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 with  Sarah Tilton, child passenger safety advocate for Britax she says,  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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  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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. 🙁 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! 🙂 Thank you!

  8. 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!

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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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