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Going from no kids to three kids has drastically changed our travels already. I’m used to traveling with a carry on and a single checked bag most of the places my wife and I go. With 5 of us now, we had a *lot* more packed for our recent trip to Disneyland.
One item we still haven’t flown with is a car seat. Airlines let you check car seats for free, so it’s pretty easy to bring them along (except ours are quite heavy). And once I realized we wouldn’t be renting a car, I decided that we wouldn’t need them.
Except…should we have brought them? We utilized Uber multiple times on the trip. I’d never asked myself, does Uber require car seats?
Not even on our radar
Our car seats were left behind in our parked car near SFO. When we arrived in Orange County, I quickly requested an UberXL. A friendly driver showed up in no time with a Honda Odyssey and whisked us off to Disneyland. No words were spoken about the lack of car seats. But I all of a sudden I realized this was potentially an issue…does Uber require car seats? Glancing back and seeing our toddler drowning in the middle seat of the van prompted the question. If the driver didn’t say anything, though, maybe Uber is exempt? I really doubt it, but I know taxis are.
There was no issue on our return trip to John Wayne Airport a few days later. The driver didn’t bat an eye. Side note: he was also one of the best drivers I’ve ever ridden with over my couple dozen Uber rides. I tipped him well.
(SEE ALSO: Should I tip Lyft drivers?)
After that second trip, my mother-in-law and I discussed the car seat issue. I remarked that I figured they might be exempt from the car seat law, just like taxis. Sure, I knew we should be traveling with our kids in proper safety restraints, but that was water under the bridge at this point. I;d forgotten them, and we only had one more short ride to go.
Trouble in San Francisco
After a long day of waiting at the airport with three impatient kids, we finally arrived in chilly and rainy San Francisco. Collecting our bags was even a bit of an issue, but at least we were compensated for our misfortune (SEE: Turning 20,000 Amex points into 25,000 Alaska miles and $500).
When we finally stepped out to the curb to get into our Uber, I expected to arrive at our parked car in less than 10 minutes. Not so. After being gruff with me about the short length of my requested trip (seriously??), the driver proceeded to tell me after we had all piled in that he would not transport us without our youngest child in a car seat. Not sure if he noticed the seven year old that also still requires a booster.
Long story short, we all piled out and I called another ride. All of a sudden, I was worried that no one would pick us up! Had I really messed up the end of our trip??
Does Uber require car seats?
After confirming a second pickup, I started scouring the web for info on the Uber car seat question. Now I really needed to know, in case I was putting the driver and/or us in jeopardy. Was I personally comfortable making a short trip with a child secured in a normal seat belt? Yes. I know not everyone would feel the same. But what if the driver would end up being responsible for the ticket? I’d still eat the cost, even if he was.
Long story short, Uber makes no mandates on car seats. They pretty much stand aloof. Remember, Uber claims it is just a ride sharing platform, not a ride service. So drivers are all independent contractors. Which makes them a bit different than taxis.
I knew you don’t need a car seat in a taxi you actually *do* in California (now that I looked it up). So transporting your children without a car seat is at the discretion of the driver, since he is technically liable and not exempt from the car seat law in most, if not all, states.
At this point, I wondered how the next driver would react. I mentioned the issue to him explicitly as soon as he got out of the car, and he said he had no issue. Ten minutes later, we were at the parking garage in Millbrae, safe and sound.
What about Uber drivers that provide car seats?
- Is 12 months old
- is also 22 pounds or more
- and is at least 31 inches tall
The seat is only good for children up to 48 pounds or 52 inches. This does provide a wide range for many children, but obviously even this option doesn’t cover all cases. And there is a $10 surcharge.
This is a good option, and one that I didn’t know about. But it’s also a fact that it isn’t available in San Francisco, even if I had know about it and wanted to use it!
So does Uber provide car seats? In very few places. Does Uber require car seats? They stand aloof. It is the driver’s (and your) responsibility to comply with the law.
Plan to bring your own
Let’s face it. I should have packed the car seats in a luggage and brought them along. It just didn’t even occur to me since we weren’t renting a car! We also need to buy a lighter travel model for our youngest. On our return trip from Costa Rica, I did rent a van with 2 car seats and had our MiFold on hand for my daughter. Not sure why it didn’t occur to me that it would be an issue with Uber. [Belated note: after this was posted, I realized that our adoption agency had told us we didn’t need car seats when using Uber in Costa Rica!].
Ultimately, unless you don’t mind paying a bit extra to avoid the hassle in one of the limited markets where Uber offers the car seat option, you gotta bring your own. You may be denied a ride by a driver if you don’t have a car seat. And you are making him liable, not to mention putting your kids at risk(!), even if it’s just a short trip.
So, does Uber require car seats? The answer is: no and yes. It’s all up to the individual driver. Turns out that 3 of 4 we used on the trip didn’t care. The last obviously did and refused to transport us.
Lugging around 2 car seats doesn’t sound like fun, but I’ll make sure we do it next time. I want to avoid this situation again. If you’re in a bind (i.e. landed super late and no hotel shuttle) and comfortable requesting a ride without a car seat, I’d personally suspect that most drivers are okay without car seats. Just understand what you’re risking!! We were 3 for 4, but that is a tiny sample size. There is always the chance that you get a couple in a row who take issue, and you are left waiting far longer for a ride than you anticipated.
Or you get pulled over and ticketed. Worse yet, you get in an accident. Whether Uber does require car seats or whether they don’t, you should plan to have them.
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