When it comes to hiring a car there are many things to consider with one of the most important being the size of your hire car. The car you will need depends on a number of factors which include, how much luggage you will have, how many passengers you’ll need to carry, what type of driving you’ll be doing and what type of vehicle you are used to driving. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the common car hire categories and how to pick the one that’s right for you.

Common car hire categories

Cars are generally split up into category groups which reflect the type of car rather than a specific model, although most hire companies also mention a reference model e.g. VW Polo or similar. Just because they list a particular manufacturer or model that doesn’t guarantee that you will be hiring that car. Hire fleets can change over time and the actual make and model of hire vehicle can also change.
The important thing when it comes to car groups is, they represent a particular size/class of vehicle and your hire car will be reflective of this.


An economy class vehicle is generally one of the smallest models available and will normally only have seating for a maximum of 4 passengers. The car will have a small boot which will be able to take 1 small suitcase or a couple of small weekend bags. These models will generally be relatively basic and be best suited for a weekend city break for a couple.


The next class up from economy models are small cars which also have seating for 4 adults. Generally, small cars will have 3 – 5 doors and are slightly more refined than their economy counterparts. Typical small cars include models such as a Ford Ka or Toyota Aygo. Again small cars are best suited for weekend breaks and 2 or 3 people maximum.

Small compact

With 5 seats and room for 2 suitcases in the boot the small compact class are the perfect choice for small families and couples for a weekend or longer break. With air conditioning as standard and USB/AUX ports, they are generally reasonably equipped. Example models include the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio.

Midsize compact

One of the newer vehicle classes. The midsize compact includes small crossovers such as the Nissan Note or Nissan Juke and has room for 2 suitcases and seating for 5 adults. Larger engines and more refined interiors separate midsize from the small compact class. They are also suited to small families or longer breaks for couples.


The start of the proper family-sized cars, the midsize range includes popular family cars such as the Ford Focus or Ford C Max which are perfect for transporting the full family around. With 5 seats and a large boot which can accommodate 4 cases, these are the ideal choice for groups of friends, families or just anyone who wants a bit more space and comfort.


When it comes to transporting large amounts of luggage and also up to 5 people in comfort the estate is a perfect choice. All estates have large, yet economical engines and are designed to get you around in comfort. Example models include Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia estates.

Large family

Large, comfortable and suited for carrying up to 5 adults, the large family class of vehicle has room for 4 suitcases or more and always has 5 doors. Like estate cars, they also have large economical engines that are perfect for longer journeys. Sample models include the Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo.

Are basic models always the cheapest option?

This is one of those questions that really depends on how you use the car. If you are a couple planning longer trips with plenty of motorway journeys, then it will often work out cheaper to rent a slightly larger model car as these will be more economical on longer journeys. While anyone who is going to be limiting their mileage to inner-city and small journeys would be best off with a smaller car.

How to choose the right car class?

It’s all about picking a car that will suit your needs. It may be tempting to opt for the cheapest option but if you are a group of 4 friends trying to squeeze into an economy model, we promise that you won’t find the experience a pleasant one. Always take time to plan your trip and what you intend doing before making your final decision on car hire. You’ll rarely regret opting for a car in the group above the one you think you need.