How to Make Car Rental With a Car Seat More Thrifty?

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, there are so many parents willing to share the wisdom and help the fellow moms and dads with their valuable experience.

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 car seat!

We answered all the most frequently asked questions and stated both the positive and negative sides of renting a car seat in your car.

So stay tuned and plan your trips stress-free!

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Car Seat Rental Basics

  • First Things First, Can You Rent a Car Seat With a Car?
car rental with car seats enterprise

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 here because they have a very high demand for car seats 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. 

  • 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.

You should probably be able to find the information on the agencies' websites so you can know upfront how much the rental will cost in total.

  • Can I Rent a Car Seat Somewhere Other Than the Rent-A-Car Agency?

Yes, you can! There is this agency called BabyQuip that basically represents the network of moms and dads who rent all sorts of baby equipment. I love it!

Everything is arranged online; you choose the location and find a provider in that area. Then you look at the stuff they have to offer, select what you need, and arrange the date and delivery. Finally, you pay for the rental online and take the equipment. Simple as that!

This agency is fantastic because the parents keep their equipment clean and new, so you don't have to worry about the history of the seat you rent, you know you'll get a decent item. I mean, if you were renting your car seat, you would make sure it is tip-top since you will be using it afterward, right?

Well, this agency makes sure that all the parents who are renting think the same way. I give you a complete list of all the BabyQuip locations. 

  • How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car Seat?

Most rent-a-car companies charge around $10 per day for car seat rental. Avis, for example, limits the fee to $65 maximum, and BabyQuip has similar prices, 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 the rental of baby equipment, as you never know what you will get.

However, we have to be thrifty and functional as well, so sometimes, it is okay to turn to 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. Personally, I always bring a car seat with me. 

car rental with car seat lax

The problem with this is that some countries demand the car seat used to be locally-certified.

Now, you're probably confused, locally certified? For example, Australian and European car seats do not have chest clips as they are forbidden there. On the other hand, American car seats are required to have chest clips. Confusing, I know.

Importantly, 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. The only hypothetical situation where this could lead to severe problems is if you got into an accident and someone got injured.

In that case, the insurance company could refuse to pay your expenses, because you did not have a locally-certified seat. Once again, the chances for this to happen are honestly small. So, I wouldn't worry about it.

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.

But, 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.

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, and functionality, and finally gave my verdict. So, dive in!

1. Budget

car rental and car seat

From the finance aspect, it is definitely more cost-efficient to bring your car seat from home. You can both use it while flying to secure your child safely, and in a car that you rent.

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 at all negligible.

Therefore, when the budget's in question, the situation is the following:

  • Bringing your car seat: The most cost-efficient 
  • Buying a cheap car seat from a local store: Cost-efficient but not very functional.
  • Renting a car seat: Expensive

2. Safety

As for the matter of safety, it is always the best to follow the regulations. Therefore, you should use the locally-certified car seat, that is, rent a car seat. But, wait for a second on this.

Even though most people believe the regulations, I think that this is questionable because you don't know who's been using the car seat before and whether it has been adequately cleaned and disinfected later.

Also, as the laws in different regions vary, they may not comply with your sense of safety. For example, it is legal in Australia for a nine-month-old child to use a forward-facing seat ( shocking), so the agency may offer you one.

But I would definitely rather pay a ticket for a seat that does not comply with local-regulations than risk my child's well-being.

So bringing your own 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.

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:

  • Bring your own car seat: The safest option
  • Rent a car from BabyQuip: The second-safest option
  • Rent a car from the agency: Safe but questionably hygienic
  • Buying a cheap car seat from the local store: Not very safe

3. Laws

car rental australia car seat

When it comes to the official regulations, the least advisable thing to do is bring your own car seat from home. Australia, the US, and Europe have some slightly different laws regarding the 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, it is best to rent a car seat, especially in some problematic regions like Victoria and New South Wales, since I heard the police are very strict about this matter here.

Still, in 90% of cases, you won't be in trouble even if the police stops you and sees you don't have a locally certified car seat. So, when it comes to the regulations, here is my verdict:

  • Rent a car seat: The advisable thing to do
  • Buy a car seat from the local store: Equally advisable
  • Bringing a car seat from home: Risky

4. Functionality

It is never good to make reckless decisions and regret later when you're stuffed with all these 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:

  • Renting a car seat: The most functional
  • Bringing a car seat from home: Both functional and not
  • Buying a car seat from the local store: Not at all functional

The Final Verdict

car hire abroad with car seat

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 chances for getting charged are extremely small. 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 it. 

What is the Best Car Rental Agency?

car hire with baby seat auckland airport

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 very often provides some discounts.

Final Thoughts 

To conclude, car rental with 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!

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