What You Need To Know About Used Car Seats

Used car seats and booster seats are everywhere. It’s very common for car seats and booster seats to be handed down between family members and friends. They are frequently seen at garage sales, on Craigslist and Ebay, and at consignment shops. But what do you really know about used car seats? How do you know if these car seats are safe to use?  Here are a few tips.

While the cost savings can be a strong influence, it’s generally not a great idea to use a used car seat. There are both safety and legal concerns to consider. If you’re bent on going this route (or maybe you have a car seat you want to sell), make sure you can answer the questions below about any seat in question.

Used Car Seat Safety Checklist

  1. Is the car seat expired? Over time, car seat materials weaken and safety features are updated. Look for an expiration date on the seat itself. If you can’t find it, look for the model number and date of manufacture, then contact the manufacturer to find out.
  2. Has the car seat been recalled? Do a Google search for the car seat manufacturer and model number, or go to www.safekids.org and search the recall list.
  3. Has the car seat been in a crash? If it has been in a moderate or major crash, it’s best not to use it.  Stretched belts and overstressed plastic parts may not be obvious but could affect the results of a second crash. If you don’t know the car seat’s history for sure, you’re taking a chance.  Check out www.safercar.gov for how to determine the severity of a crash.
  4. Are all the parts present and working? Make sure you can account for all harness straps and buckles, attachment straps and LATCH clips, and any removable parts like arm rests, headrest, or padding.
  5. Does the car seat have a sticker and a user’s manual? These items have valuable information specific to that particular seat. You’ll want to be familiar with the allowable weight and height range, installation instructions, and proper recline angle. Most state laws require that a seat be used “in accordance with manufacturer recommendations”.

Knowing this information will at least help you make an informed decision and know the potential risks if you choose to go with a used seat.

A Possible Low Income Option

If you can’t afford a new car seat, there may be an alternative to chancing it with a used car seat. Many groups offer discounted or free new car seats to those who can meet income-based need requirements. These seats are distributed by county through various community and municipal groups. To see if your area has such a program, check your state resources page here. Or you can contact your nearest children’s hospital or local safekids chapter.  Be aware that the approval process may take several weeks. And if approved, there may still be a long waiting list before you receive a seat.

About Used Car Seats