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Great Rental Cars for a Road Trip

Wherever the journey takes you, we’ve got the right vehicle for you

  • Volkswagen

    With (or Without) Reservations

    En español | If you’re renting a car for a vacation or road trip, you can try something you’ve always wanted to drive. Or you can be rational and pick, as Consumer Reports recommends, the smallest car you can tolerate, saving money on the rental and the fuel. Either way, it’s best to reserve ahead. Mike Quincy, automotive specialist at Consumer Reports, recommends price shopping at third-party sites such as Priceline.com, Hotwire.com, Kayak.com and others.  You can check rated fuel economy and crash test ratings at both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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  • Toyota

    For the Basic Road Tripper

    The pick: Toyota Corolla
    It’s big enough to accommodate four (with enough safety belts for five, but that middle rear slot might not suit all sizes) and small enough to maneuver and park and use modest amounts of fuel. Auto research and shopping site Edmunds.com likes Corolla’s “copious rear legroom, impressive fuel economy, user-friendly controls, generous standard equipment, pleasant ride.”

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  • Kia

    For Toting the Whole Family

    The pick: Kia Sedona
    Edmunds.com senior editor Ed Hellwig likes the Sedona because it’s “a spacious minivan that offers second-row seats that are even better than the front seats, plus dual sunroofs, rear-passenger climate controls and side-window sunshades.” You’ll wow your passengers if you find the up-level model with what Kia brags is “the available (auto speak for “optional”) second-row ‘first class’ lounge seating.”

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  • Chevrolet

    For the Minivan-Phobic Clan

    The pick: Chevrolet Suburban
    ”Some might decry the excess of a full-size SUV,” says Jack Nerad, executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com), but “once inside they will be sold on its warm, welcoming interior.” He cites the redesigned 2016 Suburban’s seating for up to nine, its “unexpected comfort” and relatively good mileage — as much as 23 mpg on the highway.

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  • Ford

    Family-Size SUV

    The pick: Ford Flex
    Suburban too big? Popular Mechanics likes the Flex, a low-roof, seven-passenger wagon-esque crossover SUV. A center console refrigerator is optional and handy for vacation travel with kids. “On the inside, there’s plenty of space for seven passengers,” PM emphasizes, and some models have a third-row seat that can flip-fold so it’s facing backward for stargazing, tailgating or pulling on ski boots.

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  • Mazda

    For the Mileage-Conscious Family

    The pick: Mazda5
    This mini minivan seats six, in three rows of two, has sliding side doors for easy entry and exit, is small enough to maneuver and park easily, and uses a four-cylinder engine to save fuel. Rating is 21 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 24 in city/highway combined. Mazda axed the slow-seller for the 2016 model year, but our online search showed some rental locations still have 2015s.

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  • Dodge

    For Pulling a Trailer

    The picks: Ford Expedition, Ram 1500
    Consumer Reports’ Quincy says he has used a full-size Expedition and favors such hefty, full-size SUVs for the task. He warns that mpg could drop to 10 or so when towing. Edmunds.com’s Hellwig likes the Ram 1500 full-size pickup with EcoDiesel drivetrain. All vehicles sacrifice mpg when towing. The Ram diesel truck, rated 28 mpg on the highway without a trailer, still should outdo gas rigs when towing. Can’t find a rental pickup with diesel? Kelley Blue Book’s Nerad recommends the Ford F-150.

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  • Mazda

    For Just a Couple and a Winding Road

    The pick: Mazda Miata
    Quincy fondly recalls his own romantic San Francisco adventure in a Mazda Miata. It was easy enough to find because it’s popular on the coast, he recalls. Bigger budget? “My special favorite is the mid-engine Porsche Cayman S,” Nerad says. The car, he adds, “corners so effortlessly, it seems to know what you’re going to do before you do.” Just so if you “pack light and take a special someone with you.”

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  • Volkswagen

    For Open-Air Fun

    The pick: Volkswagen Beetle
    The comparatively roomy convertible seats four, looks more serious than its immediate predecessor, but remains just goofy enough to amuse. It’s also cheaper than, say, a high-dollar German drop-top. At some locations, it’s priced about the same as a Ford Mustang or a Chevrolet Camaro convertible. Elsewhere, the Beetle’s cheaper.

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  • Chrysler

    For Big Car Comfort

    The pick: Chrysler 300
    “It’s the quintessential car for the American road trip: It’s big, fast, powerful, can seat five comfortably and still has plenty of room for all your suitcases,” enthuses the CarGurus Blog. Alternative: Toyota Avalon, “a car as luxurious as it is practical, offering five-passenger accommodations, outstanding fuel economy,” according to Kelley Blue Book. Kelley also likes the Hyundai Genesis.

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  • Subaru

    For Those Who Like a Throwback Station Wagon

    The pick: Subaru Outback
    This midsize five-passenger vehicle with all-wheel-drive — standard on all Subarus except the BRZ sports coupe — might delight you. “What people love about the Outback is its ability to transform itself into exactly whatever they require for a given scenario. Need it to be a capable all-weather transport? No problem. Need a roomy wagon for kids and all their stuff? Check,” says Car and Driver magazine.

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  • Toyota

    For Those Who Prize MPG Above All

    The picks: BMW 328d, Toyota Prius
    Choose a diesel-powered rental for highway driving, where such engines sip fuel. And pick a hybrid for city-oriented travel, where the electric motor runs more often, limiting gas consumption. Edmunds.com’s Hellwig favors the BMW 328d diesel, saying it’s “safe and secure on the highway, has a comfortable interior and is rated to deliver up to 42 mpg.” The Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid is rated 54 mpg in the city, 50 on the highway and 52 in combined city/highway driving.

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  • Land Rover

    For Luxurious Adventure Seekers

    The pick: Range Rover
    Kelley Blue Book’s Nerad acknowledges the Jeep Wrangler as a top contender. But he says those who can find — and afford to rent — Land Rover’s Range Rover ($85,000 and up to buy) should go that route. Range Rover, he says, has “incredible off-road capabilities” and “an interior as proper as a British club.” He rates the drivetrain as “superbly brilliant” and able to “match any terrain.”

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