Your baby's car seat is one of the more important baby products that you will buy.
It can also be one of the more expensive, especially when you consider that you may have to buy two or three car and booster seats before your child actually graduates to just sitting in seat belts.
That expense may tempt some parents to want to buy a used car seat or used booster seat at a garage sale, thrift store, or even on ebay. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has found that many thrift stores sell hazardous products, including children's products, such as unsafe used baby crib and infant car seats that had been recalled.
If you are going to buy a used car seat or used booster seat, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you avoid the used car seat unless you know the car seat's history. This is very important because car seats should not be reused after they have been in a moderate or severe crash. Reusing a car seat after a car accident is often okay if it was just a minor crash though.
Unfortunately, unless you are buying or borrowing a used car seat from a friend or family member, it is going to be almost impossible to know the seat's history.
The AAP also recommends that you don't buy or use a used car seat that:
- is too old, which generally means that it is more than six years old, although you should check the manual or call the manufacturer for a specific expiration date for that particular model of car seat.
- has visible cracks or is missing parts or its instruction manual.
- doesn't have a label with the date of manufacture and model number, so that you can check to see if the car seat has been recalled, and then, of course, don't buy or use the car seat if it has in fact been recalled.
Since you likely don't want to get a used car seat, unless you can find one that is in very good condition, never recalled or in a moderate or severe crash, and that hasn't expired, you might have to look for other ways to save money on your child's car seat, such as:
- buying a new, but recently out-of-date or discontinued model. Old models are often discounted once the latest models begin to appear in stores.
- shopping in advance for your car seat so that you can find a bargain, instead of waiting until the last minute when you absolutely need the car seat for your new baby or older child who has outgrown their old seat.
- look for coupons or rebates for a new car seat or booster seat.
- find a car seat assistance program that sometimes provide car seats to families in need, such as Safe Kids USA, some hospitals, and some local health departments.
AAP. Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2011.
CPSC. Thift Store Safety Checklist.