Choosing a car seat can be a stressful experience. Not only is it one of the most important purchases you'll make, but it's likely to be one of the most expensive. Here are a few basic starting points to make the search a little easier.
- First, buy a new car seat. Technology is constantly improving, so this is not the time to cut corners and take a hand-me-down. Plus, you can't be sure if a used seat has already been in a crash or has been recalled.
- When shopping for a newborn, look for an infant-only, rear-facing seat. Young babies fit in these best, and because these seats come with carry handles, they make a new parent's life much easier.
- Look for a car seat marked "JPMA-certified." To narrow your search, you might also read real-people reviews on Web sites such as www.babiesrus.com and www.epinions.com. Books like Consumer Reports Best Baby Products (Consumer Reports) are also helpful, and there are car seat "ease of use" ratings at www.nhtsa.gov (though they haven't rated many of the newest seats).
Once you've bought a seat, you're not done -- now you have to install it and make sure it fits well in your particular car.
In case you have to exchange the car seat, here's how to keep hassle to a minimum:
- When you buy a car seat, always keep the receipt and the box.
- Install the seat right away, and take it to a safety inspection as soon as possible.
- If a car seat inspector says that the seat is not fitting your vehicle, return it to the store immediately for an exchange or refund.