Newborns are cute little things, but they’re also pretty delicate. And the last thing any parent wants is to carry their LO from the hospital in a fake car seat. I hate to break it to you, but there’s a bunch of fake car seats being sold online and offline these days.
No hospital in the US today will discharge you without a car seat. But you don’t need any car seat; you need a safety-certified car seat. And this post reveals at least 7 tips on how to spot fake car seats so that you can haul baby around in a safe and secure car seat all of the time.
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It’s New Trend, and a Deadly One: Counterfeit Car Seats
I learned from CNN, CBS news (the article was published in January 2022), Washington Post, and a few other sources that hospitals in North Texas, Florida, and Ohio have raised alarm over the growing number of fake car seats infiltrating the US car seat market.
Watch the video below to see what happens when a baby seats in a fake car seat and a crash happens:
This sad development has led safety car seat experts to advise parents and other caregivers to watch out for these counterfeit products. Because a kid’s life depends on choosing a safety-tested car seat and not some contraption made to questionable safety standards in some filthy sweatshop overseas.
But there’s good news, too. I have a bunch of little tricks that can help you spot a fake car seat online or when shopping in-store.
Counterfeit Car Seats Aren’t a Small Website Thing
When Cook Children’s Hospital in North Texas first spotted counterfeit car seats in November 2021, they initially it wasn’t a widespread problem. They thought that the unsuspecting parents had bought the fake car seats off of a small, nondescript online store, but digging around a bit proved them wrong.
They found that that these car seats were being sold even on large highly reputable online marketplaces such as Amazon and Walmart.
But that’s not all: buying car seats in brick-and-mortar stores didn’t always solve the problem. But as you’d imagine, it’s easier to sell crap to someone you’ll never meet.
You don’t want to be one of those innocent and loving parents who strap their little ones to a plastic death trap believing it’s a safe way to carry their kids from the hospital.
7. Quick Tips to Help You Spot Fake Car Seats Online and Offline
1.If the car seat you’re looking at lacks the date of manufacture, expiration date, model number, and customer service number, it’s most likely a fake car seat. Absence of stickers is often a sign that it’s a counterfeit car seat.
2. Search for the company’s website on the web. If you can’t find car seat “brand’s” site or find it but notice that it doesn’t use a genuine brand name or doesn’t use a brand name at all, it’s likely a counterfeit.
3. US car seat safety regulations don’t require car seats to have a chest clip. However, the chest clip has become a must-have feature on US car seats. So, if the car seat lacks a chest clip, chances are that it’s a knockoff copied from a EU or Asian car seat. EU and Asian car seats typically don’t use a chest clip, which is why copycats don’t include it.
4. Look at the instructions manual. If the install instructions are written in strange English or are sketchy and you can’t seem to reach customer support, there’s a good chance the car seat is a knockoff.
5. Check if the car seat comes with a postcard for registering the car seat just in case there’s a recall down the road. US regulations require car seats to come with a postcard so that consumers can be notified in case of car seat recalls in the future. If there’s no postcard, there’s a decent chance it’s a knockoff.
6. If the price of the car seat seems to be too low compared to the price point you see on the manufacturer’s website, it’s probably not a genuine car seat.
7. If there’s tons of negative reviews online while the brand itself is known for high-quality car seats, the listing you’re looking at is probably fake.
3 Ways to Buy a Genuine or Certified Car Seat
Below is a bunch of strategies to help you pick a car seat that keep your little one out of harm’s way:
1. Buy the car seat from a physical store rather than online.
Look, the vast majority of car seats sold online meet US safety standards. However, some don’t meet those safety requirement, and that’s a HUGE problem. In fact, some are so flimsy that they shattered to smithereens when put to the test during a car seat crash test!
Buying a car seat from a walk-in baby gear store dramatically reduces the odds of ending up with a dud. But it’s not always possible to buy in-store. Besides, there’s no guarantee that if you buy a car seat from a physical store you won’t ever get a fake one.
I don’t mean to make any business look bad, but some parents have purchased car seats that didn’t meet US child restraint device safety standards from Liquidator stores.
Buy from a Baby Store That Deals Directly With the Manufacturer
I suggest that you buy from a store that gets its merchandise directly from the manufacturer. In some cases, these kinds of stores focus on sourcing and distributing one car seat type. And this specialization makes them the go-to store when you want buying advice relating to that kind of seat.
Magic Beans and Albee Baby come to mind. But to be clear, these aren’t the only stores owned and operated by the Brixy Network of baby stores. The good thing about baby stores in the Brixy network is that they specialize in rear-facing-only infant car seats. You can use this Brixy store locator to find member stores in your area.
Stores in this network carry over 25 major car seat brands including:
- Peg Perego
- Maxi Cosi
- Baby Jogger
Did you see the Doona on the list? It’s really sad that Doona is pretty popular in the copycat world. In fact, fake Doona infant car seats have been spotted in places as trusted as Amazon.
Do you know how to avoid buying a counterfeit infant car seat in a physical store? Get it from it from any of the stores belonging in the Brixy network or any other store or network you believe sells genuine car seats.
And to be clear, I’m not a promoter of any kind for Brixy baby stores, nor do I earn any commission or other reward for mentioning them here. I mention them because they sell safe infant car seats so that you can carry your LO from the hospital without worry.
2. Buy Online from Places That Sell Certified Car Seats
The online marketplace is a vast ocean, and it’s easy to drown. It’s easy to be reeled in and end up with crap for a car seat. But here’s how you can avoid buying a fake car seat online: Buy from trusted online stores such as Buy Buy Baby, Nordstrom, and Target.
Why Buy Buy Baby, Target, and Nordstrom? It’s because as at time of writing, these chain stores offer safety-tested car seats that ship in directly from the actual car seat manufacturer. If you buy from any of these chain stores, you’re guaranteed to get a safety-certified infant or convertible car seat for your little loved one.
*I heard somewhere online that Target will soon become like Amazon and Walmart, allowing third-party sellers to offer various products for sale. When that finally happens, I hope to come here and update this section.
How to Avoid Buying a Counterfeit Car Seat At Amazon?
Is it a good idea to buy a car seat off of Amazon? Yes, Amazon mostly sells certified car seats. However, you must be careful when shopping for a car seat Amazon because not everyone there is a legit seller. Buy the car seat you need ONLY from a manufacturer-verified and parent-trusted seller.
If you’re wondering who are these trusted third-party car seat sellers on Amazon, below is a small list to point you in the right direction:
- Baby Value
- VM Express
- Brixy member stores such as Albee Baby, PishPosh Baby, and Magic Beans. Go to Brixy.com and type in the name of the third-party seller on Amazon to see if the name pops up. If it does, then that baby store is a member of Brixy and sells certified car seats.
- Amazon.com: If the indicated seller is Amazon.com, this means that Amazon actually bought the car seat from the manufacturer, packaged it, and shipped it over to your address.
How did I know that the third-party sellers above are legit? I emailed a bunch of car seat manufacturers, and everyone who responded mentioned the names on the list. I’ve also seen other trustworthy websites listing down these sellers as legit.
How to Avoid Buying a Fake Car Seat At Walmart
Be extra vigilant when purchasing a car seat off of Walmart. As far as I see, a huge number of the sellers there aren’t businesses I’d trust.
Fortunately, VM Express sells car seats there as a third-party seller, and you can buy from this seller because they’re legit. I’m not saying VM Express is the only credible car seat seller at Walmart. I’m saying I’m when in doubt buy from VM Express. As soon as I learn of other sellers who get their car seats directly from the manufacturer to sell on Walmart, I’ll update this section.
Pro tip: If you ever see the words “Sold&Shipped by XYX” on when buying a car seat on Walmart, that’s a clear indication that the seller is a third-party and not Walmart.
3. Search the Car Seat You’re Eying on the AAP’s Website
Fortunately for parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics maintains a nice little list of certified car seats. If you search the car seat you intend to purchase on the AAP website and can’t find it, either that car seat is a counterfeit, or it’s a new model that the AAP haven’t yet reviewed and added to the list.
Questionable Online Stores to Avoid When Buying a Car Seat
When gathering facts and research for this post, I learned that there’s a couple of websites purporting to be selling “safe and secure” car seats to parents. It’s been found that these sites are untrustworthy, and purchasing from them is tantamount to risking your child’s safety.
Here’s the list:
- Seatsaa.com: This one sells genuine car seats at incredibly low prices. But you know what? The car seats are expired already!
- eBay.com: The trouble with eBay is that it sells car seats made in China by manufacturers who may not comply with ALL US car seat safety guidelines. Also, there are lots of people on eBay with something to sell. And the item can be an old or used car seat. While not every secondhand car seat sold on eBay is unsafe, some can be especially because there’s no foolproof way to know if the seat has ever been in an accident.
- AliExpress.com: Yes, even Aliexpress.com. Never ever buy any kind of child safety restraint from this place)
- Strollex: Strollex became famous for selling a fake stroller/car seat combo on Amazon for about $299 when the real deal sold for about $499 at the time. What a shame!.
Upon crash-testing the $ 30 MPH, this “Doona” infant car seat broke into pieces which you can see flying into the air in this video.
Fortunately, Amazon contacted every customer who’d bought the Doona Car Seat and refunded them in full. And of course, the fake car seat listing was pulled down immediately. This FAA-approeved Doona Car Seat/Stroller Combo costs over $500, and I’m certain it’s a genuine Doona car seat.
In a world full of selfish and hopelessly depraved people, counterfeit products can’t be a rarity. Fake car seats have become an ever-worsening problem, but there’s a few tricks you can employ to stay out of trouble. I’m sure you’ve internalized the tips and can now easily tell a knockoff from a genuine car seat.
As a freelance content writer and sleep-deprived mom, Stacey Whitney's hands are always full, but she never misses an opportunity to share her personal experience with any product or idea that helps other moms survive parenting.