Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Car seats must be replaced after every accident
  • If you carry comprehensive insurance, your car seat replacement may be covered
  • To ensure your child’s protection, make sure you are using the correct car seat and have it installed properly

The majority of states have laws regulating the use of car seats in all private passenger vehicles. Car seat rules pertain to rear facing infant car seats, forward facing toddler car seats, and youth booster seats.

While the type of car seat depends on the age, height, and weight of the child, the laws are very explicit in the mandate that car seats must be used.

Child car seats have statistically proven to save lives in the event of a crash and are highly recommended if not legally enforced. Once a car seat has been in an accident it must be replaced, even if it doesn’t appear to have been damaged in the crash.

Depending on your auto insurance, the replacement of the car seat may be covered.

Be sure that you always keep your child in any car seats that are mandated by your state’s laws, shop around for the safest and most economical car seat, and enter your ZIP above to shop around for the best car insurance rates!

Table of Contents

The Purpose of the Car Seat

Car seats are designed to restrain children in a vehicle to minimize bodily harm during the impact of a crash. Children who are not properly restrained can be thrown about within the vehicle and can also be completely ejected from the vehicle.

Age, height, and weight restrictions determine which seat is best suited for each child for proper placement in the car.

When deciding what car seat your child should use, consider these factors:

  • Tether – The various methods using tethers, five-point harnesses, and seat belts are based on scientific studies for what is safest for the child during different phases of growth.
    • For example, a toddler should never be placed in a booster seat prematurely because the seat belt method is not a safe restraint for him. The position of the belt and the lack of a five-point harness can cause an undersized child to be thrown from the vehicle.
  • Features – Car seats vary in price based on features, conversions, and luxury detailing. Although they range from $40 to $350, price is not necessarily a factor in safety.
  • Safety – To find out how safe a car seat is, you should check the statistics and read consumer advocacy reviews. It is imperative to purchase the right size seat for your toddler.
  • Price – Usually, the more expensive seats have convertible options, such as a rear-facing infant car seat that converts to a forward facing toddler car seat. The benefit to this is purchasing one car seat and getting more use out of it.
    • The disadvantage is that usually these seats do not have the same extended weight and height coverage so they cannot be used as long as their individual counterparts.
    • For example, a rear facing infant car seat may work for an infant up to two years of age but a convertible rear facing infant car seat may only be good for up to one year of age.

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Car Seat Safety

Once you have purchased the correct car seat, you need to be sure you install it correctly. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines explicitly and get a free inspection at the local fire or police department to confirm the install.

Many car seats have failed in a crash due to improper seating or erroneous installs.

Be sure car seats are within their expiration dates. This is not only to assure that they are manufactured to current safety standards and vehicle requirements, but also because the plastic components age and can become brittle within five to eight years.

Although car seats may still look like they are in perfect order, if the plastic is defective due to age, it will most likely not be revealed until it crumples and fails during a crash.

Replace every car seat that is involved in an accident whether it appears damaged or not. Whether a car seat looks fine or not, if it has been in an accident it could be compromised and become a danger to a child in a second accident.

Insuring the Car Seat

Car seats can be expensive, and it may be tempting not to replace them after an accident if they appear undamaged. However, there is a great risk by reusing a car seat and you are strongly encouraged to have that seat destroyed and to buy a new one.

Will insurance cover your car seat? Depending on your policy, some insurance companies will pay for the car seat replacement, especially if you have comprehensive coverage. You may qualify for full replacement coverage or cash value coverage, which would pay you based on a depreciated value.

In either event, the only way to know for sure if your infant car seat is covered by your car insurance is to ask your agent directly. If you don’t yet have car insurance, you can get free quotes now online by entering your zip code above.

Whether or not your insurance provider pays for the car seat replacement, bring the damaged car seat to the police department where they will submit it for crash testing statistics.

In addition to contributing to the study and analysis of car seat safety, by delivering the accident-involved car seat to the police department, you are assuring that the car seat will be disposed of properly and no other child will inadvertently be placed in the compromised car seat.

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