What Should You Do With an Old or Unsafe Car Seat? (2023)

Once your child has hit the maximum height or weight for her current car seat (whichever comes first), it’s time for a new one. A seat that’s too small won’t adequately protect her in the event of a crash.

But that’s not the only reason why you might need to swap out her seat at some point or another. You may also need to upgrade or replace a car seat if it's expired, has been recalled, is damaged or has been in a crash. Or, perhaps you simply don't like your current car seat!

A car seat is one of the most important pieces of baby and toddler gear you'll own, so if yours doesn't work for your family and lifestyle, trying something different could make car trips a little easier.Whatever the reason, when the day comes to upgrade your model, you'll have to decide what to do with your child's old car seat.

What should you do with an old or expired car seat?

Finding a new home for items like baby clothes and toys is pretty easy. (The real problem is carving out the time to round everything up!) But getting rid of a used car seat safely and responsibly isn’t usually as simple as dropping it in a donation bin or leaving it on the curb with the trash. Here's a look at your options.

Find a car seat trade-in program

Some big-box stores likeTarget will take an old car seat off your hands and, in exchange, offer gift cards or store credit towards a new car seat or other baby gear.

These programs only run periodically, so check the store's website or call your local outpost to find out when the next trade-in event is happening.

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Recycle it

Some city recycling programs and local recycling plants accept used or expired car seats, but call to confirm before dropping yours off. If your seat is recyclable, you'll likely have to take the seat cover and harness off to make it easier for the plant to dismantle the plastic and metal pieces.

Car seats not recyclable in your area? Mail-in programs are another option. You can order a car seat recycling kit from CarSeatRecycling.com, or try TerraCycle's Baby Gear Zero Waste Box, which allows parents to send in a box filled with used baby gear items for recycling, including car seats. In both cases, you'll have to pay to receive a recycling kit and have the car seat shipped out.

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Trash it, if necessary

When recycling isn't feasible, you'll need to take steps to ensure that an expired or unsafe car seat isn't usable if it's pulled out of the trash. There's no one right way to do this, but ultimately, your goal should be to dismantle the car seat to the point where a baby or child couldn’t ride in it.

Take out the seat cover, cut off the straps or even use a hammer to smash the seat shell. (It could be a fun stress reliever!) Use a permanent marker to write "DO NOT USE," "EXPIRED" or something along those lines to indicate that the seat should be off limits.

It might seem a little extreme, but it's worth making sure that a baby or toddler doesn't end up in an unsafe seat.

What should you do with a car seat that's been in an accident?

If your car seat has been in a crash, you should get rid of it. Moderate and severe crashes can damage the structure and integrity of a car seat, meaning it may not provide enough protection in the event of another crash.

Seats that have been in a minor crash — you could drive the car away, no one was injured, the airbags didn't go off, the door closest to the car seat wasn't damaged and there was no visible damage to the car seat — may still be usable, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).[1]

Some manufacturers still recommend swapping out your car seat after a minor accident. You can always ask a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) if you're unsure about what to do with yours.

Can you get insurance to replace a car seat after an accident?

Most car seat manufacturers do not include accident replacement in their warranties, but luckily many auto insurance companies will front the cost for a new seat after a crash.

What's covered may depend on where you live. For instance, California's car seat accident replacement law applies even if your child wasn't in the car during the time of the accident.

Does a car seat need to be replaced after an accident if it was empty?

Yes, because there could still be damage to the car seat. Unfortunately, not all states require insurers to pay for a replacement if the car seat wasn't occupied at the time of the crash.

Can someone inspect your car seat after a crash to ensure it's still safe?

No, to ensure your baby's safety, you still need to replace your car seat as soon as possible.

If you need help installing your new car seat, you can ask a certified technician to inspect it for free.[2] Find one near you by searching the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website orSafe Kids Worldwide.

What should you do with a recalled car seat?

Recalled seats have unsafe defects, so if your seat is affected by a recall, stop using it right away and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for repairing or replacing the seat (and don't pass it down to another family).

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Find the latest recalls at NHTSA.gov/recalls, or sign up for recall alerts on your phone. (Look for a label on your seat with the date of manufacture and model number to confirm if you're affected.) You can also register your car seat with the manufacturer to receive alerts if there's a recall on your car seat.

Can you return a recalled car seat to the manufacturer or store?

It depends on the manufacturer. Some offer a full refund, while others provide a replacement — or both. For example, during the Maxi-Cosi car seat recall earlier this year, Dorel Juvenile Group offered refunds or free replacements for their Coral XP car seats to all affected customers.

Major retailers will also often help with car seat recalls. Target, for example, has a page dedicated to sharing recalls and instructions on next steps.

Can you make a recalled car seat safe by fixing the part in question?

For certain recalls, the manufacturer can send over a repair kit to update your car seat and make it safe. However, in some cases, you'll need to replace the car seat entirely. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions after a car seat recall.

What car seat recalls should parents know about?

In addition to the Maxi-Cosi Coral XP recall earlier this year, there were a few other Maxi-Cosi car seatsrecalled: Maxi-Cosi Coral XP, Maxi-Cosi Mico XP Max, Maxi-Cosi Mico XP, Maxi-Cosi Mico Luxe+ and Maxi-Cosi Infant Base car seats. There was also a Safety 1st car seat recall on the onBoard 35 Secure Tech.

When can you reuse a car seat?

You can save a car seat for a younger sibling or pass it on to another family if it isn't expired, damaged, recalled or missing any of its original parts. Just do the following before reusing the seat or giving it away:

  • Check the expiration date. Just like food and medicines, car seats have expiration dates. The plastic used to make seats can degrade over time and become brittle, potentially making the seat less effective. To find the expiration date, check the seat's label or the manufacturer instructions. (If you can't find the date, give the manufacturer a call.) When in doubt, use six years from the manufacture date, the AAP says.
  • Inspect it. Hand-me-down car seats should be in excellent condition (minus any stubborn juice or yogurt stains, of course). If you notice any cracking in the plastic, missing parts or other signs of wear and tear, get rid of it ASAP. That indicates that the seat might not provide adequate protection in the event of a crash.
  • Pass along the manual. Finally, share a copy of the seat's instruction manual so the next user can install it correctly. If you don't have the original manual, download and print a copy from the manufacturer's website.

Getting rid of a used car seat can take a little bit of planning. But if the extra effort keeps other pint-sized passengers protected, it's well worth it.

From the What to Expect editorial team andHeidi Murkoff,author ofWhat to Expect When You're Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading ourmedical review and editorial policy.

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What Should You Do With an Old or Unsafe Car Seat? ›

Trash it, if necessary

What can I do with an expired car seat? ›

How to Get Rid of Expired Car Seats
  • Cut off all foam padding, straps, and fabric.
  • Use a screwdriver to remove as much metal as possible.
  • Discard the fabric, foam, straps, and mixed metal/plastic pieces.
  • Mark the plastic base as unsafe.
  • Recycle the remaining plastic and metal pieces in the appropriate bins.
Jul 28, 2022

What do I do with old car seats near me? ›

Donate car seats in good condition to women's shelters, local charities, church organizations, or child passenger safety technicians. If the car seat is expired or damaged, follow proper recycling or trash disposal protocols to ensure safety.

When should a car seat be discarded? ›

It's time to retire a seat if any of the following apply:
  1. It has passed its expiration date. All seats have a date after which they can no longer be used. ...
  2. It has been in a moderate-to-severe crash. ...
  3. The child has outgrown it. ...
  4. It is damaged.
May 16, 2012

Is Walmart still giving money for car seats? ›

Note: Parents who participated in past Walmart's Car Seat Trade-In events can now recycle car seats through Target's Car Seat Trade-In Program and TerraCycle now that Walmart's program concluded in 2019.

Is it OK to sell expired car seats? ›

But before we get into that, let's talk about what you shouldn't do with a car seat: donate or sell it if the car seat is expired, has been recalled, or has been in an accident. The plastic that protected your child so well won't do so anymore if it's been broken, cracked, or degraded by the elements.

How long are safety First car seats good for? ›

Most Safety 1st car seats have the expiry date printed on a sticker on the backside. It is usually between 6 to 10 years after the manufacture date. Inspect the back of the shell from top till bottom. Look for either the manufacture date or the expiry date.

How do I dispose of expired car seats in BC? ›

Contact the Recycling Council of BC for the most up to date recycling option available for this specific item: 604-732-9253 or visit RCBC.ca. Please refer to the following list of drop-off locations and pick up options for proper disposal. Always call in advance to confirm your disposal needs will be met.

Do car seat bases expire? ›

How long is a car seat base good for? Most car seat bases are good for six years from their manufacturing date. Why do car seats expire after 5 years?

Why do car seats retire? ›

The main factor in car seat expiration is that materials degrade over time when exposed to extreme temperatures. Also, evolving government regulations set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and technological advances can render older seats obsolete over time.

Should you replace your car seat if you hit a deer? ›

Therefore, Graco® recommends that any car seat in a vehicle during an accident should be replaced. We do not recommend continued use of a post-accident car seat. Accidents are not covered under the Graco® warranty. These issues should be addressed with your auto insurance company.

How much does target give for old car seats? ›

Target's Car Seat Trade-in Event provides you an opportunity to get rid of your unwanted car seats in exchange for a 20% off coupon good towards a new car seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller, or select baby home gear.

Where is the best place to donate car seats? ›

Local Charities and Churches

While a lot of bigger charities won't accept car seats, smaller local charities might. You can check with churches, homeless shelters, women's shelters, and your local job and family services.

Does Target take any car seat? ›

Target will recycle all types of car seats, including infant car seats, convertible car seats, harnessed, and booster seats. Yes, even a booster seat!

Can an expired child restraint system be used when it still looks in good shape in the Philippines? ›

Answer: It is generally not recommended to use an expired child restraint system, even if it still looks in good shape. Child restraint systems, also known as car seats, are designed to protect children in the event of a car crash, and their effectiveness can degrade over time.

How long are Cosco car seats good for? ›

Cosco: six years. Diono: eight years for car seat harnesses, 10 years for booster seats.


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