Hand-me downs are a part of growing up in many families. It can be a great way to save money, but not all things should be shared equally. For instance, child seats can be passed down, though there are key restrictions to keep in mind.
It's time to retire a seat if any of the following apply:
- It has passed its expiration date. All seats have a date after which they can no longer be used. It is based on the expected life span of various components, and the structure of the seat itself. The expiration date also takes into account that newer seats will incorporate the latest safety technology and meet the most current standards. Most seats have a six-year service life. Check the labels on your seat or the owner's manual to determine its age.
- It has been in a moderate-to-severe crash. Though most seats can be reused after a minor fender bender, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends replacing a seat if it has been involved in a collision that involved injuries, required the vehicle to be towed, deployed air bags, or damaged the seat or nearest door.
- The child has outgrown it. This one may seem obvious, but it's important to move up to the next size once your child has reached the weight or height limits of the seat.
- It is damaged. Check for cracks, loose parts, and worn straps and fasteners. If the seat is damaged, it may not offer as much protection in a crash.
If you're ready to retire a seat, you need to dispose of it properly. Most of the seats are recyclable and some towns offer car seat recycling. If not, here's what to do:
- Remove all fabric, padding, and screws. Disassemble the restraint.
- Use a screwdriver to remove as much metal as possible
- Recycle all plastic and foam parts, and discard the rest.
If you're ready to move up to a new car seat, check out our buying advice and Ratings to find out the best one for you.