6 Affordable Used Cars for College Students

Your college student is likely already back at university for the year, studying away and preparing for midterm exams. The choice of whether or not to send your college kid to school with a car is one many parents and families debate each year. There’s the cost of parking, the risk of a long road trip back and forth from home (unless you ship your car), the insurance, gas, and general maintenance of a vehicle. If your child attends a large campus or has a job off campus, a car is almost a necessity. For others, it is simply a convenient option.

But the number one question for most young adults and parents is: what used cars are best for college students? Which ones are the safest? We’re here to help by giving you some of our top picks for college students. These cars are reliable, safe, and even better – they’re affordable. For the next semester, choose one of these affordable used cars for your rising academic scholar.

What factors matter most when choosing a car for college kids?


Many folks are looking for vehicles under $20,000 for their child.


No college student has time or money for expensive repairs! Better to get a vehicle that will last a few years.


You want to make sure you’re saving that $$$ for books, not spending it on gas!


Stuff happens, but you want to make sure your ride is safe. See ratings at Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website.

Our top picks for college students

6 Affordable Used Cars for College Students

Honda Accord

It’s hard to beat the reliability and value of the Honda Accord. A classic sedan, this vehicle had a redesigned model in the year 2013. Anything 2013 and newer would be a great choice for a college student, although there is an even more efficient Hybrid option! These models typically get anywhere from 27-30 MPG’s, but going earlier than 2013 may cause you to lose a bit of that efficiency.  Of course, newer models come with updated features like an easy-to-use touchscreen system and a rear view camera (a super feature when it comes to safety!) These cars can easily be found for $10-$12,000, a fantastic value for your college student. Quiet, comfortable ride, and few distractions with basic standard options.

6 Affordable Used Cars for College Students

Toyota Prius

We recommend a 2010 model or later, for a car that has nearly unmatched reliability. Consumer Reports says “Throw in bulletproof reliability and low running costs and you have an ideal transportation solution.” How does 44 MPG fuel economy sound? Like a dream, especially if your student is headed on a long trek. The Prius may not have a “posh, comfortable” interior, but if you don’t mind a little bit of road noise in exchange for longer time periods between the pumps, you’re good to go. Older models are a steal at under $11,000.

6 Affordable Used Cars for College Students

Subaru Impreza

A 2012-2016 Subaru Impreza is a quality, roomy option coming in at $9,000-$15,625 according to Consumer Reports. These ride a bit more like your luxury sedans, and there’s even a sporty-looking hatchback option for a bit of flair. With top safety ratings from the IIHS and standard all wheel drive, this is a great choice for a college student headed to university where there’s likely to be a long winter. Choose one with the navigational system for extra features like a rear camera. Fuel economy is 25-27/33-36 mpg city/highway.

6 Affordable Used Cars for College Students

Toyota Rav4

Have two students headed to university together? Need more space than just a sedan for some other reason? The Toyota Rav4 is a great option with a little extra room, as a compact SUV. This crossover was redesigned in 2013, but you could go as old as 2005 without sacrificing too much. To take advantage of the improved safety, 2015 and 2016 models received better crash scores. Consumers love the easy handling, controls, and the smooth ride. This may be a more expensive option on the list: for a 2013-2015 model, you’re looking at roughly $13,000-$22,000. You get all that extra room and 24 MPG’s. All-wheel drive is available.

6 Affordable Used Cars for College Students

Volkswagen GTI

Not every college student will get excited about words like “reliability” and “affordable.” Looking for a compromise? Try the Volkswagen GTI – a sportier hatchback that is quite fun to drive, while still incredibly safe and reliable. With great mileage (25 combined) and superb safety ratings, there’s no reason your dependable vehicle shouldn’t be a joy to drive! Look between 2010 and 2015 (both years for redesigns) to get a great deal and the best of features available in a used car. Prices at the low end with older models hover close to $10,000, while the newer cars with less mileage can run closer to $19k. The luxe style of the interior is one thing consumers rave about, not to mention the agility and responsiveness of how it drives. A good choice for your sports car enthusiast – beware the engine is turbocharged!

6 Affordable Used Cars for College Students

Honda Ridgeline

We’re not just partial to sedans and crossovers! A truck can be a great, safe option for a college student. At a heavier footprint, you won’t get the efficient gas mileage of a Honda Civic, but you’ll get the benefit of a high IIHS rating. We recommend models between 2006 and 2014. Got an old couch to bring to the dorm or apartment? No problem with a truck! Riding in the Ridgeline doesn’t necessarily feel like a truck, it’s much more like a car cabin, and the 15/20 mpg city/highway gas mileage isn’t bad for a truck! Costs for a 2014 can exceed $25,000, so look for an older model to stay closer to the $12,000-$15,000 range. The best part is, your student is prepared for those college football tailgate parties.

As always, you should do your own research (we love Consumer Reports and the KBB website for this!) and be sure to test drive any models you’re interested in. Don’t be afraid to buy a car online as it can be a great way to get a deal.

If you find the perfect car for your college student, let us ship it to their university! Call or Text us for a quote.

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