The Lowdown on Car Seats in Taxis (updated for 2019) – In a conversation with a good friend planning travel back east with her baby, she excitedly told me (incorrectly) that New York City is the only place in the world where you can take a taxi with your baby without being legally required to have a car seat.
Fortunately I didn’t have to get into the specifics of Mexico, or Southeast Asia, or elsewhere “in the world” where families who could actually afford a car seat are few and far between before she corrected herself (still incorrectly) and said, “in the United States.”
Common Causes of Confusion
She’d apparently read this bit of trivia in a travel article(!), and I can only assume the writer is from New York City, not San Francisco, Las Vegas, Paris, London, Tokyo, or one of the many other places in the world where this is common practice for city dwellers, and legally so.
It’s a topic I’m asked about frequently, and was sure to include in the Travels with Baby guidebook. While I’m hesitant to tell anyone “it’s okay” to jump into unfamiliar cars with their babies on their laps, it is in fact considered “legal” in most cities, as well as states and countries around the world–though whether or not it is safe is another matter.
What You Should Know
The basic scoop is this: Drivers of for-hire vehicles (taxis, shuttles, limos) are subject to different laws than are passengers of privately-owned passenger vehicles. In most cases, these drivers are not required to provide car seats or “special equipment” for passengers.
In turn, the passengers hiring the car are not required to have their child in a car seat because one does not exist in the hired vehicle. Having taken some hair-raising taxi rides right here at home and around the world, however, I don’t encourage anyone to jump into taxis driven by complete strangers without any type of restraint for their babies and small children.
While I’ve heard conflicting information, Lyft and Uber officially wash their hands of any responsibility for their drivers providing service to people with car seat-aged children who do not have proper car seats or boosters of their own. Rideshare services remain in that nebulous sphere of independent contractors (for now) with personal vehicles, though they provide service similar to taxis.
At time of writing, the Uber.com site advises, “drivers can cancel a trip if proper restraints aren’t available for every rider or if they feel uncomfortable with a rider installing a car seat in their car.” They recommend calling your driver in advance to alert them if you’ll need to install a car seat in their vehicle.
At the same time, Lyft states: “We’re happy to give kids a ride as well as adults as long as your children have the proper car seats that fit legal requirements in your state and city. Plan on providing your own car seat for children that require one.”
Here are some better solutions that might work for your family.
Better Solutions to Traveling without a Car Seat in Taxis
Find a Private Car Service with Car Seats
You may be able to find a private car service that will provide car seats, however. You can see some examples in New York City Taxi Services with Car Seats and this post about My Recommended Paris Airport Shuttle Providing Car Seats and Boosters. In addition, Uber Car Seat is a service currently offered in New York City (but the Uber website states this is only NYC at time of writing–though a couple of moms I know have used it in the past year in Orlando–reaching out for official statement).
Get an Easy Traveling Car Seat — or Accessories that Ease Your Way
If you’re looking for a car seat that’s ideal for travel, you can see some recommended infant car seats for travel as well as recommended convertible car seats for travel with older babies and toddlers. You’ll find more tips and products for easing travel with a car seat in Seven Easy Ways to Get Your Car Seat to the Gate and our recommended Car Seat Travel Bags and Carriers (and more helpful links at the end of this post).
Consider these Car Seat Alternatives for Travel
Even when car seats are impractical or impossible to take along (a day of sightseeing, only one round-trip from the airport or train station) there are other alternatives that are far safer than traveling with no car seat at all. I have a list of some helpful suggestions for car seat alternatives for travelers online.
Rent a Car Seat at Your Destination
If you’ll only need a car seat at your destination, but won’t have the option of renting one with a rental car, look for a baby gear rental agency where you’re headed (see our Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals). Some will even meet you at an airport with the right car seat or booster for your child, along with any other baby gear you might want to rent for your trip.
And don’t miss the extra links to posts below, which may also help!
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Note: An earlier version of this post was first published as Travels with Baby Tip #21: Car Seats in Taxis on February 10, 2008.
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Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks