Used Car Seat Sales Are Up, But Are They Safe?

It's a new trend sweeping through Amarillo.

Many parents are cutting corners to save money in this tough economy. But being thrifty could actually be dangerous to children.

Buying used car seats may help the pocketbook, but there are many things a parent needs to look for before purchasing.

Only buy car seats with manufacture dates within the last six years.  They are good for only those years and are only good for one car accident.

"What happens is the plastic of the shell degrades over time," said Tracy Tellman of the Texas Department of Transportation.  "There are freeze/thaw cycles in the vehicle as it sits in there and that makes the shell brittle. In a crash it may perform fine; it's the next crash you have to worry about."

But it's not illegal to buy used car seats. And the State of Texas doesn't have any rules or guidelines for re-sale or thrift stores to follow when it comes to selling.

Once Upon A Child is one re-sale shop in Amarillo that does not sell used car seats for safety reasons.

"It's the legal [aspect]. So many companies were getting sued over used car seats," said store owner Shorty Hayes.

But many consignment shops do sell them, but with strict guidelines.

"Of course we check the condition of [any car seats brought in]," said Tenderly Used store owner Landee Martin.  "We make sure all the straps fasten and there is nothing missing. And then we ask our customers to fill out what's called a car seat affidavit. And that basically explains that they have been the sole owner of their car seat."

Martin says their shop only sells car seats that have not been in any kind of car accident.

TXDOT officials say there are other tell tale signs a used car seat is not safe to buy.

"A lot of times you will be missing the harness clip or if someone has replaced it with something else or somehow fixed it in another way. Or if it's broken," said Tellman.

Officials say if you must buy used, buy from people you know to insure the car seat hasn't been involved in any car accident.

They say the safest thing you can do for your child-- is to always buy new.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has a program for low-income families to receive car seats if they can't afford new or used ones.

The "Safe Riders" Child Safety Seat Distribution and Education Program is free to sign up and free to attend.

The requirements for families are:

  • proof of financial need
  • have a vehicle with working safety belts
  • attend a one hour class to learn how to use the safety seat correctly

Families are only eligible for one free car seat, but may receive unlimited free car seat education.

Any parents wishing to use this program must pre-register for the class at