When it comes to hiring a Recreational Vehicle (or RV) in the US, regulations can vary considerably depending on a range of factors, such as the child’s height, weight and age. What’s more, as with driving laws in general, these rules can differ from state to state, so it’s really important to do your research before embarking on your journey.
In this guide, we share everything you need to know about using child seats in RVs in the USA.
Your child car seat must meet NHTSA Federal Safety Standards
No matter what vehicle you drive, all child seats in the US must comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s regulations. These standards relate to 3 things: specifications of the child seat, recommendations for age and size of your child and safe installation requirements.
Car seat specifications
When shopping for a car seat, make sure you check that they meet the NHTSA’s safety standards. One great way of doing this is to use their car seat finder tool. This lets you compare car seats based on their safety specifications. In our motorhomes, our manufacturer installs a thin latch to connect to the forward facing seat in the eating area (in the US, we often refer to this area as the “dinette”). Children should be seated facing forwards in the dinette as this is the safest option.
Age and size requirements
The NHTSA also provides a guide showing which car seat types and sizes are suitable for children of different ages, heights and weights.
Age 2 and under:
As you can see from the above chart, the younger and smaller a child is, the more they’d be suited to a rear-facing car seat. These are best for children under the age of 2, or those who have not reached the minimum weight or height requirements for a forward-facing car seat.
When they become toddlers, a forward-facing seat is generally more suitable. This must have a harness and, as with any car seat, it should be appropriate for your child's weight and height.
After this, from around the age of 4 onwards (depending on their height and weight), a booster seat is typically the best option. Booster seats help position the child in a correct way for the seat belt to work safely when needed. Age, weight, and height requirements for booster seats can vary by state, so it’s important to look up the requirements for the states you’re travelling to before starting your journey.
8 years and over
Between the age of 8 and 12 (depending on size) your child may then be ready to ride in your vehicle without the need for a booster seat. To check to see if your child is ready for this, see how the seat belt fits them without their car seat. The NHTSA’s requirements for this are as follows:
“The lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.”
No matter what type of car seat your child is ready for, it’s crucial to always refer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions which should include height and weight limits.
When installing a car seat, always read either your vehicle owner’s manual, or if hiring a vehicle, speak to the hire company. They’ll explain how to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available. You should always install child seats in the back of your vehicle, as this is far safer for the child.
Car and RV rental companies in the US require child car seats to have either ISOFIX or LATCH systems. If the seat you have doesn’t have one of these, or is not Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) verified, then you won’t be covered by the rental company’s insurance or any additional insurance you purchase.
Keeping your child safe when renting an RV in the US
Keeping your child safe is of utmost importance to any parent, and this should be no different on a road trip. Ensuring everyone is safe whilst travelling in your RV, camper or motorhome will help you to feel more at ease, helping you have a more enjoyable time on your travels!
If you’re thinking of embarking on a road trip in the US with your children and would like to find out more about our RV hire options, get in touch with a member of our team today who’ll be more than happy to help.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations: https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats