There is a persistent myth that “car seats do not expire”. It’s just a marketing ploy to get you to spend more money and buy new stuff. We’ve heard it too many times, but it’s still not true. You may not recognize that your child’s car seat is about to expire, which could put their safety at risk.
The question of why car seats expire is a common one among parents. Seat manufacturers are questioned as to whether they are trying to make money. It is obvious that we, as parents, want to provide our children with the most safety possible. This includes throwing away a car seat that seems perfectly fine.
Why do car seats expire?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
“Child seat manufacturers typically provide “expiration dates” ranging from six to eight years after they are manufactured. Manufacturers use expiration dates to inform consumers of the expected useful life of their car seats.”
Several factors contribute to the expiration of car seats, and manufacturers are not deliberately doing this to annoy.
1: Materials and quality of car seats
Car seats are made of petroleum-based plastics. The material is ideal for creating strong, durable child restraints. Still, it is prone to degradation due to exposure to the environment. A car seat sits in a car from freezing temperatures to over 140 degrees. As a result, the plastic can become damaged over time.
Car seats made of plastic and synthetic fabrics often exposed to sunlight can also suffer damage. Sun damage has been scientifically proven. However, it doesn’t specifically address how car seats could degrade due to standard use in vehicles
2. New safety standards and laws
Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, transportation agencies, and automobile manufacturers constantly test and evaluate car seats. For parents everywhere, it’s good news.
In addition, technology is constantly changing. Car seats can be made safer by introducing new materials, features, and technologies.
Let’s say you bought a rear-facing child car seat with a certain weight limit, but then the weight guidelines changed. You may not need to replace your seat by law. Still, you will no longer be able to provide your child with the safest seat if the manufacturer stops making replacement parts.
By including the expiration date, you will be less likely to have unused seats.
3. Manufacturer testing has its limits
When car seat manufacturers — from Graco to Britax to Chicco — test their products, they don’t assume you’re still going to drive your 17-year-old on prom night. As a result, car seats aren’t tested after 17 years of use to see how they perform.
There are weight or age restrictions on even all-in-one car seats, while booster seats and car seats are usually not used beyond the age of 12 (based on the child’s size). Typically, car seats are not tested beyond 10–12 years of use.
How long do car seats last?
We’ll do our best to answer this. Still, there are no universal rules: Car seats normally last between six and ten years after manufacture. Many manufacturers publish this information on their websites, such as Britax and Graco.
Using a car seat 10 years after it was manufactured does not suddenly become illegal, so there will be no arrest warrant. Your sweet babe is precious to you. Therefore you will do whatever it takes to keep her safe, which is why you need to replace the car seat once it’s no longer safe to use.
Do manufacturers have to provide a date of expiration?
United States government regulations do not require car seats to have an expiration date. However, NHTSA recommends expiration dates for various reasons, which may include regulatory changes in the future. RideSafer vests didn’t have an expiration date for almost 10 years. Manufacturers added the date after NHTSA requested it.
They are determined by the expected lifetime of the car seat. The majority of car seats are no longer functional after 6 to 7 years since they were manufactured. It was not the date when it was purchased; the item could have been sitting on the shelf for a long time.
How to find the expiration date on brands
There must be a date on every car seat. This information is usually found on a sticker situated on the back of the shell. Some car seats are embossed with the date.
Manufacturers of car seats may also include an expiration date on the sticker. Other manufacturers simply state a period of time after the date of manufacture.
Some examples are:
- Chicco: Displays an expiration date on the seat as well as the base.
- Evenflo: Every car seat has a date of manufacture sticker. Symphony models are good for eight years after this date, whereas most models expire after six years.
- Britax: Directs users to determine the date of manufacture — based on the serial number and instructions — and then provides an expiration date based on the type of seat.
Expiring car seats should be disposed of properly.
Your expired car seat shouldn’t be used by anybody else, so throwing it away or giving it to Goodwill is not a good idea. Manufacturers typically recommend slicing or cutting the straps, cutting the seat itself, as well as writing “DO NOT USE – EXPIRED” on the seat before disposal.
Can I get in trouble using a car seat that is out of date?
This depends on the situation. Parents are not prohibited from using an expired car seat by the NHTSA, and most states do not mention an expired car seat in their law.
Many states require parents to use car seats as per the manufacturers. Using the car seat beyond its expiration date is in violation of the manufacturer’s instructions. This would be illegal. Most likely, the police officer will not remove your car seat to determine when it was manufactured. They’re trained to look for an old seat unless it’s obvious it’s an old seat.
Also, read the best car seats to buy for a 2-year-old.
Can an expired seat be used?
This is a situation where best practices and reality may not line up. The reality is that sometimes parents cannot afford to buy a new car seat. If a car seat is expired, is it better to use it than not to use it? Possibly.