Mark-n-Sylva... Sylva-n-Mark...

Dangerous Car Seats, Unethical Rental Companies

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I just found some disturbing information, given that when Mark and I traveled with Ezra to Madison, WI, we were considering renting a car seat from Hertz when we rented the car, though we ultimately bought Ezra his own seat on the plane and brought his car seat with us.

Evidently, in the past 9 months, several parents have attempted to rent car seats from Advantage Car Rentals with absolutely miserable experiences... unsafe, extremely expired seats (at least 12-22 year-old seats!!), dirty, missing parts, and worse.

Check out one traveling family's experience in December 2007 at the San Diego airport Advantage Rent-A-Car, and then.. the follow-up.

In January, this story was picked up by several news stations who performed their own under-cover investigations and aired interviews and results of the investigations. Local California ABC and Channel 10 stations aired their own stories. Then, in late January of this year, a month later, a letter arrived from Advantage customer relations. With all the news highlighting their terrible experience, the blog states,
Advantage has performed a company-wide inspection of all their car seats and destroyed any that did not meet the appropriate standards for safe operation. They've also institued a new corporate policy regarding child safety seats, including a requirement that seats be removed from service after two years of use and that parents be given a manual with each seat. Way to go Advantage!

Unfortunately... not all is safe and secure. In July - not two weeks ago!! - a mom rented from Advantage because they believed the company's new policies and promises. Same story in Los Angeles. Danger For Rent: Car Rental Agency Puts Infant at Risk.

The original author flew to LA herself to check out the situation. Again, she was faced with puked-on and visibly soiled car seats, bagged to look as though they'd been cleaned. Parts were missing, and of the best toddler seats she found, neither came with manuals or locking clips for installation. Not a single infant seat had a base, and the best of the bunch was filthy and missing parts. It was impossible for the seat to be installed securely, and managerial staff on location insisted it could be installed securely without the base.

The author states
Last week, I contacted the Head of Customer Service at Advantage Rent A Car and told her what I found. She sincerely apologized, saying that she thought they had addressed the problem and was as dismayed as I was to hear otherwise. She stated that she would follow up with the managers responsible for the Los Angeles location.

Please Spread The Word
I don't want any more parents to show up at a rental car location and feel trapped with no safe way to get where they are going. This is truly a topic where the network of parents can use the Internet and social media to spread the word faster and better than ever before. Help me get the word out to parents who don't know about the risk of renting a car seat. Tell your friends about it, and if you have a blog of your own, please share this story with your readers. During the coming weeks, I will follow-up with a few more stories on this... from my visits to other rental car agencies to stories from other parents. If you would like an interview or guest article on this subject, let me know and I will do my best to fill every request.

I hope this gets out and the rental companies actually follow the safety laws and mandates, and their own policies. Good luck traveling!

Update:
There are more stories in the Comments section of each link above. They show that this is NOT limited to Advantage - Budget, shuttle companies, and more have been named as well.

FYI:
Traveling With Car Seat Aged Children

Thanks to Debbie at Delicious Baby: Making Travel With Kids Fun for her story and personal investigation!