Car Seat Basics: Disposing of Unusable Car Seats

crashIt happens. For whatever reason, your child’s car seat cannot be used again. It might have expired, been involved in a recall that requires its destruction, or was involved in a crash. So now what to do with this hunk of plastic, fabric, and nylon that once protected a child?

One thing you should NOT do is donate it or sell it. The idea that it is better than nothing is not correct. The manufacturers set limits on their seats, or put out recalls, after millions of dollars of testing. If they no longer guarantee a seat will work to save a child’s life, please believe them. No child then deserves that seat.

Some people will try to continue to use a seat, so you must actively protect the now useless seat against either well-meaning picker uppers or dumpster divers.


recyProbably the best option is to go green! See if there’s a recycling center in your area. I recommend checking out  Some centers may request that you break down the seat before you bring it in. Remove the cover and harness and bring the seat in naked. That makes it easier for them to continue the process and separate out the metal from the plastic.

Next, if there is no way to recycle it, break it down for the trash. Remember, people may take it if they see something they can either sell or use themselves. So you want to make it as un-takeable as possible. If you have power tools, or have hand tools and have had a really really lousy week and want to get out stress, now’s your chance. Have at it! Smash the shell, cut the harness, do as much damage as you can. I’ve heard of fun ways of doing this including running it over with farm equipment or cutting it with power tools into very very small pieces. I think people have used them for target practice with guns even; whatever you find that is safe, fun, and easy for you. I do not recommend running them over with cars. I tried that once. The seat barely scratched and my driveway had a foot long gouge. I was even in an SUV.


recycle2If you don’t have power tools, arms like Arnold, farm equipment, or guns, see how else you can make it undesirable. Writing all over it, “DO NOT USE, EXPIRED,” or “DO NOT USE, CRASHED,” may be good. If there are multiple languages used in your area, try to do all of them. Again, cut the harness. Destroy the cover.

If you have pets, you can add to this. If you know anyone with pets, ask if you can “borrow” some “equipment.” Used kitty litter would be great in the bag with the ex-car seat. Same thing if you have, or know someone with, a dog. No one wants to dig through open and used doggy bags. Maybe use some stinky diapers that aren’t closed as well as they might be.  It would make a seat very repellant. If you have time, maybe hose it down so it may get rusty on the inside, somewhat moldy, and pour some milk and let it sit a few days.


Whatever you’ve done, when you’re finished, try to put the seat in a black plastic bag. Then it’s not visible as a car seat in a bag. If it fits in your trash bin, put it in the bin and not next to it. Again, just trying to reduce the number of eyes that see a trashed seat heading out as a potential item they would want to take. If you have seats that need replaced and are financially struggling to do so, there are resources available in many areas to help.