More often than not, you have a lot of choices when it comes to rental cars. But even within the rental car company’s specified classes, there’s plenty of guessing when it comes to deciphering what’s offered. On top of that, they’re not all equal in terms of available equipment and features.

Did you know that some companies call small cars, such as a Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Spark, “Class-A Economy” cars, but other similarly wee models like the Fiat 500L and Mini Cooper are considered “Class-B Compact?"

Once you determine the category and car type you want, you still have to determine what features they offer. For example, not all rentals have a USB port, so make sure you bring a portable charger that plugs into the 12-volt outlet.

Some of the newer small cars, such as the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Mitsubishi Mirage, may not have Bluetooth. So you’ll have to rely on a passenger to handle phone calls.  

If you go the money-saving route and choose a discount car rental company, keep in mind that they tend to offer cars that are two or three years old. So even if the available cars aren’t bargain-basement econoboxes, you can’t count on getting a vehicle with features like Bluetooth, navigation, or a USB port.

The best thing to do is secure the newest car you can. If you head out to the parking lot with your family and find out your rental is missing some key features, go back to the office and ask to choose another one. The additional time haggling is better spent than spending a week or more in a car that lacks basic conveniences. And if you’re assigned a vehicle that didn’t perform well in crash tests, stand your ground and demand a better vehicle.

To help you make an informed decision at the rental counter, we’ve put together a list of the vehicles to choose and the ones to stay away from—no matter how cheap the daily rate—when you have your choice of vehicle. All of the vehicles here scored well in Consumer Reports' testing and performed adequately if included in government or insurance industry crash tests. We didn't include reliability as a decision-making factor, because rental cars are often used for short periods of time and then given back.




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Buick Verano

Chrysler 200

Subaru Legacy

Toyota Prius