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As a parent, you are willing to do everything in your power to keep your child safe, but sometimes it may seem like "everything" is bound to break the bank. You buy nothing but the best formula so that your baby's stomach doesn't get upset. You purchase the best diapers so that he or she doesn't get a diaper rash. You pay for top-of-the-line child care so that you can go to work with peace of mind. While you don't mind the expenses, you may wonder if there are ways in which you can "cut corners" and spend a little less on things like clothes, toys, accessories and even car seats. While there is absolutely no shame in wanting to raise your child in an affordable fashion, you should be aware of what is and is not worth spending money on. A brand-new car seat is certainly an item worth your hard-earned dollar.
Even if you come across what looks like a brand-new car seat at a used children's store, refrain from buying it. Why? Because car seats expire, and even if a safety seat looks safe, if it's past its infant car seat expiration date, chances are that it's not. This guide will provide you with everything you need to know regarding car seat expiration dates, car seat laws and other safety information.
5 Good Reasons Car Seats Expire
Surprisingly, there is not a government regulation that requires manufacturers to place an expiration date on car seats. Setting an expiration date is something manufacturers do on their own, both to protect themselves from liability claims and to protect littles from devastating accidents.
These dates have proved to be so useful that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has said that mindfulness of car seat expiration dates is one of the top recommendations for safe car seat use.
Here are five good reasons for car seat expirations dates:
Materials Decompose: A car seat is made of hard plastic, fabric, elastic and polyester, all materials that are prone to decomposition. Plastic develops fractures, elastic becomes loose and polyester frays. Each of these issues can make a car seat ineffective in an accident and put your little one at risk. While visible wear and tear is certainly a cause for concern, you should test your child's seat and inspect it thoroughly on a regular basis.
Technology Is Always Changing, and Standards Are Along With Them
Technology Is Always Changing, and Standards Are Along With Them: Fifty years ago, parents didn't believe in car seats. Twenty years ago, parents put their children in booster seats as young as age 2. Today, it's unheard of to upgrade a child to a booster until he or she is of school age. In short, standards are always changing, as is technology. Infant car seat expiration dates are in place to ensure that every child, no matter how old or young, is privy to the safest equipment available on the market.
Lack Of Replacement Parts
Lack of Replacement Parts: As manufacturers develop newer and better models, they stop making parts for older ones. As parts of your child's car seat begin to wear and become unsafe, you may begin to find it difficult to find adequate replacement parts. By ensuring that your child's car seat is up to date, you can have peace of mind that if a component does break down, you can replace it without dropping big bucks on a new seat.
Recalls: Car seats are recalled all the time, and not necessarily because they're dangerous, but because newer standards have been developed. Expiration dates keep the number of recalls down, which saves both manufacturers and parents money and headache.
Models Are Only Safety-Tested For A Limited Lifespan
Models Are Only Safety-Tested for a Limited Lifespan: Every model only undergoes testing for X amount of years. After so many years, manufacturers cannot honestly testify to how older seats will perform in a crash.
These are all very good reasons for manufacturers to have expiration dates, but the greatest reason of all is your child's safety.
Manufacturers have a vested interest in your child's safety, which is why they go great lengths to crash test seats, continually test materials and equip all models with hard expiration dates.
How To Locate An Infant Car Seat Expiration Date
Every manufacturer is different, and where you might find a car seat's expiration date is dependent upon the make, model and year of the seat. That said, manufacturers don't want you to jump through hoops to keep your little one safe.
Generally speaking, you can find a model's expiration date on the manufacturer's website or in the owner's manual. You can also locate the date on the seat itself. Many manufacturers place the date on a white sticker on the back or bottom of the plastic.
Others stamp the date directly onto the seat in ink that will not wash off. If you cannot find a white sticker or stamp on the back or bottom of the seat, move the fabric aside and look around. Very rarely, you'll find the information you're looking for on the fabric itself, on a white patch sewn onto the cushion.
How Long Are Car Seats Good For?
Generally speaking, manufacturers design seats that will last at least six years. Infant car seats certainly don't need to last this long, but because forever car seats are becoming a thing, it is worth checking the lifespan of your child's infant seat. Sturdier car seats are designed to last as long as 10 years, which may be able to get a child through infancy, toddlerhood and straight through to the end of his or her car seat use days.
When Does The Clock Start Ticking?
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It's important to note that the 6-, 7- or 10-year lifespan starts on the date the car seat was manufactured and not the date you bought it or busted it out of the box. If you find a previous year's model for a steal, understand that it is because it has a reduced life span. This is something to bear in mind when shopping for a car seat for your infant or young toddler or when shopping for a forever car seat.
A forever car seat might not last for the duration of your child's childhood if you bought it on the clearance rack. However, if you want a car seat designed specifically for infants, it may not hurt to save a little by purchasing a seat that is a year or two old.
Does Price Matter?
When it comes to purchasing a car seat for their little ones, a lot of parents are hung up on price and assume that the more expensive seat is the better seat. Don't be fooled by a price tag. All car seats must meet specific standards, and all car seats have a lifespan of between five and 10 years. No car seat is designed to last longer than a decade.
Safety isn't expensive, it's priceless. - Jerry Smith
You can spend $40 or $400 on an infant car seat, but at the end of the day, all seats will do the same thing: protect your child in the event of a crash. Additionally, within five to 10 years, you're going to have to replace your model with a newer one, so ultimately, you're going to have to decide if you want to shell out $80 or $800 for your child's seat.
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When purchasing your infant's car seat, expiration date is just one of many factors which you want to consider. Some additional considerations to make include the following:
This list is in order of priority, as comfort, next to safety, should be your greatest priority. If your child isn't comfort in his or her seat, you may discover that travelling anywhere with him or her will be a tortuous experience for both baby and anyone else in the vehicle. You also want to make sure that the car seat is easy for YOU to use, as you're the one who will be latching baby in and taking him or her out.
Adaptability and connections are not things that most new parents consider, but if you take them into consideration, it can make your life much easier. For instance, a lot of the newer infant seats don't have a handle by which you can carry the car seat, meaning that you would have to take baby out every time you went somewhere—even if baby was sleeping.
If the car seat doesn't connect to a stroller, you run into the same issue. If you have older children or are a Friends fan, you know that waking a sleeping baby is bad news. Keep yourself and your little one happy and check out a car seat's adaptability and connections BEFORE making the purchase.