Considering a Used Seat?

No time to read? Download a PDF checklist for used seats here.

We strongly discourage buying or borrowing a used seat. There are too many potential issues with a seat of unknown history, and ultimately you’re trusting the seller or lender with your child’s life.  Great brand new seats can be had in all categories (infant, infant/child, child/booster, and booster) for around $100, and if you’re not in a hurry, often for less on sale.  Buying used is just not worth the risk.  There are circumstances, however, when someone might feel they have no choice but to use a used seat, and going over this checklist will go a long way to ensuring it’s a SAFE used seat.

So, that being said, maybe you’ve decided to borrow a friend’s infant seat for your baby, or are flying to visit relatives and your cousin has a spare you can use instead of bringing it on the plane (read more here for our thoughts about traveling with car seats).   We’ve modified a checklist from CPSafety (an American organization) for use here in Canada.  Like everything we do and promote this is not an attempt to get you to spend more money on a new seat; it’s to keep more kids safe in the car, and keeping kids out of unsafe used seats is part of that.  If you do find you need to buy a new seat, you don’t have to break the bank – every new seat currently available for sale in Canada passes the same crash tests as every other, and used properly, is as equally safe as another.  What do you get for more money? Read here.

Before the check list, two notes:

1. It’s important to note as the person doing the selling or lending that if the seat is not compliant with 2012 Transport Canada crash test standards, it’s not legal to pass it on to anyone (selling/lending/giving/trading).  For more information about this law, read Health Canada’s Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.  Type ‘restraint’ into the search field and it brings up the section on car seats.  Additionally, Transport Canada mentions this restriction in their Frequently Asked Questions regarding their new crash test standards.  Expand the “Do I need to replace my seat?” question to see the information.  Our understanding of this law is that it is fine to use in your own vehicle with other people’s kids (in a carpool, for example), or in someone else’s car with your kids (your three year old is going to stay over night with Grandma and you install her seat in Grandma’s car).  That is our interpretation, but common sense would indicate that it’s perfectly fine.  Plenty of people will disregard this law, and so again, going over this checklist will help ensure the used seat is as safe as possible.

2.  If you find you need to destroy a seat, for any reason (expired, crashed, or otherwise unsafe to use), here’s what we suggest.  A tech may be able to use it for training.  A tech won’t put kids into it, but will use it to teach other parents about car seat safety, and Health Canada has approved this practice.  If you’re willing to donate, please contact a tech near you to see if can be used.  If not, then please destroy it. Make it so no one else could ever consider using it in the car.  Cut the straps and pull them off.  Remove the cover (fine to keep as a spare for an identical seat, or to give or sell for use on an identical seat).  Remove UAS (latch) straps (those have found second lives to attach things to other things…some techs will restrain pets to tether anchors, for example).  Write CRASHED DO NOT USE in permanent marker on the shell. If you have some anger to work out, feel free to go to town on the seat with various tools or implements. Please do not hurt yourself in the process!  If you’re fortunate to live near a recycling facility that takes car seats, strip it of all cloth and metal and take it there.  If not, put the mangled shell in a black garbage bag and put it out with your garbage. Dispose of other bits separately.

And now onto the checklist. For a printable version of this list click here to download the pdf.

1. Do you know the complete history of this seat? If yes, continue. If no, DESTROY.

2. Does the seat have a label or sticker with the date of manufacture, model name, and model number? If yes, continue. If no, DESTROY.

3. Is the seat expired? Check stickers for expiry dates, or raised lettering in the plastic for an expiry date. Also check this Transport Canada guideline for expiry dates. Note that this list is not comprehensive.  If yes, DESTROY.  If no, continue.

4. Does the seat have a sticker with the National Safety Mark (circular sticker with maple leaf in the centre)?  If yes, continue.  If no, DESTROY.

5. Is the seat subject to a public notice (recall), or consumer information notice?  If yes, continue to 5b.  If no, continue to 6.

5b. Has the defect been corrected? If yes, continue to 6.  If no, do not use until defect is corrected, or DESTROY.

6. Has the seat been involved in ANY crash, even a fender bender, whether it was occupied or not? If yes, confirm with manufacturer whether it must be destroyed, and then DESTROY if needed.  If no, continue.

7. Has the harness or adjuster strap been washed in the washing machine, submerged in water, or sprayed with any cleaner? If yes, obtain new parts.  If no, continue.

8. Has the seat been checked as luggage, or gate checked on an airplane?  If yes, DESTROY.  If no, continue.

9. Are there any cracks, bends, breaks, or signs of stress or wear on the plastic shell?  If yes, DESTROY.  If no, continue.

10. Has the metal frame (if present) rusted, bent, or broken? If yes, DESTROY.  If no, continue.

11. Is a copy of the manufacturer’s instruction manual present?  If yes, continue.  If no, do not use until a copy has been obtained.

12. Does the seat have all its parts (cover, harness, chest clip, crotch buckle, screws, arm rests, etc.)? If yes, continue. If no, obtain replacement parts or DESTROY.

13. Are the harness straps or adjuster strap worn or frayed?  If yes, obtain replacement parts or DESTROY.  If no, continue.

14. Do any metal parts show signs of rust or corrosion? If yes, obtain replacement parts or DESTROY. If no, continue.

15. When buckled, does the mechanism lock securely, and remain locked? Does the harness tighten and loosen properly? If yes, continue. If no, DESTROY.

16. Do you trust the person answering these questions with your child’s life – are they truthful?  If yes, USE THE SEAT!





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