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 and expensive baby products that you will buy, so is it okay if you buy one used? If you are considering that, you will need to exercise caution.

It's tempting to look for a used car seat as they are expensive and you will have to buy two or three car and booster seats before your child graduates to only using seat belts. Learn about why you should avoid them and the warning signs for ones that are especially risky to buy.

Used Car Seats

You may be risking your child's life when you buy a used car seat or used​ a 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 unsafe used baby cribs and infant car seats that have been recalled.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you avoid buying a used car seat unless you know its 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 one 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 more than six years old or has passed its expiration date. You should check the manual or call the manufacturer for a specific expiration date for that particular model of car seat.

Other Ways to Save Money on Car Seats

With all of the risks of used car seats, you might have to look for other ways to save money on your child's car seat.

Try shopping in advance for bargains. If you don't have time pressure, you can look for sales, coupons, and rebates on a new car seat or booster seat. Each year, older models are often discounted once the latest models begin to appear in stores. The older models are still new and under warranty.

You may be able to use a car seat assistance program that provides car seats to families in need, such as Safe Kids USA, or a program through a hospital or local health department.

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 you should not use the car seat and you should replace it.

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 all of these criteria are met:

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

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.

A Word From Verywell

The bottom line is that the only acceptable used car seats are ones that are in very good condition, have never been recalled, aren't expired, and have never been in a moderate or severe crash. Reduce the risks for your child by selecting only the safest products.

Sources:

Car Seats: Information for Families. AAP. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx.

Car Seat Use After a Crash. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. https://www.safercar.gov/parents/carseats/using-car-seat-after-crash.htm?view=full.

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