Did you know that there are ways to get free and reduced-price car seats? Kids are expensive, y’all. There really isn’t any beating around the bush with that, especially when it comes to car seats and other baby gear.
Is your wallet breathing a sigh of relief yet? We know what a big burden the cost of raising kids can be, so we want to help. We’re going to go over all the ways you can get a free car seat for your child.
Car Seat Costs
In 2017, the median household income for families was $61,372 (1). When you factor in taxes and other living expenses on top of doctor and hospital bills, the numbers add up. As if you needed another thing to stress out about, you have to buy a car seat, and they aren’t cheap.
For some, this may not seem like a lot. However, many of today’s parents struggle to make ends meet as is. As important as safety is to parents, sometimes the cost of things can cause major anxiety.
We don’t want you to be alarmed. Affordable car seats can still meet the same safety requirements as some more luxury brands. If you’re still worried about the cost, there are ways you can get a car seat for free.
How to Find Free Car Seats
You’ll find that most of the places we list won’t be able to give you one directly. They will, however, have the resources necessary to lead you in the right direction.
These routes should only be taken if you truly feel like you’re struggling and aren’t able to find a car seat within your budget. These programs are put in place to help those who truly need it.
If there are people who abuse the system, these programs may dissipate, which is a problem for those who may need them most.
1. Safe Kids Worldwide
Safe Kids Worldwide is an organization that is committed to keeping children safe from injuries. There are over 400 different Safe Kids coalitions throughout the United States. It has partners in 30 different countries to promote safety for children (2).
They’re a helpful resource for any inquiries regarding car seats and safety. Whether you need help with installation or you need financial assistance, Safe Kids can help you figure out what you need.
This is the organization that trains child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) in what they do. CPSTs are people who go through extensive training on everything one needs to know about car seats.
Safe Kids requires CPSTs to stay in the know about new car seats on the market and ever-changing safety guidelines. This is in addition to the required 40-hour training needed to become a CPST. Find and contact your local coalition here.
2. Baby 2 Baby
This is a national organization that strives to help children who are living in poverty ages 0-12 (3). They partner with and donate to several organizations around the country that help provide essentials to parents and children.
Over the last seven years, Baby 2 Baby has helped distribute over 50 million items to families. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a free car seat through one of their partner organizations. Search for a local partner here.
3. Everyday Miracles
This is an organization that distributes free car seats to anybody with a qualifying Minnesota state health plan (4). If your health plan is state-funded through Blue Plus, Health Partners, or UCare, you may be eligible for a seat.
If you’re approved, a CPST will deliver a seat to your home or the hospital of your choosing, completely free of charge.
Another beneficial resource, some hospitals offer car seats at a significantly reduced price, but not for free. They will, however, help you find somewhere that may offer free car seats or brands that have inexpensive options.
In order to be discharged from the hospital after having a baby, parents are required to have a car seat readily installed. Because of this, hospitals are accommodating when it comes to looking for a seat to fit your budget. Your OB/GYN may also have resources to help you find what you need to.
5. Local Women and Children’s Services
Local government departments catering to women and children are an invaluable resource when it comes to things like this. They exist to help women and children get the help they need.
Your local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) office or the Department of Child Services are two of your best options (5).
6. Call “211”
“211” is a bit of a hidden gem for anybody struggling out there. Not just with finding an affordable car seat, but other basic needs like food and rent assistance as well. It’s basically a way to find help without making a million phone calls to different departments.
This service is run by United Way and it works just like “911” does. When you dial 211, it will connect you to your closest 211 call center (6). 211 is available in all 50 states and is accessible to approximately 334 million people in the United States.
7. Local CPSTs
You can also find solace in your local CPST, or “child passenger safety technician”. These car seat experts are trained by Safe Kids, mentioned above, to help parents and parents-to-be with everything to do with car seats.
If you’re struggling to find out where to obtain a car seat on your budget, CPSTs may be your biggest help. They are constantly going through extra training and need to be informed of all car seats on the market, and can give you a few suggestions of affordable car seats that are suitable for your child and vehicle.
8. Police/Fire Department
You’ll find that in many places, some police and fire professionals are also certified CPSTs. Even if they aren’t, most police/fire departments have resources needed to help you find the right place to go.
9. Insurance Providers
This is probably less likely than your other options. However, it’s worth a call to see if your insurance will cover a free infant seat.
On Buying Used
Are you tempted to hop onto Facebook Marketplace and tell Janet from the next zip code you’re interested in her seat? I’m going to stop you right there. Unless you and Janet have been BFFs since grade school, don’t take the car seat.
A reseller’s description of a car seat they want to get rid of only goes so far. It can say things like “excellent condition” or “gently used” a million times. But, unless you know the seller and the history of the car seat, you can’t be sure it’s the truth.
The same goes for any other reseller site like Craigslist or eBay. Used seats may be problematic for more than one reason:
- Unknown history: If you don’t know the history, you can’t be sure that it’s never gone through an accident. Even minor accidents should be noted if someone is offering an old car seat.
- Expiration dates: No car seat should be used after the expiration date. Over time, the seat frame can deteriorate. Plastic wears down and the metal can rust, compromising the seat’s integrity.
- Non-apparent wear and tear: Wear and tear and other imperfections may not be noticeable at first glance. This also compromises the seat’s integrity.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Just because you’re getting a free car seat doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get good quality. There are a few key factors you should definitely keep in mind when you get your seat:
- Where you got it from: Did you get it from a reputable organization or from a friend? Most organizations that give away car seats will give you a brand new one, but the quality may be less if it isn’t new.
- Overall quality: If the seat looks in pretty rough shape, obviously you will want to skip over it. A car seat may look nice on the surface, but it’s worth checking inside to make sure there isn’t any damage. Make sure to do a full inspection before putting it to use.