When shopping for a car seat, keep the following tips in mind:
No one seat is the "best" or "safest." The best seat is the one that fits your child's size, is correctly installed, fits well in your vehicle, and is used properly every time you drive.
Don't decide by price alone. A higher price does not mean the seat is safer or easier to use.
Avoid used seats if you don't know the seat's history.
Never use a car seat that:
Is too old. Look on the label for the date it was made. Check with the manufacturer to find out how long it recommends using the seat.
Has any visible cracks on it.
Does not have a label with the date of manufacture and model number. Without these, you cannot check to see if the seat has been recalled.
Does not come with instructions. You need them to know how to use the seat.
Is missing parts. Used car seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.
Was recalled. You can find out by calling the manufacturer or contacting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888/327-4236. You can also visit the NHTSA Web site.
Do not use seats that have been in a moderate or severe crash. Seats that were in a minor crash may still be safe to use, but some car seat manufacturers recommend replacing the seat after any crash, even a minor one. The NHTSA considers a crash minor if all the following situations are true:
The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
The vehicle door closest to the car seat was not damaged.
No one in the vehicle was injured.
The airbags did not go off.
You can't see any damage to the car seat.
If you are unsure, call the manufacturer of the seat.
What to Look For When Purchasing A Car Seat - Video:
With so many different car seats on the market, it’s no wonder many parents find this overwhelming. The type of seat your child needs depends on several things, including your child’s age, size and the type of vehicle you have. In this video, Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician and certified car seat technician, provides tips for parents on what to look for when purchasing a car seat.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: