7 On Your Side: Why full size car rentals seem small

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A full size car to one driver may seem like a compact to someone else. 7 On Your Side has a word of caution for anyone planning to rent a car. When it comes to choosing a rental car, it's best to look at the specific makes and models before making your decision. One San Jose woman found that out the hard way.

The combination of snow and cold made for dangerous driving conditions this past January in Chicago. Nancy Ray of San Jose planned her winter trip to the Windy City with caution.

"Because of the extreme cold weather, I decided that I wanted to rent a car that was large enough," Ray said.

She landed at O'Hare International Airport and went straight to Budget to pick up the full size car she had reserved.

"They gave me a Kia Forte and I thought, 'Well, that doesn't sound like a full size car.' So I questioned it and I said, 'Are you sure this is a full size car?' And they said, 'Yes, it is' and I said, 'Are you sure? It's kind of small,'" Ray said.

She trusted them and didn't think anything more about it until she saw her Forte parked between a Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Forte was the smallest in length, width and height of the three.

"I thought, 'Why is my car so much smaller?'" Ray said.

She checked on line. Kia's own website highlights that the Forte was named best compact car by Cars.com Nancy, you'll remember, reserved a full size car so she could more safely deal with the winter driving conditions.

"So then I was livid. It wasn't a money issue. It was a safety issue for me," Ray said.

No rental car company releases crash test information but she may be unhappy to know that the Forte received a poor rating in its small overlap front crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It did however receive good ratings in four other crash safety categories. We contacted Budget and it told us, "The car classes of our industry do not synch up with manufacturers' car classes as a matter of longstanding practice."

We found similar discrepancies with other rental car agencies. Enterprise lists the Nissan Altima as a full size car. Nissan classifies it as a small car. Hertz considers the Toyota Camry a full size car. Toyota lists it as a medium size car. Budget ultimately agreed to give Nancy two $25 vouchers good toward a future rental to compensate her.

"I believe that 7 On Your Side does an excellent job of bringing consumer issues to the public. And I just like to let people know that next time people go and rent a car, to make sure they know what they're signing," Ray said.

If you have a consumer complaint you can't get resolved, email us by going to abc7news.com and clicking on the section icon.
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