If I were traveling alone, I would always prefer minimum luggage and nothing to weigh me down.
But when you are travelling with a kid, you need to ensure their safety and comfort. So while I was finalizing my itinerary, I assigned myself another task to look into the world of rental car seats.
Can you get a car seat with a rental car? It’s a simple, yes. Rental car companies certainly offer car seats, but this facility comes with its pros and cons. The first and foremost being the rates rental car companies charge for these seats per day. It is without any doubt more than what is fair.
If the hesitation is not due to the monetary factor, it is because of the hygiene aspect.
Nevertheless, it is a matter of personal preference.
Some parents prefer freedom and less baggage, while for others, hygiene is the utmost priority. So before I took a decision I weighed all my options.
Booking a Car Seat with Your Rental Car
Some of the questions that instantly pop in one’s mind are should you reserve a car seat before time, and if you do so are they guaranteed?
How do you make sure that a car seat has not been involved in an accident or been recalled? How often are the car seats cleaned and how much do they cost?
To answer these questions, I contacted the popular rental car companies, some of which include Enterprise, Alamo, Thrifty, Hertz, and Dollar.
Are Car Seats Available at All Locations?
Significant rental car companies such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent-A-Car offer car seats at all major airports.
Are Car Seat Guaranteed Upon Arrival Once Booked?
Once you have booked your car seat with your rental car, you are guaranteed its deliverance. Make sure to book them before time.
Car Seats That Have Been Involved in an Accident or Been Recalled
Although there is no U.S law or federal requirement that asks rental car companies to discontinue damaged car seats, nevertheless, these major companies assured that recalled car seats or the ones that have been through an accident are disposed of or recycled.
To keep their credibility to its finest, companies like Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty have a stringent policy of discarding the car seats once returned after they qualify one of the following upon inspection:
- Discoloration of the plastic
- Noticeable cracks in the plastic
- The car seat has reached its expiration date set by the manufacturer.
- Disintegrated car seats with wear and tear to the covers
- Missing manuals
The rental companies mentioned also claim that the car seats they provide do not exceed their stay amongst the rest for more than a year.
Brand of Car Seat
Some of us are really finicky about the brand of our child’s car seat. The ideal way is to call the respective company and inquire what brand of car seats they carry.
Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty inform that they carry Costco models.
Whereas, Enterprise, National and Alamo have Costco, Evenflo, and Graco brands; although they can change that any time. All of these companies have infant child seats, child seats, and booster seats.
Rental car seats range around $10 to $15 per day, per seat, plus tax. This rate can escalate if there is more than one child. If you are renting through Thrifty, Dollar or Hertz, and are AAA member, the rental fee for one child safety seat can be waived off.
Most companies have a maximum rate that they charge per car seat.
In this context, companies like Enterprise, National, and Alamo have the lowest, maximum rate, which is $66 per rental, amongst the rest of the companies. Avis and Budget amount to $70 per rental, while Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty reach up to $98 per rental.
After some days of renting when the charge reaches its maximum, it is equivalent to purchasing a new car seat.
Installation & Other Factors
It’s no surprise that many of these companies do not have the knowledge of how to install a car seat.
Nor are they aware of what seat to provide according to the size, weight, and height of the child unless told.
Therefore it is advised that be specific about your demands regarding the car seat.
That should explicitly include whether a baby seat with a handle is required or a transitional seat that changes from rear-facing to front-facing.
Also, be mindful when choosing the model of the car seat so you can go through the installation process before time.
Condition & Hygiene
Before accepting a car seat, ensure that all the parts are functional. Attentively look for any shortcomings or damage that can later create complications in the installation process.
Be content with the cleanliness.
Employees at car companies do claim that the car seats are cleaned after every use, but these employees were not aware of the proper way to clean these seats let alone the straps attached to them.
Using harsh chemicals and solvents to clean the harness of these seats reduce their ability to secure the child.
Also, there is no way to know whether the car seat has been involved in a car crash. Besides that it is important to be certain that the car seat has not crossed its expiration date.
Alternatives to a Rental Car Seat
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should not use used car seats. This becomes an ordeal for many parents; whether to forego comfort or lug a car seat through their travel.
It again becomes the matter of understanding how to install the car seat securely and making sure that it’s thoroughly cleaned and not one of those recalled seats.
As recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration if your child is below 40 pounds you can bring their car seat along.
Most airlines allow car seat check in for free and don’t consider it as a check in bag. If the car seat belongs to a child above 40 pounds, it is advised that you check with the airline regulations.
But then comes the concern of the car seat being manhandled by the baggage claim.
TIP: To help the car seat endure the rough and tough environment of the baggage claim pack it in its original packing or a padded box.
Some parents choose to seat their kids in the car seat while they are flying.
While others make use of this extra space by adding extra diapers or clothes in the car seat packing.
When experiencing the check-in of whether to bring your own car seat or opt for a rental car seat there are a few options that can make it easy to let go of the safety risks contracted by rental car seats.
Just like a cart this is structure of wheels and can be attached to your child’s car seat to make it portable, thus making it so much easier to drag through the entire airport rigmarole.
Travel Vest/Booster Seat Alternative
These vests are lightweight, check-in, and you can wear them. Apart from being NHTSA approves, they are easily foldable, thus can be fit into a backpack or suitcase or conformed in the overhead bins.
Purchase a Car Seat at Your Destination
This option may appear as unneeded but imagine escaping the uncertainty of the condition of the rental car seats.
Plus it will also prevent your home car seat from undergoing any damage during the airport shenanigans.
If your vacation involves a place where you are likely to travel frequently (visiting your family and friends), this option can work very well as the newly purchased car seat can remain there.
Don’t Rent a Car at All
Most of the tourist cities have efficient public commutation, so renting a car does not become essential.
Even if public commute or walking on foot is not an option, taxis can be availed, and most of them do not require car seat for kids.
Choose Hertz as Your Rental Company
As discussed above, Hertz due to its partnership with AAA exempts the rental fee for one child seat.
Avail Your Travel Credits
Credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve usually offer travel credits that can be used to pay the rental car fee, including extra charges incurred by car seat, GPS, gas (in case you forget to fill up the tank once returning the car).
It is basically you using your points to pay for the car seat instead of out of pocket.
Rent Car Seats From a Third Party
There are some companies besides rental car agencies who provide traveling equipment for kids; such as babysaway.com.
The price bar is similar, ranging from $10 per day to $60 per week.
If the stay is intended to be for a longer period of time and you would like to opt for a better, these companies have a finer variety and styles and will be able to attend to your requirements in a much better way than any other car rental company.