Choosing a style
The first step in buying a car seat is to decide which style of seat will best fit your needs. For an infant, there are two kinds of car seats to consider.
Infant seats usually have a handle for carrying, and today, most infant seats consist of a base that stays fastened in the car, and the seat, allowing for easy installation and removal from the car; The seat can then be transferred onto a stroller or shopping cart. Infant seats that are sold together with strollers are called travel systems.
Convertible seats can be used first as an infant seat, and later as a toddler seat, with lots of options for adjustment and angle, as well as lots of room to grow. Convertible seats cannot be used to carry an infant, and installation and removal of the seat is not as easy.
Do your research
The second step in buying a car seat is to research the options available for the style of seat that you want. Start first with safety ratings, to make sure you are looking at seats that have been proven to be the safest in a crash. Next, check out the customer ratings and reviews. This will give you some insight into the pros and cons of each seat. If your budget is a concern, you may also want to research the price range of each seat you are interested in.
Once you know what car seat you want to buy, it's time to find the best deal. You can call up department stores and baby stores to see if they have that seat in stock and the price. Keep your eyes out for sales online or in store fliers. You can also get great deals online through places like Amazon.com, or car seat shopping websites. If you have some time, keep a record of the prices, so you'll know if you've found the lowest price.
Don't buy used
It's best not to buy a car seat that has already been used unless you know for sure that it hasn't been in a crash. You should also check the front part of the seat for it's expiration date. Saving a little bit of money on a car seat is not worth if it the seat is not 100% safe.
Get it installed correctly
The most important part of buying a car seat is making sure it's installed correctly. It's recommended that every car seat installation be checked over by a Certified Car Seat Technician. Call your fire department, police department, or hospital to find out where the nearest technician is located, and make an appointment at least a few weeks before your due date. When you go, pay very close attention to what the technician check for and have him or her show you exactly how to install your seat correctly.
If you have two vehicles, it's a good idea to buy 2 car seats, or buy 2 infant car seat bases, as the more a seat is removed and reinstalled, the greater the chance of installation error.