Flying Family Dilemma: Lug The Car Seat or Pay Up at Rental Counter?

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car seat

Traveling parents are in a bind: They don’t want to lug a heavy car seat from home through the airport or risk it getting damaged in the cargo hold, so they opt for renting — but car rental agencies charge between $8 and $13 per car seat, per day. After a few days of renting, you can spend as much as a brand new seat costs — although picking one up safely with kids in tow upon landing would be a challenge.

So, parents open their wallets.

Worse yet, there’s no guarantee that a rented car seat will be in safe condition. Or clean. Or come with an instruction manual on how to install it. Or even be there.

Rental car companies Avis and Hertz told NBC News they provide car seats to its customers as a convenience.

“The daily rental fee pays for a national inventory across all our locations of many more seats than are necessary to meet the demand,” said Hertz spokeswoman Paula Rivera. (The fee is waived for one seat at Hertz for AAA members.)

Laura Bryant, spokeswoman for Enterprise, which also owns Alamo and National, forwarded a copy of Enterprise’s FAQ on child safety seat rental, which says the car rental company “takes child safety and protection very seriously,” and that each seat comes attached with an installation manual for customers to use.

But some parents arrive at the car rental agency and find demand has exceeded the supply of safe, available seats.

Four car seats in a row appeared to be too dirty, flimsy or missing a safety clip when Nathaniel Kelso rented from Dollar Rent A Car after landing in Washington-Dulles in June. He ended up buying a new car seat for his four-month-old, getting a partial refund from Dollar, and selling the car seat at a loss when he got back home.