Best Cars for College Students in 2022

Filed in Articles, Automobile Update by on March 31, 2022


– Best Cars for College Students –

Finding the best car for college students is as tricky as finding a car for anyone. This article will help you make a good choice for yourself or your ward.

best cars for college students

If you’re a young adult getting ready to start college or a parent looking to buy a vehicle for a college student, finding something that’s affordable, dependable, safe, and efficient is critical.


Adding a car to the equation can increase the already high cost of higher education, exacerbating student debt. Nonetheless, many students prefer to own a car. In many cases, it is a requirement.

Some people simply want the freedom that comes with having on-demand access to a personal, private vehicle. If you find yourself in need of a student car, here’s how to go about it.

How to Find a Student-Friendly Car

Keep these considerations in mind whether you’re a student yourself or looking for a vehicle for your college-age child. Each contributes to the overall cost of car ownership, and may vary significantly between models.

1. Sticker Cost

This is the most important factor for budget-conscious car buyers, whether they buy new or used.

In general, the new compact and subcompact cars with few options cost between $10,000 and $25,000 in the United States (MSRP). Midsize cars typically cost between $20,000 and $35,000, and sometimes even more. Full-size cars, including compact SUVs and crossovers, typically start at $25,000 and go up from there.

Luxury brands are more expensive overall, but entry-level luxury cars can still be found for less than $40,000. An entry-level BMW, for example, won’t set you back much more than $30,000, and new Acura compacts won’t set you back much more than $20,000.

Remember that as new cars become more sophisticated – and thus more expensive – these ranges may change. Used vehicle prices vary greatly as well, ranging from 80 per cent to 100 per cent of new vehicle MSRP to as little as 10% to 20% of MSRP.

Make, model, age, condition, accident history, and whether the vehicle is purchased from a dealership or a private seller are all factors that influence used vehicle prices.

2. Financing Options 

Even after negotiating, many college students do not have enough money to pay the full sticker price of a new car. Those with substantial savings – or with willing parents – may be able to afford the down payment on a new car  or a significant portion of the cost of a used car.

All else being equal, it’s best to put down as much as you can afford, because interest charges on car loans can add significantly to your total lifetime cost of ownership. Make certain you understand how to negotiate an auto loan. is a good place to start if you’re looking for an auto loan. Rates begin at less than 3%, and lease terms can be as short as 36 months or as long as 84 months.

3. Optional Extras & Features

Every vehicle model comes with a slew of optional add-ons that can significantly increase the overall cost. If cost is your primary concern, resist the urge to add frills.

Optional features such as heated seats and backup cameras, on the other hand, improve safety and comfort. Models with a lot of fancy features in the base version are more likely to be more expensive to begin with.

best cars for college students

4.  Efficiency Ratings 

Gas prices fluctuate over time. When gas prices are high, owners of fuel-efficient vehicles benefit greatly. When it’s cheap, the difference isn’t as pronounced. However, efficient vehicles are always less expensive to fill up and drive than gas guzzlers.

When searching for the best car for college students, pay close attention to EPA mileage ratings (fuel efficient economy).

If efficiency is a critical consideration for budgetary or environmental reasons, don’t forget to consider the ever-growing slate of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles that are far more efficient than gas-only vehicles and first-generation hybrid vehicles 

5. Ratings for Safety

For any car buyer, safety is a top priority. Many new cars, particularly those at the higher end of the market, include potentially lifesaving safety features like emergency braking and lane drift warning systems.

Every year, new safety features become available in higher-end vehicles, which eventually trickle down to more affordable vehicles. If having the best safety features money can buy is important to you, you should probably buy new and expect to pay a premium.

6. Taxes and Fees

State by state, title fees, registration fees, annual vehicle taxes, and other ongoing levies on vehicle owners differ. When you buy a new vehicle, the dealer usually includes the title fee and the initial registration fee in the final price and handles all of the paperwork for you.

When you buy used, you are responsible for completing the paperwork and paying the applicable fees. In general, vehicle fees and taxes are proportional to the assessed value. As a result, recurring taxes tend to decrease over time and are significantly lower overall for used vehicles.

7. Parking Costs and Availability

This is one factor that is completely independent of the car model you choose. It can, however, influence your decision to purchase a car in the first place.

If parking is scarce or prohibitively expensive on or near campus, in your residential neighborhood, or both, consider foregoing a private vehicle in favor of carsharing or public transportation until you relocate.

8. Size and Manoeuvrability

If you go to an urban college or university where street parking is scarce and lot or garage parking is frequently scarce, you probably don’t need a pickup truck or full-size SUV; a compact sedan or hatchback will suffice.

A larger, heavier vehicle, on the other hand, is probably more appropriate 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 stuff. Larger vehicles are generally more expensive, but used trucks and SUVs can be found at a discount.

9. Insurance Fees

The cost of car insurance varies depending on factors such as the value of your vehicle, your driving record, your home address and state laws, and the safety and security features of your vehicle.

Fortunately, the car insurance industry is highly competitive, so it’s simple to shop around for affordable rates online. Make certain you understand how to save money on insurance.

Comparing multiple offers from companies such as Liberty Mutual or Esurance can help you save a lot of money every year.


Top 5 Best Cars for College Students

These are the five best cars for college students, ranging from subcompact SUVs to midsize sedans. All of these vehicles have excellent ratings and perform well in our rankings.

1. Ford Ecosport

best cars for college students

MSRP: $19,995 (per Ford)

EPA Mileage: 27/29 MPG

IIHS Crash Safety: Marginal to good

The Ford Ecosport is a small, fuel-efficient crossover SUV that is seen as the heir to the now-discontinued Fiesta subcompact. It is among the best cars for college students.

The base version is competitively priced at just under $20,000 and has decent crash safety ratings for a vehicle of its size, with a peppy automatic transmission, a comfortable four-door configuration, and ample cargo space.

For an entry-level SUV, the Ecosport offers an impressive array of options and an available four-wheel drive. It also has a more powerful engine, aluminum wheels, and high-performance tires and brakes. A powerful infotainment system and soothing ambient lighting are available as interior options.

Looking for a discount on the sticker price of your new Ford Fiesta? Under certain dealer-specific restrictions and guidelines, college students and recent graduates may be eligible for exclusive discounts through Ford Drives U.

2. Chevrolet Sonic

best cars for college students

Chevrolet Sonic Car

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 that comes in hatchback and four-door sedan body styles with standard manual or optional automatic transmissions. It is available in a variety of trim levels, each with its own price and set of features. It is one of the best cars for college students.

The Sonic’s safety features are one of its key differentiators. Unlike many small cars, it comes standard with 10 airbags, a rear-view camera, and the Driver Confidence Package. It includes lane departure warning, rear park assist, and forward collision alert.

Chevrolet’s discount program, subject to dealer restrictions, provides variable, dealer-specific discounts for current and recently graduated students. Military veterans, first responders, and others are also eligible for discounts from Chevrolet.3. Jeep Wrangler

3. Classic Jeep Wrangler

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 trim

The Jeep Wrangler is a classic small SUV with a rugged frame that can go off the beaten path. New Wranglers are significantly more expensive than new Fiestas or Sonics.

They are also less fuel-efficient. They’re one of the best cars for college students who frequently transport human or inert cargo around their campuses, college towns, and beyond.

The basic Sport package is probably adequate for budget-conscious buyers. For more discerning students with larger budgets, the Rubicon has a slew of off-road-specific features, as well as a slew of driver-friendly extras like a powerful infotainment system. 

If the Wrangler’s high MSRP puts you off, consider purchasing an older, used model. Because the Wrangler has been around for a long time, there are numerous affordable back-year 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 available in hatchback and sedan body styles Its also available as front- or all-wheel drive. Despite its performance reputation, it is quite fuel-efficient, with a highway efficiency rating close to 40 MPG.

It has a nice selection of entertainment and accessibility features in the cabin, including a seven-inch touchscreen display and MAZDA CONNECT “infotainment” system.

It also has an above-average list of safety features for a smaller car.This included a standard rear-view camera and an optional front crash prevention system. Because the Mazda3 model was introduced in 2004, budget-conscious buyers have a plethora of affordable used options to choose from.

5. Toyota Yaris

best cars for college students

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 available in hatchback and sedan body styles, with either a manual six-speed transmission or an automatic transmission depending on your preferences and trim level.

It has a surprisingly robust safety suite that comes standard on every new Yaris, including lane departure alerts, automatic high beams, and a pre-collision deterrence system, in addition to steering wheel entertainment controls and a hands-free Bluetooth calling system.

Despite the fact that there are five trim levels, all are reasonably priced. This makes even high-end Yarises affordable one of the best cars for college students. Furthermore, the Yaris model has been on the market in the United States for over a decade. This means there are plenty of affordable, dependable models on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can get answers from these frequently asked questions from our readers.

Ques: What are the best cars for college students?      

College students don’t have too much money for repairs/maintenance because insurance and tuition is milking you for every dollar you have and you don’t have a high paying job.
Since you need a reliable car, you can rule out all American vehicles, and since you need something cheap to repair, you can rule out all Europeans cars
So you need something that’s reliable, but also drives smooth, quiet, and is comfortable.

Ques: What car should a college student buy for under $5000?               

Honestly, if you are looking for a car that cheap, I don’t think it makes sense to limit yourself. Obviously, Honda and Toyota have the best reputation for durability… but that is reflected in their price. They don’t depreciate as quickly. So a $5000 Honda might have 100k more miles than a $5000 Ford.
Which is the best car for a student?
The best choices would be Honda and Toyota. These brands are perfect for a new driver or student. These cars have long-lasting engines, efficient gas consumption, superior handling and just enough power to have some fun. I would recommend Toyota if you would like a smooth comfortable car and Honda if you would like a more sporty but comfortable feel.      

Ques: Should a high school/college student buy a new or a used car?

If you can at all afford it, buy a new car. Get a cheaper model. There will be a warranty for 2 or 3 years. I would be afraid of a used car that there would be some repair bills along the way.
Or, buy a car that’s a year old with low mileage. Make sure it has a good reputation. If you get a year old car a lot of the depreciation will be reflected in the price and you’ll still get a warranty with it.              

Ques: What is a good beginner car for college students?

The most dependable cars on the market are Toyota’s. If you’re looking for the economy then pick one of the smaller versions, like a corolla or a little larger in the Camry.
Small 4×4 versions like the RAV 4 are good or if you need a larger vehicle perhaps a 4 runner or even a Sequoia. Honda’s are always a good bet. No matter what you decide I would never buy new!               

Ques: What cars would you recommend for a 17-year-old?

Any one-owner used Toyota will work.
Anywhere from 5 to 10 years old.
Check the records or accidents and maintenance.           

Ques: Safety: What’s the safest car to give to a teenage driver?

There are a lot of great cars that are cheap but I personally recommend this
This is an Acura TL I have seen them go for cheap on Craigslist and since they are Honda’s underneath they are going to be reliable but also nice to drive.
But of course you can always score a Honda Accord if you’re a little more humble or don’t have the money for a tl.         

Ques: Which is a good economic car to buy for a college student?

A Toyota Corolla. I bought a 2004 Toyota Corolla in October 2003, and now have 240,000+ miles on it. I average about 34 MPG doing 65 mph.  It’s my daily driver. I would buy another one in a heartbeat if I had to.       

Ques: Is it possible for a college student to own a car?

The first car I bought cost me $500. It had grass growing in the carpet where some dirt hadn’t been cleaned up. You could also see the road through the rust holes.
Cars are also expensive to run. I would be very nervous about buying a car for a job. What if you lose the job? What if there is no income left after paying for the car opex?

Ques: What are the top 5 cars for broke college students?       

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             

A car can be an asset or otherwise. It all depends on how you choose one. We hope this article helps you make a good choice. Remember to share to your preferred social platform.

CSN Team.


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