When shopping for a safety seat, keep the following in mind:
The best safety seat for your child is the one that fits his or her size and the vehicle it will be installed in. (See the section "Correct Safety Seat Use" for types of safety seats to be used by children of different ages.) Once you've determined the correct seat to use, make sure it's installed correctly. Also, make sure that you properly buckle your child in the same way every time. Always follow your vehicle manufacturer's manual along with the child safety seat manufacturer's instructions.
Don't buy or depend upon a used safety seat if you can't get an accurate history of its use. A seat that has been in a crash can have hidden damage and fail in a second crash, so buy only from people you know and whose account of the safety seat's history you can trust.
Don't use a safety seat if it has visible cracks; does not have a label with a model number and date of manufacture (so you can check if it has been recalled); is missing instructions that tell you how to use the seat; is missing parts; or has been recalled. You can learn a lot about a safety seat by calling the manufacturer or by contacting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888/327-4236.
Most new child seats feature a five point safety harness. This system provides a superior level of safety.
Forward-facing safety seats come with a tether strap attached to the top of the seat. It hooks into a corresponding tether anchor in the vehicle, and all new child safety seats and vehicles comply with the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. This system is designed to make installation of a safety seat easier and safer by attaching it directly to the vehicle instead of using the seat belt to secure it. Tether use reduces head acceleration, which can help prevent injuries. Always when using a tether, refer to the vehicle manufacturer's manual and child safety seat manufacturer's instructions.