When should I use "book"? When should I use "rent"?

For example, which one is correct?

A: How can I help you? B: I want to book a limo.

A: How can I help you? B: I want to rent a limo.

For me, "renting" a car or limo is correct but in our lesson book, we used "booking limo".

  • 2
    For a limousine, a rental car, a hotel room, a private room at a nightclub, etc., both responses are correct; it's an area where they overlap. The implied emphasis is slightly different, but they properly refer to the same general activity. "Rent" would not be appropriate where there was no payment (say for the use of a space available to the public gratis, but only after reservation); "book" would not make sense for an apartment, a "rent-to-own" arrangement, or something else with an indefinite ending time.
    – david
    Dec 6, 2015 at 23:40

3 Answers 3


Dictionary definition of to book:

reserve (accommodation, a place, etc.); buy (a ticket) in advance

Dictionary definition of to rent

pay someone for the use of (something, typically property, land, or a car

The difference is that book is in advance, rent is paying someone at the time. Booking a vehicle is reserving the use of it, and renting is paying for the use of it at the time

  • Literally, booking comes from the action of recording the request "in the book" so that they could plan for the upcoming rental or reservation.
    – Jim
    Dec 6, 2015 at 20:37

Generally, "booking" means scheduling an appointment, while "renting" is the act of actually doing something. So, it is possible to book a limousine and then later cancel your reservation if your plans change, but if you are now ready to hire and pay for the limousine service, then "I want to rent a limo" would be correct.

  • I agree with your explanation, but in your example, they are pretty much interchangeable. If I called a limo service and said I wanted to rent a limo, they would book a time for me which I could later cancel. Furthermore, you might have to pay a fee if you booked a limo and later canceled at the last minute.
    – BobRodes
    Dec 7, 2015 at 5:18

book is often used when you want to check in some place or make a reservation. It's used as a phrasal verb.

book in (make a reservation in advance)
I'll book us in at the restaurant.

book in (check in a hotel)
Once we arrived, we went to the hotel and booked in.

book up (reserve)
The tickets have been booked up. We can't fly.

rent is used when someone grants you a service or allows something to be used for a fee.

I needed to arrive faster, so I rented out a fast car.

  • we have not use any phrase, already. Maybe phrase meaning can be different, i want.
    – hkulekci
    Dec 6, 2015 at 19:56

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