what to do with your car seat after a crash

What To Do With Your Car Seat After An Accident

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When it comes to the purchase of a car seat for kids, parents and caregivers put a lot of thought into it to get the best protection for their young ones. However, in most cases, the same attention is not given if an accident occurs. It is undeniable that car seats go a long way in keeping toddlers and babies safe in the event of a car accident. However, after the crash, what should one do with their car seat?

There is no definite answer to this question since car seats are made with different specifications, and crashes occur in different intensities. Before, the standards stated that the seats had to be replaced, but they have changed with time.

Determining what to do with your car seat after an accident

If you were involved in a car accident with a baby car seat in the vehicle, there are certain parameters you can use to tell whether your child needs a new seat or not. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a compiled list of things you should take note of to tell if you need to replace a car seat. You can still use your current car seat if:

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    The vehicle does not require to be towed and can safely drive away from the scene of the accident;
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    The crash did not incur any visible damage to the car seats. They should be free of any scratches, broken elements, stress marks, cracks, and stress webbing;
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    Nobody was harmed by the accident;
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    The car door that is nearest to the car seat did not endure any damage. If the car seat is buckled in the third-row outboard row seats, the outboard passenger car door located on that side counts as the nearest door;
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    All airbags are intact, and none of the curtain air bags, frontal air bags, seat side air bags, and seat belt air bags were deployed in the crash.

If your car meets all these requirements, then you can safely reuse the car seat. However, if your car seat fails to meet all these standards, you must replace the car seat. The replacement should be done regardless of whether the child was riding in it or not. Keep in mind that an empty car seat can be damaged at the seat belt line due to the forces exerted by the crash. Failure to replace the seat could result in the article failing to perform its purpose in the case of another accident.

Even so, whether or not you can reuse the car seat even after a minor crash depends on the company that manufactured the product. Use the table below to tell if your car seat manufacturer warrants its replacement.

ManufacturerAction to takeNote:
BritaxReuseOnly if the accident was minor and car structure was not damaged
CombiReuseIf accident was minor
DionoCheck ManualContact Manufacturer
Fisher PriceReuseIf accident was minor
KiddyReuseIf crash was minor
Maxi CosiReplace
MMIReuseIf accident was minor
Orbit BabyReplace
Peg PeregoReuseIf accident was minor
Safe TrafficReuseIf crash was minor
Safety 1stReplace
Safety AngelReplace
Team TexReplace
The First YearsReplace
UppaBabyReplaceIf crash was moderate or severe

If you are still unsure on whether to reuse your car seat after an accident depending on the manufacturer, you can refer to the instruction manual that came with the seat or look it up on the internet.

Replacement of car seats and booster seats 

In most cases, people with insurance coverage have the replacement costs covered by their insurance agencies without any issues. The seat must be replaced immediately after the accident happens, and reimbursement is done using the receipt. Most insurance agencies also allow people to choose a seat that is different from the one they originally had. For instance, if you child is exiting the toddler stage, your insurance company may let you pick out a convertible car seat as a replacement.

In the case that your insurance agency has trouble deciding whether to replace your car seat or not, you can produce the instruction manual that came with the seat, and point out where it states that the car seat should not be used after the occurrence of an accident. If you do not have one, conduct a search on the web for an instruction manual for your specific car seat model and download it. If not, you can have the manufacturer send you a copy via email. If they still think that the replacement is unnecessary, have them put it down in writing that they are advising you to continue using the car seat or booster seat even if the manufacturer’s instructions state the opposite. To avoid all this, check if the policy provided by your insurer makes you eligible for a car seat replacement if an accident occurs when you are preparing to welcome a baby.

What to do with the damaged car seat

If replacement is necessary, recycling is a great way to dispose the damaged car seat. This depends on your region of residence. Some areas have programs that recycle car seats. If your city has such a program, you do not need to dispose of it. All you have to do is put it outside with the rest of your trash, but don’t forget to put it the recycling pile. Some manufacturers, such as Clek, have recycling programs where they pay clients for sending back their damaged car seats. Safe Kids can also make use of damaged car seats and booster seats to train child passenger safety technicians and instructors.

If your area does not have such a program, you can go ahead and dispose of it. However, you have to ensure that the seat cannot be reused by cutting the straps and removing any parts that can be detached. Alternatively, you can take it to a textile recycling market to see if they will take the fabric. Pet parents can use it as a bed for their furry friends, and the straps can be repurposed to carry firewood.


Robert is a father of a young daughter and has developed an expertise in child car seat safety. He is a keen supporter of the use of child safety systems having seen his daughter come away from a side impact collision unscathed due to the use of a child car seat. When he's not spending time reviewing child safety systems he works as a Technical Manager on major construction projects.

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