Other Factors to Consider
Tethers and Tether Anchors: Tethers secure the head of the car seat more firmly and when used correctly, offer an added measure of protection by decreasing the amount of forward head movement in a crash. Some vehicles made before September 2002 are equipped with tether anchors, while even more are designed so that they could easily (and relatively inexpensively) have tether anchors installed by the dealer. The find out if you have pre-installed tether anchors or could have them installed, check your vehicle owner's manual (usually in the child safety seat section), call the vehicle manufacturer, or check with your local dealer.
Bucket Seats: Be aware that many safety seats do not fit well in deep bucket seats. If this is a parent's only option, it is helpful to look for a car safety seat with a narrow base and try it before buying it.
Slope of Back Seat: Rear-facing infant and convertible seats should be installed in a recline position (young infants usually at 45-degrees or halfway back from upright). While it's not inherently a reason to not buy a particular car, be aware that the slope of the vehicle's seat may cause the safety seat to tilt too far forward, putting the infant in an upright rather than reclined position. To remedy this situation, some infant car seat bases come with adjustable recline. For those seats that don't, it's safe to place a tightly rolled towel, newspaper, or foam pool noodle under the base of the safety seat at the seat fold to help adjust the seat into a proper recline. Always check the safety seat instructions and owner's manual for correct installation.
Center of the Back Seat: While the rear center seat is routinely said to be the safest place to put a child, some back seats have a hump in the center, are too narrow, or don't have the necessary seat belt arrangement to install a child safety seat correctly. The safest position is where the safety seat fits securely, and in some cases, it's not in the center.
Seat Belt Stalks: It's likely that you've never before considered looking at the seat belt stalks before buying a vehicle. Yet this should be a consideration for parents, because if the vehicle's safety belt stalk extends from the seat forward of where the back and seat cushions meet instead of from the fold, or if it sticks up more than a couple of inches, it may be quite a bit more challenging to install many car safety seats tightly. If this is true, options include moving to a different seating position, trying a different style safety seat, or perhaps even considering a more car seat friendly family vehicle.
Pickup Truck Jump Seats / Extended Cabs: As much as parents who own trucks may love their vehicles, they are not the safest option for transporting children. Some child safety seats don't fit in pickup truck rear seats, and when they do, there's very little room separating them from the back of the front seat, leaving children highly susceptible to impact and injury in a crash. Side-facing jump seats are never safe for use with child safety seats, which are only designed and crash-tested for rear or forward-facing use. That said, many parents are forced to turn to the front seat as the safest option. Before placing a child in the front seat, parents should make sure to turn off the airbag, put the seat back as far from the dashboard as possible, and either restrain the child in the car seat's harness straps or use a lap-shoulder belt until the child is old enough to fit in the adult seat belt. Lap belts only (as are often found in the middle front seat) are not a safe option (for children or adults, for that matter).