Car classification

Governments and private organizations have developed car classification schemes that are used for innumerable purposes including regulation, description and categorization, among others. This article details commonly used classification schemes in use worldwide.

Classification methods

Vehicles can be categorized in numerous ways. For example, by means of the body style and the "level of commonality in vehicle construction as defined by number of doors and roof treatment (e.g., sedan, convertible, fastback, hatchback) and number of seats" that require seat belts to meet safety regulations. [1]

Regulatory agencies may also establish a vehicle classification system for determining a tax amount. In the United Kingdom, a vehicle is taxed according to the vehicle's construction, engine, weight, type of fuel and emissions, as well as the purpose for which it is used. [2] Other jurisdictions may determine vehicle tax based upon environmental principles, such as the user pays principle. [3] In another example, certain cities in the United States in the 1920s chose to exempt electric-powered vehicles because officials believed those vehicles did not cause "substantial wear upon the pavements." [4]

Another standard for road vehicles of all types that is used internationally (except for Australia, India, and the U.S.), is ISO 3833-1977. [5]

In an example from private enterprise, many car rental companies use[ where?] the ACRISS Car Classification Code to describe the size, type and equipment of vehicles to ensure that rental agents can match customer needs to available vehicles, regardless of distance between the agent and the rental company or the languages spoken by either party. In the United States, since 2010 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety uses a scheme it has developed that takes into account a combination of both vehicle shadow (length times width) and weight. [6]

Highway Loss Data Institute classification Definition
Regular Two Door Two door sedans and hatchbacks
Regular Four Door Four door sedans and hatchbacks
Station Wagons Four doors, a rear hatch and four pillars
Minivans Vans with sliding rear doors
Sports Two seaters and cars with significant high performance features
Luxury Relatively expensive cars that are not classified as sports (price in USD to curb weight in pounds more than 9.0 in 2010) (small cars over $27,000, midsize cars over $31,500, large cars over $36,000, etc.)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety | Highway Loss Data Institute 'Guide to car size groups' (includes minivans) [7]
Shadow (square footage of exterior length x width)
Curb Weight 70 to 80 sq ft (6.503–7.432 m2) 81 to 90 sq ft (7.525–8.361 m2) 91 to 100 sq ft (8.454–9.290 m2) 101 to 110 sq ft (9.383–10.22 m2) >110 sq ft (10.22 m2)
2,001 to 2,500 lb (908–1,134 kg) Mini Small Small Small Midsize
2,501 to 3,000 lb (1,134–1,361 kg) Small Small Midsize Midsize Midsize
3,001 to 3,500 lb (1,361–1,588 kg) Small Midsize Midsize Large Large
3,501 to 4,000 lb (1,588–1,814 kg) Small Midsize Large Large Very Large
>4,000 lb (1,814 kg) Midsize Midsize Large Very Large Very Large
IIHS|HLDI Guide to SUV size groups [8]
curb weight
Mini <=3,000 lb (1,361 kg) and shadow <80 sq ft (7.432 m2)
Small 3,001 to 3,750 lb (1,361–1,701 kg)
Midsize 3,751 to 4,750 lb (1,701–2,155 kg)
Large 4,751 to 5,750 lb (2,155–2,608 kg)
Very large >5,750 lb (2,608 kg) or shadow >115 sq ft (10.68 m2)

The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) separates vehicles into classes by the curb weight of the vehicle with standard equipment including the maximum capacity of fuel, oil, coolant, and air conditioning, if so equipped. [9]

NHTSA classification Code Curb weight
Passenger cars: mini PC/Mi 1,500 to 1,999 lb (680–907 kg)
Passenger cars: light PC/L 2,000 to 2,499 lb (907–1,134 kg)
Passenger cars: compact PC/C 2,500 to 2,999 lb (1,134–1,360 kg)
Passenger cars: medium PC/Me 3,000 to 3,499 lb (1,361–1,587 kg)
Passenger cars: heavy PC/H 3,500 lb (1,588 kg) and over
Sport utility vehicles SUV
Pickup trucks PU
Vans VAN

The United States Federal Highway Administration has developed a classification scheme used for automatically calculating road use tolls. There are two broad categories depending on whether the vehicle carries passengers or commodities. Vehicles that carry commodities are further subdivided by number of axles and number of units, including both power and trailer units. [10]

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has developed a classification scheme used to compare fuel economy among similar vehicles. Passenger vehicles are classified based on a vehicle's total interior passenger and cargo volumes. Trucks are classified based upon their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Heavy duty vehicles are not included within the EPA scheme. [11]

EPA car class Total passenger and cargo volume (cu. ft.)
Two-seaters Any (designed to seat only two adults)
Minicompact Less than 85 cu ft (2,407 l)
Subcompact 85 to 99 cu ft (2,407–2,803 l)
Compact 100 to 109 cu ft (2,832–3,087 l)
Mid-size 110 to 119 cu ft (3,115–3,370 l)
Large 120 cu ft (3,398 l) or more
Small station wagons Less than 130 cu ft (3,681 l)
Mid-size station wagons 130 to 159 cu ft (3,681–4,502 l)
Large station wagons 160 cu ft (4,531 l) or more

A similar set of classes is used by the Canadian EPA. [12] The Canadian National Collision Database (NCDB) system defines "passenger car" as a unique class, but also identifies two other categories involving passenger vehicles—the "passenger van" and "light utility vehicle"—and these categories are inconsistently handled across the country with the boundaries between the vehicles increasingly blurred. [13]

In Australia, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries publishes its own classifications. [14]

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