Car Seat Expiration: Just How Long Are Car Seats Good For?

Like that half-eaten container of baby food, your car seat has an expiration date, too. 

A car seat.
Jonathon Klein

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So you’ve just found out baby number two is on the way. Congratulations! Parenthood is a wonderful calamity of love and sleep deprivation, and we’re sure you’ll be an excellent parent. After the shock wore off and you rummaged around for your original car seat in the attic, a thought entered your head: Just how long are car seats good for?

Well, fine sir or madam, you might be surprised to hear that car seats do indeed have an expiration date, in part because safety regulations are in a constant state of flux and seat manufacturers are always looking to improve car seat safety. As with anything, parts are put under strain or fail and over time, the structural integrity of the car seat can become compromised. 

Luckily, you have The Drive’s crack How To department to give you the 411 on just how long cars seats good for. As far as what to expect when you’re expecting, well, get your naps in now. 

A car seat.
Jonathon Klein

A car seat.

What Are the Types of Car Seats?

Before we get into car seat expiration dates, it’s helpful to understand the difference between the types of car seats, as there isn’t a unifying code. Car seats can be split into three categories. Here’s the breakdown: 

  • Rear-Facing: Rear-facing car seats are designed for infants up until the child is large enough to sit forward-facing, which is dependent on the child’s weight and height. 
  • Front-Facing: Front-facing car seats are designed for larger toddlers and often expand until a child’s large enough for only a booster seat, again dependent on the child’s weight and height.
  • Booster Seats: Booster seats are the last stage before a child’s large enough to sit in a car’s regular seat. Just as with the rear and front-facing seats, booster seats are dependent on the child’s weight and height. 

You can find weight and height requirements for each on the car seat manufacturer’s website. 

Jonathon Klein

Label denoting when a car seat was manufactured.

How Long Are Car Seats Good For?

Car seats are commonly good for about six years, or roughly the age of which your child won’t need a car seat any longer. However, as mentioned above, height and weight are more important metrics in determining how long your child will need a car seat. As such, some manufacturers have adopted longer effective use terms than others. 

To make your job as a parent easier, here are a handful of common car seat manufacturers and how long their car seats are good for.

  • Graco: 7 to 10 years, depending on car seat selected
  • Evenflo: 8 to 10 years, depending on car seat selected
  • Recaro: 6 years
  • Chicco: 6 years
  • Britax: 6 to 10 years, depending on car seat selected
  • Nuna: 6 to 7 years, depending on car seat selected
A car seat's safety label.
Jonathon Klein

Safety.

When Do You Need To Use A Car Seat?

Though many used to believe that a child’s age would determine whether or not they continued to use a car seat, it’s been proven age isn’t the safest metric. As such, car seats must be used until your child is physically large enough to safely sit in your car’s normal seats. 

A car seat's expiration date location.
Jonathon Klein

A car seat's expiration date location.

Where Is A Car Seat’s Expiration Date?

Each and every car seat comes from the manufacturer with a white label. As the lifespan depends on the manufacturer, each car seat will have its own expiration date denoted on that white label. You’ll have to give your car seat a once-over or look on the manufacturer’s website to find out where yours is.

Should You Replace a Car Seat After An Accident?

Absolutely. Car seats have structural components meant to absorb and protect your child in the event of an accident. Due to their absorption of the impact, those components may become compromised and could fail if you find yourself in another accident. Replace the seat before putting your child back into the car. 

A car seat's side-impact certification label.
Jonathon Klein

Car Seat Impact Label

Reasons Why You Should Replace A Car Seat

Aside from accidents and age, car seats should be replaced for a handful of reasons, including visual indications that they could be structurally compromised. Here are some of the most common reasons why you should replace a car seat. 

Missing Parts: If your seatbelt were missing, you’d think twice about driving off. The same is true for car seats. Inspect them and make sure they still have all their parts. 

Parts Visibly Damaged: Car seats sit in hot and cold cars. Metal, plastic, and fibers can melt or fray from the heat, parts can break or crack, and the anchor points can fail.

Rust: There are metal pieces throughout your car seat. If uncleaned and not maintained properly, those metal pieces could become rusty. This poses a safety concern for those pieces’ integrity, as well as a safety concern to your child’s health.

Pro Tips For Determining How Long Car Seats Are Good For

The Drive’s editors are parents, too. They’ve seen it all. They know car seats backward, forward, and sideways (Don’t put your child’s car seat sideways—Ed). To help you keep your child safe, here are our pro tips for determining how long car seats are good for.

  • You don’t have to check your car seat every time you use it, but every year do a visual inspection for cracks, breaks, and cuts. 
  • Make sure you regularly clean your car seat, as food waste and soiled padding could impact your car seat’s safety, as well as your child’s well-being. 
  • Check the expiration date of thrift store car seat purchases. That “too good to be true” deal could be actually too good.