There are many reasons that parents should rent a car and a baby seat when they’re traveling. They include: the option to leave when baby starts crying, the ability to sneak in naptimes while traveling, and the relative ease of dealing with a toddler tantrum when she’s strapped into a five-point harness instead of running up and down the aisle of a bus.
It’s possible for parents to bring their own car seat. However, it’s probably not possible to bring it without paying extra baggage fees (on top of what you’re already paying for four bags of toys and a Pack N Play). Not to mention the stress of hauling it around, packing it safely, and inspecting it for damage after it gets tossed around by the airport staff.
If you have visitors with baby coming from out of town, a rental car seat is a must. Whether it's a new or used car, it is illegal and dangerous to drive a child without a car seat, but the good news is that renting one is cheap and easy. With a little effort, you can make your car safe for a baby (though you probably won’t be able to make your car safe from a baby, so hold off on that detailing job until after the little terror is gone).
How to Find a Car Seat to Rent
Most car rental companies offer baby seats. However, big companies are better than small ones. Massive rental franchises like Alamo and Budget train their staff in safety procedures, regularly inspect their equipment, and have regular site inspections to ensure best practices are being followed.
Still not safe enough? You can also rent from many baby stores as well as places that specialize particularly in rentals for traveling babies.
How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car Seat
It costs around $10-$15 a day for a good baby car seat. This is probably a great deal for a short visit and an okay deal for a longer visit. Of course, there’s a chance that bringing an owned car seat will lead to it getting cracked, putting parents $400 out of pocket.
What Type of Baby Seat Should I Rent?
The main choice to make is between standalone and “travel system” baby seats. If you get a travel system seat, the seat can easily be removed and mounted on a stroller. This can either save your wallet or save your back, depending on how you were planning to get your baby around.
The other options have to do with facing. Most rental seats are convertible, meaning they can be installed as forward- or backward-facing, depending on the child’s age and weight. However, since your child’s requirements are unlikely to change within a rental period, it’s also fine to rent a fixed forward-facing or backward-facing seat.
How to Inspect a Baby Car seat
The first thing to find is the user manual. Any responsible company will have kept it. This manual helps you install it correctly, and more importantly, helps you find the child seat’s registration page online.
Find the car seat’s model number and manufacture date so you can check for recalls. Most rental companies are smart enough to watch for recalls, but it doesn’t hurt for you to check as well.
Similarly, make sure it has no missing or replaced parts—nothing should be, not even a buckle or a clip. Check for the recommended expiry date to make sure it’s in the future, not the past.
Finally, inspect the car seat for cracks. If the foam is cracked, it’s clearly unsafe. If the plastic is cracked, the damage might look cosmetic, but it’s still not safe. Cracked or torn surfaces indicate that the seat has had some rough times in its life and probably has faults in the foam that you can’t see.
How to Install a Baby Car Seat
A good car rental place will not install a car seat for you. Their employees are not certified to do it and will not take the risk. They trust parents will do it better themselves. Let’s prove them right.
Number one, read the manual. Some car seats some have quirks related to strap placement and angle setting that you need to know about. Number two, put the seat away from the airbags.
Some cars have a latch system. Others might not, especially if you bought them used or at auction. However, that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe. Car seats can be installed using the seatbelt as well. Just apply all your body weight when you’re tightening the strap to make sure it stays put.
If you are installing for your visitors, you may want to get a free installation inspection from your city government or local baby-gear store.
That’s the info you need to rent a safe baby car seat. We hope your trip goes well, and also that you get some sleep in there somewhere!
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