Safety warning for buying second-hand child car seats

Man adjusting a child car seat's restraints

Sue Hewitt

Posted March 10, 2021

RACV research highlights need for caution when buying used child car seats online.

Consumers should beware of buying second-hand child car seats after an RACV survey revealed that 80 per cent of online listings fail to disclose whether the restraints comply with Australian safety standards.

RACV’s review of 230 used child car seats for sale on popular sales platforms eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree found that 181 did not display the red-and-white Australian Standard safety sticker or list whether the restraint complied with necessary safety standards. Two listings admitted the seats were non-compliant. (More: These are the safest child car seats in Australia.)

RACV senior safety policy adviser, Elvira Lazar, says while buying a second-hand seat, or using one handed down from friends or family, may seem like a cost-effective option, it is essential parents ensure a seat is undamaged, less than 10 years old and complies with Australian safety standards. 

Elvira says it is illegal to use any seat that does not meet one of three Australian safety standards – the most recent 2013 standard, or the preceding 2010 standard. Anything earlier should not be used. 

“If the Australian Standard is not shown or if it has been deliberately removed, don’t use it,” says Elvira. “It’s best to choose a seat with the latest 2013 standard, which means the seat has the best available safety features.”

Elvira says it is concerning that 81 per cent of online listings reviewed in the RACV survey failed to disclose the seat’s age.

“The age is important because manufacturers will not guarantee the safety of a seat after 10 years,” she says. “Parents have to think about how long they will need a seat; it’s of little use buying one that’s eight years old when you’re considering having another child in a few years.”

Although RACV’s survey revealed that 129 of the 230 seats for sale appeared to be in excellent condition, with no visible damage or missing parts, Elvira says looks can be deceiving.

“Even if there are no obvious signs of damage, you must ask the seller if the seat has been involved in an accident,” she says. “The latest research shows that while undamaged second-hand child car seats are effective in protecting a child in a crash, seats involved in an accident must be thrown out and should not be resold.”

Although most of the second-hand child car seats for sale online were Australian made, in some cases the country of manufacture was overseas or unknown.

“Buyers might be duped into buying an overseas seat because it looks good, but it’s illegal to use in Australia,” says Elvira. 

RACV’s survey and advice follows research into the safety of used child car seats by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) through its Transurban Road Safety Centre which crash-tested second-hand seats. 

The NeuRA research found older restraints will protect a child occupant in a crash, providing the seats have not already been in a serious road accident.  

But Elvira says although the NeuRA research shows it’s okay to use an undamaged used child car seat as long as it meets the Australian Standard, for not much more than the price of a decent second-hand model, it may be worth considering one of the less-expensive new models on the market, that meet the latest safety standards. 

Kidsafe Victoria general manager Jason Chambers agrees second-hand child car restraints should be treated with caution. 

“If you’re considering a second-hand child car restraint it’s important you’re aware of the history of the restraint, that it hasn’t been in an accident, it’s less than 10 years old, and that it’s in good condition with no splits, cracks or stress marks on the restraint shell and no frayed, worn or damaged straps,” he says.

“Caution is needed when purchasing second-hand products online – it can often be hard to see from photos exactly what condition the child car restraint is in and if it meets Australian safety standards, and its history."

Tips for buying a second-hand child car seat

  1. Buy the latest standard: Only buy a restraint if it has the Australian Standard sticker showing it meets the AS/NZS 1754 standard. It is illegal to use overseas models or restraints that don’t meet the 2013, 2010 or 2004 Australian Standard. Seats meeting the 2000 safety standard or earlier are non-compliant.  
  2. The newer the better: A separate sticker should show the year of manufacture. Newer seats will meet more stringent standards. Anything more than 10 years old should not be used.  
  3. Check the condition: Check carefully to ensure that all parts are in good condition, there are no signs of wear and tear, and that the buckle clicks in place securely. 
  4. Know the history: Sometimes damage might not be obvious. Ask if the restraint has been in a crash. If it has it should be destroyed. 
  5. Check the size: Is the restraint the correct size for your child? Will it fit in your car? 
  6. Get it fitted: Have the seat professionally installed, such as at an RACV accredited Auto Care Centre. Or, if fitting it yourself, make sure you use the instruction manual which will have details on how to fit correctly. Some manuals can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website. 

*By law, children need to travel in a suitable restraint and, for children aged seven to 16, that restraint can be a booster seat or seatbelt. It’s important to use the restraint that is suitable for your child’s height.