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 used. 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 have a six- to 10-year lifespan (with a few lasting less than six years). 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. However, some manufacturers say their seats must be replaced even after a minor crash. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

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 check whether it has been recalled (many recalled seats are still usable). 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. Many online stores offer free shipping too.

Why Buy New

Buying a less-expensive new car seat rather than a used car seat is the best choice. Here are some of the challenges with buying used.

  • Making sure the used car seat has not expired is important.
  • Determining if a used seat has been in a crash is difficult., because you can't tell by looking whether it has been in a crash (and the person selling it has a financial interest in lying about crash history).
  • Checking for recalls and missing parts for used seats is essential.

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.

  • Avoid being 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.
  • Purchase a used car seat only from someone you know, and whom you trust to give you the facts about the seat.
  • Double-check the expiration date, which is 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 for fraying, holes or rips, and proper routing. The only way to check proper routing is by carefully reading the manual and making sure the seat matches what is shown in the manual.
  • Take the seat to a car seat checkpoint once you have the seat installed, and have it assessed by a certified child passenger safety technician.
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  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Car seat use after a crash.