No one told you that having children would be easy - or cheap! From formula to diapers, and from a new wardrobe every three months to complex safety equipment issues, baby items seem to be made to break the bank. So, when you run across a good deal on baby gear, you may be tempted to take it, but beware! Used baby gear may not be all it’s cracked up to be, and in some instances, it may even be dangerous for your little one. This is especially true of used car seats.
Believe it or not, but car seats have expiration dates, just like that box of cereal in your cupboard and gallon of milk in your fridge. However, unlike food expiration dates, which are more of “Best Used By” recommendations, car seat expiration dates are pretty hard and fast, and it’s not recommended that you stick your bundle of joy in a seat that’s well overdue for the dump. If you’re skeptical about the expiration of a non-food item, this guide is here to provide some clarity.
Why Do Car Seats Expire?
If you’re like most people, you assume that car seat expiration dates are just a marketing strategy to get parents to shell out more dough for baby gear. While this is a very valid assumption, it’s incorrect. Babies are born every day, and Graco does not need your $200 every six years to stay afloat, and nor does Britax, Chicco, Cosco or Evenflo. Car seats have expiration dates because, after several years of wear and tear, they become unsafe. Seriously.
Think about it: car seats are comprised of mostly hard plastic, which is known to weaken over time, especially in climates prone to extreme temperatures. If you don’t believe this, think of children’s plastic tables that you find at garage sales or old sandboxes that were never put away for the winter. Bad hard plastic is brittle and prone to shattering upon the slightest impact. The last thing that you want to do is stick your pride and joy into a safety restraint that restrains but doesn’t protect.
Deterioration isn’t the only risk car seats face. There are several other reasons for car seat expirations. Those include the following:
Car Seat Expiration Dates To Know
Not all car seats are created equal, and generally, the rule of thumb is that the more you spend on a device, the longer it will last you. It also depends on when your particular seat was made. You can find the expiration date printed on the seat itself, or on the box that it comes in. That said, some manufacturers guarantee that their seats will last for a given amount of time. If you want to know when your kid’s car seat expires, use the following guide of car seat expiration dates for big name car seat brands:
Britax Specific Expiration Dates
If you’re reading this because you either have a Britax car seat or are considering buying one, you likely want a little more specific information on Britax car seat expiration dates. Here is a brief guide to Britax specific dates:
Britax Car Seats Manufactured Through June 2010:
Britax Car Seats Manufactured During or After June 2010
Keep in mind that if a car seat looks like it’s ready to retire, it probably is. This is true whether the expiration date has arrived or not. If a car seat is missing pieces, or if parts are broken, you should upgrade it to ensure the utmost safety for your child. If your car seat has been in a crash, you should also replace it, even if it does not necessarily appear to be damaged.
How To Tell When a Car Seat Has Expired
Unless, as mentioned above, your car seat is visibility damaged, it can be difficult to tell if the seat has expired. The best way to tell is to locate the car seat expiration date. Some manufacturers include a small white sticker on the back or bottom of the car seat that has the date stamped across it, along with the manufacture date, model number and serial number. Other manufacturers include this information on the plastic itself. To save you the headache of investigating every inch of your child’s car seat, use this guide to easily locate the expiration date of your child’s safety seat:
How To Retire Your Old Car Seat
Not only is it wrong to sell an expired car seat to an unsuspecting buyer, but it is also illegal. That said, you don’t just want to chuck the whole seat in the trash, as that leaves the opportunity for someone to come along and save it. So, if you can’t sell an old car seat and you can’t get rid of it, what can you do with it? Dismantle it.
Dismantling a car seat may seem like a lot of extra work for something that you’re just going to get rid of, but it’s worthy work. After all, a child’s life could be at risk. When you’re done with a car seat, remove and discard the fabric, padding and foam. Some parts may be recyclable, in which case, you should place those in the recycle bin. Next, cut the harness and straps. Take out any metal pieces and recycle those as well. Finally, take the plastic pieces to your nearest recycling center, as it will likely find a good use for them.