One would think that at any car rental agency, child seats would be available without much fuss. Think again; our report just may convince you that the only safe thing to do is bring your own.
According to Consumer Reports, a number of the major agencies won’t unconditionally guarantee child seat availability. Rates also change depending on location. While they typically run $10-$15 per day in North America with a cap at about a week’s rental, some car rentals don’t have a policy for a maximum rental charge. Additionally, drivers are responsible for installing rental safety seats, so be sure to ask for assistance, or a manual, if the model available is unfamiliar to you.
Car Seat Rental Policy at Top Rental Car Agencies
Here’s what we found to help you make an informed decision about your next car seat rental.
Alamo will guarantee a child restraint with your rental in the US and Canada at airport locations, but they are subject to availability outside the US. Child booster seats are featured in some locations but in limited quantities; therefore, not guaranteed with any rental.
Avis advises that you ask for a seat when you make your reservations; their agent says they are guaranteed at all locations, if reserved. Seats are available for both infants (car seats) and toddlers (boosters) at most North American Avis locations. Rates vary by location, but are generally $13 per day, per seat, with a $65 maximum charge per rental. Car seats are available in dozens of other countries as well, mostly by advance phone reservation; the website lists the appropriate phone number to call in each country and rates are typically less than those in North America.
Budget guarantees a seat at corporate-owned franchises if your reservation is made 48 hours prior to pick up. Within 48 hours of pick up and at locations outside the U.S. and licensee-owned locations, your request will be held with your reservation, but the rental is made on a first-come, first-served basis, so availability is not guaranteed. Rates vary by location. Car seats are available internationally, mostly by advance phone reservation; their website lists the appropriate phone number to call in each country.
Dollar makes child safety seats for infants, kids and booster size models available at all rental car locations. If you’re in a state with laws which require a child seat for a rental, and if the seat is mandatory, the counter will advise you at the time of rental. The maximum rate charged varies depending on location and duration of your rental.
Hertz has child seats available at all U.S. locations and they come in infant, child and booster seat sizes. They can be booked online but availability is not guaranteed. AAA and CAA members can, upon presentation of their membership number, book an infant, child or booster seat free of charge for the duration of their rental.
National offers child safety seats in infant and toddler size only, and guarantees them at all airport-serving locations in the United States and Canada with advance reservation. Child booster seats are featured in some non airport locations, in limited quantities, and cannot be guaranteed with a reservation. Child seat styles and rates vary by country; inquire ahead before booking one overseas.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car has child seats available at most Enterprise Airport locations; contact the specific location to make a request. Prices vary.
Thrifty has a clear policy on child safety seats, which are guaranteed to meet Federal or State regulations, are regularly maintained, and stored in plastic bags between rentals. Four types of child restraint rentals — infant, toddler and child/youth booster seats with a high-back or no-back are available for rental, and built-in seats are available in some cars and vans, to be used only by children who are at least 1 year of age and weigh at least 20 pounds. Availability is widespread but not guaranteed at every location. Rates vary by location.
Bottom line: when making rental car plans, inquire specifically about child seat availability and get a guarantee with your confirmation number. Ask about their policies on cleanliness, maintenance and safety features before booking.
Zipcar is an alternative most parents don’t think of, but it can be a very cost effective option for families and let’s you avoid the standard rental car hassles. Once you’re signed up as a member, you can book a car by the hour and bring your own car seat. Rentals of more than 60 models ranging from economy cars to moving vans include gas, maintenance, insurance and 180 miles of driving. Zipcar members can add multiple drivers to their account at discounted annual rates, making it a cost-effective solution for families who need access to a car since licensed teen drivers ages 18 and older can become members. Rates start at $7.50 per hour or $69 per day and vary based on make and model.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.