Unlike with food and medicine, it might not be immediately obvious why child car seats have expiration dates on them. In fact, many people aren’t even aware that they are supposed to replace their car seat every few years, or else assume that it’s just a scheme for car seat manufacturers to make more sales. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you decide to ignore the date and continue to drive around with your little one in an expired car seat?
The physical dangers
Your car seat sits in your car day after day all year long. It bakes in the hot summer sun and sits in the freezing cold. The straps also strain to fight the forces of physics to keep the seat in place every time your car accelerates and brakes.
All of this adds up to some pretty significant wear and tear on your car seat’s materials. The synthetic fibers in the straps stretch and weaken over time. The plastic in the base and back of the seat can develop micro-cracks that are invisible to the naked eye, but that significantly undermine the structural integrity of the seat.
What this means is that an expired car seat might look perfectly fine when you inspect it. But if you get into a car accident – when you need it to work the most – the seat might fail, and your little one might suffer serious injury that could have been avoided.
The economic dangers
Everyone’s insurance policy has different terms. It’s important to read the fine print in order to know all the ways you could inadvertently void your policy.
In some instances, driving with an expired car seat might invalidate part or all of your insurance coverage for your child’s hospital bills in the event of an accident. It would be a shame to make faithful payments every month only to have your insurance company refuse to pay when you most need them to due to a small and avoidable mistake.
If you’re lucky, your insurance company might even have a program where they reimburse you for part or all of the cost of a new car seat. Speak with your insurance representative to see if that is an option for you.
Keeping track of your car seat’s expiration date is just one more of the many things you have to stay on top of as a parent. Even though they can be pricey, buying a new car seat when your old one is about to expire is a worthwhile expense, as it can save you money and – more importantly – keep your little one safe if the unthinkable happens.