Compact vs. Economy Cars for Trips

Compact vs. Economy Cars for Trips

When you hear the word “economy” about a car, the first thing that may pop into your mind is, “this is the economical car that will save me money!” However, while this is true, it shouldn’t be the only thing one considers when renting a car. 

Here at Advantage, we offer both compact and economy vehicles for our customers, which can understandably confuse since people have used these terms interchangeably. It can also raise the question, “what option is best for my needs on my upcoming trip?”

Let’s look at the similarities and differences to help you choose which is best for you and your needs. 

Economy Car Overview

Starting with the economy car, this option is typically the smaller between the two options we are discussing. What that looks like practically is that the economy car will most likely be a two-door vehicle that can fit two adults comfortably with two to three children in the back seat. 

Now, this does not mean that you can’t have yourself and three adult-sized persons in the car with you, but it may be a snug fit. Another thing to consider is trunk space. On average, an economy car can hold two pieces of luggage, or one large suitcase, and some other smaller bags. 

When it comes to the fuel economy of these cars, they live up to their name, performing between 30-35 mpg while driving in the city.  This is perfect for a person renting their vehicle in a major city and driving around for a conference or business trip. 

The rental prices for an economy car can vary, but they are always the lowest cost out of the other options, making it ideal for those on a tight budget. In addition, economy cars have less expensive maintenance and parts. Those savings that we experience in maintaining our vehicles spill over into our customers’ great prices on their rental. 

To sum up the economy car, they are the smaller option but make up for size in their excellent fuel economy and competitive rental price. As mentioned before, it’s all about your needs. Let’s see how the compact differs, if at all, from the economy car. 

Compact Car

The compact car, like the economy, is a smaller vehicle but more spacious than the economy and has evolved a lot since its debut in the 1950s. This vehicle has four doors with the ability to fit up to five people within its confines. In addition, there is more space inside the car, making it fit four adults comfortably. This can be a gamechanger for those that are traveling with friends who are on the taller side. 

The extra space in the vehicle also translates to the trunk size as well. You should fit two bags of luggage in the trunk and even some smaller bags in the compact car if you know how to manage the space well. 

While the compact car can hit the same numbers regarding the fuel economy as the economy car, some factors could lower it. With the compact car having more space and, at times, a larger engine, these factors can increase the vehicle’s weight. This can result in a lower fuel economy, but you probably won’t notice a difference in real-world usage. Especially with today’s advances in engine technology, most compact cars are just as efficient as economy cars. 

Is the compact car going to break the bank compared to the price of renting an economy car? Not necessarily. At Advantage, most of the time, the prices for the economy car and the compact are incredibly close, if not precisely the same. So really, when deciding on which to choose, the price may not play a factor. 

The overview of the compact car has shown us a few things, the main point being the size of the vehicle. However, in other respects, the compact and economy cars are eerily similar. 

Choosing the Best Option for You

Now that we have established a foundation for the differences between compact cars and economy cars, we can better discern the best option for you when renting your next vehicle. Consider that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution but more of an attempt to cover several bases to help you make an informed choice for your future rental. 

Number of Passengers

One of the most significant differences between the compact and economy options for cars is their size. So when making a decision about which you want to choose, you need to think about how many people will be joining you. The solo driver might be content with the economy vehicle, while the family of five might best be suited for the compact car. 

Also, think about the size of your passengers and what will be most comfortable for them. For example, your 6’ 2” friend may have a more challenging time in the economy car than your preteen son. 

If you have five passengers, you will want to go with the compact car over the economy, considering that most economy cars don’t offer the fifth seat. However, it could go either way for those traveling with four passengers, depending on the length of the trip and the size of your passengers. 

Luggage Space

Let’s say you’re a business person going to a big tradeshow in Las Vegas. Not only are you going to have some fun, but you’re planning on having a setup at the show to bring in new customers. This individual will have their luggage and items for their table, such as a pop-up display or a table game to draw people in. With these added things, a compact car would be great with the extra space it gives. 

Contrast that scenario with a bachelor or bachelorette going to Miami for a week to meet up with some friends and experience the nightlife. Again, the size of an economy vehicle would be ideal for a single person traveling around a city. 

Your Budget

We’ve mentioned this aspect before, but the price can be a big deal to those renting. Usually, the price for an economy car and compact car run around the same price, but the cost of the compact car may be more. Given the larger size and convenience it lends to renters, it makes sense. 

Always look at both prices to make sure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck. If they are priced the same, it doesn’t make sense to go with the economy over the compact, given the extra space it provides.

 Of course, it could be argued that you could save more with the economy because of the fuel economy difference, even with the rental prices being the same. But that is something one would have to calculate on a case-by-case basis. 

The Type of Trip

When you’re deciding between a compact and economy car, think about what type of trip you will be taking the car on. If you’re going to be on the highway most of the time, choosing an economy can be an economical choice considering the excellent fuel economy they offer on the road. 

Another way the trip length can play into your car choice is if your passengers are okay with being squeezed into the back of an economy car for hours on end if you’re going across the country. If that’s not the case and you will all just be using it in the city for a weekend, you may not mind the tight fit. 

So think about the distance you’re planning on going if you will mainly be on the highway, and time in the car versus time not using the car. It ultimately comes down to preference and weighing the pros and cons of your situation. 

Other Options

This article has focused on the economy and compact cars, but if neither of these meets your needs for your upcoming road trip, remember that we offer a range of vehicles for every situation. 

On average, a person drives more miles each year up until they enter retirement. Given this fact, each year, your driving needs will change. Having this knowledge is key to making better rental decisions for your future self. 

The Takeaway

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article over the differences between compact and economy cars. It’s also been established what to consider when making a decision between these two options. 

Overall, when making the decision, the most significant factor you’ll face is the size of the car and if it will meet your needs. So first, look over the things mentioned: number of passengers, luggage space needed, your budget, and the type of trip you’ll be taking. Considering all these and mulling them over will help you to make the ideal decision for your situation. 


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