How Long Are Car Seats Good For?

Quick Answer

Car seats do expire. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for when it is time to replace your car seat. There are several other scenarios that would cause you to purchase a new seat.

  1. After an accident, even a fender bender!
  2. Observed wear and tear

So, Whats the Big Deal?

Some people think of car seats as being non-perishable items. I can remember different families sharing booster seats with several of their friends and siblings. Often times shuffling pieces around as various kids were born and aged out of needing them.

This system was frugal, but it probably was not the best way to keep the kids safe. In reality, every car seat and booster seat comes with an expiration date, and those dates should be respected.

It can be tough to feel like you’re throwing out a ‘perfectly good’ car seat, but doing so can make all the difference when it comes to your child’s safety.

Let’s look at the reasons you might want to cycle out old car seats.

When Does A Car Seat Go Bad?

Before we discuss the firm expiration date that all car seats have, you should know that several other occasions might prompt you to stop using a car seat or booster seat.

For example, if a car seat is ever in the vehicle during an accident, you should replace it.

After an Accident

The impact of an accident or fender-bender can put strain on different parts of the  car seat. Often times the effects aren’t visible and wouldn’t be noticed until it is put under stress again.

Basically, even if your car seat looks OK, it might have hidden damage that would make it unreliable in the future.

Extreme Wear and Tear

For the same reasons, you should also be prepared to replace your car seat if you find damage on any of the parts. Even if it seems like the damaged piece is not essential to the function of the car seat, it could still be a sign that the seat has been used heavily enough to cause dangerous hidden damage.

With these seats, you want to err on the side of caution to make sure you’ve always got something in good working condition.

Expiration Dates

You might think expiration dates are just for food, but your car seat should have one as well. When you first purchase your car seat, read the owner’s manual to be aware of when this date is. In some homes, people like to mark their calendar for this date so that they won’t forget about it.

The expiration date shows you how long the manufacturer expects the critical parts of your seat to last with regular use. It’s helpful to find a seat that you’ll be able to use for a long time. However, you shouldn’t think of the expiration date as some strike against it’s quality.

The fact is that plastic will warp and bend over time if it’s constantly under pressure. Your car seat will tend to become damaged even with regular use.

Pay attention to when your car seat’s expiration date is coming up and be prepared to replace the seat close to that date, if not before.

Importance of Expiration Dates

Some folks don’t like expiration dates, because it feels like the manufacturers are just trying to trick people into buying a new seat they don’t need. I can certainly understand why it feels that way! But I have to say, there are two major benefits to having a system like this in place.

  • First, the parts of your seat do wear down over time and at a certain point may make it difficult for the seat to do its job effectively. These defects aren’t always visible. So you shouldn’t simply trust your eyes when analyzing a car seat.
  • Secondly, car seat manufacturers are constantly making improvements in the design and quality of their seats. You might not see revolutionary changes from year to year, but the developments do accumulate over time.

Look back at a car seat produced just ten years ago and consider how much better new models are today. It’s helpful to remind yourself to update to the latest safety technology for your child’s safety and your own peace of mind.

What Do You Do With Your Old Car Seat?

When you look to replace your car seat, try to find ways of responsibly disposing of the older model you had been using. It isn’t recommended to pass these seats along to other families, as this may put other children at risk for using a defective car seat.

Instead, explore your options for recycling your old car seats. You might even find upcyclers who would be willing to strip the car seat for parts. Do a little research, and you should be able to find a variety of options in your area.

Replace Car Seats at Appropriate Times

It’s never fun to have to replace a product you already bought. However, when it comes to car seats, there are real risks to keeping them beyond the expiration date.

By replacing your car seat at the appropriate times, you will reduce the risk for using a car seat that is defective from regular use or even after a simple fender bender.