Everyone has an opinion about which vehicles are best suited for use by college students, much like they all have a belly button. The main challenge of compiling such selections is establishing a system of value for the various criteria.
That is, balancing factors like safety features, fuel efficiency, cost, and usefulness. Several factors should be taken into account when purchasing a vehicle for a college student; however, these factors are not always compatible with one another.
We’ll guide you carefully through the minefield.
Top best cars for college students
2022 Toyota Corolla
The Toyota Corolla is among the many vehicles here that have been designated as an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick . In addition to its low total cost of ownership, it has a solid track record of dependability. The base L model of the Corolla is the one that sets the price. For only $450 more, you can upgrade to the LE trim. The standard features are significantly expanded, including automatic climate control, keyless entry, and a center armrest for the backseat passengers.
Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 is standard on all Corolla models. Adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, lane centering, traffic sign recognition, and high beam assist are just some of the features included in this suite of driver aids.
When you upgrade to the LE trim, you can spend an extra $1,150 on a package that includes a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. Bluetooth, voice recognition, a single USB port, Alexa, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless Internet access are just some of the available connectivity options. The combined fuel economy is 33 mpg, according to government estimates.
2023 Hyundai Elantra
The Elantra was redesigned by Hyundai two years ago. You get an estimated 37 mpg combined fuel economy and Hyundai’s SmartSense suite of safety driver-assist goodies for the low price of the base SE. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane centering, driver attention warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert are all included.
High-beam assist, an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, and two USB ports are also included as standard features. Some of the reasons why it was awarded the KBB Compact Car Best Buy in the past include the following.
Although government crash tests of the 2023 Elantra have not yet been conducted, the 2022 model received a 5-Star rating, so we have high hopes for the 2023. In 2022, the IIHS tested a new model and found it to be one of the safest vehicles available. We anticipate the same high level of performance from this vehicle in 2023 as we did in 2022 because no upgrades were made to it.
2023 Subaru Crosstrek
The Crosstrek, a Subaru designed to travel anywhere, has standard all-wheel drive (AWD). The base model of the Crosstrek comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, but for an additional $1,350, you can get the CVT, which includes several important safety enhancements. The Crosstrek’s CVT also includes a system that lets you prioritize either efficiency or performance. When a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is installed, fuel economy also improves. Compared to the manual transmission, the combined fuel economy improves by 5 mpg to 30 mpg.
The standard model of the Crosstrek, if equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), features Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which has earned it a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS. The Crosstrek’s CVT complements its already impressive list of standard features, which includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Upscale trims either come equipped with a blind-spot monitor as standard equipment or offer it as an optional extra. This vehicle has one USB port, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and hands-free phone integration.
2023 Hyundai Kona
Hyundai’s Kona subcompact SUV is a fantastic buy. Its compact size makes it simple to locate a parking spot on campus, and its practical trunk makes it simple to transport necessities. Additionally, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are provided free of charge. The gas-powered vehicle can achieve up to 35 miles per gallon in fuel economy. (We also have an electric vehicle.)
After several years on the market, the Kona has proven to be dependable. Further, it has been designated as an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Even the most basic SE trim comes with useful features like blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, forward collision avoidance assist, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic collision warning, so there’s a lot of bang for your buck here.
2023 Kia Soul
The Kia Soul is our pick because it has the lowest starting price without sacrificing on space. But its low cost isn’t the only reason it’s recommended here. Moreover, the price-to-quality ratio is superb. Standard safety features include forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention warning. For an extra $2,500, you can get the S trim level, which adds standard lane-departure warning, blind-spot collision avoidance, automatic high beams, and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance to what is already included in the LX. The 2022 Soul was named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, and we anticipate the 2023 model will maintain that level of excellence.
Bluetooth (without voice recognition), Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a single USB port are included in the base trim’s list of connectivity options. With its continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Soul can achieve up to 31 mpg on the highway.
2023 Subaru Outback
One of the more pricey vehicles on our list of top picks for college students is the Subaru Outback; however, this versatile SUV will continue to prove its worth long after the diploma has been earned. Subaru equips the Outback with advanced safety and technology features, and as an added bonus, all-wheel drive is included in the price. This is a welcome addition because in most rival vehicles, you’d have to pay extra for this feature.
The standard Outback is powered by a flat-four engine that is reasonably efficient, though a turbocharged version is available for those who prefer it. The Outback’s spacious interior and manageable towing capacity make it ideal for weekend road trips with your college chums.
2023 Ford Maverick
The Ford Maverick’s low starting price makes it appealing to college students, but it also has other advantages. Because there isn’t enough information, we haven’t ranked the Maverick among compact pickups. However, from what we do know, we like it: it has room for five adults and a decent amount of cargo.
The Maverick is equipped with a standard hybrid drivetrain consisting of a four-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor. You can get more speed from the available turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It’s obvious that compact pickup trucks are making a comeback, and a daring student is the perfect person to pilot one.
2023 Kia Forte
The Kia Forte is a fun-to-drive compact sedan that starts cheaply without sacrificing design or amenities. With so many excellent options, we were impressed that the Forte ranked so highly.
Most Forte models come standard with a four-cylinder engine producing 147 horsepower and a CVT transmission. However, the GT trim level offers a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 201 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission. The Kia Forte comes standard with cutting-edge security features.
2023 Toyota Corolla
In our comparisons of compact cars, the Toyota Corolla consistently places near the top. Because of its many uses, it has long been a standard on university campuses.
Both a hatchback and a sedan body style are offered for the Corolla, giving buyers a choice in how much cargo space they need. Getting around town is no problem with the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine’s 169 horsepower. The Corolla is already an excellent value, but Toyota increases it by including numerous standard safety features across the board.
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross
The base price of the Corolla Cross, an affordable small SUV/crossover, is $22,245. It has respectable city and highway gas mileage, at 31 and 33 mpg respectively. The Corolla Cross, just like competing SUVs, can seat five adults comfortably. The IIHS has awarded the 2022 Corolla Cross with their Top Safety Pick designation.
2022 Kia Seltos
The base price for a 2022 Kia Seltos is $22,590, and it has a combined 29/35 MPG rating for city/highway driving. The 2022 Seltos was recognized as an IIHS Top Safety Pick (with those particular headlights) and can seat up to five passengers.
2022 Toyota C-HR
The base price of a new 2022 C-HR is $4,130. It gets up to 27 mpg in the city and up to 31 mpg on the highway. The IIHS has named the C-HR a Top Safety Pick (for certain configurations of its headlights) and has deemed it suitable for transporting five adults.
2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer
The Trailblazer is a subcompact SUV with a base price of $21,600. It has great gas mileage, too, at 29/33 in the city/highway, respectively. The Trailblazer has been named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS and can seat up to five people.
Do You Need a Car in College?
The first thing to think about when buying a car for college is whether you really need it or just want it. Is having a car necessary for this type of college experience? A car won’t be worth the cost if all it does is add up in gas, insurance, and maybe even parking fees. In addition, it will serve as a nuisance.
Some universities prohibit freshmen from bringing automobiles on campus. Permit systems are widely used at many universities to restrict parking. Having a car while attending university can be a huge hassle. Having a car is more of a luxury than a necessity if you don’t need it to get to and from work or an off-campus apartment. If this describes your situation, you may want to forego it for the first few years.
Can I Afford a Car in College?
The price of the car has a direct effect on how much of a monthly payment can be spread out. Monthly payments, whether made by parents or students, must be kept to a minimum to avoid putting undue financial strain on either party. To facilitate sales of new and certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles, most automakers have their own captive financing companies. Examples of such firms include Ford Credit and Honda Financial Services. It’s recommended to begin here.
In the absence of captive financing, the monthly payment on a used vehicle is typically lower than that of a new one. Loans for vehicles typically have lower interest rates at credit unions. Interest rates are rising, so this is something to think about.
If you want to see how various car models stack up against one another in terms of maintenance costs and depreciation over five years, check out the Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own tool.
What’s the most reliable car to buy for a student?
The Hyundai i10, one of the more recent entries on our list, seems like a good bet, especially given its generous five-year warranty. Another option would be the Toyota Yaris, though it is currently only available as a hybrid and may increase your overall spending.
What’s the cheapest car for a student to insure?
Even for relatively luxurious vehicles like the VW Polo, insurance rates can be kept as low as possible by selecting a model with the appropriate trim level and engine, as well as taking into account the driver’s age, sex, location, and driving record.
What Role Does Safety Play in a Car for College?
No matter the buyer’s age or reason for purchasing a vehicle, safety features and ratings should always be a primary consideration. Check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test ratings as you narrow your options. Most people were satisfied with our selections. Our coverage of the top vehicles for young drivers includes details about the crash tests that were conducted.
Certain safeguards are essential and should never be disregarded. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control are required by law on all vehicles manufactured in 2013 or later. Since 2018, governments everywhere have required backup cameras, so they’re not optional. However, by that time, they were standard on many vehicles.
More recent models are more likely to have advanced safety and driver-assist features like automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring. Kelley Blue Book’s Expert Reviews on new and used cars can help you find out which models come standard with the safety features you’re looking for.
Finding a dependable used car that will meet your needs while attending college is a breeze with the help of our in-depth article.
These vehicles have a proven track record of dependability and are therefore rarely garaged.
However, keep in mind that you should not overestimate your abilities and that you must set realistic expectations.
Thoroughly check the vehicle for any blemishes, wear, and cleanliness. It’s important to get car insurance before a move.
In the event of an emergency, you will be better protected financially if you do this.
You should never buy a used car from a private dealer or a dealership unless you have first confirmed the vehicle’s service record and current inspection.
These suggestions will ensure that your daily commute to school is a safe one.