Why Do Car Seats Expire? And How Long is Mine Good For?

Last updated July 2019.

Why do car seats expire?

A question we are asked frequently, and a good one!  All manufacturers of car and booster seats in Canada set an expiry date on their seats.  The length of useful life varies and is most often a set amount of time from the date of manufacture.  The date of manufacture is found on a sticker somewhere on the seat, but sometimes not visible unless the seat is uninstalled.  Every manufacturer sets their own expiration dates, but may not list it with the date of manufacture. It may be on a separate sticker on the seat, in raised lettering in the plastic somewhere on the underside, or written in the manual.

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Seats expire for a number of reasons.  A specific reason (such as an unknown history) may not apply to you, but cumulatively the reasons are compelling to replace a seat after it expires.  Per a March 2011 statement from Transport Canada:

Manufacturers give an expiry or useful life date because over time:

  • frequent use and exposure to sunlight can damage and weaken plastic (think of plastic sand toys or patio furniture after a few years of use);
  • safe-use labels on the products fade, fall off, or become hard to read;
  • instruction manuals may have been lost;
  • food, cleaners, drinks and other materials that have been spilled or used on webbing, buckles, adjusters and other parts may prevent them from working safely;
  • the history or condition of the car seat or booster seat becomes hard to check (was it in a crash, was it stored in a place or in a way that caused damage to parts, etc.?  We discourage the use of used seats – here’s why);
  • safety regulations and standards may have changed, so safer products may now be on the market;
  • second or subsequent owners may not get product safety recall notices if problems arise; and
  • beyond the expiry date the manufacturer is no longer monitoring the integrity of the seat.

Once a seat has expired please destroy it. Do not give it to a friend or relative to use, don’t donate it to charity, and don’t keep it “as a back-up.”  Remove the cover (which CAN be saved for use on another identical seat), cut the harness, and write “expired – do not use” in marker. If possible take it to a recycling facility near you (they’re few and far between unfortunately), or bag it up and put it out with your garbage, or take it to the dump. Make it unusable for anyone else so they don’t unknowingly compromise the safety of their child by using an expired seat.

Has your seat expired and you’re in the market for a new one?  We have favourite lists of seats in all categories – infant seats, convertibles, combination seats, and dedicated boosters.  What do you get for more money? Read here.

Not sure how long your seat is good for? Start here, and then CONFIRM WITH THE MANUFACTURER! This list linked here may not be comprehensive, nor apply to every single seat on the market at the time of writing.  We’ve done our best to ensure its accuracy but the manufacturer always has the final say.

If you’ve checked this page before you might be looking for a table of info. We have long updated it, and provided the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada with the same data for use for their members. Instead of duplicating our work, and potentially missing something, we’ve decided to just link to their summary document from now on. Find it here.