Tips for Buying Car Seats Second-Hand

mother fastening daughter into car seat
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You can save a lot of money on baby items by buying new. However, when it comes to car seats, this is one area where you shouldn't be so quick to jump on the used bandwagon. Here's why you should consider buying a new seat over a used one and some tips if you are committed to buying used.

Why It Is Safer to Buy New Car Seats

The biggest reason to buy new is that all car seats expire. Most only have a six-year lifespan. After that point, for the safety of the child, the seat should no longer be used. If you buy a used car seat, more than likely you are only going to get one to two years out of the seat—if even that. Where is the savings if you will need to buy another seat before your child is ready for a booster seat?

Second, if you are purchasing the seat from someone with whom you have not developed a trust, you really cannot be sure of the seat history. Why is seat history important? The National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA) recommends that any seat that is involved in a "moderate or severe" crash be replaced and never used again. If you cannot know beyond a shadow of a doubt what sort of stress the car seat has been subjected to, you should not use the seat.

Third, if you are going to be responsible with the use of your previously owned car seat, you should go through the hassle of making sure the seat has not been recalled, and check to make sure you have all the parts and manuals that you need to use the seat properly.

If you are not willing to go to these efforts, don't buy used.

Finally, consider hidden shipping costs. Particularly on sites like eBay, you can get gouged on shipping fees when you could have gone to your local store and purchased an affordable, new seat instead. There are even several online car seat stores that offer free shipping.

Buying a less-expensive new car seat rather than a used car seat is the best choice:

  • Car seats expire and used seats may be near the expiration date.
  • Used seat may have been in a crash and no longer safe.
  • Hassle of checking for recalls and parts for used seats
  • Shipping costs of used seats

Tips for Buying Used Car Seats

If you are certain that you want to buy a used car seat, then be selective when you pick it out. Here are a few insights:

  • Don't be seduced by a typically expensive car seat that you find used for cheap. A new affordable seat is, hands-down, better than a used name brand seat.
  • Only buy a used car seat from someone you know, and whom you trust to give you the facts about the seat.
  • Double check the expiration date (located on the car seat itself). If it only has the date of manufacture, assume a standard car seat lifespan and add 6 years to that manufacture date to find out when it will expire—or if it already has.
  • Register the car seat with the manufacturer.
  • Make sure you have all the parts and the manual. Often you can download online manuals from the manufacturer's website.
  • Inspect the car seat carefully for cracks in the shell and the EPS foam.
  • Check the harness straps
  • Once you have the seat installed, take it to a car seat checkpoint and have it assessed by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
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