What not to buy secondhand – from car seats to mattresses

A guide to the baby and child items parents and parents-to-be should avoid purchasing pre-loved, such as car seats, mattresses and helmets.

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We love a good bargain hunt at MFM and there’s usually not a better place to get a great deal than when buying secondhand.

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But whilst there are a huge amount of great baby and toddler bargains to be found in Facebook groups, on eBay, baby gear sales and other pre-loved marketplaces, there are a few items that we believe you should avoid buying secondhand.

With any items you can look for visible wear and tear, but with certain products you might not be able to see the damage, which can put your precious baby’s health and safety at risk.

Don’t buy a secondhand car seat

A car seat is crucial to your baby’s safety when you’re using a car. It can seem expensive, but getting a bargain secondhand isn’t a guaranteed safe option.

Car seats are designed and manufactured to protect your baby’s and child’s vulnerable body, neck and head.

They’re usually constructed from a polystyrene shell on a metal frame, covered in an outer fabric.

However, if a car seat has been in an accident, these safety features may well have been compromised, and not in ways that are visible to you. In certain car seat instruction manuals, it even states that if your car seat has been involved in a crash at a speed as low as 30mph, you should buy a new seat.

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You just can’t be sure if the car seat has been involved in an accident.  You also can’t be exactly sure how old the car seat is – some manufacturers recommend that their seats are only used for a maximum number of years.

In a secondhand shopping environment, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to look under the outer layers to see if the frame or padding has been damaged.  And can you be sure that you’d know what you were looking for?

You might also fall victim to someone trying to sell on a faulty seat. Whilst it might be a case of ‘buyer beware’ with many secondhand products, you just can’t take this chance with such a fundamental safety item.

Missing info and instructions for secondhand car seats

Buying secondhand may also mean the instruction booklet is missing. This contains vital information about correct fitting and how to use the seat properly. If you need to buy a car seat, head to our step-by-step buyer’s guide to car seats.

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Don’t buy a secondhand baby mattress

Think how many hours your baby will spend sleeping – it’s imperative they have a safe, clean, supportive mattress. A secondhand mattress could be harbouring unexpected hazards.

SIDS and secondhand baby mattress

Some research suggests that there could be a link between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or ‘cot death’) and secondhand mattresses.  An old mattress might contain mould, bacteria and dust mites, which could be linked to SIDS. The Lullaby Trust (formerly the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths – FSID) recommends that the ideal situation is to buy a new mattress for each new baby.  However, if you can’t afford to buy a new one, Lullaby Trust advises you can use the one you have as long as it’s made with a completely waterproof cover and has no tears, cracks or holes. Then clean and dry it thoroughly.

Your baby needs a firm mattress to sleep on so that he can easily move himself and breathe clearly.  A secondhand mattress may have lost its shape, which means his face might sink into its squishy surface.  Plus it’s not going to be as comfortable or supportive for him a new mattress. 

If you need to buy a mattress, head to our step-by-step buyer’s guide to baby mattresses.

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Don’t buy secondhand baby or toddler helmet

A helmet is a vital piece of safety kit when your child is out and about on a bike or scooter.  You don’t want to compromise on this protection.

Even with minimal use, a helmet is affected by things like sweat, pollution and sunlight. The interior will begin to wear and may not fit the head as well as it once did.  All these factors mean the helmet might not properly protect your child’s head.  But you won’t necessarily be able to see this damage.  You also don’t know if the helmet has been in a bump or crash.

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What you need to know about product recalls

When you purchase many baby products you’re often encouraged to register your name and address so that you can be notified if there are future product recalls or safety issues.

You will lose this continuity of contact if you’re not the first owner and will not be protected by any warranties (as they are typically non-transferrable).

When buying secondhand, you need to be sure the item you’re purchasing hasn’t been recalled, for example due to a safety concern.

Some manufacturers will contact Trading Standards if they want to post info about their faulty products, so you can always check the Trading Standard’s site if you’re worried.

However, you’ll see that there are only a few recent notices posted here. Just because you can’t find your item on the site, that doesn’t mean that your product is ‘safe’. Other useful sites include Recalled Products and UKRecallNotice.

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