When Does My Baby Need a New Car Seat?

Now that you have a car seat for your baby, you may be wondering how long it will last. You may be asking questions such as “What if my baby is too old for the car seat?” or “What do I do with an old car seat?” The safety that a car seat offers is its main purpose, so it is important to answer your questions regarding the use of the car seat. Whether your baby is in an infant seat, a convertible car seat, or an all in one car seat, the information is the same for all car seats. Without prior knowledge of car seats, you may be wondering what to do if your infant doesn’t like rear facing as well as what the recommendations are for switching your baby to rear facing.

When Will My Baby Be Too Big for Their Car Seat?

First of all, children do not “age out” of a car seat. Their age is not a factor when considering switching car seats or orientations. Rather, it is their weight and length that dictates when they outgrow a car seat and orientation. Some infant seats go up to 22 pounds while other seats with infant rear facing go up to 40 pounds. The higher the weight limit, the longer your baby can remain in the rear facing position. Previously, parents celebrated their child’s one year birthday by changing their car seat orientation, but recent research has shown that babies fair better in the rear facing position so it is important to keep them in that position for as long as possible, regardless of how old they are.

What if My Baby Doesn’t Like Rear Facing?

You may be concerned about your child getting car sick or otherwise not enjoying rear facing. Most children do well rear facing and many remain in this position beyond their second birthday. If you have an infant that gets car sick, you may wish to change their orientation. While the concern of your child getting car sick can be motivation to turn your child around to forward facing, it is important that you refrain from doing so. While it is uncomfortable to have a child that does not do well with rear facing, it is important to keep them in this position as the orientation of the car seat can be the difference between life and death. If your child does not enjoy rear facing, purchase toys that they can play with in the car and also consider getting a mirror that attaches to the headrest which will allow your baby to see you. It may be an uncomfortable ride, but safety comes first.

Do I Replace the Car Seat After an Accident?

Unfortunately, you may experience a car accident. Car seats are designed to protect children in the event of a car accident so your child will fair better as a result of them being in a car seat. Without a car seat, your baby could suffer severe injuries or even lose their life. As you try to piece together your life after a car accident, you may be wondering if it’s still safe to use a car seat. All manufacturers highly recommend replacing car seats that are involved in car accidents, even if they appear to be in good condition. This is because the impact of an accident can cause the plastic of a car seat to weaken. There is the risk that if another accident were to occur, the car seat would be less effective. For this reason, it is recommended that all car seats are replaced after any car accident. You may wonder about small accidents, such as a fender bender. Despite being a minor car accident, it is still highly recommended that all involved car seats are replaced.

How Do I Know When a Car Seat is Too Old to Use?

Car seats are made to last however they do get to be too old to use. If the foam padding is worn out, it would be a good idea to replace the seat. Malfunctioning clips, cracks or sun damage are all good reasons to replace a car seat. Surprisingly, car seats have an expiration date that is usually located on the seat itself or in the instruction manual. It is important that you discontinue the use of the car seat once it reaches the expiration date. For this reason, it is always a good idea to purchase a new seat as opposed to a used seat as it may already be too worn and used to provide a safe ride for your baby. Saving money may be tempting but when it comes to your child’s life, you will want to give them the safest seat possible.

What Do I Do With an Old Car Seat?

If you have found that your car seat needs to be replaced, you may be in the dilemma of what to do with the old car seat. It is important to not sell or give away a worn or expired car seat as it will put another baby in danger. It is also important to prevent others from using the seat. The first step to getting rid of an old car seat is to remove all the padding and if possible, cut it up so it’s not useable. Use scissors to cut the straps which will make it impossible to use. Finally, use paint or a marker and write “expired,” “damaged,” or “do not use” on the seat. Make the seat undesirable by writing on the handle and frame as people will be less likely to use it if it has writing on it. Some cities allow you to recycle the seat with your recycling but you may have to take the seat to the local dump for proper disposable. Avoid leaving the seat in the open, such as at the curb, because a person may take the seat and try to use it with their child. Expired, damaged or otherwise unusable seats are unsafe and they should be destroyed in a way that makes them unusable to prevent others from trying to use the damaged seat.


Safety is always the number one priority when it comes to car seats. You may believe that your child is old enough to discontinue use of a car seat orientation however it is their weight that dictates when they switch. Your baby may get car sick easily but turning them too soon could be the difference between life and death so, despite the uncomfortable car ride, it is important to keep them in their current orientation for as long as the car seat allows. No matter how minor, all car seats should be replaced in the event of a car accident, even if the car seat was not occupied at the time of the accident. Disposing of an old car seat means destroying the seat as much as possible which will prevent others from using the seat. Using a car seat can save your child’s life however it is important to follow recommendations and protocols should you desire to purchase a new car seat and discontinue the use of their current car seat.

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