Hello M.! I understand your dilemma, I was in the same situation a few months ago. There was all this hoopla surrounding the Britax car seats, but when I did my own research, I found that none of the moms I interviewed were using them. I decided against getting one, seemed too trendy for me and I'm a go-against-the-grain type of person, lol, but seriously, I read a report a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, and Britax was not number one, which surprised me. I don't think it was Consumer Reports, although it might have been. I don't remember, and of course, I don't remember what the top 5 were, but Britax was not on there. The report was based on manufacturer, price, safety, and a few other things that made up the rating. Good luck to you, and remember, just because something is expensive, doesn't mean it's the best! (I should be clear and state that I'm not trying to dissuade you in any way, even if it seems that way! lol).
P.S. - just wanted to add, after reading all of the other comments - that a previous post mentioned getting a second hand one via Craigslist.com. I thought to myself "what an awesome idea!" until I remembered (and this is what I actually wanted to pass along) that I read (I do a lot of reading lol) that you shoud not buy a car seat if it is 3 years old or older. I don't remember the specifics, but I do remember there being a mention of the plastic (if it has that) wearing down (normal wear and tear plus sun damage) issue. You definitely do not want to put your baby in anything that could lead them into harm's way, so by all means, if you go that route, don't be afraid to ask how old the car seat is :) I also wanted to reiterate what another mom said - ALL carseats have to pass safety inspections and follow safety rules etc etc so there is not going to be any car seat that you purchase (in the US of A from a store) that is not regulated by the safety laws. Again, good luck to you :) I know how hard it is to choose :(