Last updated on May 9, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, travelling and renting cars In Italy

What is the best car size to rent in Italy

Choosing the right car size to rent for your Italian road trip can significantly enhance your travel experience.

A well-thought-out choice ensures comfort, convenience, and smooth navigation across diverse Italian terrains, from bustling city streets to serene countryside roads.

However, renting a car in Italy involves more than just picking a vehicle you fancy. It requires careful consideration of various factors, including your travel plans, passenger size, and specific needs.

For this reason in this guide, I have also added case scenarios for areas of Italy that you are possibly planning to visit.

Let’s delve into these elements in more detail.

Determining the best car size to rent in Italy

Your travel itinerary largely determines the type of rental car that will best suit your needs.

Are you exploring the art-filled streets of Florence and Siena, the winding countryside roads of Sicily, or the mountainous terrains of the Dolomites?

City explorers might prefer compact cars for easy manoeuvring, while countryside or mountain travellers may opt for a vehicle with good ground clearance and power.

You see how different can be the choice on the car size to rent in Italy based on your destination and that is why I will talk more below about 5 different case scenarios (Tuscany, Sicily, Sardinia, Puglia and Naples/Amalfi Coast).

The number of travellers and the amount of luggage are equally crucial. A solo traveller or a couple might be comfortable in a small car, but a family or a group would need a larger vehicle with ample luggage space.

Comfort and convenience are paramount, especially for long journeys. Consider features like air conditioning, cruise control, automatic transmission, and GPS, ensuring they align with your comfort expectations.

Taking the ferry from Sicily to Calabria
Taking the ferry from Sicily to Calabria

Types of Cars size to rent in italy

These are the 5 different car sizes when hiring a car in Italy.

  • Compact cars are perfect for city trips and solo travellers or couples. They are easy to handle, park, and consume less fuel.
  • Sedans offer more space and comfort, making them suitable for families or longer journeys.
  • SUVs or larger vehicles are ideal for groups or those with extensive luggage. They offer more space and are powerful enough to handle different terrains.
  • Luxury cars provide a more comfortable and stylish experience, equipped with advanced features for a superior ride.
  • Special vehicles, like convertibles or 4x4s, cater to specific needs, adding an extra thrill to your road trip.

Insurance is also a key factor when renting a car. It’s important to have at least the minimum required coverage to protect against potential damages or theft. I talk more extensively in my guide about the different kinds of insurance for rental cars in Italy.

Fuel Efficiency and Environmental Considerations

Fuel efficiency is critical for long road trips. Not only does it save on cost, but it also reduces your carbon footprint.

Hybrid or electric cars are excellent for fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness.

However, Italy’s infrastructure for electric vehicles is still developing, and charging stations can be sparse, especially in rural areas.

Therefore, traditional petrol or diesel cars might still be a more practical choice for now.

Beautiful drive at sunset time in Tuscany
Beautiful drive at sunset time in Tuscany

5 Real-life case scenarios

Here below is a quick reference table, however, keep reading for more information about the different cases.

RegionTraveller TypeCar size to rent in ItalyProsCons
Tuscany1-2 TravellersCompact CarEasy to manoeuvre, fuel-efficient, affordableLimited luggage space
TuscanyFamily
(3-4 People)
Mid-sized SedanComfortable, spacious, good for countryside roadsParking in the city can be challenging
Sicily1-2 TravellersCompact SUVGood for various terrains, comfortable for long drivesConsumes more fuel than compact cars
SicilyFamily
(3-4 People)
Large SUVSpacious, good for all terrainsHigh fuel consumption, can be hard to park
Sardinia1-2 TravellersCompact Car / 4×4Easy to handle, fuel-efficient, good for narrow roadsNot suitable for off-road driving (Compact Car)
SardiniaFamily
(3-4 People)
Mid-sized SUVGood for various terrains, spaciousHigh fuel consumption
Puglia1-2 TravellersCompact CarEasy to manoeuvre, fuel-efficient, affordableLimited luggage space
PugliaFamily
(3-4 People)
Mid-sized SedanComfortable, spacious, good for countryside roadsParking in the city can be challenging
Naples/Amalfi Coast1-2 TravellersSmall CarEasy to handle, good for narrow and winding roadsLimited space, not suitable for long distances
Naples/Amalfi CoastFamily
(3-4 People)
Compact SUVGood for various terrains, relatively easy to handleParking can be challenging, higher fuel consumption
How to choose the right rental car for your Italian road trip

A road trip in Tuscany

Tuscany is known for its picturesque countryside and historic cities. The region’s rural areas feature narrow, winding roads while the cities are famous for tight parking spaces and ZTL zones.

  • 1-2 Travelers: A compact car is the best choice. It’s fuel-efficient and easy to manoeuvre through narrow roads and park in the city.
    • Pros: Easy to manoeuvre, fuel-efficient, affordable.
    • Cons: Limited luggage space.
  • Family (3-4 People): A mid-sized sedan would be suitable. It offers enough space for passengers and luggage without being too bulky.
    • Pros: Comfortable, spacious, good for countryside roads.
    • Cons: Parking in the city can be challenging.
  • Check out more information on renting a car in Tuscany

A road trip in Sicily

Sicily’s diverse geography includes mountainous terrains, coastal drives, and busy city streets. A car that can handle all these situations would be ideal.

  • 1-2 Travelers: A compact SUV would be a good choice, offering stability for mountainous regions and comfort for long drives.
    • Pros: Good for various terrains, comfortable for long drives.
    • Cons: Consumes more fuel than compact cars.
  • Family (3-4 People): A larger SUV would be suitable for a family. It can handle all types of terrains and offers ample space.
    • Pros: Spacious, good for all terrains.
    • Cons: High fuel consumption, can be hard to park.
  • Check out more information on renting a car in Sicily
Sardinia - Scenic Strada Statale on the Sea Coast
Sardinia – Scenic Strada Statale on the Sea Coast

Driving through Sardinia

Sardinia’s narrow and curvy coastal roads require a car that’s easy to handle. The island also has some rugged terrains ideal for off-road adventures.

  • 1-2 Travelers: A compact car is perfect for driving around Sardinia’s coastal roads. For those seeking adventure, a 4×4 might be a fun choice.
    • Pros: Easy to handle, fuel-efficient, good for narrow roads.
    • Cons: Not suitable for off-road driving.
  • Family (3-4 People): A mid-sized SUV would be ideal. It’s good for coastal drives and offers enough space for a family.
    • Pros: Good for various terrains, spacious.
    • Cons: High fuel consumption.
  • Check out more information on renting a car in Sardinia

Discovering the gems of Puglia

Puglia is mostly flat, with wide open roads in the countryside and tighter ones in the historic city centres.

  • 1-2 Travelers: A compact car is a good choice. It’s easy to park and navigate through narrow city streets.
    • Pros: Easy to manoeuvre, fuel-efficient, affordable.
    • Cons: Limited luggage space.
  • Family (3-4 People): A mid-sized sedan would offer a comfortable and smooth drive across Puglia’s flat roads.
    • Pros: Comfortable, spacious, good for countryside roads.
    • Cons: Parking in the city can be challenging.
  • Check out more information on renting a car in Puglia

Navigating through Naples/Amalfi Coast

Driving in Naples and along the Amalfi Coast can be challenging due to narrow and winding roads, steep cliffs, and heavy traffic.

  • 1-2 Travelers: A small, nimble car would be ideal. It’s easy to handle on winding roads and easier to park.
    • Pros: Easy to handle, good for narrow and winding roads.
    • Cons: Limited space, not suitable for long distances.
  • Family (3-4 People): A compact SUV would offer a balance between space and manoeuvrability.
    • Pros: Good for various terrains, relatively easy to handle.
    • Cons: Parking can be challenging, and higher fuel consumption.

Booking Your Rental Car

It’s advisable to book your rental car in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.

I usually rent my cars on the DiscoverCars website, a rental aggregator that compares the prices of local and global operators providing the best deal around, with the possibility to add full insurance for just 7 Euros/day, such a great peace of mind.

Polignano a Mare - Sunset at Cala Paura gulf with Bastione di Santo Stefano - Puglia
Polignano a Mare – Sunset at Cala Paura gulf with Bastione di Santo Stefano – Puglia

Conclusion

Choosing the right rental car for your Italian road trip requires thoughtful consideration of your specific travel needs, the type of car, driving conditions, and fuel efficiency.

With proper planning and informed decisions, you can enjoy a fantastic Italian adventure, traversing the beautiful landscape with ease and comfort.

Happy journey!

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

1 thought on “What is the best car size to rent in Italy”

  1. Hi Stefano,

    I found your website a while ago while researching info for Italy. I live on the Gold Coast, Australia, am a (young) 70 yr old lady. I am planning a solo trip and currently booking things for Italy right now. I want to hire a car in 2 regions. I have read all your info re: cars in Italy. I wanted to see if you had any suggestions for me regarding a couple of issues if you don’t mind me asking.

    As I am retired, my only income is the aged pension and some bank interest. I do have quite a bit of money in term deposit and Super fund (Cash only). I only use visa debit card for everything.
    I don’t have a credit card so hiring a car is now looking very tricky. I am wondering if you know of any car rental companies where I can use a debit visa card? It doesn’t seem likely. If I don’t get approved for a credit card, then my plans are up the creek. The 2 regions I want to hire a car are Lake Como area for 2 days and Tuscany for 2 weeks. There’s no way I can get around where I want to go in Tuscany and this has been my biggest dream of going to Italy.
    I’m looking into credit cards with a reasonable annual fee & free travel insurance. I’m not quite sure that I understand the insurance excess amounts. Would you be able to explain this to me. So eg: you’re covered for $2,500 excess in the travel insurance, does this mean insurance pays that amount and if any damage costs were over that, I’d pay the rest? You mention 7 euros per day for insurance. Would I pay this at time of picking up the car as travel insurance already has car insurance covered. Sometimes it’s $5,000 or $10,000. I’m a bit confused how it all works should something happen.

    I am a confident driver and have read a lot about the rules and other tips from you and other people. I don’t want to be driving into big cities.

    Thankyou so much
    Kind regards
    Celia Perry
    +61 414 721 228

    Reply

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