Ask A lot Of Questions When You Rent Car Seats

It is a decision that I don’t think we will ever find an enjoyable solution.

When it comes to flying with young children, do you bring your own car seats or rent car seats with your car at the other end?

Bringing your own does provide the comfort of knowing how to install them and that they are perfectly fitted for your kids. Plus, there is no cost.

But, they could get lost by the airlines and you have to carry them around as part of your luggage.

With renting, you don’t have to worry about the extra baggage and you know that they are there waiting for you. The cost however is a little steep (we paid I think $30/day for each seat).

But, they are foreign to you in every way. You have to install and adjust them to fit your kids. Plus, they tend to look like they were purchased at Value Village. No offense to Value Village, we love going there.

Twice, we have flown with the kids and rented a car at the other end. Twice we have rented car seats for our boys. Twice we have run into problems.

On our latest trip to Manitoba, the issue was something we could not of predicted and was so avoidable, if only the car rental company asked a few more questions.

So next time, we will be asking those questions to avoid the mess, delay and overall stress of the situation.

I should mention that the car rental company ended up giving us all the fees for the car seats back which was surprising.

We flew from Halifax to Toronto and then on to Winnipeg. That meant flying with our 4-year old and 1-year old. The total duration of the flights was close to seven hours. That is a long day for kids. Especially when we were all under the weather.

Finally we were on the ground and all that was left was picking up the rental car and driving a few hours to our destination. The kids could sleep and we could both relax.

Not so fast.

We get our bags and haul everything over to the rental desk. By the way, the Winnipeg airport was pretty nice. It had a play area for the kids.

I also want to mention at this point, the boy’s patience had run out. Charlie was miserable and just wanted to sleep. We were all feeling rushed and just wanted to get on the road.

So everything went fine at the desk. We got a discount thanks to CAA and added a pile of air miles to our card.

Then it came to the car seats.

From a previous trip I knew that the rental car company won’t install seats. They don’t want to be liable. I think this is pretty crappy if you ask me, but that is another post one day.

Instead, you get to take two seats that are totally new to you, go into a dark parking garage and then try to figure out how to install them in a car you have never seen.

Yes they say car seats are universal and they are all basically the same, but for anyone who has actually installed car seats, you fully understand my pain.

This time, Harry just had a booster seat. No problem. Check.

Then it was the baby seat which is always tricky just getting tight.

I clipped it in and seemed to go pretty fast. Perfect.

I go and get the family and the bags and we load up.

Charlie is just done. He is ready to sleep like he has never slept before.

We are all packed, I go to put Charlie in and he does not fit. There are no adjustment options. This is not good.

I angrily yank the seat out of the car, pass Charlie over to Katie and march to the rental desk. I don’t get openly mad but I do start to slow boil on the inside. Add that to my size and I can see why it would come across as scary. Add the pissed off parent mood and it was go time.

I went back and explained that it did not work. Our baby did not fit.

I wish I had a recording of the conversations that followed. I really do.

There was a lot of – are you sure? and how old is your baby?

It was like they did not realize I was the parent with years and years of car seat knowledge.

Finally, the guy read the seat. For children up to 22 lbs.

Then, so how heavy is your baby? I said around 25 lbs.

Yeah that is no good.

I KNOW.

Then we got into a forward facing versus rear facing debate that I was not in the mood to have.

Finally, it was decided we needed a new seat.

They called down to some basement below a parking garage for some guy to bring up more. By the way, the whole ordeal was explained to basement guy again while I was boiling a little more.

All the while, Katie was out in the parking garage wanting her chance to burn the place down.

So two more seats were brought right to the car. Perfect.

I tested Charlie in one and he fit. Straps and all.

Guy left.

I went to put it in the car. There was no way to fasten it to the car. No belt or base or anything.

Boil just went to steam coming out of ears.

I marched back fast mostly to avoid Katie taking over. That would have been a bad scene for the whole province at this point.

I went back and said, strike two.

More shocked conversation. More confusion over why it would not work. Turns out buddy just forget the rest.

Instead of waiting, there was one more seat sitting there. It was giant and it was not the best looking piece of baby gear but it was there.

I asked, is that rear facing? After reading the seat and thinking, the guy is like I think so.

I also heard that they had nothing left in the magical basement.

So I asked the obvious question.

If this one last seat does not work, are we just stuck here?

The guy said, well we have never come across this situation ever.

I grabbed the seat and marched away.

The next three minutes were a blur. The hot wave of stress and anger blocked out my memory I think.

The seat worked, Charlie fit and we packed up and go the hell out of there fast.

It was one of the most frustrating experiences we have had as parents I think.

It all could have been avoided if they asked a few more questions about the car seats needed. Or provide options. All babies are not the same.

Because the company ended up discounting the car seats off the bill, I am keeping their name out of it.

I wanted to share this story with all parents travelling who are renting car seats at the other end. We would have never thought of asking these questions beforehand. Now we will always ask and make sure we are getting the seats we need.

So, when it comes to flying with young children, ask a lot of questions when you rent car seats with your car.

Everyone cooled off on the drive. Everyone was fine in the end

Well until we entered a dead zone and lost all mobile power on our phones and got lost a few times. But that is a story for another day.

7 Comments

  1. Oh jeez, this sucks a lot. I don’t have a lot of time for crappy service, you sound like you stayed calmer then I did.

  2. I had NO IDEA how clueless car companies were about car seats until I had to deal with them in January. I told them the age of my kids. I told them the weights. I told them what kind of carseats I needed. (Pretty much the SAME EXACT CARSEAT FOR BOTH OF THEM – a convertible that could be forward or rear facing, getting kids between 25 and 40 lbs).

    When we got there they only had two “carseats” there for us, waiting. No other options. And the car seats were? A infant bucket seat and a booster. For my almost-1 (and definitely over the weight and height limit baby… he hasn’t been in an infant bucket seat since 4 months) and my two and a half year old. We made do but I was so frustrated and worried about their safety the whole time.

    • Laura, well it sounds like you actually did all the work and it still did not work out.

      We had the same feeling. The seats were not great and they were not installed great but at the point, we said, screw it, they will do.

      Thankfully there were no other issues and we were in the back country of Manitoba, but still like you said, you worry about all the “what ifs” as you drive around in sub standard car seats.

      And you have to pay for them on top of everything else.

  3. Oh dear! What an ordeal. This reminds me of dealing with uhaul and getting the fucking passenger air bag turned off. Bottom line is, these companies don’t give a shit about our kids or their safety. All they care about is money. And all we care about is both of those things. How much money it’s going to cost us to rent the stupid things and the safety of our families. I’m right there with you with the frustration. It’s infuriating how much we have to advocate for ourselves but thank you for sharing your story!

    • Steph, yep, you said it.

      To just wash their hands of everything by saying we can’t do this or that for liability reasons just seems wrong.

      It is a service they are providing that we are paying a lot for.

      Forget the whole “we’ll pick you up” BS and just focus on everyone’s safety.

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