Target Car Seat Trade In Event

Twice a year, you can usually count on the Target Car Seat trade-in event. This is a great opportunity if you have an old car seat that you’d like to have recycled. Honestly, I can’t even remember what we did with our old car seats once my daughters grew out of them. We probably handed them down to a friend or family member, which, after I learned that car seats have an expiration date, I realized it wasn’t such a great idea.

Also, if you’re in the market for a new car seat — or have a pregnant person in your life who is — you can save money on the purchase of a new car seat. Let me run down the details.

When is the Target car seat trade-in 2024

Usually, Target holds these car seat events twice a year — in April in time for Earth Day. And then again in the fall — usually September or October to coincide with Target Circle Days.

And I was right about the Earth Day connection the 2024 Target Car Seat Trade In Event is April 14-27, 2024. So it definitely straddles Earth Day 2024. That is Monday, April 22, 2024.

Reasons to get a new car seat

There are a few reasons why you might want to have a new car seat for your child. One, you registered your child’s car seat with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration when you bought it and found out it was recalled.

Two, your child has outgrown their previous seat. For example, they’re no longer infants.

A new Graco infant car seat on display in a store, eligible for the Target Car Seat Trade-In program.
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Three, you bought a new car and your old seat doesn’t fit anymore–yes, it happens. Or, four, you were in a car accident and needed a new seat.

Just like a bicycle helmet that’s been in an accident, and therefore should be discarded, it’s the same with a car seat. This is true even if the child wasn’t injured or you were able to drive away from the scene.

You’ll never know if the car seat sustained minor damage that makes it unsafe to continue using. Why risk it? It’s one of the reasons that car seats are listed of one of things you cannot donate to Goodwill.

Eligible car seats to trade in

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In this section, I’ll explain which kinds of car seats Target accepts for the trade-in event. In the process, I’ll also share links, in case you’re looking to shop online. When you click through these links, I may receive a small commission. There is no cost to you for clicking.

Anyway, acceptable car seats include:

  • infant or baby car seats
  • convertible car seats
  • car seat bases
  • harness or booster car seats
  • expired car seats
  • damaged car seats

Why do car seats have expiration dates

Until I wrote this article, I had no idea that car seats expired or even that they had expiration dates on them. But, according to Graco, most car seats are safe to use for seven years only. Why would a car seat no longer be safe or be expired?

Well, materials in a car seat breakdown over time. Think about how hot cars can get in the summer or cold in the winter. So, even though you might be tempted to do a hand-me-down with a car seat, make sure that you refer to the expiration date sticker on the car seat.

This isn’t anything like best to use by dates on food, which are often about getting you to buy more food. You’re talking about the safety of a child in a car.

However, it’s important to know that different car seat manufacturers share expiration date information differently. For example, during a recent visit to the store, we noticed that on the Graco car seats, you’ll see a sticker showing the date of manufacture. As mentioned earlier, you’ll plus seven from that date to know when your car seat expires.

Child safety seat label from the Target Car Seat Trade-In program, indicating model number, manufacture date, and company information.
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

However, right next to the Graco car seats were ones from Evenflo. When I flipped them over to check their manufacturer date, I was surprised to see an actual expiration date on the bottom. I took a picture of one of the stickers with a car seat expiration date on them.

It showed a car seat manufactured in 2021, with an expiration date of 2027. That’s interesting, because that’s six years from when it was made, not seven. So I guess it’s possible that each car seat company may have a different way of deciding when a car seat is good until.

Close-up of a manufacturing label on a gray plastic surface with visible straps and fasteners for Target's Car Seat Trade-In program.
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

What does Target do with old car seats

According to this Target FAQ, here is what happens with old car seats that are brought to Target:

“Materials from the old car seats will be recycled by Target’s partners to create new products such as pallets, plastic buckets and construction materials such as steel beams and carpet padding.”

Since starting this car seat recycling program in 2016, Target says it has recycled more than 2 million car seats. Also, the program has helped to recycle nearly 33 million pounds of car seat materials.

Target partners with Terracycle, which sells Zero Waste Boxes that you can use at your home or office to recycle items that might not qualify for curbside recycling.

zero waste box terracycle

Timing of and benefits of the car seat trade in

As I mentioned, Target tends to offer the spring trade-in program to coincide with Earth Day. Just before Easter, Target announced that the dates for the April 2024 trade-in event were April 14-27, 2024.

In exchange for bringing in a car seat to recycle, Target will give you a 20% off coupon for a single new car seat, stroller or other baby gear. You’ll need to use that Target coupon by about a month after the event.

Where to bring car seat

You’ll likely see car seat collection boxes in the front of Target stores, near guest services. I took the picture below at the Target in South Portland, Maine, near where I live, when I went looking for these car seat donation boxes. You can clearly see that the boxes are near where you could pick up an in-store order.

A store with a box and a couple of shopping carts is hosting a Target Car Seat Trade In Event.
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

However, I’ve visited other Targets with a slightly different setup. There, I saw the boxes at the end of the checkout aisles. In other words, next to the Starbucks near where you would pick up a shopping cart or walk by after checking out at the register.

An ATM machine in a store with a red cart for Target Car Seat Trade In Event.
Target collecting car seats in the checkout area of the store. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Nearly every Target store participates. Here are other items you can recycle at Target. The one exception? Smaller format Target stores in city locations called City Target stores.

Steps to recycle car seat and get your coupon

As I mentioned, everyone who recycles a car seat gets a 20% off coupon that they can use to buy a new car seat or other baby geat. However, there’s a catch. You’ll need to download the Target Circle app in order to qualify for the coupon. So, make sure you get that done before you get to the store. Now, these are the steps you’ll take to recycle or trade in your car seat and get your coupon.

One, bring your old car seat or base to a nearby Target and drop it in the designated box inside the store. Like I said, you’ll likely find these collection boxes near Guest Services or somewhere towards the front of the store. The ones I’ve seen are quite big and you can’t miss them.

Two, open your Target App to scan the code on the collection box to document that you’ve donated your car seat or base. I’ve circled that bar code in the photo below so you’ll know what you’re looking for when bringing your car seat for a trade in.

A pallet with a baby seat in it for the Target Car Seat Trade In Event.
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Finding the coupon in the Target app to redeem

Three, once you’re done scanning, look in the “Baby” section of the Target app for your coupon offer from donating the car seat. Four, once you find the offer, click the plus sign (+) to add the offer to the app.

Finally, now that you’ve added the offer, you’ll be able to scan the bar code it generates when you checkout at the register when buying a qualifying baby product. In other words, as you’re checking out, keep the Target app open and use the barcode scanner at checkout to capture the coupon.

Alternatively, the app may ask you if you want to apply the coupon to your purchase. I’ve found this is what happens when you’re shopping online within the app. It asks to apply the coupon to your purchase. ‘

Update: Target recently changed how its Target Circle program works. Now, I’m told, coupons like these are automatically added when you check out. However, I haven’t tried it yet so can’t report on my firsthand experience. Once I do, I’ll update this section.

If you have a car seat to trade in and someone you know who is expecting a baby, a new car seat would be a great gift. Find out why I believe an infant car seat is a baby registry must have.

Questions about the Target car seat trade in

If you’ve made it this far in the article, is it because you have more questions I can answer? If so, I’ll address common questions in this section. Of course, if you don’t find an answer, please post a comment to reach out to me. I’ll do my best to get back to you.

When is the next Target car seat trade in 2024?

Around Easter, I checked the Target FAQ page and found the dates for the next trade-in for April 2024. It is April 14-27, 2024. Here are the details.

A screenshot of the FAQ section on Target's website detailing information about the Car Seat Trade-In event, including the types of accepted items and the discount offered.

How often does Target do the car seat trade-in?

In the past, Target has done these car seat exchanges twice a year. Usually, it’s in April, around Earth Day, and again in the fall — September or October.

How does Target car seat trade-in work?

  1. Download the Target Circle app
  2. Bring in a car seat to Target and place it in a collection box in the store
  3. Use the Target Circle app to scan the barcode on the collection box
  4. Go to the “Baby” section in the Target Circle app to see your 20% coupon
  5. Redeem that coupon before it expires — usually one month after the trade-in event ends.
  6. You can use the coupon toward a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system, stroller or select baby gear.
  7. Coupons can be applied to both in-store and online purchases.

Does Target take expired car seats?

Yes, Target will take an expired car seat. These car seats are not being handed down to someone and it’s not a swap for a new one like you might do a clothing swap. They’re being recycled. So, the expiration date doesn’t matter.

Target will accept and recycle all types of car seats, including: infant car seats, convertible car seats, car seat bases, harness or booster car seats, as well as car seats that are expired or damaged.

Is this event a buy back?

Target isn’t technically buying back your car seat. They’re letting you recycle them for free. In exchange, you get a 20% off coupon to buy a new car seat or other baby gear. This includes:

  • car seat
  • booster seat
  • car seat base
  • travel system
  • stroller
  • select baby gear

What does Target do with the old car seats that are traded in?

Target partners with Terracycle to recycle as much of the old car seats into new products. Basically, Terracycle’s business model is all about upcycling old consumer goods into something new.

Here are two stats that Target shared:

  • 2.19 million car seats recycled since 2016
  • 32.9 million pounds of car seat materials recycled since 2016

Does Target limit how many car seats you can donate?

That’s a great question. According to this FAQ page about the Target trade-in program, it appears that you can qualify for up to two 20% off coupons for recycling car seats. So, my takeaway is that you can donate as many car seats as you want. However, you’ll only get a coupon for two of them. (Target: if I got that wrong, please let me know.)

Why does Target hold this car seat trade-in program?

Target has long-term green goals, if you will. And the car seat recycling program is part of that.

“It’s one way we’re working together to achieve our Target Forward goal of zero waste to landfill in U.S. operations by 2030.”


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