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?
If you are the only owner or trust the previous owner(s) with the life of your baby
If the seat is in good working condition with minimal wear and no loose parts
If the seat was never in a crash, dropped or otherwise damaged
If cleaners and solvents were never used on the harness system
If all parts are present and working correctly
If the manual and labels are all present
If the seat was approved for use in your country
If there were no recalls (or any recalls were resolved)
If the seat was unused in a box at a retailer or stored properly for a long time
If you are also convinced it will protect your baby in a crash
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 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 currently shipping to retailers and is already available at Amazon, Target, BuyBuyBaby and baby specialty stores. MSRP is $349.99.
There will be a total of six Fit4 fashions to choose from but some of them may be exclusive to certain retailers. The sample that I have is in the “Element” fashion. Amazon will carry Onyx, Carina & Stratosphere fashions.
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
Toddler: Rear-facing 12-40 lbs. (remove the Stage 1 infant insert)
Preschooler: Forward-facing 25-65 lbs. (remove the Stage 2 inserts which are only for rear-facing)
Big Kid: Booster mode 40-100 lbs. and at least 4 years old (store the harness and the buckle, put the shoulder belt pad on the seatbelt).
Lowest harness height setting: 6.5″ with Stage 1 insert (measuring is subjective); 8″ without insert
Tallest harness height setting: 18.5″ – 19″ (depending on how you measure)
Shoulder belt guide max height (for booster mode): 21″
Crotch strap positions: 4″, 6″
Seat pan depth (legroom/thigh support): 14.5″
Seat width at widest point: 19″
Weight: 25 lbs.
Installing Fit4 with LATCH:
Fit4 comes out of the box with the LATCH connectors in the rear-facing beltpath and they are visible, not hiding in their latch storage compartment, which is smart. Getting a rock-solid installation with LATCH takes very little effort thanks to the SuperCinch force-multiplying system. Note – when you are tightening the “pull 2nd” latch strap on the SuperCinch side, you can either pull straight up or straight down. I find that in taller vehicles like pickups or large SUVs that it’s easier for me to tighten the latch strap by pulling it straight down. However, in vehicles that are lower to the ground, it’s generally easier for me to pull the strap straight up to tighten it.
Latch Comments: Weight Limits & Other Stuff You Need to Know
Rear-facing – the rear-facing LATCH weight limit is 35 lbs. Once your child reaches 35 lbs., you should install your rear-facing Fit4 with seatbelt using the lockoff.
Forward-facing – you can use the LATCH system in your vehicle (lower anchors and tether) to install the Fit4 forward-facing until your child reaches 40 lbs. If your child weighs between 40-65 lbs., install with the seatbelt using the lockoff. Always use the top tether strap if you have a tether anchor for that seating position.
Center LATCH installations: Fit4 does NOT allow center latch installations with “Non-Standard Spacing” so you can only take advantage of the easy LATCH installations with SuperCinch if you are installing in a dedicated LATCH seating position with standardized spacing (11″).
Moving the LATCH strap from the rear-facing beltpath to the forward-facing beltpath: Open the LATCH storage compartments on the sides of the seat. Make sure both sides of the latch strap are fully lengthened. Shimmy and slide the latch strap into the forward-facing beltpath. Shut the latch storage compartments.
Installing Fit4 with seatbelt:
If you aren’t using the lower LATCH connectors – store them in the little compartments on the sides of the seat.
Rear-facing installation with seatbelt is a little more challenging than using LATCH simply because you have layers of padding on top of your beltpath. Getting your hand underneath all of that and threading the seatbelt through the beltpath isn’t horrible but it takes a little patience. Having small hands definitely helps. Once your seatbelt is buckled, you pull it tight and slide just the shoulder belt portion of the seatbelt into the lockoff. If you are using the lockoff (and you should always use the lockoff if you are installing with a lap/shoulder seatbelt), locking the seatbelt at the retractor is optional. It’s not necessary (as long as you have used the lockoff correctly), but it’s not bad or wrong to lock the seatbelt at the retractor in addition to using the lockoff on Fit4. Note: in the picture below I removed the cupholder so you can see the seatbelt in the rear-facing lockoff better.
Forward-facing installation with seatbelt and tether is relatively easy which is good news because you can’t install Fit4 using the lower LATCH anchors once your kid weighs more than 40 lbs. The lockoffs on Fit4 aren’t really obvious so make sure you understand what and where they are. Again, after sliding the shoulder belt portion of the seatbelt into the lockoff, locking the seatbelt at the retractor is optional.
Fit4 in Booster Mode:
When your child is ready to transition to booster mode, you store the harness, chest clip and buckle under the cover in little cubbies made specifically for this purpose. Next, you can attach the lower LATCH connectors and the tether (this is optional but if you are using the Fit4 in a seating position that has LATCH then you probably should take advantage of this option). Adjust the height of the booster to optimally fit your child, adjust the recline angle to make sure your bubble level is in the right zone for Stage 4, then add the shoulder belt pad to your seatbelt. Easy peasy! Honestly, it’s easy enough that it wouldn’t be a problem to switch back and forth between harness and booster modes if you were using one seat for different kids.
Fit4 installs very similarly to a Chicco NextFit and this is excellent news because the NextFit installs well in almost every vehicle. Fit4 doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing as long as you don’t need the maximum recline angle required for stage 1. For older babies and rear-facing toddlers, Fit4 can be installed more upright in the rear-facing position which then creates more legroom for the adult sitting in the front seat.
I did run into some issues installing Fit4 in the center of my Hyundai Tucson with seatbelt, but I can’t blame the carseat for that. The center seating position of that small SUV is very narrow and has a detachable seatbelt that comes from the ceiling. It’s a problematic seating position. However, in the outboard positions of my Tucson, as well as in my minivan, it was all sunshine and rainbows.
I’ve tried multiple children ranging from 14 lbs. to 75 lbs. in the Fit4 and every kid fit beautifully. Even the 4 pound, 17″ preemie doll fit really nicely with the stage 1 insert and the chest clip in the more narrow position.
Preemie Doll – 4 lbs., 17″. Great fit! Pictured with Stage 1 newborn insert.
3-month-old, 14 lbs., 23″. I tried him with and without the stage 1 newborn insert and he definitely fit better without it. Pictured below with just the stage 2 inserts and the chest clip in the more narrow position.
15 months, 22 lbs., 31″ with Stage 2 inserts and chest clip in wider position.
2 years old, 28 lbs., 34″ with Stage 2 inserts
4 years old, 39 lbs., 41” with Stage 2 inserts
6 years old, 37 lbs., 43″ in Stage 3
50 lbs., 48″ tall in Stage 4 – Booster Mode
75 lbs., 55″ tall in Stage 4 Booster Mode
QR Code/Crash Replacement/Inflatable Belts/FAA Approval:
Chicco seats should be replaced after any crash (call customer service if you have questions about your situation)
Installation with inflatable seatbelts (found in some Ford/Lincoln/Mercedes Benz vehicles) is NOT allowed. Use LATCH if possible or move Fit4 to a different seating position that does not have an inflatable seatbelt.
FAA-approved for use on a plane with the 5-point harness (you can’t use any booster seat on an airplane). The FAA approval language is shown below (in red) and can be found underneath the seat along with the label that lists the model number, date of manufacture and expiration date.
Fit4 & NextFit Comparison:
Fit4 is obviously taller and has lower sides because it’s designed to be used as a booster, unlike the Chicco NextFit which is just a convertible seat. Other than that, the seats are pretty similar. They are both about the same width and they both install easily in most vehicles.
NextFit with infant insert & Fit4 in Stage 1 (lowest height settings)
NextFit & Fit4 in Stage 2
NextFit & Fit4 in Stage 3 (max height settings)
NextFit & Fit4 side-by-side (max height settings)
Fits a wide range of children very well – from small newborns to big kids in booster mode
2-position chest clip provides optimal harness positioning on small babies and big kids alike
Great seat for extended rear-facing (for kids under 40 lbs.)
Very tall top harness height setting should get most kids to the point where they are big enough and mature enough to transition to a booster
Super easy installation with LATCH using SuperCinch
RF & FF lockoffs for seatbelt installations
9 recline positions practically guarantee a perfect recline angle in almost any vehicle
Easy to tighten and loosen harness straps
Harness straps are not prone to twisting
It doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing (especially if you don’t need the full recline for a newborn). This makes it a good option for smaller cars and for tall parents who may need to have the front seat all or most of the way back.
Premium fabrics with extra padding for comfort
Harness and buckle store in the seat when Fit4 is being used in booster mode
Can use LATCH in booster mode
Cover and inserts can be machine washed in cold water (delicate cycle, mild detergent, hang to dry)
Smooth bottom base won’t damage vehicle upholstery
Instruction manual is clear and well-written
QR code links to concise information
(In all fairness these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific Fit4 issues)
Heavy & bulky
Due to regulatory LATCH weight limits, you must switch to a seatbelt installation once the child weighs more than 35 lbs. rear-facing or more than 40 lbs. forward-facing (not a big deal since you have lockoffs for easy seatbelt install but not quite as easy as using LATCH with SuperCinch)
Rear-facing installation with seatbelt is not as easy as a LATCH installation. It’s harder to thread the seatbelt through the beltpath with the Stage 1 & Stage 2 inserts in place. And since Chicco does not allow center LATCH installations with non-standard LATCH spacing, you will likely need to use the seatbelt to install Fit4 in the center seating positions of most vehicles (unless you are lucky enough to have dedicated lower anchors for the center).
Made in China (to be fair, I should point out that many other high-end carseats are also made in China)
All-in-One carseats continue to be an extremely popular choice with parents so I wasn’t surprised to learn that Chicco was working on one. I just crossed my fingers and hoped that the Chicco wizards would work their usual magic. Thankfully, the wizards did not disappoint and I hope they all get a raise, a new wand and an extra week of vacation time for their efforts.
For parents who prefer to skip the infant seat but are worried that a convertible won’t be a good fit if their newborn is small or arrives early, Fit4 will offer peace of mind. Even if you are using, or plan to use, an infant seat first and then transition to a convertible once the baby is a little older – the longevity, ease of use and easy installation features of Fit4 make it a great option.
It’s hard for me to pick my favorite Fit4 features because there are so many things about this seat that are awesome but I do love me a seat with a harness adjustment “like buttah” and Fit4 definitely earns that badge. It’s also nice that you have recline options in each stage (as long as you stay within the zone of the angle indicator). Even in booster mode, you are able to have Fit4 reclined a bit as long as you are within the range dictated by the angle indicator. Also, there is one feature that you probably won’t appreciate until you transition from rear-facing to forward-facing. That’s the point where you will shed the Stage 2 inserts that basically cover the entire seat. And when you peel off that layer, you will have a beautiful, clean, like-new seat underneath! If you don’t have kids yet, you might think that’s not a big deal but trust me after a couple of years of use, it’s going to be a significant bonus to have that fresh start with your trusty Fit4. 🙂
We have a video here comparing the Fit4 to the Chicco NextFit Convertible:
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.
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).
If you’ve driven around for any period of time, you have probably seen a sign on a car signaling that a baby is in the back seat. The most iconic of these, which also happens to be the original, is the yellow diamond Baby On Board sign by Safety 1st. Not only did this sign give birth to the rest of Safety 1st line, which has such a wide array of products that it can be found in the home of almost every family with an infant, but it’s also given its name to a new high quality, affordable infant seat- the Safety 1st onBoard 35 LT. Do not confuse this seat with the other Safety 1st onBoard infant seats on the market. The “LT” model is an entirely different seat with its own base – it is NOT compatible with the original onBoard or onBoard Air model bases.
OnBoard 35 LT Height & Weight Limits:
Rear-facing only 4-35 pounds, 19-32 inches and child’s head is at least 1 inch below the top of the seat
OnBoard 35 LT Overview:
The onBoard 35 LT is one of the lightest rear-facing-only infant car seats with a smooth and comfortable carry handle
4 harness heights to provide an excellent fit for a variety of different sized babies
3 crotch strap/buckle positions with newborn routing to fit even small newborns
Newborn support inserts with separate head and body cushions
8 year lifespan from date of manufacture before expiration
The first thing I noticed when I unboxed the seat were the labels. Safety 1st has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about and designing their labels and the outcome is great. Their labels are clear, concise and well placed and I could install and use the seat without ever cracking open the manual because of these labels (I’m not recommending this, but for those people who won’t read a manual regardless, this is great!). There’s even a label with a QR code so you can get information instantly on your phone. The onBoard 35 LT base has labels for where the belts go, as well as labels for baseless installation. I was generally impressed with the thoughtfulness Safety 1st clearly had when designing this component of their seat.