Never rent a car seat!

Monday's post on Z Recommends talks about car seat rentals with Advantage Rent-a-car, and the unclean, unsafe seats they have been found to offer their customers. Reading the post made me so mad, because it brought up memories of a horrible experience we had with a car seat rental.

After our experience and reading the comments from other readers of the post, I strongly urge you to always bring your child's car seat when you travel. Don't rely on rental companies to keep your kids safe!

Here's our story:

We had a very bad experience with renting a car seat at Hertz, and I hope we never have to rent a car seat again. We now have a Radian folding car seat that we bring with us when we travel.

We flew into Hamilton, Ontario and drove into Toronto last summer. We rented a car from Hertz because of a recommendation by CAA and the promise of having an infant seat provided at no charge and having it installed by "special trained personnel". In addition to the installation, CAA touts the "safety, security and convenience", and says that "Hertz field personnel have been extensively trained on the proper installation, cleaning and inspection of the car seats and will install the seats in the vehicle".


HA!!!! Our experience contradicted all of that!

We reserved our infant seat weeks ahead of time, and when we picked up the rental, we were given a car seat to install ourselves. The employee wouldn't install it for us, and she didn't have an instruction manual. My husband mentioned to the clerk that their website said that the seat would be installed by trained personnel. She said that she had taken the course for installation but said she wanted nothing to do with it. She said that she didn't want to end up in court if we got in an accident!

She (and Hertz corporate, when we later contacted them) said that they would be changing the website information shortly, but they still haven't changed their policies.

And even worse than all of that, the seat was FILTHY. I've never seen a car seat so dirty. There was rust all over the bottom of the seat and some in the car base as well. Who knows how damaged it was! We didn't feel safe using the seat for our baby, so we asked for a replacement, and were told that there were no other car seats. The employee also refused to call another location to reserve a seat for us to pick up.

Thankfully, when we drove to the Toronto airport location the next day, they gave us a brand new car seat with an instruction manual (which we again had to install ourselves), but that didn't make up for the inexcusable service and condition of the original car seat, which we had to use, driving for an hour on Canada's busiest highway!

My advice: BRING YOUR OWN CAR SEAT WHEN YOU TRAVEL.


Update:
I've been quoted on BlogHer! Read more car seat horror stories on Mir Kamin's post: Think twice before renting a car seat for your child.

Update:
I also posed the question: What about taxis?

And check out 2 posts from the woman who started the blogs buzzing about this topic:

Danger for Rent: Car Rental Agency Puts Infant At Risk. She took photos of the damaged seat she received. I wish we had thought to take photos of the seat Hertz gave us!

and

Safety Tips for Renting a Car Seat

27 comments:

  1. I've been reading through all the horror stories on this issue, and I'm thinking that the rental companies' fear of "liability" doesn't go far enough. I can understand the clerks not being allowed to help the customer install, especially if they haven't been trained: I'm a certified carseat inspector, and don't help anyone in my official capacity without them signing a waiver. However, even if the employees don't help with installation, what about the company's responsibility to provide (1) the correct size as requested by the parent and (2) a seat that they're sure is undamaged. Invisible damage caused by a 'minor' accident or even a tumble down the stairs can render a seat much less safe then it was; and of course the wrong size is very bad indeed. Must not these cars have working brakes and headlights - not to mention seatbelts? Is it the renter's responsibility to give the car a full mechanical inspection before renting? If the company is not prepared to provide customers with everything they need for safe transport, it shouldn't be in the business.

    It seems that the only thing for consumers to do now is to provide their own carseats for rental cars, no matter what the companies say. I love the idea of the fold-up Radian, especially the 65-pounds-in-5-point-harness feature. Did you purchase it in Canada, and does it have a Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) sticker or notice? Unfortunately, the manual isn't available on the website; if you know where to get one, it would be a good thing to add to our inspection reference material.

     
  2. Hi Heather!

    I agree, there are so many liability issues that you'd think rental companies would be more careful about what they're providing to their customers!

    I did a lot of research before buying the Radian, and went on some online forums about car seat safety to get opinions, and this seemed like a really good option for us. We got the Radian 65 (the 80 isn't available in Canada), and I made sure it had a CMVSS sticker specifying 65lbs before I bought it.

    Canadian Tire used to carry the Radian but they don't anymore, and although the ones they had are the same design at the 65, the had the old stickers, for when it was only certified for 40-something lbs. I bought it online from Tummies to Tots, but I know several online Canadian stores carry the Radian. It was great, we received it in less than a week, and shipping over $100 is free, so I didn't have that expense to worry about!
    http://www.tummiestotots.com/

    Oh, the manual for the Radian 65 is online here. It's from the U.S. site, but the manual is the same, except for not having French. If you contacted the company, they'd probably give you a PDF of the Canadian version though.
    http://www.skjp.com/products/skjp_radian_65.php

    We bring our Radian with us when we travel, but I'm still always a bit nervous about how it is handled by airline baggage carriers!

     
  3. Have you ever thought or renting a carseat from a baby equipment rental agency. Wee Travel has offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria. They deliver to the airport (or elsewhere) and their seats are SPOTLESS. I travel on my own with my child, and I could never manage to bring my own seat on top of everything else i have to bring. I have used Wee Travel in both Toronto and Vancouver and would highly recommend them. I travel frequently to visit family and thanks to Wee Travel, I leave all the gear at home and just rent it. I know there are rental companies in all the major Canadian cities so it's worth checking out before you decide to schelp all your own stuff with you!

     
  4. Another company that I have used and would highly recommend is BAMBINO BABY EQUIPMENT RENTALS. They are based in Vancouver and deliver to the Vancouver airport for FREE!! All their equipment is practically new and in great condition!

     
  5. momof2 > Nice to hear of it - hopefully there are some similar services in other cities too! The free delivery is a great perk!

     
  6. Thanks for posting this link on my blog. What a scary experience!

    I think it's better to drag your own car seat around then rent one that you don't know where it's been.

    It's funny you mentioned the Radian, I was just looking into it the other day. I wish I could get 3 of them, so my daughter and 2 nephews could all fit in the back seat of one car! We are always wanting to go places, but the parking is so expensive. If only we could fit in one car!

    Of course, the $750 for car seats would far be worse than the $11 dollars per car rate to park. LOL!

     
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  13. I can understand the clerks not being allowed to help the customer install, especially if they haven't been trained: I'm a certified carseat inspector, and don't help anyone in my official capacity without them signing a waiver. However, even if the employees don't help with installation, what about the company's responsibility to provide (1) the correct size as requested by the parent and (2) a seat that they're sure is undamaged. Invisible damage caused by a 'minor' accid
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