Parent Alert: Child Car Seats Have Expiration Dates – What You Need to Know to Protect Your Children

Parents often pass along their children’s car safety seats to be used by others as their children outgrow them. That may seem like a kind practice, but it turns out to be a very unsafe idea.

Car seats actually are manufactured with a finite lifespan in mind and include a sticker that lists an expiration date, usually five to six years after the date the seat was built.

“There is a reason why car seats are given an expiration date and it is not just to get your money,” according to a post on the blog, Thrifty and Chic Mom. “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.”

A baby boy smiles as he is properly fastened into a vehicle car seat. Photo credit: ©

When we put our children in their car seats, we put them there to keep them safe, often not realizing that the devices must be properly maintained and then disposed of when they reach the end of their life cycles.

Child car seats also require replacement if they are damaged in a serious vehicle accident, according to the blog post. “Minor fender benders do not count but anything remotely damaging to the car could be very damaging and compromising to the car seat.”

If your child’s car seat is damaged in a crash, check with your insurance company because they will likely cover the cost of a replacement.

The Natonal Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that child safety seats be replaced following a moderate or severe crash “to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers,” according to the agency. “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

Child car seat manufacturer Graco includes detailed information on its Web site to help parents learn how to check the expiration dates of its car seats and obtain more details on their proper use.

So how do you safety dispose of an older car seat when it does expire so that you can be sure no one else will use it and risk their child’s life?

The best method is a multi-pronged approach where you cut the straps completely so they can’t be used, remove and cut up the padding and cover, then cut up or mark the hard plastic seat so it is clearly labeled as “expired” and “unsafe,” according to The Houston Chronicle’s Between the Kids blog,

If you are considering using a handed-down car seat because you can’t afford a new one, it’s a good idea to check with local police, civic and government safety organizations to find out if they have free or low-cost car seat programs, according to the blog post.

“It is EXTREMELY important to make sure your little ones are in safe and NON-expired car seats,” the Chronicle blog post said.  “Please do not think that it’s better to have them in an expired car seat rather than no car seat at all.”

We here at MyPhillyLawyer couldn’t agree more.

The cost of a new child safety seat is small in comparison to the life of a child who rides in the seat in a moving vehicle. It’s much better to be safe than sorry in these cases.

Our children must be viewed as the most important passengers in our vehicles when we are operating our cars, SUVS and trucks.

Please be sure to carefully check your child’s car seats immediately and replace any that are expired or damaged.

When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.