If one thing is for sure, it’s that kids get bigger and the things that used to fit them end up needing to be retired pretty quickly. Car seats are definitely one of these, as most kids will outgrow their carseat within 1-2 years, if not sooner.
Even if your car seat is still usable as a hand-me-down, most manufacturers recommend recycling car seats after they have been used for about six years.
Luckily, there are several ways to earn money by recycling your old car seats.
Walmart’s Car Seat Trade-In Program
Walmart’s car seat trade-in program is operated by a company called TerraCycle. By trading in or recycling your car seat through TerraCycle, you can earn up to $30 from Walmart in the form of a gift card. You can then use this gift card toward the purchase of a new car seat if you wish. However, it can also be used to purchase anything else for sale at Walmart or on Walmart.com, with few exceptions.
Starting in 2019, Walmart first began holding annual car seat trade-in events. The first event was held in September 2019, and similar events have occurred each fall since. In 2022, Walmart also held a car seat trade-in event in April.
Although Walmart has yet to officially announce their 2023 plans, it’s safe to assume that these events will likely happen again in April and September.
Keep your eyes on the Walmart Newsroom page to find out when the next car seat trade-in event is announced. Events are typically announced 2-4 weeks before they begin.
Why You Should Trade In Your Car Seats
When children outgrow car seats or when the car seat simply wears out, it is all too common for those seats to end up in the landfill.
This is why companies like Walmart and terracycle have taken it upon themselves to help facilitate the recycling of used car seats.
When a car seat is traded in at Walmart, it will be sent to TerraCycle for recycling. The car seat will be disassembled, and all recyclable materials will be properly recycled through a designated facility. Any non-recyclable materials will be properly disposed of.
For safety and quality reasons, Walmart does not resell car seats that have been traded in for recycling.
To motivate people to recycle their car seats, Walmart offers a $30 gift card to anyone who brings in a used car seat during their annual car seat trade-in events.
Signs You Should Upgrade Your Car Seat
The most common reason why car seats are traded in or recycled is because they no longer fit the child they were purchased for. However, car seats can be saved and used for kids in the future, or they can be handed down to kids of friends or family.
That said, when a car seat reaches the point of being worn out, it should be recycled properly rather than being reused. A car seat that is worn out past the point of being able to function properly could pose safety risks and should not be used.
Some signs of a worn out car seat include…
- Cracked or ripped seat coverings
- Fraying seat belts or harnesses
- Cracks or missing pieces
- Broken buckles or closures
Anything that could interfere with the function of your child’s car seat should be seen as a reason to upgrade.
How To Trade In Your Car Seat At Walmart
First, it’s important to remember that Walmart does not accept car seat trade-ins all the time. Instead, you will need to wait until Walmart announces one of its annual trade-in events.
During an event, trade in your car seat at Walmart by following these steps…
- Bring your car seat to a participating Walmart Supercenter location
- Find the customer service counter and give your car seat to an associate
- Receive your $30 gift card instantly
That’s it! It’s a super simple process, and each event typically lasts for about one week.
To make it easy for anyone to recycle their car seat, Walmart accepts any brand of car seat through the program. It does not matter what condition your car seat is in, so even if it is broken or significantly worn, it can still be recycled. Everyone who brings in a car seat for recycling will receive a gift card regardless of the condition.
The only limitations associated with this program are that booster seats are not accepted, and there is a limit to two gift cards per household. If you have more than two car seats to recycle, you will need to either wait for a future trade-in event or recycle it elsewhere.
Walmart vs. Other Car Seat Trade-In Programs
Luckily, Walmart isn’t the only place you can trade in your old car seat for money or other rewards.
Like Walmart, Target also holds car seat trade-in events twice a year. The Target car seat trade-in program happens in collaboration with Waste Management and was first launched in 2016. Since then, Target has facilitated the recycling of well over 2 million car seats.
Through Target’s program, anyone who brings in a car seat for recycling will receive a 20% off coupon through the Target app or Target Circle. This coupon can be used toward the purchase of a new car seat. The coupon can also be used to purchase strollers or select baby gear such as rockers, high chairs, and more.
Similar to Walmart, Target’s car seat trade-in program also happens in April and September each year. In 2022, the event ran from September 11th to September 24th, making it a few days longer than the Walmart event.
Considering that most car seats sold on Target.com cost between $100 and $300, it’s possible that you could receive more of a discount by using your 20% coupon at Target than by using a $30 gift card at Walmart. However, the Walmart gift card can be used toward the purchase of anything and does not necessarily have to be used for a new car seat.
To maximize your rewards, you could recycle one car seat at each retailer.
If you need to recycle a car seat sometime other than April or September, check out CarSeatRecycling.com. This organization will pay for shipping to receive your car seat in the mail, and then they will provide you with a $10-off or 10%-off coupon for Clek, a company that sells car seats.
Based on all of this information, I’d say that Target wins out by a margin with the best trade-in program overall, especially if you plan on purchasing a new car seat. Walmart comes in as a close second. The benefit of recycling with Car Seat Recycling is that you can send in your car seat at any time. However, you will receive a lower level of compensation.