Should You Buy a Used Baby Crib?

Happy baby in Crib
Donna Alberico Getty Images

Buying a used baby crib at a garage sale or thrift shop, or from a neighbor, is one way to save money on your baby's nursery. Cribs tend to be used fairly gently for only a few years, so you might find a gorgeous used baby crib that looks new for a fraction of the cost. Older cribs, and even newer ones, that have been misused or not maintained well can be a safety hazard, though. Recent changes in crib safety standards also make buying a used crib difficult now, since it's illegal to sell some types of older cribs.

Before buying a used baby crib, check it over carefully to be sure the budget savings are not at the cost of safety.

  • How New Crib Safety Standards Keep Baby Safe

Don't Buy A Pile Of Used Crib Pieces

Look at a used baby crib while it is set up, so you can check it over carefully. When the crib is dismantled, it's hard to see where all of the pieces go, or even if all of the important pieces are there! With the crib set up, you can give it a shake to test the sturdiness, check the caster wheels and give it a good visual inspection. Used cribs rarely come with a return policy, so protect your budget by making sure you see the crib fully set up before money changes hands.

Check Crib Safety Basics

All cribs sold in the U.S. are supposed to meet certain crib safety standards. In the past, these standards were largely voluntary. In June 2011, new mandatory crib safety standards went into effect, so you should be extra careful about purchasing cribs made prior to the change.

For older cribs, be sure to check the crib slats to be sure there is no more than 2-3/8" space between them, which is about as wide as a soda can. Decorative cut-outs in the headboard and footboard also pose a safety hazard. If the crib has corner posts, they should not be higher than 1/16". All crib pieces should fit together tightly.

Check For Baby Crib Recalls

Find the crib's manufacturer and model number, ahead of time if possible, and check for recalls. Cribs can be recalled for many reasons, anything from hardware that could break to a lead paint issue. Model numbers are often found on the inside bottom of the headboard or footboard, or on a mattress support rail. If the crib is recalled, that may not have to be a dealbreaker. Talk with the manufacturer and find out what the repair or replacement policy was for the recalled crib. The problem may be easily remedied. Also good to know - it's now illegal in the U.S. to sell a recalled product, including used baby cribs.

Check For Missing Crib Parts & Pieces That Don't Work

The most recent crib safety standards do not allow the manufacture or sale of drop-side cribs, as well as calling for stronger hardware and sturdier mattress supports and slats. Drop-side cribs are still offered for private resale despite all drop-side models being considered recalled at this time. According to CPSC, drop-side cribs can be more dangerous than other types of used cribs because missing or broken hardware or misassembly are more likely to create dangerous gaps where a baby can be entrapped.

Older cribs, and especially those with moving parts, such as drop-side models, may not have hardware sturdy enough to withstand being taken apart and reassembled through several owners.

Check to be sure all of the mattress supports on any crib are in place and that they aren't sagging or broken. Are all of the pieces there to allow you to move the mattress to a new height? Check the caster wheels to be sure they work, too, and be sure all other moving parts work and all hardware is in place or accounted for.

    Used Convertible Cribs

    Many cribs today can be made into toddler beds, daybeds and even regular size headboards and beds to accommodate your child as he or she grows. If the used crib you're looking at is a convertible crib, check to see if the conversion kits are already there, and whether or not they are included in the price.

    If they were not included with the crib initially (many conversion kits are sold separately), contact the manufacturer to find out if the kits are still available, if the convertible aspect of the crib is important to you.

      Used Crib Mattresses

      If the used crib includes a mattress, be sure it fits properly in the crib. The mattress should be firm, the cover should be free of tears, and there should be no gaps around the edge when it is fitted inside the crib. It should sit level inside the crib and not shift around. Most crib mattresses have a waterproof cover, and some have a completely sealed cover, so you should be able to wipe down or spray the crib mattress with a mild disinfectant if you're concerned about its cleanliness. If you have any doubts about the mattress, it may be worth it to buy a new one. They can be found for less than $100.