Quick Summary: This can certainly be a confusing matter for parents! There are different timescales given by each brand, and car seats in the UK do not come with an official expiry date. It is not always visibly clear when a car seat becomes unsafe to use, and there are car seats on the market designed to last from birth up to around 12 years old. Another thing to consider is the new technology constantly being developed, which could soon put your older car seat behind in safety of the most up to date car seats.
All car seats come with usage guidelines to make sure their passengers are as safe as possible. In R44 tested car seats, these guidelines are based on your child's age and approximate weight. In R129 car seats, the guidelines are measured using your child's height and weight as opposed to their age. Technically speaking, if your child is above the age, weight or height restriction for your car seat, then it has reached the end of its life for that particular child and you could say it has expired.
Car Seat's Service Life
Many people may have noticed a Service Life or manufacturer's suggested expiry date on the base of their car seat. These dates can be likened to a best-before date on your food packets. These Service Life spans can range from 5-10 years depending upon each manufacturer's individual guidelines. These dates are a rough guide and car seats don't actually have set expiration dates. Manufacturers put these dates on their seats as a recognition that plastics and the properties of the car seat components may weaken over longer periods of time. It is worth bearing in mind that their maximum usage age can be affected by how well the car seat is looked after and how much the car seat has been used.
Another important factor to take into account is any damage done to the car seat in a collision. If your car seat is damaged in an accident, even a tiny knock, then it automatically expires and reaches the end of its life. Car seats should never be used if any part of it has been put under stress as this can weaken the plastic mouldings and at times crack the safety cushioning.
When a car seat WOULD be expired
If you buy an infant car seat that is tested to current European safety standards, use it for one year and would like to put it away for your next child, then technically it is entirely ‘in date' when you next come to use it.
Your car seat is however classed as ‘expired' if:
- It no longer conforms to current safety legislation
- It has been damaged
- Your child is over the age/weight/height limit for the seat
If you look after your car seats and use them according to the manufacturer's guidelines then they will stay safe and stand the test of time for many years. You may just want to look at the newer options in car seat safety that will have been added to the market, which might offer better safety and safety features than your older seat.