Car seats expire. They really do. And no, they won't suddenly grow mold like that forgotten tuna sandwich in the fridge or self-destruct like a gadget from an indulgent spy movie.
Marketing Technique or Necessary Safety Precaution
While I do understand your caution in this age when marketing propaganda so tries to seduce parents into making purchases, rest assured car seats expire with good reason. It isn't just about the manufacturer's bottom dollar, it's about keeping your baby safe. That's a fact to which the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) wholeheartedly agrees, and paying attention to expiration dates is definitely among their top recommendations for car seat use.
There are several valid reasons why you need to stop using the car seat once it passes the expiration date.
- Technology Improves and Standards Change. A good example of this is that back in 2002 car seats were not even equipped with Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH). Now however, they are a standard feature in nearly all car seats. Car seat expiration dates ensure that seats being used are current and up to snuff.
- Materials Wear Down. Car seats were not made to last forever. Overtime the seat base can develop hairline fractures which may shatter in a crash (Should you replace your car seat?), and belts can become slightly elastic after years of use. Crash test videos provide a chilling example of how these materials can fail in a devastating manner.
- Only Tested for a Certain Period. After a certain amount of time, manufacturers do not test seats. They cannot attest to how older seats will perform in an accident.
Locating the Expiration Date
Most car seats have the date of expiration stamped on the car seat base. Alternatively, it might show the date of manufacture. If that's the case, generally the car seat will expire 6 years after the date of manufacture. Only a few seats may be good for a few years longer than that. This aspect of car seat expiration is one strong reason not to buy used car seats.
Date of Manufacture vs. Date of Purchase
A tip when buying a car seat, remember that the clock starts ticking from the date of manufacture, not the date of purchase. If you find a great deal on a car seat because it is the previous year's model, understand that it has a shortened life compared to the newest release.
Not About the Price Tag
Don't be deceived that a more expensive seat will have a longer life time. That is not the case. All seats sold in the US meet current car seat standards. You can purchase several excellentcar seats for less.
Don't forget: Register your car seats and update the manufacturer with your most recent contact information. Curious about car seat laws by state? Alphabetical listings: Alabama - Hawaii | Idaho - Montana | Nebraska - Oregon | Pennsylvania - Wyoming