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There’s only one way to bring baby home from the hospital, and that’s in a car seat. From deciding between an infant car seat or a convertible to features you should look out for, here’s how to buy the right one.

Choosing a car seat can be a stressful experience. Not only is it one of the most important purchases you’ll make, but it’s likely to be one of the most expensive.

Here are a few basic tips to make the search a little easier, and to ensure you go home with the right one.

Tips for Buying a Newborn Car Seat

  1. Scope out your car before you shop

First things first: Read your vehicle’s owner’s manual before buying a car seat. Car seats can be attached using either the seat belt or the LATCH system (which stands for the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system, and which all new vehicles have). You can decide before buying which one you want to use and then look for a seat based on how you want to install it — belt or LATCH.

  1. Pick a convertible car seat that’ll grow with your child

Take it from us: Not having to invest in another car seat in the midst of that crazy first two years will be a blessing. Newborns can sit in two kinds of car seats: a rear-facing infant seat, or a convertible seat (which faces the rear of the car at first, and later is turned toward the front). Buying a convertible car seat saves money because it lasts through toddlerhood, and it’s completely sound in terms of safety.

  1. Consider a car seat stroller if you’re trying to save

While convertible will save you money in the long run, some parents agree that the ability to move a sleeping baby in an infant car seat — even if the baby fits the seat for only a year — is priceless. If you want to buy an infant car seat but need to trim costs, consider shopping for a travel system — an infant seat and stroller that are sold together at a discount. You may find these in the stroller aisle, not the car-seat aisle.

  1. Spring for a new seat to be safe

Understandably, you want to know which car seat is safest. But all car seats that are on the market have been tested and approved for the current safety standards (check for the JPMA stamp on the box which means it’s been approved by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association).

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