As a new parent, you might have friends telling you that car seats don’t expire. That the expiration date found on car seats is just a gimmick used by car seat manufacturers to make you buy new ones every few years.
No matter who tells you this or how many different people tell you this, it’s not true and never will be true. Car seats do expire, and in this post, we will answer the question when do car seats expire, why they expire and many others.
What is a Car Seat Expiration Date and Where Can you Find It?
Although there are no carseat expiration laws in the United States, all manufacturers must include the date the car seat was manufactured on the car seat itself. In most cases, the manufacturer date is found on a sticker located on the back of the car seat’s shell.
In a few instances, it is embossed onto the surface of the car seat. Sometimes the sticker with the manufacture date is located on the bottom or sides of the car seat, which you will notice when installing the car seat.
The manufactured date is not the same thing as an expiration date. Some manufacturers will also include an expiration date on the sticker along with the serial number.
Other stickers have the words “Do not use this child restraint device…” and will include either a 10- or 7-year useful life. To figure out the expiration date, you add the date it was manufactured, plus its useful life to get an expiration date.
Why Do Car Seats Expire?
There are several answers to why do car seats expire. You might hear about conspiracy theories regarding the manufacturers only saying they expire because they want to sell more products, but that’s not even close to being true.
Despite there not being any car seat expiration laws in the United States, car seat expiration is real. Here are good, solid reasons that make perfect sense behind how long are car seats good for.
- Breakdown of Material: The majority of a child’s car seat is made from hard plastic, which breaks down and deteriorates as time passes. When it comes to rigid plastics, humidity, cold, heat, sun, and age all play a role in their deterioration rate.
Think about your child’s plastic toys you leave outside in the sun day after day; the same thing happens to your child’s car seat. Not only does the plastic deteriorate, but the metal parts of the car seat can begin to rust. If rust goes unnoticed, it affects how well the components will hold up in a crash.
- Advancements in technology: All car seat manufacturers want their products to be the best and safest around, so they are continually putting their focus into research and development to make their products the best they can be and up to date in terms of best practices and current safety standards.
- Discontinued products: As companies make newer products, they discontinue older models, which means replacement parts are no longer an option. This affects car seats as any lost or broken parts can’t be easily replaced.
- Product recalls: Sometimes, car seat manufacturers will issue a product recall when they find out their products contain safety defects and no longer meet the minimum safety standards set by NHTSA or as determined by NHTSA.
When that happens, your car seat is considered expired since it’s unsafe for your child until the manufacturer fixes the issue. You can check your car seat safety on the NHTSA’s website here.
When Do Car Seats Expire?
Most car seats expire anywhere from six to ten years after their manufacturing date. Each car seat expiration date is going to vary based on the specific manufacturer. Typically, you can find both the expiration date and manufactured date on a sticker located directly on the car seat’s shell. It should also be listed inside the instruction manual.
If you still can’t find either date, call the manufacturer directly. The manufacture date is not the same thing as the date of purchase. Car seats can sit on store shelves for months at a time, and car seat expiration dates are based on the seat’s manufacture date, not the purchase date.
To give you a better understanding of when car seats expire, here is a list of a car seat lifespan from several major manufacturers:
- Evenflo – 6 years unless it’s the Safemax or Symphony. Safemax has a life expectancy of 10 years, while the Symphony has one of 8 years.
- Britax – baby car seat expiry date is 6 years, and booster seats last 9 years.
- Cosco – 6 years.
- Safety 1st – 6 to 8 years based on the model.
- Graco – 7 to 10 years depending on the model.
- Chicco – 6 years.
How Do You Know When a Car Seat Expires?
Honestly, in most cases, you cannot just look at a car seat and tell that it is expired. This only happens if the car seat is a significantly older model or has missing and/or broken parts visible.
The best way to tell if the car seat is expired is to look for a white sticker located somewhere on the car seat’s shell. This sticker contains all of the vital information from the manufacturer, including the manufacture date, model number, serial number, and many times the expiration date.
All of this information is useful when registering your car seat too. Always register your car seat to ensure you get important notices, such as recalls.
In some cases, the expiration date can be hard to find. To find out how long do car seats last, here is where to look for the information on major brands:
- Evenflo – the white sticker is located on the bottom or back of the shell.
- Britax – the white sticker is located on the top of the seat underneath the fabric near the child’s head.
- Cosco – some models have a white sticker on the back of the shell; others have it imprinted on the seat’s bottom.
- Safety 1st – directly imprinted on the back of the car seat.
- Graco – directly imprinted on the bottom of the car seat.
- Chicco – small white sticker is located on the back of the seat.
What Can I Do with an Expired Car Seat?
When it comes to what to do with an expired carseat, the best answer is to quit using it. After you quit using the expired car seat, you can dispose of it in different ways.
You want to dispose of the expired car seat safely so nobody can use it anymore. All car seat technicians will instruct parents to “destroy” the expired seat.
How to Dispose of an Expired Car Seat Safely?
How you destroy a car seat is by removing all of the paddings, cutting all of the harness straps, and removing any hardware to make the car seat unusable. Once the car seat has been rendered useless by others, write on it in Sharpie, “DO NOT USE. EXPIRED.” You can then take it to the landfill or recycler.
It is easy to dispose of the expired car seat safely on your own, but sometimes you just don’t want to deal with it. Suppose you don’t have the means to dispose of the car seat on your own, look into car seat recycling programs in your local community.
To find out where you can take your car seat to have it recycled, check out Recycle Your Car Seat.
Additional FAQs on Expired Car Seats
Is It Okay to Use An Expired Car Seat?
The easy answer to the question “Is it okay to use an expired car seat” is no. Even though the answer is typically no, sometimes our realities make it to where an expired car seat must be used. As a parent, sometimes, you are faced with reality, which can include not being able to afford a brand new car seat or even a used one.
If you simply can’t afford to replace the car seat you currently have, your only option is to continue using the expired car seat. While we don’t encourage anybody to use an expired car seat, using an expired one is better than not using one at all.
Many people often wonder if it’s illegal to use an expired car seat. Technically the answer to that question depends on the state you live in and how you interpret their specific laws.
For example, some states have what is called a “proper use” law. People following this law can effectively argue that using an expired car seat doesn’t meet safety standards, so you are not using it properly.
In most states, no statute expressly forbids you from using expired car seats, but for any questions, you can contact your local police department or a Child Passenger Safety Technician.
Can I Purchase a Used Car Seat?
Many new and even experienced parents purchase used car seats or accept hand me downs to save money. While technically, you can legally buy a used car seat or take one as a gift, it is not something that is recommended or even encouraged.
We don’t recommend purchasing or accepting a used car seat because you simply don’t know its history. You don’t know if it has ever been involved in a serious or even a minor crash, in which even a small impact affects the car seat’s integrity.
Car seats should always be replaced if they are involved in any kind of crash for safety reasons. By purchasing a new car seat, you know its entire history, and you know it’s up-to-date in terms of safety standards and technology.
Can I reuse my Current Car Seat for my Next Child?
Yes, you can use your current car seat for your next child, but we only recommend doing this if they are close in age., For example, your baby has just grown out of his or her infant car seat to an all-in-one or convertible car seat, and your baby is due in a couple of months. In this case, it is fine to use the infant car seat for your newborn as long as it hasn’t expired.
Before using the current car seat for another baby, check all of the hardware and seat pads to ensure they function correctly and are still in good shape. If needed, replace with replacement parts from the manufacturer.
Are Manufacturers Required to Give a Car Seat Expiration Date?
Simply put, manufacturers are not required to provide an expiration date. There are no government regulations in the United States that require this information to be included with a car seat.
Although there are no car seat expiration laws in the United States, the NHTSA encourages manufacturers to have an expiration date because of changes in safety regulations as the years pass.
Is it Illegal to Sell Expired Car Seats?
Just as it is not illegal to use an expired car seat, selling them isn’t technically illegal either. As there are no laws saying you can’t sell an expired car seat, this means you have to pay extra close attention when buying a used car seat. It is also one of the many reasons we don’t recommend purchasing a used car seat.
Instead of purchasing a used car seat, which comes with many different risks, we strongly recommend buying a new car seat that is reasonably priced. Many new parents assume that the best car seats are the most expensive ones, but it’s not true.
All car seats are closely regulated to ensure their safety, so your cheaper models are just as safe as your more expensive options. Some good choices for less than $100 consider the Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat or the Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat 2-in-1.
Where Can I Trade in my Expired Car Seat?
Some big box stores, such as Target and Wal-Mart, offer consumers the chance to trade in expired car seats. At Target, when you bring in your old car seat, you simply stop at the Guest Services desk to get a box to place your used car seat in to recycle it.
Once you sign up for the Target Circle Rewards program, which you can do in-store, you are given a percentage off coupon to put towards a new car seat or other baby gear. Walmart offers a similar program. Note that the car seat trade-in program only runs on certain days of the year, so check for new dates before heading into the store.
Typically, when answering the question of when do car seats expire, you will get different answers, but most major brands have a lifespan of six to ten years. And for those wondering whether booster seats expire, the answer is yes; their lifespan is similar to the lifespan of car seats.
After so many years, car seats expire for several reasons, including the wearing down of materials, changing safety standards, and improving technology. Knowing car seat expiration dates is important for your baby or toddler’s safety, as expired car seats won’t perform as well as a new car seat.
If you have anything to add to our discussion, whether it’s a comment about the topic or a car seat recommendation, please take a minute to contribute to our discussion by leaving your thoughts below.