Choosing a car seat and using it correctly can be one of the most overwhelming and confusing parts of early parenthood. The sheer amount of information out there is daunting, and your child's safety rides on it - literally. This guide is NOT meant to be complete or exhaustive - ever-changing standards and new seats coming out constantly would make that near impossible; this is just to get you started.
Each type of seat has 3 recommendations: one budget-friendly option, one with a few more bells and whistles, and one that would be more of a luxury. There are many, MANY more car seats out there, but this is meant to be a less overwhelming list. Both Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby allow you to test floor models in your vehicle, and it's a great idea to check fit and ease of installation before purchasing when you can.
Rear-facing only seats are frequently the first types of seats that parents choose. Generally, they are used from birth until approximately one year old, at which point babies may move into a convertible seat. These seats are usually used with bases that they easily click into and out of, and - as the name implies - they are ONLY used rear facing.
$$$ Cybex Aton 2
Convertible seats are built to be used both rear-facing and forward-facing. Some parents choose to skip the rear-facing only seat and use a convertible from birth. As long as the seat's harness fits correctly, there is no safety risk in doing so.
$$$ Clek Foonf
Here's where it gets a bit confusing. Combination seats are forward-facing only. They have harnesses, which can then be removed to become a booster. Not everyone will need a combination seat - depending on the size of your child and how long-lasting your convertible seat is, many parents can go straight from a convertible to a booster.