Economy versus Compact Car Rental Definitions

by Michael G. SanchezUpdated July 11, 2023
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Avis, Hertz and Enterprise are the three biggest rental car companies in the U.S. While there are countless smaller competitors out there, these three control the lion's share of the car rental business. While the definition of "economy" and "compact" cars is not entirely consistent between them, it is fairly close. Mostly being a full-size vs. midsize vs. compact car has to do with fuel efficiency, cargo space in cubic feet, number of doors and whether there’s a back seat, ability to do city driving, and other car categories that rental companies come up with.

Economy vs. Compact Car

Avis actually doesn't offer an economy car rental category. Instead, they use the term "sub-compact." It is basically the same thing, though. Avis defines a subcompact car as providing seating for four to five occupants and offering room for one large bag and one small bag. Fuel economy is estimated at 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. A Hyundai Accent is a typical model offered in this class. Avis defines a compact rental car as having room for five occupants, one large bag and two small bags. An example model is the Ford Focus. Fuel economy is estimated at 28 to 48 mpg, so they have great gas mileage great for road trips.

Hertz defines an economy vehicle as seating four to five occupants, having enough trunk space for two carry-ons or medium suitcases and providing fuel economy of 33 mpg or better. A Kia Rio is the example model. They define a compact car as seating four to five occupants, having storage space for one large and one small suitcase and providing fuel economy of at least 38 mpg. A typical compact model is the Ford Focus.

Finally, Enterprise defines an economy car as a type of car simply having two or four doors. A Chevrolet Spark is provided as a typical example of the vehicles offered in this class. An Enterprise compact car has four doors. A typical representative is the Nissan Versa.

So, essentially the key differences depend on the rental agency, but can include luggage space and MPG. A small car or standard car is usually considered to be a compact or economy car for renters to pick-up.

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