What is an Economy Car in Car Rental?

When planning a trip, one of the biggest expenses is often car rental. For budget-conscious travelers, choosing an ‘economy’ car is a great way to save money. But what exactly is an economy car when it comes to rentals?

In this guide, we will explore the definition and characteristics of economy cars, the advantages and considerations of renting one, and tips for selecting and making the most of an economy car rental. With some savvy planning, an economy car can be the perfect transportation option for certain types of trips.

Defining an Economy Car

In general, an economy car rental refers to the smallest and most affordable vehicles offered by rental companies. According to industry experts, economy cars make up approximately one-third of major car rental fleets. When you reserve an economy car, you can expect:

  • Fuel efficiency – Economy cars achieve excellent gas mileage, averaging 35-40 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Many economy models today are 4-cylinder compact sedans or hatchbacks.
  • Compact size – With seating for 4-5 passengers and limited trunk space, economy cars are ideal for solo travelers or small groups. Dimensions range from 160 to 185 inches long and 65-70 inches wide.

Popular examples include the Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent, and Chevrolet Spark.

Advantages of Choosing an Economy Car

Opting for an economy rental comes with many potential benefits:

  • Lower rental costs – According to data from RentalCars.com, economy cars average 20-30% cheaper rental rates compared to standard-size cars. This can equal over $100 in savings for a typical week-long rental.
  • Better fuel efficiency – With EPA-estimated 35-40 mpg for most economy car models, you’ll also spend less on gas during your trip. Improved fuel efficiency translates to environmental benefits as well.
  • Manoeuvrability – Their small size makes economy cars super easy to park, even in cramped cities or tight parking lots. Maneuvering through traffic is less stressful too.

Considerations Before Renting an Economy Car

However, economy cars do come with some limitations. Before booking, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Passenger and luggage capacity – With only 4-5 seats and 10-15 cubic feet of cargo volume, storage and passenger room is tight. Make sure to pack light and plan accordingly.
  • Comfort – Basic econobox rentals often lack amenities like leather seats, premium sound systems, and abundant legroom. Long road trip comfort may suffer.
  • Performance – The small engines of most economy cars lack power for mountain driving or merging onto fast highways. Avoid economy cars for adverse road conditions or high-elevation routes.


How to Select the Right Economy Car

Since economy cars vary widely in size, features, and performance, do your research to pick the optimal one for your trip:

  • Assess needs – Consider passengers, luggage needs, driving distances and terrain to determine minimum requirements. A subcompact car may be too small for a family of 5, for example.
  • Read reviews – Consult resources like Consumer Reports, J.D. Power ratings, and customer reviews to compare economy car models. Focus on factors like cabin space, ride quality, and safety.
  • Understand rental terms – Check for any rental company restrictions related to things like mileage limits, geographic areas, or minimum driver age. Ask about add-ons like GPS or car seats too.

Booking Your Economy Car

Use these tips when booking your economy car rental:

  • Compare total cost – Look at the base rental rate, taxes, and fees to find the best overall deal. Don’t forget to factor in potential savings on gas as well.
  • Check for deals – Memberships with organizations like AAA, AARP, Costco, or your university’s alumni association can offer nice discounts. Also, browse rental company websites directly for special offers.
  • Use travel sites – Comparison sites like Expedia, Priceline, and Kayak make it easy to find the most affordable economy car rental rates across multiple providers.

Making the Most of Your Rental

You’ll get the highest value from your economy car rental by:

Packing light – Make use of every inch of trunk and interior space since you won’t have much to spare. Limit luggage to essentials only.

Planning efficient routes – Use GPS and map apps to plot the most direct driving routes to optimize miles per gallon. Take advantage of maximum fuel efficiency.

Adapting driving habits – Drive conservatively, avoid sudden accelerations, and keep speed limits modest to extend your gas mileage as much as possible.

Potential Drawbacks to Weigh

Despite their benefits, economy cars do come with some limitations to keep in mind:

Minimal luggage room – With only 10-15 cubic feet of cargo space, packing for more than 2 passengers gets very tight. Carry-on bags only may be your only option.

Discomfort on long trips – Small backseats, limited legroom, and basic amenities make economy cars tiresome for driving more than 4-5 hours per day.

Lack of performance -Economy cars lack the engine power and handling capabilities sometimes needed to drive safely on steep mountain roads, for example.

Final Thoughts

For travelers on a tight budget or solo drivers, a rental economy car can be the savvy transportation choice. Just be realistic about your space and comfort needs before booking the tiniest econobox. Do some comparison shopping across rental companies and travel sites to find the roomiest, best-equipped economy car available.

With wise trip planning and packing, plus some fuel-efficient driving habits, an economy rental can serve you well on the right kind of trip. Just be mindful of the limitations compared to larger, more premium vehicles. What questions do you still have about economy car rentals for your next trip?