Does my car seat need to be replaced after a crash?

If you are in any car crash, whether it’s a fender bender or something much more serious, there is a good chance your child restraints will need to be replaced (and we hope you’re all OK!).  While some seats follow NHTSA’s criteria for reuse after a minor crash, and may not need to be replaced after a minor collision, most will need to be replaced after ANY crash, even if the seats were unoccupied. Always consult the manual that came with your child restraint, and if you’re still uncertain, contact the manufacturer.


Car seats must be replaced after major crashes

What to do after a crash

Wait for help to arrive! Unless there is imminent threat of fire or other harm, stay in your vehicle and do not remove children from their seats. A child restraint provides excellent stabilization for a child who may be injured and many times they will be transported to the hospital in their seat.

Immediately after a crash caregivers often wonder if they should drive home from the scene with their compromised seats. Make the best decision that you can at the time. Child restraints that must be replaced according to the manufacturer should not be used again as they could potentially fail, leaving the child vulnerable to injury or even death. If you can immediately replace the restraints or have someone meet you with back up restraints, that would be ideal. But the day you have a crash is far from ideal. You’ll have to use your best judgement after a crash as far as transporting children to a medical facility or back home immediately. Usually, one of those two things has to happen, and sometimes it’s impossible to replace the seats instantly. After a crash children need to be transported to a safe place, and they can not ride in the seat belt alone unless they pass the five step test.

Replacing your car seat after a crash

Once you and your children are safely home, what’s next? If your seat has been in a major crash, it must be replaced, even if no child was riding in it at the time.  Car seats, like bike helmets, are items made to handle one major hit: if the car seat has done its job in a collision, it may not be able to do that job again and must be replaced.


Do car seats need to be replaced after a minor crash? Answer: it depends.

Most seats must be replaced after any crash. Some, however, may be reused after a minor crash. This information will be in your car seat’s manual, and if you’re uncertain, you can always contact the manufacturer of your seat for clarification.

If your seat is one that allows reuse following a minor crash you will need to make sure that your collision has met all of the NHTSA crash criteria  before continuing to use the seat. The NHTSA crash criteria are listed below.

* The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
* The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
* There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
* The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
* There is no visible damage to the safety seat

Often we’re asked “How do I know if what happened was a crash or just a bump? Was this incident enough to be called a crash?” If you’re not sure what you experienced was enough to be considered “a crash,” then we’d recommend that you call the restraint manufacturer and get their input. They may want to see photos or hear details; often they can help to clarify a seemingly muddy situation.

Will my insurance company replace my crashed seats?

If the other party is at fault, or if you have full coverage, auto insurance may replace car seats for you, but this will depend on your specific policy and agreement with your insurance company. In California, there is a section of the insurance code which requires that an insurance company replace a child restraint if it was either occupied or unoccupied but damaged.  Currently, no other state has such a provision. Often, insurance companies will say that they only replace child restraints if the crash doesn’t meet NHTSA’s guidelines for a minor crash or if the seat was occupied. The insurance company cannot overrule the manufacturer’s instructions and they cannot make NHTSA’s guidelines apply to a restraint which the manufacturer says must be replaced after any crash.  Often, you will need to supply the insurance company with a copy of your child restraint manual, which can almost always be found online, and sometimes the restraint manufacturer will send a letter stating that their restraint must be replaced. If the insurance company does not replace your car seats, and the manual requires that you do so, your seat is still unsafe to use and you’ll still need to replace the seat. 

A car seat manual stating clearly the restraint must be replaced after any crash

A car seat manual stating clearly the restraint must be replaced after any crash

Here is a list of some popular car seat manufacturers, their general stance on replacement after a crash, and their contact information.  Some companies have different rules for the different seats in their lineups, so your manual is always the best resource.  All car seat manuals have a section on what to do after a crash. This information is usually listed in the warnings near the front of the manual. Please note that only the manufacturer can tell you for sure if the seat you have needs to be replaced after a crash. Don’t rely only on this list or word of mouth – read your manual and double check with the manufacturer if you have questions or concerns.  If you have misplaced your manual, please contact your child restraint manufacturer for a replacement.

Car seat manufacturers


Replace after any crash.


Follows NHTSA’s minor crash criteria. Replace after a moderate or severe crash. /
1-800-427-4829 / 704-409-1700


Replace after any crash.



Replace after any crash.

www.chiccousa.com1-717-735-6200 / 1-877-424-4226

Canadian service center 1-800-667-4111


Replace after any crash. /
1-866-656-2462 (same US / Canada)


Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.

Cosco (Dorel Juvenile Group)

Replace after any crash.



Replace after any crash. /


*UPDATE August 2016* 
Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.



Replace after any crash.

US: 1-800-233-5921
Canada: 937-773-3971


Replace after any crash.

US: 1-800-345-4109
Canada: 1-800-667-8184


Replace after any crash.



Replace after any crash.

Maxi Cosi (Dorel Juvenile Group)

Replace after any crash.


Replace after any crash.

Orbit Baby

Replace after any crash.

Peg Perego

Check your manual and contact the manufacturer. /
US: 1-800-671-1701 / Canada: 800-661-5050


Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.


RideSafer (Safe Traffic System)

Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.


Safety 1st (Dorel Juvenile Group)

Replace after any crash.

The First Years (Tomy International)

Replace after any crash.



Replace after any crash.


It is important to remember that a car seat is a life saving device. Hairline fractures, not visible to the naked eye, and other damage can occur and cause your seat to fail in the event of a second crash.  We always hope that none of us are ever involved in a car crash, but it’s always good to be prepared and to know what to do if it ever happens. When in doubt, contact the child restraint manufacturer for advice or clarification. Try work with your insurance company to make sure that your restraints can be replaced under your policy, if possible. If you need help choosing a new car seat, please consult our recommended seats page.