The Lowdown on Car Seat Expiration Dates

Car seats are an absolute safety must—but they only last for so long. Here’s everything to know about car seat expiration dates.
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By Nehal Aggarwal, Editor
Updated December 4, 2023
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Car seats are a baby safety necessity for most American families—but before you start buying, it’s important to know how they operate. While you’ve likely already heard over and over about the importance of proper car seat installation, it’s also important to pay attention to your car seat expiration date. Unlike the “best if used by” date on your groceries, car seat expirations are a little more complex. Below, certified child passenger safety experts explain what you need to know about car seat expiration dates and why an expired car seat is a safety no-no you won’t want to overlook.

Do Car Seats Expire?

It may seem strange, but car seats do expire. “They have a defined lifespan similar to motorcycle helmets and other safety gear across many industries,” says Josh Dilts, CPST, a child passenger safety technician with Chicco. Due to varying materials and manufacturing techniques, there isn’t a universal standard or federal regulation for how long car seats last. “It’s ultimately up to the car seat manufacturer to say when its products expire to keep up with the changing and evolving guidelines,” Dilts adds.

Why Do Car Seats Expire?

While it may initially sound like a ploy by baby gear manufacturers to sell more car seats, car seat expiration dates actually serve an important purpose. The biggest reason for car seat expiration is deterioration over time. After all, car seats are mostly made up of hard plastic, which doesn’t last forever. “Over time, a car seat can become compromised in ways that aren’t visible to the naked eye,” explains Tim Edwards, director of regulatory compliance at juvenile product company Dorel Juvenile. According to the experts, below are several factors that contribute to car seat expiration:

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  • Deterioration of materials. Warmer climates, heat, cold, sun, humidity and age can affect plastics and make them brittle and, eventually, unsafe, says Libby Nye, a certified child passenger safety technician in Loudoun County, Virginia. Plus, metal parts can rust in unseen areas and affect how the seat performs in a crash. Along with environmental factors, let’s not forget about all the food, drinks and cleaners various safety parts—like the buckles, harness webbing and adjusters—are constantly exposed to. These could all degrade the car seat’s performance as well, Edwards says. Not to mention, all these things could also make it harder to read safety labels, instruction manuals, insert instructions or other safety components, increasing the risk of car seat misuse.

  • Missing pieces. Over the years, car seats go through considerable wear and tear: The pads get washed over and over, and belts are switched from rear-facing to front-facing and possibly back again. It’s no wonder small parts and pieces often get lost, Nye says, which can reduce the seat’s effectiveness. “Normal wear and tear is one of the most important reasons why car seats have an expiration date,” Dilts adds.

  • Technological and safety advancements: Gear relating to baby safety is constantly being improved upon—just think about how much baby safety information has changed since you yourself were a kid. Thanks to a focus on research and development, technological breakthroughs happen at a rapid clip these days, and manufacturers want to make sure their products meet updated safety standards and best practice recommendations. “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can also inform car seat safety requirements. Although car seat safety regulations don’t change often, when or if they do, older models or car seats may not meet updated guidelines or standards,” Dilts says. “Expiration dates help ensure that the seats in circulation incorporate the latest improvements in car safety.” With rapidly changing technology comes discontinuation of certain models. When production of a seat is discontinued, replacement parts are no longer manufactured and can be difficult to find, Nye adds.

  • To discourage secondhand use: Edwards notes that car seat expiration dates also help discourage secondhand use, which is incredibly important. “The car seat’s history is typically unknown, and the user may not be able to determine whether the car seat has been involved in a crash or has been recalled.”

How Long Are Car Seats Good For?

When do car seats expire? Most last between six and 10 years after their car seat manufacture date, but this time frame can vary based on the manufacturer, Dilts says. Plus, what type of car seat you have may also impact its expiration. “Infant carriers are generally six years, convertible car seats are eight years and all-in-ones are generally 10,” he explains. “Always check with the manufacturer of the car seat if you can’t tell from the manufacturer sticker.” Keep in mind: Because there are no industry standards for car seat expiration dates, it’s best to confirm the expiration timeline with your individual car seat manufacturer.

Where Is the Expiration Date On Car Seats?

There’s no easy way to spot an expired car seat just by looking at it (unless, of course, you can visibly spot broken or missing parts). “It can depend, based on the manufacturer, but they’re usually located in multiple locations,” Dilts says. Below, some guidelines on where to look and what to look for:

  • The manufacturer sticker: Look for a small white sticker somewhere on the seat that contains information like the car seat manufacture date, serial number, model number and car seat expiration date. It may also be included in the product registration card, Dilts says.

  • The plastic shell: Some brands may have the car seat expiration information imprinted somewhere in the back or bottom of the seat’s plastic shell or car seat base, Edwards and Dilts note.

  • The instruction manual: If the expiration date isn’t printed on the seat itself, check the instruction manual for each car seat you own or give the manufacturer a call, Edwards says.

If you can’t find the expiration date, then the AAP notes car seats are usually okay to use for 6 years from their manufacturing date.

Image: Courtesy Amie Durocher | Safe Ride 4 Kids

Is It Illegal to Use an Expired Car Seat?

There is currently no federal law in place that expressly prohibits the use of expired car seats. Instead, whether or not it’s illegal to use an expired car seat will depend on how your specific state’s laws are worded and interpreted, Dilts says. But, while using an expired car seat may not be illegal everywhere, it’s highly recommended that parents and caregivers prioritize the safety of their children by adhering to the manufacturer’s expiration date guidelines, Edwards says.

For example, Virginia is among the states to have “proper use” clauses, meaning one could argue expired car seats don’t meet the Department of Health’s safety standards, says Nicholas Krukowski, a certified child passenger safety technician in Loudoun County, Virginia. Anyone found violating the law would be subject to a fine up to $500. If you’re unsure where your state stands on the issue, contact your local police station or a local CPST technician.

Wondering if it’s illegal to sell an expired car seat? While it’s not explicitly illegal, it’s strongly discouraged. Moreover, there are better ways to dispose of it—especially since many experts advise parents against buying and using second-hand car seats anyway.

What to Do With Expired Car Seats

If you find yourself with an expired car seat on your hands, you’ll likely want to dispose of it (because who has the room to store all this baby stuff?). While the obvious solution seems to be chucking it in the trash, experts caution against this. “You’ll want to dismantle and dispose of it so that someone doesn’t salvage it and unknowingly reuse it when it’s past its prime,” says Hayden Little, CPST, a certified child passenger safety technician in Washington, DC. “Start by removing and discarding the foam, padding and fabric. Cut the harnesses and straps. Remove any metal parts and recycle the plastic pieces.” Dilts also suggests writing, “Do not use—expired” in permanent marker on the car seat frame; wrapping the seat in a black plastic garbage bag and disposing it according to local guidelines.

Don’t feel like dealing with the car seat disposal yourself? Some communities have local car seat disposal or recycling centers, Dilts says. Plus, there are also national programs that offer car seat recycle kits, allowing you to ship your expired car seat to a recycling facility. And some retailers—like Target—even host car seat trade-in events at various times throughout the year, offering a special discount on your new seat purchase.

Car Seat Expiration FAQs

Do car seat bases expire?

“Car seat bases also have expiration dates,” Dilts says. “Infant only car seat bases generally have a six-year lifespan.” Car seat bases expire due the same reasons as those for the car seat itself. He recommends checking the base’s manufacturer date if you purchase any additional bases for your car seat.

Do booster seats expire?

Like car seats, booster seats can also expire for the same reasons, Dilts notes. Follow the above recommended guidelines.

Can I register my car seat online?

Many manufacturers offer the ability to register your car seat online—and this is something you’ll want to do soon after purchase. “You’ll automatically receive important product recall and safety notices, providing you with peace of mind that your car seat is functioning as it should,” Dilts says.

Ultimately, don’t gamble when it comes to your child’s car seat safety. Edwards encourages parents to use all the safety resources available to them, including each brand’s customer care center and a local CPST. “Car seat misuse statistics remain too high; taking the time to make sure your child is as safe as they can be when they’re a passenger is worth the time and effort,” he says. “On behalf of myself and the thousands of CPSTs around the country, I can say with supreme confidence that we’re always willing to listen, teach, demonstrate and go the extra mile to help make sure your child is using your car seat properly.”

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.


Josh Dilts, CPST, is an advocate for child passenger safety and a certified child safety technician with Chicco. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware.

Tim Edwards, CPST, is the director of regulatory compliance at juvenile product company Dorel Juvenile with over a decade of experience. He earned his bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering technology from Ball State University.

Libby Nye, CPST, is a certified child passenger safety technician in Loudoun County, Virginia.

Nicholas Krukowski, CPST, is a certified child passenger safety technician in Loudoun County, Virginia. Additionally, he’s served with the United States Air Force, as a firefighter and an EMT. He received his bachelor’s degree from American Military University and a certification in public management from The George Washington University.

Hayden Little, CPST, is a certified child passenger safety technician in Washington, DC. She earned her bachelor’s degree from George Mason University.

Virginia Department of Health, Virginia’s Child Restraint Device Law

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

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