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Updated: 24 Jul 2019

Parents still using second-hand car seats despite safety issues

Buying pre-owned car seats could be potentially dangerous, especially if it's from an unknown seller

A Which? survey of 3,241 parents with a child under 12 years old has found that 9% of them bought a second-hand car seat for their child.

However, by choosing to buy a second-hand car seat, particularly from someone you don't know, you could be potentially putting your child at risk in the event of a car crash.

See the best car seats that have done well in our crash tests.

Three safety issues with second-hand car seats

Opting for a cheap car seat from eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree, Shpock or a local Facebook selling group may seem like a tempting option. However, we advise against this for the following reasons:

  1. Second-hand car seats could have hidden damage A car seat that's involved in a car crash should not be used again. If you buy a seat from an unknown seller, you won't know if it's been compromised structurally, particularly as damage isn't always visible from the outside.
  2. It's likely to be an older model Some older car seats may not be designed to meet current safety standards, and even if they are, manufacturers provide a recommended lifetime for a car seat before it should be replaced (often five years). The car seat you buy may have gone past that cut-off point.
  3. You may not get the instructions Instruction booklets can get lost over the years, and if you buy a car seat without instructions, you may be at risk of fitting and using the seat incorrectly.

Second-hand car seat do's and don'ts

  • If you must buy a second-hand car seat, make sure it's a close family member or friend who you can rely on to be truthful about its history.
  • Examine the car seat carefully for damage (but remember not all damage is visible), make sure it's suitable for your child's weight or height, and try it in your car and any others you intend to use it in, including grandparent's cars, to ensure it will fit securely.
  • Remember, all car seats need to meet the R44.04 or R129 car seat regulations and should be labelled as such. Seats labelled 44.03 are still legal to use but this is an older labelling so means the car seat will have been made with less modern materials.
  • If you have any doubts about the provenance of the car seat, don't buy it. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Avoid second-hand car seats we've named Don't Buys

Our child car seat reviews show models currently available to buy.

We also highlight those we've named Don't Buy car seats.

Any car seat scoring 45% or less in our tests becomes a Don't Buy.

Car seats rated 0% will have performed so badly in parts of our crash tests we make them an automatic Don't Buy. This can be because the seat is not up to withstanding the forces of a crash in a particular setup, or because part of the seat breaks or detaches during the crash tests.

We also keep a list of any Don't Buy car seats that are no longer on sale. If you're opting for a second-hand child car seat we'd suggest you check this list and avoid any models on it when you buy.