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

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail

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.

Advertisement

Does My Car Seat Expire? Do I Really Need to Buy a New One?

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail
Car Seat Expiration Questions Answered, Plus a Used Car Seat Check List

Question: Can I Use My Expired Car Seat?

Answer: “NO,” not according to the manufacturer.  Always follow manufacturer instructions, including expiration dates.  Only the manufacturer of your car seat can advise you to do something other than what is printed on your car seat labels or instruction manual.

There are many reasons that manufacturers have expiration dates for car seats:

  • Plastics and materials weaken with age from prolonged exposure to light, oxygen, humidity, extreme heat, temperature cycles or even vibration
  • Damage like cracks and stress marks can result from drops or crashes
  • Parts can go missing, including essential ones for switching modes
  • Vomit, cleaners & oxidation can damage harness and adjustment mechanisms
  • Labels peel and wear, making it more difficult to find limits, instructions, model number information to check for recalls and if the seat was actually certified for use in your country
  • Manufacturers want to sell you a safer new seat with the latest technology

It’s that last reason that leads some caregivers to believe in conspiracy theories.  Are all the manufacturers and retailers colluding with each other to fill our landfills with perfectly good [used] car seats just to profit by selling you a new one?

Car seat manufacturers are, after all, for-profit companies.  They do want to make money.  They also genuinely want to keep your kids safe and, of course, avoid lawsuits.  Some shorter expiration dates seem overly conservative even to me.  Many today have a reasonable lifespan of 8-10 years.  Consider that there is simply no way for a manufacturer to know what conditions or abuse a car seat may endure in one year, let alone six years!  Yes, individual parts of a car seat may well last much longer than 10 years, maybe even 20-30 years, but the question is how long will ALL the parts together protect a child in a crash?  While it’s obvious that they don’t last forever, how long a car seat is usable depends mostly upon the owner.

Consider a rear-facing-only infant seat that was manufactured 6 years ago.  Perhaps it sat on the shelf and was sold a year later, being gently used with baby for about a year; then it was stored away in a cool, dry basement for 4 years.  Now, baby #2 is on the way but the seat just expired.  Must it really be thrown away or recycled, if car seat recycling is even available in your area?  Despite the light use, we must officially advise that you still follow the manufacturer’s instructions or contact the manufacturer for guidance.

But what if?

  1. If you are the only owner or trust the previous owner(s) with the life of your baby
  2. If the seat is in good working condition with minimal wear and no loose parts
  3. If the seat was never in a crash, dropped or otherwise damaged
  4. If cleaners and solvents were never used on the harness system
  5. If all parts are present and working correctly
  6. If the manual and labels are all present
  7. If the seat was approved for use in your country
  8. If there were no recalls (or any recalls were resolved)
  9. If the seat was unused in a box at a retailer or stored properly for a long time
  10. If you are also convinced it will protect your baby in a crash

That’s a lot of “ifs“, and they may also apply as a Used Car Seat Checklist if you are considering a secondhand car seat. 

It’s simply impossible for a manufacturer, a certified child passenger safety technician, journalist or online advocate to say if your own car seat or a used car seat meets all these “ifs.”  We all advocate for what is safest for your child and there are just too many unknowns with an older car seat that is owned by someone else.  Only the owner can decide if all these apply and if they are willing to accept any risk.  A secondhand or expired car seat may well be safer than no car seat at all if you absolutely cannot afford a new one and cannot find a free distribution program in your area, but the concerns above are still valid.

Chicco Fit4 All-in-One Preview – Safety & Fit 4 Different Stages!

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail
2019-2020 Chicco Fit4 First Look Review

Chicco has a solid reputation for making carseats that are safe, easy to use and exceptionally easy to install. I’m happy to report that they continue this legacy with their newest seat, Chicco Fit4, an All-in-One that’s full of the thoughtful details and ease-of-use features that you’ve come to expect from Chicco!

Fit4 is shipping to retailers in December and should be widely available in January. Amazon, Target, BuyBuyBaby and baby specialty stores should all have Fit4 in stock at some point in January. MSRP will be $349.99. The sample that I have is in the “Element” fashion. There will be a total of six Fit4 fashions to choose from and you can see them all here on the Chicco website.

You’re probably wondering what makes Fit4 stand out in a crowded field of All-in-One carseats? For starters, the 4-stage “FitKit” system features a series of inserts that provide optimal fit and comfort for each stage of your child’s growth and development. From infant to toddler to preschooler to big kid, Fit4 offers your child optimal comfort and protection as they grow.

The next major advantage of Fit4 is longevity – this seat is TALL which means more growing room before your kids outgrow it!  Last but not least, the SuperCinch force-multiplying system makes it possible for anyone, even an elderly caregiver, to get a rock-solid installation using LATCH.

 

Chicco Fit4 Specs & Features:

  • Rear-Facing: 4-40 lbs., up to 43″ tall
  • Forward-Facing: 25-65 lbs.; 54″ or less; at least 1 year old
  • Booster: 40-100 lbs., 38-57″, at least 4 years old
  • 10-year lifespan before expiration
  • “FITKIT” System – a series of inserts that provide optimal fit for each stage
  • SuperCinch LATCH tightening system with premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • No-rethread harness (10 height positions)
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • 2-position chest clip
  • Lockoffs for rear-facing and forward-facing installations with seatbelt
  • 9 recline positions
  • Liquid bubble level indicator (for RF, FF & Booster mode)
  • Harness, chest clip and buckle all store in the shell for booster mode
  • Steel-reinforced frame
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam lines the sides and the headwings
  • Smooth bottom base with won’t damage vehicle upholstery
  • Flexible “CupFolders” are removable and dishwasher safe
  • Machine washable fabrics
  • QR code that links to instructions for the 4 stages
  • MSRP $349.99


Fit4 Stages:

New York Rear-Facing Until 2 Law Effective Nov 1, 2019

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail

Effective today, November 1, 2019, New York joins 11 other states (including neighboring NJ, PA & CT) in legislating that children should ride in a rear-facing carseat until they are at least 24 months old. A rear-facing carseat provides the best protection for a young child. In a crash, a rear-facing seat helps to protect the fragile head, neck and spinal cord.

It is important for families to understand that there are 3 types of rear-facing car seats: Infant Seats, Convertible Seats, and All-in-One Seats. Most parents in the Northeast choose to use an infant car seat first although it’s also possible to skip the infant seat and use a convertible or all-in-one seat right from the start. When the infant car seat is outgrown (usually by height somewhere between 9-15 months), it is recommended that a larger convertible or all-in-one car seat with higher rear-facing weight and height limits be used. These seats should be installed in the rear-facing position until, at a minimum, the child reaches their 2nd birthday. The AAP and NHTSA recommend that children continue to use a rear-facing carseat until reaching the weight or height limit of the seat.

Rear-Facing Car Seat Types:

Infant Car Seat (Rear-Facing Only): Designed for babies, the infant carseat is a small, portable seat with a handle and a separate base. Infant seats can only be installed rear-facing. Babies often outgrow their infant carseat by height before their 1st birthday. Before the infant seat is outgrown, it is recommended that parents choose a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it rear-facing until the child is at least 2 years old.  

Infant Seat: Rear-Facing Only

Convertible Car Seat: Designed for babies, toddlers, and preschool-age children. This type of seat is larger than the infant seat so it allows babies and toddlers to stay rear-facing until age 2, and beyond. A convertible seat can be used rear-facing first and then turned forward-facing once the child is older. 

Convertible: Rear-Facing & Forward-Facing

All-in-One Car Seat: Designed for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children. This type of seat is larger than the infant car seat and can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and eventually as a booster. 

All-in-One Seat: Rear-Facing, Forward-Facing & Booster

NY Law Exemptions:

There are exceptions for children who outgrow a rear-facing seat by height or weight before 24 months. Should an exemption occur, that child may ride in an APPROPRIATE forward-facing seat (i.e., child meets manufacturer’s forward-facing requirements for age, weight & height). 

Full text of the New York’s V&T Law regarding the use of child restraints can be found here: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/VAT/1229-C