As a Car Seat Technician, and the Coordinator of the BestFit Car Seat Program, for the Ottawa Safety Council, I often hear the question: Why do car seats have an expiry date? Do they actually stop working? Why can’t they be passed on instead of sending them to the landfill?
And I am sure many of you have heard, “Car seats don’t actually expire. That’s just a ploy by manufacturers to get you to spend more money.”
Recently, this article has circulated suggesting we give second-hand car seats to underprivileged families: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-feb-4-2020-1.5451046/let-kids-car-seats-into-secondhand-market-to-help-poorer-families-urges-author-1.5451055
The way I see it, this is a safety device for our children, and if the integrity of the seat is questionable over time, then I want to replace it to ensure the safest option for my child. Period. This is one of the most important pieces of equipment that we purchase for our children, among all of the other devices we spend money on, (i.e. swings, bouncy chairs, strollers, toys, etc.). In Canada, you can purchase a perfectly safe car seat for as little as $100-$150, and you can likely use it until your child reaches the age of six or seven.
Car seats are often handed down from one child to another; especially those with a lifetime of 10 years, and this is perfectly safe. As long as the car seat has been handled properly, is in good condition, and has never been in a collision, there is no reason why it can’t be used by another child. As a parent of two young children and a consumer of car seats, I have no issues with car seat expiry dates. I think the time frames are very reasonable.
As for the environmental impact, would it be nice if we could keep car seats out of the landfill? Absolutely! However, if you consider the amount of plastic and styrofoam we dispose of over the years of the car seat’s life, I hardly think the car seat is our biggest concern! There are also options available to recycle your car seat, which I suspect will become more accessible with time.
Could we pass on our expired car seats to other less fortunate countries? No child’s life is more important than another’s. If we want to help other countries with road safety, I think we can do much better than sending them our expired goods.
For more information on how long car and booster seats last, take a look at this article from Health Canada: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/motorvehiclesafety/safedrivers-childsafety-notices-2011c01-1168.htm