What Is an Economy Car?

What Is an Economy Car?

Economy cars are a practical and affordable solution when you need to rent a vehicle on a tight budget. Economy cars are a great choice when traveling alone or with just one other person on a long road trip or just making a short trip with two to three passengers. 

But what are the other advantages of renting an economy car? Are there any disadvantages? And what do you need to rent an economy car?

Let’s dive in. 

Economy Cars 

Most rental companies categorize economy cars as compact cars. Compact cars are smaller than the average four-door vehicle and typically seat one to two to four people (sometimes comfortably, sometimes not). Economy cars are often two-door cars, but rental companies sometimes classify four-door sedans as economy cars. The Toyota Yaris and the Kia Soul are two examples of economy cars.

When you make your reservation, you may notice that your rental car company will tell you that you’ll be getting a particular model with an asterisk that states “or something similar.” 

The rental car company may not know when you book a vehicle which make and model they will have for you. They can promise you something comparable to what you have asked for at the time of booking. 

You’ll notice that comparable economy cars may look different on the outside. They may come in different shapes and colors and may have different features (seat warmers, Bluetooth radio, etc.). Despite their differences, comparable vehicles will have far more in common than not. 

When cars are classed together, they will have engines that are about the same size. Their capacity for luggage and seating will be almost identical, and the dimensions will also be similarly sized. 

Advantages of the Economy Car

We’ve all heard the phrase “bigger is better,” but that’s not always true when it comes to renting a vehicle. You want a rental car that meets your needs for your trip without breaking the bank. To be cost-effective, the vehicle you rent should be just what you need and nothing more. Spending money on extra space or horsepower you won’t use is the best way to overspend your rental car budget. Remember, you’re renting a car temporarily. This isn’t forever.

That’s why an economy car is a great option for anyone, no matter what kind of trip they’re taking. Here are some of the advantages of renting an economy car:

  • Great fuel economy: Typically economy cars get about 25-35 MPG or better
  • Park virtually anywhere: Economy cars are great for city driving and parking lots with small spaces. An economy car allows you to park just about anywhere regardless of size.
  • Perfect for just you or two: Economy cars can help you save money on space you wouldn’t have used anyway.
  • Easier to book for young drivers: If you’re under age 25 and are trying to rent, you may have more luck renting an economy car for your trip.
  • Save money: The rental cost is lower for economy cars, and it’s also cheaper to fuel them.
  • Possible free upgrade: When you book an economy, you may get a free upgrade if the rental car company can’t fulfill your request with a comparable car.

Though renting an economy car has many benefits, it’s not always the best choice. Here are some disadvantages to keep in mind. 

Disadvantages of the Economy Car

There can be no advantage without a little disadvantage in life, and the economy car has a few disadvantages of its own. 

  • Popularity: Saving money is a popular concept. There’s a strong possibility that an economy car may not be available to rent if you’re booking last minute.
  • Lack of space: Sometimes, you just need more room. Whether you need a little extra legroom or more cargo space, an economy car might not fit your needs.
  • Not enough horsepower: Remember that these are relatively smaller cars. If you need a more powerful transmission or engine–say if you plan on going off-road or up steep terrain–an economy car might not be the right choice for you.

The economy car’s disadvantages simply come down to whether or not it meets your specific needs. There’s no sense in saving money on your car rental if you’re going to be dissatisfied or uncomfortable. Money isn’t everything, and renting an economy car isn’t for everyone. Additionally, some people just feel safer in a bigger vehicle. 

What Do You Need To Rent An Economy Car?

When you want to rent an economy car, you need the same things as you do to rent any other vehicle. Here are the important things you need to make your reservation:

  • Trip dates: You need an idea of when you will leave and return.
  • Pickup location: You may not know where the road will take you, but you do need to know where you’ll pick up your rental car.
  • Valid driver’s license: To drive away in your rental car, you need to present a valid driver’s license for the person who is renting and driving the vehicle.
  • Valid form of payment: To rent a vehicle, you need to pay with a credit or, sometimes, a debit card
  • Insurance: Whether you have insurance or you need to purchase insurance as part of your car rental costs, you’re required to have insurance in the United States.

After you’ve prepared yourself to make a reservation, you can shop around at different rental car companies and choose the one that meets your needs and fits your budget. If you have any special circumstances, like being a young driver, be sure to call ahead to discuss it with your rental car company. 

This will ensure that you don’t face any surprises when it’s time to hit the road, and many rental car companies will work with you to accommodate your needs.


When you need an economical solution to budgeting your car rental into your trip and saving money, an economy car can be the perfect solution. You need to see what your rental car company has available. If you decide that an economy car is right for your road trip, be sure to book your rental car early and be prepared for your rental with the right documentation.  

Economy cars have a small stature, but they can have a big impact on your trip. They might be the right fit for your situation, and you can save big by going small. Just be sure to weigh your options. 

Gas Mileage of 2021 Compact Cars | fueleconomy.gov
Miles Per Gallon | fueleconomy.gov
Vehicle size and weight | iihs.org

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