Heather C Heather C is a married, mom of three: big sis Lily and identical twins Natalie and Sophia. She has been guest blogging for Mumbling Mommy since February of 2012 and began working as a Social Media Editor in 2014. After nearly a decade in banking, she now works part time at a doctor's office specializing in breastfeeding medicine and spends the rest of her days in her Midwest home as zookeeper/stay-at-home-mom. Heather C is also a runner, hiker, yogi, bike rider and more. She reads when she finds more than a few minutes to herself and she hosts a lot of pajama dance parties in her kitchen. In her spare time, she's the co-leader for her daughter's Girl Scout troop and an active member of the school's Parent-Teacher Committee as well as a certified postpartum doula.

New babies are expensive for a variety of reasons. There are a lot of ways to save money, and many products that are simply for convenience can be skipped. A car seat for your new bundle of joy is not negotiable, though. So how exactly do you save money in that department? Should you buy a used car seat?  NO!

Here are the facts that you need to know about buying a used car seat:

  1. Car seats have expiration dates: The integrity of the plastic wears down over time. Each manufacturer must comply with standard safety testing that determines how long their product can be safely used. You can read generic advice all over the internet that says a car seat lasts “5-7 years” but the only way to know for sure is to look on the car seat itself. It will have a manufacturer’s date or expiration date on it. If it only has the manufacturer’s date, contact the company to get the exact time frame for when your particular seat expires. It may seem like using your sister’s car seat from your nieces and nephews is a good idea, but unless you know the seat’s full history AND it safely remains out of expiration while you’re using it, play it safe and go new.
  2. Car accidents matter A LOT: When you purchase a “barely used” car seat for a fraction of the original cost from online Facebook groups, Craigslist, or garage sales, you are putting a lot of trust in a stranger. Even a car accident as minor as a fender bender can cause minuscule unseen cracks in the plastic of the car seat that will put your child at risk. A child does NOT have to be in the car seat during an accident for it to be considered unsafe. And the accident does NOT have to be a bad one for it to matter. Some manufacturers will recommend replacing the seat if the vehicle is hit from any angle going at least 10 MPH or more. The best way to know is to call the company or read the car seat manual. If you buy a used car seat, will the seller disclose that time they backed into a pole with the seat in the car (but no kid)? Or worse! Again, this is a place you need to play it safe and go new.
  3. There are very specific washing instructions: Have you ever been here? Baby #1 is three years old, hasn’t used her infant bucket seat in over 2 years and now you are getting everything ready for baby #2 only to discover you never got those spit up stains cleaned up nearly as much as you thought? So many of us just toss everything in the washing machine, reassemble and go on with our lives. Unfortunately, this is yet another way using an old seat could be putting your new baby in jeopardy. Not every part of the car seat can be cleaned. Many parts cannot even be submerged in water. And the type of cleaner matters greatly. All of this is disclosed in the car seat manual. If you don’t know how a friend (or stranger) washed the seat before handing it down or if you made the mistake of washing before reading, time to get an upgrade.

I get it. You’re on a very tight budget and I just ruined your plan to get that “gently used” seat from your co-worker for cheap. You still need to save money. Don’t worry; I won’t leave you hanging. Here are a few safe choices:

  1. Choose a generic brand: From a safety standpoint, every seat has to meet a minimum of requirements. When used correctly, a new generic car seat is safer than a used popular brand with lots of bells and whistles but an unknown history.
  2. Incorporate your need into your baby shower: If you’ll be having a baby shower (or sprinkle, sometimes used for a second born) ask guests to chip in together to get this bigger item rather than yet another bottle of shampoo or that cute dress baby girl will grow out of before getting a chance to wear. If this is your first baby and you need everything, have guests play a game of 50/50 at the shower. Each guest can buy a ticket for $1 or 6 tickets for $5 and whoever’s ticket is pulled wins half the money and the other half is designated for your car seat fund. Guests will be more than willing to put in a buck for a chance to win some money AND help the mom out with a much-needed item.
  3. Buy a convertible car seat instead: Many moms start with an infant car seat, then around the first birthday need another car seat, then when the child outgrows the convertible, they are ready for a high back
    booster, only to finally end with a regular backless booster seat before they are finally ready to ride in the car with no child seat at all. Most convertible car seats are rated for babies as low as 5 pounds and can be used from day 1. Skip the cost of an infant bucket type seat that will only be used a year or less and go straight for the convertible seat that will accommodate your child until age 3-4 or even older depending on the child’s size and the seat. (For example, the Diono Radian R100 may be a costly $225, but it has a life of 10 years and converts to fit children from 5 pounds all the way to 100 pounds. My 6-year-old still comfortably uses hers at just under 50 pounds and over 4 feet tall. It was an investment well worth it and it saved me from needing multiple seats.)

When you know better, you do better. No one is passing judgement if you’ve made one of these mistakes in the past of buying a used car seat. Even I did! I was lucky I didn’t have to learn about my mistakes the hard way. So many children and parents aren’t. Take the information you now know about a used car seat and help yourself, help another mom, and help our children.

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Category: Saving Money

Tags: baby items to buy new