Your child’s car seat has been a staple of the backseat ever since their first trip home. From spills and meltdowns to road trips and adventures, your tiny traveler’s car seat has been through it all. But now your little one isn’t so little anymore and it’s time to retire their car seat. When is a car seat expired, and what do you do with an old seat? There are a few different options when it comes to recycling car seats.  

Why Do Car Seats Expire?

Repeated Use: Your little one is presumably in and out of their car seat every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Over time, the materials can degrade due to heat, cold, sun, or general wear and tear, making the seat possibly unsafe to use. Internal mechanisms can break, microfractures can form in the plastic, pieces can fall off inside – these are things you can’t see but impact the integrity of the seat.  

When Does My Car Seat Expire?

Car seat expiration dates vary by brand and by product. Finding your seat’s expiration date is easy enough – on most car seats, it can be found either on a sticker on the seat itself or in the manual. All Maxi-Cosi, Safety 1st, and Cosco Kids products have a sticker on the back of the seat with the manufacture date, and the lifespan is in the manual. 

What do I do if my car seat is expired?

Find a car seat trade-in program

Select retailers run trade-in programs throughout the year, like the Target Car Seat Trade In. Bring in your old seat, and in exchange, you’ll receive a coupon to purchase a replacement car seat or other baby gear. The expired and donated car seats are recycled and used to create new items from the recycled plastic. 

Recycle the car seat yourself

Check with your local recycling plant to see if they accept plastic from car seats. If they do, check their requirements for accepting an old car seat to determine the level of work you’ll have to do before dropping it off, including:

  • Remove the cover and soft goods
  • Remove the harness and buckles
  • Remove all metal pieces

Soft goods, harnesses, and buckles are not recyclable and need to be disposed, but (recycling laws permitting) you can recycle all metal pieces and the hard plastic frame.  

Dispose of the car seat in the trash

If there isn’t a recycling plant or trade-in program near you that will take your old car seat, then you might need to throw it in the trash. Just like with recycling, there are guidelines for properly disposing of a car seat in the garbage: 

  • Remove all padding and foam
  • Cut all the straps
  • Remove the metal pieces
  • Mark the seat as “UNSAFE” or “DO NOT USE”

Once you’ve figured out how to dispose of your old car seat, the next step is finding a new one.