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We are renting a car to go on holiday. As we will be driving about 3500km total, large parts of it in one go, we would like it to be somewhat quiet(1) inside. Rental companies offer a specific size of car, but not a specific car. So we don't know what car we have until we pick it up.

What makes things more complicated is the organisation of rentals, for example last year we:

  • rented a car through ANWB (a 'tourist' organisation)
  • via Hertz (large rental company)
  • handled by a local car-rental garage (so not Hertz itself).

And to make it more complicated, when we called Hertz, we could not rent directly through them because they had no more cars left for that period. So somehow they found more cars, through some other supplier.

In other words, there are maybe 4 different companies involved in the renting of 1 car. So who can I call to ask for a quiet car?

Note1 If you never drove on the highway in a car that has poor sound insulation, you may not understand the question. But it it really tiresome to spend 8 hours surrounded by noise. We have a small son who is affected by this even more. An hour in our Fiat Panda is doable, but 8 hours would be too much.

Edit:

Two reasons to go with ANWB and not rent directly:

  1. Herz was 'out of cars', one other big name we tried botched the retal deal. ANWB renting process is smooth.
  2. The deal is much better (second driver is free) and the info in their website is clear and up-to-date.

Concerning getting a bigger car, last year we got a station wagon. A really nice spacious Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which turned out to be only slightly less noisy than the Panda. But on the upside required about the same amount of fuel per km.

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    Rent a larger car than a Panda. Small, cheap cars have poor comfort. Note that (in UK at least) many of the car rentals are franchise operations. Jul 7 at 9:06
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    Why involve ANWB at all?
    – Relaxed
    Jul 7 at 10:31
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    Is there actually a resource that allows you to find out who owns a rental franchise in a particular place? For example. the Europcar Franchise in Switzerland is owned by AMAG, which is also the importer for Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda. which is why you're likely to get a car of one of those brands when renting with them. Jul 7 at 10:34
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    Note that I didn't say merely “bigger car” but “higher category”. If you have issues with a Toyota Corolla Hybrid, you're not going to like anything but the large luxury sedan and I don't think you need to be concerned about the make and model if you rent in that category.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 7 at 18:32
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    In my experience, the Toyota Corolla hybrid is already relatively quiet. If that isn't up to your standards, I wonder if your wishes are realistic. Jul 8 at 6:08
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Here are a few things you can do:

  • Rent a car in a higher category (a Fiat Panda is typically the cheapest one you can get). There are still differences between different makes and models but generally speaking a compact car (and anything larger like a station wagon or SUV) is likely to be quieter and nicer on the motorway than a city car.
  • Rent a car with automatic transmission (except in the sub-compact category, lest you get a Toyota Yaris). There aren't that many of them in Europe. With Avis, I got a Volkswagen Golf or even an upgrade to a much higher category (like a Mercedes Class E) because a lot of the other vehicles in their catalogue all have manual transmission. Unlike the other tips, this one works best at smaller locations.
  • Rent a specific make and model. It is in fact possible but you have to look for them. For the big networks (Avis, Europcar, Hertz), you will mostly find them at large locations like airports, with a specific branding (like “Avis Select Series”). Those are typically high-end cars and therefore cost quite a bit more but I have sometimes found great deals (Volvo XC60 for a week for ~€300 with Hertz in Venice). Since you commented that even a Toyota Corolla wasn't up to your standard, renting a Mercedes might be your only option.
  • Rent directly with one of the big networks and build status. You will be entitled to an upgrade and can therefore hope to get a larger quieter car even if you only paid for a mini or compact car. Using price comparison websites or third-party like ANWB would undermine this strategy as you wouldn't build status that way.
  • If you rent with the big networks, go to a larger location. Franchisees in small towns can be hit-and-miss, you will have more choice in airport locations.
  • Just ask. You can always ask staff if anything else is available if you have some concerns about the car you are offered. It works best at large locations and if you have some status with the brand but it's not unusual for them to have several cars available.

Incidentally, the Avis app (don't know about the other big brands) now has a function where you get to pick from a handful of choices shortly before the rental starts. In my experience, it seldom works as advertised so I wouldn't really consider it a solution at this point.

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    WRT #1, I concur, A-segment cars like the Fiat Panda just aren't designed to handle highways in my experience. Going for a B-segment is probably going to dramatically increase your experience without a dramatic increase in size. And WRT #2, if that information is available, look for the number of gears the car has. A 5-gear compact is unlikely to be good on highways in my experience. Jul 8 at 7:57
  • @AmiralPatate what is the right number of gears? I thought all cars had 5 gears.
    – Ivana
    Jul 8 at 8:23
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    @Ivana: Higher-end manuals have 6 these days, automatics can have 8 or more. That keeps the engine RPM in a narrower range, which makes soundproofing easier.
    – MSalters
    Jul 8 at 8:25
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    @Ivana I'm not a specialist, I don't know there's a right number. I'd look for 6. More gears tends to keep the engine at ideal RPM, which tends to mean less consumption and noise when cruising (i.e. not in a city). I can tell you anecdotally I have a Citroën C3 with 6 gears, I drove a DS3 (same size, about same engine, about same car really) with 5 gears before, and the engine runs quieter on the highway now. Jul 8 at 9:08
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    @ivana 6 (+reverse) is very common even on mid-range cars, I have only seen 7 or 8 on high-end cars with automatic transmission (especially with push buttons to switch gears). 4 gears were also quite common for smaller cars up to the 1980s.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 8 at 9:29
-2

Just some thoughts:

I would get a Mercedes E, but the BMW 5xx are the same class when renting. The Mercedes is optimized for comfort and silent, the BWW is trying to be a sports car, so the tires and suspension are very hard. I think we had a Volvo XC40 once and it was very silent. Volkswagen is maybe in the middle.

Rental cars often run on winter tires all year, which are louder than normal ones.

And the new cars have runflat-tires, which are also louder than normal ones, but that's something you cannot change.

If you really want quiet you can try the Mercedes S-Klasse, but that usually costs double.

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    "Rental cars often run on winter tires all year" uh? Why'd the rental companies do that and incur the fines, extra maintenance, and more frequent tyre replacements?
    – jwenting
    Jul 10 at 14:48
  • This is actually an ok answer, to go for a reliable make of car. Every VW I ever rode in or borrowed was ok-sound wise. However it is hard to find a rental agency that rents volkswagen. As for the expensive ones, i would not go holidaying in a Mercedes or something and have to worry about theft, and anyway, the rental contract would not allow me to drive such a car to my holiday destination.
    – Ivana
    Jul 10 at 15:33
  • The whole point of the question is that rental agencies (usually) don't offer specific cars, just certain sizes.
    – Berend
    Jul 10 at 20:22

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