Should You Buy Used or New Baby Gear? A Guide to Expiration Dates
Being a new parent can be overwhelming. You want to do everything right, but there's so much to learn. And that learning curve includes understanding which essential baby products can safely be purchased secondhand (saving yourself a few dollars) and which must be bought new—in light of such things as expiration dates and other hazards.
The key takeaway is that there are indeed items that can safely be integrated into your nursery secondhand, but you'll want to do your research first to figure out exactly which baby essentials qualify.
Need a little help sorting through it all? Here's a rundown of the items to always get new, given expiration date issues, and those for which you can safely peruse OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, or any other secondhand site to buy at a discount.
Highchairs do not have expiration dates; as long as the chair is in good condition, it can safely be used again and again, from one child to the next or from one family to the next.
"As long as it has a three-point harness with crotch restraint and a fixed crotch post—both of which will prevent the baby from being able to climb or slide out—then it is acceptable to be used," advises Christen Costa, CEO of the product and services guide Gadget Review. "If a friend or family member offers you a hand-me-down that fits these guidelines, feel free to take it."
It's hardly any secret that strollers, which are an essential baby item, can be pricey. Consumer Reports says they can sell for well more than $1,000. But there is certainly no need to spend that much; purchasing a used stroller is one way to bring down the cost.
"It is perfectly safe to buy a used stroller, as new ones would put a dent in your savings," says Elizabeth Hicks, co-founder of Parenting Nerd, a site that provides information about kids and parent-friendly trending products. "Before buying a used stroller, make sure to inspect whether the seats recline properly and if the brakes are functioning. Also ensure that its manufacturing date is post-September 2015, as that's when the federal safety standards for strollers were passed."
Hicks also advises researching whether the stroller you hope to buy used is on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's recall list when making the decision.
Basic baby toys
Simple, uncomplicated baby toys can be a great product to buy secondhand, but there are some limits on how old the toys should be, says Josie Cornhill, a parent blogger who also runs sales of used baby and children's gear that are designed to allow parents to sell their items to other parents.
"Before 2008, there were toy safety guidelines, but they were not enforced by law and that means that toys manufactured before then may not be as safe as you'd hope," says Cornhill. "The standards required for toys were also tightened in 2018, meaning only toys made after then are guaranteed to be of the highest safety standard."
To ensure the toys you buy secondhand are safe, don't buy baby toys that are more than three to four years old, says Cornhill.
"In particular, avoid vintage baby toys, as metals were often used in the paint and these can be toxic," advises Cornhill.
It's hard to go wrong with used bedding, as it can easily be washed, says Cornhill.
"The items you shouldn't buy used are mattresses. Secondhand mattresses have been linked to sudden infant death syndrome ," she says. "While the link is not fully understood, it's recommended that you don't purchase secondhand mattresses."
What's more, mattress cannot be easily be thoroughly cleaned, yet another reason they're not a great item to put on your secondhand shopping list.
As any parent can attest, babies grow quickly. And they often grow out of their clothes so fast that the items still look nearly new, and yet they no longer fit. Save yourself some money (and do the planet a favor while you're at it) by purchasing gently used clothing, rather then new.
"It's perfectly safe to buy secondhand baby clothes, just give them a quick wash before you put them on your baby," says Cornhill.
This one should really be a no-brainer. A car seat protects your child's life and should not be purchased used.
"Safety is something that should be taken seriously, and getting a cheaper, used car seat is not a corner you want to cross," says Costa, of Gadget Review. "Car seats have expiration dates, and you can't always trust that the seller who is trying to get you to buy their used one hasn't gotten into an accident with it. Instead, buy a new one that has been approved to be safe and protective."
The expiration date for car seats is generally six to 10 years after the time it was manufactured, adds Costa. The regulations surrounding car seats often change when it comes to safety requirements, so expiration dates are established to ensure that the car seats for sale at stores are in compliance with the latest rules.
"General wear and tear over time can make them less effective, and thus less safe," continues Costa. "Most car seats are made of plastics that are petroleum-based, and while they are strong, can be degraded by environmental factors like exposure to heat."
Like car seats, cribs are another item that should really be purchased new for safety reasons.
"Sadly, there have been infant deaths associated with cribs that were broken or missing parts—including cribs that have been fixed. It can be hard to tell just by looking whether a crib has been modified," says Lauren Levy, a safe sleep advocate and founder of the website Aden's Mom, which is dedicated to evidence-based safe infant sleep.
If you do decide to use a previously owned crib, be sure to verify three things, says Levy:
- That the crib was manufactured after June 2011, when the most recent safety standards were implemented
- That the crib was never modified at any point
- That the crib was assembled correctly, as per the user manual
If you're planning to use a play yard with your baby, your best move is to purchase this item new. There can be a variety of safety issues associated with used versions of mesh, portable baby yards.
The CPSC says that there were more than 2,100 incidents with play yards reported to the agency between November 2007 and December 2011, including 60 fatalities and 170 injuries.
"If, at any point, the previous owner added a supplemental mattress to the play yard (which is a big safety no-no), it's possible that it stretched out the mesh and compromised the integrity of the structure," explains Levy.
If you do decide to use a previously owned play yard, be sure to verify that the play yard was manufactured after February 2013, when the most recent safety standards were implemented. You'll also want to confirm that the play yard was never modified at any point and that a supplemental mattress has never been used, says Levy.