A Guide To Buying A Used Car Seat: 10 Things To Do (And 10 To Avoid At All Costs)

Finding out that a baby is on the way is a very exciting time - for both the parents-to-be and their friends and family. Once the initial excitement dies down and reality sets in, however, the realisation comes as to how much babies (or at least things a baby will need) cost. This of course does not sway the joy of the parents but for some people, it is a stress when they add up the costs. Looking for good deals and sales becomes a number one priority when baby shopping, and for some, looking into second hand/used items is the only option for their financial situation.

One of the baby items that can cost a large amount is a car seat, and so this is often something that parents look for second-hand. This comes with its pros and cons which parents have to consider for themselves, and hopefully this article helps with that. A car seat's main purpose is to keep a child safe and protect them if an incident should occur in the car so picking a good quality car seat - second hand or not - is very, very important.

Going by these 20 tips for buying a second-hand car seat (10 things to do and 10 to avoid) no one can go wrong; thereby finding the safest and most affordable option for the little one.

Let's start with that 10 things that need to be done when buying a used car seat...

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20 Check The Expiry Date

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"Double check the expiration date (located on the car seat itself)" is the advice given on verywellfamily.com.

A car seat is only safe as long as it is in date. When a car seat goes over its expiry date it is no longer safe to use, no matter what condition it is in or how good the price is. And so the expiration date is important to check not only because it needs to be in date but also to check how in date it is. No point wasting money on a car seat that will expire within a month.

19 Inspect The Car Seat For Wear And Tear

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Touched on this already but just to reiterate this important tip: Always inspect the second-hand car seat! Inspect it for wear and tear and any sign that it may be unsafe/unsuitable for an infant.

As a parent it is up to you how intensely this is done; some pay for professionals to check it while others just compare it to the new version of the car seat on the manufacturers website. It is up to the person buying the used car seat how thorough the inspection will be, as long as it is done before purchasing that is what matters. More tips on this via goodeggcarsafety.com.

18 Make Sure The Height And Size Restrictions Are Suitable

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All children are different which means their car seat needs will be too. The height and size of a baby really plays into what kind of car seat they will need at what age so taking this into consideration when looking at a second-hand car seat is definitely important.

This is so important in fact that childcarseats.org.uk made "Make sure the seat is suitable for your child's [mass] and height", one of the top 5 things to do when purchasing a used car seat! So do take this one very seriously.

17 Get A Professional To Inspect It

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As previously stated, it is up to the parent purchasing the used car seat as to how thorough they would like to inspect said car seat. Some parents choose to get the car seat looked at by a safety professional who can point out many things that an average person may miss which is why this is on the things to do list.

As stated on childcarseats.org,uk, it is important to note that "not all damage to child seats is visible to the ... eye" and so a professional or at least a second opinion on the car seats condition may be worth it.

16 Try It For Size: Does It Fit In The Car?

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"Try the seat in your car - if you cannot get it to fit securely, do not buy it" is the advice given on childcarseats.org.uk.

It's one thing to inspect the car seat and double check that it comes with all the relevant information but none of that will matter if the seat does not fit safely and securely in the car. Most standard car seats will fit in any car but there are exceptions. So save any hassle and check the car seat fits in the vehicle before purchasing.

15 Borrow Instead Of Buy

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Instead of buying a used car seat why not consider borrowing one until purchasing a new one is possible. Friends and family members are sure to want to help out even if that means borrowing out a car seat until a financial situation improves, it might be worth taking them up on that offer.

Although, as goodeggcarsafety.com says make sure not to fall into the trap and if a seat is not suitable "don't be tempted to borrow a seat from a friend or family member to spare their feelings!" Only do this if it is the best and safest option temporarily.

14 Consult Any And All Online Manuals

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Previously said in the 'things to avoid' section but important enough to revisit. If a used car seat does not come with the right manuals or information, whether that means none at all or only parts, do check out the manufacturer online. Nowadays everything is on the internet and chances are that car seat will have manuals somewhere out there on the World Wide Web.

This is such an important step that all car seat safety articles (including those on verywellfamily.com and goodeggcarsafety.com) include this in their advice when buying a car seat second-hand. Definitely a big do!

13 Know The Laws And Legislation

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A very important and crucial do now, not only for child's safety but for parents too: making sure that the used car seat is abiding by all car seat laws and legislation. Whether that be the condition, the expiry date or the approval label, all of these aspects must be up to scratch in order for a parent to even consider paying money for said used car seat.

Childcarseats.co,uk encourages all parents to check all regulations when looking into purchasing a used car seat, there should be labels and stickers that state dates and approvals for all things safety related. If unsure get it professionally checked or speak to the manufacturer.

12 Consider Frequency Of Use

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When buying a car seat it is assumed that the parents can drive but this is not always the case. Some parents buy a car seat to use in family/friends cars. If this true then the seat won't be used frequently so buying a used car seat may be best financially. However, if the car seat is to be used frequently then buying a seat brand new may be better.

This was a discussion on a mumsnet.com forum. One Mother wrote that a used seat was the best option for her saying, "I don't drive, the car seat was only used a handful of times," and of course she did the necessary checks.

11 Buy From Someone You Trust

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Moving away from the things to avoid now and onto what should be done when looking at purchasing a used car seat.

Firstly, if possible, a second-hand car seat should always be purchased or borrowed from someone who is familiar- not a stranger. When doing this it can be easier to trust that this car seat will be safe and this person will not lie when it comes to information about the seat. Buying or borrowing from someone well known and proven trustworthy is most definitely the safest way to go about getting a second-hand car seat. More on this via goodeggcarsafety.com.

And here are the 10 things to avoid...

10 A Seat Without An Approval Label

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"Does the seat carry an approval label? A seat must carry a label for R44.03, R44.04 or R129 iSize" is the information on goodeggcarsafety.com.

When looking at a second-hand car seat if no approval label can be found then this is a car seat that should be avoided. An approval label shows that the car seat is safe and up to date with all the regulations and so this is not something that can be looked over. These labels are usually found on the back or underneath the car seat.

9 A Car Seat Showing Any Wear And Tear

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Keeping baby safe is the most important thing, no one wants anything bad to happen to their baby, so obviously a car seat that is falling apart is a big no-no!

Looking again at the advice on goodeggcarsafety.com, their tip on spotting damage is "Inspect the second hand seat - is the seat shell plastic, foam protection under the covers and harness in good condition, with no marks, rips, dents or tears? If the seat shell, foam or harness is damaged in any way - don't use the seat"

8 Foreign Car Seats

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There is not necessarily anything wrong with foreign car seats but they will be significantly different to the car seats locally. Different countries have different rules and regulations on car seats; height, mass, and expiration restrictions vary considerably and so to make sure the car seat is within the law purchasing a car seat that is not from a foreign country is probably for the best.

If wondering how to know if the car seat is foreign or not thecarseatlady.com says that the seller should be able to provide this information, if not then this is another reason to avoid.

7 Any Seat That Was Involved In An Incident

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It is a worry for a lot of parents that they themselves and their child encounter dangers on the road (which is why a safe car seat is so important to protect baby if unfortunately an incident happens) and so avoiding a car seat that has been in a car accident in the past is a priority.

"Even if the child was NOT in the seat at the time of the crash, the seat can be damaged from the forces it experiences during a crash. Most car seat manufacturers state that the seat should never be used again if involved in any type of crash," states the expert at thecarseatlady.com.

6 Recalled Car Seats

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"It is not uncommon for a seat to be recalled... the easiest way to check for recalls is to phone the manufacturer. You will need to give them the model name and number" is the information shared on thecarseatlady.com.

Some people may decide to sell their car seat once they realize it has been recalled and use that money towards getting a new one- this is why it is good to look out for this when buying a second-hand seat as most people will not share that this is their reason for selling.

5 Seats That Have Been In Contact With Concerning Allergens

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It is not just checking for signs of wear and tear that is important or making sure that the used car seat is equipped with all the needed information, but checking the history of the car seats users is an important check that some may want to do.

Bad smells from that bad habit and pet hair are two big health concerns, so if you are a parent who is concerned about the seat coming from a home that is not free from either of these things then it would be a good idea to put this on the list of things to avoid. Knowing this history is part of the advice given on thecarseatlady.com.

4 Free Car Seats

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This one really explains itself, do not under any circumstances accept a free car seat. Borrowing from a friend and family member may be one thing but when a stranger is offering a car seat as 'free to good home,' more often than not something unjust is going on behind the scenes.

As goodeggcarsafety.com states, always ask yourself "is a safer seat available?" When it comes to a free car seat - even if the offer is genuine - the answer is always yes and so free car seats should be avoided.

3 The Cheap Price, Expensive Brand Trick

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Kicking this list off with the things that should be avoided when looking to purchase a second-hand car seat, all these should be an automatic deterrence if encountered.

So, the first thing to avoid that can be hard to resist is a branded car seat being sold at a very low price. Although this may look like a perfect deal, that can be far from the truth. There may be something wrong with this car seat which is why someone would be selling something they spent a lot of money on for so little and as verywellfamily.com very cleverly states, "A new affordable seat is, hands-down, better than a used name brand seat."

2 Buying A Seat That Doesn't Come With A Manual

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The second thing that should be avoided when purchasing a second-hand car seat for an infant is, any car seat that does not have a manual or instructions. There may be ways around this if the manual or instructions are available online via the manufacturer's website but other than this, no manual definitely no sale!

This is another top tip from the verywellfamily.com used-car seat checklist so be sure to keep this in the back of your mind while browsing for that perfect car seat.

1 Fake Branded Car Seats

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That's right, they are out there! Just like fake branded jewelry, clothes, etc. there are fake branded car seats being sold as second-hand all over the internet. These car seats are often not suitable or safe for infants and are just a bad copy of a seat that is popular.

Once the car seat has been viewed compare it to the website of the brand or speak to someone who knows about the brand and the truth will then come out.

Sources: verywellfamily.com, mumsnet.com, goodeggcarsafety.com, thecarseatlady.com, childcarseats.co.uk

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