Buying a Used Car Seat
Car seats are expensive, some are really expensive and let's face it, not every car seat is in every family's budget. We already covered that the most expensive seat isn't always "the best seat" and that a family should never feel guilt about spending $90 instead of $500, but what is a used seat is the only option? We know that people buy used seats and we understand, but we also want you to make the best decision in a tough spot so let's talk about what to look for so you can make an informed decision. Knowledge is power!
Look at these seats, do you know which one was involved in a serious rollover collision on the 400 that resulted in the highway being closed for a few hours? I should mention that this particular collision did not involve any serious injuries or worse to the vehicles occupants, but the crash was definitely a nasty one.
Ok, that was a bit of a set up, all of those seats have been involved in collisions despite the fact that they look perfectly fine (aside from the normal kid dirt). This is why you have to make sure you know as much as you can about a seat when you are buying used. Ideally, a used seat is purchased from someone you know well and trust with your child's life. Even a minor collision can render a car seat unsafe so you need to trust that the seller is telling you the whole truth, all of it...no edits.
You may have seen this picture that was posted by a Mom on her social media after a pretty awful crash. You can see the vehicles behind what appear to be two perfectly fine car seats. Luckily the car seats did their job because they were installed and being used properly. We can't say that if these seats were to be used again that they would function properly after they have clearly been crashed.
Car seat manufacturers have their own rules on when a seat must be replaced. Those rules can be very specific to the type of crash and so you must read your manual or contact the manufacturer directly for further instructions. Some may insist on the seat being replaced after what you might even consider a minor collision. Many families feel that a minor fender bender might not warrant a replacement and they may not disclose this if they decide to sell their seat. As a Child Passenger Safety Technician, I always direct parents and caregivers to call the manufacturer after any type of collision...I don't work for any manufacturers and so I must trust their engineers when they say a seat must be replaced. I don't want any of the children I work with to be test subjects on this matter.
The Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada has created this great checklist to help you along if you are purchasing a used car seat. Follow the link and you can print it for yourself, your friends and anyone else that might be interested.
Things to look for on a used seat - are all the stickers there? What's the expiration date? Is there a manual? Check all the webbing (straps), is there any fraying or damage or guck? Test the moving parts, do they slide easily and without resistance? Are all the parts present and accounted for (cushions, covers, pads etc)?
If you are in the market for a new seat and are thinking that a used seat is the best option for you, please feel free to get in touch with Safe Travels and we might be able to help you make the most informed decision. If you would like anymore information about buying/selling/discarding used seats, we can help with that too!