When you’re thinking of hiring a car, you probably have a good idea of what it is you want. Depending on your trip, you might even have an exact model in mind. Often, the trouble is in the language used by car hire companies to classify cars and, depending on the company, you might even see cars being classified using different terms, for example “intermediate”, “mid-size” or “standard”, all of which ultimately describe the same thing.
This guide will explain the most common car hire categories in the UK, the details of each category as well as popular models in each. Note that there are several less common categories for people who are interested in high-performance or exotic cars that are not explained in detail in this guide.
Bear in mind that when you book a car in a particular category, you may not get the exact model you selected. Most car hire companies will show you a deal for a specific model “or equivalent”, or “similar options”, because they’re changing their fleets frequently and may not know if that exact model is available to book at the time of your departure.
On KAYAK’s dedicated car hire webpage, you will see that cars are categorised more broadly into “Small” or “Compact/Mini”, “Medium” or “Mid-sized/Intermediate”, “Large” or “Full-sized” and even “SUV”, “Van” as well as “Luxury (Sports)” and “Eco-friendly” variants. To specify what exactly you can expect to drive when hiring a car through KAYAK, we have put together a selection of different models below for you to look through. Bear in mind that this page is non-exhaustive, meaning car types and categories will vary from location to location.
KAYAK Category: Small
Examples: Fiat 500, Peugeot 108, Kia Picanto
Mini cars are typically hatchbacks with two to four doors that can fit two adults and two children, and some luggage. You will tend to find this type of hatchback in the “Small” category when searching on KAYAK.
KAYAK Category: Small / Medium
Examples: Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Seat Leon, BMW 1 Series
Hatchbacks are the most popular type of car in the UK and come in a range of sizes. Despite their compactness, they offer a lot of additional space with foldable rear seats, allowing you to access the boot in its entirety. Most hatchbacks come in a 3-door or 5-door model and are great for couple getaways or for those looking to travel solo. Depending on size, you will tend to find this type of hatchback either in the “Small” or “Medium” category” when searching on KAYAK.
KAYAK Category: Medium / Luxury
Examples: BMW 2 Series Coupe, Audi TT, Lexus RC, Mercedes E-Class Coupe
Coupes strike a balance between being stylish and fit-for-purpose. Most coupes come in 2-door and 4-door variants, with the latter offering slightly more space than the former. Whilst traditional coupes offer more aesthetic than practicality, newer, more modern 4-door types do offer slightly more space than their 2-door counterparts. Depending on your journey and specific traveller needs, a coupe would be best suited for someone looking to travel in style. You will tend to find coupes in the “Medium” or “Luxury” category when searching on KAYAK.
KAYAK Category: Medium / Large
Examples: Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Alfa Romeo Giulia
Saloons, otherwise known as sedans in the United States, offer a more comfortable driving experience as well as more legroom both in the front and back seats. In comparison to a hatchback, the boot size is slightly smaller, however, there is more interior space for drivers and passengers alike. With a sophisticated and stylish exterior design, a saloon car is perfect for those looking to elevate their professional image. Depending on the size, you will tend to find saloons in the “Medium” or “Large” category when searching on KAYAK.
KAYAK Category: Large
Examples: Skoda Superb Estate, Mercedes E-Class Estate, Volvo V90, Volkswagen Passat Estate
Estate models boast a large rear end and an extended shape, giving you more storage space in the boot as well as space on the roof to transport bulkier items such as luggage, bikes as well as other sports equipment. Perfect for a family or slightly more adventurous getaway, there are many reasons to opt for an estate car when you book your trip. You will tend to find estate cars in the “Large” category when searching on KAYAK.
KAYAK Category: SUV
Examples: Mazda CX5, Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sorento, Land Rover Discovery
SUVs – or Sports Utility Vehicles – is somewhat an umbrella term for a whole group of larger, stockier vehicles including crossovers, 4x4s and off-road models. Offering both space whilst being as compact as an average family car, many SUVs are suited both on and off the main road. SUVs sit slightly higher off of the ground, meaning drivers feel more in control of where they are going and those with mobility issues don’t have to struggle as much to get in or out of them. SUV types can range from Compact, Medium, Premium and Luxury, so make sure to check these out when it comes to making your decision and hiring a car that best suits your travelling needs!
KAYAK Category: Van
Examples: Renault Scenic, Vauxhall Zafira, Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer, Ford Galaxy
An MPV – or Multi-purpose Vehicle – could be the perfect choice for those wanting more space and flexibility. Otherwise known as people-carriers, MPVs have since become much more than just that, offering more confidence behind the wheel with an elevated driving position as well as foldable, slidable and even completely removable seats, allowing you to create an interior space tailored specifically to your needs. MPVs’ popularity has shot up over time given their practicality and can be just as economical as smaller vehicle types and family cars. You will tend to find people carriers in the “Van” category on KAYAK.
KAYAK Category: Convertible
Examples: MINI Convertible, Audi A5 Cabriolet, BMW 4 Series Convertible, Mazda MX-5
Convertibles are – as many already know – cars with retractable roofs. Coming in both soft and hard top variants, they are sleek and aesthetically pleasing, but can also be based on hatchback and saloon models. Bear in mind that the price to pay for soaking up the sun whilst you drive is inevitably the limited storage capacity, so a convertible would be best suited to those travelling light or not wishing to travel directly to or from the airport with their hire car.
In today’s world, people are trying to live more sustainably in order to protect our planet and halt climate change. With this in mind, KAYAK offers search filters to help travellers find a range of hybrid/electric vehicles. In the below, we have put together a small overview for travellers looking for a more climate-friendly driving experience. For more information, see KAYAK’s dedicated webpage here.
Car types will vary depending on the country you visit. However, a wide variety of car types also have electric/hybrid variants in their fleet. Make sure to check them all out by using KAYAK’s “Eco-friendly” filter during your search.
Charging stations may be something you are well acquainted with or completely new to. Similar to a conventional petrol station, they are designated parking points for drivers of an electric vehicle to park their car and charge its battery to full. Many cities in Europe, including London, already have a network of electric vehicle charging points, so make sure you plan your route accordingly to ensure you are never too far from one.
In certain cities, you may even be eligible for perks when it comes to your electric/hybrid vehicle. In London, there are currently congestion and ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) charges to be paid by those travelling into and out of the city in order to combat its high levels of pollution. If you hire an eco-friendly vehicle with no emissions, you are currently not required to contribute to these charges. In Norway, eco-friendly car drivers are exempt from paying parking charges anywhere in the country and may even use bus routes during rush hour!
If you’re looking for more confidence behind the wheel, various space and storage options and the opportunity to tailor the car’s interior to your specific needs, a People Carrier is the right choice.
6 seater cars usually have three rows of seats and are perfect for families or larger groups wanting to get away. Examples include the Fiat Multipla, Tesla Model X, Honda FR-V, Mercedes R-Class and the BMW X7.
7 seater cars are spacious and offer great seating and storage opportunities for all. Examples include the Audi Q7, SKODA Kodiaq, Volkswagen Sharan, the Ford Galaxy and the SEAT Alhambra.
8 seater cars are minivan-sized and are perfect for those on the move for extended periods. They offer ample storage as well as room for up to 8 adults. Examples include the Citroen Spacetourer, Mercedes Benz Viano MPV, Volkswagen Caravelle, the Peugeot Expert Tepee and the Toyota Previa.
9 seater cars are the largest car hire available and are suited to practically any travel occasion. Examples can include the Mercedes Benz V-Class, the Ford Transit and Volkswagen Multivan.
If you want to know exactly how car hire categories work and know what every specific model includes, then it’s useful to learn the SIPP or ACRISS car classification code. This is a hire car industry standard for defining exactly what characteristics make up each car.
Luxury is the highest-priced car hire category. Luxury vehicles can include both saloons and SUVs. They will usually fit 5 people, with 2 large suitcases plus 2 small suitcases. They also generally come with added features like comfy seats, more powerful engines and fancier entertainment systems.
Hiring a luxury car will ultimately depend on the city in which you are seeking to hire it. Hiring a luxury car in London, for example, will set you back around £79 per day. In Manchester, you can expect to pay around £39 per day.
Car hire companies that offer luxury cars include Alamo, Arnold Clark, Avis, Budget, Easirent, Enterprise, Europcar, GREEN MOTION, Hertz, National, Sixt and Keddy by Europcar.
Again this will vary by city and the time and date of hire. In London, you can hire a van on average for around £62 per day. In Manchester you can expect to pay around £48, in Liverpool £46 and in Edinburgh around £69.
Car hire companies that offer vans include Ace, Alamo, Arnold Clark, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Easirent, Enterprise, Europcar, GREEN MOTION, Hertz, National, Sixt, Thrifty and Keddy by Europcar.
Given their popularity as well as their maintenance needs, convertible cars can be quite pricey, but, as always, this will depend mostly on the city you are hiring in. In London and other larger cities, expect to pay around £140-£160 per day.
Car hire companies that offer convertible cars include Dollar, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.