Parents warned over rented car seat safety

Parents are being urged to take care when renting a child car seat on holiday after a study found nine out of 10 families reported problems with hire car seats.

Consumer group Which? was told of problems ranging from a lack of fitting instructions to potentially dangerous damage when parents were asked about their experiences of hiring a car seat from their holiday car provider.

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Among 1,800 parents, 85 per cent said they had encountered issues when borrowing a car seat from a vehicle rental firm. A third said they were given no fitting instructions for the seat, despite an incorrectly fitted seat posing a potentially fatal risk for young passengers.

A further quarter said that they were given the wrong seat for their child’s age or weight, another issue which could lead to serious injury or death in the case of a crash.

Rental companies charge up to £12 per day for car seat hire but don't always have the correct equipment (Photo: Shutterstock)Rental companies charge up to £12 per day for car seat hire but don't always have the correct equipment (Photo: Shutterstock)
Rental companies charge up to £12 per day for car seat hire but don't always have the correct equipment (Photo: Shutterstock)

Worryingly, one in seven said they had noticed missing parts on their rented car seat and the same proportion had been given a seat with visible damage.

Despite the range of problems encountered, more than half (53 per cent) of parents said they used the car seat anyway.

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Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services for Which?, said: “It’s alarming to hear that so many parents have experienced problems with child car seats when hiring a car. Issues such as a lack of instructions might not seem important, but could make all the difference in the event of an accident, as even the safest car seat won’t offer the best protection if fitted incorrectly.

“Car rental firms clearly need to do more to ensure they can provide the right car seats that are in good enough condition for parents to use. Until then, don’t be afraid to challenge the provider until they offer you an adequate alternative or where possible, try to take your own car seat with you.”

Which?’s top tips for hiring a car seat

  • Check the cost of hiring a child car seat in advance. Rental firms charge between £7 and £12 per day and it could be cheaper to take your own. Even if you have to pay extra luggage charges as a result of bringing your own car seat, it may not be that much more expensive than the child car seat hire fee. Plus, you’ll know you have the correct seat.
  • Provision of car seats is subject to availability, so be aware that the only choice of travel car seat could be one that’s the wrong size or car seat group for your child.
  • When you’re given the car seat, make sure it’s suitable for the age and weight of your child by checking the label on the back.
  • Check the seat’s condition before you drive off to make sure that the harness isn’t damaged or worn, the buckle works properly and there are no obvious cracks or creaking of the seat shell.
  • If you’re unsure about how to fit the seat, ask for help. If the seat has already been fitted in the car, check it to make sure it has been done correctly and the seat is securely fastened.
  • If you are concerned about the seat you are offered or the hire company cannot provide a suitable child seat consider buying one at a large supermarket near to the rental office. This may cost the same as hiring one but will be more likely to have the right choice of seat and will come with instructions and potentially expert advice.
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