If you’re ready to buy an infant car seat for your baby, there is an essential security aspect that you need to be aware of but is too often overlooked: the car seat expiration date.
We’re used to seeing expiration dates on foodstuff, but most parents are unaware that their children’s car seat also has an expiration date. It’s important that you know how long your car seat is valid for to ensure maximum safety when driving with your child.
In this short article, we’ll look at why car seats expire, how long car seats are valid for, how to check your car seat expiration date, and what to do with an expired car seat.
Do Infant Car Seats Expire?
Yes. Every single infant and toddler car seat has an expiration date. While the exact expiration date varies by manufacturer, it is usually six to seven years. And if the car seat has been involved in an accident, it shouldn’t ever be used again.
Helpful noteMost car seats have an expiration date of six years from their manufacture date. Keep in mind that the manufacture date isn’t the same than the date you purchase your car seat. Always check the expiration date before buying a new car seat.
We regularly reviewed the best infant car seats available from brands such as Graco, Britax, or Chicco. Whichever brand you choose, every car seat expires.
What about the car seat base? The same applies to the base that you use to attach the infant car seat in your car. For the reasons that we explain below, they also have an expiration date and shouldn’t be used past that date.
Why Do Infant Car Seats Expire?
While you might be tempted to buy a cheap second-hand car seat from a friend that seems to be in good condition, there are very valid reasons for car seats to have an expiration date. And it isn’t for car seat manufacturers to sell more seats.
Car seats expire for two main reasons: materials wearing down and the evolution of technology and safety regulations.
1. Car seat materials wearing down
Car seats and their base often stay in the car throughout the day. In the summer, a car seat might be exposed to extreme heat while locked inside a car with the windows closed. In the winter, especially at night, a car seat might be exposed to extreme cold.
These changes in temperature, combined with regular usage, will over time damage the seat and its base. It might start with microfractures that aren’t visible to the naked eye but will shatter in case of an accident.
Just take a look at the crash test video of an expired car seat below to see what it means.
2. Evolution of technology and safety regulations
As technology improves and standards change, car seat regulations and legislation evolve. An old car seat might not meet new safety standards or take advantage of the latest developments to ensure the maximal safety of your child.
The LATCH system, for example, that greatly helps improve the proper installation of an infant car seat, didn’t even exist before 2002.
Some of the new safety regulations can also become new legal obligations in some States. So you should always make sure that your infant car seat is legal.
Important to know
You should never buy a second-hand infant car seat if you don’t know exactly how it what used and how long it has before expiring. Car seats that have been damaged or involved in an accident will not function properly and might be dangerous to your child.
Even if the seat is less than six years old, you should thoroughly inspect every component to make sure that nothing has been damaged and the seat will function properly to protect your child.
When do car seats expire? How long are car seats good for?
Most car seats expire six years after their manufacturing date. The exact validity period might vary a little bit by brand or model, so you should always check the expiry note on your seat and its base.
How can you check your car seat expiration date? In most cases, you will find a sticker underneath the seat with its expiry date. The same applies to the seat base. Just turn over the seat and you should find it on the back. Alternatively, some brands indicate the expiry date on the shell behind the cushion. Remove the seat cushion and check there if it isn’t on the back.
If you are unable to find the expiration date of your seat, call its manufacturer and ask for help. You should never use a seat without confirming first that it is still safe for your child.
Helpful noteWe recommend that you register your car seat with the manufacturer after your purchase. This will ensure that you receive up to date information about potential recalls or other safety changes. Recalls are usually free of charge. You will receive a brand new seat that meets safety standards if that were to happen to you.
What should you do with your expired car seat?
When a car seat expires, you should immediately stop using it. We recommend that you cut the straps to make sure that no one else risks putting their child at risk by using it after you.
Next, you can call the manufacturer or check online if there is a car seat trading program or a recycling company near you that could help you dispose of your expired car seat. Some companies might offer you a discount on a new car seat if you bring in an old one.
Alternatively, here is a list of recycling centers in the United States. You can call them before dropping by to make sure that they are able to take care of your expired seat.
Car seat expiration: Frequently Asked Questions
Most car seat bases are good for six years from their manufacturing date.Why do car seats expire after 5 years?
Most car seats expire after six years because of wear and tear but also because safety regulations and new technology developments might render older models less safe to use.How do I dispose of an expired car seat?
You should first render the seat unusable by cutting its straps. You can then try to exchange it for a discount from a retailer or dispose of it at a recycling center near you.Do insurances replace a car seat after an accident?
Most insurance companies will replace your car seat if it was involved in an accident. You should check with your insurance policy and contact your insurer if you are unsure about your particular situation. In any case, a car seat that was involved in an accident shouldn’t be used again.Is it illegal to use an expired car seat?
Depending on where you live, it might be illegal to use an expired car seat. While the law doesn’t explicitly prohibit the use of an expired car seat, some states to have “proper use” clauses making it mandatory to respect safety standards.
Further reading recommendations about car seat expiration
We used several authoritative sources to write this guide on car seat expiration. We recommend that you read them if you want to learn more about car seat safety in general. These are also great resources if you want to understand a particular aspect of child safety or want to stay up-to-date with the latest research.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Child Passenger Safety Board have excellent in-depth resources on car safety for children. We recommend you start there:
WikiHow has an in-depth article on how to recycle old car seats:
And Recycle Your Car Seat has an entire website dedicated to helping you find a recycling center near you:
If you want to explore car safety even further, we recommend the following resources that were used when writing this article:
We also used a few specific resources dedicated to infant car seat installation that we’re including here for reference:
Photos by Graco, Chicco, Britax, and Baby Gear Essentials.