What to Do With Old Car Seats (4 Clever Things You Can Do)
With so many warnings about used car seats, it can be hard to know what to do with yours when you no longer need it. However, there are many routes you can take.
A big part of the decision will depend on the seat’s condition and expiration date, but there are a few other deciding factors about the various things you can do with your car seat. We’ve got the latest information and recommendations, so we’ll cover everything you need to know and more in this article.
With our help, you can reclaim the space in your home your child’s old car seat is taking up.
- Check the car seat’s expiration date and condition before reusing, donating, or recycling it.
- Trade-in events, like those at Target, allow you to exchange old car seats for discounts on new baby gear.
- Donate car seats in good condition to women’s shelters, local charities, church organizations, or child passenger safety technicians.
- If the car seat is expired or damaged, follow proper recycling or trash disposal protocols to ensure safety.
Table of Contents
- Is It Expired?
- Can You Reuse a Car Seat?
- How to Get Rid of a Used Car Seat
Is It Expired?
If the car seat is expired, it shouldn’t be used again with a child in it. Its parts will weaken and break down from wear and tear over time, so it isn’t safe to use. Car seat expiration dates are in place to give you an idea of the seat’s lifespan.
To find your car seat’s expiration date, flip it over and look at the back or the bottom. The expiration date is usually printed on a sticker or embossed into the plastic. Some manufacturers print it inside the instruction manual.
Can You Reuse a Car Seat?
There may be some cases where a seat can be reused. We don’t recommend reselling or purchasing used car seats because you can’t be 100% sure of the quality. However, if you’re using it again for your own family, it may be fine.
So, when can you reuse an old car seat?
- It isn’t expired: A car seat is technically still good up until the date manufacturers give. We recommend not using it within a month or two of the date to give yourself plenty of time to replace it.
- It hasn’t been in an accident: Minor accidents don’t automatically destroy a car seat’s integrity. However, if the seat has been in a moderate to severe crash, it’s recommended to replace it immediately (1). Some car seat manufacturers require you to replace the car seat after any crash, even if it was only minor. Check with your vehicle insurance company, as they will sometimes cover the cost of a replacement seat.
- It’s clean: Of course, you don’t want your second (or third, fourth, etc. ) child to have to use a dirty car seat. If you want to reuse the seat, give it a good scrub down. Be sure to follow the cleaning instructions in your car seat manual. This is especially important if it’s been packed away for a bit.
- It’s still in good condition: Check for broken pieces or other wear and tear. Be sure to look under the fabric cover to fully inspect the seat. Even the smallest nick can render a seat unusable.
It’s important to take extra care when using a secondhand car seat. Give the seat a thorough review to ensure there’s no damage before using it. Ensure you register the seat so you can be informed of any recalls. You can check for any current recalls here.
How to Get Rid of a Used Car Seat
If you find that the car seat is expired or it’s been in a moderate to severe car crash, there are still things you can do.
1. Trade-In Events
Some stores, such as Target, hold car seat trade-in events throughout the year.
These trade-in events allow you to bring in an old or unusable car seat and get a coupon in return. Target offers 20% off a new car seat, stroller, or another piece of baby gear in place of your car seat. They started this program in 2016, and it’s gained major popularity since then.
All old car seats traded in at Target are recycled and turned into products like pallets, buckets, and construction materials (2).
Trade-in events are the most convenient option, and we recommend this the most. Not only can you get rid of your old car seat, but you get a good deal on an upgrade for your child, too.
2. Donate It
Most places are really picky about used car seats, even if they’re still in excellent condition. However, you may find that some organizations accept them. Be upfront about the condition of the seat so they know what they’re receiving. After all, you don’t want to compromise anyone’s safety.
- Women’s shelters or other local charities: Many organizations provide resources to families in need. Foster families and women’s shelters are often in need of car seats.
- Church organizations: Church organizations are always looking to help. Some may have ministries where they give away car seats to needy families. This is another good option to consider.
- Local CPSTs: Child passenger safety technicians are trained on car seat safety and how to install car seats (3). They teach parents the ropes. Reach out to a CPST to see if they’d like to have your old seat for demonstration purposes.
3. Proper Recycling Protocol
Rather than throwing the old car seat in the trash, you can recycle it yourself. You should first call your local recycling center to see if they accept plastics from old car seats. If they do, here is what you should do:
- Locate your nearest recycling center: Ask your local recycling center whether they accept car seats and how they would like to receive them. Find a center that accepts car seats here.
Check recycling guidelines: Call the center and ask for their guidelines for car seats. Some may want you to bring the naked frame, while others may want it completely broken down first.
- Remove the extras: This includes any fabric, padding, or straps on the car seat. Remove the cover, and use scissors to cut the harness straps out of the seat. These parts probably won’t be recyclable, so they can go in the trash.
- Remove all metal pieces: You’ll probably need a screwdriver for this. It’s important to remove as much of the metal as possible from the car seat. This will only need to be done if your recycling center requires you to. Some centers may do this part themselves.
4. Proper Trash Protocol
If you can’t recycle, donate, or trade the seat in, you can throw it away with the trash. There are, however, a few guidelines to follow before doing so. The guidelines are similar to car seat recycling guidelines and are there to ensure it can be disposed of efficiently:
- Remove all extra padding and foam.
- Cut away any straps.
- Remove all metal pieces from the seat.
- Mark the seat. You should clearly mark it as “UNSAFE” or “EXPIRED” on the bare plastic seat so nobody will be tempted to reuse it. Then you can set it out with the rest of your garbage.
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Medically Reviewed by
Kristen Gardiner, CPST
Kristen Gardiner, CPST is a writer, wife, and mother to three boys. Kristen became certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician by Safe Kids Worldwide in 2015 and loves to volunteer and help educate parents about car seat safety. She has a passion for all things related to child safety.
Car seat recycling 101: Everything you need to know
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Car seat recycling 101: Everything you need to know.
Our kids outgrow their baby gear almost as fast as we buy it.
While it’s easy to donate or sell baby strollers and swings, getting rid of used car seats isn’t as simple.
The ins and outs of car recycling old, outgrown, expired, or damaged car seats can be confusing. Unlike a lot of other baby products, car seats expire and the wear and tear that can be overlooked with other items becomes a major safety issue where car seats are concerned.
Car seat recycling 101
Thankfully there are options for clearing out your car seat clutter without tossing them into the landfill. Here are some tips and rules for car seat recycling and donating old car seats, to help demystify the whole process.
Why recycle your car seat?
Getty Images / Fly View Productions
When your baby needs a new car seat, it can be a challenge to figure out what to do with your old one.
Approximately 12 million car seats are sold each year, and it’s estimated that 29.6 million pounds of car seat material ends up in landfills. That’s a lot of waste taking up space at the dump.
Car seat recycling is also a far safer disposal option than tossing it in the trash. Recycling disposes of car seats in a way that ensures a car seat’s shelf life ends when it’s no longer usable.
Option 1: You can toss it in the recycle bin
In some states, yes, an old car seat or booster seat can go right to your local recycling center. Before tossing it in the recycling bin, call your recycling center to make sure they accept car seats and verify how yours should be prepared for recycling. The facility’s car seat recycling program may require you to completely break the seat down.
While not every recycling facility will take car seats, almost all should take a fair amount of its components. The plastic in most car seats can be put in your plastics bin, so long as it’s been cleared of other parts and the same goes for the metal.
Option 2: Find a car seat trade-in program
Getty Images / sergeyryzhov
Trade-in events can help you dispose of old car seats and can even give you money to buy a new booster.
Target and Walmart host car seat trade-in events twice a year where your old car seat can be converted into a gift card or a store coupon.
Target’s car seat trade-in event typically takes place in April, so keep checking for announcements here and on the Target website. When it occurs, bring any used, damaged, or expired car seat to a Target store and get a 20% off coupon to be used on new car seats, strollers, and select baby items.
Option 3: Try a mail-in program
Your local recycling center doesn’t take car seats, you don’t want to break the one you have down, and you missed the Target trade-in event. Not to worry: Mail-in recycling programs are another option. While they do come at a cost, sometimes getting the clutter out of your house is priceless.
You can order a car seat recycling kit from CarSeatRecycling.com and, in exchange, get a 10%-off coupon to be used at any time at Clek. Another option is TerraCycle’s Baby Gear Zero Waste Box.
These waste boxes can be filled with car seats, boosters, and other used baby gear. In both cases, you’ll have to pay to receive a recycling kit or box; the cost will include a shipping label and the processing of your old car seat.
Option 4: Find a car seat donation program
Many children’s hospitals and hospitals with maternity wards will accept car seat donations, providing your car seat is in good working order.
When donating, you may be tempted to give the car seat a deep cleaning, but do so with caution! Consult your user manual to determine the best way to clean your car seat. Short of that, use gentle cleansers like castile soap or diluted baby shampoo.
Never do more than a spot clean of straps or harnesses. These are made of woven threads that use tensile strength to provide just the right amount of «give» in a car accident. Deep cleaning or soaking them can cause the threads to loosen, which can lead to malfunction in an accident.
For a program to accept donated car seats, you need to check the following:
The expiration date
Most car seats expire after 6 years, after which time the plastic can degrade or become brittle, compromising the safety of the seat during impact. You can verify the expiration date either by checking the seat label or consulting your user manual.
If it’s been recalled
You can determine if your car seat has been recalled by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website and entering the brand name and model of your car seat.
Recalled seats are deemed to be unsafe by the NHTSA. A recalled car seat should be immediately disposed of and should not be donated, sold, or passed down under any circumstances.
The integrity of the seat
Getty Images / HStarr
Be sure to check the integrity of your child’s car seat before donating.
Determine if it has any tears or cracks and verify that it has never been in a major accident. While most seats can be reused after a minor fender bender, the NHTSA recommends disposing of your car seat if it has been involved in a collision where airbags have deployed, the seat or the nearest door were damaged, personal injuries were sustained, or the vehicle required towing.
Bottom line, by recycling, donating, or trading in your old car seats, you help to keep roughly 180 million pounds of valuable material out of landfills each year. While finding sustainable ways to dispose of your old car seat may take a bit of extra effort, it’s definitely worth it.
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What to Do with Old Car Seats (4 Smart Things You Can Do)
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Have you picked up spring cleaning and don’t know what to do with your child’s old car seat? As it turned out, there are many different routes.
There are several deciding factors as to what you can do, and much of this will depend on the condition of the seat and expiration date. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know and more.
So don’t worry, we’ll help you make room in your home that your child’s old car seat takes up.
- Is this overdue?
- Can car seats be reused?
- How to dispose of a used car seat
Is it overdue?
If the car seat is expired, it cannot be used again while a child is in it. Its parts will break down over time due to wear and tear, so it can no longer be used. Car Seat Expiration dates are set to give you an idea of the life of the seat.
To check the expiration date of your car seat, simply turn it over and look at the back or bottom. The expiration date is usually printed on a sticker or embossed on the plastic. Other manufacturers may print it inside the instruction manual.
Can car seats be reused?
In some cases, the space can be reused. Personally, we do not recommend reselling or buying used car seats because you cannot be 100 percent sure of their quality. However, if you are using it again for your family, you might be fine.
So when can you reuse an old car seat?
- Not expired: The car seat is technically still good until the date given by the manufacturer. We recommend not using it for a month or two after the date so that you have enough time to replace it.
- Not in an accident: Minor accidents do not automatically damage the car seat. However, if the seat has been involved in a moderate or severe accident, it is recommended that you replace it immediately. (one) . Some car seat manufacturers require the car seat to be replaced after any accident, even if it was a minor one.
- Clean: Of course you don’t want your second (or third, fourth, etc.) child to have to use a dirty car seat. If you want to reuse the seat, be sure to give it a good cleaning. Be sure to follow the cleaning instructions in the car seat instructions. This is especially important if it has been packed for some time.
- Still in good condition: Check for broken parts or other wear. Be sure to look under the fabric cover to fully inspect the seat. Even the smallest scratch can ruin a seat.
It is important to take extra care when using a used car seat. Carefully inspect the seat to make sure it is not damaged before using it. You should also be sure to register the place to be aware of any reviews. You can check any current reviews here.
How to Dispose of Your Used Car Seat
If you find that your car seat has expired or has been in a moderate to severe car accident, there is still something you can do.
Trade-In Events Some large stores usually run car seat swaps throughout the year. As far as we can see, the only store still doing this is Target, but there may be others.
These exchanges allow you to trade in your old or unusable car seat and receive a coupon in return. Target is offering a 20 percent discount on a new car seat, stroller, or other baby equipment in exchange. They launched this program in 2016 and it has gained a lot of popularity ever since.
All old car seats sold at Target are recycled and turned into various products such as pallets, buckets and building materials. (two) .
Exchange events are by far the most convenient option and we recommend them the most. Not only will you get rid of your old car seat, but you will also get a good discount on an upgrade for your child.
Most places are very picky about used car seats, even if they are still in excellent condition. However, you may still find that some organizations accept them. Be upfront about the condition of the seat so they know what they’re getting. After all, you don’t want to put anyone’s safety at risk.
- Women’s shelters or other local charities: There are many organizations that provide resources to families in need. Foster families often lack basic necessities such as car seats.
- Church organizations: Church organizations are always ready to help. Some may have ministries where they distribute car seats to needy families. This is another good option to consider, especially if you are religious.
- Local CPST: Child Passenger Safety Technicians trained in car seat safety and how to install car seats (3) . They teach their parents ropes. Contact CPST to see if they would like to use your old location for demo purposes.
3. Correct disposal protocol
Instead of throwing your old car seat in the trash, you can recycle it yourself. You should first call your local recycling center to see if they accept plastic from old car seats. If they do, here’s what you should do:
- Find your nearest recycling center: Ask your local recycling center if they accept car seats and how they would like to get them. Find a center that accepts car seats here.
View recycling recommendations: Call the center for specific car seat recommendations. Some may want you to just bring in the bare frame, while others may want to take it apart completely first.
- Remove excess: This includes any fabric, padding or straps on the car seat. Also remove the cover and use scissors to cut the seat belt straps from the seat. These parts are probably not recyclable, so they can be sent to the trash can.
- Remove all metal parts: You will probably need a screwdriver for this. It is important to remove as much metal from the car seat as possible. This should only be done if your recycling center requires it. Some centers may do this part themselves.
Four. Correct basket protocol
If for some reason the seat cannot be recycled, donated or exchanged, it can be thrown away with the trash. However, there are a few guidelines to follow before doing so. These are similar to the disposal guidelines and are designed to ensure efficient disposal:
- Remove any excess padding and foam.
- Cut off any straps.
- Remove all metal parts from the seat.
- Mark the seat. You must clearly mark it as UNSAFE or EXTENDED on the bare plastic seat so that no one will be tempted to reuse it. Then you can install it with the rest of your junk.
Child car seat — parental mistakes and how to avoid them
1) Do not use the child seat all the time.
“We just need to get to the store…”
“My son can’t stand the chair and I didn’t fasten it…”
“She got seasick and I just unfastened it for a minute…”
There’s a good reason for this
Every year, thousands of children are injured in car crashes and hundreds die Child car seats significantly reduce the risk of death or serious injury in a collision Stephanie Tombrello, executive director of SafetyBeltSafe USA, a non-profit passenger safety organization, urges all parents to purchase a safe seat that is comfortable to use and make it mandatory for families its use
2) Using a seat that is too old
That seat you bought at a garage sale for pennies may seem like a bargain, but the savings can play tricks on your child.
These car seats may have been in accidents, as a result of which they may look normal, but their structural elements have already been broken. Due to possible cracks or mechanical damage, they may no longer withstand a second accident. Chairs that are too old may not comply with new safety regulations, they may have defects that have already been eliminated in new models. In addition, there is a high risk that the child car seat has not been stored correctly and the plastic has become brittle over the years.
If you need to use a used seat, make sure it hasn’t been in a serious accident and inspect it carefully.
In addition to avoiding the dangers of aging plastic, SafetyBeltSafe USA recommends that car seats older than 10 years be avoided. Try to find out from the seller how old the chair is, perhaps the receipt has been preserved.
3) Too early to turn the seat forward
Peculiarity of children’s anatomy is that babies already have a fairly large head, but still weak neck muscles. Therefore, even in a small accident or simply with very sharp braking, the child’s head can twitch too much, which will lead to a serious injury to the spine. For this reason, the New Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to keep the child in a seat backwards for as long as possible, up to 3-4 years.
4) It’s too early to give up a child car seat
By law, a child’s car seat must be used before the age of 12. But up to this age, you should also use chairs appropriate for the age of the child.
- As mentioned above, hold your child backwards as long as possible, preferably up to 4 years. Of course, this is difficult, because at this age, children are very restless and want to look ahead, this is not regulated by law, so watch it yourself.
- Further, the child must ride in a full-fledged car seat, with a backrest and their own seat belts.
- From the age of 7, a child can ride in a booster that does not have its own backrest and belts and be fastened with car seat belts. All children are different, make sure that the belt does not lie on the child’s neck, but passes over the shoulder.
5) Improperly installed child car seat
The seat will not work if it is not installed correctly.
Some of the most common mistakes are: — you did not fasten the car seat tightly enough or the belt was twisted and does not pass correctly — you did not use all the belt clips available — the car seat belt buckle is not fully inserted or fabric has got into it
6) Old car seat belts
In many older cars, the seat belt does not have blocks the rotor during heavy braking or it is not working properly. In addition, seat belts can also lose their strength over time, check their reliability, if in doubt, it is better to replace it with a new one. After you secure your child’s seat securely, see if you can move the car seat forward or sideways. If the seat moves more than 2-3 centimeters, then it is not fastened tightly enough.
7) Do not fasten the child in the car seat
I have personally met drivers who put the baby in the car seat, but do not fasten him in it.
They do this only in order not to get a fine in the event of a check by a traffic police inspector.
In the case of a check, shout to the child “Put on the belts soon!” To the question — why are you doing this?
There are almost always two answers:
— the child is uncomfortable
— I am a very good driver, it is safe with me.
In my opinion, the logic is criminal… A child can be uncomfortable with many things, but that’s what parents are for, to correct his behavior. Even if you are a super driver, there may be beginners and drunks around you, and it is impossible to predict all situations on the road.
8) Do not read the instructions.
Yes, it sounds funny, but the situation is quite common. People think they did everything right, but the seat is not fastened properly. Also, this situation can occur if you rearrange the chair from one car to another.
Once I didn’t fasten my car seat when I was moving it into my wife’s car. I thought she buckled up, and she, that I! But our son, at the age of 3, screamed himself — dad, my seat was not fastened !!!
9) Hold the baby in your arms
On a long journey, many children are capricious and there is a great temptation to take the baby “in the arms”. One time, another ride and you already think that this is a good idea, because you hold him so tightly … But this is a delusion, with sudden braking, the weight of the child increases many times over and you will never be able to hold him. The higher the speed, the less chance that the baby will slip out. If you are wearing a seat belt, you will lose speed along with the car, and your child will continue to move at great speed. If you are also not wearing a seat belt, then in the event of an accident, crush the child with your weight, because. your hands are busy and you won’t be able to stay still.
Therefore, your child must understand that in the car he moves only when he is fastened in a car seat. Even at low speeds, sudden braking can lead to injury.
- Fasten two children with one belt
Yes, there are such situations.
In such a situation, in the event of an accident, there is a serious risk for both children. In a side impact, they can collide heads with tremendous force. When braking, children strapped in this way will be secured insecurely, which also does not add safety.
11) Putting a small child in the front seat
Many babies are very curious and will cry and beg you to put them in the front seat. Riding next to dad or mom, looking ahead is so great. If you had to put the child forward, for example, the back row is occupied by cargo, then move as carefully as possible and do not rush.