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The Comprehensive Guide to Rental Car Sizes

Rental car sizes are confusing, to say the least, unless you have the right know-how. A standard-size car is larger than you would think, and a full-size car is smaller than an estate car. SUVs come in different sizes, and a minivan is more or less your only option if you want more than 5 people in one car.


Knowing which of the car rental sizes will be best for you is almost impossible to determine if you haven’t done the proper research, to begin with. Check out our comprehensive guide to rental car sizes to make sure you pick the right car for your trip.


rental car sizes

What are the Different Rental Car Sizes?


Navigating the rental car landscape can feel like a jungle from time to time. First, you need to pick the right company to rent from. Then, there are a million different sizes, and some of them are not very intuitive in their name description.


“Mini” is obviously a small car, but what even is an “estate” or “intermediate”? Basically, if you’re not a car enthusiast and know all about these different sizes and names, you’re going to struggle to make a well-informed decision.


The first step in knowing which car to choose is having the rental car sizes explained. In the list below, you can see all the different car rental sizes you can come across in a car dealership:

  • Mini

  • Premium

  • SUV

  • Economy

  • Standard

  • Full size

  • Minivan

  • Compact

  • Estate

  • Luxury

  • Intermediate/Midsize


Car rental classes

Rental Car Sizes Chart


To get a good bird's-eye view of the whole story, we’ve compiled a chart below that outlines some of the key features of the different rental car sizes. This information should be enough for you to find out which rental car sizes fits your basic needs. Later on, you can go more in-depth to decide about softer features. And maybe find out, for example, if there is a difference between American and European cars when we determine size and utility.


Instead of going through the rental car sizes from smallest to largest, we’ve chosen to do it the other way around. See, most people want a larger car for a road trip, so there’s no reason to muck about with the smaller sizes first. When renting a car in Iceland, many will also look for a 4x4 vehicle, which is more often than not an SUV.



Car size

​Passengers

No. of doors

Luggage capacity

Model and brand examples

Minivan

​5 - 9

3

4-5 large bags and 3 smaller bags

Renault Trafic, Ford Tourneo

SUV

5

5

3 large bags and 2 small bags

Dacia Duster 4x4, Suzuki Vitara 4x4

Estate

5

5

3 large bags and 2 small bags

Ford Focus Estate, Hyundai i30 Estate

Full size

5

5

2 large bags and 2 small bags

Nissan X-Trail 4x4 7-seater,

Luxury

5

2 or 5

2 large bags and 2 small bags

BMW X1 4x4, Land Rover Defender 4x4

Premium

5

5

2 large bags and 2 small bags

Mercedes C-class, Nissan Maxima

Standard

5

5

2 large bags and 2 small bags

​Kia Ceed, Toyota Auris

Intermediate / mid-sized

5

5

2 large bags and 1 small bag

Toyota Corolla

Compact

5

5

2 large bags and 1 small bag

Nissan Versa

Economy

4

2 or 5

1 big bag and 1 small bag

Toyota Aygo, Kia Picanto

Mini

2

3

1 big bag or two small bags

Toyota Aygo

Hyundai i10


Car Rental Sizes Explained


Let’s get into some details about each of the models to give you an idea of what you can expect from the different rental car sizes. Here, you’ll find the answer to questions like “What is a standard-size car?” and “What is a mid-size car at the rental?”


Minivan


A minivan is simply a regular van that has been made to fit people rather than cargo. You can often get minivans with either 5, 7, or 9-passenger seats. This is always a great option for any larger company that’s going to go on a long journey. Due to the shape and handling of the car, it’s not suitable for off-road driving, but perfect for paved roads and well-kept gravel roads.


Pros


Perfect for long trips with large companies with a need for a lot of luggage space. Some minivans (often 5-seaters) will allow you to add two extra seats in the back instead of the extra luggage space.


Cons


These are notoriously difficult to handle if you don’t have the experience. They’re bulky, often not too strong (motor-wise), and with limited hind vision compared to normal cars.


Rental car sizes explained: vans

SUV


An all-around favorite when you need a reliable vehicle that can handle both smooth and rough roads. SUVs are large cars with a large cargo space that are raised to give some leeway to the ground.


This makes it perfect for camping trips with the family, or as a utility vehicle when you need to transport anything. SUV stands for Sport Utility Vehicle and when it comes to rental car SUV sizes, they often come in small, intermediate, and large.


Pros


Perfect for any trip where you need to bring camping gear, sports equipment, or drive in rough terrain.


Cons


Not fuel-efficient at all and often quite large, so not suitable for tight spaces and often hard to drive in cities.


Rental car SUV sizes

Estate


An estate can also be referred to as a station wagon. The characteristic look of an estate is that it looks like an average car with a little longer “butt”. The cargo space is often quite large. An estate car will always have room for at least 5 people, often depicted with two parents in the front and three rowdy kids in the back.


This is one of the large rental car sizes that are good to pick when you are taking up to five adults on a longer trip. These cars are often spacious and comfy for people of all ages, especially if you don’t pack them to the brim.


Pros


Long trips with a big family or friend group are the best possible scenarios for this type of car.


Cons


The size of the car can be tough to handle when you need to do delicate maneuvering. Often not a part of the selection at most car dealerships.


standard rental car examples


Full Size


This is the second-largest size of a car, with a slightly smaller cargo space than the estate, but still larger than the other cars. This is the most common of the large rental car sizes. It will often be the last possibility before you have to get either a minivan or an SUV if you want more interior space.


Pros


Plenty of space for both people and luggage.


Cons


Often not the most fuel-efficient car.



full size car rental examples

Luxury


Imagine the size of a regular 5-seat car, but more luxurious. Luxury cars often come with a bunch of added features, ranging from AC in the back, to built-in screens and sometimes even Wi-Fi. Space, legroom, and very comfortable seats are often the main selling point. That, alongside a well-built entertainment system and pristine climate control. It can come in 2- or 5-seater models, meaning that they are often either small or standard-sized.


Pros


You will have the highest levels of comfort and a feeling of being pampered by a car.


Cons


Price. If you go for a luxury car, you will have to pay a luxury price. These cars are never made to be an economic alternative to any other car model.


Premium vs luxury car

Premium


The step-down between the luxury and the regular car will be the premium car. With a premium car, you will still be able to enjoy a way smoother ride than most standard cars, but you won’t have to dig as deep in your pockets to afford it.


Most premium cars will seat up to 5 people and have a cargo space that can fit 2 large bags as well as two smaller bags. You could probably squeeze in 3 large bags, but then you won’t have any space for smaller bags.


Pros


This is the budget alternative to a luxurious car. You will have most of the comforts that many standard cars don’t have, so any ride will be a pleasure.


Cons


This is still a pricey car with limited cargo space. You pay for personal luxury, not extra space.


Economy vs standard car

Standard


This is one of the most popular car rental sizes for any long road trip, since it fits most of what you need, while also being somewhat fuel-efficient. This is best suited for no more than four people on a longer trip and up to five people on a shorter trip. Some standard rental car examples are Ford Focus and Peugeot 101.


Pros


Great compromise in terms of size and price.


Cons


Packing smart is key to maximizing the use of this car rental type.



full size vs standard

Intermediate or Mid-sized


If you are in a company that doesn’t pack that much, this is the perfect car. You will be able to comfortably fit up to four people, but the luggage space will be limited. That makes this type of car better suited for 2 people on a long trip, or four people for shorter trips.


Pros


Easy to maneuver due to the size and often fuel-efficient.


Cons


Smaller than the average.


Compact


Right between the economy and standard car, we find the compromise of compromises. A compact-sized car will be perfect for you if you know you are going to go on a longer trip with no more than three people. For shorter trips, this is fine for up to five people, but then we’re talking about trips no longer than an hour or so.


Pros


If you don’t carry that much luggage, this car might be a great alternative for you.


Cons


This might be a compromise you don’t want to do if you are planning a longer trip with more than 2-3 people.


compact vs full size car

Economy


Just like the name suggests, the economy class is for those who are looking for an economic alternative. This category will help save on the travel costs of the holiday. This is the second-smallest car and is not suitable for more than two people if you want to have any significant luggage in the car.


Pros


Perfect for a couple on a road trip on a budget.


Cons


These are often cramped and rarely have a strong engine. Some models don’t have a pair of back doors.



economy vs standard car


Mini


If you are two people with very little luggage, this is the best alternative for you. This is the absolute smallest car rental size you could find at any rental place and should probably not be used on a longer road trip. It’s perfect for driving in the city, like in Reykjavik.


Pros


The most fuel-efficient car, which is also easy to maneuver in tight spaces.


Cons


Not even remotely suitable for longer trips as they are made for short trips.


Mini car rental size

Rental Car Sizes Comparison


Knowing the qualities of the different rental car sizes will not be enough to make an informed decision. In this section, we’ll provide you with a car rental sizes guide that puts the different sizes up against each other.


This way, you'll know which is the best suitable for which situation. Here, we’ll answer questions like “which is bigger, a full-size or standard car?”, and “Which is best for a family holiday, standard or midsize?”


Standard Car vs Intermediate Car Size


This is always a tricky one, so we’re going to start off with this. When it comes to the midsize vs standard car, it’s all about how much you will pack in the back.


A Standard car is best for up to four people with a normal amount of packing. The intermediate or midsize car, on the other hand, is best for shorter trips with less baggage, like minimalist packing.


Compact vs Economy Car Size


These are not that different other than in size. But which car is bigger, economy or compact? Compact will be the larger alternative with the added difference that some economy cars won’t have the second pair of doors. So, you’ll have to climb in the back via the front doors.


Economy vs Intermediate Car Size


Depending on what you want to do and what your holiday looks like. If you are on a budget holiday and haven’t packed too much, an economy car is a good choice. If you have a bit more luggage or are more than two in your travel company, the intermediate is one of the rental car sizes you should go for between the two.


Compact vs Midsize Car Rental Size


These two are honestly more or less the same in terms of interior space. You are more likely to find the compact being more fuel-efficient. The midsize will then be better suited for medium or long travels with up to three people. They are both good for shorter travels with smaller baggage requirements, like a trip around the Diamond Circle.



what are the different rental car sizes

Standard vs Midsize Car Rental Size


Both car rental sizes are 5-seaters and offer decent luggage space. The main difference between them is that the standard-size is large enough to fit one extra bag in the back. This will make all the difference for a family on holiday, while the younglings on a road trip might be fine with the midsize car.


Compact vs Full-Size Car


Here, it’s all about the people. A compact car is good for up to three people, unless you are quickly going to a restaurant in Reykjavík or something similar. A full-size car is very suitable if you are traveling a long stretch in a company of more than three people, and you require bringing some baggage along.


Full-Size Car vs Standard Car


The difference between a standard and full-size car is going to boil down to how much cargo space you need. The standard-size will be enough for most holidays, even if it may become a bit stuffed in the back if everyone decides to max out their luggage. The full size is definitely the better choice if you have five people and intend to be on the road for a longer time.


Economy vs Standard Car Size


Depending on the type of drive you intend to do, an economy car might be an adequate option among the car rental sizes. Even more if you are doing a budget trip. While the standard-size will feel better on a longer trip with more luggage. The standard-size is also superior when it comes to leg space in the back seat.


Full-Size car vs Standard Car Size


The full-size vs standard discussion always ends with “how much space do I REALLY need?” With a standard-size car, you’re likely to fit most of your luggage and people, but a full-size car will make any packing way easier. For a long trip with many people, the larger car is always the answer.


Car rentals types

Standard SUV vs Midsize SUV


A standard SUV can look like it would fit half a sports team and all their gear. The midsize SUV, contrastingly, almost looks like a standard car, just slightly larger and lifted. Both are good to drive in Iceland and can fit most of what you would need on a holiday. When you have the intermediate SUV vs Standard SUV, it’s often the amount of equipment needed and not the number of people that decides.


Premium vs Luxury Car Size


All previous comparisons have been discussed regarding what size you need for your trip, while this will be a discussion of how much space you want. The luxury car size will always give you more space than you need, but it gives a luxurious feeling. The premium option is particularly great if you are looking for an economic alternative with a luxurious touch. It will be slightly smaller, but more affordable.


The Core of Choosing Rental Car Sizes


When you plan your trip, you will need to first determine what you are going to do and what will be required of your car. Secondly, you look at what you want.


Even if you only need a smaller car, it can sometimes feel way better to pay a small extra amount just to feel more at ease while driving. The same thing goes the other way if you are traveling on a tight budget. It might be worth a little bit of extra planning when it comes to packing, and compromising comfort if you can save enough money on car rent and gas.


Regardless, renting a car in Iceland will always come down to both functionality and preference. You will have a good time in the country, even if you pick a car that is slightly off-target. It’s not the end of the world.

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