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How To Choose The Best Rental Car For Your Vacation

Written by  Tuesday, 09 December 2014 00:00

Car Rental Tips and Advice

Click on the image above to download the full PDF.

Because of the number of vehicle classifications and the optional extras available, choosing the best rental car for your vacation may be more difficult than you think. To help, we've created this simple to follow guide that explains what you need to consider before making a decision.


Rental Car Size Guide

First, you should familiarize yourself with the size and features of rental cars before making a decision. Rental car companies lease their vehicles by category rather than make and model. Although some rental companies categorize their vehicles differently, the table below displays the most commonly used categories and features you need to consider.



Example Vehicle


Comfortable Capacity

Suitcase Capacity

Gas Mileage Per Gallon


Chevrolet Aveo


4 (2 adults, 2 children)

1 large, 1 small



Nissan Versa

2 or 4

4 (2 adults, 2 children)

1 large, 2 small



Pontiac G5


5 (4 adults, 1 child)

1 large, 2 small



Ford Taurus


5 (5 Adults)

2 large, 3 small



Chevrolet Impala


5 (5 Adults)

3 large, 2 small



Buick Lacrosse


5 (5 Adults)

4 large, 2 small



Chevrolet Equinox


5 (5 Adults)

5 large suitcases



Chrysler Sebring


4 (2 adults, 2 children)

2 small


Hybrid and Electric

Ford Fusion Hybrid


4 (2 adults, 2 children)

1 large, 2 small



How Many People Are Going On Vacation?

Now that you've familiarized yourself with the average size and features of rental cars, you need to consider how many people are going on the vacation. As well as considering the number of seats you'll need to accommodate your passengers, you'll need to think about their luggage and the space you'll need to transport it.

Therefore, before you choose your rental car, you'll need to ask everyone that's going on the vacation how much stuff they want to bring with them. Then you'll need to consider whether all that stuff can fit within the suitcase capacity of the car you wish to rent. As a rule, the suitcase capacity listed by rental car companies does not account for oversize items or equipment.


What Type Of Vacation Are You Going On?

As well as the number of travelers, the type of vacation you are going on should influence the rental car you choose. Here are four common types of vacation and suggestions for what you need to consider when choosing a rental car for each:

  • City Break – Couples on a romantic getaway often favor a city break, so smaller cars with less seat room are often best suited. Small cars are also ideal for fitting into tight spaces, which will become more of a factor if you take a city break in Europe. Similarly, smaller cars are more economical with fuel consumption, which again will become more of a factor in Europe, where city traffic is often congested and fuel prices are high.
  • Beach – For many, a convertible or an SUV type vehicle is a popular choice for a beach vacation. However, in most convertibles the luggage space is restricted, so it is often an impractical solution. As for SUVs, although they are considered all-terrain vehicles, many rental agreements will not allow you to drive them off-road. This can also cause problems with your rental car insurance, if you damage the vehicle while driving off-road.
  • Skiing – Because of the volume of luggage you need to transport on a skiing vacation, many will choose to rent an SUV type of vehicle. While this type of vehicle is the most suitable, you might still have to pay out for extras.
    In some states, for example, snow tires and/or chains are required by law once a certain level of snow has fallen. If you are embarking upon a skiing vacation in Europe, both Germany and Austria make winter tires a legal requirement at certain times of the year.
    Check out this infographic on our sister site iCarhireinsurance for further details on winter tire requirements in Europe.
  • Family Vacation – For a family road trip vacation, you're going to need a car that has plenty of luggage space and also enough leg room for a comfortable journey. Therefore, you may want to consider choosing a rental car in the full-size of SUV category.
    Also, if you have children you may feel the need to add optional extras such as children's seats and a DVD player to make sure they are safe and entertained. However, adding extras of this nature can be expensive and you can save a fortune by arranging to bring your own instead.


Beware Of Restrictions

When choosing your rental car, and before signing the rental contract, make sure you know what the restrictions are (if any). Common restrictions imposed by rental car companies include who can drive the car, where you can drive the car and how far. Even if your rental company offers 'unlimited mileage', you may be restricted to driving within the state you rent your vehicle.


Renting A Car In Europe

If you are renting a car in Europe there are several differences that you will need to consider when choosing a vehicle to rent.

  • Transmission – As you know, most rental cars in North America are automatic transmission. In Europe, however, it's the other way around. As such, if you require a vehicle with an automatic transmission, you will need to ask for one specially. Also, you should expect to pay a little extra for an automatic transmission vehicle with most rental companies.
  • Vehicles are smaller – As a rule, cars are smaller in Europe because they are designed for shorter journeys and busy road conditions. This means that, in comparison to American cars, leg and luggage room are at a premium in European rental cars. For this reason you may want to consider choosing a larger category of vehicle than you would when renting a car in America.
  • Extras – Although air conditioning and cruise control often come as standard with American rental cars, in Europe, this is not always case. However, you probably won't need cruise control anyway, as the roads are not as straight as those in North America.
  • Fuel – In the majority of European countries, fuel is at least twice as expensive as it is in North America. However, the fuel efficiency of cars in Europe compared to their American counter parts is also far greater – even for larger vehicles.


Purchase Rental Car Insurance Before You Leave

When you pick up your rental car, you will almost always be asked whether you want to buy your rental company's Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW).

If you were to have an accident in your rental car, a CDW/LDW prevents the rental company from seeking financial reimbursement (minus the deductible). So whichever rental car you choose, to provide you with peace of mind while on the road, you should consider purchasing a CDW/LDW.

However, buying CDW/LDW cover from your rental car company can increase the price of your car rental significantly. If you purchase your CDW/LDW cover from Insuremyrentalcar.com before you leave though, you can save up to 70% on the prices offered by rental companies over the counter.

Although many credit cards provide CDW/LDW cover, most lack the comprehensive cover that Insuremyrentalcar.com provides, Cover for loss of use, diminished value and vulnerable areas such as the roof, undercarriage, tires and windshield are all provided by Insuremyrentalcar.com – unlike with many credit cards. Plus, there's zero deductible to pay.

For more information on CDW/LDW cover and to get a quote that best suits the needs of your vacation, click here.


Top Tips

  1. Familiarize yourself with the size and features of rental cars – Some rental companies use different classification systems, but they are usually similar. By familiarizing yourself with the size and features of most rental car categories, you can make a better informed decision of what rental car you need for your vacation.
  2. Consider how many people are going on vacation with you – The number of travelers and how much luggage you need to transport should be the biggest influences on which rental car you choose.
  3. Consider the type of vacation you are going on – Different types of rental car are better suited to different types of vacation. If you are going on a skiing vacation, for example, you many need the increased luggage capacity that an SUV provides.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the differences in choosing a rental car for a European vacation – There are some features common to American rental cars that are rarely found in Europe and vice versa.
  5. Buy inexpensive rental car insurance from Insuremyrentalcar.com before you travel – You can save up to 70% on the prices offered by car rental companies over the counter by purchasing CDW/LDW cover before you go on vacation.

Click here to download the full PDF.