Best Used Cars for College Students


If you have a college-bound child, you probably have mixed emotions about sending them off. You are, undoubtedly, feeling pangs of sadness as you drop them off at their new dorm. This sadness is surely mixed with excitement and maybe nostalgia if you went away to college yourself. You want to make sure they start their college career on the right foot and having a car to drive is a great way to do this.

Maybe you are an extra generous parent and will be buying the car yourself, or teaching your child self-sufficiency and having them foot the bill, or possibly somewhere in the middle. Whoever ends up paying for the car, here are some great used cars you should look for on your search for the perfect college car.

First, the sensible cars:

  • Honda Civic – While not the sportiest car, the Honda Civic is a good choice for a reliable car that is easy to fill-up and won’t break the bank with repair costs. Later models (2001 and beyond) have received the top “Good” rating in IIHS crash tests. You should easily be able to find one for under $10,000. We recommend getting a four-door model for practicality’s sake.
  • Ford Focus – This is a great, reliable, fuel efficient car that should last through your student’s entire college career and beyond. You should be able to find great deals on SEL models with nicer features, such as leather interior and SYNC.
  • Ford Taurus – Here is another great Ford option. It has “Good” safety ratings from the IIHS. If you look at older models years (say around 2002), you should be able to get nicer features at a great price.

Now, for something a little different:

  • Pontiac Aztek – We know this is considered one of the ugliest cars ever made, but if you can get passed its ugly exterior, there are some great options, and best of all, since it was so unpopular, you can find these for a song. Some great features in the Aztek include a sliding cargo floor with storage compartments and fantastic utilitarian appeal.
  • BMW 324i – If you’re in the market for something a little nicer, check out older model BMWs. These are generally reliable and, of course, you can get great features, like programmable seats, automatic climate control, and a more powerful engine. These can be surprisingly affordable if you find the right car.
  • Kia Soul – Dancing hamsters and all, these compact cars are cool. If your kid wants to be noticed, this is a great way to get attention. It offers quirky styling and plenty of high-tech features. While this may be a pricier option since the oldest model is 2010, you can definitely find one for under $12,000.

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