Thanks very much everyone; we really appreciate the help.
Blw2 – thanks for the reply – the girls are not required to be in booster seats by any of the state laws we’ve checked, but we really don’t have confidence in just lap belts. Is there any specific reason you think the harnesses would be better? We were beginning to lean towards the Columbia seats (see reasons below), but we’re total beginners at this so are open to any input - thanks!
This is long (sorry!)…
So we’ve heard back from the rental companies and we’ve also spoken to some manufacturers. We only asked about the class-C RVs but we hope the following is still useful for people.
We’ve also found some useful information about general crash safety in RVs too, which we’ve put at the end – many of you no doubt know about this, but we hope it’s also useful.CruiseAmerica
They have no class-C RVs with lap/shoulder belts in the rear seating, but all have lap belts (the number depends on the interior layout). Some of these vehicles have one tether anchor, but some have two.
The RVs with two anchors are Ford “Majestic” models made by Thor (which we think, but don’t know, are variants of the Four Winds model). The two tether anchors are side by side for the dinette seats which are the forward-facing part of the bench. You can request a vehicle with two anchor points, but they can’t guarantee you one of those vehicles.Apollo RV
No class-C RVs with lap/shoulder belts in the rear but all have lap belts (as above, the number depends on the interior layout). All the class-C rentals are Minnie Winnie models made by Winnebago (we’ve looked at the Sunrise Escape and the Eclipse Camper). Both of these models have two tether anchors which are for the forward-facing seats in the dinette. While you can request either of these vehicles, they did say that “9 out of 10 times you’ll get the US Wanderer” instead, which only has lap belts in the rear.Best Time RV
No class-C RVs with lap/shoulder belts in the rear but all have lap belts (as above, the number depends on the interior layout). Their RVs are a mixture of the Minnie Winnie models by Winnebago, and the Freelander models made by Coachmen. All their RVs have one tether anchor which is again for the forward-facing seat at the dinette.El Monte RV
The situation is exactly the same as Best Time RV, but they could not confirm at the time which manufacturers made their vehicles.RoadBear/Britz
No class-C RVs with lap/shoulder belts in the rear but all have lap belts (as above, the number depends on the interior layout). All the class-C rentals are Four Winds models made by Thor which have one tether anchor for a forward-facing seat in the dinette.
The manufacturers we spoke with were Winnebago, Thor, and Coachmen. All three offer at least one child seat tether anchor for the forward-facing dinette seats. One is standard for Winnebago and Coachmen, however neither offer the option of two anchors. Thor however offer one or two anchors both located behind the forward-facing seats in the dinette as options.
While they were all helpful, none of them could confirm what the maximum weight rating is for the tether anchors they fit. We also asked how wide the forward-facing seats of the dinette are because we wanted to make sure if we do get the car seats, that they would actually fit side by side (they’re obviously bigger than normal kids car seats). Depending on the manufacturer each dinette is 42-44” wide and therefore two of the seats will just fit side-by-side.
Clearly our options are Apollo RV and Cruise America, however we’re still concerned that we’ll only get a vehicle with one anchor. However that issue might be solved, we did also find out that the rear seating in an RV isn’t really altogether that safe to start with. As we understand it – and if we’re wrong please say so! – the dinette seating is made of wood which reduces the advantages of seatbelts (all the manufacturers we spoke to anchor the seatbelts to the metal chassis/frame). We came across some crash testing by a UK company who made this video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iKwg2672UM
Apparently the company – Bailey – are now going to fit upside-down steel U bars and horizontal beams under the rear seats to stop the seats collapsing.
These links may also be useful:http://thecarseatlady.com/rvtravel/http://www.procarseatsafety.com/recreation-vehicles-rv.html
We can’t say these don’t scare us silly, but we also understand the chance of crash is small, that a class-C is bigger than the vehicle tested, and we wouldn’t be using the rear-facing seats.
That said, having seen this we’re pretty sure we’ve got two realistic options:
1) Rent a class-C from Apollo or CruiseAmerica doing all we can to ensure we get a vehicle with two tether anchors. Buy two of the Columbia car seats and install them side by side forward-facing in the Dinette. This would mean the girls would have full harnesses, not lap belts, and they would be more protected if an accident did happen because the shell of the car seats would protect them more if the wooden seat collapsed (the harnesses would still work, but we don’t think they would provide the same degree of protection because they obviously lack the protective shell). The issue is that we can’t guarantee we would get a vehicle with two anchors which would mean they would have to alternate between the back and the front passenger seat (which we want to avoid if at all possible).
2) Rent a fifth-wheel like Jackiemac suggested. This would mean they would have regular seatbelts as normal and we’d be much more confident but it also means we would obviously give up the original idea we were planning. Though we’d never put our wishes above their safety, driving around America in an RV is their dream holiday too so if we did give up the RV, we kind of feel like we’re cheating them out of the holiday they want.
Either way, though we’re still unsure on finding a way to enjoy everything and still travel safely, we’re a little bit closer at least.
We’re sorry if this message is too long, but we hope the information is helpful to everyone. If anyone does have any thoughts in light of the above we’re all ears.
Thanks again for all the advice.