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Expired Car Seats: What to Know

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 28, 2022

As a parent, you'd never intentionally feed your child expired food or give them expired medication. But did you know that car seats have an expiration date? Many parents are surprised to learn that their child's car seat expires and wonder what they need to do to keep their child safe in the car.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about expired car seats — how to tell if your car seat is expired, what to do with expired car seats, and more.

What Is an Expired Car Seat?

An expired car seat is a car seat that's too old to be used safely. The expiration date on a car seat varies by manufacturer — typically six to 10 years from the manufacturing date — but all car seats expire eventually.

To find out if your car seat is expired, you can check your car seat for a label or printed area that lists the car seat date of manufacture. Some car seat models have a longer lifespan due to steel reinforcements or other features, and these seats will likely list an exact expiration date. If your car seat has no expiration date listed, consider it expired six years after the date of manufacture. 

If you're unsure about your car seat's expiration date, you can call the manufacturer to help you determine if your car seat is expired. 

Are Expired Car Seats Safe?

Injuries from car accidents are a leading cause of death among children, and expired car seats may not protect your child in the event of a crash. Because of this, expired car seats are not considered safe and should not be used. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to use a car seat past its expiration date, or six years from the date of manufacture if the car seat has no expiration date.

Following all safety guidelines for car seats can reduce severe and fatal injuries in children by as much as 80%.

Why Not Use Expired Car Seats?

Parenting is expensive, and kids use an average of three car seats before switching to standard seat belts. It can be tempting to use an expired seat you already have to save money. Many parents have friends or family members who don't believe in car seat expiration dates and think they're being scammed into buying new seats unnecessarily. 

But riding in the car is the most dangerous thing most children do every day, and there are very serious safety concerns around using expired car seats: 

Components Get Worn Down

The plastics in your car seat can become more brittle with age. This can lead to weak points that make your car seat more likely to fail in a crash. 

Temperature fluctuations in cars and sun exposure can contribute to wear and tear. The older a car seat gets, the more likely it is that a vital component won't function properly in a car crash.

Technology Improves

As technology improves, new car seats become safer. The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per million children younger than 13 decreased 80% between 1975 and 2020, in part due to advances in safety technology like the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. 

Expired car seats are 6 to 10 years old and are often not as safe as more modern car seats. 

How to Get Rid of Expired Car Seats

Some local recycling services take car seats, but access varies by area. Some major retailers and organizations host trade-in programs at select times of the year where they accept car seats in any condition for recycling.

You may be able to recycle an expired car seat at a local recycling facility by separating the components:

  • Cut off all foam padding, straps, and fabric.
  • Use a screwdriver to remove as much metal as possible.
  • Discard the fabric, foam, straps, and mixed metal/plastic pieces.
  • Mark the plastic base as unsafe.
  • Recycle the remaining plastic and metal pieces in the appropriate bins.

If you throw the entire car seat in the garbage, be sure to cut the straps or remove them and dispose of them separately so the car seat can't be reused. Consider disposing of your expired car seat in a black trash bag to reduce the chances of someone taking it to use. 

Expired car seats are unsafe, so you should never donate them or pass them on as hand-me-downs. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics: "American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Updates Recommendations on Car Seats for Children."

Centers for Disease Control: "Child Passenger Safety."

Cincinnati Children's: "Car Seat Expiration Dates – Have You Checked Yours?"

Colorado Department of Transportation: "Car Seat Recycling Program."

Consumer Reports: "What to do with a used car seat, do they expire?"

healthychildren.org: "Car Seat Checkup."

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute: "Fatality Facts 2020: Children."

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