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Should I Buy a Car Seat at a Garage Sale?

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Should I Buy a Car Seat at a Garage Sale?

Oct 01, 2014

A car seat might be a great deal at a yard sale, but remember that you're paying for your child's safety. Pediatrician Nathan Bexfield discusses car seat product concerns and things to watch for when considering a buying a used car seat.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Why you should avoid that garage sale car seat. We'll examine that next on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: It might seem like a really good deal. You go to a garage sale and you find a used car seat. You need a car seat. Should you buy it? We're going to find out right now. We're with Dr. Nathan Bexfield. He's a pediatrician with University Utah Hospital. Tell me, garage sale car seats, good idea or bad idea?

Dr. Bexfield: Well that depends.

Interviewer: Okay. It's not that easy, huh?

Dr. Bexfield: It's not that easy.

Interviewer: All right.

Dr. Bexfield: Now there are some concerns I have when I see car seats at yard sales. The first thing I'm concerned about is does it have the original instruction manual to go with it? The reason I worry about that is that I want to know how to install this car seat correctly. The next thing I get concerned about is are there any missing parts? That's vital to putting the car seat correctly into a vehicle. I want to know if there are any missing parts to this. Also, something we don't normally ask about car seats, especially at yard sales, are has this car seat ever been in an accident? The integrity of the car seat is compromised when a car seat is involved in a car accident. It's recommended if you are in a car accident, you just throw that car seat away.

Interviewer: Kind of like bike helmets.

Dr. Bexfield: Yes. Exactly.

Interviewer: Maybe that alone might be a reason why you might not ever want to buy a car seat whose history you do not know.

Dr. Bexfield: Definitely. Definitely.

Interviewer: All right.

Dr. Bexfield: You also want to ask how old the car seat is. Generally, you want a car seat that's been produced in the last five years. Every car seat has an expiration date. You can actually find that on the car seat. Look it up online through the manufacturer and find out what the expiration date of the car seat is...

Interviewer: Really?

Dr. Bexfield: ...if it's not on the car seat itself.

Interviewer: Why does it have an expiration date like my mayonnaise?

Dr. Bexfield: Well, you don't want the car seat to be too old. The plastic can get really hard and crack especially when it's in an accident.

Interviewer: I mean, I guess that makes sense because they sit in hot cars in sunshine. I guess, just like anything that you leave in there it's going to weaken fairly quickly.

Dr. Bexfield: That's true. That's true. It just puts your baby more at danger when you use an older car seat that's past its expiration date.

Interviewer: That may be a false sense of security, too.

Dr. Bexfield: Exactly.

Interviewer: What are some other things we should watch out for if we decide that we do want to get that garage sale car seat?

Dr. Bexfield: I think one of the biggest things you want to look out for is to see if that car seat has been recalled. We get these little cards with our car seats when we buy them to say register this car seat. The main reason you should do that...

Interviewer: We all do that.

Dr. Bexfield: Exactly. The main reason you should do that is to get a notification whether or not this product needs to be recalled or not due to safety issues.

Interviewer: If you're at a garage sale is there a way you can check that out?

Dr. Bexfield: You can definitely check that out online. There is a website,, where you can put in the product and the product number and the brand. It will be able to tell you if that product has been recalled.

Interviewer: Any other thoughts on car seats, that garage sale car seat, that great deal?

Dr. Bexfield: I think the most important thing is to make sure that you are putting your baby in the safest possible scenario. It may be worth the few extra dollars to go out and get something new to make sure your baby is protected.

Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation medicine. This is the Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.