Consumer Reports: Think twice before buying used car seats

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Kids grow fast, so many of us buy used baby gear and kid clothing at garage sales, consignment stores, even Facebook.

But in a partnership with the safety experts at Consumer Reports, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney says you should think twice about buying used car seats.

Like most parents at this car seat safety check, Traci Cohen wants confirmation her son's car seat is secure. "Coming to the car seat check just makes me feel that much more safe, that it's in correctly," she said.

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Traci bought her son's seat new, but many parents receive hand-me-downs or buy a used car seat. Safety experts at Consumer Reports caution against buying one second-hand, if you don't know the seat's full history. "Even if a car seat looks fine, it may have internal damage that you can't see," said Jen Stockburger, Car Seat Expert at Consumer Reports. "We test hundreds of car seats and after those crash tests, there is sometimes damage that's not evident," she said.

Even a seat used by an older sibling that was never in car accident, might not be okay.

Car seats actually have an expiration date. Roughly six to ten years from the date it was manufactured, which is printed on every car seat. "Sometimes they're on the side, sometimes they're on the side up here, some --- many, many, seats have them on the bottom, but somewhere there will be a sticker that gives you, at the very least, a date of manufacture," said Sarah Ludwig, Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor.

RELATED: Trade in your old child car seat for a discount on a new one at Target

"Car seats have an expiration date to assure that the components haven't degraded over time, and that the seat meets the latest in safety standards," said Stockburger.

And safety does not have to cost a bundle. The Cosco Scenera Next is a Consumer Reports Best Buy, for around 45 dollars.

Which gives moms like Traci Cohen one less thing to worry about. "It makes me feel much better as a first time mom, knowing I've done everything I could to make sure he's as just as safe in the car as I am," she said.

RELATED: Mom's image of horrific car accident shows the importance of car seats

If a car seat is expired or has already been in a moderate-to-severe crash , it's important to literally, destroy it, so no one pulls it off the curb when you toss it out.

Consumer Reports suggests removing all covers, cutting the straps, and clearly marking the plastic shell: "Do Not Use." Or, bringing an old car seat to trade-in events held at large retailers, like Target.

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