VW Touran with Luggage
Luggage for Two - VW Touran

Every traveler who plans to rent a car in Europe that will comfortably accommodate four persons should know this: most cars in the intermediate sedan (IDMR) category are as large or larger than sedans in the more expensive fullsize (FDMR) and (PDMR) categories. Right now in Germany, an intermediate sedan for one week with Avis is about $235 with tax. The fullsize sedan is about $100 more. A premium category sedan, such as the E-Class Mercedes or 5-series BMW will be about $700 per week. True, the fullsize and premium cars are likely to be Mercedes, BMW, or Audi A4 and probably have a built-in GPS, but only in rare instances will they have even marginally more passenger or luggage space than a VW Passat or Opel Insignia, in many cases these cars are smaller.

Here are size specifications of some of the most commonly rented intermediate, fullsize and premium category cars in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They are sorted by length, shortest to longest. The prices are for Germany in January 2013; you will pay more in Austria and Switzerland, in some cases substantially more:

  • Fullsize Mercedes Benz C-Class: Length 181 inches, Width 70 inches, 7-day price: $335
  • Fullsize BMW 3-Series: Length 183 inches, Width 73 inches, 7-day price: $335
  • Fullsize Audi A4: Length 185 inches, Width 72 inches, 7-day price: $335
  • Intermediate Opel Insignia: Length 190 inches, Width 73 inches, 7-day price: $235
  • Premium Mercedes E-Class: Length 192 inches, Width 72 inches, 7-day price: $713
  • Intermediate VW Passat: Length 192 inches, Width 72 inches, 7-day price: $235
  • Premium BMW 5 series: Length 193 inches, Width 73 inches, 7-day price: $713

These size differences among car categories are much the same throughout Europe and every renter must be aware that all rental companies guarantee by category, not by specific make or model.

In any case, our recommendation for four persons in a rental car is the relatively new "intermediate special" (IXMR) category which includes the VW Touran, Opel Zafira, Renault Scenic and Ford C-Max. In Germany, these van-style, wagon/SUV combination cars are about $65 more per week but definitely worth it as they are much roomier for both passengers and luggage than the more expensive fullsize or premium vehicles.