Quick Tip Archive

Secondhand Car Seats: Can I buy one? Can I sell one?

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Question: Are used carseats safe to use?

Answer: Maybe.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a used child safety seat.  The main concern is if you don’t know the history, then it is possible it may have been in a crash or damaged.  It may be fine to take a gently used car seat from a sibling or good friend.  Buying one used at an auction site or second-hand store can be risky.  Here are some questions to consider even if you are just borrowing a seat:

  1. Do you trust the previous owner(s) with the life of your baby?
  2. Is the seat in good working condition with minimal wear and no loose parts?
  3. Do you know that the seat was never in a crash, dropped or otherwise damaged?
  4. Do you know that cleaners and solvents were never used on the harness system?
  5. Are all parts present and working correctly?
  6. Are the manual and labels all present?
  7. Is the seat approved for use in your country?
  8. If there is a recall on this car seat has it been resolved?
  9. Did you check that the car seat is not expired?
  10. Did you answer “YES” to all the questions and do you feel comfortable that it will protect your baby in a crash?

It should also be fine to sell or pass along your own used car seat to a friend or relative, provided you can answer “YES” to these same questions and know that you’d trust the seat for your own baby.  If you aren’t certain about one of the questions, anything is possible.  That eBay listing for an “open box” or “like new” car seat may have been returned after a drop or crash, you just never know if you don’t know and trust the previous owner.

While we generally recommend that you buy a new carseat, we understand they can be expensive.  We do list models in every budget category in our Recommended Seats Guide.  Budget convertible and combination child safety seats can be found for under $50 and boosters from $15.  In some areas, local health departments, Safe Kids organizations or other non-profits may distribute free or low-cost car seats.  We also recognize that a used car seat is very likely to be safer than no car seat at all, but the questions above are still very important to the safety of your baby.

If you have any questions about the safety of a used or expired car seat, please contact the manufacturer for more guidance.  Here are some other resources:

NHTSA Used Car Seat Safety Checklist

IIHS: Purchasing a child seat

American Academy of Pediatrics: Used Car Seats

SafeKids: Is it Okay to Use a Second-Hand Car Seat?

CarseatBlog: Buying and Selling Used Carseats

Child Passenger Safety advocates are not out to terrify you into buying a new seat when a perfectly good used one is available.  We just want to make sure parents and caregivers know how to identify a second-hand car seat that may be safe to use for your most precious cargo.

CarseatBlog Quick Tip: Using a Ceiling Seat Belt

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We see this question a lot: can I use the seat belt that comes down from the ceiling/roof of my SUV to install my carseat? Sure! Of course, double-check the seat belt section of your carseat owner’s manual and the child seat section of your vehicle owner’s manual, but as of this writing, I haven’t come across any combinations that disallow it.

First you have to assemble it to make it a usable seat belt. When you pull it down from the ceiling—or, in the case of some sedans, down from the top of the back seat near the parcel shelf—you have 2 latchplates (the metal male end) which will make your lap/shoulder belt. The end latchplate is usually smaller, looks different, and gets buckled first on the same side from which the seat belt comes from the ceiling. Now you have your lap/shoulder belt and can use it like any other seat belt.

  

Pro tip:

To stow that seat belt out of the way, use its latchplate or a key to unbuckle it and retract it back into the ceiling. There will be a slot on the side of the smaller buckle which will pop the smaller latchplate out. After unbuckling it, let it retract and you’re ready to go!

The Incredible (little?) Plasticman!

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If you know me, you know one of my peeves is when people try to swing my kids around by their arms or lift them up by their hands. I’m always the bad guy to ruin the fun for all. But here’s why:

Kids, especially the under 5 set, are pretty much just running around connected by rubber bands. It sounds crude to say, but it’s true. The ligaments holding their joints together are still fresh, and aren’t as strong as they will be later in childhood. One of the most common minor injuries of childhood is known as the “nursemaid elbow”. It occurs when a child is pulled hard by the arm, falls on it wrong, or is picked up or swung by their arms/hands. The weight is too much for the immature ligaments to handle, and the joint of the elbow partially or completely dislocates. It’s pretty painful for the child, and you’ll know right away if it happens. Kids will cry and refuse to use their arm.

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It’s pretty scary but fortunately it’s benign and a simple fix. Your pediatrician or the doctor at urgent care or the emergency room can quickly pop it back into place by doing a maneuver known as a reduction. It hurts for a split second but there’s immediate relief. The downside is if this happens to your child once, the odds of it happening again are pretty high, so you may be making multiple trips before your child’s ligaments firm up a bit after the age of 5 or 6.

I swear sometimes my 2 year old does look like this.

I swear sometimes my 2 year old does look like this.

You can prevent this from happening altogether by always leading your child gently by the arm (I know this is hard when you’re holding their hand and they are doing spaghetti legs and flailing around!), only lifting them by their armpits, and avoiding rough play that involves swinging them around by their hands or wrists. Sometimes it just happens regardless, but following those basic tips greatly reduces the chances that your toddler will have to go through the pain.

But if it does happen, don’t fret. It’s very common and sometimes it’s just another bump in the roller coaster of childhood.

Monkey proofing your baby proofing.

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Babyproofing. We are all familiar with it. The first child rolls over and it’s a mad dash to Babies R Us to buy every lock/corner cover/fireplace bumper/outlet cover, etc known to man. The second kid comes and it’s like, “Meh, put away the matches and knives and don’t dump your change on the floor and we’re good”.

But there is one thing that we should remember to do, no matter how many kids are in your home. And regrettably, I slacked on this one. I’m going to tell you what happened last week, and I’m going to feel very guilty and like an awful parent but it needs to be said: Please anchor your dressers/TVs/furniture to the walls. I’ve actually been very good about this and I will admit it’s probably only because Ikea (gotta love those safety focused Swedes!) includes anchor straps with all their furniture. When we moved in here, I dutifully anchored all dressers, TV stands, and bookshelves to the wall. All but one. I meant to do it. But I slacked because I was in a whirlwind of Declan being born within 2 weeks of moving into the house and unpacking and life in general. Plus the dresser is a beast. I can’t even move it by myself, so I wasn’t worried about a 3 year old lightweight pulling it over. Kid doesn’t eat his spinach; he ain’t pullin’ anything over.

And I was right. Until I wasn’t.

He’s opened those drawers a million times. A drawer in our dresser I keep out of season stuff in. I had my back turned to close the blinds while he pulled open the drawer to get out a pair of summer pajamas, and I heard a whoosh and a crashing sound a foot behind me. Oddly enough, despite me never in a million years thinking he would ever pull the dresser on to himself, the second I heard that sound I knew what it was before I even saw him. There it was, the Beast laying on top of my skinny little guy, his sad little face crying over the top of the dresser. I must have grown muscles in those split seconds because the weight of my heart in my feet surely should have kept me from moving. Despite always whining and making my husband help me to move the dresser over when I needed to get something behind it, I managed to lift the dresser and fling it to the side. When I lifted it, the drawers flew out and whacked the poor kid again. I remember cussing at myself in my head for being so stupid. I left him laying there while I started to check him over, but he immediately popped up, kicked the dresser and screamed “STUPID!!!” at it and flung himself into my arms. I choked back tears as I thanked Whoever for my son not being another statistic. Miraculously, despite the Beast nailing him to the floor, he only had a minor goose egg on his forehead and a bruised cut on his arm. He’s totally forgotten about it but I still continue to play it over and over in my head, thinking how easily the outcome could have been different.

According to the CPSC, 25,400 kids are injured every year from falling furniture/appliances and 1 child dies every 2 weeks. Every 2 weeks! From something totally cheap and preventable. Many of these incidents involve televisions, which most people don’t think to anchor. But think about it, how many times are you telling your kids they are standing too close to the TV? How many times do you tell them to stop climbing on drawers? It could happen to you; I know this because it happened to me. I honestly don’t even think Liam was climbing on a drawer. It was too fast, and it happened with me standing right there!

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Since then I’ve started taking more precautions despite all the furniture being anchored now. The most reached for items are now in bottom drawers, as well as the heaviest items so the dressers aren’t top heavy. Lamps with the switches on the cords now have the switch easily accessible  from the side of the dresser so there is no climbing to reach it. When something is taken away, it is never placed on top of a dresser, bookshelf, or refrigerator to prevent the temptation to climb up to get it back when I’m not looking.

So please listen and do something simple today: buy some anchor straps and attach your furniture to the walls. They’re about $7 for two on Amazon. Even if you’re a renter, I guarantee your child’s life is worth more than the hassle of patching up some holes when you move. If Amaya could tell you to do it, she would. So would Meghan, Charlie, and Katie . And I’m sure Brooke‘s mom could write an even more passionate post than I ever could.

As a CPST, safety advocate, and healthcare provider, I feel like we are constantly warning parents of the obvious dangers: cars, pools, guns. We never stop to think about the unobtrusive ones. So no, I don’t cap the corners of my counters or lovingly pad the edge of the coffee table. But you can bet your sweet buns I’m anchoring the heck out of my house.

And being thankful that the only thing that came out of all this was a blog post.

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