Keeping Your Little One Safe: Understanding Car Seat Expiration Dates
The most precious cargo you’ll ever carry may be your little ones. That’s why understanding whether your car seat will protect them or not is so important. One thing that contributes to a car seat’s safety is the seat’s expiration date. Fortunately, understanding why car seats expire is pretty simple, but figuring out when your seat actually expires can be a little more complicated.
The Truth Behind Expiration Dates
If it looks fine and works fine, why can’t you use a car seat past the expiration date? Even though your car seat may look as good as new on the outside, most seats are largely made of plastic, which can get old, crack or weaken over time. All those crumbs from your little one’s favorite snack don’t just make the floor of your car a mess, they can also affect the operation of your seat over time. The plastic may or may not be fine after the expiration date, but car seat manufacturers didn’t want to take a chance, so they came up with expiration date guidelines.
Government safety standards and technology for car seats are also frequently changing. Manufacturers hope having expiration dates on car seats will encourage consumers to buy new seats when they expire rather than keeping the same one for years or using older ones handed down from friends or family. This way, the seat you're using for your little one would be up to date with the most current technology and safety standards. Who doesn't want the latest and greatest when it comes to their baby's safety?
Finding the Expiration Date
Almost every car seat has the expiration date printed somewhere on it, but finding that date can be a bit like trying to find the four corner pieces of a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Some manufacturers imprint the expiration date into the plastic on the bottom or back of the seat. It will say something similar to “DO NOT use this car seat after ‘Month, Year.’”
Some seats have the expiration date printed on the manufacturer’s label, which includes the model name and number. This can also be tricky to find, but is usually a white sticker the size of a mailing label. Just don’t confuse the manufacturer’s label with other labels you might find, such as the one outlining height and weight guidelines and ones normally found sewn onto the harness straps.
You can also check your owner’s manual or call the manufacturer with your model name and number to find out the expiration date.
Common Expiration Dates
Most car seats expire between 6 to 10 years after the date of manufacture, so a new one should last through at least a few kids. It is important to note, though, that the expiration date is set from the date the seat was manufactured, not when you bought it. So, if you buy a car seat on clearance because it’s a model from two years ago, it’s probably already two years into its life even though it’s brand new. Take a look at what a few of the most common brands have to say about their car seat’s expiration dates.
- Graco: Most seats have either a 7- or 10-year expiration date. One of Graco’s infant car seats, the SnugRide Click Connect 30, has an expiration date of 7 years after the date of manufacture, as does their convertible car seat, the My Ride 65. The 4Ever 4-in-1 car seat, though, has an expiration date 10 years after the manufacture date.
- Britax: The expiration dates for Britax car seats manufactured after June 2010 range from 6 to 10 years. Their infant car seats as well as their belt-positioning booster seats have a 6-year lifespan while most of their convertible car seats expire 7 years after the manufacturer’s date. Their Harness-2-Booster seat should be tossed after 9 years and their ClickTight Convertible car seat 10 years.
- Chicco: Chicco’s KeyFit infant seats expire 6 years after the date of manufacture while their NextFit convertible seats have a life span of 8 years.
- Safety 1st: Car seats made by Safety 1st have a life span of 6 to 10 years. Their Light N Comfy infant seat has a life span of 8 years as long as it was made after December 2013. The Grow and Go 3-in1, their convertible car seat, and the Store N Go booster seat both expire 10 years after their date of manufacture as long as they were made after December 2013.
Getting Rid of an Expired Car Seat
Once your car seat has reached its expiration date, it’s important to make sure no one else uses the seat. Some cities have recycling plants or even stores that will take expired car seats, so check there first. Some retailers offer a discount on a new car seat when you recycle your old one, so you can save a few pennies. If you can’t find a recycling location, take the car seat apart, cut the straps, put the pieces in separate, dark trash bags and label them “expired.” It may seem extreme, but if someone sees a car seat in good shape that looks like it still works sitting on the side of the road, they’re likely to pick it up.