Car Seat Expiration Dates and When You Should Replace Them

Did you know that car seats expire? Yes they do and it is very important that you are aware of the expiration date on your child’s car seat. There is a reason that car seats have an expiration date and you really should pay attention to them. After a recent discussion during my Monday night Twitter parties I realized many people had no idea that car seats expire so I decided to do a little research and here is what I learned.

Car Seats Do Expire. Each and every car seat has an expiration date which is listed on a sticker somewhere on the car seat. The car seat expiration is based on the date of manufacture not the date of purchase or beginning of use. Most car seats expire in 5 years some in 6.

Car Seats Can Become Unsafe when They Expire. There is a reason why car seats are given an expiration date and it is not just to get your money. The car seat does become damaged in ways you may not see. The plastic shell degrades and warps due to the changing conditions, the harness begins to wear and the Styrofoam can degrade. All of these things make your child less and less safe. The plastic can even become so brittle that is shatters on impact, just the thought horrifies me.

Another car seat issue you need to be aware of is that you should not continue to use a car seat that has been in a serious crash. Minor fender benders do not count but anything remotely damaging to the car could be very damaging and compromising to the car seat. Good news though most insurance companies will pay to replace your car seat when you have been in a crash. That means you have no excuse for not tossing it. In these tough economic times I know a hand me down car seat can seem like a dream come true but be careful. Make sure you check the expiration date and get a full crash history. Saving money is not worth risking your childs life. In researching this piece I reached out to Nationwide Insurance to find out what they had to say about expired car seats and those that have been in a crash.

Nationwide follows the NHTSA recommendations regarding replacement of child safety seats after a crash. Nationwide considers child safety seats as equipment under the auto physical damage coverage of the policy. For third party claimants, child safety seats are covered by the liability coverage. Nationwide will replace all child safety seats damaged in a crash for our policyholders and pay for replacement of child safety seats of others damaged in a crash that our policyholder is liable for. In moderate or severe crashes, Nationwide will routinely consider the child safety seats involved as damaged.

Are there any insurance ramifications for using an older or expired child safety seat? Using an expired child safety seat does not impact either the rates Nationwide charges customers or the way we handle a claim. So there are no ramifications from an insurance standpoint for using an expired child safety seat. Nationwide does recommend to customers to update their child safety seats so they can protect what matters to them most, the safety of their family.

Not sure if your car crash warrants replacing the car seat? Here are the NHTSA guidelines for reference: NHTSA recommends that child safety seats be replaced following a moderate or severe crash in order to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers. NHTSA recommends that child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash. Minor crashes are those that meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site
  • The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged
  • There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants
  • The air bags (if present) did not deploy
  • AND There is no visible damage to the safety seat

Finally I spoke withΒ  Sarah Tilton, child passenger safety advocate for Britax she says,Β  Please refer to the user guide that came with your child seat to determine its recommended useful life. Britax recommends that the use of a child seat be discontinued after a certain number of years from date of manufacture, depending on the seat, or if the seat has been involved in a severe crash. Expiration dates are recommended for various reasons: technology has changed, components degrade from the environment (depending on how and where stored), parts get lost or installed incorrectly, or instructions and labels may not be available or not legible. After a child seat has met its expiration date, Britax recommends that the child seat be destroyed.

I hope this helps you to make more informed decisions about your child’s car seat and their safety while riding in motor vehicles. This also means you should be more aware of when you buy a car seat versus when you will use it. If you are buying in advance because it is a great deal you will be wasting precious years of use. I know lots of people who were given car seats at their baby showers that sat in the closet for almost 2 years that means they only had 3 years left to use it before it expired. So be informed and make smart choices to help keep your kids safe.

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72 comments

  1. To help extend the life of you babycar seat keep it out of the sun. The Ultraviolet Light in sunlight can greatly speed up plastics going brittle and therefore making your car seat degrade faster than the manufacturers figures.

  2. i am having a real problem with my brand new car seat purchased yesterday. i have a 98 nissan sentra and the car seat has to be in the middle in the backseat but it doesn’t fit. it sits on top of the belt buckles. what should i do? also it was a pricey one not that i thought it should last longer but it expires in 2013 but i bought it because it has all the features i need for my 2yr old none of the other ones did. now i can’t afford 160.00 every year because we need a cup holder he can reach and reclnes on long trips. i can’t fasten it tight enough in my older car. it seems to me that the manuafacturer designs car seats for brand new cars which i can’t afford. i may not have a choice but to buy or use my older car seat. i have to go with what fits. and tightens.
    .

    1. find a car seat inspection location at http://www.seatcheck.org/ – they can help you secure the car seat correctly in your vehicle- it may be as simple as using a pool noodle to level the seat or provide enough space between the seat and the belt buckles.

      They can also determine if the seat cannot be installed correctly in your vehicle as we encountered last year with a seat we bought- not common, but it does happen. They can also provide guidance about what other seats might work for your particular vehicle model.

  3. Thanks for posting.

    It doesn’t make since to me how buying in advance would be a problem as long as the seat is stored indoors and away from light. I don’t see how it could break down in those conditions.

    Also, the reason “technology change” doesn’t make since to me either. I agree with the idea that car seats get safer as technology improves. However, if a child is considered safe in his brand new car seat today, that same model of car seat if bought new, 10 years from now, should keep him just as safe unless the way they make cars is considerably different than how they make them today.
    Just some thoughts.

    Thanks for again putting the article together.

  4. The sunlight breaks the plastics down and actually can weaken them. Usually they’re in the back seats and rear windows are tinted, which helps. The same goes for the fabrics. Excessive sunlight exposure is going to cause colors to fade faster than normal. A good tip is to cover the seats when they are not in use, or park the vehicle in the shade as much as possible. Thanks for the useful tips in your post.

  5. My question is this, if it is an infant seat and was used for a very short time and then stored inside the house (dark closet), would it still break down? My dil passed her seat/stroller combo down to my dd and it has been stored safely out of light for the last 4+ years (her daughter is turning 5 in Dec.). Shouldn’t this seat still be safe to use?

  6. Wow, my seat belts in my car are way older…wonder if I am still safe? What about all the people driving around in cars from the 70 or 80’s?

  7. Thank you for a great piece of information. I think many people are unaware That they need to check to make sure their car seats are still appropriate.

  8. if u dont ahve $ to buy a new one call ur local pd or fd and ask for the next car seat check in and if ur seat is out dated or something belive they will give u new one

  9. I knew that carseats expire, but thanks for the tips on what to do if you are in an accident. Praying I don’t have to worry about that, but it is nice to know that some insurance companies will pay to have your car seat replaced. Thanks for the info.

  10. Thank you for the reminders. I am passionate about car seat safety and I find that most people need this information.

  11. Wow, I had no idea that they expired, what else expires in life besides food? πŸ™‚ Thanks for the great information, very interesting.

  12. Thank you for this information! I will have to let my son know and my mom who also has extra car seats. I had no idea.

  13. Wow! I did not know that car seat had an expiration date. I have never even heard of such a thing. I am so glad I read this post because I passed my kids old car seats down to my sister. Now I need to let her know to really check them out. Thanks for this great post!!

  14. consumers should be able to turn in old car seats and receive some type of rebate from the manufacturer who then could recycle the materials.
    rebates to the purchaser may also encourage manufacturers to design products that have a longer useful life.

  15. Gosh, I best have my kids check the dates for my grandchildren. I really didn’t think about weather changing them and that they’d expire so quickly. So glad you shared this

  16. OMG, who would have thought of this? Not me! I’m sending this info to my daughter for my grandkids. It never occurred to me that these expire!! Thank YOU!

  17. Thankfully, my kids were close enough together that this wasn’t an issue for me! I forgot to think of grandpa’s carseat though. This was a hand-me–down from a friend, and I must admit it didn’t occur to me to check!

  18. excellent info – my friend just bought a carseat at a garage sale so she would have an extra seat to pick up her g’daughter. I will pass this info along.

  19. Thanks for the post! I just found the expiration date on a hand-me-down and came online to research why they are there. Good info. Very good info about crash replacements! Hopefully I never need to USE that info, but it is great to tuck away!

  20. It really surprises me that a lot of parents do not know this, and other car seat safety rules. It would be great if parents could go through a car seat safety course with birthing classes or before they were released from the hospital. There are just too many mistakes out there.

  21. This is a great article, but readers should know that only Britax follows the NHTSA guidelines for accident replacement. Diono does but only for their Monterey booster, so all other seats specifically say to replace in any accident. Also, the Peg Perego infant seat is the only 5 year expiration seat in the US. All others are now 6-10 years depending on the manufacturer. So, definitely always check your manual and your seat. Thanks for posting this!

    Jessica Wiese CPST

  22. I never really thought to look on our car seats and this is really neat to read. I like a article that informs you of something you didn’t know.

  23. For starters, I had no clue that car seats could expire, and even less of a clue that an insurance company will pay to replace one if you’ve been in a car accident – that’s something you never hear about.

  24. I am no chemist but it is my understanding that any polymer based (plastic) material degrades over time due to UV AND ozone exposure. Storing in as closet might protect it from UV but not ozone. You would, at a minimum, need to store it in some sort of hermetically sealed bag. And then the bag would have to be made of some sort of material that didn’t react chemically with the materials from which the car seat is made. As an example, tire manufacturers warn against long storage of vehicles on asphalt parking lots because the petroleum compounds in the asphalt will degrade the rubber and polymer compounds in the tire, if the tire is maintained for long periods of time in constant (non-moving) contact with the asphalt.

  25. I just found this out last year, and have had 6 kids plus now 6 grandkids. When I first heard this I thought, wow, that HAS to be some sort of farce just for companies to make you go out and buy MORE of their very expensive products. So people will not lend baby equipment like this, etc. But after reading and really digging, I now know that 1. Car seats are expensive because they HAVE to be made rugged, safe, comfy, and have truly engineered qualities. The research and work into their design I would guess is tireless. And the price you pay for something like this,…well, you just don’t want to scrimp on safety. 2. Unless products are made out of titanium, they are going to degrade. I think of toys and other products that are left in the sun…their properties weaken. For instance, outdoor furniture made from plastic or composite which IS rugged and thick,…well, you can scrape away fibers easily when sun or time damaged. I don’t know, when you know this and then realistically know that nothing lasts forever…well, who wants to take a chance on THAT particular item.? A person can spend almost a hundred bucks these days to go see a movie, a MOVIE…dinner, a drink, movie and snack and then pay a sitter. The thing I don’t know and wonder about is ALL those car seats in land fills? That is sad. So many of the rugged products have to be made for safety and strength. But how long does true complete biograde take for products like this. Just wondering.

  26. These are such a scam, and a first world “problem”. Why don’t seat belts expire? This is just a way to continue the consumerism nonsense. It is a way to get you to purchase $70 base stations as opposed to passing them on to your family and friends. Obviously if a car seat is warped or cracked you throw it away. Setting an arbitrary date is ignorant and fear mongering.

    1. Good point about the seat belts. What the fear mongers don’t say is that seat belts are made of nylon and polyester – plastic yet they don’t expire. Additionally, these companies lobby to organizations such as the NHTSA to get them to make such random expiration dates.

  27. I have been mocked for insisting that our family dispose of expired carseats. Is it really worth it? I’ll pinch pennies on some things, but not at the risk of my kiddos!

  28. So many people don’t realize that car seats do expire and even some family members don’t really believe me when I tell them to get rid of them that they expired. I don’t think you should be allowed to resale a used car seat at a yard sale or thrift shop because you don’t know if it was in a crash or not. Them babies and toddlers need to be protected, they can’t protect themselves. I hate seeing children out of car seats and on the seats. Thank you for the info, I’m sharing to let more people know.

  29. This is good to know, especially for new parents. I had no clue mine expired, and then once I did know it was hard to find the date. Ours has a manufactured date, and then says it is good for the seven years from that date. πŸ™‚

  30. What a crock! these manufacturers have parents buying into this is ridiculous. Are you actually going to believe that the day after the expiration date these seats won’t protect your child? I have a bridge to sell you!

  31. Bud, I don’t think it’s a crock at all, it’s a way to ensure you always have the safest possible option. Besides, it’s not like the seats expire in a year! Mine from my first child is five years old now, and we’re safe to keep using it for my second.

  32. I just realized that two of mine are expired. I take very good care of my seats and even at the expiration time mine look like new. However, my seats are in a car that is outside in the heat and frigid cold weather. I don’t know (scientifically) what that does to the materials that the seat is made of. It may weaken the plastics, metal, etc. I do replace mine when the recommended time is up. I’d rather be safe than sorry. πŸ™‚

  33. I honestly have never thought about this before. Thanks so much for this info! Geez…..I don’t know why I never thought about this.

  34. I don’t have kids but know a lot of parents with young children and I’ve never heard this discussed (and feel like I’ve heard every other topic under the sun). I’ll make sure my friends know about this — thanks!

  35. You would think that this would be a common sense kind of thing but I’m sure there are new parents out there that are accepting used carseats and not even giving this a second thought. Laws and regulations change all the time like medical findings, even cribs. After testing, and retesting (for the utmost safety) I’m sure there are plenty of carseats out there that don’t meet regulations. Baby’s safety should be a priority. Thanks for bringing this topic to light!

  36. Yes, Such a shame to get a convertible seat at a baby shower and “waste” another 1.5 years sitting in a closet. Also, watch out when buying, because the seats going on sale are often the prior models that have already been a year post-manufacture.

  37. I would have never dreamed that car seats had a expiration date. I could understand that they may become brittle or dry rotted over time.

  38. Wow, I had no idea either about the expiration dates either. This is really good to know. I do not have any little ones in car seats at the moment but my sister and friends do. I will have to see if they know about this as well. Thanks for the information.

  39. I got rid of one of my children’s carseats when it expired and bought a new one for the child growing into it. I was amazed at the quality improvement of the seat and ease of use with the newer model.

  40. Unfortunately, many, many people don’t know about these expiration dates. I provide home daycare and try to find ones from people I know that I can use for the kiddos when their children have outgrown them, however, I see them at thrift sales on a regular bases years past their expiration date. Often times, I’ll share this information with the person having the sale and they don’t even care. It’s sad. A parents who doesn’t know better may purchase the seat seeing a great savings and then end up with and unsafe seat for their child. πŸ™ My kids are now 9 and 10 but I remember even back then, when I had them, a nurse walked us out to our car to make sure we had a proper infant seat and knew how to install it correctly. That could be a prime time to just mention to parents that car-seats do expire so it’s something to watch out for in the future. Great topic to bring up and share with friends and family! πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  41. I’m so glad my child was a fast grower and we never had an issue with our car seats expiring. It always scared me to see used car seats for sale in stores as one never knows what if the seat was in an accident; infact, some used stores won’t accept used car seats!

  42. This is a very important and informative post! Sadly, I did not know that car seats had an expiration date.

  43. I had no idea that car seats had expiration dates. I have 2 kids and had no clue. Wow.. you learn something new every day.

  44. With 5 years between my two youngest children, we needed to buy another carseat. It wasn’t easy to convince my husband that the original one had expired because it looked just fine. I found info on NHTSA’s website and he was on board. Thanks for this post!

  45. I never paid attention to the expiration dates on our carseats; however, we bought new ones with both kids so we were probably in good shape. Such good info!

  46. I am buying new car seat for my kids.
    Listen! What my husband said.
    My husband said ” Why kids need to replace car seat? Why it has an expire date? There is nothing wrong with it and no accident?? How stupid he is??

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