Do Car Seats Expire: Know Car Seats And Their Laws

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When you’re looking to purchase a car seat, there are many features to be on the lookout for. Safety is essential when it comes to keeping your child safe in your vehicle. One of the most crucial pieces of information to look for is the expiration date.

​Do Car Seats Expire: Know Car Seats and Their Laws

​Your children are precious. Keeping them safe is your top priority. Vehicle safety is one of the top concerns for everyone, but especially parents. Even though cars are getting smarter, the people behind the wheel are getting more careless. You don’t want your children to become victims of someone else’s negligent or reckless driving, and while you can’t entirely avoid it, you can at least do something to mitigate it.

Car seats are one of the most significant purchases, if not the biggest, you as a new parent should make. With a wide assortment of seats all promising to be the safest, the easiest, and the most comfortable for your child, purchasing one can be an often daunting task. Whatever your budget is, there is a car seat that will fit it. With so much information out there, what do you really need to know before purchasing a car seat? Do car seats expire? What are the laws regarding car seat use?

Do Car Seats Expire?

While it may seem odd at first to think of an object expiring, in this case, it is entirely accurate. The short answer is yes, car seats absolutely do expire. Once you take the time to think about it, the reasons make complete sense.

What Is the Time Frame a Car Seat Is Good For?

Typically, car seats are set to expire six years after they are manufactured. The expiration date is most often printed near the manufacturer’s label on the car seat base or back. If you can’t find it there, you can assuredly find it in the instruction manual. Sometimes instead of an expiration date, the car seat will have a “manufactured on” date. You can then calculate the expiration by adding six years to that date.Every year, the previous year’s car seat models will go on sale, just like with cars. There is no harm in purchasing a car seat for this deep discount, but you must note that it gives you a year less for use. Remember, the clock starts at the date the unit rolls off the production line, not when you roll it out the door of the store.

Why Do Car Seats Expire?

Child Sleeping in Car Seat

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There are many reasons why car seats expire.

1. Materials Break Down

Over time, even the best materials will break down, especially when subjected to the wear and tear a car seat is. The constant and extreme changes in temperature over the years will cause the plastic to develop microscopic cracks. You may never see these cracks, but they are there. In crash tests, car seats with these cracks fail and cause severe injury and even death. Another thing to note is that the safety restraints and harness can lose their elasticity over time and begin to stretch out. 9888+8- will leave enough of a gap to prove dangerous to containing your child in the time it’s needed most.

2. Technology Improves

Technology isn’t just evolving on the car and smartphone front. Car seats are also getting their fair share of development through technological upgrades. Crash tests and the data they gather are becoming more advanced and helpful. The results gathered, in turn, lead to improvements in car seats. For instance, before the year 2002 car seats were installed via the vehicle’s seat belts. Since then, a new LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system has become the standard. This new standard was developed because of increasing data that showed car seats were not being installed securely enough with the seat belt alone. The LATCH system consists of belts with two clips at the end. These clips that are attached to metal anchors are found near the seat belt component. These anchors are connected to the frame of the car, therefore providing more stability for the car seat.

3. Laws Change

​Think back to when you were a child. Did you have to even wear a seatbelt? Were you able to lie down in the back of your parents’ station wagon with your sleeping bag and flashlight? Perhaps you rode in the front seat for as long as you can remember. These days, the laws have changed in response to an increase in knowledge and safety standards. Laws are updated to continue protecting children. It wasn’t too long ago children were riding on laps. An uptick in child ejections put a stop to this dangerous practice.

You now know what to look for as far as an expiration date, and you even know the reasons that the expiration date is important. Perhaps you didn’t realize that the laws had changed with regard to children riding in the front seat or lap riding. Below are some more specifics in relation to the most recent and relevant car seat laws.

What Are the Current Car Seat Laws and Regulations?

Baby sleeping in car

​Image source: pixabay

Car seat laws are passed on a state-by-state basis. However, there are a few regulations that are mostly universal.

First and foremost, children should always be restrained in an approved child safety seat. The car seat should still be installed in the back seat, preferably in the middle of the row. This area of the car has been proved as the safest and provides the most significant protection for your child in case of an accident.

Children under 1 years of age must be in a rear-facing car seat. A child may remain in an infant carrier as long as the carrier supports the weight of the child. If it doesn’t, then a rear-facing or convertible car seat should be utilized. The American Academy of Pediatrics has started to recommend that children stay rear facing until they are 2 years old or reach the height and weight limit of the rear-facing car seat. This recommendation may cause some concern depending on the car seat you choose, as room for the child to grow can seem limited when they are facing backward. Children are very flexible still at this early age, and while there is merit in some of the concern, car seats are being manufactured that slide back out from the vehicle seat to allow room for your child to grow and stay rear-facing for as long as possible.

Once a child gets too tall for the rear-facing car seat, it’s time to turn them around and face them forward. At this point, the car seat should be a five-point harness convertible seat. Many units like this can hold a child for many years, up to 65 pounds and 4 foot 9 inches in most cases. Children should stay in this seat until they outgrow it. When the time comes for them to be out of the five-point harness seat, utilize a booster seat that affords for proper belt-positioning. This seating arrangement should be maintained until the child is 12. Remember, children should stay in the backseat until they reach the age of 13 due to the dangers that airbag deployment can pose.

Check your local state laws to be sure you are in compliance. You can be ticketed and in some states charged with a primary offense for not having your child restrained according to the jurisdictional laws.

Other Relevant Information Regarding Child Seat Safety


One other important piece of information you should have before proceeding with purchasing a car seat is you should not buy one that has been pre-owned. Even if it hasn’t expired and has no visible signs of damage, second-hand car seats can pose a grave danger. That’s because you don’t know the history behind the unit. It could have been involved in a car accident. Once this happens, manufacturers and insurance companies recommend that you no longer use the car seat. The crash could compromise the integrity of the seat construction. Remember those small cracks we referred to earlier in the article? Those can occur in an accident, even if serious injury did not. The belt and harness could also stretch depending on the force of the crash.

If you’re trying to be money conscious and have a smaller budget, it’s best to shop for new car seats in your price range. All car seats sold in the United States have passed safety tests. While some may have more bells and whistles than others, the fact remains that the less expensive seats can be more than sufficient enough to protect your child. Don’t let the price keep you from making a smart choice when it comes to the safety of your child.

Your primary job as a parent is keeping your child safe. Vehicular safety is one of the most important aspects of keeping your child free from harm. Now that you’ve found the answer to your question of “do car seats expire?”, you know how to determine if the unit you’re looking at will last as long as you need it to. You also understand why the expiration date is a necessary piece of information. You also know that buying a car seat secondhand is not a good idea and can be dangerous. Remember to check your local laws regarding what kind of child safety restraint system you need and purchase the product that you need. You want to keep your child as safe as you can for as long as you can.

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