What to Do with Old Car Seats: Safe Disposal and More



Photo of a community recycling event where families, of diverse backgrounds, are dropping off their old car seats. Signboards guide them to designated areas, and volunteers are present to assist and provide information on the recycling process.

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What to do with old car seats is a question that resonates with eco-conscious and safety-minded parents alike.

As your child grows or products evolve, you may find yourself with a car seat that’s no longer in use. But how should you responsibly dispose of it?

If you’ve pondered recycling, upcycling, or even donating but are unsure of the implications and options, you’re treading a path many have walked before.

Drawing from sustainability practices and child safety norms, I’ve curated a comprehensive guide on the afterlife of car seats.

Dive into this exploration with me, and together, let’s discover responsible and meaningful ways to give old car seats a new purpose or safe retirement.

Key Takeaways on Disposing of Old Car Seats

  • Check the expiration date on your car seat before deciding what to do with it.

  • Don’t reuse or give away an old car seat that has been in an accident or is expired.

  • Options for getting rid of an old car seat include donating, selling, or recycling it.

Car Seat Expiration 1

Understanding Car Seat Expiration

Car seats are an important tool for keeping your child safe while on the road. However, did you know that car seats have an expiration date? It’s important to understand why car seats expire and what you should do with an expired car seat.

Why Do Car Seats Expire?

Car seats have expiration dates for a few reasons. First, car seats are made of materials that can degrade over time, such as plastic and foam. Exposure to heat, cold, and sunlight can cause these materials to break down, making the car seat less effective in protecting your child in the event of an accident.

Car seat technology is constantly evolving, and an older car seat may not meet current safety standards.

You can find the expiration date of your car seat by checking the sticker on the back or bottom of the seat, or by looking in the manual that came with the seat. Car seats typically expire six to ten years after the date of manufacture, although this can vary by manufacturer and model.

It’s important to check the expiration date of your car seat regularly, especially if you are using a hand-me-down or secondhand seat.

What Should You Do with an Expired Car Seat?

Once a car seat has expired, it should no longer be used for your child’s safety. Instead, there are a few options for disposing of an expired car seat. Some recycling programs or local recycling plants may accept used or expired car seats, but call to confirm before dropping yours off.

If your seat is recyclable, you’ll likely have to take off the seat cover and harness to make it easier for the plant to dismantle the plastic and metal pieces.

You can participate in a car seat trade-in event, like those held by Target. These events allow you to exchange your old car seat for a discount on new baby gear.

If you car seat has expired, do not donate car seats, remember if its unsafe for your child, its unsafe for any child.

Upcycling car seats

Why Not to Reuse Old Car Seats

Damage from Wear and Tear

Car seats are designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear, but over time, they can become damaged or weakened. The plastic shell, harness straps, and other components may become brittle, cracked, or frayed, compromising the seat’s integrity and safety.

Even if the damage is not visible, it may still be present and affect the seat’s ability to protect your child in an accident.


If a car seat has been involved in an accident, even a minor one, it may not be safe to reuse. The force of a collision can cause invisible damage to the seat’s components, compromising its ability to protect your child in a future accident. Even if the seat appears to be undamaged, it may not be able to withstand the force of another collision.

Secondhand Car Seats

If you are considering purchasing a secondhand car seat, be cautious. You should only buy a used car seat from someone you know and trust, and only if you can verify its history and ensure that it has not been involved in an accident. Otherwise, you may be putting your child at risk by using a seat that may be damaged or expired.

Reuse Old Car Seats

Selling Used Car Seats

Before you sell your used car seat, make sure it’s still in good condition and hasn’t expired. Check the manufacturer’s label on the seat to find the expiration date. If it’s expired or damaged, it’s not safe to use and should be disposed of properly.

Once you’ve confirmed that your car seat is still in good condition, you can start the selling process. Here are a few options to consider:

Sell Locally

Selling your used car seat locally is a great option. You can list it on online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or OfferUp. You can also try selling it at a garage sale or a local consignment shop.

When selling locally, be sure to include photos of the car seat and a detailed description of its condition. You’ll also want to set a fair price based on the seat’s age and condition.

Sell Online

There are several online marketplaces where you can sell your used car seat, including eBay and Amazon. These marketplaces have a large audience, so you may be able to sell your seat quickly.

When selling online, be sure to include clear photos of the car seat and a detailed description of its condition. You’ll also want to set a fair price based on the seat’s age and condition.

If you have a good used car seat, which is not expired and not been damaged, and you don’t want to sell it consider donating it (just as you would donate old toys) to a family in need.

Selling Used Car Seats

Trade-In Programs

Big-box stores like Target and Walmart often hold car seat trade-in events where you can bring in your old car seat and receive a discount or coupon towards a new one. For example, Target’s trade-in program typically offers a 20% discount code for trading in an old or expired car seat. These events usually happen twice a year, so keep an eye out for the next one.

Car seat trade-in programs solve one of our most common challenges as parents: what to do with a car seat when our children have outgrown them or when the seats reach their expiry date.

Instead of throwing them away, which is not an environmentally friendly option, you can trade them in and receive a discount or gift card.

When participating in a car seat trade-in program, make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully. Some programs may have specific requirements, such as the condition of the car seat or the brand. Keep in mind that the discount or gift card may only be applicable towards certain items, such as a new car seat or other baby gear.

Trade In Programs car seat

Recycling Old Car Seats

There are several options for recycling old car seats. You can check with your local recycling center to see if they accept car seats. Some recycling centers have specific guidelines for recycling car seats, so make sure to check before you drop it off. You can also look for a car seat recycling program in your area. Remember to clean your car seat before you drop it off, and remove any car seat toys attached to it.

Some programs, like carseatrecycling.com, allow you to purchase a car seat recycling kit that includes a custom recycling and shipping bag. You simply place your old car seat in the bag, seal it up, and drop it off at a UPS store. The program will then recycle the car seat for you.

Benefits of Recycling

Recycling old infant car seats has several benefits. First, it helps reduce waste in landfills, which is good for the environment. Recycling old car seats helps conserve natural resources. When you recycle a car seat, it can be broken down and used to make other products, such as plastic lumber or carpet padding.

Recycling old car seats can help keep them out of the hands of people who might use them unsafely. By recycling your old car seat, you can ensure that it is disposed of properly and not reused by someone who might not know how to use it correctly. Over 90% of the new car seats sold end up in landfill so its vital that we try and live more sustainably and reuse and recycle car seats if we can.

Remove all the fabric and padding from the seat. This will make it easier to recycle the plastic shell. Once the fabric and padding are removed, you can drop off the plastic shell at a recycling center or use a car seat recycling program like carseatrecycling.com.

Recycling Old Car Seats

Repurposing Car Seat Parts

There are plenty of ways to repurpose car seat parts and give them a new life.


  • Use it as a cushion for a pet bed or crate.

  • Use it to create a DIY cushion for outdoor furniture.

Metal Pieces

  • Use them to create a DIY coat rack or towel rack.

  • Use them to create a DIY bird feeder or birdhouse.

  • Use them to create a DIY wind chime or mobile.

Fabric Cover

  • Use it to create a DIY tote bag or purse.

  • Use it to create a DIY pet bed or crate cover.

  • Use it to create a DIY cushion cover or pillowcase.

FAQS on What to Do With Expired car seats

What do you do with an expired car seat?

Expired car seats should not be used, as they may no longer meet safety standards or may be compromised due to wear and tear. It’s best to dismantle the car seat and recycle the plastic and metal parts, if possible. Some parts, like the straps or fabric, may need to be discarded as general waste. Before disposing, it’s recommended to cut the straps and remove the fabric to ensure that no one retrieves and uses the expired seat. Damaged car seats should never be reused.

How often does target do the car seat trade in?

Target usually holds its car seat trade-in event annually, typically once or twice a year. However, specific dates can vary, so it’s a good idea to check Target’s official website or contact your local Target store for the most current information.

Can I use an expired car seat?

It’s not recommended to use an expired car seat. Over time, the materials can degrade, and the seat might not provide the same level of protection as when it was new. Furthermore, safety standards evolve, so an older seat might not meet current guidelines.

How do I dispose of car seats in California?

In California, some recycling centers might accept car seats, but it’s important to call ahead and confirm. Alternatively, many communities in California have periodic hazardous waste collection days where you can drop off items like car seats. Before disposal, remember to dismantle the car seat, cut the straps, and remove the fabric to ensure no one reuses it.

What to do with car seats when they expire?

When car seats expire, they should not be sold, donated, or passed on to others due to safety concerns. The best approach is to dismantle them and recycle the plastic and metal components. Any non-recyclable parts, such as straps or fabric, should be discarded as general waste. Always ensure that the car seat is rendered unusable before disposing of it to prevent future use by others. Some stores or organizations might also offer trade-in or recycling programs for expired car seats.

Navigating the world of car seat safety is crucial for every parent. Instead, consider seeking advice from a child passenger safety technician who can provide guidance on proper disposal. Some organizations accept car seat donations, ensuring they’re used appropriately. Don’t forget about the car seat base, which can also expire and should be treated with the same caution as the seat itself.

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