What Parents Should Know About Buying Used Car Seats

Find out if the car seat has been in an accident or ever recalled

Safety first
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Your baby's car seat is one of the more important baby products that you will buy, so is it okay if you buy one used?

Many parents buy used car seats because the devices can be one of the more expensive products they'll buy for their child, especially when they consider that they may have to buy two or three car and booster seats before their child graduates to only using seat belts.

The expense may tempt some parents to want to buy a used car seat or used booster seat or even reuse a car seat after an accident, none of which are safe practices.

Used Car Seats

You may be risking your child's life when you buy a used car seat or used booster seat at a garage sale, thrift store or online. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has found that many thrift stores sell hazardous products, including children's products, such as unsafe used baby crib and infant car seats that had been recalled.

If you are going to buy a used car seat or used booster seat, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you avoid the used car seat unless you know the car seat's history. This is very important because car seats should not be reused after they have been in a moderate or severe crash.

Unfortunately, unless you are buying or borrowing a used car seat from a friend or family member, it is going to be almost impossible to know the seat's history.

The AAP also recommends that you don't buy or use a used car seat that:

  • is too old, which generally means that it is more than six years old, although you should check the manual or call the manufacturer for a specific expiration date for that particular model of car seat.
  • has visible cracks or is missing parts or its instruction manual.
  • doesn't have a label with the date of manufacture and model number, so that you can check to see if the car seat has been recalled, and then, of course, don't buy or use the car seat if it has in fact been recalled.

Other Ways to Save Money on Car Seats

Since you likely don't want to get a used car seat, unless you can find one that is in very good condition, never recalled or in a moderate or severe crash, and that hasn't expired, you might have to look for other ways to save money on your child's car seat.

You can buy a new but recently out-of-date or discontinued model. Old models are often discounted once the latest models begin to appear in stores. In addition, try shopping in advance for your car seat so that you can find a bargain, instead of waiting until the last minute when you absolutely need the car seat for your new baby or older child who has outgrown an old seat.

Look for coupons or rebates for a new car seat or booster seat or find a car seat assistance program that sometimes provide car seats to families in need, such as Safe Kids USA, or some hospitals and some local health departments.

Reusing a Car Seat After an Accident

Can you still use your child's car seats even though they were in an accident? It depends. If it was a moderate or severe crash, then yes, you should replace the car seats.

However, if it was just a minor accident, then you may not automatically need to. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an accident is minor if:

  1. the vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
  1. the vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
  2. there were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
  3. the air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
  4. there is no visible damage to the safety seat.

If your accident meets all of those criteria, then you probably don't need to replace the car seat. If it was a more moderate or severe crash or if you aren't sure if your child's car seat is still safe, then you should likely replace it. Or at least have it checked at a Child Safety Seat Inspection Station.

Sources

AAP. Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2016.

CPSC. Thift Store Safety Checklist.

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