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Do Car Seats Really Expire?

Car seats are one of the best safety innovations of recent decades. They seem to get more advanced and safer by the year. And every parent probably agrees they’re necessary pieces of car safety equipment for every child. But one thing many parents might believe to be a myth is indeed true. And knowing the truth that car seats come with an expiration date could keep your children safe.

Surprise! They actually have expiration dates

Car seats are designed to keep children safe in the event of a dangerous situation. So manufacturers must follow rigid guidelines for producing them. But that safety is not guaranteed for a lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, they actually have an expiration date. The expiration date should be taken seriously, and there are plenty of reasons to follow it. 

Like other pieces of technology, car seat design innovation and safety regulations change often. But unlike other things, a car seat carries a fragile life. According to Parents magazine, one reason car seats have expiration dates is to guarantee that parents are using the safest equipment available for their children. There are many other reasons why they have expiration dates, however.

These seats are designed to be used safely only for a certain period of time and shouldn’t be used beyond that. Not only does your child sit in and use the seat over and over again, but also temperature variations and general wear-and-tear affect the seat’s safety over time. Manufacturers issue expiration dates to ensure children no longer use deteriorated car seats.

Where to find the expiration date

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According to car seat manufacturer Graco, the average seat is designed to last seven to 10 years. This will be reflected in the expiration date, which is always provided when the seat is sold. The majority of expiration dates are shown with a month and year, although some might include an exact date. Most companies place the expiration date on the bottom or back of the seat, although they are often also printed in manuals or other paperwork that comes with the product. Taking a picture of the expiration date can help you remember.

If you can’t find the expiration date, look for a label with the manufacture date. If your seat is older than six years from that date, it might be nearing expiration.

Guidelines for buying and disposing of car seats

As a general rule of thumb, car seats should always be bought new. Buying new ensures that the expiration date will be the longest and that the seat is designed with the most recent safety regulations. Even if you know where a used car seat comes from, it has experienced wear-and-tear from another child and will not provide the best safety possible. 

Just as you shouldn’t purchase a used seat, you shouldn’t sell or give away your child’s old one either. According to Healthline, if you’re ready to get rid of an old or expired car seat, “most manufacturers recommend cutting the straps, slicing the seat itself, and/or writing on the seat with a permanent marker (‘DO NOT USE — EXPIRED’) before disposal.” Many retailers and manufacturers hold car-seat trade-in/recycling programs to encourage parents to get rid of or update expired car seats.