What should you know about renting a car with a child car seat?
Can you rent a car with a car seat installed? Most often the answer will be: «Yes». But a much more important question in this situation is: “Should I rent a car seat when traveling?”
There are many different opinions about this. I suggest you to figure out the pros and cons of renting a car seat when traveling in order to form a balanced opinion before the trip.
Reasons why you should consider renting a car seat
Every year, millions of people rent car seats around the world. Maybe they’re on to something?
Here are a few reasons why it would be a good idea to rent a car seat on your next trip.
Baby gear rental is more convenient than lugging your own stuff through airports and planes
Very often, when traveling with the whole family, you have to take a huge number of things. In this case, the opportunity to rent children’s equipment can be very useful.
It is very convenient that there are several great companies that rent out children’s products. There you can find everything from baby cots to high chairs and bath toys. And, of course, you can rent child car seats from them.
These companies often consist of a network of parents who rent out clean, well-groomed children’s equipment. The company requires them to provide age-appropriate car seats and make sure they are in perfect condition. You can often arrange to meet your local provider at the airport with a car seat (and everything else you’ll need for your trip). Of course, you can rent a car seat from a car rental company, but as you’ll read below, there may be some serious pitfalls.
Renting a car seat at the airport will definitely comply with local laws
Whether you rent a car with a car seat or get one from an independent company, the car seat they provide you will be sold on the local market. In some countries, such as Europe and Australia, your child is required by law to ride in a locally-certified car seat.
Car seats with the same names are often found in different countries, and they can be completely different. Here are just a few key differences in the safety of child passengers:
– American car seats must have chest clips, but they are banned in Australia and the EU.
– Australian car seats use a rear-facing tether, US car seats use a forward-facing tether, and EU car seats cannot use either.
– American car seats can be fitted with either a LATCH or a seat belt (never both), but car seats for European and Australian countries can usually only use one or the other.
There are a few additional differences, but you get the gist. In addition, the testing standards are different. Not better or worse, just different. In the US and Canada, the seats are often exactly the same, but the labels are different because they are checked to meet the standards of each country!
In short, your American car seat is technically prohibited from being used in some other countries. Some of them have exceptions for short-term visitors, such as Canada (the exact exception depends on the province and even whether you drove your American car or rented a Canadian one), Israel, and New Zealand.
All this suggests that the probability that you may have some problems if you decide to take a child car seat with you on a trip is extremely small. Car rental agencies definitely don’t care. Even if you get pulled over for speeding, they probably don’t care. The only situation in which this can create a problem is if your family is involved in a car accident that results in injury, and the police officer who reported it is astute enough to understand that the car seat is not locally manufactured. In this case, he can make a note of the incident report that is sent to the insurance company. Then the insurance company will decide whether to deny you a claim in this regard. But this is all theoretical since I’ve been in contact with about 100,000 traveling parents through Facebook groups and forums and have never heard of this actually happening (although people probably want to scare you!).
Bus travel, no car seat required!
The last reason why many parents choose to rent a car seat together with a rented car is that when traveling, people walk a lot and they only need a car seat for a few days or even hours.
For example, you can go to Italy, fly around the country on planes, ride trains and boats before getting in the car. Routes can be built in such a way that you will use the car very rarely. It will be wrong, inconvenient and difficult to carry a child car seat taken with you on a trip. It’s not worth it. In addition, your car seat may not meet local safety standards. It is much more convenient to rent a child car seat at the exact moment when there is a need for a standard set according to local standards.
Reasons why you should abstain from renting child car seats when traveling
Now let’s find out: «Why it is better to take a child car seat with you on a trip instead of renting it?»
Anytime you rent baby stuff, you don’t know the history
When you rent baby products, you trust the people who own and care for them. For something like a high chair or play Mat, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But let’s remember what a car seat is: a disposable life-saving device. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a rented car seat during its lifetime, and the last thing you need is its failure, in the event of a serious accident. My children were involved in a serious accident and both were completely unharmed, thanks to being properly secured in the back seats.
Perhaps a previous kid threw up all over it and a well-meaning attendant soaked the straps in a cleaning solution to clean them? This is contrary to the manufacturer’s recommendations, because it can weaken the fibers and cause them to break under the impact of the shock.
Or maybe the car seat was in an accident, but the car rental Manager decided it was “not serious enough” to guarantee a replacement car seat (if they even know that many manufacturers recommend replacement after an accident).
We recently heard a message in our Facebook group from a parent who saw several car seats set up under the sun and tropical humidity in Costa Rica. This is a quick way to decompose materials, including adhesives that usually hold the side wings that protect the head. What is the situation with car seats in Costa Rica?
The thing is, you just don’t know.
If I rented a car seat for traveling, I would rather get it from the owners who rent it out than from a car rental Agency. First, they are more likely to know how to install their car seats correctly. Second, you can read reviews about them before making a commitment to find out how well this stuff is being looked after. Finally, you can contact the supplier of children’s equipment directly to ask questions in advance!
Renting a child car seat may not meet your safety standards
NOT an appropriate age for forward-facing
Each family has different priorities when it comes to child safety and different ideas about how their children should use car seats. Here in the US, it’s increasingly common to rear-face kids until 4 years old, with many states now requiring it until at least 2 years old. After that families usually keep their children in a forward-facing car seat for a few more years until they’re mature enough to use a booster seat.
For example, the Hertz car seat rental options only include booster seats for kids over 40 pounds or 40″ – a typical 4-year-old. We know that most 4-year-olds aren’t mature enough for a booster seat, but Hertz doesn’t give you another option if you’re renting car seats from them.
So what do you do if you show up and the car rental company offers you a booster seat for your immature 3-year-old? Perhaps your child exceeds the weight limits for the car seat offered? Or you’re given a forward-facing car seat for your 9 months old (which is completely legal in Australia)? Maybe the only car seat available looks like what you rode in as a child?
Infant car seat rental is probably a surer bet if you’re bringing a tiny traveler with you, as most of them will fit babies at least until 6-9 months; however, you still don’t know the car seat’s history and can’t be assured of availability. But of course, lightweight infant car seats are usually really easy to travel with!
There’s no sure bet that what a car rental company provides will actually be a car seat you feel comfortable putting your child in. And it’s nearly impossible to get a straight answer in advance because it’s all “subject to availability”.
What do you do if you show up at the rental counter and are given a seat that you don’t feel safe using for your precious cargo? Your best bet is to send an adult (assuming you’ve got a spare with you) to a nearby store in a taxi to have them buy a new car seat. Hopefully, something is open when you land!
You’ll also need to feel comfortable with your own ability to properly install child safety seats you’ve never seen before. When we rented car seats in Australia, the employees who tried to install them couldn’t do it correctly despite their training; if I had left the car seats as they were, the kids wouldn’t have been safe. Installation is always easier with familiar car seats!
Do car rental companies rent child car seats?
People often think that a child car seat is available and waiting for them.
Is it possible to rent a car seat at the airport? Of course, theoretically. But in practice, what happens is that you book one child car seat over the phone or online, and upon arrival, it turns out that either this is a completely different seat, or it has just been rented to someone else. And you are either left with nothing, or you are offered some kind of replacement. If you have two adults, one can stay with the child, and the other can try to solve something. But in any case, it will cost time and nerves.
And it is definitely not the best way to start your vacation!
Is it possible to rent a car with a car seat at a tiny airport in Panama or Patagonia? I definitely didn’t notice any rooms where they could be stored.
Renting a car seat can be as expensive as buying a new one
Renting a car seat isn’t necessarily a cheap proposition. The going rate is around $15 per day, often with a cap of $60 for the whole rental. But watch out for “airport concession fees” of up to 30%, which can sometimes apply to add-ons like car seat rentals!
But these days in the US, you can get some lightweight car seats that’ll cost less than renting for two trips (or even one!).
Kids under 40lbs should be sitting in a car seat on the airplane
This gets the “1/2” reason designation because parents of kids over 40lbs don’t need to worry about in-flight safety. The airplane seatbelt alone is enough, so for the littlest passengers, you should strongly consider flying with a car seat.
For kids between 30 and 40lbs, the CARES harness will keep them secure on the flight (the manufacturer says 22lbs, but we’ve received TONS of parent feedback to the contrary).
Another option: delivery!
Another option to consider is to order a car seat delivered to your destination.
It works best if you are going to visit family or friends who can meet you at the airport with a car seat, or if you are visiting a place where you can take public transport to your hotel or Airbnb. Hotels and hosts are usually ready to get a package for you in advance, so this can be a great solution!
When you’re done with the car seat, you can bring it home on the way back or leave it if it’s inexpensive. If you are going to visit your family, it would be great to have a car seat there for later visits.
So, what’s the verdict on renting a car seat?
If you decide to bring a car seat from home: even if it doesn’t have local safety certificates, make sure it meets the country’s age requirements. If you’re going to visit New York or California, make sure your two-year-old is rear-facing. If you’re going to visit Costa Rica, keep your 5-year-old in a high-back booster, not a backless one.
If you decide to rent a car seat at your destination: try to minimize as many of the risks described above as possible. Make sure you have a backup plan in case something goes wrong!
Car seat rental FAQs.
Can you rent car seats?
Yes, although you don’t know the history of renting a car seat, so it’s very important to weigh all possible options. It is best to rent in a safe place where there are specific instructions for cleaning and replacing car seats.
Can I rent a car seat without renting a car?
Yes, some local baby gear rental companies offer safe car seats for rent.
Do car rentals have car seats?
You can rent a car with a child car seat if you have reserved it in advance and if the office still has a car available that fits your child when you arrive. Unfortunately, I know families who went to the car rental counter and been left high and dry.
What are typical car rental car seats?
Rental car seats are usually inexpensive – at least in the US. If you rent a car seat, you will probably see a lot of transformable car seats and Graco boosters.