February 22, 2007

Q: Has Anyone Ever Had Their Euro Car Seat Confiscated At Customs?

maxi_cabrio_black_refl.jpgA freaked out British DT reader emailed, wondering if their Maxi-Cosi Cabrio was going to get confiscated by US Customs when they landed at the airport. Seems they were reading along in an otherwise uneventful and mildly informative messageboard thread about the Consumer Reports controversy and when Momika showed up. Here's the first 1% of what she wrote:

it IS against the law to get that European car seat to use here in the US.

The US law reads:

A person may not manufacture for sale, sell, offer for sale, introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce, or import into the United States, any motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment....unless the vehicle or equipment complies with the standard...Title 49 Section 30112 of the US Code of Law

Child seats are items of motor vehicle equipment. The fine is up to $1000 per violation. Federal Law does not address USE so consumers can technically use a non-US certified child seat, but when they brought it in (importation) they broke the law. However, US State Laws prohibit the USE of non-US child seats. US Customs has the right to seize non-complying child seats. Visitors/tourists are given special consideration. (A child seat in US law is one designed for children up to 50 pounds.)

Buying a non-US child seat and bringing it in risks US Customs seizure and fines. Bringing a US seat into Canada is also technically illegal in Canada...visitors get special consideration...

Set aside for a minute this kind of randomly sourced messageboard advice which fills our search results--unequivocal, authoritative, sure to scare the crap out of whatever expecting parent gets within earshot, and rendering any and all your hard-won, now-deluded research and reasoning useless in an instant.

Let's stick to the facts: has anyone ever had their non-US car seat confiscated at Customs? Has anyone ever been questioned or hassled about it? Has anyone been stopped from flying with such a carrier on a US airline?

If so, please share what happened. I'm not trying to debunk or deny any issues of what the law says, but if this is a real, non-trivial fact of life of using a non-US carseat in the US, people should be aware of the extent of it. We've been asked once by a flight attendant if our Maxi-Cosi was FAA-approved, when it was too wide to fit in a bulkhead seat. I said, "We fly with it all the time. The problem is just these armrests don't raise up." She changed our row, and that was it. How about you?

Car-Seat.org: Consumer Reports [WITHDRAWN] [car-seat.org]


It appears the "Child seats are items of motor vehicle equipment" is a statement by the poster, not part of the law.

I don't usually think of a child seat as a "item of motor vehicle equipment"

Although, reading the law further, it does seem as if a car seat could apply. I doubt they enforce this type of thing very strictly...

That being said, I've never tried it, so what do I know?

The fact that babycare.nl has sold dozens (hundreds?) of the things in the US kind of suggests that this is bunk. Customs (presumably) has better things to do than try to figure out if the car seat they are looking at is DOT approved. Here is their flowchart when they see your car seat: 1.Is it stuffed with drugs? 2.Is it ticking? If yes, stop. If no, move on. How would some ICE agent even go about figuring out whether your Britax Roundabout is the US certified version? They don't care. Taking away some kid's car seat is not going to get anyone promoted to supervisor.

I asked someone I know at US Customs if they'd ever heard of that or if it was something they would ever do. He laughed pretty hard at the idea. He said that carseats for personal usage are never controlled and believed that a waiver applied, in any case. He did mention that the regulations would apply if someone tried to import new carseats from outside the US for resale.

I'm pretty sure the magic phrase here is: "...introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce". A car seat traveling with a visitor, purchased for private use, even if used in a US car, is not introducing the seat into interstate commerce. He can use the seat, he just can't sell it here.

The only thing even remotely close was when a new/inexperienced flight attendant on a US-Canada flight wanted to see either on the seat or in the seat manual the actual phrase that was in her flight attendant handbook... "conforms to all motor vehicle standards and approved for use on aircraft" or something like that... since it was a Britax Baby Safe (the Cosy Tot for North America)the phrase was there- if it wasn't I have the feeling she would have insisted I hold the baby instead. Much safer, obviously...

As for the statement, "US State Laws prohibit the USE of non-US child seats," I would respectfully submit that your average State Trooper is going to be happy beyond words to see that your baby is *in* a carseat, and not on Mommy's lap or standing in the back seat looking out the window. My wife worked at a children's hospital, and brought home enough car wreck stories that I want to stop some people and strap their kids in myself.

i know that it is illegal to import carseats into canada. if one has an accident insurance will not cover any claims for the child, neither will healthcare cover medical costs for the child. on top of that the parents would be charged and fined. it is pretty serious. but i would think that tourists would get special consideration.

[thanks for the insight, but this is exactly the type of unsupported, scaremongering hearsay that I was hoping to cut through by posting this question. I know it's a bit of work to dig out your insurance policy, or the relevant laws, or the health regulations, or documented cases where this has actually happened, and share those actual citations with us, but that's exactly what I was hoping to find out about. -ed.]

I have traveled to the USA with my Maxi Cosi seat for a lovely 3 week drive around California. We never had any problems.

as a retailer, I can tell you that the insurance thing in Canada is 100% true. We sell strollers and were approached to sell car seats. We discussed at-nauseum with the distributors about getting our hands on some of the newer designs of carseats in Canada and it's simply not possible. And if a customer buys it in the US and uses it, they do so at their own risk. Obviously, it would be up to the insurance company to first notice that you used an non-canadian approved car seat and then deny your claim, but I can tell you from all the meetings we had that this in fact true, at least in Canada.

[again, the AYOR factor here is what I'm trying to get info on. What is the language in a policy or law, what is the experience of battling with an insurance company over your injured infant? I'm just imagining the PR nightmare of a baby in ICU and an insurance company or national health care official rejecting to cover treatment, but I've never heard of it actually happen. -ed.]

Well we'll be finding out how exactly this April. As I'm bringing my family over to visit my parents. This will be my son's first time in the states. He's two and we have a KiddyLife Plus car seat for him. So in about mid of may I'll be happy to email you with the info Greg.

I do know during our last trip to the states that we had no problems at customs bringing in more than the allowed limit of wine and beer for gifts (2 bottles of wine 3 Liters, 6 bottles of beer 3 liters) we started to go through the declare line when a customs agent stopped us checked our list (we put it all down to be legal) and was directed to the nothing to declare line. I'm pretty sure they aren't going to say anything about a car seat.

I have brought my baby into the states to visit my parents from the UK twice with the maxi cosi cabrio and had no problems...I carried the baby through the airport with the seat attached to my bug. No one blinked an eye...so I would guess that its not a problem in general. I was sad when my little boy outgrew the Cabrio...I loved that seat. Now we have a Maxi Cosi Tobi, which looks great but we all absolutely hate. We also have a Priori, which we love.

This past summer I went to Central America and I spotted my first Maxi Cosi Cabrio/ Quinny set up (by the way, which I thought was GREAT!). The family was on the same plane as us, and I noticed that they left behind the cabrio and stroller frame to go as cargo. I do not know if this is do to the fact that they did not have a ticket for the baby (the plane was booked), or the car seat was not allowed on to be used. So I wonder if they allow non US FAA regulated car seats on planes. Better yet, can the tobi be actually secured with their special seatbelt seat up?

I've had the opposite: British Airways didn't let us use our Sit n Stroll seat on their 747 because it didn't conform to their rules (it required an extender strap and that's not allowed). They relented and we could use it in-flight, but not for take-off or landing. This rule was NOT on their web site last I checked (FCC approval means nothing on BA). I took some satisfaction from the trashing of their armrests in World Traveller Plus as the SnS is a VERY tight fit in those, and the arms don't fold up.

I've had the opposite: British Airways didn't let us use our Sit n Stroll seat on their 747 because it didn't conform to their rules (it required an extender strap and that's not allowed). They relented and we could use it in-flight, but not for take-off or landing. This rule was NOT on their web site last I checked (FCC approval means nothing on BA). I took some satisfaction from the trashing of their armrests in World Traveller Plus as the SnS is a VERY tight fit in those, and the arms don't fold up.

I am on strict bed rest with my first pregnancy so I have nothing but time to kill doing baby gear research and here is what I found out about the Maxi Cosi. I am in Vancouver, Canada so I am not sure how laws transfer over to the US but I am sure there are just as many Canadians looking for the best car seat for their little bundle of joy.

First, I love the maxi cosi for all the reasons anyone would - not even including the funky colours and lack of bulky material.

So after reading that it was difficult to import one into Canada I wrote Dorel (based in Canada) and here is the response I got:

"Thank you for contacting Dorel Juvenile Group Consumer Relations. We apologize for any delay in answering your email.

The Maxi Cosi is not available in Canada. At this time there are no plans to sell one in Canada. The Maxi Cosi from the UK will not meet the Canadian standards. You could be fined if you use this seat. We have been told by Transport Canada that if the Police stop you they will cut the straps on the carseat and you will have to call someone to bring you a carseat before you leave."

Then I contacted the insurance company. British Columbia auto insurance is government run and regulated so there is only one company (ICBC) that everyone has to go through. They would NOT take the time to send me a letter but made it very clear that if I was in an accident with my baby in the car, in a NON-Canadian approved car seat - there would be NO insurance coverage. In addition if it was shown that I had knowingly purchased a car seat that did not meet Canadian standards I would be charged. They also gave me the clause number of my policy that outlines this (but I am sure you don't need this). BOth my insurance agent AND ICBC made it abundently clear that this was a bad idea and hoping no one would notice that my car seat was not approved for CDN use was equally as bad of an idea and that in case of an accident it would be one of the first things they looked for.

I absolutely appreciate that one does not want to create fear mongering but I think it would simply be irresponsible not to point out these facts. Do you really need a documented case to appreciate that the risk is real?

I would love a maxi cosi and I do agree that they are as safe - if not safer - than anything on the market in Canada or the US. I just bought a mutsy 4rider and a graco adapter because I don't see I have much better options.

Well said Heidi!! That's sad news, i've fallen in love with the Maxi Cosi Cabrio and Quinny Buzz 2007 and darn it! i live in Ontario, Canada. Did Dorel give you any indication that they might be trying to get approval for this carseat any time soon?? thanks.

We have a cabrio carseat that was brought over by my mother-in-law when we were expecting our first back in November 2005. She brought over the Quinny Buzz and the Cabrio for us. Six months later, we flew to England and returned without any type of problems with our carseat or the Buzz. No one questioned us, nor even took the time to notice what type of carseat we had. I didn't even think whether US Customs would stop us and ask about our carseat and it turned out I didn't have to be concerned about it. Hope this helps.

Hi Abby, My husband was at Sears yesterday (Baby Days Sale) and said that there was a Quinny Travel System that included a "Quinny Car Seat". He said it looked an awful lot like a Maxi Cosi but definitely had Quinny labeling and colouring. Might be worth checking out.

As for Dorel. They are launching Maxi Cosi in the US in June with no plans to launch in Canada any time soon. I am most curious to see what they launch in the US since it is my understanding that it is a different line of car seats from the European designs. It is being called the Maxi Cosi Mico and comes in at least five colours.

Here is a question. Since this product is being made for the US market, which we all seem to think has inferior standards in testing to the UK (even if US laws are stricter), which Maxi Cosi is better? Are you comfortable buying the US Maxi Cosi? HMMMM.

Hi, with that quinny travel system that was mentioned the car seat in it is the same exact car seat as the US Cosco/safety1st/Eddie Bauer Designer 22 or starter dx infant car seat...It is a pretty good car seat. It is easy to carry, has nice fabrics, is nice and roomy but a bit heavy I think..

A bit late on this, but did want to chime in on the car seat Canada myths. Health care in Canada for Canadians is public, so health care costs would not be denied because of a carseat; they wouldn't be denied even if self-inflicted.

Using a improperly certified carseat certainly open up the driver to liability for negligence. Whether the car insurance covered that claim would depend on your policy. I can't imagine of a policy that would bar all claims based on driver negligence, or even on illegality, since most car accidents are based on negligence and/or illegality.

Remember, the infant and the parent are separate people, so it would be a guardian for the infant suing or making a claim against the parent (or driver). As pointed out on this (http://www.hh.bc.ca/mva.php) Canadian law firm website, the infant herself is likely not going to be found contributorily negligent for failing to strap herself into the right carseat.

Theoretically, the guardian could also sue the manufacturer and/or retailer of the carseat for selling the product which is why a retailer seeking legal advice would be advised not to sell an uncertified carseat.

This is also a bit late, but here is the relevant Transport Canada notice regarding importation of car seats:


The essence is that importing a car seat without the Canadian "National Safety Mark" is, indeed, illegal and can result in confiscation of the seat, as well as having implications in terms of litigation (including potential criminal liability) in the event of an accident. The question to ask your retailer is if the seat has the required mark - if it does, you should not encounter any problems.

I live in Canada, and also fell in love with the Maxi - Cosi seat - purchased one from the uk and had it shipped here. Had no problem getting it through customs. Bought the Quinny stroller from Sears here and they go great together. Also recently bought the Tobi from the same UK dealer. They held it in customs for a few days, but later released it to us. No problems. Not sure about the insurance issue though. If you look at the sears site, they have the maxi cosi mico listed in blue, no other colors, but is says it currently isn't available, and they don't know when it will be.

I have always had a complete nightmare with my UK car seats on planes - not because it didn't fit (it always did - perfectly!), but because of the flight attendants. I would even print out the relevant bit from their airline's website to show that a car seat with the appropriate EU stamp is approved - but that usually made no difference. Sometimes it meant that they would let me use it during the flight, but take it off me for take-off, landing and during any turbulence when the seat belt signs came on. Madness! Just when my baby needed the car seat the most! The flight attendants would literally come and demand it when turbulence came - several times during an overnight flight I remember once. If it had been an American seat with the 'magic sticker' it would have been fine, I was told - I was always very jealous of the US-car-seat-owning families who flew in peace with their child happily strapped in! That's what made my buy a US car seat in the end (I live in the Caribbean so have the choice of UK and US car seats, but always used to choose UK car seats).

as a US citizen living in Canada, and as a soon to be father, i can say that through my research both with the provincial transportation administration here in PEI and with our hospital, a Non-Canadian manufactured carseat is not only uninsurable, but the hospital will not let us take home our baby in anything BUT a canadian carseat. Unfortunately we already have a US car seat that was bought for us that we now have to replace before the baby comes next month.

We have a US model Combi car seat that was given to us when we were visiting friends in LA. It was quite expensive ($400-500 range), and is very well rated - More so than many we've seen here in Canada. We've used the system for almost a full year, and I have no concerns whatsoever. Several incredibly annoying "certified carseat installation technicians" have jumped at us over legislation and insurance concerns, however I feel more confident planting my son in a superior "Illegal" seat than an "Inferior" legal seat.

We've just purchased a new Cosco all in one dlx in the US on a recent trip, and had Zero issues whatsoever bringing it home. Cosco sells the same model here at a substantially higher price. I look forward to the first person that tries to cut the straps on the carseat, as I haven't laid a private information for "Mischief under $5000" in a while.

I also don't believe in Carseat Installation Clinics - no offense to those "who want to help", but the reality is this - They use a single approach to mounting them in the vehicle - Ignoring specialized installation instructions that are proprietary to each seat.

If anyone wants a relatively dry read, here's a link to the relevant section of Transport Canada's site.


I know this is an old thread but infinitely useful. I have a Maxi cosi cabrio from my first child and expecting #2 in less than 2 months and planning to use my Maxi cosi that I bought in the Netherlands as it's less than 3 years old. We currently live in British Columbia, Canada so ruled by the retarded overpriced monopolistic ICBC as indicated in an earlier post.

I've found the system here really absurd on a lot of accounts, especially regarding the carseat issue.

I'm wondering how true it really that they check /deny you to bring home a baby from the hospital in a non Canadian car seat. We're planning to move out of BC later this year either to the US or back to Europe and non of us are Canadian permanent residents/citizens so was planning to use this reason to deal with bureaucrats here.

I agree with the other post. I'd much rather put my child in a socalled illegal seat than an inferior one.

as a american and canadian family we are fighting to purchase a car seat from the US. being that all our kids are dual this law needs to meet with the US/Canadian together and to be a standard together. What blows us away is that if we go to the US to visit grandparents and put a canadian car seat in their US tagged car they are now looking at getting into trouble, and the same if you take a US car seat and put it into the grandparents in Canada. What about those who travel on both sides often? something needs to be done!

We purchased the Maxi Cosi Cabrio in Germany 2 years ago as "Ammies" when we were living there and our daughter was born. After reading the information regarding the Consumer Reports on Euro Car seats we made the decision to smugly bring this "illegal", but safer, car seat back to the states. The only time that we were at all worried is that we may be stopped when leaving the American hospital with our son a year later. (No such thing happened!)
We now have this wonderful car seat and base for sale... any ideas on how and where to list it? (legally?)

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