Guide to buying secondhand cots, cribs, cotbeds and travel cots

Purchasing a pre-loved cot, crib, cotbed or travel cot? Here's the safety checks and vital advice you need to know...

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Will your baby’s cot be bought brand new or will you go for a secondhand or pre-loved one?

A cot is one of the most essential – and exciting – purchases you’ll make for your baby. But it can also be expensive. Thankfully, most cots are built to last, so this is one area where you can make serious savings by buying secondhand or accepting a pre-loved cot from friends or family.

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There are just a few key points to bear in mind when making a secondhand purchase, to ensure your baby slumbers safely.

It’s best to view an item in person before committing to buy, so bear this in mind if you’re shopping online.

Does it come with secondhand mattress?

If a mattress is included, you should toss it out. No matter how new the seller says it is, or how clean it appears, you’ll need to buy a new mattress for the cot. This is in keeping with research from the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) that suggests the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or ‘cot death’) is greater with a used mattress. So remember to factor the cost of a new mattress into your purchase. We’ve got info on why you shouldn’t buy secondhand mattresses.

It’s vital your new mattress fits the cot well, leaving no gaps around the edges, so take measurements and make sure the right sized mattress is available, especially if it looks like an unusual shaped or sized cot. Head to our step-by-step buyer’s guide for help on finding the right new mattress.

How do you check that it’s safe?

Look for the British Standards Institution (BSI) number BSEN716:2008 marked somewhere on the cot.

If there’s no BSI number (not all cots carry them), check that the cot bars are secure and not more than 45mm to 65mm apart and the distance between the top of the mattress and the cot rail (when the mattress is in its highest position, if it’s adjustable) does not exceed 50cm.

Ask how old the cot is, and if it’s been repainted. Until the mid-1960s, lead was used in some paint, which is toxic. If you’re not sure when the cot was painted, it’s best to say no – or strip the cot fully and repaint it yourself. To find out how to remove lead paint safely, Directgov has info.

Look at the general condition of the cot. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there any sharp edges or pieces that stick out that your baby could catch themselves on?
  • Is the paint flaking or the wood splintering anywhere?
  • Run your hands over the frame – does it feel smooth and well made?
  • Are the bars secure?
  • Give it a wobble – does it seem sturdy and all the joints sound?
  • Are there cut-outs or ledges in the sides that an adventurous child could use to step on and climb out?

If there are any transfers or stickers on the insides of the cot, you’ll need to remove them, as they may pose a choking hazard if peeled off.

Although teething rails can be replaced it can be tricky to find the right size, so check the existing one is intact and in good condition.

What’s all the fuss about drop-sided cot safety?

If the cot has drop sides, take extra care to check the catches are secure and can’t work themselves loose so the sides detach. This style of cot looks set to be outlawed in the USA due to safety concerns. Although no such problems have been reported in the UK, it’s still vital to check the drop-side mechanism is sound.

What about recalled products?

Occasionally, manufacturers recall items that were found to be faulty. It’s worth checking if the cot appears on the Product Recall list on the Trading Standards website. You can also check Recalled Products and UKRecallNotice.

What should you know when buying a secondhand travel cot?

If buying a secondhand travel cot, check it assembles and folds down properly and is structurally sound. The seller should be able to give you the original instruction booklet, or check if the instructions can be downloaded from the internet.

Look for BSI number BSEN716:1 2008. Although you’ll use the mattress much less than your usual cot, it’s still worth purchasing a new travel cot mattress.

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More cot buying advice

If you’re after more help on what to look for when buying a bed for your baby, head to our step-by-step buyer’s guides on cots and cotbeds as well as travel cots. We also look at whether a cot or cotbed would work best for you and your baby, and whether you need a Moses basket or crib.

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