Yes, car seats usually expire after six years from the date of manufacture. You can find Stickers that list the serial number including the date of manufacture and expiration date.
If your car seat has expired, you should replace it on or around the expiration date.
But why do car seats expire? There are many reasons for it to expire.
From technology and design updates to wear and tear. In addition, your car seats are affected by the heat of the engine, so they have an expiration date
For starters, look at car seats that are about six years old. Notice how different the design and how it works when compared to the newer models available? Collision test data, advances in materials, manufacturing and design all enable car seats with greater functionality and safety.
Why do car seats expire?
There are actually a few reasons why car seats expire, and no, car seat manufacturers wanting to inconvenience you isn’t one of them.
1. Wear and tear
Your car seat may be one of the most-used pieces of baby gear you own, perhaps rivaled only by the crib. With each supermarket, day care, or play date run, you’re likely buckling and unbuckling your baby numerous times.
You’ll also find yourself adjusting the seat as your little one grows, cleaning up messes and spills as best you can, and cringing as your tiny teether chews on straps or bangs on cupholders.
If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, your seat may also bake in the sun while your car is parked and get tiny cracks in the plastic that you can’t even see.
All of this takes a toll on the fabric and parts of a car seat, so it stands to reason that the seat — designed to keep your child safe — won’t last forever. And without a doubt, you want to make your child’s safety remains intact.
2. Changing regulations and standards
Transportation agencies, professional medical associations (like the American Academy of Pediatrics), and car seat manufacturers are constantly conducting and evaluating safety and crash tests. This is a good thing for parents everywhere.
Also, technology is forever evolving. (Don’t we know it. Why is our two-year-old laptop already outdated?!) This means that car seat safety stats can be improved with as new features, materials, or technologies are introduced.
Say you buy a car seat that is rear-facing and will hold your child up to a certain weight, but then the weight guidelines change for a rear-facing seat. It may not be the law that you have to replace your seat, but the manufacturer may discontinue it and stop making replacement parts — not to mention, you no longer have the safest seat possible for your little one.
An expiration date may account for these changes and makes it less likely that you’ll have a seat that’s not up to snuff.
3. Manufacturer testing has its limits
When a manufacturer — be it Graco, Britax, Chicco, or any number of other car seat brands — tests a car seat, they don’t assume you’ll still be cramming your 17-year-old in it and driving them to their senior prom. So it stands to reason that they don’t test car seats to see how they hold up after 17 years of use.
Even all-in-one car seats — ones that transform from rear-facing to forward-facing to boosters — have weight or age limits, and car seat and booster use generally ends by age 12 (depending on child’s size). So car seats aren’t usually tested beyond about 10–12 years of use.
In an ideal world, you’ll register your car seat as soon as you buy it so the manufacturer can let you know of any product recalls. In the real world, you’re up to your eyeballs in all things newborn related — not to mention sleep deprived. You may indeed be using a (recent and unexpired) hand-me-down car seat with no registration card in sight.
So expiration dates ensure that even if you miss a recall announcement, you’ll have a relatively up-to-date car seat that is more likely to be free of problems.
Let’s experiment: Buy a plastic garden chair. Leave it outside for six years, all year round, through the extreme winters and summers, the scorching rays of the sun and the cold darkness. Let your kids jump in and out of them every day, and maybe even spill liquids on them like milk!
After six or seven years, decide whether you’re going to trust the chair to keep your kids safe in your backyard? Chances are the plastic is quite brittle and cracked or broken.
Consider the above, then decide whether scraping a few hundred dollars (and that’s if you’re buying the best car seat) is worth it when discussing your child’s safety.