One day your child is going to outgrow his or her car seat, leaving you wondering what to do with it. Many parents save it for their next child, while others pass it on to someone they know.  

Use the interactive tool to help you decide whether it’s safe to reuse that car seat or whether it’s time to retire it altogether. For more guidance, read below the tool on how expiration dates, crash history, and product recalls should have an impact on your decision.

Check the Expiration Date

Many parents don’t realize that child seats have expiration dates, or some may speculate that those dates are only a manufacturer's marketing ploy to sell more seats. The truth is that they exist for good reasons. Expiration dates help to ensure that your car seat reflects the latest in technology, which not only helps protect your child but may also help you get a more secure installation. A nonexpired date ensures that your seat meets the most up-to-date safety regulations. And the expiration date is important to note when considering the structural integrity of the seat's components. The webbing, plastic, foam, buckles, etc., experience wear and tear over time that could weaken their their ability to provide optimal crash protection if they’ve been in use for too long.

Check your owner’s manual and the seat’s labels to determine whether the seat has exceeded its expiration date. Most seats are good for six years or more from the date they're manufactured. If the date has passed, dispose of the seat properly by stripping it of all fabric and cutting all harnesses and straps so that they can no longer be used. Clearly mark the seat’s shell “Do Not Use.” You can contact your local recycling plant to see whether it accepts used car seats or search online for trade-in programs in your area. 

Know the Crash History

If the seat has been in a car that’s been involved in a crash, the crash forces could have weakened the structural integrity of key components beyond what the naked eye can see. Many seats look just fine following tests in our dynamic test protocol, but many times components are cracked, broken, or deformed upon closer inspection. That’s why it’s important to dispose of a seat that has been in a moderate to severe crash.  

Check for Recalls

Check to see whether there have been any recalls, and if so, make sure the problems have been addressed. Not every recall is a safety recall, but every recall is important to follow up, even if it’s just a minor fix.