Economy vs Compact – This is the difference! (With Examples)

difference between economical and compact cars

In this article, I will explain to you the difference between an economy car and a compact car. This is a common question I get on this blog from people who are about to rent a car.

The main difference between an economy and compact car is the size. Both cars are relatively similar in renting price. The economy cars are usually smaller than compact cars. The economy car has few seats and limited luggage space while the compact car is often a regular sized car or a van which gives you a lot more space and room for more people.

That was just a short brief, now let me go in detail on how much luggage, space and the price you should expect from each type.

Economy car

economy car
  • Fits up to two adults and two children, you can fit 4 adults as well, but space will be limited.
  • Space for one medium suitcase and multiple smaller bags.
  • Fuel usage difference from each model, but 30-35 mpg(miles per gallon) is typical.

The economy car is usually the smallest between the two (economy and compact)

An economy car is equipped with either 2, 3 or 4 doors, but two is the most common.

These cars have four seats which make it possible for you to fit up to 4 people, but usually, the backseats offer a small amount of leg room making it hard to fit 4 adults in a compact car.

As I stated above you can comfortably fit one medium suitcase along with smaller carry on bags. If you only have small bags you should be more than fine by renting an economy car.

Since the economy cars are smaller they will use less fuel than the compact cars, the usages will differ from each model, but a usage of 30-35 mpg is common for such cars. Typically you can ask the rental place for the usage numbers if you want more precise numbers on the car you are about to rent.

The price will differ from which city you are in and what company you choose, where I live in Norway the price for an economy car is 187 $ a day, but I am you can find a better deal out there.

Compact Car

Compact car
  • 4 or more doors
  • 5 or more seats
  • fits 1 large suitcase, 1 medium suitcase, and a few smaller bags
  • Gas usage: Different from each car, but average is 30-35 mpg

The compact car is the bigger of the two, it usually comes with 5 or more seats which makes it possible for you to bring the whole family. Depending on the company you rent from the vans will be in a different price range or category, but some dealerships put that under compact cars as well.

A compact car has typically 4 or more doors. If I said to you to picture a family car, a compact car is what you would be thinking off.

If you are traveling and are bringing a lot of luggage (2 or more suitcases) then you should go with a compact car in order to get enough space. This totally depends on the number of people and the space you want in your car, but that is a choice only you can take.

Typically you can fit one large suitcase, one medium suitcase and several smaller bags in a compact car, which equates to about 12-14 feet of luggage space.

The price will be slightly higher than the economy car as well, in addition to higher gas usage. You should expect to use about 30-35 mpg with a compact car. This is different from each model so you should ask your rental company for further detail.

Compact car vs Economy car – Which one is the best

Which car is the best to rent is totally up to you, you have to decide for yourself which car would be more suiting for your trip. However there a few factors should take into consideration when taking this decision.

The first thing I would have in mind is how many people you are traveling with. If you are more than 2 adults I would advise you to go with a compact car since adults typically bring more luggage and space in the backseats of an economy car is usually limited.

How many people are travelling

But this totally depends on the length of your trip as well, if you just want a cheap rental car from the airport to your hotel then there isn’t much need for a big compact car either. Just make sure that your luggage will fit before you take the decision.

How much luggage

As I mentioned earlier an economy car will fit a medium-sized suitcase and several small bags, so if you have more luggage than that you will be forced to either secure it in the backseat or rent a compact car or a van.


The last point I would consider is your budget, if you want to save money than a economical car would be your best bet.

Because of the size it will use less gas and the rental price is lower as well.

Remember not to only go by the rental price when deciding on a car, but have in mind the gas usage as well. If you are going to take long rides, it can be more beneficial to have a vehicle that drives longer with less gas than paying for a cheap car that doesn’t make full use of the gas.


The main difference between an economical and compact car is the size. I hope this article helped you to take your decision when it comes to your rental car.

Make sure to stay safe and rent a car that is safe and take full use of the gas!

When my me, my girlfriend and the kids go to a vacation we usually go with a economical car just because it fits our stuff and since we are only two adults it is a perfect choice.

We have never had any issues with those, the only downside, is that on some cars you have to take down the front seat in order to get to the backseats. Besides that a economical car should work fine for most use cases.

Take care and drive safe!

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