Expiration dates on car seats – there’s a lot of confusion on this subject, so today, we thought it was the right time to clear a few things up. Everyone with a child probably knows about the expiry dates on their little one’s seats, but the big question is – do you understand what it means? Let’s unravel the myths from the truth and find out exactly what you need to know!
What are expiration dates?
The truth is that child car seats don’t really have an official expiry date – but it is a little more complicated than that. Different seats have a varying degree of longevity, but as a rule, manufacturers recommend that you use a seat for no longer than 10 years. However, no law says you can’t use an old seat, and it’s purely a recommendation of safety – a ‘service life,’ if you like.
Why is it a safety recommendation?
Child car seats are sophisticated little devices and have highly important parts to strap your child in safely to the car. Over time, it’s likely that you might experience fraying of straps, damage to the connections, and, of course, your kids will be much bigger in six years than they are now. It’s also important to remember that child car seats are made of plastic, which is durable but hardly invincible, and will degrade over time. So, while there is no official expiry, the little date on the sticker of your seat will give you a huge clue on when you should consider replacing it.
Does it affect your insurance?
If you have an accident in a car with a child seat, most insurers will cover you for the cost of replacement. Even the cheap car insurance policies will do this for you on the whole, so there isn’t much need to worry if your seat is within the expiry date. But what if it isn’t? Well, the good news is that it is likely your claim will go through without a hitch, although, of course, there are always outstanding situations where it might not be the case. In general, terms, because the date is a recommendation – and nothing else – you should be OK to pursue your claim.
If your insurance company is reluctant to agree to replace the seat, this letter (PDF 37kb) may help.
Should I replace the seat after an accident?
Without a doubt, you should always replace a car seat after a crash – even a minor incident. A sharp bang could cause structural weaknesses that you can’t see with the naked eye, or that occur deep within the frame of the seat. If you don’t replace your child car seat, you run the risk of placing your kids in unnecessary danger.
What about used car seats?
While you shouldn’t risk buying secondhand car seats if you can help it, clearly, there is a market for it. So how can you tell if the seat is safe? Ultimately, it’s impossible. You will have to place your trust in the seller, as you just can’t tell for sure whether it has been involved in an accident or not. However, if you do decide to go down this route – and we thoroughly discourage it – only buy from people you know and trust to tell you the real history of the seat. And make sure that there is a sticker with a service life – never, ever buy one without it.
Hope this helps uncover some of the facts surrounding expiry dates on child car seats – let us know your thoughts below!
Therese has completed the ‘Advanced Child Car Seat Training Course’ at TRL (Transport Research Lab) and is a CPD accredited car seat expert. She blogs about in-car safety, car seats, tips, reviews, giveaways and advice. She’s a mum on a mission to change the law and raise awareness. She is also a breastfeeding advocate and gentle parenting promoter who loves cloth nappies, baby-wearing, BLW and co-sleeping/bed-sharing.