Skip to main content

NewFolks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How long are car seats good for? Everything you need to know

This is how often you may need to replace car seats

Mom putting baby in car seat
antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Everything is so expensive these days, and baby gear is certainly not cheap. A quality car seat is an essential part of your little one’s safety. Since kiddos need a car seat for a while, most parents want a car seat that grows with their child.

So, if you’re in the market for a car seat for your soon-to-be newborn or a sibling on the way, should you take a barely used car seat from a friend or reuse the one from your first child? The short answer is maybe. How long are car seats good for? Well, that depends, too, because car seats actually have an expiration date.

Dad clicking sleeping baby boy into car seat
Maria Sbytova / Shutterstock

How long are car seats good for?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), when parents are shopping for a car seat for their infant or toddler, it’s important to choose one that’s not past its use-by date. That’s because car seats do have expiration dates. So, keep reading to learn how to find out a car seat’s expiration date.

Where to find a car seat’s expiration date?

Most car seats expire between 6 and 10 years from its manufacture date. Parents can find the manufacture and/or expiration date on the car seat’s manual or by examining the seat itself. The expiration date is typically located on the back or bottom of the seat. Car seat bases and booster seats also expire. Their expiration dates are usually in similar spots. If you can’t find a car seat’s expiration date, it’s best not to use it.

Why do car seats expire?

Wear and tear over time is the biggest reason why car seats expire. Just like any other item used regularly, a car seat’s effectiveness degrades through usage, aging, exposure to extreme temperatures, and sunlight. As a car seat’s effectiveness dwindles, so does the protection it is providing your child. This is the main reason why using a car seat past its expiration date is not recommended.

How to dispose of an expired car seat

If you do have an expired car seat, it’s important to dispose of it properly. You don’t want to donate a car seat that’s past its expiration date, sell it at a yard sale, or leave it on the curb. Target offers its shoppers a car seat trade-in program where participants receive a 20% coupon to be used for a new car seat. The old car seat is recycled. Other retail stores selling baby gear may offer a similar option. If you do throw an expired car seat away, be sure to remove the straps, padding, fabric, and metal. Mark the car seat as unusable with a marker before tossing it in the trash.

Note the car seat’s expiration date

It’s a good idea to write down the date of a car seat’s expiration when purchasing it. Take note of the date and write it on the manual or in the notes on your smartphone. This way, when you’re considering using it for a future sibling or giving it to a friend, you will know when it expires and how long it’s going to safely last.

Mom buckling baby in a car seat
New Africa / Shutterstock

Other ways to tell if a car seat isn’t usable

The expiration date is just one of the ways parents can tell if a car seat is still usable for their child or future siblings. If a car seat isn’t past its expiration date, there are other telltale signs that it is time to retire a car seat.

No instructions

A car seat has to be installed properly to safely protect your child in case of an accident. If you’re considering buying a used car seat or taking one from a friend, don’t do it unless it has the instruction manual. You might be able to find installation directions online, but it’s vital the car seat is installed and used correctly.

Car seats recalls

Car seats are recalled all the time for various reasons, and it’s important to know if a car seat you’re considering using has been recalled. Parents can check by heading to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website or by calling 888-327-4236. If the car seat doesn’t have a model number, don’t use it. You can’t check on a recall without the model number.

Parts are missing

If you’re thinking about taking a used car seat and pieces are missing, forget it. You might be able to purchase the missing parts from the manufacturer, but not always. Check before purchasing it or taking it from a friend that you’ll be able to replace the missing pieces.

It’s been involved in an accident

If the family car has been involved in a serious accident, the car seat should be replaced immediately. A car seat involved in a fender bender or minor accident may still be usable, though most car seat manufacturers recommend replacing a car seat after any accident. The NHTSA considers an accident minor if:

  • The car is drivable after the accident
  • The car doors by the car seat were undamaged
  • There weren’t any injuries
  • The airbags did not deploy
  • There isn’t visible damage to the car seat
Baby in car seat
Ground Point / Shutterstock

Final thoughts on how long car seats are good for

Before dusting off the old family car seat or taking one from a friend, check the car seat’s expiration date. A car seat past the expiration date, which is usually 6 to 10 years, depending on the manufacturer, should be safely disposed of.

Editors' Recommendations

Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
How to help a crying child: Our top tips for sensitive kids
Learn ways to teach highly sensitive children how to manage emotions
A crying toddler holding an ice cream cone

We've all heard the expression about there not being a point in crying over spilled milk, but as parents, we know kids do. Children cry over a lot more than a spilled drink, especially when youngsters are toddlers and don't have the words to express what they're feeling. Many parents, however, deal with a crying child multiple times a day.

If your little one tends to get upset over relatively minor things, you're not alone. Lots of kids get upset when things don't go the way they want, but for some, it seems like the tears flow freely and quite often. Perhaps it's not that a crying child is being overly dramatic. It just might be that your child is highly sensitive.
Is your crying child highly sensitive?

Read more
Your questions answered – everything you need to know about baby-led weaning
Guide to this trending solid introduction method
Baby eating solids in a highchair

Feeding your newborn is pretty straightforward. They only need human milk or formula for the first six months of their life to thrive. Once your baby is ready to start trying new foods, things can get a bit more complicated.
Parents shift to making or buying purees as they begin to introduce their little ones to solid foods. Cue caregivers pretending a spoon is an airplane and feeding their little child some version of oatmeal or pureed peas and sweet potatoes. These days, some parents are taking a different approach and introducing solids straight away. It’s known as baby-led weaning.
What is baby-led weaning? The method, developed by former public health nurse Gill Rapley, involves adults giving babies solid foods in their natural form and allowing them baby to self-feed. If a parent makes spaghetti, meatballs, and broccoli for dinner, the baby will eat it, too. Proponents say it respects a baby’s independence and food autonomy and may reduce picky eating.
It can also be a ton of food. Here’s what to know about baby-led weaning.

When do I start baby-led weaning?

Read more
Are baby walkers safe? 5 dangerous reasons you shouldn’t add one to your registry
Learn why baby walkers may be unsafe
Infant in baby walker

Baby walkers used to be a popular gift and toy, but their popularity has shifted over the years and studies have found they can be quite unsafe. This can be disappointing for some parents looking to give their little ones a bit of independence while also allowing them to be hands free.

Even though you may have used a baby walker as a child yourself, in this day and age, there is quite a bit of information about just how hazardous baby walkers can be. If you're considering getting a baby walker, adding one to your registry, or if you already have one in your home, keep reading before you pop your toddler in.
Are baby walkers safe?

Read more