What is the Difference Between a Compact Car & an Economy Car?

Written by daniella lauren
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What is the Difference Between a Compact Car & an Economy Car?
Economy and compact cars are lightweight class vehicles. (luxury car - model toy car image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com)

Cars come in a variety of model names, some of which may mean little to consumers. Terms such as "economy car" or "compact car" might register as being smaller than a mid-sized or luxury vehicle, however there are a few things that distinguish the two classes of vehicles from each other.

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Expert Insight

Car rental companies use the terms "economy" and "compact" for different types of car, although the lay person may just recognise the cars as lightweight vehicles. The specific classification helps determine how much the consumer will pay for a car rental.

Physical Size

Economy cars are smaller than compact cars. According to Car Junky's website, economy cars are generally the smallest rentable car. Many economy cars come in two or four door models.

Passenger Size

Although by most standards compact cars are small, economy cars have much less legroom. Economy cars will generally accommodate four adults, whereas compact cars will accommodate five adult passengers.

Fuel Efficiency

Economy cars are typically more fuel efficient than compact cars, according to Consumer Research's website.


An economy car isn't necessarily smaller than a higher class of vehicle; it sometimes only refers to the selling price suggested by the manufacturer. Most manufacturers offer an economy vehicle, however not all offer a compact vehicle.

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