• Glossary of car and van rental terms

Glossary of car and van rental terms

Vehicle hire jargon explained in our ultimate rental guide

If you’re planning to rent a car or van, you might encounter some unfamiliar terms and phrases used by rental companies. These terms can often be confusing and sometimes misleading, making the process somewhat intimidating.

To help you understand what these buzzwords mean and avoid any unwanted surprises when you pick up your vehicle and return it, we have created a complete glossary of rental terms — preparing you for your next excursion.

A complete glossary of vehicle rental terms

Here are some of the key terms that you should know before renting a car or van in alphabetical order:

Car-Derived Van

A car-derived van — the smallest size of van available — as the name suggests, is based on a regular passenger car. They are often more fuel-efficient than other types of vans, although they also have a lot less cargo space.

CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) 

A CDW, also known as LDW (Loss Damage Waiver), is an optional insurance that reduces your liability for damage to your rental vehicle. It will typically cover the cost of repairs to the vehicle in the event of an accident, regardless of whose fault it is and involves you agreeing to an excess fee.

Child Seats

Child seats are safety restraints designed to protect young children in the event of an accident. They are divided into three categories: rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats. 


A deposit is the sum of money that you’ll likely have to pay upfront when you rent a vehicle. It’s held by the rental company as a security against any damage to the vehicle you’re renting and will be refunded upon returning the vehicle in good condition. 


Excess is the amount of money that you may have to pay out of your own pocket if your vehicle is damaged or stolen during your rental period. It is usually deducted from your deposit or charged to your card. 

Flexible Hire 

Flexible hire is a type of rental period that allows you to rent a vehicle for as little as one week and return it whenever you need to. There are no long-term contracts or commitments, so you can cancel your rental at any time. 

Long-Term Hire

Long-term hire refers to a rental period that is typically longer than one month. This type of rental is often used by businesses that need a fleet of vehicles, or students who need a car for the school year. 

Luton Box Van 

A Luton box van is a van designed to accommodate maximum storage. They quite literally look like a box on wheels and are typically used for moving houses and transporting bulky items such as furniture or appliances. 

LWB (Long Wheelbase)

LWB stands for Long Wheelbase and refers to vans that have a greater length between the front and rear wheels than SWB vans. LWB vans are usually larger and more spacious so can accommodate more passengers or cargo. Be aware, they are often more difficult to park and manoeuvre.

MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle)

MPV stands for Multi-Purpose Vehicle. This type of vehicle is designed to be versatile and practical thanks to their larger interior space which allows them to seat between seven and nine people or carry extra luggage. At Rent Direct we have a variety of MPVs available for hire


Payload refers to the maximum amount of weight a vehicle can carry, including passengers, cargo, and fuel. It is important to know the payload of your van as overloading it can result in damaging the vehicle and legal penalties.  

Rental Agreement

The rental agreement is the legally binding contract between yourself and the rental company, specifying the terms and conditions of the rental. The rental agreement is an important document and should be read carefully before signing. 

Roadside Assistance

Roadside assistance is a service that provides help to motorists who have experienced mechanical breakdowns or other roadside emergencies with their vehicles. This can include flat tyres, towing, and jump starts. Roadside assistance may be offered by rental companies to provide you with peace of mind whilst on the road.

Satellite Navigation (GPS) 

GPS is a navigation system that uses signals from satellites to determine your location.  It is usually built into cars and vans to help drivers find their destination and avoid traffic congestion. 

Short-Term Hire

Short-term hire refers to a rental period that is typically less than one month. This type of rental is often used for holidays, business trips, or other short-term needs.


A surcharge is an additional fee that is charged for various reasons and depends on the type of vehicle, rental company, and location as to whether they will be applicable to you. Some common surcharges you may incur include:

  • Young driver surcharge for drivers under a certain age
  • Senior driver surcharge for drivers over a certain age
  • Additional driver surcharge for adding more than one driver to the rental agreement
  • One-way surcharge for returning your vehicle to a different location than where you picked it up
  • Out-of-hours surcharge for picking up or dropping off the vehicle outside the normal opening hours of the rental location
  • Fuel surcharge for returning the vehicle with less fuel than when you picked it up
  • Mileage surcharge for exceeding the allowed mileage limit
  • Airport surcharge for renting a vehicle from an airport location
  • Environmental surcharge for renting a vehicle that emits more CO2 than average 

SWB (Short Wheelbase)

SWB stands for Short Wheelbase and refers to vans that have a shorter length between the front and rear wheels than LWB vans. SWB vehicles are usually medium-sized and more compact, ideal for city driving, short trips, or parking in smaller spaces.

Tail Lift 

A tail lift is a hydraulic platform at the rear of a vehicle that can be raised or lowered to make it easier to load and unload heavy items. They can be often found on the rear of Luton box vans.

Theft Protection 

Theft protection is a type of insurance that covers the cost of replacing a rental car if it is stolen. It is typically offered as an optional add-on to the rental price.


Simply put, transmission refers to whether the vehicle gear shifting is manual or automatic. Knowing whether a rental vehicle has a manual or automatic transmission is important for drivers who only have experience driving one type.

We hope this glossary has helped you to understand some of the car and van rental terms and phrases you may encounter when renting a vehicle. With this newfound knowledge, you can approach your next vehicle hire with confidence! If you are looking to hire a car or rent a van we encourage you to visit the Rent Direct website to learn more — or if you have any questions or need any assistance, feel free to contact us.