Difference Between Economy And Compact Car: A Full Guide

Commonly asked by most people when renting a car, economy and compact cars are two of the most affordable and reasonably-priced cars having common characteristics, however, they do not mean exactly the same.

Ideally, both cars are suitable for long travels so if you are looking to save up on gas and rental fees, then you’ve come to the right guide. Why don’t we dig in further and find out to know more about the advantages and disadvantages as we compare both vehicles side-by-side?


When it comes to comparing economy and compact rental cars, one huge thing to note is their size as economy cars are relatively smaller than their counterpart. Not only that, but we must also consider the following factors when choosing, namely, the number of passengers, number of luggage, travel distance and location, fuel usage, and most importantly the cost of the rental.

Knowing the differences between both cars will be a huge benefit when you choose the vehicle perfect for your needs.

Economy Car

Usually seating up to a maximum of 4 passengers and a few luggage, economy cars are the smallest among the vehicle groups. Ideally used for driving in-town as they are perfect for young families and couples who are on a budget since they can save you a lot on gas.

Blue Honda hatchback car on pavement.

So if you are traveling with more companions and are looking for more space, then this car might not be the one for you.

Compact Car

Also used for driving in-town, compact cars are slightly larger with more leg space which can be used for day trips, long drives, and family outings. Contrary to their name, compact cars offer bigger space as compared to economy cars, so they accommodate more passengers and have larger luggage space as well.

Red car sedan on the street.

When trying to rent a car, you might want something that saves more fuel, so as a rule of thumb, remember that the lesser miles per gallon a car uses when traveling, the more fuel it consumes. Better rent vehicles that are more cost-effective.

To better illustrate their difference, below is a comparison table I made which can be used as a reference to help in choosing the right vehicle for your needs.


So which car is better? One cannot easily answer the question as no car is better than the other since it is based on several factors. With this, you will also need to take into account additional features aside from the ones mentioned above before making your final decision.

One important factor to consider is how long you will travel. For example, road trips across the country would require you to stay in the car longer, so it is better to choose a vehicle that would less likely cause your body to strain. Thankfully, compact cars are more spacious thus, making your driving experience a whole lot more comfortable.

Young woman driving a car.

Though there are several ways to cope with this as you can buy car accessories such as a support cushion, it is still better to have extra leg space for you to stretch. Other factors include the car’s make and model, for one-way rentals you might want to consider the pick-up and drop-off locations, local supplier’s service rating, WIFI, toll passes, and car accessories such as child seats and satellite radio, among others.


When choosing between an economy and compact car, one cannot judge solely without knowing what you’re using it for as both have their benefits and limitations. Know your budget, needs, and requirements as size does matter before making your final decision on purchasing a rental vehicle.

I do suggest ranking your priority factors as a basis while reading this guide to further solidify your decision.

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About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!

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