Rental Car Size Guide

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Renting a car isn’t a difficult process, but the options you’ll be offered can cause some confusion if you do not realize what you are getting for your money. Selecting a car size that is appropriate for your needs will prevent you from wasting money on larger vehicles you don’t require and keep you from squeezing into something that is too small.

Car rental.
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If your trip will take you into crowded city streets, where parking spaces are small and traffic is heavy, you should consider renting an economy or compact car.

In addition to their small physical size, these types of cars will only put a small dent in your budget. Economy cars are not only the least expensive types of cars to rent, but they are also tops when it comes to fuel mileage, according to Enterprise.com.

You may prefer to rent a compact car over renting an economy-sized car. Though compact cars are usually similar in quality to economy-sized cars, they will often cost you a bit more to rent. Cars in both sizes are typically two-door (or very small four-door) vehicles with better-than-average fuel mileage.

Compact car.
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Rent an intermediate-sized car if you require a little more room for passengers or belongings but want to remain budget-conscious. Intermediate cars are typically two-door vehicles with seating for four. Many of these cars may technically seat five, but seating that fifth person will often make for a tight squeeze. Cars such as the Nissan Sentra, Pontiac G5 or Toyota Corolla fit into this category.

Intermediate range car.
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Carefully weigh the actual value of your car rental when deciding on an upper- or mid-range rental car. Some agencies will offer a standard, full-size, premium and luxury car, charging a bit more for each successively "better" category, despite the fact that the cars in all four categories will usually be fairly similar to each other, performance- and -value-wise.

If you simply need a four-door vehicle with enough room for five passengers, select a car from any of the four categories, depending on your preference of extras. Remember that you will probably be paying dearly for the extras.

The standard model will likely be the size you want, but with no frills. A full-size may have a bit more legroom, seating your passengers a bit more comfortably, and it may also feature a more powerful engine, according to Enterprise.com.

"Premium-model" and "luxury-model" are sometimes interchangeable terms. A car from either category will likely be powered by a V-6 engine, have tilt and cruise control features and leather interior. The difference is usually in the brand name. For example, Enterprise offers the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon as “premium” rentals, while the Cadillac DTS and Lincoln Towncar are listed as “luxury” rentals. Both types are stylish rides with similar features; when you rent luxury over premium, you really are paying for a brand name.

Premium model vs. luxury models.
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If you have lots of luggage, supplies or people to transport, rent an SUV or minivan. Most minivans will have ample room for large parties, and will seat seven comfortably, as will most full-size SUV.

If you are more concerned with terrain or weather conditions than you are with cargo space, rent an intermediate-sized SUV, which are often cheaper (with regards to both the rental fees and the cost of fuel) than full-size SUVs.

SUV.
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