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Car hire child seat safety warning

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Written by: Emma Lunn
17/08/2020
Nearly nine out of 10 families reported safety issues with car seats in rented cars, according to Which?

Parents hiring a child seat with their rental car this summer are being urged to take extra care after a Which? investigation found many seats were provided damaged, the wrong size, or without any instructions.

In a survey asking 1,800 parents with a child under 12 about car hire, the consumer champion found that 85% of those who hired a car seat when renting a car had encountered issues with it when they came to collect their car.

Lack of instructions

Which? found that the most common problem, encountered by a third (32%) of parents, was not being provided with any advice or instructions on how to fit the seat from the rental firm.

But more than half (52%) of parents still used the car seat despite the lack of instructions.

Cost

Cost was seen as a massive issue by a quarter (27%) of the parents polled. Which? found that child car seats tend to cost £7 to £12 a day – meaning a family with two small children could end up spending more than £300 hiring car seats for a fortnight.

Only three in 10 (31%), however, were put off sufficiently by the price to go without the car seat at all.

Wrong size seats

Many car hire companies give customers the option of selecting a car seat for a particular weight or height bracket. However, a quarter (23%) of the parents surveyed arrived at the rental desk to find that they had been given the wrong size seat.

Using the wrong size seat can not only carry a fine in the UK but could also put a child’s life at risk. About half (49%) of the parents given the wrong size car seat chose not to use it.

Booster seats

One in five (18%) parents said they had only been provided with a backless booster seat. While this type of seat is better than not using one at all, a child could still be seriously injured because it does not provide any protection in a side-on collision.

Half of parents (53%) chose not to use the hired child car seat if only a backless booster seat was supplied.

Missing parts and damage

Which? also found that one in seven (15%) parents spotted missing parts, and another one in seven (14%) noticed damage to their car seat. More than half (54%) of parents admitted they would still use the car seat even if it was damaged.

Overall, despite the range of problems families faced with their car seat when they arrived at the rental desk, more than half (53%) of parents used the car seat anyway.

However, two in five (37%) of the parents surveyed told Which? they had been provided with another seat and one in 10 (9%) decided that they would make do without a car seat altogether.

Car seat options

Parents planning on hiring a car seat with their rental car this summer should make sure they request the correct car seat for their child at the time of booking.

If a seat is damaged or unsuitable, parents should raise this with the rental firm straight away as they might be able to offer a better alternative.

If parents are concerned, Which? advises parents to bring their own car seat where possible.

Another option is to buy a brand new car seat in a local supermarket on arrival at your destination. 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.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, 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.”

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