Child car seats are one of the most important child gear you’ll buy, and just like other gears, like a crib or a stroller, these car seats can get really expensive. And depending on the size, feature, and utility, you will spend an upward of $ 300- 400 for a single child car seat. Even when you buy the top of the line car seat for your baby, your child will not use the seat forever. Thus, you might want to use your old car seat for your newly born, or let someone else borrow it quickly, or maybe donate your old car seat to someone in need. But while doing so, you should be aware of one thing. Though it might look like that your old car seat is well kept and still quite useful, in reality, it could be useless, as child car seats do expire. Most of the child car seat manufacturers claim that the useful life of a car seat is about 6 to 10 years from the date of manufacturing, depending on the seat model. These seats expire due to regular wear & tear, changes in child safety regulations, degradation of the material, and recalls.
Why Do Car Seats Expire and Do They Have Expiration Dates?
A simple answer to this question is yes, child car seats do have an expiry date, and they do expire for more than one reason. Sometimes your car seat may become useless even before the mentioned expiry date. Let’s understand how long do car seats last, why these child car seats expire, and why they have an aforesaid expiration date.
Reasons why car seats expire:
1. Regular Wear & Tear
The most common and hazardous cause of child car seat expiry is the wearing and tearing of the car seat due to regular usage. Some people argue that their child’s car seat is used only so many times, and it’s only a marketing scheme to fool people into buying new car seats. But agreeing to that statement could be a serious mistake. Car seats are made with plastic, steel, and webbing materials, during a car ride these materials are exposed to a lot of pressure and stress. Additionally, these materials also face the changing temperature of your car and tolerate many spilled liquids and mishandlings. It might not be very visible to the naked eye, but all this leads to the degradation of material over time and affects the strength of the material and overall seat. And no parent would ever want a weak car seat for their children.
2. Changes In Quality Standards & Safety Regulations
Your baby’s safety and security is the number one priority for any child car seat manufacturer. And to meet this promise, manufacturers keep their products comply with the latest safety standard published by the federal government, state and transportation agencies, crash test benchmarks, and car manufacturers. Some manufactures test their child car seat product line beyond the industry standard to ensure that your baby is always in the safest seat. This change in the weight and height limitations of the harness or any other criteria can make your current car seat outdated.
3. New & Improved Car Seat
There are multiple car seat manufacturers in the market, and all of them spend big money on their R&D to render out the best product for their customers. Like any other product, child car seats are also updated and renewed in terms of their design and functionality. Often, these improved versions of car seats are loaded with useful technology and design aesthetics. This makes the older models obsolete in usability, as parents look for ease of use in the product they acquire for their offsprings.
4. Manufacturing Recalls
This might seem like an odd reason for a child’s car seat to expire, but it’s not. Many manufacturers run a recall program for their older models which might need some repair or are reported to have some trouble with the safety of the product. If you registered your newly purchased car seat, then you get a call from the company asking to return the product in exchange for a repair or maintenance or a self-care repair kit. If the product is too obsolete to repair, the manufacturer may ask you to dispose of the seat in a prescribed manner.
Where to Look for Expiration Date
Most child car seat manufacturers display the exact date of expiry at the bottom or back of the seat, making it easy to find car seat expiration date. Some of them display this information on the base of the seat or the seat itself. While some manufacturers only provide the date of manufacturing (DOM), this date can be found under or at the bottom of the seat. Since most of these car seats expire in 6 years, one can easily calculate the date of expiry by the given DOM. However, the best way to find out the correct date of expiry is to read the instruction manual or visit the company’s website. Some high-end car seat has a shelf life of 8 to 10 years, in that case; it is wise to not be hasty in retiring the seat before checking its expiry date from the makers.
What Can You Do With an Expired Car Seat
Now that you are aware that your car seat has expired, you might just put it aside in your garage or the attic or through it away on the street for the sanitation worker to collect. The first thing to do is to make sure that you mark that expired car seat in visible fond as ‘expired’ or ‘unsafe’. Also don’t donate that car seat to anyone, if it’s dangerous for your baby, it’s dangerous for anyone else’s too. Here’s what you can do with an expired car seat:
1. Trade-in Programs
Some retailers and wholesalers in association with car seat makers run a trade-in program where you can exchange the old and expired child car seats for shopping coupons, discounts on new seats, and gift vouchers. Trade-in programs are your best bet for that seat, and since you are not the only parent with an expired seat coated with dust, keeping your eyes open to the advertisement is your only chance to get a hand on those coupons.
Exchange and trade-in programs get to reach their quotas in a short span of time as they get a huge response from parents. The only other viable option is to recycle your car seat; if your respective state and local departments of public work accept recycling of car seat plastic, then it is advised to recycle your expired car seat and follow the proper recycling procedure.
Lastly, all you can do to get rid of that car seat is to dispose of it in the trash. Even when disposing of the car seat, you should follow the standard method. Remove all metal, fabric, foam, and padding from the seat before you throw it in the trash.
How to Properly Dispose of an Expired Car Seat
Disposing car seats require some consideration. You can’t just leave an unsafe car seat on your trash on the road. To properly dispose of an expired car seat you need to follow simple steps: remove all extra padding and cushion from the seat; cut all the harness and straps; remove any other hard object or metal; lastly mark it unsafe so no one will use it after you leave it out.
A child’s car seat is a necessity, and a parent cannot ignore making this essential purchase. If you’re looking to buy a car seat after proper planning, it becomes evident that you know what you are buying and how long it’s going to last. Many parents, mostly first-timers, are unaware and can be found on the internet asking questions like ‘how many years are car seats good for’ or ‘I want to know if my car seat has expired’ or something else. To answer their queries, car seat bases expire, and they do need to be replaced or disposed of in a correct manner. If you have an expired car seat, the first thing you’d want to do is never to use it again. Secondly, you need to know how to treat the unusable car seat. And lastly, the most important thing to understand is that even if your expired car seat is in mint condition and shows no sign of any wear and tear, you still shouldn’t be using that car seat. There is a reason why there’s an expiry date on the product, and following it is the right parenting move.