Where to Find a Free Infant Car Seat for Low Income Families
Keeping kids safe on the road is a big responsibility for the adults in their lives. Car crashes are the leading cause of death to children ages 3-14 in the United States. However, many deaths are preventable by using properly sized car seats and booster seats.
Hospitals will not release a newborn unless you have an infant car seat in your vehicle. Seats cost between $80 to $400 new and must meet safety regulations regardless of their price.
Child seat costs add up quickly, especially with the need to upgrade as the child grows. However, it is possible to get a free infant car seat for low-income families. There are also opportunities to save money on car seats, especially when it comes time to trade in an old one.
Here are some places to check if you are looking for a free car seat program in your area.
Your Hospital May Know How to Get a Car Seat
Because hospitals require a proper car seat for your newborn before it can be released, many have car seats available for sale at a reduced price. Prices are usually less than buying at a retail store.
If the discounted car seats are beyond your family’s means, the hospital may also have information on how to get a car seat for free.
Another resource for inexpensive or free car seats is your OB/GYN. Their business assists mothers and they understand the stress of finding an affordable seat for your baby.
Safe Kids Coalition
As the name suggests, the main focus of this organization is child safety. They host workshops in schools and hospitals and advocate for legislation. The coalition also helps parents and caregivers by distributing safety devices, including helmets, personal flotation devices, carbon monoxide alarms, smoke detectors, and car seats.
Connect with Safe Kids in your area by clicking on your state. This will take you to their main address in your state and the organization’s name that heads up the project.
The site also lists inspection stations with dates and hours of operation and in-state coalitions. In addition, the information includes an address, contact person, phone number, and email address for you to contact.
This branch of the United Way is a link for anyone in need of assistance. They may help you locate a free or inexpensive car seat, plus help you meet other needs like food and bill-paying assistance. When you dial 2-1-1, your call will be routed to the 2-1-1 center in your state.
Free Car Seats in All 50 States
Every state in the country has church programs, charities, and government programs that provide low-income families with free car seats. Click on the state where you live to find resources for car seats and other necessities.
Additional items available may include bottles, clothing, diapers, and children’s clothing. You may also uncover a good resource for larger items such as cribs, high chairs, and strollers.
Ohio Buckle up for Life
This child passenger safety initiative of Cincinnati receives funding from Toyota. They help citizens of Ohio obtain free car seats. In addition, the website provides links to other partners throughout the country that may assist in finding free car seats in other states.
Their website also provides a lot of information regarding child passenger safety, including car seat safety videos. The videos show how to install rear and forward-facing car seats and booster seats properly. Additional information on this website includes:
- Car seat inspection stations
- Types of child restraints
- Special needs car seat program
- Links to each states child restraint laws
- Car seat recalls
They also provide links to register your car seat so the manufacturer can contact you with safety notices or any recalls.
Minnesota Everyday Miracles
Everyday Miracles is an organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that works to provide low-income mothers with necessities. To receive help, you must complete their request form. On the form, you indicate a request for a car seat, breast pump, Doula, or all of these.
This is a resource you can use for both unborn children and children already born in need of a car seat. Unfortunately, there is a high demand for car seats, so your request may take some time.
Requests for a doula should be made around 26 weeks of pregnancy. Breast pumps require a prescription from your health care provider.
Baby 2 Baby
This national organization assists low-income families with children between the ages of 0-12. They partner with organizations throughout the country and provide donations to help parents and children receive items they need in more than 40 cities.
Many of the organizations shown focus primarily on diapers. However, don’t let this deter you from contacting them. They may offer additional programs or provide direction on how to get a free car seat.
Local Health Department
Contact your local health department to see if they offer free car seats. They may require you to take a car safety class. Instructors will likely assist you in making sure the seat is installed in your vehicle properly.
If you receive any government assistance, your contact at the program(s) may be able to direct you to free programs or provide vouchers for purchasing a car seat. They may also be able to guide other government programs you may be eligible for.
Local churches that offer any assistance program may have a car seat program. They may also have information on other resources for car seats and other items you need.
The average cost of having a baby is $12,680 per year between birth to age two. Take advantage of any help you qualify for to receive baby food, formula, diapers, and more.
Medicaid and WIC
If you are on Medicaid while pregnant, you will likely qualify to receive a free car seat after attending a class on car seat safety. You can apply by contacting your state Medicaid office. Each state sets its own criteria for Medicaid eligibility.
WIC enrollees may also be able to receive a free car seat. In addition, your WIC program may have vouchers that assist with a car seat purchase or help you locate a car seat giveaway program.
Police and Fire Departments
Many first responder departments offer a free car seat program. If your local police or fire department does not have one, they may be able to direct you to agencies that can help. These professionals are also a great resource if you want to make sure you install your car seat properly and/or fasten the five-part harness correctly.
Car Seat Trade-in and Recycling Programs
There are two major retailers, plus a car seat manufacturer, that offer car seat trade-in programs. These provide you with a discount coupon or gift card for dollars off a new seat in exchange for turning in your old car seat.
You may also find local government programs or other organizations that offer trade-ins in your area. For example, some government programs may do an exchange for your old one.
Once a year, Target offers a special car seat recycling event where you can receive a discount on a new car seat when you bring in an old one. The event covers infant, convertible, harness and booster seats, as well as car seat bases. In addition, Target will accept damaged seats and those beyond their expiration date.
Learn more and check to see if the program is happening soon by visiting their website.
You must take the car seat into the store to receive a coupon for 20% off a new car seat, stroller, or other baby gear. This includes play yards, high chairs, swings, rockers, and bouncers.
To participate in the Target program, you need to be a Target Circle member.
The Walmart program is usually held mid-end September. When trading in a car seat, you receive a $30 Walmart gift card. The process is simple:
- Bring in your car seat to a participating Walmart Supercenter
- Turn in the car seat at a customer service counter
- Receive a $30 gift card
With Walmart, there is a limit of two gift cards per household. In addition, they accept any brand of car seat but no booster seats.
Over 12 million car seats are thrown away in the United States every year. This led Clek to become the only car seat manufacturer in 2013 with a recycling program. The company coordinates this program in both Canada and the United States.
This recycling program is different than the others:
- Purchase a recycling kit from CarSeatRecycling.com that includes a shipping bag with a prepaid shipping label
- Select your coupon to use on your next car seat purchase on the cleckinc.com website.
- Put the car seat into the shipping bag, apply the label, and drop it off at a UPS store.
This program is not free. Before participating, you may want to check their website to see if it is within your budget.
The purchase price of a shipping kit runs $49.99. You receive a $10 coupon off a $40 or more purchase or a 10% off coupon. You need to use them on the Clekinc.com website.
Why You Should Never Buy Used
Buying used may seem like a great way to get a high-end car seat at a low price. However, unless you are buying from someone you know well, the seat may not be safe.
Here are the risks of purchasing a used car seat:
- Unknown history—you cannot be sure that the car seat has not been through an accident, and once through a collision, seats are considered unsafe
- Wear and tear—the integrity of the seat may be compromised, but the imperfection is not visible to the naked eye
- Expiration date—many people do not realize that car seats have an expiration date and should not be used after that time.
Expiration dates on car seats are not a joke. They are there because plastic the seat is made from expands and contracts with temperature change, which makes it more subject to breakage. In addition, the metal frames may have interior rust that compromises safety in a collision.
Finding a Free Infant Car Seat for Low-Income Families
Some programs provide a free infant car seat for low-income families. Local organizations that assist families may have programs or direct you to an organization that can help. If you receive cash assistance, food stamps, WIC, or are on Medicaid; your worker may be able to direct you to resources.
Before taking advantage of any trade-in programs, check if the coupon you receive will benefit you. Police stations, fire stations, pediatrician offices, and more may be aware of trade-in programs that provide you with an even exchange as your child grows or if the seat becomes damaged.
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
If you qualify for federal benefits such as Medicaid or SNAP, you also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that makes it possible for low-income consumers to receive access to free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.