The question of whether or not to use a previously-owned child safety seat is a common one parents and caregivers ask. The answer is important, given that a safety seat could save a child's life. Safety experts strongly recommend using a new car seat over a used one.
If you are considering using a used car seat, however, you should know several things before making that decision.
When is the seat's expiration date?
Did you know that most car seats only last six years? This is because the plastics from which the seats are made break down due to heat and sun exposure. Typically, the manufacturer will print the seat's expiration date on the restraint. If you cannot identify the expiration date on the product, call the manufacturer and provide the model number and date of manufacture to learn the expiration date.
Are there any recalls on the seat?
The easiest way to check for recalls is by calling the manufacturer or checking the online child safety seat recall list.
What is the car seat's history?
Did you know that child safety seats are designed to perform properly in only one crash? That's it, one. We thus discourage the use of restraints that have already been involved in a motor vehicle crash, even if there is no identifiable damage to the seat. If you do not know the history of the seat, refrain from using it rather than assuming it is safe.
Are the safety labels present?
If the seat's safety labels are not present, or if they are too faded to be legible, you could be lacking crucial safety information such as height and weight requirements or seat belt pathway locations.
We encourage you ensure all labels are present and intact. Federal law requires manufacturers to adhere labels that provide basic instructions, warnings and manufacturer information, along with date of manufacture and model number.
Are any parts missing?
Check the seat to ensure no parts are broken, loose or missing. Sometimes parts can be recalled. Missing parts may be replaceable if you all the manufacturer.
Is the owner's manual included?
The car seat manual is your safety guide. It is important to have this on hand especially during the installation process. You can order a manual from the manufacturer or access a free copy from their website.
In summary, while we recommend using a new car seat, a used car seat may be an option only if
- It has not expired
- It hasn't been recalled
- You know the full history of the seat and can verify its integrity
- All visible, required labels are present and intact
- All parts are present and intact
- You can access the owner's manual
We recommend registering the car seat with the manufacturer, which you can do without the original registration card. Visit the manufacturer's website or call them and ask to do it over the phone.