The Wild West of Car Seat Hire

This post is about hiring a car seat when you are renting a car.

First things first: you should take your own car seat whenever possible. You know how to install it correctly and you know that it’s not been mishandled or involved in a car accident. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to rent a car seat, read on.

After handing over an extortionate amount of money for the privilege of hiring a car seat (such as a cringeworthy £63 for 7 days), you head over to pick up the rented car seat and find that you are handed one which is either dirty or of cheap quality or both. You then realise that you have no clue on how to install the car seat and spend the next 30 minutes of your valuable holiday time figuring it out with a YouTube video in one hand and a crying baby/toddler in the other.

Luckily for you, Car Seat Jungle solves the latter problem. Simply head over to the Car Seat Library, select your car seat model and get all the info on how to install the car seat (subject to freely available information from manufacturers). The bad news is, we can’t solve the former problem: car rental companies often provide cheap or poor quality car seats and there is nothing to stop them. If you are lucky, you might get a car seat from a well-known and trusted brand but even then you still wonder if the car seat is safe: how long has it been in use? Has the car seat been cleaned with child-friendly detergents? Has the car seat been handled well? For example, has it been thrown or dropped? Has it been exposed to extended periods of time in the heat which can cause the car seat to lose its safety properties?

And then there is this to consider: car rental companies say very little about the car seats that they rent out. First and foremost, when booking a car seat you don’t know what brand or even installation type to expect. Second, is there a car seat policy in place to ensure car seats are handled well and are safe to use? (The answer for pretty much all rental companies is ‘No’ and we reviewed 7 major rental companies: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty). Third, why is it so utterly extortionate to hire car seats? In some cases renting the car seat is as expensive as renting the car itself or buying the car seat new. Finally, why is staff not trained in car seat fitting so that they can provide guidance on installing car seats?

Perhaps worst of all are the statements which can be found on official car rental websites. This blog post reveals the top and bottom car rental companies in relation to the information they provide about their car seat hiring options and the emphasis they put on child safety.

Is it time for car rental companies to step up and make child safety a priority? A quick search online reveals discussions from thousands of concerned parents about bad experiences with car seat rentals. Most commonly, unsuitable car seats are given as the only option to parents who had booked a car seat in advance and were expecting car seats adequate to the child’s weight or height. Before setting out on your journey consider whether renting a car seat is your only option and if you can take your own car seat with you.