When traveling with babies or young children, finding a car rental agency willing to make the extra effort to find an infant car seat can be a hassle. No doubt parents have a long list of questions. How easy is it to find a reliable rental agency, and how safe are the car seats they have? How easy is it to get a live human being on the phone to inquire about one?
Most if not all car rental agencies are geared towards renting large number of vehicles to make as big of a profit as possible, and the process of car rental is automated. Child safety restraint seats are low on their priority list and some parents report a bad experience trying to get a car seat installed on a rental.
One family who flew from Seattle to San Diego in 2008 with two small children rented a vehicle after getting off the plane, but received dirty car seats with missing parts. When they complained the manager at the rental agency offered them a refund, but no help with the car seats. California law requires children younger than age 8 to be buckled in a car seat, booster seat or in the back seat. When the television media learned about the incident, the resulting publicity forced the agency to take steps to correct the problem. It destroyed the car seats not meeting legal requirements and instituted a companywide child safety seat policy to make sure in the future it would have safe, clean car seats for customers.
To prevent a public relations nightmare like that, many car rental companies have gotten on board with accommodating young passengers.
- Hertz Rent A Car offers customers who are AAA members a free car seat or booster seat with every rental, to give families a break from having to drag along their own car seat through the airport. Non-AAA members receive a discount on the rental of the child safety seats. The seats are subject to availability and parents are asked to call ahead to notify Hertz of a child restraint system request. Customers are responsible for installing the seats themselves.
- Budget Rent A Car offers more of a guarantee, but time restrictions apply. At corporate-owned Budget locations, availability is guaranteed only if the child safety seat reservation is made 48 hours in advance. Rates to rent a car seat vary by location but the average is $10 per day. Parents will need to know how to install the seat themselves, because Budget employees are not allowed to install them.
- Travelers picking up a car seat from Thrifty Car Rental will pay an additional charge on top of their car rental fees, but at least the seats are available. To accommodate older as well as younger kids, the company has infant and toddler seats as well as child and youth booster seats, with or without a back. Like Budget, Thrifty personnel are forbidden to install a car seat for a customer. Instead, customers are given the installation instructions, plus LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) equipment and other accessories, to do it themselves. Upon return of the car seat the rental agency is required to inspect the seat for wear and tear, or broken or missing parts.
- As far as being helpful, the folks at Avis Rent A Car go in the exact other direction with its child safety seat policy. Avis has Evenflo car seats, and the managers are trained to properly install them using the LATCH system. All locations also have foam levelers to make sure the seats are installed evenly and securely.
- Not only does Dollar Rent A Car have car seats and booster seats at all of its locations, but some models of the Dodge Caravans rented there come with built-in child safety seats. Also, back-door child safety locks come standard on most Chrysler vehicles. For details, call the Dollar location where you reserved your vehicle.
It’s interesting to note that Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental or Alamo don’t make details of their infant car seat policies readily available on their website. Unlike other car rental agencies that advertise discounts or free car seat rentals for AAA members, they don’t volunteer that information. The best bet is to call their toll-free number and ask, to avoid any surprises when you show up at the counter to pick up your rental car.
|Valerie Baldowski is passionate about writing about everything from childrens safety and juvenile products to gardening tools. She is the mother of a high energy 8 year old child so she is accustomed to researching childrens products and services… See more about Valerie
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