“We need to get a car seat!” It was the first time in my life that I’d ever uttered that phrase. My wife was expecting our oldest daughter at the time and we were going through the process of getting all our ‘baby needs’ in order. Until I started reading reviews, I hadn’t realized just how many child seats were available, the different kinds, and the extreme variety in price. Over the years I’ve learned a lot, and now for those of you trying to sort through the noise and make the choice yourselves, I’d like give a little insight on what you should consider when buying a car seat.The primary reason we use car seats is because standard safety restraints in cars can’t be used on small children. The child seat serves as a kind of go between that the car restraints CAN be used on, and transfer that protection to your little one. How well a particular seat does this can be best determined by its safety rating. These ratings are set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and range from zero stars (worst) to five stars (best). If you want to know what the safety rating is for a particular model, simply go to the NHTSA’s website and enter the child seat’s model information. One thing you will notice when you do this is that just because one particular model costs a lot more than another doesn’t necessarily mean it has a higher safety rating.One of the things that initially confused me was the ‘conversion car seat’. Should you get one? These seats can serve initially as a rear-facing seat for a newborn and then be turned around and used as a forward facing seat for an older child. Ideally, this keeps you from having to buy two child seats, one for the very young baby and then another for when the baby becomes a toddler and older. Usually, this works fine. The only thing to keep in mind is that conversion car seats usually have a much more narrow weight and size limit. If your child grows fast, you might find that he or she outgrows the seat before they can use a standard booster, which means you’ll need to buy another car seat anyway. This is what happened with our oldest daughter. Standard rear facing baby seats also tend to have other advantages over conversions too. For example, some models can be removed from their base and transferred from the car into a stroller frame without even having to remove your child.Another point to consider is price. This seems obvious, but many people go too far in both directions. Some think any car seat will do and look for the cheapest they can find. Do NOT do this. Many of them cost so little for a reason. I made this mistake myself. The cheap, no-name seat we bought first had practically no padding and was a pain to install. We got rid of it later. On the other hand, high price does not automatically mean highest quality. Sometimes you are just paying for a name. The best thing to do is to read the reviews and ratings carefully first and only THEN look at the price.Hopefully these pointers will make finding the safest, highest quality car seat for your child a little easier. And remember, read the instructions carefully. The best car seat in the world is no good if it is not installed properly.