Why can’t we buy or sell a used carseat?

We have lots of carseats in our household, the inevitable result of having three little kids who have overlapped carseat needs at different times. I look at the ones we don’t need any more, and they’re basically in perfect condition. A bit dirty, but structurally they’re perfect.
So why can’t we buy or sell them legally?
Maybe it’s just an oft-repeated myth that’s become accepted as law, but when we talk to local charities about donating car seats, we’re told that they can’t accept them because the carseats might be damaged or have structural flaws.

Look at even the cheapest carseat on the market and you’ll instantly see that it’s basically one big piece of injection molded plastic with some buckles, clips, a seatbelt and a cloth cover. So what could go wrong?
That is, if there was something wrong with a carseat, wouldn’t it be immediately and overtly obvious? I mean, if you looked and there was a visible crack that let you prise the seat apart, or the seatbelt didn’t click closed or one strap was dramatically frayed, obviously that’s not something you’d want out there masquerading as a safety item for babies or children! Even if it’s been in a car crash, let’s face it – the seatbelt and the plastic isn’t going to be damaged unless it’s the most horrendous, terrible accident.
I can accept that if you don’t have the original manual, you might not know the safest way to install the carseat for maximum safety, but with the Internet (and Google!) it’s a no-brainer to get a replacement manual. Check out the beautiful Graco site as one example.
But nothing’s that simple. What we are told is that it’s illegal to sell used carseats or child safety seats, and that if you do have someone give one to you, you should immediately take it to the local fire station so they can inspect it for safety and integrity.
I just don’t get it.
Anyone care to enlighten me?

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  1. For those of you that are so hell bent on telling all those that want to buy or sell a cheap/used carseat that they are horrible people … I hope you have a brand new, 5 star crash rated vehicle that you put your brand new carseats in. Otherwise, how stupid do you look putting your fancy, new carseat into your cheap/used vehicle!!!

  2. I agree with all the comments about child safety and not being cheap with it. Just not sure what to do with the expired seat. What about the environment. Imagin all the seats hitting the landfills. Does anyone know a more friendly way of disposing of theese things?

  3. I have a kid thats prego and I got a used crib (older one) and 2 used car seats that look brand new, and more used stuff… when you do not have a disposible income like some people today, you gotta do what ya gotta do. Get free stuff. And where would we be today with the drop down side of cribs? I mean come on, used baby stuff, BIG DEAL… Lifes hard enough to go out and buy 200 dollar car seats and cribs for some that work their butts off and can not afford everything new… sorry… i do not agree with alot of you gals up top.

      • Because all babies are planned right? And if you can’t afford new things that means you’re an unfit parent? o_O Older items do not equal unsafe, nor does financial stability mean you are a fit parent.

        • Yes, if you can’t afford an expensive new car seat you should not have babies. Poor people should not be allowed to have kids, and if they get laid off and lose their income they should give their kids away to rich people. (sarcasm – duh)

          My kid’s car seat has just been in the car and sat in for 2 years. Nothing whatsoever has happened to it aside from a bunch of cheerios dropped into the cracks. No extreme temperatures here. There are 5 years left until the expiration date, and if she were to continue sitting in it for the next 5 years, or until she got too big, it wouldn’t be a problem, right? So why would it be a problem for someone else to have this seat? Since she’s moving to a high-back booster, I want sell or give this seat to someone else who needs it.

          But since that seems unacceptable (illegal?), I guess it would go into the landfill. What a huge WASTE! Luckily in Portland, OR there is a car seat recycling program.

      • Low blow Faye. How about the fact that many of us were raised without car seats. The human race will continue regardless of how many people try to legislate everything under the sun. This whole “car seats until you are 12″ business is ridiculous.

        • wait I’ve never heard of this car seat until your 12….what state is this in?
          I am in California and I’ve only lived in California and Nevada for most of my life and I know in California that the car seat rule only applies until child and carseat weigh 65 pounds combined…..it used to be until the child is 65 but they have found that car seats are structurally unsafe at anything more than both being combined at a 65 pound limitthey made this like think a couple years ago……that’s the only one that I know of….I’m not writing this to be rude I’m just actually really curious about other state lawsI do tend to travel sometimesand I havea 3 & a 7 year old

      • It is unfortunate that people with your mentality exist in today’s society. The only types of responses that one would expect to read on this page are responses that actually have to do with the question and topic at hand. Do you realize how much of pea-brains some of you seem for bringing up finances in a situation, and question that has nothing at all, in fact, to do with that. Re-read the damned question at hand, and if you can not respond with USEFUL information – then continue on with your day instead of trying to put in your two cents to feel better about your life, and yourself. If you are financially stable – that is great! And I wish I could sincerely thank you for sharing! But now I’m just peeved at how “dumb” you make Americans look, and at how I wasted my time reading some of these pathetic responses that I had no benefit from.

  4. I would love to know where I can see this study I’ve seen referenced on several sites about the used car seats being tested in California.

  5. As not everyone can afford the new car seats, so there is only option for used ones. If we carefully examine the condition then we can end up with a good and safe one. Should not go for the too old ones.

  6. I work at a local pregnancy center (nonprofit) and we accept used carseats in good condition that are less than 4 years old. Once the carseat arrives, staff members look on the DOT website to make sure it has not been recalled. These carseats are given for free to very needy families with young children. They are very helpful to the families that can not afford a brand new one. We are very cautious to accept good carseats and sometimes reject donations if they don’t meet our standards. To find other pregnancy centers, you can go to http://www.optionline.org/ Type in your zip code and make sure it lists “Material Aid” under Services.

  7. These car seats that “most likely” with “common sense” are still good…..
    They are ending up in a land fill? Hmmmmm

  8. Pingback: In Colorado, we're now done with booster seats from GoFatherhood™ - Musings of a Single Dad with Three Kids

  9. Its obvious that people who buy new car seats feel the safest…BUT are they…? My cousin lost her little girl in a car accident and she always buys the BEST money can buy…it didnt save her daughter.
    I bought 2 new looking car seats..they were gently used by grandparents that didnt get to put their grandkids in them much…BUT I checked recall lists online and I checked expiration dates and looked the seats over well…no styrophom in these…they look good as new and No recalls. I have a perfect driving record due to having 2 children and never wanting to go to another babies funeral like my cousins. She was a little too busy while driving to notice the semi.
    But the Best new car seat costing $300 isnt the issue with me…I look online and I see lots of NEW car seats with recalls(even the best high end ones get recalls)…the used ones I just checked have NO issues….so is my babies safety really mostly about the seat he will ride in or is it about ME…? I think we all have to ask ourselves that.

  10. I am the owner of a second hand store who is in the process of chunking yet another car seat that has expired. I don’t understand why we have to do this, back in “my day” the kids didn’t even have to ride in a car seat let alone a “fresh” one. My kids are now having kids of their own & spending hundreds of dollars on their car seats. Crazy if you ask me – especially for my customers, who basically don’t have the money to buy new. This current seat retails new for over $300 & still appears to be in better shape & safer shape than the $40 Walmart ones. I say if you are required to use them, then the gov’t should be required to provide them!

  11. Seriously????????? Someone’s drinking the ‘car seat manufacturer’s Cool-Aid!’ Creative marketing, or planned obsolescence? If the govenrment’s (i.e. Canada) are concerned to the point of expiring compromised plastic carseats, why not insist the frames are made of metal—which doesn’t degrade with sunlight either!! I’m all about safety and protecting the lives of our little ones……., but all this hoopla makes me think we’re being bamboozled!?!?!?!

  12. I work at a children’s resale shop in SE Michigan. It is ILLEGAL in the state of MI to resell a used carseat. You cannot go by word of mouth as to whether or not the seat was in an accident, missing peices, or stolen. I am told that it has to do with expiring parts, however, that is our secondary reason for not accepting carseats. Our primary reason for not accepting them, is for a lack of trust as to where they came from, and its true condition. We do try to test our equipment before even buying it, but if you lug your carseat in, you’ve wasted your time and energy. I don’t know if its illegal or not for private owners to resell their carseats, but resale shops get BIG fines where I’m from, for selling just one.

  13. I think you just have to use common sense. I work for a website that helps individuals who have used car seats find new homes for them. Laws are different in different states and countries, but for the most part, it’s not illegal to resell a used car seat. Some places require that the car seat hasn’t expired yet. All we urge is that people use common sense and we stay clear of individual transactions.

  14. Selling used carseats
    Many seats cannot be sold now due to new 2012 compliant regulations set out by Transport Canada and Health Canada. This may mean you cannot sell your carseat even if it is not expired. Note that is says you MAY not be able to sell your carseat becasue all manufacturers had 2 years to switch over to the new regulations and they all switched at different times. Any seat made before May 2010 will NOT be compliant and cannot be sold or given away or you can be held liable if something happens.
    http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/safedrivers-childsafety-faq-1131.htm New regs
    http://hqcomoxvalley.com/news/local/news/Local/12/01/9/Car-seat-confusion newspaper article that explains new regs
    http://www.car-seat.org/showthread.php?t=206155 List of carseats and when the manufacturer switched over ( unofficial )
    If you are able to sell your carseat make sure it is not missing any pieces , including the manual and you include all information about yuour seat including Date of manufacture , brand of seat and model number. If you are unsure about where to find any of this or if your seat is compliant please contact Vanessa Milligan Ritchie , who is a CRST ( car seat tech ) .
    When buying a used seat things to look for or ask
    http://cpsafety.com/articles/usedseat.aspx guide to buying used seats
    – has it been in an accident
    – has it been checked as luggage on a plane or dropped more than 3 feet
    – does it have all the pieces it needs including the manual
    -have the strap been washed
    -has the seat got all appropriate cmvss stickers , date of manufacturer info still attached or had a recall
    -Is there any sign of obvious damage ( cracked plastic, rusting , harness fraying etc )
    If the answer to any of these things is yes ( except for the stickers the answer should be yes ) do not purchase the seat, if you cannot get a satisfactory answer to any of these questions do not buy the seat. Remember this is your child’s protection in case of an accident .
    Questions can also be asked at http://www.facebook.com/VICarSeatTechs
    Any questions please PM me ( Vanessa ) or you can email questions to langfordcarseattech@shaw.ca

  15. If I buy a car seat, use it for a couple months, and store it in a climate controlled place for the rest of its life the material is good for 20 years. As long as you look it up, know that it is a recent style and up to date with the plastic crap that is on the market today, and installed properly it is just as safe as a brand new car seat. You all have been swindled by people that have a money incentive, and because children are involved everyone jumps on the band wagon and the masses dont think to question it. People are smart enough not to put their kids in something dangerous. The manufacturers of these items have actually lobbied (bribed) congress to make this happen. They aren’t stupid and they realize that they need to do what ever possible to make sure the largest number of pregnant women buy brand new car seats. They are a corporation and will do anything they can to make an extra dollar even if it means making a phony expiration date, or making their products in foreign sweat shops with no child labor or safety laws. These companies dont care about kids or safety, they only worry that people will someday find out the meaning of the phrase conflict of interest or fins out that people are smart enough to see through their predatory business models, or make their own decisions for what is safe for their children. Ever wonder why the National Transportation Safety Board doesn’t support these expiration dates?

  16. This whole myth starts with marketing. The manufacturers don’t want you to buy a used item. They want your money so they spin a web of lies. They use fear to make you gasp and run to the store instead of Craigslist. Now granted there *might* be damage, but what about all the dangerous product that have been recalled? Is not the risk the same? We are scared into buying new because we are told that our child might die.