Health & Safety

Is It Illegal To Use An Expired Car Seat? Do Expiration Dates Really Matter?

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Whether you’re taking your baby on a short journey or a long road trip as part of a family vacation, if there’s one thing that’s non-negotiable when traveling by car then it’s your child’s safety.

You may be surprised to learn that unlike strollers, car seats and car seat bases have an expiration date, which means there’s a set length of time for how long your car seat is good for (more on this later).

In the USA it is not illegal to use an expired car seat, but this certainly doesn’t mean you should ignore car seat expiration dates completely.

Let’s take a look in more detail.

Is It Illegal To Use An Expired Car Seat?

The first thing to note is that unlike perishable goods like formula, there is no legal requirement for manufacturers to put expiration dates on infant car seats.

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does recommend expiry dates are put on car seats.

So is the NHTSA being unnecessarily fussy, or do they perhaps have some sort of conspiracy with manufacturers to get parents to spend more money on child car seats?

While it can be tempting to think this, there are in fact good reasons why infant car seats have expiration dates, which we’ll cover shortly.

Can You Use Expired Car Seats?

Technically yes, you can use an infant car seat that is past its expiration date to transport your child, but the real question is should you.

The AAP recommends you never use a safety car seat that:

    • Is too old. You should look on the label for the date the seat was made and check with the manufacturer about the length of time they recommend using the seat for.
    • Has any visible cracks on it.
    • Does not include a label with the model number and date of manufacture. Clearly without this information, you will not be able to see if the seat has been recalled.
    • Does not come with instructions. Instructions will provide the vital information needed about how to use the seat and help you decide where to install it in your car.
    • Is missing any parts. Remember that a second had car seat may come without important parts, so it’s worth checking with the manufacturer that you can buy spare parts if needed.
    • Was recalled. You can find this out by contacting the NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline or visiting their website.
    • Was involved in a moderate or severe crash. If the seat was involved in a minor crash it might be ok to use, but it’s best to check with the manufacturer first. The NHTSA considers a crash minor if ALL the following situations are true:
                    • The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
                    • The vehicle door closest to the car safety seat was not damaged.
                    • No one in the vehicle was injured.
                    • The airbags did not go off.
                    • You can’t see any damage to the car safety seat.

When Do Car Seats Expire?

Most infant car seats expire within 6-10 years after their manufacturing date (not the date when you purchased the seat).

Car seats expire for several reasons including improvements in technology, changes in regulation and wear and tear – all of which we’ve covered below.

Why Do Car Seats Expire?

Many parents are probably wondering if car seats really do expire, and if expiration dates really matter.

It’s a good question because clearly no parent wants to spend money unnecessarily, especially given all the other costs you’re likely to face such as buying a bassinet, crib, baby carriers, clothes and other accessories.

So let’s examine why car seats have expiration dates in the first place.

Change In Standards

Child safety seats must pass strict rules and regulations set by the NHTSA before they can be legally sold to the public.

As with any set of laws and safety standards, things change and what was considered safe and acceptable only a few years ago may no longer be the case.

So as technology continues to develop (more on this below), car seats become better able to protect children in the event of a crash, and laws and regulations change accordingly.

Having an expiration date is therefore a good way to ensure the seat you use is up to date with current safety standards.

New Technology

As with any safety product, manufacturers continuously update their products and specifications to improve overall performance.

In the case of car seats this is vitally important, because thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes every year.

So given a newer car seat is likely to have better safety features than an older one, it makes sense that parents are encouraged to use safety seats that aren’t too old.

Wear Down Of Materials

Infant car seats are mostly manufactured from plastic, which eventually weakens after being exposed to the extreme temperatures most cars face (think just how cold a car can get overnight in winter, and how much it heats up on a hot summer’s day).

Other parts of the seat such as the metal can become rusty and the material of the straps and seat fabric may also weaken over time and with heavy use.

Difficult Finding Replacement Parts

Generally, the more time that has passed since a car seat was launched, the less likely it is that the manufacturer still makes replacement parts.

This is important because a car seat will need to have all its original parts and components in good working order to provide the level of protection it was designed to give.

So by following an expiry date, you’re more likely to be able to find replacement parts for the safety seat you’re using.

Where Is The Expiration Date On A Car Seat?

You can usually find the expiration date on a sticker that’s either on the car seat or stamped onto the plastic shell.

In most cases this will be next to the model number of your particular car seat.

You should keep in mind that you may not always find an actual expiration date – for some car seats the actual date it was manufactured may be listed.

If this is the case, you’ll need to calculate the expiration date by adding on the number of years the can seat can be used for.

If you cannot find a date listed at all on your child’s car seat, it’s probably best to not use it, because you cannot tell how old it is and it may not offer as much protection in an accident as a newer safety seat.

Graco Car Seat Expiration Date

How long do Graco car seats last?

On their website, Graco defines “useful life” as:

  • 10 years for belt-positioning boosters and for steel-reinforced belt path car seats.
  • 7 years for plastic-reinforced belt path car seats.

Graco car seats are marked with a date of manufacture (DOM) on the car seat’s label.

To determine the expiration date of your Graco car seat, you should add the date of manufacture to the car seat’s useful life (which can be found either in your manual or stamped into the car seat itself).

So the simple formula you will need is:

  • Date of Manufacture + Useful Life = Car Seat Expiration Date

Safety First Car Seat Expiration Date

According to Safety 1st, many of their car seats have a sticker on the back of the seat or underneath the seat that lists the date of manufacture or expiry date.

If your seat only lists the DOM, to determine when your particular seat expires, you should look in the physical or online manual to find out its useful lifespan.

Again, the simple calculation you will need to perform is:

  • Date of Manufacture + Lifespan = Expiration Date of Your Safety 1st Car Seat

Evenflo Car Seat Expiration Date

Evenflo state that all their car seats expire 6 years after the date of manufacture.

The exception is their Symphony car seat line, which expires 8 years after the manufacturing date.

The expiration date of an Evenflo car seat should be printed on a label attached to the car seat, as well as in your manual.

Chicco Car Seat Expiration Date

The expiration date of a Chicco car seat varies depending on the type of seat.

You can find the expiration date of your Chicco car seat by looking on the underside of the car seat or on the car seat base.

Chicco car seats last either 6,8 or 10 years after the date of manufacture, depending on your model.

In Conclusion

  • In the US it is not illegal to use an expired infant car seat, but this doesn’t mean it’s something you should ignore.
  • Most car seats have a recommended useful life of between 6-10 years after the date of manufacture.
  • Car seat expiration dates are in place to protect against using a seat that may have experienced wear and tear, and to take advantage of evolving safety and technological advancements.
  • Most car seat manufacturers list either the date of manufacture of expiration date – this information can either be found on a sticker attached to the car seat, or printed directly onto the seat.

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