instead is to dismantle the seat and then dispose of its components so that it’s practically impossible for somebody else to take it out of the trash and unknowingly reuse it. Here’s what you can do to retire your baby’s old car seat:

  • Cut off the car’s webbing and then remove the cover;
  • Blackout both the manufacturing date and the car’s serial number;
  • Write or post a sticker on the car seat that says “Expired! Do not use!” You can easily use a marker to write this note on the product’s plastic shell. Finally, you can leave it out on the curb so that the garbage truck will stop by and pick it up.

You must follow all these steps if you want to get rid of the seat to make sure that other people stay safe as well by stopping them to pick up and reuse an expired car seat.

Trade It in

If you’re looking to dispose of your car seat, another possibility is to check the manufacturer’s trade-in programs. With these programs, you can bring in the seat (no matter if it is expired or not) and you’ll receive a credit which you can use to purchase a new seat in a store that the manufacturer will specify. Other companies have implemented recycling programs.

What Should You Avoid Doing Once the Car Seat Expires?

Now that I’ve talked about what to do when your baby’s car seat expires, it’s time to find out what you shouldn’t do once this product’s expiration date passes:

  • Don’t use it anymore – if you keep using an expired car seat, you’ll put your child at risk. It’s completely unsafe to place a baby in an expired seat. Simply put, if your kid isn’t old or big enough to fit properly in the vehicle’s seat, you will most likely need to find and buy a suitable replacement. On the other hand, some people say that using a car seat that has just expired is slightly better than not using a baby safety seat at all;
  • Don’t give it to someone else – it goes without saying that you mustn’t pass the seat to somebody else. So, re-selling the item or donating it are out of the question. Way too many parents are purchasing car seats at their local thrift shop without even realizing that these products might be expired.

Bottom Line

Even though all manufacturers write the expiration date on the car seats they’re making, many parents are still surprised when they hear that these items have an expiration date. That happens because most people associate the concept of expiration dates with foods and other products we consume.

But, the truth is, that when it comes to our children’s safety and well-being, we are capable to do whatever it takes, including spending a good amount of money on a new car seat. Also, producers are constantly making improvements and, as frustrating as this is (especially, when you think about the cost), we should all consider our kids’ protection.

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