LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's a trend impacting unsuspecting parents and their young kids: counterfeit car seats.
They look just like the name brands, but come with cheaper price tags. Child safety advocates say this is not an area you want to cut costs.
"Car seats have gone up in price recently and rightly so, families are looking for better deals," Emma Costello with Buckle Up for Life said. It's a national injury prevention program funded by Toyota and managed by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
They're typically found online, marked down 40% to 50%, but in the case of car seats, Costello says if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. In fact, it's probably counterfeit. These knockoffs often look similar to the real thing.
"It's usually the higher-end brands. One we see a lot is Doona, up in the $400 range," Costello said.
The material of the fakes are cheaper, flimsy and poorly designed. A crash test commissioned by CNN in 2019 showed a counterfeit Doona car seat broke into pieces in a 30 mph crash test, failing to meet the basic standards set by US regulators.
An identical crash test with an authentic Doona remained in one piece, meeting federal standards.
"A lot of times, families will come to the child passenger safety technicians for help installing them in their cars and these organizations will realize, oh, this isn't a good car seat," Costello said. "They have to convince these families to trade them out, because this is a brand new car seat they just bought."
That's why she recommends buying in person.
The real thing should come with a manual and a registration card. It's also mandatory in the U.S. to include a 5-point harness with a chest clip, something a lot of fakes don't have. Your car seat should also have a splitter plate on the back of the harness and the writing should be in English. If any one of these isn't included, it's probably not approved in the U.S.