Don’t know what to do with old car seats? You are not alone. Most parents don’t know what to do with seats their children have outgrown. The option of giving them away is frowned upon by safety experts who caution against it unless the seats are in near-immaculate condition.
It is for this reason that most charities say no to car seats. You’d also have to be extremely lucky to find a recycling program dedicated to them. Does that mean that there’s nothing you can do to keep the seats from ending up in a landfill? Read on to know what you can do with old car seats:
What to do with Old Car Seats?
Here are some options for you to consider:
1. Reuse them
You can reuse an old car seat if:
- It Isn’t Expired
Flip over the seat and look at its bottom for the expiration date set by the manufacturer. The expiry date will either be embossed into the plastic or printed in the form of a sticker.
Some manufacturers also include the expiry date in the instruction manual. We recommend that you reuse the seat if at least a month is remaining in the expiry date.
- It Isn’t Accidental
Car seats are no slouches and can resist mild thumps without compromising their integrity. However, if they were subject to a moderate to severe crash, you shouldn’t reuse them.
Having said that, some car seat manufacturers recommend that you desist from using their product after ANY crash, even if the jolts the seat were subjected to was minor.
- It’s Clean
Putting your kids in dirty car seats exposes them to the risk of ear infections and pneumonia. That’s especially true if the seats are old and haven’t been used for a long time.
Which is why we recommend that, regardless of the apparent condition of your old car seats, you must give them a thorough scrub. Only then should you put them in your car.
- It’s In Good Condition
Check the seat corners for nicks and cuts. Look under the fabric cover to ensure that there aren’t any insects lying around. Flip it over to inspect any signs of wear and tear.
Only after you have done this – and are satisfied with what you have seen during the seat’s inspection – should you make the decision of reusing it again.
- It Wasn’t Recalled
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regularly recalls car seats it deems not fit for usage. You should go through the listing and make sure your car seat wasn’t recalled before reusing it.
Provided you don’t intend to check such listings and want the manufacturer to inform you about recalls, register your seat with them, and you’ll be informed about any recalls in advance.
2. Donate them
Here are some places that accept old car seat donations:
- Local charities
Women shelters and local charities that provide aid to foster families accept old car seat donations. They then gift these seats to those in need or sell them to raise money for the cause.
- Church organizations
Church organizations may offer you an alternative if you can’t find a local charity that accepts car seats. They have ministries that give away these seats to families in need.
- Local CPSTs
3. Recycle them
Some places have local recycling centers that accept old car seats. Call your recycling center and ask them if they do the same. Some of them might want you to completely break down the seat and remove all its extras before taking it in. Others want you to bring the seat in its current condition.
If your center doesn’t accept any extras alongside the car seat, you may have to remove the fabric, padding, metal pieces, and straps on the seat. You can remove everything – apart from the metal pieces – by cutting them with a pair of scissors.
To remove metal pieces, use a screwdriver. You must remove all the metal pieces or else the center may decline the car seat altogether. Use tutorials on YouTube if you find it difficult to remove all the parts from your car seat.
4. Trade them in
The majority of big-box stores organize car seat trade-in events once every few months. Our favorite trade-in events are those organized by Babies R Us store. They accept worn out car seats and give discounts on items you purchase from them that day. Target offers a similar program too.
Babies R Us and Target don’t throw traded-in car seats in their junkyards. Instead, they turn them into different products like buckets, pallets, and other construction materials, thereby making their trade-in program an incredibly convenient option for all involved.
5. Throw them away
If you cannot reuse, donate, recycle, or trade-in the old car seats, you have no option but to throw them away with the trash. That isn’t to say that you should just park the worn-out seat at the curb. There are a few guidelines you need to follow before throwing out the seat.
- Cutting away all straps
- Removing foam and extra padding
- Dismembering metal pieces
- Marking the seat as ‘expired’ or ‘unsafe’
Deciding what to do with old car seats isn’t easy. There are a lot of factors you need to consider before reaching a final decision. You need to check out the seat’s current condition, whether it’s still in warranty and whether it was ever involved in an accident before making any decision.
Provided the old car seat is in good condition and has never been in an accident, you may decide to keep it in the family if you’re planning a baby. Otherwise, you can trade it in, give it to your favorite charity, or throw it away after following all the guidelines mentioned above.