Many thrifty and savvy parents are turning to places like craigslist for used baby stuff, while I generally endorse this, I advise caution when it comes to the car seat. Unless you can guarantee that the car seat hasn’t been in a crash, it’s best to stir clear.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) car seats that have been in moderate to severe crashes need to be replaced due to the structural integrity of the car seat being compromised. They do state that car seats that have been in minor crashes don’t necessarily have to be discarded as long as they meet ALL of the following criteria:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
- The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
- There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
- The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
- There is no visible damage to the safety seat
Many car seat manufacturers state that you need a replacement after every crash, regardless of severity, however it is to their financial benefit to say so. In addition, if you have a car seat manufacturer warranty, it may be considered void if it’s been in a crash, so that’s something worth considering.
If your car seat has been in a crash and no longer deemed safe, I recommend cutting up the harness, tearing off the fabric and writing on it in permanent marker indicating that it has been in a crash, so that no one else tries to salvage and use it.
It is always safest to buy car seats new, but if you really want to get a used one I recommend getting one from someone you know and trust.
This is a great post about car seat safety.
On a side note: during winter, make sure you remove your child’s puffy coat before buckling them into their car seat. In a crash the coat will compress and the car seat harness will be too loose to protect them as well as it should. To keep them warm on a winter drive, cover them with a blanket instead.