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Pregnant? Maybe You Can Get a Free Car Seat Too…

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WOW, this will save me a TON of money for my infant! Car seats are expensive and I had no idea I could get a brand new, good quality one for less than $40. This is a huge budget saving hack for parents that everyone needs to new ASAP. It could save you $200, it helped me save that much.

The following is another post from my younger sister, Teresa Ward.  She already wrote about how she got a free breast pump.  Now she found out how to get a free car seat!

I promise not to bombard Crystal’s loyal readers with baby/toddler bargains, but just like the free breast pumps, I had to share my latest insurance steal that could save parents $$$!

That Necessary Car Seat…

One of the more expensive baby products that ALL babies and toddlers need is a car and/or booster seat.  They vary widely in costs from $60 on sale/online for a basic model like the one below to $400 for a new model or one purchased at a speciality store.

You might think the difference in price buys more safety for the little one, which I would argue is money well spent, but the truth is ALL car seats sold in the US must meet Federal Safety Standards and pass multiple crash performance standards.  Yes, a few of the high end seats do have extra bracing or maybe shock absorbing material they claim to be effective.  But judging from the specifications I researched, it appears more money mostly buys you the newest fabric trend or a few bells and whistles that your little one might never use/aren’t proven effective.

So I was already planning on getting a lower end car seat that had great customer reviews and great customer service for our second vehicle (we were already gifted a different car seat which is awesome, but we need two as per our lifestyle and having an extra base alone wouldn’t work for us).

Free Car Seat Opportunity

Happily, I just happened to receive a flyer summarizing our car insurance benefits while car seat shopping.  We are insured through Texas Farm Bureau, and one of their much touted benefits listed was the Child-Saver Program.  Basically, this program boils down to a partnership between TFB and Child Source to give heavy discounts on car and booster seats (and for TFB to randomly add a few child safety articles in their flyer).  Eager to see the deals, I logged onto TFB’s website using the member link online and was directed to an order form.

I was pretty happy to see a Cosco Apt 40 RF CC047FSM Car Seat listed at the member discount co-pay of $35.50 (no shipping or tax fees added)!  Features of this car seat actually exceed minimum requirements.  The seat comes with:

  • the ability of both rear facing (for newborns) and front facing (for not-so-newborns) modes
  • 4 harness heights
  • 3 buckle locations
  • side impact protection
  • 2 integrated cup holders (win for when the baby is older!)
  • 5 point harness with up front adjuster.

Grabbing the Deal

While I wish the insurance company offered more options to choose from, I did enough research to be very happy with the 4-star rated Cosco car seat (as listed on Amazon).  My baby book even mentioned it as a steal-deal at retail of $70-100…to think, I swiped it for a fraction of that!

I happily filled out the half-page order form, wrote a check for $35.50, and slipped both into the mail to Child Source, the company that my insurance works with to supply this great deal.  Side note:  I have also read multiple reviews that Cosco (not to be confused with Costco, a chain store) has excellent customer service, and even accepted a car seat that was used for 6 months for a full return.  I love companies like that!

A month after I sent my check, I opened my front door to see my car seat was delivered! 

Car Seat - Yorkie Not Included
Yorkie not included. 😉

I would recommend researching and ordering car seats a few months in advance of your due date since processing seems to take a few weeks with any insurance for anything (especially during the holidays like my order), and you never know exactly when D-day is 😉 .

Also listed on the order form was a booster seat for $25.50, which I will totally order as soon as my much anticipated son gets to that stage.  Just figured I would mention that for other parents of infants and toddlers 😉 .

Search for this Steal Deal

I did a quick google for this post and saw a few other car insurance companies offering discount car and booster seats (including Arkansas Farm Bureau and Mississippi Farm Bureau who offers theirs at only $25 a car seat).  It’s definitely worth a quick call/email to your car insurance company!

I would also recommend calling a mainline or national line, as I am not sure how familiar local offices would be with this type of benefit.  I’ve also read that a few medical insurance companies and employers will provide discounts as well – so give your medical insurance and HR a call too if the car insurance company doesn’t pan out.

Overall, I spent about ten minutes finding the order form online and ten minutes filling it out and sending a very small co-pay – and saved a minimum of $35-50 depending on where I would have bought it plus taxes/shipping costs (while avoiding the temptation to purchase an even more expensive car seat).  My insurance company even allows me to purchase up to three discounted seats, so I could have multiplied the savings and bought one for every vehicle (but it wouldn’t make sense to return the gifted car seat, so next time!).  This is also a great option for a back-up car seat for the much loved grandparents or caretakers to use.

Hope this helps you or someone you know!

FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!).  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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7 thoughts on “Pregnant? Maybe You Can Get a Free Car Seat Too…

  1. Since I am a regular reader/commenter I hope your sister takes this in the spirit I intend it 🙂 I urge her to find a CPST in her area to help learn how to install the seat. They can be tricky until you know what you are doing! Also it is highly recommended to have the child rear facing until at least age two, and really, until they outgrow the limits of their seat. It is much safer for their neck and spine. And she won’t need a booster for very many years 😉
    I found that the more I spent the easier the seat was to install and use. I saved my pennies and have a Britax for both kids. I love the ease of the install! Though I definitely agree that they are all safety tested and are all effective. The best car seat is one the fits your vehicle, and one you can install and USE correctly EVERY time – that keeps them safest 🙂 like how the chest clip has to go at their armpits, no puffy coats, etc. I reccomend this blog:

  2. I think it is fantastic that the companies that get all these laws passed are giving everyone a chance to afford the added safety and comfort to their children. This is good to know.
    I am also a long time reader and commenter. Helen, please do not take my comments the wrong way. If you want to spend $112 – $300 for a car seat feel free to do so. I notice that Britax does not have as many reviews as any of the other car seats. Some of the reviews seemed to be sponsored.
    I notice that a lot of news, bloggers and people in general seem to think they are the only ones in the world smart enough to figure out how to correctly attach an infant child seat. Every seat comes with detailed directions. The directions are plastered to the side and back of most seats. Personally, if you had to take a class to figure out how to use your fancy seat, it makes you wonder how easy it was to use.
    States have laws that are sponsored by insurance companies. These laws dictate when you can or cannot turn the seat around. Most of them are based on the weight, height, and developmental abilities of the child. All of my children were able to sit front facing fairly soon, a lot sooner than two years. By forcing a child to ride backwards in a moving vehicle you are not socializing with the child. You are acting like it is an object. A young child will feel like it is being ignored or punished and cry and act out. You are forcing your baby to view the world from an unnatural position. Little things like this can lead to a poorly socialized, poorly adjusted child in MY opinion.
    The safest way to travel with any child, infant or toddler, is to drive DEFENSIVELY. Do not tail gate. Do not speed overly much. Be cautious and keep your attention on the road. If a rear facing child is yelling, unbuckling its straps, choking on something, or crying excessively; find somewhere to pull off of the road and check on the child. Preferably a filling station, store, or parking place; not the side of the road. Learn to sing, talk and interact with the child. Make the experience one of its happiest possible. Not with bribes, but with quality time spent communicating with your baby, your son or daughter. Children learn by mimicking their parents, so make sure they have lots of positive stuff to mimic. People do not need to be cocooned to be safe. Just because your state is trying to have you adhere to some legalistic entities Best Practice Recommendations, does not mean they are the law or actually best for your child. It would be best if none of us used a car as almost 40,000 Americans each year die due to automobile accidents and over 150,000 are seriously injured every year. We have enough technology to prevent much of these accidents and injuries, but automobile companies and businesses think it would hurt their bottom line. Most people do not want to give up their freedoms or rights, even if it infringes on others freedoms and rights; so we are stuck with facing dangerous driving conditions daily.
    I think the idea of having a seat for each vehicle is a good one. It insures the seat is attached when there is no hurry. It is one less thing to have to remember. It minimizes use, which extends the life of the seat. When parents bend and pull up weight, they are stressing their bodies. We should all take care of our health, as well as our children’s, because they depend on us. $35 is a cheap way to avoid back problems, lost time, and added hassles. I would buy a seat for each vehicle, rather than pay some hundreds of dollars for something that will only be used two years.

  3. I’m happy for a good discussion, Wendy! You certainly weren’t attacking me so definitely share your thoughts! I also don’t know how old your children are, but things change quickly – I did turn my son around forward facing not long after his first birthday, and a big part of it was the combo of our carseat and car and his size made it very difficult to get him into a rear-facing seat. I would bonk one of our heads on the car door frame. And just those three short years ago they weren’t pushing for extended rear facing.

    We would ALL be safer not driving, I agree lol I have to admit I am thankful to work from home so I don’t HAVE to drive when it is bad out. But my son starts preschool next fall so I will be out and about more.

    I don’t have the laws and such in front of me, but I did want to say that if a child truly cannot handle extended rear-facing, either because they are super fussy or carsick, or making it dangerous for a person to drive due to their fuss, then as long as you are within the law and the limits of the seat I certainly wouldn’t tell you it is wrong to turn them forward facing. I wouldn’t personally do it, but I wouldn’t tell someone else they should stop it now and make them feel they are harming their child. I think that is where a lot of bloggers/websites go wrong in making themselves out to be the end-all of knowledge. However my daughter turns 2 in 9 days and is still rear-facing. I purchased the Britax I did because it can rear face until 40 pounds, though most kids outgrow the height limit before weight. It does then turn forward-facing and when she outgrows it my son will have outgrown his forward-facing booster and she can have that and he can get the inexpensive booster that they sit on. She is small enough that getting her in and out isn’t a problem; she doesn’t fuss that she is backwards as she can see out the window enough; she does have her brother with her too, so I’m sure that helps. Since she is happy there is no reason for me to turn her around. It would be legal yes, as she is big enough and I have the proper seat, but I subscribe to the theory of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” 😉

    Yup, they are expensive. But if you watch there are deals and since we are on a finance blog I will note that I did save up to purchase these with cash. Amazon and Kohl’s often have great deals. It was worth it to me personally to buy these seats and I am happy with them and the features they have. I definitely also agree with you that you should have a seat for each car. So these “fancy” seats are in my car as I do the most driving with the kids and it is also the vehicle we use for long trips. We do have two cheaper seats in my husband’s car so there is no switching things on a moment’s notice. But from my experience these are harder to use and I don’t enjoy them. Are they safe? Yes.

    Also – my son is 4 and will be in his five-point harness until he outgrows the height and weight – it is why I selected a seat that harnesses to 70 pounds. As the kids get older is isn’t just about fitting an adult seat belt physically, it is also their ability (maturity) to stay sitting correctly for an entire car ride. He does fall asleep enough in the car that even though I think he is about legally big enough to not use a harness, I know he wouldn’t stay in the seat belt well enough while sleeping.

  4. As a mom to two littles, I highly recommend you also invest in the infant ‘baby bucket’ style car seat. We considered just going with the convertible like this since you totally can, but I cannot emphasize enough how much easier it is to have the baby in a carrier when you are out and about. For starters, most babies fall asleep in h car, and you will quickly realize how precious naps are. With mine, if you woke them even ten mins into a nap (getting them out of a car seat!) they pretty much figured that was ‘it’ for a nap that normally could be two hours. Secondly, when you go places where it would nice to have a free hand — like a restaurant! — having a place to set them down is nice. It will be probably six months before your baby can effectively sit in a high chair or the basket at a grocery store, so keep that in mind. Plus, you can get them ready to go while you are inside and then just click the bucket in the car SO easily. It is a seriously sad day at my house when my kids get too big for their infant seats because buckling them into the convertibles is such a PITA.

    Honestly? Babies are expensive but this is one area where it is SO WORTH IT for the convenience factor. Seriously.

  5. I totally agree with Kasey – the carrier was the best suggestion we ever got. Daughter Person would fall asleep in the carrier on the way home from daycare, I could just carry her in and set her in the carrier on the floor in our house and start dinner/read/nap/whatever. Now, she’s in a “big girl” seat, and we end up having to sit out in the car with her until she wakes up (unbuckling and moving will wake her up). She just turned 4 yesterday, and she’s still in the 5 point harness and will be until she grows out of the seat.

  6. Thank you everyone for the great recommendations! Ironically, the gifted car seat is a not-base-model Britax that retails for $250, while the heavily discounted one from our car insurance company is a Cosco so I can really compare and contrast the two. While I haven’t given birth yet (but I’m in the last month!!!), I can honestly say that from a safety perspective, I sincerely cannot tell much of a difference in terms of weight, height, size, positioning, or materials (exact same plastic and metal bracing and safety belts – no kidding) between the two brands. Nor could my senior engineer husband (who definitely wanted to prefer the Britax, but honestly couldn’t justify it from a safety viewpoint). On the other hand, from a convenience standpoint, there is a difference depending on how you plan to use it. For us, having two seats for our two vehicles made much more sense than two bases and one seat. And honestly the Cosco is significantly easier for me to handle in my current car, while Britax seems about the same in both our vehicles. There are some other feature differences to be sure, but those are easily found on both manufacture’s websites if you are interested in taking a look!

    We have heard great things as well as horror stories about the system seats that swap from car to stroller, so my husband and I opted to avoid that system type unless we felt it would be useful for our lifestyle. Due to a prior back injury, I also doubt I would be able to move the seat to stroller and back to car. Even the lightest/smallest ones were difficult for me to test at various stores. But we will see once the baby arrives!

    I honestly intended to just get the word out when I wrote this post. I wanted to point out that like breast pumps, car seats can be discounted/free by insurance and it’s always worth an ask – even if only as an option you don’t end up using. I couldn’t think of a better place to send this post to except to a personal finance blogger that has a loyal, awesome reader base (thanks Crystal!). Just as I feel there are many ways to parent, I feel there are many “correct” car seat options. To each their own – the important part is that the car seat is properly installed and ready to go when the baby arrives. I just feel that being aware of all options puts parents in the best place to decide on what their baby needs in their situation!

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