If you're blessed with a small kid and plan your first vacation, I am sure you have so many questions:
"Should I go by plane? Should I rent a car? How can I transport the car seat? Where to put all these baggage?"
Well, those are the perks of parenting right there!
No, seriously, slow down first-timers. Luckily, many parents are willing to share the wisdom and help the fellow moms and dads with their valuable experience. Sharing is caring, after all.
Therefore, when it comes to car rental, down below, we composed an essential guide with all the information you need to know about car rental with a car seat!
Stay tuned and plan your trips stress-free!
Table of Contents
- Car Seat Rental Basics
- To Rent a Car Seat or Not to Rent, That Is the Question
- The Final Verdict
- What is the Best Car Rental Agency?
- Final Thoughts
Read more —
Car Seat Rental Basics
1. First things first, can you rent a car seat with a car?
Yes, you can! In fact, many rent-a-car agencies offer a wide range of car seats for your toddler or kid that you can rent.
It is also popular to rent a car at the airport, but be careful because they have a very high demand for a car seat rental, and you may end up without one.
Even if you make a reservation, there is no guarantee you won't end up empty-handed; trust me, I've seen this happen many times.
2. Does the car seat rental come with an additional fee?
Unfortunately, YES! Car seat rental is paid additionally, and the rate is calculated per day of rental usually, but it depends on the company. Some limit the cost to a certain amount; others don’t have a limit at all.
You should probably be able to find the information on the agencies' websites to know upfront how much the rental will cost in total.
3. Can I rent a car seat somewhere other than the rent-a-car agency?
Yes, you CAN! There is this agency called BabyQuip. They started as a seller of baby equipment but then became a rental agency. The reason why I love this agency is that it’s a community of parents who honestly care about renting clean and disinfected stuff.
Everything is done online, and they even have an app. Supposedly, they are available in all states across the USA except for Alaska and Hawaii. But this is not the only website of this kind.
There is also Babies Getaway, Traveling Baby Company, and probably countless other sites I haven’t yet discovered. Have you? Share it with us.
4. How much does it cost to rent a car seat?
Most rent-a-car companies charge around 15$ per day for car seat rental. Avis, for example, limits the fee to 65$ maximum, and BabyQuip has slightly more affordable prices; I found seats about $10 per day.
When you add this to the total cost of car rental, phew, you'll spend a fortune. So, prepare your wallet!
To Rent a Car Seat or Not to Rent, That Is the Question
As a parent, you must be suspicious about the stuff that gets in contact with your child, especially newborns and toddlers. And you should be! There is nothing as essential as keeping your child safe and sound.
Going through the countless forums, I figured that most parents are against baby equipment rental, as you never know what you will get. Many parents have terrible experiences with car rental agencies. From all i could read and hear, they don’t give a damn.
However, we have to be thrifty and functional, so sometimes, it is okay to look for a more affordable alternative to buying all the super-expensive stuff.
Now, to get back to the matter, whether you should rent a car seat depends on so many things.
You need to think about what are all the places you will be using the seat at. If you fly to a particular destination at first, you will most certainly need the car seat in the airplane if your kid is under two.
Even though it is allowed to fly with your infant on your lap, it’s not recommendable. In many survivable crashes, infants ended up severely or fatally injured because parents could not keep them on the floor. With that in mind, If you’re flying with a newborn, bringing a car seat is mandatory.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to rent a car in another country or perhaps a continent, car seat rental could be a better option. For example, if you’re traveling to Europe, your car seat may not be produced according to their standards. Apparently, European safety standards are different from the American safety standards.
Significantly, these things do not depend on the brand of the car seat at all; the brand can be ultimately the same, but the standards can be different, and therefore your car seat may happen not to comply with local requirements even though it is perfectly legal at home. So, it might be smart to check the local regulations before you decide to bring your car seat from home, at least if you're a 100% law-abiding citizen.
Now, if you're wondering how likely it is to get in trouble for not having a locally-certified car seat, let me give you the excellent news - minimal. Parents on many forums and social networks all claimed they have never been in trouble because of this, and neither have I.
Moving on, from a financial point of view, bringing your car seat is way more cost-efficient than renting. As I have previously mentioned, car seat rental costs around 10 dollars per day, so unless you need it for a day or two, it does not pay off. It is even more budget-friendly to buy a cheap certified car seat from a local store than renting one.
Personally, I refuse to do this, because these seats are cheap for a reason. I mean, the whole point of the car seats is to protect our little ones, and the seat cheaply-made won't be as efficient as the one you would typically buy. However, if you are financially limited and have to look at the cheaper shelf, my budget-friendly brand to go is Cosco. Their seats are incredibly affordable yet tested and built in accordance with the federal safety standards.
I haven't answered your question yet, I know. But, everything has positive and negative sides, car seat rental as well. To make things more simple, I listed the exact reasons you should or should not rent a car seat below, as observed from the aspects of the budget, safety, law & regulations, and functionality, and finally gave my verdict. So, dive in!
From the financial aspect, it is definitely more cost-efficient to bring a car seat from home. You can both use it while flying to secure your child safely and in the rented car.
Your second option should be to buy a cheap car seat from the local store and use it while you're there; however, you will end up with that seat on your way back, so it is not entirely worth it.
Renting a car seat is the most pricey option unless you only need it for a day or two. The fees are considerably high, and when you add that to the total car rental cost, it is not negligible.
Therefore, when the budget's in question, the situation is the following:
As for the matter of safety, it is always best to follow the regulations. Therefore, you should use the locally-certified car seat, that is, rent a car seat. But let’s talk about this for a second.
Even though most people believe the regulations, I find them arguable. For example, as the laws in different regions vary, the rental agency might offer you a forward-facing seat for your 13-month old baby.
Now you’re not okay with it, but they won’t provide you a rear-facing device because the one they have is federally approved. Some states in the USA allow kids to ride with a seat belt as early as six (Alabama). To my mind, this is unacceptable.
A child needs to be secured in a rear-facing position for as long as possible, and the seat belt use is intolerable before the age of eight. I would rather pay a ticket for a seat that does not comply with local-regulations than risk my child's well-being. But that’s just me.
So bringing your car seat seems like the safest option. If you still decide to rent, I would rent a car seat from BabyQuip in this case, as another parent would most certainly try harder to provide the honestly clean and well-saved equipment than the rental agency, and they have a better offer.
The purchase of a cheap car seat in the local store is not very safe as these seats are not well-made and may ill-perform in the case of an accident. So the verdict goes like this:
When it comes to the official regulations, the least advisable thing to do is bring your own car seat from home. The USA and Europe have some slightly different laws regarding car seats.
Now, these laws are not fundamentally different; a safe car seat made in Europe will still be safe in America; it is not ill-made. However, some details in local regulations vary and may cause you problems. Necessarily, just make sure the seat is for the appropriate age.
However, from the legal point, solely (not my opinion), it is best to rent a car seat, especially in some problematic regions. So, when it comes to the regulations, here is my verdict:
It is never acceptable to make reckless decisions and regret later when you're stuffed with all the luggage you did not have to bring. Been there, done that! Hence, If you hate carrying too many things, it is best to rent a car seat from an agency or BabyQuip.
Buying a cheap car seat from a local store is not at all practical, as you will have to bring that car seat with you on your way back, which is even worse than bringing one with you in the first place.
Bringing a car seat from home is functional because you will use it on aircraft, but you will have to schlep it along everywhere you go, so not as practical as renting one from the agency.
Therefore, when it comes to my advice on the most practical thing to do, here is the situation:
The Final Verdict
From all I previously said, it seems like renting a car seat is not the best decision for your trip. Bringing your own car seat to my mind and based on my experience, is the most cost-efficient, the safest, and still functional option to some degree.
Car rental agencies charge a lot for car seat rental and still give you what they have. You don't know the history of the equipment; your child may exceed the weight recommended, or you can find yourself in a place with different regulations that you're not entirely comfortable with.
If you don't comply with child passenger safety laws, the fines go from $10 to $500, but the chances of getting charged are minimal. It never happened to me! So I would not bother to rent or buy a car seat.
On the other hand, the situation where it does pay off to rent a car seat is when your child is over two years old, so you don't need the car seat in the airplane, and you're staying for only a couple of days in your final destination.
In that scenario, I would check the BabyQuip list first and see if there's a nearby provider I can rent a car seat from, and only then try with the rent-a-car agency.
Another reason why car rental agencies are risky is that you don't know if they will have any seats available. Don't forget to do online research before you go to the agency, see if they rent car seats at all, and what seats are available for the period that you will need them.
What is the Best Car Rental Agency?
I noticed that most parents rent their cars from Thrifty. This is probably because they have an excellent online system for check-ins and reservations, so parents perhaps find it the least effort-consuming. However, I would not recommend this agency. Countless times I've stumbled upon negative reviews, complaining about the additional fees being charged. Also, the parents who rented car seats from Thrifty claim they were old and not worth the money.
However, Thrifty is a part of a large corporation called Hertz. And Hertz, hands down, is the largest global rent-a-car agency. They don't require deposits like Thrifty, have more locations worldwide, and have more payment options. Most importantly, Hertz has some great airport locations so that you can rent your car straight out of the plane.
I would avoid Enterprise since people have some frightening stories with their vehicles and even lawsuits. You can see the reviews for yourself on the link. On the other hand, I would recommend Avis as another great agency with many globally available locations, which often provides some discounts.
To conclude, car rental with a car seat for your family trip is possible. However, it is not entirely the best option. It proves as quite handy for a few days rental when you need it just for the part of your trip, but for some more prolonged periods, it costs more than it should.
I would definitely consider bringing my car seat from home or renting one from BabyQuip before choosing the seat from a rent-a-car agency because they don't take such good care of the equipment and give you what they have, not what you feel comfortable with. All in all, it is up to you to decide!