how long are car seats good for

You might notice that your milk, bread, and coupons have an expiration date, but did you know that car seats expire, too? Because this is such an important topic, we’ve rounded up all the essential details, including when and why car seats expire, how long they are good for, finding your car seat’s expiration date, and what to do once expired.

Why Do Car Seats Expire?

Perhaps it sounds odd that car seats have an expiration date but think of them like a sturdy pair of running shoes. After so many runs, the shoe’s materials break down and don’t support your feet and movement as they should. The same happens with a car seat, which weakens over time with constant use and exposure to heat and cold.

The purpose of a car seat is to keep your child safe when traveling—in the car, flying on an airplane, taking a taxi, etc. After so many uses, the materials wear down and aren’t as strong as they once were. Therefore, car seats have a specific lifespan and will eventually expire.

In Summary

Why do car seats expire? Car seats have an expiration date because the parts and materials used to keep your child safe gradually weaken or wear down after constant use and because of exposure to heat and cold.

 

How Long Do Car Seats Last?

If car seats have an expiration date, what is it? Every car seat brand is different, but all manufacturers must

  • meet the current Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

  • have a National Safety mark

  • set an expiration date (though not required by law), which can vary from product to product, even within the same brand.

Therefore, you shouldn’t use or buy a car seat that doesn’t meet the above criteria and that’s older than the date specified on your particular model.

Where Is the Car Seat Expiration Date?

To know exactly how long car seats are good for—whether using them for infants, babies, toddlers, or older kids—you can find the expiration date for your particular model on the bottom of the seat or stamped into the plastic car seat frame. If you can’t find the expiration date, contact the manufacturer.

If you purchased pieces separately (such as a separate base from the car seat itself) check each piece for an expiration date, as they could be different. This information will help you make an informed decision when purchasing and using a car seat for your child.

Car Seat Expiration After an Accident

There’s one big caveat to this expiration rule: If your car seat has been in a moderate or severe car crash, it immediately expires. In fact, some manufacturers advise replacing the car seat even after a minor accident (one defined as resulting in no outside car damage, no injuries, and no air bags detonating). If your car sustains any damage internally while in an accident, then your car seat might also be damaged.

With minor accidents, damage might not be noticeable to the naked eye, which is why some manufacturers recommend replacing car seats in these situations. Their mantra is, simply, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

However, before running to the store to purchase a new car seat try the following:

  • Check the car seat for any visible damage—if there’s damage, replace it.

  • Check the area of the car and door nearest to the car seat for any damage—if there’s damage on the car, replace the car seat.

  • Call the car manufacturer with any questions. If they advise replacing the car seat, do so before traveling in the car with your child.

In Summary

A car seat immediately expires after a moderate or severe car crash, even before it’s official expiration date. If you’ve had a minor accident, check with the manufacturer. In some cases, as long as there was no car damage, no visible damage to the car seat, no injuries, and no air bags detonating, you might still be able to use the car seat.

 

New Vs. Used Car Seats

It’s best to always buy a new car seat, for expiration and recall purposes. With a new product, you know that it’ll keep your child safe, as it hasn’t been in an accident or recalled. With a used or older product, it becomes increasingly difficult to know the history of the product. Because the safety of your child is most important, we don’t recommend purchasing a used car seat.

However, it’s not always possible to purchase a brand-new car seat. In that case, consider the following before settling on a used product:

  • Ensure the product has a National Safety Mark

  • Do not buy a car seat unless you can guarantee that it hasn’t been in a collision

  • Check for any recalls and notices via the manufacturer

  • If you need a copy of the manual, contact the manufacturer

  • Check the list of parts and make sure none are missing or broken—replace any parts as needed

  • Make sure the latches and harnesses work correctly and aren’t frayed or rusted

  • Check the car seat’s expiration date.

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Do Car Seat Bases and Boosters Also Expire?

When replacing your car seat, it’s important to swap the entire product. Although it’s easy to assume the plastic base may break more than the cushy seat, the entire product is susceptible to regular wear and tear or damage during a crash. Therefore, it’s important to replace both the base and seat.

Of course, if you’re using a base that’s older than the seat, and you didn’t experience an accident, you can replace them separately as each piece expires. If you have any questions at all, contact the manufacturer.

Likewise, booster seats have an expiration date just like car seats. Check the expiration date on your specific model, and if buying used or after a car accident, adhere to the same advice above regarding car seats.

The Four Stages of Car Seats

To help you get a better idea about when to use car seats, boosters, and traditional seat belts, consider the four stages your child will experience:

  1. Rear-facing. It’s safer for infants and young children to ride in a rear-facing car seat, as this position protects their head, back, and neck from movement.

  2. Front-facing. Once your child weighs 10 kg (22 lb) or more, they can use a front-facing car seat. Front-facing designs have harnesses, latches, and clips to anchor your child into the seat.

  3. Booster seats. Some front-facing car seats have a maximum weight limit. If your child reaches this limit, you might consider a booster, which lifts your child up so that the seat belt lies across the safest areas of their body (where the bones are strongest across the chest and pelvis).

  4. Seatbelts. Car seat safety in Canada varies with each provincial and territorial law, so check with your local government to find the weight and height for using just the traditional seat belt.

In Summary

Car seats and booster seats expire; check under the seat or on the frame of your particular model to find the specific expiration date. Try to always buy new a car seat when your current model has passed its expiration date or after any car accidents. However, if you must buy used, ensure that there’s a National Safety mark and no damage or recalls by consulting the manufacturer.

 

Is it Illegal to Use an Expired Car Seat?

Yes, in Canada, car seat safety regulations require all children to use an appropriate restraint and anchor system (car seat or booster seat). Additionally, provincial and territorial laws require car seats and boosters to be certified by Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and used according to the manufacturer's instructions, which is why it’s important to have and read your model’s instruction manual.

What to Do With Expired Car Seats

Once your car seat has expired, you’ll want to know what to do with it. It’s best to dispose of an old car seat that has reached its expiration date in a way that prevents anyone from using it in the future. Safety experts recommend taking the car seat apart and disposing of the parts separately. If you have a recycling centre near you, check to see if it accepts car seat parts.

In Summary

Using an expired car seat is not safe for your child and is illegal in Canada. When your car seat does expire, break it down and dispose of the parts separately to prevent anyone from using it in the future.

 

FAQS AT A GLANCE

You can find the car seat expiration date on the bottom of the seat or stamped into the plastic car seat frame.

The Bottom Line

Car seats are at the top of the list of baby gear essentials. If you plan to travel in a vehicle, train, or airplane with your child, you need one, starting with that first ride home from the hospital. However, a car seat can be a big expense. It’s tempting to avoid buying a new one but remember that car seats have an expiration date for a reason—they carry precious cargo, and a model that’s too old won’t be as safe for your little one.

So, how long are car seats good for? Check your specific model’s expiration date (found under the seat or stamped onto the frame), but most manufacturers advise replacing your car seat after six years.

And don’t forget that other super important baby gear travel essential: 12-hour baby-dry diapers for long road trips! Earn rewards for those endless diaper changes (whether on the road or at home) with our Pampers Club app.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.