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How to Get a Free Baby Car Seat: 9 Clever Options

Medically Reviewed by Kristen Gardiner, CPST
Babies are expensive, but your car seat doesn’t have to be!

Did you know there are ways to get free and reduced-price car seats? Kids are expensive, y’all. There isn’t any beating around the bush with that, especially when it comes to car seats and other baby gear.

We know what a burden the cost of raising kids can be, so we want to help. We’ll discuss all the ways you can get a free car seat for your child.

Key Takeaways

  • Free car seats can be obtained through organizations like Safe Kids Worldwide, Baby 2 Baby, and Everyday Miracles.
  • Local resources like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) offices, the Department of Child Services, and 211 can also help you find free or affordable car seats.
  • Hospitals, insurance providers, and local child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) may provide assistance or information on obtaining free car seats.
  • Avoid buying used car seats from unknown sources, as their history and safety are uncertain.

Car Seat Costs

Whether you need an infant seat or a convertible seat, car seat costs can be wide-ranging. Depending on the item, you’ll usually spend between $50 and $350.

For some, this may not seem like a lot. However, many parents struggle to make ends meet. As important as safety is to parents, sometimes the cost of baby needs can cause major anxiety.

We don’t want you to be alarmed. Affordable car seats must still meet the same safety requirements as luxury brands. If you’re 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 a car seat directly. However, they will have the resources to lead you in the right direction.

These routes should only be taken if you truly feel you’re struggling and can’t find a car seat within your budget. These programs are put in place to help those who genuinely need help.

If people 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 Safe Kids coalitions throughout the United States. It has partners in 30 countries to promote safety for children (1).

They’re a helpful resource for any inquiries about car seats and safety. Whether you need help with installation or financial assistance, Safe Kids can help you determine what you need.

This organization trains child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) in what they do. CPSTs undergo 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. Baby2Baby

This is a national organization that strives to help children up to age 12 who are living in poverty (2). They partner with and donate to several organizations around the country that help provide essentials to parents and children.

Over the last seven years, Baby2Baby 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.

3. Everyday Miracles

This organization distributes free car seats to anybody with a qualifying Minnesota state health plan (3). You may be eligible for a seat if your health plan is state-funded through Blue Plus, Health Partners, or UCare.

If you’re approved, a CPST will deliver a seat to your home or the hospital of your choosing free of charge.

4. Hospitals

Another beneficial resource, some hospitals offer car seats at a significantly reduced price, but not for free. However, they will help you find somewhere that may offer free car seats or brands with inexpensive options.

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.

5. Local Women’s and Children’s Services

Local government departments catering to women and children are invaluable resources for 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 (4).

6. Call “211.”

“211” is a bit of a hidden gem for anybody struggling. It’s not just helpful for finding an affordable car seat but other basic needs like food and rent assistance as well. It’s a way to find help without making a million phone calls to different departments.

United Way runs this service, which works like “911” does. When you dial 211, it will connect you to your closest 211 call center (5). 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. They suggest affordable car seats 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 and fire departments have the resources 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 car seat’s history, 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 the seat has never been in an accident. Even minor accidents should be noted if someone is offering an old car seat.
  • Expiration dates: You should never use a car seat 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 the quality shouldn’t be good. There are a few key factors you should remember 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 is in rough shape, 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. Do a full inspection before putting it to use.
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How Long is a Car Seat Good For?

A car seat is typically good for six to ten years from the date of manufacture. The exact lifespan can be found in the car seat manual or on the seat itself.

Are Car Seats Free On Airplanes?

Most airlines allow you to check car seats for free, and some even allow the use of car seats on board at no extra charge, but policies vary, so check with your airline.

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Medically Reviewed by

Kristen Gardiner, CPST

Kristen Gardiner, CPST is a writer, wife, and mother to three boys. Kristen became certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician by Safe Kids Worldwide in 2015 and loves to volunteer and help educate parents about car seat safety. She has a passion for all things related to child safety.