Everyone knows that fake handbags don’t hold up like the real ones. A fake car seat in a crash test is horrifying – many literally break into pieces!
Fake car seats are a growing threat to kids’ safety. Increasingly, parents buy car seats off eBay & AliExpress as well as from 3rd party sellers on Amazon, Walmart, and other deal-oriented websites. Parents think they’re getting a deal or an amazing product or both, but often they’re actually getting a death trap.
Even parents who do extensive research to choose a car seat can easily be fooled by these unsafe look-alikes and/or tricked into purchasing a “car seat” that doesn’t meet US regulations or safety standards. Some of these counterfeits are nearly identical to the real product (visually, not structurally, as the crash test video below shows). And others are too-good-to-be-true type “harnesses” that look convenient for travel but meet no safety standards and simply fall apart in a crash, shown in the terrifying second video below.
To read more on this topic, here are articles we’ve worked on highlighting this growing problem:
Right now, buying from a brick and mortar store is the best way to avoid buying a fake car seat.
Brixy, a network of independently owned and operated baby stores, sells only real car seats directly from the car seat manufacturer. Several hundred stores participate in the Brixy network. All have brick and mortar stores and most have websites where you can purchase online. Click here to find the nearest Brixy member store in your area. Two of our favorite Brixy stores are Albee Baby and Magic Beans.
Exceptions: Liquidator stores – like Bulldog Liquidators – are not a safe place to buy a car seat because some of the seats they sell do not meet US standards.
AliExpress.com and Wish.com
There are two main categories of car seats sold on eBay:
The American Academy of Pediatrics keeps a list of all the car seats & boosters currently for sale in the U.S. market. If the make & model of the car seat you want to buy isn’t on the AAP list, it’s possible that the seat is a real seat that just came to market and the AAP hasn’t had chance to add it…or more likely it’s a fake seat that could harm your child.
It’s not hard to find many websites selling car seats at steep discounts – often more than 50% off the regular price. If your spidey sense tells you this deal is too good to be true, trust your gut!
The Doona seems to be one of the most frequently knock-off’ed car seats. If you’re buying a Doona we recommend that you make extra sure you’re getting it from a trusted seller. A real Doona sells for $500 and can protect your baby… a fake Doona is about $200 and can’t protect your baby.
Many parents find sites selling fake car seats when these sites pop up in ads in the parents’ Facebook feed. We’ve noticed that on sites selling counterfeit Doonas, the Doona name and logo appears blurred in videos, and the captions contain spelling errors (like “varify Doona is secure.”)
Other sites appear to be selling real seats but at such steep discounts that it makes you wonder what happened to the car seat before it made it to your doorstep. We found a site (now taken down) that was selling an expired – but purportedly brand new 2010 car seat – at 30% off.
Large chain stores including Target, Buy Buy Baby, and Nordstrom sell only certified car seats directly from the real car seat manufacturer on their websites. Therefore, you can be sure that you’re getting a real seat, not a knock-off.
Amazon and Walmart (and soon Target too) allow third-party sellers, which are independent sellers who offer a variety of new, used, refurbished, and collectible merchandise. Some third-party sellers are very reputable and legitimate; others perhaps not as much. Below we’ve highlighted which third-party sellers on Amazon and Walmart we know you can trust and which ones might be best to avoid. VM Express and Baby Value are 3rd party sellers that are trusted by car seat manufacturers… we know because we specifically asked several car seat manufacturers about this!
When buying from Walmart, we strongly recommend NOT buying any car seat from a third-party seller other than VM Express. You will know it is a 3rd party seller because it will say “Sold & Shipped by ____”.
Knock-offs won’t come with a registration card. The US government requires every car seat to come with a postcard for registering the car seat, in case of a recall.
Knock-offs may or may not come with an instruction manual. When mauals are present, they’re usually written in very poor English with numerous spelling and grammatical errors.
Knock-offs often do not have a chest clip. Chest clips are not required in the US. However, every single real car seat in the U.S. currently features a chest clip. Therefore, if you don’t see a chest clip on a U.S. seat, immediate red flags should go up that this may be a knock-off car seat.
In most other parts of the world – including Europe and Asia – chest clips are rarely used. Right now, most of the knock-off car seats coming to the US seem to be knock-offs of European or Asian car seats, and therefore don’t have a chest clip since the true version of the seat didn’t feature a chest clip.
Can you find the manufacturer’s website? Most knock-offs don’t use the genuine brand name (some don’t include a brand at all) and you won’t typically find a company website.
Knock-off car seats typically won’t have a model number, customer service number, or date of manufacture printed on the seat. The U.S. government requires that this information be available on all car seats, so if it’s missing, that’s a red flag.