How to Choose a Car Seat When Renting a Car

By kim

One topic parents often struggle with when traveling is whether to rent a car seat with their car rental or bring their own.

Parents who decide to rent a safety seat do so because:

  • It’s more convenient not having to carry the child restraint seat around.
  • It’s less luggage, so you stay under the airline’s extra baggage fees.
  • There’s more than one young child, making it difficult to bring along seats for every child.

Parents who decide to bring their own do so because:

  • They’re more confident with the one they purchased in terms of safety.
  • They’re familiar with their own seat, regarding its installation, usage, etc.
  • They’re traveling by plane or train and their child is required to sit in it.

infant safety seat

Renting a Car Seat With Your Car Rental

All rental car agencies offer the option to rent a child seat directly from them. When going this route, consider these factors: cost, safety and convenience.

Cost: Child seat rental costs vary among companies. Some rent on a per day, per seat basis, which could range from $10 to $15. Others rent on a fixed price, which ranges from $60 to $70 per rental.

If purchasing car rental excess insurance with your vehicle rental, add-on coverage is usually available for child or booster seats.

To save money, research various sources, including:

  • Membership benefits of your motoring club, such as AAA;
  • Travel booking sites;
  • Your auto insurance company may have a partnership with a rental car agency;
  • Coupon codes for the car rental agency you plan to use.

Safety: Although car rental companies guarantee their rental child seats meet federal safety regulations, it’s still a used seat. As such, some things to look for before placing your child in it are:

  • All hardware, such as harnesses, buckles, screws, etc., are included;
  • Properly assembled;
  • No worn material or cracks in the shell;
  • Seat expiration date on the manufacturer’s sticker is valid;
  • Clean, with no stains or odors;
  • Installation manual is included.

Convenience: Renting a safety seat with your rental car is probably the most convenient option because there’s no hauling your own seats through parking lots, airport or train terminals, etc.

convertible car seat

Choosing a Car Seat When Renting a Car

With most rental companies, you can reserve your vehicle and infant seat online before your trip. Some provide a list of options with images.

To select the best seat for your youngster, keep these factors in mind:

  • Make sure the seat base fits the type of vehicle you are renting.
  • Select the type needed for your child’s age, for example, front facing, rear facing, booster seat.
  • Verify it’s the right size for your child’s age, height and weight.
  • Check out its safety features, such as a five-point harness, side impact protection, etc.

Be sure to print your rental reservation with the type of car seat you selected so you can be certain you receive the exact one when you check-in.

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Traveling With Your Own Car Seat

Most parents find peace of mind traveling with the seats they purchased. However, this option comes with these considerations: airline or train policies, baggage check, taking onboard and cost.

Airline or Train Policies: Check airline or train policies for traveling with children. They outline the age in which you need to book a separate seat for children versus having them sit in your lap during the trip.

Baggage Check: With airlines, you may be required to bring the child seat to the gate or check it with your luggage.

In either case, package each child seat carefully to avoid damage in transit.

Taking Onboard: If taking the safety seat onboard, you need to purchase a separate ticket for your child. This applies to babies, too, as most civil aviation safety authorities recommend placing infants in child restraint seats when traveling by plane.

In addition, the back of the car seat must have a sticker that states it is airplane approved, otherwise you will not be allowed to use it on the plane.

Cost: When you factor in rental costs versus oversized baggage or ticket fees when taking your own infant seat, the cost is probably a wash.

Choosing a Car Seat for Traveling

Just as parents buy multiple child seats for each vehicle they own, some buy an extra one specifically for traveling to eliminate the risk of their everyday seat being damaged.

A car seat and stroller combo is perhaps the most convenient travel system. Some good models of combo on include three wheel stroller and child seat combinations, four wheel stroller and safety seat combos, double strollers with infant seats, and jogger child seat stroller combinations.

When choosing a combination travel system, keep this factors in mind:

  1. The folded size and weight, since some can be heavier than traditional ones.
  2. The age range. For instance, some span from an infant to toddler.
  3. Certified for airplane use and the back of the combination unit displays a sticker as verification. (Note, do not remove this sticker.)
  4. Safety features.
  5. How it functions as a stroller and a safety seat separately.
  6. How easy the fabric is to clean.

Whether you decide to bring your own car seat or rent one with your rental vehicle, the most important thing is to keep your little one safe when traveling. Advance planning for safety seat options will do just that.

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