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When traveling with young children, you’ll need a car seat if you rent a car. The rental-car companies know that it’s the law, so they see this as an opportunity to overcharge for car seats. Consumer Reports pegs the average price for a car seat rental at $13 per day. Those costs can really add up over the course of a vacation. So, what can a family do?

Avoid Renting a Car

One obvious answer is to avoid renting a car while on vacation. Many cities around the world have great public transportation that makes renting a car unnecessary. My favorite examples include San Francisco, New York City, London and Tokyo.

Even if public transportation or walking isn’t an option, most cities do not require car seats when passengers ride in taxis. Depending on your comfort level with this, that can also make Uber and Lyft transportation possibilities, but check with local laws to verify whether you’ll need a car seat for a child passenger.

Book With Silvercar for a No-Fee Car Seat

Mommy Points thinks that Silvercar is the best car rental company for families. Part of the reason is that it offers free high-quality Peg Perego car seats at all of its locations. In fact, the company offers two different Peg Perego car seats. The Primo Viaggio Convertible can be used rear-facing for children 5 to 45 pounds and forward-facing for children 22 to 65 pounds, up to the maximum height limits. The Viaggio Flex 120 can be used for children from 40 to 120 pounds and up to 63” in height. After making your rental reservation, email Silvercar at support@silvercar.com to let them know you’ll need a car seat when you arrive.

Happy in a free Silvercar car seat (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Happy in a free Silvercar car seat. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Get a Free Car Seat from Hertz and AAA

If I need to rent a car while traveling with my family, Hertz is my first choice. Through its partnership with AAA, you are entitled to one free car seat per reservation when you rent a car with Hertz using the AAA promo code.

Hertz otherwise charges $13.99 per car seat or booster per day (a bit less if you have elite status with them), so this AAA promo code can save almost $100 for a weeklong vacation. Call the number on the back of your AAA card to ask about the code if you can’t find it in your original registration materials.

Bring Your Car Seat from Home

Although car seats can be big and bulky, you may want to bring one with you from home. When our children were infants we would do this on a regular basis. Most domestic airlines do not charge to check a car seat or stroller. Here are 21 airline stroller policies from around the world. (You can definitely make travel easier with car seats and strollers.

Some traveling parents choose to place their children in car seats on the plane. We never did that. Instead, we bought a protective cover for our car seats and checked them in the terminal. An added plus is that we could fit extra diapers or extra clothes in the additional space in the car-seat bag.

Once our kids graduated to booster seats, bringing them from home was easier, although they are still somewhat clumsy to carry as you make your way through the airport to the rental car.

Use a Booster-Seat Alternative

Life became easier when we discovered the miFold compact car seat. These devices are NHTSA approved yet fold down to the size of a thick paperback when not in use. The compact design easily fits in a suitcase, carry-on or backpack. At a price of about $33 on Amazon, the investment will quickly pay for itself. An added plus is that we let Grandma use the miFold car seats when she visits so that our kids stay safe in her back seat. Here are some additional top travel gear for kids.

Scarlett and Timothy with their miFold compact car seats. (Photo courtesy of Lee Huffman)

Use Travel Credits to Pay Rental Car Fees

Look in your wallet for a credit card — like the Chase Sapphire Reserve — that offers travel credits ($300 per year in the case of the CSR) that you can use to pay your rental-car bill. This includes any extra fees you may get charged, such as for car seats, for GPS or if you promised to fill up the tank and then forgot to do so before returning the vehicle.

Technically you’re not avoiding paying for a car seat. However, when you use these travel credits, you won’t pay out of pocket for the seat rental fees.

Recently, I’ve been using the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card for travel expenses that I can’t cover with airline miles and hotel points. Both of these credit cards allow you to spend money as usual and then apply your points to eliminate the expenses that code as travel on your statement, after you return from vacation.

Bottom Line

Even if you find a great deal on a rental car, car-seat rental fees can increase your costs significantly. Whenever we travel we try to avoid renting a car so we don’t have to pay extra fees for car seats, gas or parking. That’s not always an option, so it’s good to have these money-saving tricks up your sleeve to avoid paying for a car seat.

Need more car rental advice?

Featured image by Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

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