Updated December 2019.
No time to read? Download a PDF checklist for used seats here.
What’s the risk, really?
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. Do you trust that person to be honest about the history? We, too, are thrifty and like a good bargain, but car seats and booster seats are one of the few things we strongly encourage you to buy new whenever possible.
Great brand new seats can be had in all categories (infant, convertible, combination, and booster) for around $100, and if you’re not in a hurry, sometimes for less on sale. There are circumstances 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 safer used seat.
When is a used seat safe?
A seat isn’t unsafe just because someone else has used it. The potential for risk comes from the history not being known. 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). Much less risk there, because you can ask those people specific questions about the seat, and trust you’re getting an honest answer.
Is it ever illegal to use a used seat?
No – provided the seat is otherwise appropriate for your situation.
In some cases it may be illegal for the person to have provided (sold, loaned, or gave) it to you. That includes if the seat is:
- not compliant to current Transport Canada CMVSS standards (as of this writing, anything produced 2012 or later will be)
- recalled and not fixed
- damaged and not fixed
- missing parts
- missing a manual (a digital manual is fine)
- crashed to the point of requiring replacement (some brands allow re-use after a minor crash)
In all of those scenarios above it would be against Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Act to pass on the seat.
If I can’t give it away or sell it, what are my options other than the landfill?
If you find you need to destroy a seat, for any reason (expired, crashed, or otherwise unsafe to use), here’s what we suggest. Alternately, a CPST may be able to use it for teaching. A CPST 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 you’re out of options 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, but keep it to use as a spare for an identical seat, or to give or sell for use on an identical seat. Remove UAS (LATCH) straps. Write CRASHED DO NOT USE in permanent marker on the shell. 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.
If you’re considering a previously owned seat for any reason – travel, vacation, saving a few dollars – have a read through this list to see if the seat is a good choice for you. If not, please let us know what you need and we’d be happy to suggest some options. Our goal is to give you the information you need to make informed choices for your family.