How to Save Money With Car Seat Trade-In Events

How to Save Money With Car Seat Trade-In Events

With the average price of a new convertible car seat hovering around $ 175, any chance to save some money on seats, or really any baby products, is something to consider. Significant savings are available through sales and especially trade-in events, like those offered by Babies "R" Us. Such events provide an opportunity to trade-in older or outgrown child seats or other gear for the next step in safety.

The old seat could bring a 25 percent, or more, discount on a purchase. Plus, it is a convenient way to dispose of a child seat—a pricey item that should not be handed down.  

When It Is Time to Trade In?

There are several key factors to consider when determining if it is time to trade-in a seat. Probably the most important tip is to not advance your child too soon. It isn’t a race to progress your child through the seats quickly. Rather, the real contest should be how to keep the little one as safe as possible. Consumer Reports provides car seating buying advice and ratings to help you through the selection process.

Your baby is too big for their infant seat: Though many rear-facing-only infant seats have weight limits of 30 lbs. or higher, most don’t have height limits to match. So don’t be surprised if your baby outgrows their infant seat and the convenience of the carrier long before they reach the advertised weight limit. Trading in that infant seat for a rear-facing convertible will not only allow them to stay rear-facing longer (the safest orientation), but you may get the best bang-for-your-buck on a more pricey convertible.

Your baby is a year old: Based on our most recent recommendations and tests results, if your child has reached their first birthday and still fits in their rear-facing only infant seat, moving to a rear-facing convertible seat at age 1 offers the safest transport. Our newest crash-test methodology for child seat includes a surface that simulates a front seatback.

Comparing tests of both infant and convertible seats, we found that a dummy simulating a 1-year-old child was far more likely to hit its head on that simulated front seatback in an infant seat than in a rear-facing convertible seat. If your child is getting close to their first birthday, a move to a convertible seat may allow you to take advantage of some cost savings.

Your seat has expired: Many parents don’t realize that child seats carry expiration dates. For most seats, the manual or a label on the seat indicates a date from the seat’s manufacturing date for when that seat should be discontinued; a typical service life is six years.

Expiration dates are set to make sure that key components of the seat haven’t degraded and that it meets contemporary safety standards, which are always improving. (Learn more in "When to retire a child seat, how to recycle an old one.")

Your seat has been in a crash: Though most seats can be reused after a minor fender bender, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends replacing a seat if: it has been involved in a collision that involved injuries or required the vehicle to be towed; deployed airbags; or damaged the seat or nearest door. If you’ve had such a circumstance and haven’t yet replaced the seat, a trade-in may offer a good time to do so.

Your seat is damaged: Daily use, heat and cold cycles, and less than careful storage can take a toll on a seat’s structure. Check for cracks, loose parts, and worn straps and fasteners. If the seat is damaged, it may not offer as much protection in a crash. Even if you’re trading for the same type of seat, one with new, undamaged components will prove better than a worn one.

It’s simply time for the next step: If your child has outgrown any of their child seat stages or is close to doing so, a trade-in event may be the time to make the move. But don’t rush the process, even if the savings are tempting. Other than moving from a rear-facing infant to a rear-facing convertible seat, other transitions may actually prove less safe. For example, a forward-facing seat is less safe than a rear-facing seat and a booster is less safe than a forward-facing harnessed seat.  

So whether your child’s ready to make a key transition or if your seat just needs an upgrade, a trade-in event may be just the time to make a move. The national Babies "R" Us event runs through February 29th. Also, check with your local baby products retailer to see if they have an event planned.  

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

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