If you need to rent a vehicle for a group of seven or more people, you have two choices: You can rent multiple cars or one passenger van with room for 12 or 15 people. Depending on how many passengers you have, a van is often the most economical way to go.
Major car rental companies typically include some 12- and 15-passenger vans their fleets. By far the most commonly offered van model is the Ford Transit.
When you've got a large group, renting a passenger van can have its upsides. They are easy to enter and exit through large sliding doors, plus there are typically two back doors for luggage storage.
Depending on your pick-up location, the decision may be made for you. Full-size vans can be hard to come by in some locations. For example at the Nashville airport, none of the brands operated by Hertz Global Holdings (Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty) offer passenger vans.
What You Need to Know About Renting a Passenger Van
You do not need a special license to drive a passenger van in the U.S. But if you're renting in another country, there will likely be restrictions on the size of a van you can drive with a regular U.S. driver's license.
Some rental car companies require the driver to be at least 25 years old. But age restrictions vary by company, so be sure to shop around.
Booking in advance is absolutely crucial. Where passenger vans are available, they tend to sell out quickly. We recommend booking as early as possible, especially during peak family vacation periods, such as summer, holidays, and long weekends.
Sometimes availability may be better at off-airport locations, while other times airport locations may be the only option. It's always best to check both types of locations since pricing and availability can vary widely.
What to Do if a Passenger Van is Unavailable
If the rental car companies have no full-size vans available, the next-best option is likely to be two smaller vehicles or a minivan seating seven.
Also, keep in mind that full-size vans are almost never available for a one-way rental. Rental locations tend to want to keep those vehicles local for various reasons. If you need a one-way rental for more than seven people, you'll have to go with multiple cars.
How to Determine Which Van to Rent
Be sure that you rent a van with enough space for your entire group. When renting a vehicle, the capacity is always noted on the vehicle confirmation screen. For instance, Budget offers no vehicle class above a 12-passenger van, so be sure to review the listed capacity at the time of booking.
These vans look identical, but one seats 12 people and the other seats 15.
Restrictions on Renting Passenger Vans
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has highlighted the safety issues inherent in 15-passenger vans, the United States is far more lenient than the rest of the world in allowing drivers to operate passenger vans. While a regular driver's license might allow you to drive a 12- or 15-passenger van in the United States and many Mexican resort towns, in Europe you would be limited to vehicles seating nine people. In Canada, vehicles seating more than 12 passengers are considered commercial vehicles. That means you would need a commercial driver's license to cross the U.S. / Canada border in a rented van.
Renting a passenger van can mean extra costs. Typically passenger vans do not come with unlimited mileage, so a long trip may incur additional mileage fees. Note also that your personal auto insurance and credit card coverage is unlikely to extend to rented passenger vans.
In addition, rental car companies will not rent a 12- or 15-passenger van to a driver under the age of 25.