SUV Car Hire in the USA

Hiring an SUV in America.

Sport Utility Vehicles or SUV’s are exceptionally popular as hire cars in the USA.  The variety of the SUV’s available is much wider than a few years ago where the standard offering was a Jeep Cherokee.  We can now offer as many as five different SUV categories for hire in the US and the differences can be both subtle and confusing, so here we try to clarify what is available – and where they may be available.

Intermediate SUV

The Intermediate SUV is roughly comparable in internal size to an Intermediate 4 door car hire. Both of these are generally suitable for families or groups of 4, without excessive luggage.  As an example of luggage capacity, most of our suppliers indicate 2 suitcases and 2 hand luggage bags.  A family with younger children requiring travel cots and pushchairs for instance, may struggle to get those, plus luggage, into the trunk – or boot space.  The Intermediate SUV is usually available to hire in most locations, certainly all airport locations, but may not be available in some very small hotel locations.  It is not available in Alaska.  Some of the models within this category are:

        • Ford Escape
        • Hyundai Sante Fe
        • Jeep Liberty
        • Kia Sportage
        • Toyota Rav 4

Standard SUV

The Standard SUV is the original SUV category that has been offered by US suppliers for years, and is generally comparable inside to a full size car hire, but with more headroom and a more upright driving position.  Suitable for families or groups of 5,  luggage capacity runs to roughly, 2 suitcases and 3 smaller bags.  Standard SUV’s can be hired from all US airport locations and the majority of downtown (city or hotel) locations, but as above, very small hotel locations may not carry larger fleet cars. Some of the models available within this category are:

          • Jeep Grand Cherokee
          • Hyundai Sante Fe
          • Ford Edge
          • Ford Explorer (5 seat model)
          • Chevrolet Trailblazer
          • Dodge Journey

 7 Seat SUV

Seven seat SUV’s are sometimes known as Premium, Luxury or even Full size SUV’s, but really, they have the distinction of offering 7 seats.  It is very important to remember, that in nearly all cases, the 2 rear seats are convenience seats, located in the rear (luggage) space of the vehicle. Therefore, when in 7 seat mode, the luggage capacity is severely impacted.  The seats are not suitable for adults or large teenagers unless they are particularly fond of travelling with their knees around their ears!

I would only recommend the 7 seat SUV category to families with 5 or 6 passengers, where the rear seats will be occupied by older children – car seats of course could not be easily fitted or accessed in these seats.  For a family or group of 5, these are great vehicles for giving you additional luggage space on your arrival, and then some fun musical seats or flexibility for children during your stay – obviously not while the car is in motion!

Because they are a bit bigger than the standard SUV, fuel consumption can be a bit higher too, but as fuel generally seems much cheaper in the US than the UK for one, this is not usually too much of a problem.  The 7 Seat SUV is usually available at airport locations, and a few, larger downtown (city) locations.  It is not available in Alaska, or Manhattan with Alamo.  Some models in the category include:

          • Ford Explorer (7 seat model)
          • Ford Expedition
          • Chevrolet Tahoe
          • Chevrolet Traverse
          • Cadillac Escalade
          • Nissan Armada

7/8 Seat SUV

Some of the larger SUV’s can feature 7 or 8 seats depending on the precise model.  Different locations have different models which means the suppliers (Budget and Avis in this instance) are unable to guarantee that an 8 seat version will be issued.   Therefore the category is now marketed as a 7 seat category, it is slightly larger than the category above on this page (7 seat SUV), but may actually have 8 seats.  This option should only really be chosen by those looking for plenty of room in a vehicle, rather than the number of seats offered.  This category is generally only available at larger airport locations around the USA. The example model for this category is:

          • Ford Expedition

7/8 Seat SUV Extended Wheel Base

The 8 seat SUV is no longer a guaranteed 8 seat car hire.  This vehicle currently offered only by Budget and Avis, may accommodate 7 or 8 adults along with 2 suitcases and 3 hand luggage bags according to both suppliers.  This is rather a beast of an SUV, and not for the fainthearted! However, it does live up to the mantra that regular visitors may have – “everything is bigger in the USA”!  Once again, only available at certain larger airports, particularly Orlando and Miami. The models in this category can include:

          • Ford Expedition Extended Wheelbase
          • Yukon 5.3
          • Chevrolet Suburban

We hope that this article has helped de-mistify the many models and categories found within the term ‘SUV’.  One more thing to remember when looking at any of these vehicles is that the designation SUV or Sport Utility Vehicle does not necessarily mean 4-wheel drive!  You may, or may not receive a vehicle that has 4-wheel or all-wheel drive and availability of such cannot be guaranteed.  You may also receive a ‘cross-over’ which is a car that has been styled on the SUV look.

The larger 7/8 seat SUV’s are often on ‘limited availability’ to try and keep control of the fleet, however, occasionally it can happen that your chosen vehicle is not available.  If three large SUV’s are due to be returned on one-day but one client does not return theirs in time, then that can cause an availability issue for a client arriving later.  What would happen then, is that you would receive a different category of vehicle that will hold the required number of seats.  So if you have booked a 7 seat SUV, and one wasn’t there you might be given a 7 seat people carrier, a couple of smaller cars  or even the larger 12 seat van.  It is important therefore to make sure you have booked for your minimum number of seats.


4 thoughts on “SUV Car Hire in the USA

Comments are closed.