The dangers of buying second hand car seats

I never used to buy second hand. To me second hand meant dirty and just wasn’t worth the hassle.

But then I became an expat.

If you’ve ever lived abroad you’ll know the challenges of finding your favourite brands, and the elation when you do get hold of them. This feeling is multiplied times ten when it comes to stuff for kids.

Often the only way to get hold of what you need is by buying second hand. And with expats coming and going all the time, the second hand market is an economy unto its own.

Here in Chile a lot of children’s clothing, buggy and car seat brands are just not available. I wanted a car seat compatible with a Bugaboo Bee pushchair, and I finally found a hand me down from a friend here in Santiago.

But buying a second hand car seat is not like buying anything else. You have to be extremely careful and do your checks.

1. Was the car seat involved in an accident previously? If you’re buying from a trusted source, or it’s a gift from a friend and can guarantee the seat has never been in an accident, well fine. Otherwise if you can’t be sure, then it’s ready for the scrap heap.
2. How old is the seat? A lot of people finally get around to parting with their baby stuff years when their little ones are all grown up. The issue is that in the meantime, the plastic on the car seat starts to slacken and decay and wouldn’t be safe in the case of an accident. If the seat is older than six years old it may not be safe (some newer models last eight years). If you’re pregnant and buying for the future, be sure to do the math and work out how old your seat will be by the time your baby needs it. While the seat may be suitable right up to two, four or six years of age, chances are you may need to buy another one in the meantime. You can find out how to read the year of manufacture here.
3. Is it clean? Any second hand goods will need a really, really good clean, but be aware that child car seats are special havens for dirt. In fact, one recent study found they can be dirtier than a toilet. Eurgh. Be sure to give it a really, really good wash before you use it.
4. Is it what you need? Different children and different parental lifestyles mean different seats. How much does your child weigh? Will you be using the seat with a stroller or just in the car? What model of car do you drive? Is your car isofix compatible? Will the seat be used in one car only or will it be installed regularly in different cars for which you’ll need a more easy to install seat? Don’t just take any old second hand seat for convenience sake.
I hate waste and I love recycling. I think buying second hand and gifting your unwanted belongings to others that need them is really important in today’s world. But be safe, or I hate to say it, buy new.

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