It's easy to be cynical about car seat expiration dates and assume that they exist to support the billion-dollar baby gear industry, but car seats do need to be replaced within certain time frames. Using an expired base is not only a waste of money (you could save a lot by buying second-hand), it's also dangerous for your baby. It's not just that the plastic might have started to break down, but it also means that there may be rogue food particles or spills in the springs that hold up the weight of your infant. And, as we all know, babies are prone to itchy skin, so continuing to sit in a dirty car seat might not be good for their skin either.
It is also worth noting that car seat bases aren't as structurally sound as they used to be. This is due to the fact that they're constantly exposed to high temperatures, which can weaken the plastic parts and cause them to wear down faster than they should. Lastly, technological advancements are fast-paced and mean that older seat bases will have less-up-to-date safety features than newer ones.
All of this might be a bit depressing, but don't despair! Thankfully, it's quite possible to save some money and get a second-hand car seat base by shopping at garage sales or from family members. Just be sure to look for the date of manufacture on the label and check the instruction manual for any specific requirements for checking the expiration date. If the sticker is faded or missing altogether, it's not safe to use and you should replace it instead.