Car seats are one of the most important things that new parents buy for their babies. While they are a hassle to install and sometimes cumbersome to have on hand, in the event of a crash, they are the only thing that stands between your baby and serious or even fatal injury. As you shop for, install, and use a car seat, keep these basic safety tips in mind. Correct Installation Is Essential The most important factor in using a car seat safely, other than choosing the right car seat for your child's developmental stage, is to install the car seat correctly. Read the owner's guide before you attempt installation. If your car is equipped with the LATCH tether system, use it, as this is the safest way to install a car seat. Make sure the car seat is at the correct angle, as dictated by the owner's manual. Once you have a seat installed, have a car seat technician inspect it. Your hospital or local health department should be able to direct you to a place where you can have this inspection done, and they are usually free. Watch the Weight Limits All car seats have height and weight limits, which are on a sticker somewhere on the seat as well as in the owner's manual. Make sure you know what these are. Most rear-facing infant carrier type car seats are only made to carry a child who is less than 25 pounds. If you have a baby who is larger than average, you may need to get a convertible car seat so that she can stay rear facing until she is one, because she will probably outgrow the carrier style car seat before she can be forward facing. Avoid Used Car Seats Used car seats may seem like a good deal, but the truth is that you do not know about the seat's history. If the car seat has been in an accident, it may look perfectly safe, but it could have been damaged. Car seats are not intended to be used after a crash. Also, used seats usually do not have instructions. They may also have parts missing that you do not know about just by looking at the seat. If you must buy used because of your budget constraints, only buy from a trusted source, and check the manufacturer's website to see what parts should come with the seat. Under 1 Year - Rear Facing Is Best All infants who are under the age of one and weigh 20 pounds or less must be rear facing. Once both of these conditions have been met, you can put your child in a forward facing seat. However, it is safest to keep the child rear facing as long as you possibly can. This means as long as the convertible seat is still safe for your child's age and height. Your child's legs will be cramped, but this does not mean he is not safe. If you feel you must turn the seat around, make sure the child is both one year old and weighs more than 20 pounds. Following these basic rules will help keep your baby safe while traveling in your vehicle.