By on September 26, 2017

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An army, they say, is always best equipped to fight its last battle. Perhaps that explains why I spent approximately three hundred and fifty dollars on February 17, 2014 to buy a Britax Pinnacle 90 car seat. Not that I was dissatisfied with the Safety1st Air seat that had shielded him from a blizzard of flying glass and very possibly prevented him from a fatal head trauma just forty-three days prior. Far from it. But I wanted to put John in the absolute best car seat money could buy from that day forward. After all, I’d spent about two thousand bucks on the LaJoie custom seat in my little Plymouth Neon — shouldn’t I go out of my way to find the car seat that would do the best job of minimizing any future impacts?

As fate would have it, my son and I were involved in just one minor crash in the three and a half years that followed, courtesy of an amiable stoner who bumped his Mazda2 into the back of my Accord at just above walking pace during this past winter. Although the Pinnacle is rated for children up to 4’11”, John already feels cramped in it at four-four, so earlier this year I swapped the big Britax out for the smaller Freeway SGL booster seat.

What to do with the Pinnacle? I could sell it on Craigslist, trade it in at one of the used-kids-stuff places. Or I could try to pass along a little bit of the good karma that has attended me and my boy ever since we bought it. Which is where you, the TTAC reader, come in.


Chances are that most of my readers have never given much thought to just how deadly a car crash can be for a small child. Not only are they improperly sized for traditional belt-and-airbag restraint systems, they are also fundamentally less impact-resistant in all sorts of really scary ways.

When I was the same age that my son is now, I read The Scarlet Ibis and it stayed with me to this very day. Children are fragile, whether they are sick or healthy. Yes, I realize many of us grew up without ever seeing a child seat. I also vividly remember the day when Brother Bark and I convinced some stupid neighborhood kid to put Black Cat firecrackers in his mouth. Let’s not overly romanticize the past simply because it didn’t kill us.

It’s obvious on the face of it that a lot of American families don’t have the ability to spend two weeks’ worth of minimum wage on a child seat. In my travels around the country I see a lot of children in seats that are old, worn, damaged, or just plain cheap. Sometimes there’s no child seat at all. I can’t fix this problem for everybody, but I can fix it for one family.

What I’d like you to do is to tell me the story of a family who could use this seat, either in the comments below or directly to askjack@calamarco.com. I’ll pick somebody a week from now and ship the seat to them at my expense. At this point somebody is sure to bring up the fact that they are still waiting for their Texas Edition badges so this is a good time to tell that story, which is as simple as this: Somehow I managed to lose the box of badges (or have it stolen out of my car) while I was preparing to ship them, and I haven’t managed to find a supplier for a whole bunch more badges. I’ll get that done at some point in the future.

In the meantime, however, this is your chance to put a deserving child in a safe car seat that, according to Britax guidelines, is still good for five more years. Help me find a kid who really needs the seat. And since some of you misanthropes out there can’t do anything that doesn’t also benefit you directly, I’ll sweeten the pot: The winning story gets a size-XL shirt commemorating our absolutely disastrous participation in the Lemons Gator-O-Rama 2013.

So what are you waiting for?

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37 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: I’m Going to Give This Away, and You’re Going to Help Me...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    Split the difference: Consign it at a church sale. The church typically gets 25-30%, the consignor gets the rest, and the buyers are typically the cash-strapped people who need something like this the most.

    Price it below market, say $50-$75.

    A lot of places simply won’t take used car seats, even within the expiration date. It’s crazy, but liability is what it is.

  • avatar

    Every year, in my affluent community, we do a huge sale at one of the local Churches. The moms all come from the surrounding less well off places, and the good car seats are among the first things to go-that and any “name” strollers. The usual joke is that all the clothes are washed twice…once by the mom donating and once by the mom receiving.

    On topic, there are a few agencies in many areas that will donate seats, and your local PD usually has a “seat fitter”. Often him or her will know where to get one, or might have “a spare” in the back.

    Given the mind boggling amount of money kids cost, no matter your place on the economic ladder, this is a good karma.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Nice idea Jack but in today’s litigious society very few consignment/charity/used goods, stores will accept car seats.

    ‘Advice columns’ also warn against buying them at garage sales, etc.

    The reasons given are varied: expiry dates, possible unseen damage due to being involved in a collision or improper use, incorrect sizing, being a recalled model that was not returned to the manufacturer/retailer.

    However in this instance, since you can vouch for its history and care then perhaps these concerns are irrelevant?

  • avatar
    cliff731

    Good for you, Jack Baruth… spread the karma around. Just might save some child’s life! :-)

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Give it to the child of a refugee to repent for Orange Droolious Twitter Man (tackling all of the world’s most pressing problems at 3 am on the toilet with his phone and Twitter thumbs).

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Ill just say that after 3 kids, youngest now 7, I had a ton of expensive gear, 5 strollers, car seats, infant carriers, cribs, etc, etc. We ended up giving most of it to Goodwill/Salvation Army.

    Crazy thing Jack, as nice as this stuff is, a lot of it is subject to recalls or not considered safe anymore as standards are a moving target when it comes to child safety. Lot of places wont even sell this stuff on consignment for the liability. The end user, little Johnny, will get hurt, sellers not realizing that it was recalled because the buckle will turn into sharp shards of plastic when a kid chews on it or something (most are somewhat silly recalls for unlikely scenerios I recall). Items get discontinued due to safety advances, etc.

    Give it to a friend or family that needs it. Give it to charity. I wouldn’t try to sell it. The whole child gear industry is a racket, things like car seats and such have expiration dates now. Was pretty upset that I couldn’t sell the crib/convertible kiddy bed that cost several thousand dollars new because it was later deemed a death trap because it wasn’t made of free range vegan oak or something, this despite my three children living through it unscathed.

  • avatar
    13kRPM

    The whole “don’t buy a used car seat it could have been damaged in a crash” thing, I think is just a scam precipitated by the child car seat manufactures. It is pretty convenient to play on a new parents fears to ensure that every child has to purchase a new seat for significant coin when there are millions of pristine used seats floating around. When a car is wrecked I kind of doubt most collision repair shops put a lot of effort into inspecting all the seat belts and seats so why are child seats which are even more basic held to a different standard? Any damage to a child seat significant enough to compromise the integrity of the basic plastic shell and seat belt webbing should be readily apparent. I have wanted to call the out the manufactures to car seats to come up with a inspection program or a materials recycling program for old child seats because under their current guidance they are basically saying with out saying “just send those millions of seats to the landfill”.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      When my daughter was 2 my wife rear-ended a Toyota Land Cruiser going around 40-45 MPH in an MN12 Thunderbird. My daughter was in the center rear seat, in a higher end child seat.

      Post accident she had deep bruising on her shoulders where the straps held her in place, and a tiny cut on her lip where she bit herself in the impact. There is no way on earth I would have given that seat to another person or reused it.

      If the seat belt, “replace these been in an accident” tags are pulled out and the airbags deployed, the car seat is done. The problem isn’t, “oh the seat has been in an accident,” the problem is the honesty of individuals.

      That seat? I cut the straps with a razor knife and put in the trash. It did it’s job as designed.

      • 0 avatar
        13kRPM

        While deployed airbags are always replaced for obvious reasons, I seriously question how often vehicle seat belts are replaced post accident unless there is significant visible damage. No crash repair estimate I have ever seen list seat belt replacement such that I would think it is a normal practice. If there is a expert on the subject of collision repair I would welcome their insights.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    “In my travels around the country I see a lot of children in seats that are old, worn, damaged, or just plain cheap.”

    Let me ask the B&B this: we had very nice, reasonably $$$ Britax convertible seats for my daughter while she as in them, but then when the time came to go to a booster I asked around to understand what the difference is between a cheap booster and a good booster. I never got a good answer. My understanding is that a booster basically just exists to position the kid correctly for the car seat belts (raising the kid up and lowering the shoulder belt). Given that, is there a reason a $$$ seat is better than a cheap seat? I bought a bunch of Evenflo Big Booster seats (Made in USA!) from Amazon for about $30/ea (2x for us, nanny, grandparents, etc). It certainly seems adequate to me, and my daughter doesn’t complain that it’s uncomfortable for her. Is there anything I’m missing out on by going cheap here? Real facts I’m interested in. Empty platitudes of “well isn’t she worth the money to protect?” I’m not, without something backing up why cheap seat bad, $$$ seat good.

    • 0 avatar
      cwallace

      Jack, maybe your seat could be the seed of a The Truth About Cars road safety donation drive? A lot of hard-working folks down here in Houston lost their car seats (and everything else) to the Harvey flood. There used to be quite a few Houston people who participated on this site, maybe there still are, so this might be as good a place as any to start.

      ###

      My daughter just moved up from that very Britax seat to a booster and, yeah, I think boosters are one technological notch above sitting on a stack of old phone books.

      Whoever invented that Britax latching system that works by pinning the lap belt under the cushion deserves an award.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      Very little: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_levitt_on_child_carseats

      tldr; Strap them into the car’s integral safety system as soon as possible. Latch + chintzy 5-point harnesses are no good for toddlers and older kids.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Probably most people would be better served by taking a good defensive driving course than buying the “best” child’s seat.

    Even after having 2 kids, I still find those “baby on board” signs offensive – damn! I was going to rear end that guy, but since he has kids……

    • 0 avatar
      jlbg

      The dumbest accident I have ever seen was by a distracted parent. The exit lane splits off from the main highway, and there is a barrier between the lanes (though they parallel each other for another 2 hundred yards or so).

      A mother driving an SUV with a few kids in the car was ahead of me. She drifted from the right lane as if she was going to exit. Instead of making the exit, she went straight into the barrier dividing the lanes. Luckily, there are 4 giant barrels of water there to slow the car down and she was only going about 20 mph. She was even going slower than traffic. I was behind her, keeping my distance and watched this happen. Everyone was OK as I passed them. Dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.

      A $3 cup of coffee and telling her kids to STFU would have prevented the need for child seats.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    I love people trying to break down the barriers to sharing and passing on still useful commodities.

    Everyone is right to be skeptical, as there is much to recommend it, but the prospect that there is somebody in need of what we’d just as soon do without is a saddening reminder that we are capable of leading lives that are stricken by an endless string of imperfect compromises and often hopelessly, tragically insulated.

    Thumbs up….

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Awwwwwww that’s nice, Jack.

    Somebody might mistake you for an actual human being if you’re not careful. ;-)

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Send it to someone in Puerto Rico.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    I was coerced into buying the top of the line Britax car seat (because otherwise I don’t love my child) only to have my daughter refuse to sit in it 9 months later because it made her look like a baby to her friends. We ended up giving it to a less well off couple my wife works with. Craigslist is too much of a hassle and at least I know it went to somebody who needs/uses it vs a thrift store prowler who’ll put it on ebay for a tidy profit.

  • avatar
    John R

    Is that…Matt Farrah’s old Corvette?

  • avatar
    mikey

    Your heart is in the right place Jack…Just be careful of the legalities .

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Dal would probably know but I’d be curious to know the potential liability of one gifting/selling a used car-seat in the event of child injury later in said car-seat.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Interesting. Just when you posted that story about getting your son in this seat, I took it to heart and ran out and bought a Britax 55 seat instead of a cheapie booster I had. It lasted well and now I tried to get rid of it. I listed it at $45 on CL and FB and got some inquiries, but nobody got to the point of actually meeting with me. They all seem to want a seat. Some people offered $20 sight unseen. I am not making judgments about them, well at least no judgments that I am going to express here.

    But, in the end of the day, I still have the seat and if one neighbor does not grab it soon, it’s going to end up in the trash pile. As our Prez says, Sad! Someone told me that people don’t buy used seats, and are especially paranoid about a used seat having been in an accident.

    As far as the seat design goes, it needs to be accompanied by a foot rest. Because with the butt being elevated from the car seat, their legs dangle above the floor and it’s not comfortable. Actually, the “booster” that has its own frame and harness should have very little thickness, so that it does not force the body position upward and forward. The cup holders are already in most cars.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Not a fan of boosters, in the unlikely event of a rollover the child is still likely to fall out and possibly be crushed by the car.

    It is best to keep the kid in a five point harness as long as possible, my 6 year old uses the exact same seat and loves it, says he feels like a racing driver.

  • avatar
    maui_zaui

    Dump the seat if it’s already been in an accident. It’s typically one of the first questions you’ll get asked by any perceptive buyer for a car seat. Note I said “perceptive” and not “prospective”. For such parents, it’s akin to buying a car with a salvaged title vs one that’s clean and gently used. I realize these seats are expensive, as I have my own kids who are also outgrowing seats, but this has been my experience when selling locally.

    In fact, I’ve been scolded by my wife on numerous occasion for even attempting to sell them. As our resident “safety police”, she insists we shouldn’t sell or even donate a used seat, specifically after the expiration date. A date which I consider to be a major racket for these manufacturers, especially when the car seat has never been involved in an accident. The $200+ Britax and Diono seats we have are all reinforced by a steel frame, yet I’m expected to assume they go bad just like a carton of milk?

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Keep it.

    With some creative engineering, it looks like it could do double duty as a very good kart race seat. You’ve got head and neck bolsters, shoulder protection, the ability to convert into a 5-point harness. Looks far more robust than those hard plastic shells that pass for race seats on karts presently.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    When our Britax car seats got outgrown, I posted them on CL for $40. Someone got a smokin’ deal, my family got dinner paid for and a needy family got a great car seat.

    Did the same thing with our Recaro booster seats but for less.

    When you see someone pull up in a beat up truck, you’re reminded how lucky you are.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    I don’t have any kids. But damn! I had no idea that the kid car seats biz is so damn complicated. I think that warrants some interesting posts on TTAC.

    I always though that your auto insurance company just give you a kid seat, or subsidized it. I remember USAA telling me that years ago. Never had a kid so I never took them up on the offer.


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