Turns out, the $180+ bucks I spent on my kid’s car seat was for a big block of cheese. Or spinach, or ground beef, or anything else with an expiration date because that’s apparently what a car seat has; an expiration date.

I found this out for myself after I dismantled the 95-million-point harness of my son’s first car seat and carefully plotted out each cushion, strap, latch, and cover for washing and re-assembly last fall. My second kiddo had officially outgrown the hand-me-down infant seat, and I was ready to “rehome” our Chicco Keyfit via a local community consignment sale. I prepped the seat back to near-pristine condition (minus a couple of raisins and goldfish cemented into obscure crooks and crannies), and was ready to register it for the sale to make a few bucks, when I had to hit the breaks. My car seat had expired, and was therefore not permitted in the consignment sale.

Whaaat? “What kind of American hyper-consumerism is this?!” I asked (okay, well, no – I didn’t actually ask or protest any thing to anyone at the consignment sale…I just pursed my lips and forced a friendly-good-mannered-mommy smile and accepted the rejection). But seriously, the seat had been in no kind of accident and everything worked just as it should. Plus, I spent a good hour cleaning it. What could have ‘expired’ or gone bad to the point of rendering this perfectly good car seat unsafe or hazardous? I was convinced this was the result of some car seat manufacturer union lobbying. Some silly regulation is in place to insure I go out and buy a car seat every time I have a kid.

Naturally, plenty of Googling ensued. And to my chagrin, yes, car seats do expire. And to my further chagrin, car seats do expire for what turns out to be pretty good reasons. A couple that I found most compelling were the possibility of hairline fractures developing in the framework of the seat (due to anything from wear and tear, to temperature changes throughout the year), and the fact that a seat’s original safety testing results can’t be verified after a certain period of time (there may be unaddressed recalls). For a full look at some of the reasons behind car seat expiration dates, click here or here.

The technology factor is probably what stomped out my last will of resistance on car seat expiration dates. Obviously new technology improves everything we own or do. But c’mon – how out-of-date could my 7-year-old, 2011 seat really be? Do the whoopi-wowzer 2018 models feature Tony Starkian innovations with Iron Man suit seat covers detecting approaching vehicles and bowel movements??? (Let’s take a second here and agree that a car seat that could give me 10 minutes notice before my 2-month-old produces a diaper blow out rivaling Mount St. Helen’s is technology I’d fork over big bucks for, no questions asked).

Seriously, how much ‘new technology’ can there be in a handful of years? But then it hit me. A mental image of my own early-80’s car seat with burnt orange plastic cushion covering that wraps around its side panels and has those stiff, fused plastic seams that cut into the back of your thigh or arm or whatever body part is unfortunate enough to land on it. Whether or not a seat like this separated me from life and death in my mom’s red, 2-door Toyota Carolla, I can’t remember exactly. But boy, do I find it remarkable to think that that beaut may have been considered the current-day culmination of 19th century child transportation safety standards at the time.

So maybe this ‘new technology’ argument has something to it. Obviously, I’m not toting my babes around town in a busted 1981 burnt orange car seat. But clearly, car seats have changed for the good, and we have to draw a line somewhere.

Good news, is that the ‘car seat expiration line’ isn’t a solid, across-the-board point of no return kind of line. A good number of car seats hold a six year expiration date, but some have a longer life. This may be something you’d like to factor into your car seat investment. According thebump.com, some seats can be used for up to eight or 10 years.

You should be able to find your car seat’s expiration date on a sticker or imprint on the car seats base, or in the seat’s owner’s manual (hah! yeaahhh… let me just pull that out of my totally-up-to-date home filing system…it’s right next to my third kid’s baby pictures that I’ve printed *all of,* and chronologically ordered and labeled…). Or maybe just Google the car seat’s brand + year of your baby’s birth + the word ‘expiration’ . Check out this link to get an idea of what the sticker looks like and learn more about the major brands and models.

So, there it is. Now I’ve got a car seat that’s about as fresh as the Babybels my 2-year-old surprisingly insisted on at the grocery store 3 months ago, but rejected at first bite, and are now shoved in the back of the cheese drawer.  Hey, at least I can say it doesn’t smell like old cheese anymore.


ABOUT MARI COCKERELL

“I’m Mari Cockerell, and I’ve been working in broadcast news across Texas for the past 16 years. I’m mom to two kiddos; a 6 year old son and 2 year old daughter. I start my day pretty early as a local morning news anchor, and my husband is just about finished up with an art and graphic design degree at Hardin-Simmons University. I’ve also worked a little bit in financial advising, real estate, and education. We love being a part of our West Texas community while raising our family and having as much fun as possible along the way!”