Having a baby is expensive, we can all agree on that. Second hand high chairs, toddler beds and clothing come in very handy. The one item that I strongly recommend buying new is a car safety seat. New car seats come with registration cards. As soon as you buy your car seat, be sure to send in the card to register it. Then the manufacturer can let you know by mail if your child’s safety seat has been recalled.
If for some reason you must use a second hand car seat, here are some guidelines to follow:
Avoid used seats if you don’t know the seat’s history. Never use a car seat that
- Is too old. Look on the label for the date it was made. Check with the manufacturer to find out how long they recommend using the seat.
- Have any visible cracks on it.
- Does not have a label with the date of manufacture and model number. Without these, you cannot check to see if the seat has been recalled.
- Does not come with instructions. You need them to know how to use the seat.
- Is missing parts. Used car safety seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.
- Was recalled. You can find out by calling the manufacturer or by contacting the Auto Safety Hotline at 888/DASH-2-DOT (888/327-4236) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/recalls/childseat.cfm.
- The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
- The vehicle door closest to the car safety seat was not damaged.
- No one in the vehicle was injured.
- The air bags did not go off.
- You can’t see any damage to the car safety seat.
If you cannot verify all of the above, the car seat is considered unsafe for use, even if it appears to be in good condition. Unless a used car seat is coming from a close friend or family member and meets the above criteria, it is almost always safer to choose a new car seat for your baby.