How Long Are Car Seats Good For?
With so many options to choose from, many parents shopping for a car seat want to know how long it will last. A car seat’s duration depends on its expiration date and how much wear and tear it goes through. Read more to find out what factors determine how long a car seat will last.
The most obvious way to determine how long car seats are good for is the expiration date. On average, car seats have six years before their expiration date. Some car seats can last up to a decade. It is important to check the listed expiration date and ensure you stop using the seat by this time.
Car seats expire because technology and materials change over time, so an older car seat will not be created with the safest and best materials. Expiration dates also take into account how much wear and tear a car seat can withstand before it is unusable. Sometimes the materials break down in ways that are not noticeable just by looking at the car seat. Some car seats may develop internal fractures that are not visible from the outside.
A car seat that has been in a moderate to severe car accident is no longer usable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you can keep using the car seat if:
- The vehicle was still drivable after the accident.
- The door nearest to the car seat was not damaged.
- There were no injuries to anyone in the vehicle.
- The airbags did not deploy.
- The car seat did not sustain any damage.
All of these criteria must be met in order to continue using the seat. If any are not met, then you should immediately replace your car seat.
Wear and Tear
Before hitting their expiration date, car seats may develop some noticeable wear and tear. The belts may lose some of their elasticity and the plastic may start to get brittle. If any part of your seat is broken or visibly damaged, you should not use the seat. If the car seat is newer, you may be able to contact the manufacturer to replace any broken parts. If this is not an option, then you will need a new car seat.
Second-Hand Car Seats
It is acceptable to pass down a car seat from sibling to sibling as long as it is before the expiration date and the car seat appears to be undamaged and in good condition.
It is not recommended that you purchase a used car seat. While this may save you a lot of money, it does not guarantee safety. The car seat may have damage you cannot see and likely will not come with the manufacturer’s instruction manual. Instruction manuals have all the information about the car seat and how to install it, so it is important to have one for your car seat. You should only buy a used car seat from a trusted friend or family member where you have access to the seat’s history and the manufacturer’s manual.
Manufacturers will recall a car seat if they find that the car seat does not satisfy safety standards. Your car seat manufacturer will likely put out a public notice or contact you if your car seat is recalled. However, if you have a second -and seat, it may be harder to know if your car seat has been recalled. This is why it is important to know the car seat’s history.
The safety of your child in your vehicle rests upon how safe your car seat is. This is why you should always pay attention to the expiration date and recalls, and you should also take damage to your car seat seriously. While it may be tempting to buy a cheap car seat at a garage sale, it is not worth risking your child’s life. Invest in a car seat you know is safe and always replace old car seats.
If you follow the NHTSA guidelines on accidents and know your car seat’s history, you will be able to maintain a safe place for your child in your vehicle. When in doubt, buy a new car seat or have your car seat checked by a professional at a hospital or fire station.
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