What should I do with my old car seat?
Whether your growing child is ready to move onto the next size up of car seat, or you’ve encountered issues with their car seat that means you can’t use it, working out what to do with a large piece of complicated moulded plastic can leave many parents scratching their heads.
Read on for our advice on what you can do with old car seats, including making use of your warranty, handling car seats that have been in a vehicle crash, understanding the life span of a car seat, and whether you should chuck or recycle your old seat.
Can I repair my child's car seat?
If you encounter an issue with your car seat, you may be able to get it repaired, but this will depend on a range of factors including whether it’s still in warranty and if you still have proof of purchase.
Because of the nature of car seats, and their importance in keeping your baby or child safe, we don’t recommend you attempt to fix it yourself. If the car seat is faulty and it’s out of warranty, we’d always recommend you replace it.
Read on to find out what some of the key car seat manufacturers state about getting your car seat repaired.
BeSafe offer a two-year warranty which starts from the date of purchase. This will cover a replacement or repair if there’s a manufacturing fault.
It doesn’t cover faults caused by general wear and tear.
Like other manufacturers, Britax has a two-year warranty, which provides a right to repair unless Britax is of the opinion that a replacement or return of the product is necessary.
To claim under this manufacturer’s warranty you must provide Britax Römer with a copy of the dated receipt of purchase, a clear description of the complaint and the defective product and/or photographs of the defective part or product.
Types of defects it will repair include:
- All safety components of your Britax Römer car seat
- Seams in the cover
Cybex has a three-year warranty on its car seats. It states on its website that if your car seat is faulty, you need to refer to the retailer where you bought it.
If you need replacement parts for your Cybex seat, you should also contact your retailer. Make sure you hold onto your proof of purchase.
Joie has a two-year warranty on its products, and it recommends you register the product and hold onto the receipt in case you have any issues.
Maxi-Cosi has a two-year warranty on all its products, so if you have an issue with your car seat, it may be covered by that.
According to its website, Maxi-Cosi states that your first point of contact is the authorised dealer or retailer where you bought the seat from. You’ll need to present your proof of purchase to the retailer, but Maxi-Cosi recommends contacting them first to check what your options are.
If there is problem and you need to return the seat, Maxi-Cosi will pay for shipment.
This is different to getting your car seat replaced if it’s been in an accident (Maxi-Cosi also offer an accident exchange service).
All car seats from Silver Cross come with an automatic two-year warranty. If you then register your product via the app, you receive an additional one-year free warranty.
The Silver Cross website states that manufacturing faults and material defects are covered when the product is used correctly and according to the manufacturer instructions.
You’ll need to retain proof of purchase, and only the original purchaser can make a claim.
For other brands of car seat, it’s worth checking on the manufacturer website – details of this can be found on the Tech Specs section of our reviews.
Make sure you register your car seat (online or via your retailer) and leave accurate contact details.
If there’s a recall on the seat, the manufacturer will use these details to contact you about any issues or provide instructions on what to do with the seat.
Know your car seat life span
Some manufacturers will specify that you should stop using the car seat after a set amount of time. This can vary from five to 12 years depending on the type of seat.
There are two main reasons for doing this.
Firstly, as soon as a car seat is installed in a vehicle it may be exposed to high temperatures and high levels of light intensity from just being in the car all day. As a result, even high-quality and extremely age-resistant plastics can start to degrade.
Plus, there can also be general wear and tear on the harness and buckle, particularly if they’ve been removed for cleaning.
This means an older, well-used seat may not provide the same level of crash protection as a newer seat.
Secondly, car seat technology and car seat regulations can move on quite a bit in the space of 10 years. The latest car seat regulation – R129 – was only introduced in 2013, which is less than 10 years ago, and demonstrates how much things can change in this time.
What should I do with a car seat that’s been in a crash?
You should always replace your car seat if it’s been in a crash. You may find some manufacturers provide a service that assesses whether you can continue using the car seat, but our recommendation is always to replace it.
Your car insurance policy should cover the cost of replacing the car seat, but always check as not all will. Research in 2018 by Defaqto found one in four policies don’t cover car seats.
Should I buy a second-hand car seat?
There’s quite a large second-hand market for child car seats, particularly the most expensive types and brands.
However, buying a pre-owned car seat is not generally recommended. This is because you cannot always be certain of its history. It may have been in a crash and, while outwardly it looks completely fine, there could be hairline cracks or fractures that could weaken the structural integrity of it which means it doesn’t protect your child in a crash.
If you’re borrowing or buying a car seat from a family member or close friend, be sure to quiz them closely on the history of the seat and check or ask the following questions:
- Has it been involved in any type of crash or collision?
- How old is the seat? Avoid a seat that’s older than six years.
- Does the seat have a sticker demonstrating it meets either the R44.04 or R129 regulations?
- Was it bought by the previous owner second-hand or new?
- Do the buckles fasten with a noticeable ‘click’
- Does the harness look worn or frayed?
- Does it have the instruction manual?
- Does the owner still have the proof of purchase?
- Does the seat fit your model of car?
How do I dispose of my car seat?
It's not uncommon to spot abandoned car seats left out on the streets next to bins in the hope that they'll get picked up by your council waste disposal services (or a parent looking for a freebie).
The reality however, is that the rubbish collection trucks will simply leave them on the side of the road if they're left out. The seats need to be dropped off at your local tip, if you want to throw them away.
Can I recycle my old car seat?
Baby products, and child car seats in particular, are a product area where it’s very difficult to recycle them once you’ve finished using them.
The various materials that make up a car seat – moulded composite plastic, foam, polystyrene, synthetic fabrics – are hard to separate and it’s not always clear if they are even suitable for recycling.
However, according to some manufacturers, it is a possibility. Ivan McCullough, QA and product development manager at Maxi-Cosi, says:
‘At Maxi-Cosi, recycling is important to us and our customer care department is frequently asked about our policy on this.
‘The great news is that our car seats can be recycled. When a product has come to the end of its use, consumers can take their car seat to their local recycling centre, where they will break it down into separate components and recycle each part separately.'
But is it really as simple as this?
We checked with Simon Ellin, CEO of the Recycling Association, who told us:
‘If your local council waste recycling centre accepts hard or rigid plastics, then it should be possible to drop your old car seat off for recycling. However, you’ll need to ask at your local recycling tip if it offers this service.’
Ellin explained that car seats are usually made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polypropylene, both of which are recyclable, as well as other materials such as fabrics to make up the cover and harness, and metal that forms part of the seat structure, buckle clip and seat base hooks.
Once you’ve dropped off the car seat at the recycling centre, it should be sent onto a processing plant that will put the seat through an industrial shredder. The small pieces of seat then go through a sink tank, which will help to separate out the different polymers or components of the seat.
The plastic parts of the seat that can be recycled will float off and be separated, while the metal parts will sink. Any fabric and foam sections will also be separated, although these are less likely to be recycled and will instead be incinerated.
Remember, not all councils will be able to offer this, so make sure you check with your local centre.
‘I believe that manufacturers of baby products brands need to play their part and take responsibility for providing more awareness and information on how parents can recycle their car seat,’ adds Ellin. ‘For example, clear information in the instruction booklet on what the car seat components are made of and whether they can be recycled would be a good start.’
We quizzed Terracycle, an organisation that offers a range of recycling programmes for products that are funded by the relevant companies (for example Tassimo and Lavazza coffee pods), on other recycling options.
It told us that while it has offered free recycling solutions for car seats in other countries (such as in the United States when it worked with Walmart to create a car seat exchange), there is no similar scheme in the UK. This is because these programmes are reliant on funding and support from brand sponsors to cover the recycling costs.
It does, however, have a paid for solution; the Baby Equipment Zero Waste Box. Parents purchase a box which they can fill with a range of baby products including car seats, strollers, booster seats, feeding bottles, potties and other baby products. They then send the box using a prepaid return label to Terracycle to be recycled.
Costs are as follows:
- Small box (25 x 25 x 46cm): £135.10
- Medium box (30.5 x 30.5 x 84cm): £185.76
- Large box (38 x 38 x 100cm): £268.15
As you can see, it’s not cheap, but if you’re passionate about recycling products and are prepared to pay, it is an option.