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What you need to know before buying or selling a used car seat

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Summer has arrived in Colorado, which means garage-sale season is in full swing. If getting rid of an old car seat is on your summer to-do list — or if you’re an expectant parent hoping to save a few bucks by obtaining a secondhand seat — there are a few things you need to know. While reusing car seats may seem economical and environmentally friendly, there are some safety risks involved. Whether you’re looking to sell, give away, borrow or buy a used car seat, being able to answer these questions could save a child’s life:

  • Has the car seat expired?
    Car seats expire, just like that questionable milk in your fridge. Materials wear down over time, each model is only safety tested for a typical lifespan, and technology and safety standards change. The same is true for booster seats. You can find the expiration date stamped on the manufacturer label on the side or base of the seat. Generally, car seats expire six years after the date of manufacture.
  • Has it ever been recalled?
    If so, was the recall addressed and resolved? To check for recalls, you will need the make, model, model number and date of manufacture for the car seat. You can search for recalls on the Car Seats Colorado
  • Has it ever been involved in a crash?
    The quality of a car seat is compromised after it has been in a moderate or severe crash — even if you can’t see evidence of any damage to the seat. Avoid using a used car seat unless you know its entire
  • Can you verify the car seat has all its original parts?
    This includes hardware, harnesses and tether straps. If you’re not sure, get out the owner’s manual and check that all the parts are present. Otherwise, you may not realize a part is missing or damaged until it’s too late.
  • Does it have the original owner’s manual? Car seats are not always the most intuitive products to install. Without an owner’s manual and instructions, you run the risk of improperly installing the car seat — a common problem. This also includes any special care instructions for the seat. Just using the wrong soap to clean the straps can reduce safety.

If you can’t confidently answer all of these questions about a used car seat — do not buy or attempt to sell or donate it.

So, what should you do with an old, expired or damaged car seat? Recycle it. Car Seats Colorado offers a free recycling program for unusable car seats. You can find a statewide list of recycling drop-off locations at Some retailers also hold trade-in events where you can bring in old car seats to be recycled and receive a discount on a new one.

For more Colorado car seat information and resources, visit

By Colorado State Patrol Trooper Tim Sutherland, Program Coordinator for Car Seats Colorado


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