Buying a car seat or booster for your child is one of—if not the—most important safety moves you’ll make as a parent. Which is exactly why the process of actually choosing one can feel so enormously overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be though, and here’s why: “Any of the products sold in the U.S. are going to protect children well when used properly,” says Dennis Durbin, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the lead author on the American Academy of Pediatric’s new car seat guidelines. “One make or model is not necessarily better than another, nor is price an accurate indicator of effectiveness.”
What does matter: Getting a seat that’s comfortable for your child, fits tightly in your car, and is easy to use correctly every single time, says Dr. Durbin. Finding that perfect match may take some trial and error (keep your receipt!) and some professional help from a safety technician, but your baby’s safety is worth it. Over the next few pages, you’ll get a run down of the basic types available, extra features worth looking for, and the best resources to learn about recalls and ratings. Let’s roll!