How Long Do Booster Seats Last?

A booster seat is typically the car seat that your child will get the most use out of. If placed in a booster seat at the age of 4, a child will get at least four years of use out of the seat. It is required by law to use a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits properly. This means that a booster seat will be used for at least a couple of years, if not more. With the extended use of a booster seat, you may be wondering how long do booster seats last? You may also be wondering what exactly determines that a booster seat can no longer be used and what to do with an old booster seat.

Booster Seats Expire

One surprising fact about car seats is that they come with an expiration date. This may seem unnecessary considering the fact that they are sturdy and appear strong. However, an expiration date is required. The plastic of a car seat can warp and weaken in the sun, with use, and with age. This weakened plastic can decrease the effectiveness of the car seat which can be very unsafe for the child. A car seat’s expiration date is typically printed on the seat itself and it can also be found in the owner’s manual. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer of the car seat. Registering a new seat will allow the manufacturer to contact you when it expires or notify you if there is a recall involving the seat. The expiration date varies between manufacturers and car seats but it is typically 6 to 9 years after the date of manufacture.

Replace After an Accident

Booster seats, such as this one, should also be replaced if they are involved in a car accident. Regardless if a child was using the seat or not, a car seat that is located in a car during a car accident should be replaced immediately. This is because a collision can weaken the frame and plastic of a car seat rendering it ineffective in the event of another car accident. While it may seem obvious to replace a seat in a major accident, it is also recommended that a seat be replaced in the event of a minor accident. Even if the accident is a small fender bender, most manufacturers recommend replacing the seat. Contact your car insurance company as they may help replace a car seat that was involved in a car accident.

Booster Seat Law

A booster seat is required by law for all children who do not fit securely in an adult seat belt. The age range that a child can sit without a booster seat is 8-12, however, there are some big 7-year-olds as well as some small 13-year-olds. Always consider weight when determining if your child still requires a booster as their age is nearly irrelevant. An older child may find it embarrassing to ride in a booster seat; however, it won’t be embarrassing for them to survive a major car accident as a direct result of riding in a booster seat. It may be tempting to allow your older child to ride without a booster seat, but it can be deadly to have a small child sit with an adult seat belt. It also may be tempting to allow your child to ride in the front seat but the back seat is always safer for children and some states do not permit up-front riding until the child is 13 years old.

Used Booster Seats and When to Not Use Them

Like other baby equipment, parents may be tempted to purchase used items especially since children typically outgrow equipment before the equipment is completely worn out or reached an expiration date. While using a used seat may be appealing, it is typically not safe. Booster seats found at yard sales or flea markets could have a history of car accidents. The frame or plastic could be damaged and the padding may be worn out. A seat could appear to be in good condition, but there is no way of knowing if it really is. If you will be using a booster seat that your other children have used, be mindful of the expiration date. Also, contact the manufacturer to find out if there have been recalls affecting the safety and use of the seat. It is always better to buy new because the risk is simply too high. While you may be saving money by using a used seat, it may not be the best choice for your child’s safety.

How to Dispose of a Booster Seat

If your child’s booster seat was involved in a car accident or it has expired, dispose of it in a way that it cannot be used by anyone else. Cut the straps (if there are any), remove the padding and make it undesirable should anyone come across it. Write “unsafe” or “expired” on the seat with marker or paint. If a booster seat has been recalled, discontinue use and contact the manufacturer right away. Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer. A recall may involve sending a piece, or the entire seat back to the manufacturer.

Safe Use

Booster seats are a small but necessary addition to your vehicle. Even if a child has outgrown a five point harness seat, they are still too small to ride with an adult seat belt. Using a booster seat raises them up higher which allows the lap belt to fit properly as well as the shoulder belt. Using a booster seat can save your child’s life or otherwise prevent serious injury in the event of an accident. Events such as a car accident or expiration can make a seat unsafe. It is important to discontinue use immediately and replace the seat. Avoid using used booster seats as you cannot be sure of the history behind the seat; new is always the best option.

Conclusion

Booster seats are a life-saving device; however, the wear and tear of use can make them unsafe. Be mindful of the expiration date, recalls, the weight of your child and always replace car seats after accidents, even if it’s minor. Booster seats are safe when used properly and part of their proper use is discontinuing use when the seat is no longer safe or is outgrown. With this information, you should now know how long booster seats last and you should take the proper steps should you need to replace or dispose of a booster seat.


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