What to Do With Old Damaged and Expired Car Seats

What do you do with old, damaged, and expired car seats? Unlike baby strollers, infant and toddler car seats come with an expiration date, usually 6-10 years from date of manufacture. When that date arrives, it’s best to stop using the car seat.

But what do you do with the expired car seat? This post lists down 6 practical ideas on what to do with old, damaged, and expired car seats.

Related: Different Types of Car Seats

6 Things to Do With Used, Damaged and Expired Car Seats

You can donate the used car seat to charity organization, give it away to a friend, relative, or even a stranger, trade it in at Target, or trash it. As for expired car seats, you definitely have to trash them. Let’s now see how you may handle each of these processes.

1. Give it to a Friend or Family

You recently visited with Lisa and her SO. And they told you about their dire financial situation. Now, do something about it. Ask them if they might want to use your old car seat if it’s still in great condition and hasn’t been involved in an accident.

Is your cousin or other relative is expectant? Ask them how they’d like to save a few hundred bucks by accepting your old seat.

In both cases, be sure to reveal every bit of safety-related information about the seat. Hand them the car seat’s model number so they can register the seat. Also, give them the manual so they can learn how to use it properly. Even better, advise them to link up with a CPST.

2. Let a Needy Parent Have It

There’s always someone out there for whom money is tight, someone who might need a little support. Before you dismantle that seat and trash it, consider gifting the old seat to someone if it’s still usable.

Ask around parenting groups where you hang out. Chances are that there’s a mom or dad in your area who’d be more than happy to receive your old car seat.

And while you’re at it, don’t make them feel embarrassed for accepting stuff from complete strangers. Nothing satisfies the soul quite like knowing that your kindness made another person’s life better and richer in some way.

3. Hand it Over to a Church, Charity Organization, or CPST

Chances are that your church knows a needy family who might really appreciate a little help. So, why not ring your pastor and see if they might know such a family? You’ll get rid of that old but still useful car seat, and your God or the universe or whatever you worship will bless you abundantly.

If no one in your community church needs the seat, consider handing it over to a charity organization. Charity organizations work with folks who may gladly take your car seat. Young families, families transitioning between situations, grandparents taking care of young children, families whose home was foreclosed recently, etc.

Well, charity organizations may not always accept donated car seats, even when the item is in perfect condition. But you’ll never know whether they accept until you ask.

Donationtown.org can connect you with a charity that might accept your donation. They accept donated baby strollers, but for car seats, you’ll have to check with them first.

You can contact Donationtown.com and schedule a FREE charity donation pick-up. Simply enter your zip code and select a local charity that might pick up your old car seat.

Also, you can contact your local CPST to see if they might take your old seat for demonstration purposes. CPSTs are trained car seat safety technicians. And they might use your used car seat to teach a mom or dad expecting a baby how to properly install and use a car seat.

Alternatively, contact a pregnancy resource center. These centers usually need car seats for demonstration purposes.

4. Attend Target and Walmart Car Seat Trade-in Events

Trading an old car seat in is probably the best thing you can do about used car seats or even damaged car seats.

Target organizes car seat trade-in events in various store locations from time to time. The store launched this program back in 2016, and it’s attracted tons of attention from parents.

Here’s the deal: Target will have you pay 20 percent less for a new car seat if you trade in your car seat.

So, what does Target do with traded-in car seats? The company partners with an organization called Waste Management to recycle traded-in car seats.  They recycle them into useful things such as pallets and construction materials.

Target claims to have recycled over 22 million pounds of car seats since the program’s launch. Note that the program runs only at designated Target stores. By the way, the 2021 Target Car Seat Trade-in Event ran between Sept. 12 and Sept. 25.

Walmart offers a similar program to Target’s. Find a local participating Walmart store and learn when their next event will take place. There’s a limit is two trade-ins per family, though. Plus, they don’t accept booster seats.

5. Recycle Your Car Seat

Before you trash that used buggy, consider recycling it. Where do I recycle my expired car seat? If you missed Target’s car seat recycling program (which happens in April or September), don’t worry.

Instead, contact carseatrecycling.com or terracycle.com. These two US-based recycling organizations offer a baby gear recycling service, and that includes car seats. The service isn’t free, though. The recycling service currently covers the following states:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Washington

If you’re in Canada, you can send your car seat in by mail from whichever province.

When to Recycle a Car Seat

If any of the situations below apply to your baby car seat, definitely recycle it.

  • The car seat was subjected to a moderate or severe crash.
  • The car seat is past the stated expiration date.
  • The car seat no longer fits your child in terms of recommended height, age, and weight limits and you can’t give it away for whatever reason.

How to Recycle Used or Damaged Baby Car Seats

Below is the correct way to recycle an old or damaged car seat.

  • Detach the fabric cover.
  • Cut the harness and straps off. Why? To discourage anyone who might think you’re giving the car seat away.
  • Put the Do Not Use label on the plastic shell of the seat.
  • Contact your local recycling plant and ask if they recycle car seats. Ask questions about the plant’s recycling guidelines.

Do you live in Maryland’s Howard County or California’s Los Angeles? Take advantage of your location’s curbside recycling programs.

Another idea is to check if there’s any car seat trade-in program around your area in the near future.

6. Trash Old or Expired Car Seats

You should resort to trashing a baby car seat only if you can’t donate it, give it to someone/a charity, or recycle it. But before you toss that seat in the garbage bin, do the following:

  1. Strip the seat of padding and fabric cover.
  2. Cut off the safety harness or straps.
  3. Remove every piece of metal from the seat.
  4. Put a “Expired” or “Not Safe” label on the car seat shell so that no one will use it.
  5. Throw the useless seat into the trash bin.

Can I Use Old Car Seats for My Baby?

You technically can carry your child in an old infant or toddler car seat. But unless that old seat belonged to an older child or you’re certain about its history, it’s best to invest in a new seat.

You can also buy a used car seat from other parents online. While there’s a degree of risk involved, buying a used car seat is a great way to get good quality for incredibly less.

Perhaps it’s safer to go for a secondhand car seat from a relative. You’re more likely to know details or get reliable information about a used seat from family versus buying from a complete stranger.

No matter what you choose to do, make sure to have a quality car seat safety expert assess the item for crash protection. That’s the best way to prevent surprises during critical moments on the road.

As for Expired Car Seats, Get Rid of Them

Car seat manufacturers are required to clearly state each model’s expiration date. But do car seats actually expire? Or is it a clever strategy devised by manufacturers to have parents spend more on products they don’t absolutely need?

Admittedly, car safety seats are a rather recent invention. In fact, car seats weren’t something parents had to have 3 decades ago. And the LATCH system hadn’t yet come into existence.

Lots of loving moms carried their newborns on their lap while happy dads drove. Heck, they didn’t even use seat belts. And aren’t we all solid evidence that they actually survived?

Car Seats Are an Absolute Necessity

It’s mandatory in every state for parents to carry babies and young children in a safe, secure car seat. Be sure to know the exact safety requirements in your state. Or in any state you might be planning on visiting or moving to, because those regulations keep changing across states.

Here’s the second reason to buy your kiddo a comfortable, safe car seat: car seats can literally save your baby’s life.

Fatality statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, car crash-caused infant deaths have dropped by a staggering 80 percent since 1975.

The IIHS also states that deaths of children in the newborn to 3 year age range have declined a whopping 66 percent since 1975.

Conclusion: car seats increase safety and substantially reduce the probability of death in a car crash. Clearly, car safety seats are not an attempt to hoodwink clueless masses into forking over their hard-earned money for something they don’t need.

But…

In Truth, Baby Car Seats Expire

It’s super important for you to check that date from time to time. Be sure to retire the expired car seat a month or two before that date. There’s no requirement to stop using the seat two months prior to the stated expiration date. But won’t you need enough time to research and shop for a new seat?

How many years before car seat expiration? Baby car seats remain safe to use for about six years since the seat manufacture date according to the Washington Post. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concurs and recommends not using a car seat for any length of time past the 6th year since the manufacture date.

But, can you use expired car seats? No, you should not use an expired car seat because wear and tear naturally cause car seat degradation. The plastic parts of the seat become weak structurally or even break down over time. And that can make the seat drastically less safe. Post-expiration, you’re never certain that the seat’s structural integrity is where it was when the seat was brand new.

Besides, car seat technology keeps evolving and getting better. Newer car seats are more likely to be more comfortable thanks to advances in design and materials versus older, probably decayed seats. The best thing to do about an expired car seat is to properly dispose of it. And you’ll learn why in a short while.

How Do You Know Your Car Seat Expires?

The surest way to know when your car seat will expire is to check the printed sticker around the bottom of the seat. If your model lacks this sticker, the manufacturer likely has the date embossed into the seat somewhere, usually on the seat’s plastic shell. This sticker contains important information including when the seat was made, its model number, and when it will expire. You may have to flip the car seat over to access this information.

What About Damaged Car Seats?

According to the NHTSA, you should NOT continue using a car seat if the accident was severe or even moderate. However, you don’t need to replace the car seat if it was a minor crash. That’s why extra vigilance is super important when buying a used car seat or accepting a hand-me-down.

The NHTSA recommends following the manufacturer’s advice regarding what to do with a seat after an accident. Some manufacturers don’t permit using their models even if the crash was minor.

Request a CPST to examine your damaged seat. Such an expert can give you a professional opinion as to whether you can safely use the seat.

What Is a Minor Crash According to NTHSA?

In the NTHSA’s book, a car crash is considered minor if:

  1. The car involved in the accident was actually driven away from the accident scene.
  2. The door closest to the car seat remained intact.
  3. No visible damage was observed on the seat.
  4. There was no airbag deployment in the crash for airbag-equipped vehicles.
  5. No person in the vehicle got injured in the accident.

How to Handle Expired, Old, and Damaged Car Seats: Conclusion

You shouldn’t use or give away damaged or expired car seats. But if the car seat is in pretty good condition and it’s not expired yet, consider giving it away, trading it in, or recycling it. Trading the seat in seems like the best option for most people, though. At least from an economic standpoint.

But if — for whatever reason —none of these options is available to you, simply strip the strip to a bare plastic frame. Then, put it in the garbage bin.

Is there any suggestion you think we missed? Let me know in the comment section below.

Author: Esther MonieEsther is a proud stay-at-home mom. She hates it when anyone calls her a housewife, because what does housewife even mean? Being a mother of two babies and a pup, Bailey, as well as being Ricky's wife tires her no end, but she still manages a smile at the end of it all. And when her boys' mischief subsides, she writes a post or two and publishes them on this blog.