Did you know your kid’s car seat has an expiry date on it?
Car seat usage sure has changed over the years. Kids need to be in a car seat or a booster for eight to twelve years, a.k.a. approximately forever, now-a-days. When I was a kid car seats were strictly for infants, and once you moved out of the baby seat you were free to roam the vehicle, seat belts sometimes optional. A lot has changed over the years, and it’s all meant to keep our kids as safe as possible.
When I had my first child I had a big baby shower a few months before my due date, and of course one of the items I asked for on my registry was a carseat. Well, actually two car seats. We had a bassinet style infant seat, the type that pops out and you can carry the baby around in it, which we intended to use for the first six months or so, and then a second car seat, designed to grow with the child, transforming from a rear facing harness style seat, to a forward facing seat, and eventually to a booster.
However we really liked the convenience of the pop and carry infant seat, so we used it for as long as possible. This is going back a few years now but if I’m remembering correctly we kept her in that seat until sometime around her first birthday. By the time I brought that second car seat out of it’s box and set it up the thing was already over a year old. Which is a problem because car seats have expiry dates.
According to the Transport Canada website:
Manufacturers give an expiry or useful life date because over time:
- frequent use and exposure to sunlight can damage and weaken plastic;
- safe-use labels on the products fade or become hard to read;
- instruction manuals have likely been lost;
- food, cleaners, drinks and other materials that have been spilled or used on webbing, buckles, adjusters and other parts may prevent them from working safely;
- the history or condition of the car seat or booster seat becomes hard to check (was it in a crash, was it stored in a place or in a way that caused damage to parts, etc.?);
- safety regulations and standards may have changed, so safer products may now be on the market; and
- second or subsequent owners may not get product safety recall notices if problems arise.
All of which makes perfect sense, but car seat expiry dates can still be extremely frustrating if you’re not paying close attention. I mean, when picking out my daughter’s seat I knew that carseats had expiry dates. I had heard this fact mentioned, I was vaguely aware it was a thing. However I assumed that since kids are now required to be in a car seat or booster until somewhere between age eight and age twelve, depending on their height and weight, that the seats must be designed to last that long. That would only be logical, right?
What I didn’t realize is that some manufacturers have expiry dates that last as little as six years. And the expiry date isn’t based on when you first start using the seat, it’s based on when the seat was manufactured. So when I put that brand new seat into our car it was already almost two years into its’ expiry date.
Which means by the time my daughter’s seat was ready to be transformed into a booster it was already ridiculously close to it’s expiry date. I was ticked off because we had paid extra for a seat which would transform into a booster when we would have been better off buying a simple non-convertible car seat for the toddler years, and then a separate booster seat once she became old enough to use it.
So here’s what I wish I had known before picking out my first car seat:
First: Car seats expire. It sucks, but it’s a fact of life.
Second: Having your child in a seat which has already expired is not only unsafe, it’s against the law.
Third: You may want to wait and not purchase the seat until you intend to use it. Having a brand new car seat sit in your closet for a year, with that expiry date already counting down, is probably not the best way to go.
Fourth: The expiry date is based on the date of manufacture. Keep in mind the car seat you buy may have been sitting in the store for a few months. If possible check the packaging for the expiry date before purchasing.
Fifth: When it comes to expiry dates not all brands are created equal. Some seats have expiry dates that last as little as six years, while others are good for eight or even ten. You can check out this chart on the Transport Canada website to see how various brands stack up when it comes to expiry dates.
One of the things that makes the Diono Radian RXT I recently reviewed particularly awesome is the fact that it is good for up to eight years as an infant or child seat, and then an additional two as a booster. Making it a car seat which may actually work for your child right from birth until when they’re ready to buckle in with a regular seat belt. Woohoo!
Overall, if I had known a bit more about car seat expiry dates before choosing my daughter’s car seat I would have saved myself some frustration, and also some money. Paying extra for a seat that converts to a booster, when it’s going to expire before your kid can use it as a booster seat, just doesn’t make sense! If I could go back and change things I would either pick out a simpler non-transforming seat, or a car seat that was actually designed to last long enough for my child to still use when booster seat time came along.
What car seat tips do you wish you’d known before picking out your child’s first seat?