Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Car seat safety with an expiration date?

Car seats expire. This is news to me!

I had no idea that there was an expiration date on car seats until I needed to buy a new car seat for my oldest son. I have two boys; a two-year-old and a three-month-old baby. The car seats that I currently own will be unsafe for future children to use. This means that I will have to purchase more car seats. AAaaakkk!

I don’t know about you, but I am not made of money. And unless I am mistaken money has not started growing on trees. Car seats are not cheap. In fact, if you want to purchase a car seat that has been quality tested and received great reviews you are looking at spending anywhere from $100-$300 and up. There are $50 car seats out there, but they offer the bare minimum basics and have received mixed reviews. Since car seats are required by law until the age of 8, there is no getting around purchasing at least one if you are a parent.

Car seats are an investment. As a parent, I want the best car seat I can afford for my child. I want the peace of mind that my child is safe when I buckle him into his car seat. The idea that if my car seat is expired I am essentially buckling my child into a death trap terrifies me.

I recently found out that a used car seat that I purchased was expired when I bought it! WHAT!
(Insert finger wagging and head shaking here)

How did I find out that my car seat was expired? I went online and looked. Some car seats clearly state on their manufacturer’s labels what their expiration date is. While others offer this information on their websites. The expiration date is based on the date the car seat was manufactured. Here are a few car seat expiration dates I have discovered from name brand car seat manufacturers.

Graco - Six year general recomendation.
BritaxDepending on the seat the expiration date is between 6-9 years.
Safety 1st - Depending on the car seat the expiration date is 6-8 years and is now molded into the shell and/or base of car seat!
The First YearsAdheres to a 7 year “Do not use after” expiration date.

These are just a handful of car seat manufacturers and their expiration dates.  I thought it would be useful to have this information in one location and easily accessible. Some of the car seats I tried to look up did not even have an expiration date on their website, or at least one that I could easily access. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it is located on the actual car seat itself. As a consumer I find this very frustrating.

Now that I have an expired car seat what do I do with it? I could not in good conscience donate it or try to re-sell it knowing that it is expired and unsafe. Do I simply throw it away? Are landfills being overrun with expired car seats? These things are not small; they take up a significant amount of space. Where are they going once they are no longer safe to use?

I know that Babies R Us has a promotion where you can bring in your old car seats to be recycled and you receive a 20% off coupon to use towards a new car seat purchase. I applaud Babies R Us for thinking BIG. It is great to see a company being conscientious about the environment. Kudos to you Babies R Us! Sadly, this promotion is not in effect year round. It is however highly publicized, so keep your eye out for the next time this promotion comes around.

Unfortunately not all recycling centers take used car seats. This flabbergasts me. I looked online at my recycling centers website and discovered that there was no mention of car seat recycling. I found an email address and emailed the PR person for my recycling center to specifically ask about car seat recycling. Currently there is no car seat recycling program in effect and they were unaware of the fact that car seats expire. I am currently working with my recycling center to try and set up a program in my area. Wish me luck! By breaking down the car seat into its basic make-up one would think that recycling is a given. A car seat is made of plastic, foam, fabric, and metal. Shouldn’t there be a way to recycle these parts?

Better yet, why don’t the companies that make these car seats offer a recycling incentive to consumers? For example, if you recycle a Britax car seat you receive a coupon for a percentage off your next Britax purchase. The coupon could be used toward ANY product manufactured by that company. This would entice people to continue to purchase from specific brands, even after they are done purchasing car seats. This way companies are keeping consumer loyalty and being environmentally friendly. Sounds nice doesn’t it?

If you know of any great car seat recycling programs feel free to post a comment and/or link.

Disclosure: The information provided herein is not legal advice and is subject to change based on the above listed car seat manufacturers discretion and new car seat safety developments. I am providing the above for informational purposes only. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. I was not compensated for this post.

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