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How safe is a used child safety seat in a car accident?

You may have heard the statistics that four out of five parents are making potentially deadly mistakes with their children's car seats. According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, 80 percent of parents make an average of three mistakes on the choice of an appropriate child safety seat or in its proper installation.

We all want to do everything we can to prevent kids from being hurt in car accidents, but choosing and installing the right car seat can be somewhat of a technical challenge. To help out, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has put together some great tips on its website, including a link to a list of certified child passenger safety technicians in Texas who can help you choose the right car seat for your child's size and age, and make sure it's installed correctly.

Is it safe to use a second-hand car seat?

It can be, but you need to be confident the seat is in good repair, has all of its labels, and has never been in a moderate or severe car accident. Here are NHTSA's recommendations:

  • Check online with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if it has been subject to any recalls or safety issues. If it has, contact the manufacturer to see if it can be fixed.
  • Be certain the device has all of its parts, and replace any missing parts through the manufacturer.
  • If the instruction manual isn't included, order one from the manufacturer before installing the car seat.
  • Don't buy a car seat that doesn't have a label with the model number and manufacturing date, because you will need that information in case of a safety recall.
  • Make absolutely sure the safety seat was never involved in a moderate or severe car accident, because that could cause invisible damage that compromises safety. That means:
    • The vehicle could be driven away from the car accident site;
    • The accident didn't damage the door nearest the car seat;
    • None of the passengers were injured;
    • The vehicle's air bags didn't deploy during the wreck; AND
    • There is no visible damage to the child safety seat.

Every parent wants to make sure their kids are safe on the road, especially in the event of a car accident. Choosing the age, height and weight-appropriate car seat and installing it correctly are among the most important steps you can take, whether you're buying your child safety seat new or used.

Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,, "Get Help: Using a Second-Hand Car Seat"; "Car Seats & Booster Basics"

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