Car seats are my passion. Is that weird? I love to research them, install them, talk about them, educate my family and friends about the safety of them... One of the main questions I receive from customers and from family and friends is, "What is your opinion on buying or getting a used car seat?"
Does it come with an Owner's Manual?
If you are obtaining a used car seat, the chances of it coming with its original owner's manual are unlikely. The manual is vital for correct installation in your car. The manual is also important because it will have a checklist of all the parts needed for safe and successful installation and usage.
Check the Expiration Date
Something to also take a peak at is the expiration date of the car seat. Infant car seats last (at most) 5-6 years. Families will often reuse their infant seat for each child before selling it or handing it down...so after 1-3 kid(s), the car seat has definitely expired and is unsafe for you to use. You can find the expiration date in the manual, or on the base or back of the seat (it will be on a sticker with either the date of manufacture, or expiration date).
Check the Recall List
If it has been used, it was likely manufactured several years prior and may not be up-to-date on current safety standards, or it could have been recalled. Best place to check if a recall has occurred is with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Talk about its Crash History
If you do not know the owner of the car seat, there is no guarantee they will be honest about the history of the car seat. If the car seat was even in one accident, it's safety is likely compromised. Sure, you could look at it and determine if it seems fine by its outward appearance, but a lot of the car seat's interior composition is what makes it safe. If the guts of the car seat have broken, it will not function correctly and serve its purpose. Even if you know and trust the owner, the history of the seat is definitely something to inquire about.
Plastic is Plastic
All car seats are composed of a good amount of plastic. Let's think about this...if you were to keep a piece of plastic in your car for years, it would endure waves of incredible heat and times of absolute freezing weather. Plastic is brittle and, after a while, it is bound to break down. That is why car seats have expiration dates in the first place. So, if you were to have a used car seat with already deteriorating plastic, the chances of it surviving a crash are not great.
I hope this answers your question about the risks of buying/receiving a hand-me-down car seat. There is nothing more important than the safety of your child, and sadly, car crashes are the leading cause of death in children
Make sure you have a safe, functioning seat, that it is installed correctly, that you are following traffic laws, that you do not use your cell phone while driving, and basically never leave your house ;) just kidding!
We would love to help you find the perfect car seat at Bibs and Binkies. We have many options for every budget. You can touch and feel, learn how to buckle the harness, even turn the sucker upside down! Lastly, schedule an appointment with one of our Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs) who are certified in every make and model of seat so we can teach you how to properly install and make you feel confident doing it over and over again!