10 Best Cars for College Students

It’s just as difficult to find the best cars for students as it is for anyone else. This article will assist you in making the best decision for yourself or your ward. If you’re a young adult about to start college or a parent looking to buy a vehicle for a college student, you need to find something that’s affordable, dependable, safe, and efficient. Adding a car to the equation can raise the already high cost of higher education, causing student debt to rise even higher. Despite this, many students prefer to have their own vehicles. It is, in many cases, a requirement. Some people simply want the convenience of having access to a personal, private vehicle on demand. Here’s how to get a student car if you find yourself in need of one.

10 Best Cars for College Students

How to Find a Car That Is Student-Friendly

If you’re a student yourself or looking for a vehicle for your college-aged child, keep these factors in mind. Each of these factors contributes to the overall cost of car ownership, and they can differ significantly between models.

1. Sticker Price

Whether buying new or used, this is the most important factor for budget-conscious car buyers. In the United States, new compact and subcompact cars with few options typically cost between $10,000 and $25,000. (MSRP). Midsize cars typically range in price from $20,000 to $35,000, with some models costing even more. Full-size cars, such as compact SUVs and crossovers, start around $25,000 and go up from there. Although luxury brands are generally more expensive, entry-level luxury cars can still be found for under $40,000. For example, an entry-level BMW will set you back less than $30,000, and new Acura compacts will set you back less than $20,000. Keep in mind that these ranges may change as new cars become more sophisticated – and thus more expensive.

Used vehicle prices vary greatly as well, ranging from 80% to 100% of the MSRP of a new vehicle to as little as 10% to 20% of the MSRP. Used vehicle prices are influenced by a variety of factors, including the vehicle’s make, model, age, condition, accident history, and whether it was purchased from a dealership or a private seller.

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2. Financing Alternatives

Many college students do not have enough money to pay the full sticker price of a new car, even after negotiating. Those with significant savings – or willing parents – may be able to cover the down payment on a new car or a substantial portion of the cost of a used car. If all other factors are equal, it’s best to put down as much money as you can, because interest on a car loan can add a lot to your total lifetime cost of ownership. Check to see if you know how to negotiate an auto loan. If you’re looking for an auto loan, MyAutoloan.com is a good place to start. Lease terms can be as short as 36 months or as long as 84 months, with rates starting at less than 3%.

3. Extras and features that can be added at a later time

Every vehicle model comes with a long list of optional extras that can significantly raise the overall cost. If saving money is your top priority, resist the urge to add extras. Heated seats and backup cameras, on the other hand, are optional features that improve safety and comfort. Models with a lot of fancy features in the base version are more likely to start out more expensive.

4. Efficiency Scores

The cost of gasoline changes over time. Owners of fuel-efficient vehicles benefit greatly when gas prices are high. The difference isn’t as noticeable when it’s cheap. Gas guzzlers, on the other hand, are always more expensive to fill up and drive than fuel-efficient vehicles. Pay close attention to EPA mileage ratings when looking for the best car for college students (fuel-efficient economy). If cost-cutting or environmental concerns are top of mind, don’t overlook the ever-growing lineup of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are far more efficient than gas-only vehicles and first-generation hybrids.

5. Security Ratings

Safety is a top priority for any car buyer. Many new cars, especially those at the higher end of the market, come equipped with potentially life-saving safety features like emergency braking and lane drift warning systems. Every year, higher-end vehicles gain new safety features, which eventually trickle down to more affordable vehicles. If you want the best safety features money can buy, you should probably buy new and expect to pay a higher price.

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6. Fees and Taxes

Title fees, registration fees, annual vehicle taxes, and other ongoing levies on vehicle owners vary from state to state. When you buy a new car, the dealer usually includes the title fee and the first registration fee in the final price and takes care of all the paperwork. When you buy used, you’re in charge of filling out paperwork and paying any fees that apply. Vehicle fees and taxes are generally proportional to the assessed value of the vehicle. As a result, recurring taxes for used vehicles tend to decrease over time and are significantly lower overall.

7. Costs and Availability of Parking

This is one factor that is unaffected by the vehicle model you select. However, it may have an impact on your decision to buy a car in the first place. Consider foregoing a private vehicle in favor of carsharing or public transportation until you relocate if parking is scarce or prohibitively expensive on or near campus, in your residential neighborhood, or both.

8. Manoeuvrability and Size

You probably don’t need a pickup truck or full-size SUV if you go to an urban college or university where street parking is scarce and lot or garage parking is frequently scarce; a compact sedan or hatchback will suffice. If you go to school in a small town or rural area and frequently drive in the snow, go off-road, or haul and tow things, a larger, heavier vehicle is probably more appropriate. Larger vehicles are more expensive in general, but used trucks and SUVs can be found for less.

9. Insurance Fees

The cost of car insurance is determined by a number of factors, including the value of your vehicle, your driving record, your home address, and state laws, as well as the vehicle’s safety and security features. Because the car insurance industry is so competitive, it’s easy to shop around for low-cost policies online. Make sure you’re aware of how to save money on insurance. Every year, comparing multiple offers from companies like Liberty Mutual or Esurance can save you a lot of money.

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Top 10 Favorite Automobiles for College Students

From subcompact SUVs to midsize sedans, these are the five best cars for college students. All of these vehicles have received excellent reviews and rank highly in our rankings.

1. Ford Ecosport

MSRP: $19,995 (per Ford)

EPA Mileage: 27/29 MPG

IIHS Crash Safety: Marginal to good

Crash Safety, according to the IIHS, ranges from marginal to good. The Ford Ecosport is a small, fuel-efficient crossover SUV designed to succeed the now-defunct Fiesta subcompact. It is one of the most suitable vehicles for college students. With a peppy automatic transmission, a comfortable four-door configuration, and ample cargo space, the base version is competitively priced at just under $20,000 and has decent crash safety ratings for a vehicle of its size. The Ecosport offers an impressive array of options and four-wheel drive as an entry-level SUV. 

A more powerful engine, aluminum wheels, and high-performance tires and brakes are also included. Interior options include a powerful infotainment system and relaxing ambient lighting. Looking for a deal on your new Ford Fiesta’s sticker price? College students and recent graduates may be eligible for exclusive discounts through Ford Drives U, subject to dealer-specific restrictions and guidelines.

2. Chevrolet Sonic

MSRP: $16,720 (per Chevy)

Used Price Range: $3,000 (fair condition, older model year) to $13,000 (excellent condition, newer model year)

EPA Mileage: 26/34 MPG

IIHS Crash Safety: Good

The Chevrolet Sonic is a small car available in hatchback and four-door sedan body styles, with manual or automatic transmissions as options. It comes in a variety of trim levels, each with its own set of features and price. It is one of the most suitable automobiles for college students. One of Sonic’s key differentiators is its safety features. It comes standard with 10 airbags, a rear-view camera, and the Driver Confidence Package, unlike many small cars. Lane departure warning, rear park assist, and forward collision alert are all included. Chevrolet’s student discount program offers variable, dealer-specific discounts for current and recently graduated students, subject to dealer restrictions. Chevrolet also offers discounts to military veterans, first responders, and others.

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3. Jeep Wrangler (Classic)

MSRP: $31,815 (base Sport trim with no options, per Jeep)

Used Price Range: $2,000 (fair condition, older model year) to $35,000 (excellent condition, newer model year, top trim with all available options)

EPA Mileage: 22/29 MPG

IIHS Crash Safety: Poor (side) to good (front); exact ratings depend on the trim

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The Jeep Wrangler is a classic small SUV with a rugged frame and the ability to go off-road. New Jeep Wranglers cost significantly more than new Fiestas or Sonics. They are also inefficient in terms of fuel consumption. They’re one of the best cars for college students who need to transport humans or inert cargo frequently around their campuses, college towns, and beyond. For budget-conscious buyers, the basic Sports package should suffice. The Rubicon has a slew of off-road-specific features, as well as a slew of driver-friendly extras like a powerful infotainment system, for more discerning students with larger budgets.

Consider buying an older, used Jeep Wrangler if the Wrangler’s high MSRP turns you off. Because the Jeep Wrangler has been around for so long, there are a plethora of affordable previous-generation models available, some of which are priced competitively with compact sedans of comparable age.

4. Mazda3

MSRP: $20,500 (base trim with no options, per Mazda)

Used Price Range: $2,000 (fair condition, older model year) to $20,000+ (excellent condition, newer model year, top trim with all available options)

EPA Mileage: 28/36 MPG

IIHS Crash Safety: Good

The Mazda3 is a popular compact car that comes in two body styles: hatchback and sedan. It’s also available in front-wheel or all-wheel-drive configurations. Despite its reputation for performance, it is a very fuel-efficient vehicle, with a highway efficiency rating of close to 40 MPG. The cabin includes a seven-inch touchscreen display and the MAZDA CONNECT “infotainment” system, as well as a nice selection of entertainment and accessibility features. For a smaller car, it also has an above-average list of safety features. A standard rear-view camera was included, as well as an optional front crash prevention system. Budget-conscious buyers have a plethora of affordable used Mazda3 options to choose from since the model was introduced in 2004.

5. Toyota Yaris

MSRP: $15,560 (per Toyota)

Used Price Range: $2,000 (fair condition, older model year) to $12,000 (excellent condition, newer model year)

EPA Mileage: 32/40 MPG

IIHS Crash Safety: Marginal to good

The Toyota Yaris is a subcompact car that comes in hatchback and sedan body styles, with either a manual or automatic six-speed transmission depending on your preferences and trim level. Every new Yaris comes with a surprisingly robust safety suite, including lane departure alerts, automatic high beams, and a pre-collision deterrence system, as well as steering wheel entertainment controls and a hands-free Bluetooth calling system. Even though there are five trim levels, they are all reasonably priced. As a result, even the most expensive Yarises are affordable, making them one of the best cars for college students. In addition, the Yaris has been on the market in the United States for more than a decade. As a result, there are a plethora of affordable and dependable models on the market.

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6. Toyota Camry

This is one of the most common automobile models on campus. Toyota Camry cars, from 2.2 to 2.4 and the muscle, are fuel-efficient and spacious. You don’t need to spend your pocket money on gas or expensive car parts as a student because the Camry saves you money on both, and spare parts are readily available. When you want to transport your friends from class back home, the Camry has room for one passenger in front of you and three or four more in the back seat. The Toyota Camry, like the Corolla, is one of the company’s best-selling vehicles.

7. RAV4 Toyota

The Toyota RAV4 is not only a cost-effective SUV, but it also gives you the impression of driving a “jeep” (what Nigerians nickname SUVs). This small sport utility vehicle has just enough room to transport cargo. You won’t need to rent a van if you’re moving from one hostel to another because your RAV4 will suffice. The RAV4 has seen an increase in sales since the Toyota Venza was discontinued, so get yours now! The Toyota Rav4 is tethered to a Jeep Wrangler.

8. Honda CRV

The Honda CRV is a compact SUV that has always faced off against the Toyota RAV4. They’re nearly identical, though the CRV is slightly more expensive. When you drive one, however, it adds a touch of class to your arrival. Also, keep in mind that SUVs are extremely popular among college students.  The Honda CRV can also be used as a substitute for a Jeep.

9. Toyota Corolla,

Many people looked for a replacement for the Camry, and many chose the Toyota Corolla. It’s more compact and stylish than the Camry. It’s also thought to adapt to Nigerian roads better than the Camry. However, another school of thought holds that the automobile is feminine. I partially agree, without sounding anti-feminist. So, if you’re a female student looking for a car that fits your personality, this is a good option. The Toyota Corolla has long been the most fuel-efficient car on the market, so it’s ideal for student rides.

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10. Toyota Solara

Because it’s mostly a two-door coupe, it’s also considered feminine. The majority of men prefer four-door vehicles. On the other hand, if you want to show off every now and then, the Toyota Solara convertible is a good option. It’s fuel-efficient, simple to maintain, and dependable, just like every other Toyota vehicle.


A car can be a valuable asset or a liability. It all depends on how you go about selecting one. We hope that this article aids you in making an informed decision. Don’t forget to share on your preferred social media platform.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best cars for students in college?

Because insurance and tuition are milking you for every dollar you have, and you don’t have a high-paying job, college students don’t have much money for repairs and maintenance. Because you require a reliable vehicle, you can rule out all American vehicles, and because you require a vehicle that is inexpensive to repair, you can rule out all European vehicles. So you’ll need something that’s not only dependable, but also smooth, quiet, and comfortable to drive.

What car should a college student purchase for less than $5000?

To be honest, I don’t think it makes sense to limit yourself if you’re looking for a car that cheap. Obviously, Honda and Toyota have the best track records for long-term reliability. However, their price reflects this. They take longer to depreciate. A $5000 Honda, for example, may have 100k more miles than a $5000 Ford.

Which vehicle is best for a student?

Honda and Toyota are the best options. These brands are ideal for first-time drivers or students. These vehicles have long-lasting engines, low fuel consumption, excellent handling, and just enough power to be entertaining. If you want a smooth, comfortable car, I recommend Toyota, and if you want something sportier but still comfortable, I recommend Honda.

Is it better to buy a new or used car for a high school or college student?

Purchase a new car if you can afford it. Purchase a less expensive model. There will be a 2- or 3-year warranty. I’m afraid that if I buy a used car, I’ll have to pay for repairs along the way. Alternatively, purchase a one-year-old car with low mileage. Make certain it has a positive reputation. If you buy a car that is a year old, much of the depreciation will be reflected in the price, and you will still be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

What would be a good first car for a college student?

Toyotas are the most dependable vehicles on the market. Choose a smaller version, such as a Corolla, or a slightly larger version, such as the Camry, if you’re looking for the best value. Small 4x4s like the RAV 4 are good, or if you need something bigger, a 4 runner or even a Sequoia. Hondas are almost always a safe bet. Whatever you decide, I will never buy new!

What kind of car would you recommend to a 17-year-old?

Any Toyota that has only had one owner will work. Between the ages of 5 and 10. Examine the accident and maintenance records.

Which car is the safest to give to a teen driver?

There are many great cheap cars, but I personally recommend this one. It’s an Acura TL. I’ve seen them go for cheap on Craigslist, and because they’re Hondas underneath, they’ll be dependable as well as enjoyable to drive. If you’re a little more modest or don’t have the money for a TL, you can always get a Honda Accord.

Which car is the most cost-effective for a college student to buy?

A Toyota Corolla, to be precise. I bought a 2004 Toyota Corolla in October 2003 and have driven it for over 240,000 miles. At 65 mph, I get around 34 MPG. It’s the vehicle I use on a daily basis. If I had to, I’d buy another in a heartbeat.

Is it possible for college student to have their own car?

My first automobile cost me $500. There was grass growing on the carpet where some dirt had not been removed. The road could also be seen through the rust holes. Automobiles are also costly to operate. Buying a car for work would make me very nervous. What happens if you lose your job? What if, after paying for the car, there is no money left?

What are the top five cars for broke college students, according to you?

30-year-old Honda Civic
30-year-old Honda Accord 
28-year-old Toyota Camry
28-year-old Toyota Corolla
15-year-old Nissan Altima             

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