Second Hand Car Seat Safety Checklist | Tips and Advice

Posted by Julie Monson on

Second Hand Car Seat Safety Checklist Infographic

Should I Buy A used car Seat?

Buying second hand baby goods is a great way to save money. But if there’s one thing worth forking out for, it’s a car seat. A car seat is a life saving device that is designed to protect children in the event of a car crash. 

If finances allow, try to buy a new car seat rather than second hand. This is because you cannot be completely certain of a car seat’s history unless you buy from someone you know and trust. A car seat that has been compromised may not show obvious damage, but it may not protect your baby sufficiently if it were to be involved in a crash.

Car seats are very expensive in South Africa, and we fully appreciate that many families simply cannot afford a new car seat. 

If you do need to buy second hand, it is preferable to buy from the owner rather than a second hand baby shop or charity store, so that you can ask the owner the following questions and gauge if they are telling the truth:

1. Has it been in any crashes or dropped?

A car seat that has been involved in a moderate or severe car crash, whether occupied or not, should be replaced and not used again. Although it may look fine, there may be unseen damage that may compromise its safety and prevent it from performing optimally if it were involved in a second crash.


The NHTSA advises “Crash damage is not always visible to the naked eye. There are some scans and X-rays that can find hidden damage, but the cost of these tests is usually greater than the cost of the most expensive new car seat. Without this type of test, no one can inspect your car seat and certify it as safe after a crash”

FaceBook pic

When to replace a Car Seat

  • Check 1: The car was towed away
  • Check 2: The vehicle door closest to the car seat was damaged
  • Check 3: A person in the car was injured in any way
  • Check 4: Any airbag in the car was deployed
  • Check 5: There is visible damage to the car seat (cracks, stress marks etc)

2. When was the seat manufactured?

Our European car seats do not have expiry dates, but each manufacturer will have a recommended lifespan for each model. Many manufacturers recommend that a child car seat be replaced after 5 years, because child car seats are constantly being improved and upgraded.

Our car seats are tested to ECE regulation 44 or the new car seat regulation R129 (iSize).  Car seats tested to R44.01 or R44.02 are now very old and illegal to sell and use. Car seats that have been tested to R44.03 are likely to be quite old as R44.03 was introduced in 1995, so they may be up to 20 years old.

date-of-manufacture-Expiry sticker-Barcode

Manufactured on 13/08/2010


Manufactured in the 31st week of 2013


Manufactured in the 6th month of 2007

It is recommended that child car seats should not be used for more than 6-10 years as the materials of a car seat will begin to degrade from wear and tear and weather conditions. An old car seat may not perform as it should do in a collision.

It does not mean that car seats which are more than 10 years old are dangerous to use, provided they meet the correct regulation, are in good condition, with the harness intact and they are fitted and used correctly (and suitable for the child).  However, there have been large advances in child car seat safety and a newer seat will provide the very best protection.

Good Egg Car Safety

3. Are all parts intact?

Remove the cover and inspect that all parts of the harness, buckle, covers, buckle padding, lock off clips and EPS Styrofoam are present.

4. Is a manual available?

It is essential that you follow the manual in order to install it correctly. Many manuals can be found online or you can request it directly from the manufacturer or distributor.

5. Are there any signs of white stress marks, damage, rusting or fraying?

This may indicate that the seat is old and/or has not been well cared for or stored properly. 

White stress marks on the shell of the car seat or broken Styrofoam indicate that it may have been dropped or in a crash. 

If you suspect it has been damaged, do not use it!


Cracked Car Seat Frame


Cracked EPS


Cracked Base


Frayed Harness

6. Has it been checked for any recalls?


Photo Credit: Extreme Couponing

It is essential that you follow the manual in order to install it correctly. Many manuals can be found online or you can request it directly from the manufacturer or distributor.

7. Has it been independently crash tested?

All car seats sold legally in South Africa have to pass ECE regulations and crash testing. The results are not published. 

Some car seats that are sold in Europe are selected for additional, independent crash testing at higher speeds. The results are published in German for the public to access. 

All available safety reviews are translated into English and uploaded into photo albums on Car Seat Support South Africa. It would be preferable to buy a car seat with good ADAC safety ratings. More information on crash testing here

8.  Has it been checked on an airplane?

It is a common complaint that parents, who have checked their car seats in as fragile luggage, have received them back with broken polystyrene and torn covers. A sure sign that they were dropped. 


If a car seat is checked in, it should be well padded with polystyrene, towels and/or bubble wrap AND boxed. Bubble wrap alone will protect the upholstery but will not protect the shell if dropped.

9.  Has it been washed and dried only according to the instructions in the manual?

Car seat manufacturers specify exactly what is and is not allowed when cleaning a car seat. Not adhering to the manual instructions could weaken the harness. Ask if the harness ever been treated with harsh soaps (like a strong detergent, bleach or vinegar?) or put through the washing machine.

Car Seats For the Littles recommends that if a used car seat from a trusted friend is not expired, not damaged, not recalled, has been well cared for, and you trust the original owner, it may be fine to consider using a used car seat for your child.


However, if the answer to any of those questions is uncertain, we’d suggest purchasing a brand new seat from an approved retailer.

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