Most car seats come with an expiration date, which is usually between five and nine years after they were manufactured. The expiration date is not the only thing that may limit a car seat’s lifespan, however. If a car seat is involved in a crash or sustains damage to the structure in any way, it should be retired.
Stay Sensitive to Car Seat Age
Be sure to read the owners manual that came with your car seat to find out the expiration date. You should also be able to find it imprinted on the car seat, molded into the body, or included on labels along with other safety information. Car seats are given an expiration date to alert parents that the seat may be worn down or out of date after advances in safety standards and technology.
Expired car seats need to be thrown out—never donate or loan an old car seat.
Another factor that can contribute to the longevity of a car seat is the types of materials used in construction. Some materials are more durable and can better withstand a crash. In addition, the design and method of installation can have an impact on how long a car seat will last. All of these factors contribute to the expiration date and should be kept in mind when reviewing a car seat for wear and tear.
Retire Seats After Car Accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that car seats should be retired after a moderate to severe crash.1 An accident can be considered minor—and therefore may not require car seat replacement—if all the following factors are true:
The airbags did not deploy.
The car did not sustain any visible damage and was able to drive away from the accident.
The passengers were not injured.
After an accident, and at least once per year, you should have your car seat inspected to make sure it is still safe for your child and there are no missing parts or structural compromises. You should also register your car seat after purchase to be informed if the seat is subject to any recalls.