Over a few years, parents and households can have a lot of car seats if they have more than one child. Different car seats are needed by kids at different times, and in cases of twins and triplets, you might have to buy several car seats of the same type to use together. Once your kids have out grown them, you may have several car seats in perfect or almost perfect condition which you have no idea what to do with. Parents often refrain from buying used car seats as they can never be sure if the baby car seat has ever been in an accident before or not. Parents may also find it difficult to get rid of the car seats by donating them to local charities, as they may not accept them due to fear that they may have structural flaws. Some states even restrict the legal buying and selling of used baby car seats.Baby car seats can be reused as long as the seat has not been damaged, structurally flawed after being in an accident or misused. A damaged car seat should be obvious to identify, just like most people can tell the difference between a durable, high quality baby car seat and a cheap or poor quality seat. Similarly, any visible cracks or bends in the structure of the car seat should be fairly easy to locate. Car seats are not damaged in a minor accident. Unless your car seat goes in a terrible accident, it is perfect to keep using it.

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What to check when buying a used car seat:
The best way to check a used car seat for safety is to have your local fire department staff check it. They will inspect the car seat for safety and integrity to make sure that the seat has not been in an accident and is safe to use. You should however make sure that the car seat is not more than 8 years old. Even if a car seat has not been in an accident, car seats older than 8 – 10 years should not be used for any child in the vehicle.

Using a very old car seat can be disastrous for your child’s safety. New car seats which are now available in the market undergo intense safety checks and meet and exceed US Federal Motor Safety Standards and are also tested for Side Impacts. Most of these safety standards are new and it is impossible that old car seats meet these safety standards.

Never use a car seat which has been in an accident:
Car seats which have already been in an accident should never be used again. If you buy a used car seat through a trusted resource, a neighbour or friend, you have the option of checking the car seat thoroughly to see if it is damaged or shows signs of being in an accident. Buying a used car seat online through websites like eBay and Craigslist can be risky, as you will have no way of checking the car seat before buying it.

Never save money by buying a used or old car seat, especially when you are unsure if it has ever been in an accident before or not. These few saved dollars can cost you your child’s life.

When can you use an old car seat?
A used or old car seat can be used when it has been in a minor accident. If however the car has been in a moderate or severe accident, you should not use that car seat again, and send it to the recycling authority. These tips can help you identify how to tell if an accident was minor:

  • The car was able to drive away from the crash site without any problems
  • In case of a side impact or crash, the baby car seat was on the other side of the car which was affected, and hence remained undamaged
  • No occupant inside the vehicle was injured, especially those sitting in the front, passenger or back seat of the car
  • The air bags present inside the car did not inflate when the accident occurred

If the accident meets all the above criteria, you can safely continue to use your baby car seat and do not need to replace it. However, in case of a moderate or severe crash, when the car seat is even slightly damaged, or you are unsure if you should continue using it or not, it is always good to go for a new car seat. You can also have it checked by your local fire department or the Child Safety Seat Inspection Centre to check if you should go for a new car seat or not.