6 Reasons Why I Rent Economy Cars Whenever I Travel — Much of the Time, Anyway

“W hy I’m saying you’re foolish if you rent a ‘standard’ size car, or anything besides the absolute cheapest car available (usually subcompact) is because rental car companies don’t care what you book. They have a set amount of cars at a given time, and you ‘get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit’ (as we always tell our kids!)”, Dan Miller of Points With a Crew wrote in this article pertaining to saving money on renting vehicles. “It has also been my experience that if you rent an economy or subcompact, they never carry any of those, and so you’re going to get a standard car anyways, or at the very least a compact or intermediate.”

Here is a list of the 6 reasons why I rent economy cars whenever I travel…

1. Lower Cost to Rent

The rental car companies want you to believe that it will only cost you a few dollars more per day to rent the next larger size of vehicle — but factor in expenses such as taxes, insurance coverage if you do not already have it, and airport fees, and the difference in cost per day increases. Only you can determine whether a higher rate — say, $50.00 as a random example — is worth paying for a larger vehicle.

As an example, the Mazda2 — a photograph of which is shown at the top of this article — which I rented in Muscat from Europcar through this Internet web site where I saved money was more than adequate for me. I paid a total of $141.24 for four days or $35.31 per day — that included collision damage waiver, theft waiver, unlimited kilometers, taxes, and a “premium station surcharge”, whatever that is — and I had absolutely no complaints about that car. I am not even sure if it was what I originally reserved; or if it was a free upgrade. Free upgrades are discussed later on in this article.

I have seen rental car companies — Avis, for example — which charge the same rate for a compact car as is charged for an economy class car. Sometimes I will still rent an economy class car anyway for the reasons cited below.

2. Lower Fuel Costs

Economy cars typically consume less fuel than larger vehicles — which usually translates into overall lower fuel costs. This may not be such a concern in the United States in recent weeks with the cost of a gallon of gasoline being sold for less than $1.70 in some states; but fuel costs in many countries are often more expensive — and those savings could add up.

Remember that fuel in most countries is sold by the liter and not by the gallon as it is in the United States; so if you are used to gallons, multiply the price per liter by four — or, more exactly, by 3.785411784 — for the equivalent of the cost of fuel per gallon.

Conversely, if you are visiting the United States from your home country, a liter is 0.26417052 of one gallon.

3. Easier to Park

The size of a vehicle may not be much of a factor if you plan on using parking lots during your entire trip; but it is a whole different matter when it comes to parking a car on the street.

Having been born and raised in New York, I know how difficult it is to find an available parking spot on the street in Manhattan. I have owned small cars while living in New York; and I had this uncanny knack of finding a parking spot on the street which other people could not use — usually because their vehicles might be too large; or they may mistakenly believe that they would be unable to park in that open spot for whatever reason.

Having a smaller car is usually easier to park, which saves time — and, of course, money, if you do not want to pay $10.00 or $25.00 or even $40.00 to park in a garage or parking lot overnight. For those reasons, having a car which is easier to park is not a factor which should be taken lightly — especially when staying in a city.

4. Amenities Have Filtered Down

Luxury cars are usually first with being equipped with new amenities; and as time passes, those amenities are typically filtered down to other classes of cars.

There was indeed a time when I would have preferred not to rent an economy class car because it was not equipped with a radio where I can hook up a portable electronic device or pop in a compact disc which I recorded with my favorite music — and I have mentioned in this article just how important music is to me whenever I travel.

These days, economy class vehicles are equipped with everything I want — options to play music, adjustable seats, climate control as only three of many examples — and the leg room for me is usually ample.

5. Free Upgrades

Jeanne Marie Hoffman of Le Chic Geek wrote in this article that “…I think it’s a little dirty when the rental car companies know they are going to upgrade you but pressure you into buying an upgrade so they don’t have to give it to you for free.”

She is correct. More often than not when renting a car, I have been automatically upgraded from the economy class vehicle at no extra charge — even at times when I did not want to be upgraded.

Besides, many rental car companies offer a free coupon to upgrade to the next car class if you want to further guarantee that upgrade. All it takes is a few seconds of your time to research the special offers area of virtually any rental car company to find and “clip” that coupon to use on your next vehicle rental.

Unlike seats on airlines — and, to a somewhat lesser extent, rooms in hotel and resort properties — vehicle upgrades abound; and if you happen to be a member of the frequent renter loyalty program of a rental car company, your vehicle upgrade chances increase even more.

6. Accidents Can Happen

While an accident is unlikely to happen to you while you rent a car, it can happen — and if for some reason you are on the hook to replace the value of the rental car should it be considered a total loss as the result of an accident, the value of an economy class car is usually less than that of other cars.


Renting a car in a higher class category than economy class is worth considering if you have special needs — transporting a family or hauling cargo are two of many good reasons — but although there are certainly exceptions, reserving an economy class vehicle is usually the best way to save money on renting a car.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why I Rent Economy Cars Whenever I Travel — Much of the Time, Anyway”

  1. popcornflying says:

    I rent a tiny car to compensate for my gigantic penis.

  2. When I saw the subject of your post I thought “Wow, I just wrote a post EXACTLY like that!!!!” 🙂 Needless to say, I agree 🙂

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I wonder why, Dan @ Points With a Crew…?

      Thank you for the inspiration.

  3. Al says:

    One drawback of renting an economy car is that most promotions only apply to mid-size and up. Last week I rented a mid-size car from Hertz to take advantage of a MileagePlus promotion, earning 5000 bonus miles for a 2-day rental. An economy car would have cost $5 less per day, but 5000 miles are worth a lot more than $10!

    For weekend rentals, you can actually use a free weekend day coupon with most rental car companies when you rental a mid-size car. So it would probably cost more to rental an economy car without any coupon.

    For weekly rentals, most car rental companies have coupons for $20-$50 off. Again, those coupons only apply to mid-size and up.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You are absolutely correct, Al; and when a promotion is applied, the price for an economy class car can indeed be more expensive — but as you point out, that is not always the case.

      I once rented an oversized van for three days for the grand total of $47.14 — including all taxes and fees. Not even the cost of renting an economy class car can beat that.

      The article was not meant to cover promotional deals, as those are usually the exception rather that the rule — especially with all of the possible variations which can apply.

      Basically, the ultimate decision is subjective and should be based on a combination of value and preference.

      Thank you, Al.

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