Featured Image

Best Value Cars for College Students for 2016-2017

They're not quite the cheapest cars, but based on their safety ratings and overall value, these are some of your best bets as a college student.

They’re not quite the cheapest cars, but based on their safety ratings and overall value, these are some of your best bets as a college student.

Packing up the trunk with your necessities, pulling out of the driveway of your family home, and heading off to your future: it’s a rite of passage for many college students. When choosing the car that will take you through one of life’s most important adventures, you have a lot to consider. We’ve broken down all you need to think about when choosing your car for college, along with our top 10 picks for the best values on the market.

Related: How to Buy Your First Car

Factors to consider when buying a car

Cost

If college students have one thing in common, it’s that they are largely budget-conscious. After all, it’s the time in life when you stock up on ramen noodles and anxiously await care packages full of snacks. So when choosing a budget-friendly college car, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Sticker price: There are lots of inexpensive new cars on the market, and there’s always the used market. (Try looking at best-of lists from the past few years to know what you should be targeting in your used car search.) Ultimately, you need to sit down, look at your monthly budget, and determine what you can afford before anything else.
  • Maintenance and repairs: If you purchase a new car, repair expenses will be covered under warranty for the first few years. If you purchase used, pay close attention to what—if any—warranty you’re getting and what it covers. In any case, you should set aside money for minor maintenance expenses such as oil changes and wheel alignments. Used cars may require even more of a budget for upkeep.
  • Fuel efficiency: If you’ll put a lot of miles on your car trekking back and forth to school, home, and work, fuel can be a significant expense, so look for a car with good fuel economy. If you’ll be somewhat contained on campus, it may not be as much of a consideration. (Of course, if you’re not leaving campus much, do you really need a car? Just sayin’…)

Pro tip: You know those student discounts you can get at restaurants on tickets? Well, you might be able to get a student discount on your car payments too!

Safety

If you’re a college student straight out of high school, you are still a relatively new driver. Research shows that younger drivers are more at risk for accidents and have more injuries due to crashes. It’s important to choose a vehicle that will offer you the highest level of safety to protect you while you’re away from home and on the road.

Capacity

College often requires moving far from home, and taking all of your stuff with you. You may need a vehicle with enough cargo space to pack bins of clothes, computer needs, dorm décor, and yes, snacks. While on campus, you might want a vehicle with enough space to transport your friends around town or to weekend getaways. Or, maybe you’ll be in an apartment building with tight parking. Ask yourself if you need a vehicle suitable for big hauls, or if a compact car is your best bet.

Purchasing options

Buying a car makes the most sense from a financial perspective if you plan on keeping your car for many years. However, the older a vehicle gets, the steeper its repair expenses become. If you don't like the cost and hassle that can come with maintaining an older vehicle, purchasing may not be the best option for you. Leasing is a better bet if you plan trading in your car for another model soon after you graduate, or if you’re unsure if you’ll need a car at all at that point. Leasing also tends to be less expensive than buying over the short term, as repairs are largely covered by the car's warranty for the duration of the lease (typically three years or less).

Good value cars for college life

Here are 10 cars that are great choices for college students. They all offer excellent fuel economy, outstanding cargo capacity and value-oriented price tags. They're also leaders when it comes to safety, and every single one earned a perfect five stars overall in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Each car includes information regarding starting price (excluding destination charge), cargo capacity and fuel economy. The vehicles on our list are presented in ascending order based on starting price.

2016 Kia Soul

  • Starting price: $15,900
  • Cargo capacity (rear seats up/folded): Up to 24.2/61.3 cubic feet
  • Fuel economy: Up to 27 mpg combined
  • Other perks: Standard features include 60/40 split-folding rear seats and Bluetooth connectivity.

2017 Honda Fit

  • Starting price: $15,990
  • Cargo capacity (rear seats up/folded): 16.6/52.7 cubic feet
  • Fuel economy: Up to 36 mpg combined
  • Other perks: Standard features include cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a rearview camera.

2017 Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback

  • Starting price: $18,455
  • Cargo capacity (rear seats up/folded): 19/47.7 cubic feet
  • Fuel economy: Up to 32 mpg combined
  • Other perks: Standard features include Bluetooth connectivity, remote keyless entry, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. 

2016 Mazda 3 Hatchback

  • Starting price: $18,545
  • Cargo capacity (rear seats up/folded): 20.2/47.1 cubic feet
  • Fuel economy: Up to 33 mpg combined
  • Other perks: Standard features include push-button start, a rearview camera, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, cruise control, daytime running lights, and SMS text message auto deliver and voice reply.

2016 Hyundai Elantra GT

  • Starting price: $18,800
  • Cargo capacity (rear seats up/folded): 23/51 cubic feet
  • Fuel economy: 27 mpg combined
  • Other perks: Standard features include Bluetooth connectivity, remote keyless entry and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. 

2017 Ford Focus Hatchback

  • Starting price: $19,015
  • Cargo capacity (rear seats up/folded): 23.3/43.9 cubic feet
  • Fuel economy: Up to 35 mpg combined
  • Other perks: Standard features include Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a rearview camera, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. 

2017 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

  • Starting price: $19,895
  • Cargo capacity (rear seats up/folded): 22.8/52.7 cubic feet
  • Fuel economy: 29 mpg combined
  • Other perks: Standard features include Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, cruise control, a rearview camera, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. 

Smart decisions

You’ve chosen a college, a major, and maybe even a roommate. Now, as you choose your car to take you through this academic journey, keep these considerations in mind, and you’ll be on the road to success.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
buying a car car buying cars for college students

About Warren Clarke

Warren Clarke is a passionate car expert and writer for CARFAX. He enjoys sharing advice to help students and parents alike in car buying and ownership.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Michael

Michael

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress showed me that Western New England University was a great match for me both with curriculum and location. CollegeXpress is an excellent resource both future and current college students.

Trevor

Trevor

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress was able to give me a short summary, background, and helpful tips about Bob Jones University The information given was helpful in allowing me to understand and read about personal experiences while at Bob Jones.

Lydia Huth

Lydia Huth

Student, Campbell University; CollegeXpress Student Writer

I discovered CollegeXpress while embarking on my college search journey as an excited—but scared and way confused—high schooler without a counselor or college-bound sibling to give me advice. Let me tell you, I’m so glad that I stumbled on this community! CollegeXpress helped me find potential colleges and keep application deadlines straight. It gave me a great list of scholarships, and the blogs and emails made me feel like I wasn’t going it alone. Almost three years later and with freshman year of college down, I still love the CollegeXpress vibe so much that I’m writing for them. I’d recommend this site to anyone!

Emilie Delgado

Emilie Delgado

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2013

CollegeXpress has tremendously helped me in my search for financial aid opportunities as I enter my college career. It is easy to navigate and quickly narrowed down scholarships that I could apply for. Being awarded the scholarship will greatly help me in my finances regarding books and tuition. Thank you for this opportunity. Without CollegeXpress, it would have been more difficult to apply. I would recommend this site to everyone!

Jenna

Jenna

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me greatly during my college search. I used their college search feature often and it helped in comparing schools I was looking at. Now that I’ve found a college the scholarship search feature is helping me find a way to find my college experience. CollegeXpress has many helpful features and resources for anyones college search, it truly is a wonderful tool for anyone entering college level!

College Matches