Should I be wary of buying a second-hand car seat for my child? If you are hoping to save some money by borrowing or buying a used car seat, here are some tips to help you determine whether or not it is safe.
1. Do your research.
Before you purchase, do your research on Singapore’s regulations for car seats so that you do not buy an unsuitable one. For safety reasons, all vehicles in Singapore must have booster seats or child restraints for passengers under 1.35m in height.
However, taxis are exempted from this rule because they can be street-hailed as it would not be reasonable to expect them to be equipped with booster seats and child restraints at all times, or to reject passengers with infants or children.
2. Forward-facing seats with child harnesses are better suited for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
Infants below 2 years old require rear-facing car seats. Once they have outgrown the weight limit, parents will have to invest in forward-facing car seats until their children graduate to booster seat by school-going ages.
The rearward-facing seat has been known to better protect the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in an accident while a forward-facing seat allows you to keep a close eye on your child and let them see the road as well.
3. Make sure the harness is in working condition.
There should be no slack or loose harnesses. The majority of car seats sold in Singapore are 3-point harness car seats. A 3-point harness has two straps that come over a child’s shoulders and meet at the waist to join with a clip between their legs. A 5-point harness has an additional clip at chest height, making the car seat harder to escape from and more protective in the event of a crash.
4. Make sure it is not missing important parts.
Not only are used seats unlikely to come with the manufacturer's instructions (vital for correct installation), they could be missing important parts or have been involved in an accident. It is also important to ensure it has not been recalled by the manufacturer.
5. Make sure it is no older than four years.
Models are often already considered outdated after just three to four years. Therefore, do not buy a car seat that is older than four years as you may risk using one that is no longer compliant with safety regulations as models are being upgraded or improved. Moreover, plastic gets brittle as it gets older, so a seat that is too old could break in a crash.
6. Make sure it has not been involved in an accident of any sort, even minor.
Therefore, only use second-hand seats that have never been involved in an accident of any sort, even minor. Over time, hairline cracks can form in the seat shell as a result of accidents. The fissures are often too small to see with the naked eye, but if the seat is still in use they will gradually get bigger.
Additionally, make sure you purchase from people you know, for example, siblings, family or good friends, as they are less likely to cheat you of your money.
7. Send it to a specialised baby equipment cleaning service.
Used car seats tend to come with dirt, bacteria and sweat from previous usage so it is highly recommended to factor in the cost of car seat cleaning into your budget. If it is looking like it needs a little perk-me-up, the Basic Wash package from PramWash includes vacuuming, washing and sterilisation of the fabrics and frame. Otherwise, to be on the safer side, go for the Intensive package for stains that require multiple washes and to remove hair from the wheels if there is any.
To be on the safe side, when you are purchasing your second-hand car seat for your child, make sure that you know of its origin. To have a peace of mind, send it for a thorough cleaning session for sterilization.