I get this question all the time. I’ve heard from many that it’s just a “marketing ploy to rip people off and make more money!” But I assure you, it’s not. In fact, over the years, length of life has greatly increased! Some seats are good for as long as 12 years now. Most seats used to expire after 5-6 years. There are several reasons car seats expire, and I wanted to address just a few of those reasons. I’ll also give you some resources for what to do with them when they’re expired!

1) Materials degrade over time. Car seats are subjected to extreme temperatures and lots of every-day wear and tear. Materials can become brittle and can crack/break more easily over time.

2) Technology advances! Think of the car seats that our parents rode in (maybe even none at all). And look at the ones we have now. As technology evolves, so do car seats and safety features.

3) Replacement parts! As seats are phased out, replacement parts and pieces become unavailable.

Just to give you a visual, here’s an expired car seat that was crash tested:

How do you know when your seat is expired? There are a few ways to check:

1) Read your manual
2) Check the seat for a label with expiration date (sometimes it’s embossed into the plastic)
3) All seats will have a manufacture date on them. You can calculate expiration using this date.
4) Call the manufacturer

What to do with your expired seat:

1) Save for Babies R Us or Target trade-in event. BRU does them twice a year. Target has yet to announce another one. When you turn in your old seat, you’ll get a 20% off coupon for a new one! If you don’t need a new seat, there’s always someone in a local mommy group who will be looking for one during that time!

2) Cut straps, remove cover and all pieces. Destroy as much as possible (use a hammer if you need to) and toss in trash (Check with your city to see if you’re allowed to place the plastic part in your recycle bin).

3) Find a local CPST who needs a car seat for demonstration purposes.

4) CHLA recycling program: they will take old seats on the first Friday of every month. You can drop off at the valet area or walk into the lobby.

Kristen Sanders is a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor and owner of Buckle up, Bumblebee; a mobile service that offers private car seat checks and educational classes for families of all backgrounds. You can contact her at www.buckleupbumblebee.com or Kristen@buckleupbumblebee.com