We rented our fourth car in Uruguay today.
We brought Paisley's car seat along for our travels; it is a Diono Radian RXT, which is supposed to be awesome for travel because it folds up, but is actually not awesome for travel because it weighs as much as a car. (Almost.) I do feel like it is a very safe car seat, though, which is an important consideration when you're choosing a child safety seat.
Our first car we rented from Alamo when we first arrived, in mid-September. I may write more about that experience another time, but for now I will just address the issue of car seats.
We had trouble getting in touch with the Alamo office because their number was published wrong online, so we decided just to walk downtown and hopefully figure car rental stuff out in person. Since it was kind of a long walk, we didn't take Paisley's car seat with us to the rental place. I halfway forgot to bring it, and halfway didn't want to think about it, because it is so heavy that it is no fun to move. If I knew for sure that it would be a one-way w alk we probably would have sucked it up and taken the car seat with us along for the walk, but I remember confessing to Jeff halfway there that I guessed it was probably a 50/50 probability as to whether they would actually be there and rent us a car or not. They were there, and they did rent us a car, as it turned out.
They asked us if we also wanted to rent a car seat for Paisley, for $7/day (I think that was the rate, anyway). We assured them that we had brought hers even though it wasn't with us for the walk. They wanted to show us theirs. It was a forward-facing toddler seat, recommended for kids ages 3 and older. Yikes! No, and, absolutely not! It did look very nice, though, and if I had, say, a 5 year old kid that was going to be forward-facing anyway, and needed that kind of seat, it would have been totally fine.
Our second car was also from Alamo, a few days later, because we traded for an automatic transmission instead of the manual one we started out with.
Our third car we rented from Avis when we returned to Uruguay a week ago. I think they may have asked us if we had a car seat for her, and we said that we did, and it was actually with us because it went with us to Argentina. (Which is another story; sometime I should write about car seats on airplanes...or lack thereof.) Anyway, no car seat rental from Avis.
Today we rented from a guy who has a small local car rental company. When I talked to him ahead of time he said he had two types of car seats for kids and that we could look at them when we went to pick up the car, and use one if we wanted (and I think that would have been at no additional cost).
We liked the idea of using another car seat because Paisley's seat is so large that without a Radian angle adjuster (which we do not have) it is sometimes very difficult to install properly, and I typically end up sitting in the glove compartment because the passenger seat has to be moved so far forward. Rear-facing is still an absolute requirement, though, because Paisley is still too small to be forward-facing, even by the most lenient standards. In the US, babies need to be at least 1 year old AND 20 lbs to be forward-facing, but it is recommended that they be at least 2 (according to our pediatrician). Paisley is not close to 2, and, the last time we weighed her she was about 18.5 lbs, so she is still well below that guideline.
Anyhow, the guy didn't have two car seats for us to see, he had one. It looked a little shabby, but I tried not to act like I was better than them or something. "Can this be put rear-facing?" I asked. He reassured me that it could. Doubting his response, I rephrased the question: "This can go backwards in the car?" "Yes, yes." Huh.
Well, it was smaller. It wasn't an infant seat or anything, but the angles and the difference in size meant that I could probably sit in the front seat with only a minor adjustment, if any.
"You prove it. You put her in it." He invited me to try putting Paisley in the seat in his living room. So I did.
Then I noticed the straps were folded over instead of flat. Hm.
Then I noticed that there was no chest buckle harness thing. At all.
You just put the two little metal pieces from the sides into the crotch buckle, and the kid is supposed to be good to go, even though it kind of looks like they're just wearing suspenders.
I couldn't do it.
"I think it is not that much smaller than ours. I think we should just use ours." Jeff and I have talked a lot about how much we don't like Paisley's car seat for our trip, so I knew he wanted whatever it was going to be to work great, but he said the same thing. "That's not much smaller than hers."
So it was decided that we would just use Paisley's own car seat, which was folded up in the car seat bag.
We did our paperwork for renting the car, and then we went outside to see the new car--which was in this case really a brand-new car, with only 40 kilometers on it.
I started to install Paisley's car seat, and the car rental guy was surprised by how large it is. "I know. I want her to be very safe, but it is not good for traveling..."
He became confused when I started to install the (convertible) seat rear facing. "In all of my years, I have never seen this. Are you sure this is okay?" My eyes widened. OH MY! His whole specialty is cars...he has traveled pretty extensively, including some international trips which had come up during our conversations. I said, "Oh, yes, it is much safer." His English and my Spanish were not great enough for me to explain crash testing,s o I just said, "I will have to show you a video on YouTube." And I will have to show him. [This is the video I'm thinking of.] Several times he expressed surprise and some concern about me putting the car seat in backwards. Then he told me her car seat is like the Mercedes Benz of car seats. That made me laugh. Yeah, it kind of is, but we just really want her to be safe.
I don't know any other people with babies yet, so I don't know how common car seats actually are, or if they really don't rear-face, or if they just don't rear-face convertible seats, or what, but it was a surprising interaction anyway.
It occurred to me later that he must have thought I was asking him whether his car seat could go in the back seat. It was definitely a forward-facing seat!
Car seat shopping would be fairly easy here, if you are not picky. Travel systems (meaning, the car seat that pops onto a stroller) are very common here; when I was shopping for used stroller I thought about half of the strollers were actually travel systems that came with an infant seat. There are some baby stores here--I'm thinking of one that I used to walk past in centro all the time, and there are a couple other stores like that in our local mall--and they each have 10-15 types of car seats, mostly made by bebesit and a couple other brands. I have not looked at them really closely, but I have noticed that there is not a great variety of brands. I have no idea what the limits are for forward-facing or rear-facing, although now I am curious.
None of the cars we have seen here have a LATCH system. It kind of seems silly; I realize it's cheaper to save a dollar on metal and plastic, or whatever, but it is strange to me that they wouldn't make such a minor change for the sake of saving kids' lives.
As of right now, I am planning to swap car seats the next time we're in the US, and pick up a Combi Cocorro. We'll see, though, depending on when we're actually back, and how Paisley is growing at that point.