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Expert: Don’t Buy a Second-Hand Child Car Seat Unless You Know The Seller

PHOTO: There's a right way and a wrong way to go about buying a safe child car seat, and safety experts say buying a second-hand child car seat is almost always a bad idea. Photo credit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
PHOTO: There's a right way and a wrong way to go about buying a safe child car seat, and safety experts say buying a second-hand child car seat is almost always a bad idea. Photo credit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
May 12, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - While it's tempting to save money by buying a used child car seat at a rummage sale or thrift store, it probably is a mistake, says Nicole Vesely, Safe Kids Coordinator at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison. Unless you know the history of that particular seat, she says you should pass. If the seat has been in a car crash, it's probably not safe.

"Once they've had that impact of a crash, there's no way of knowing how it will react a second time to such an impact," Vesely says. "The manufacturers are just saying replace it. That way, you know that the seat can withstand the force of a crash if, God forbid, it should ever happen again."

Vesely says parents often pick a child car seat for all the wrong reasons.

"A lot of times we see parents buying a car seat based on the color of the fabric. Probably the worst way you could choose a car seat is just based on the looks of it. You should be focusing on the safety features it has and things that are going to be easiest for a parent to use correctly," she explains.

According to Vesely, child car seats that are more than six years old are probably no longer safe for kids. She recommends recycling them rather than handing them down or selling them at a yard sale.

There are many guides available to parents who are in the market for a child car seat. Vesely says the state Transportation Department has a good website at www.wcpsa.com, and there are also other good sources of information.

"A lot of families like to consult 'Consumer Reports,'" she says. "They will put out a lot of rankings based on not only safety testing that's done to them, but also parents'-use and ease-of-use rankings."

Another safety issue is the number of parents who are not properly installing the seat in the car. Vesely says one reason is the wide variety of different systems used by the manufacturers.

"There are so many little details that need to be right that even if you think you have it installed perfectly, we always recommend you have the installation checked. It is still the number one killer of kids age 1 to 17," she says.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI