What are the characteristics of great cars for college students?

When considering the best cars for college students, there are a few things to remember to pick the best vehicle. The first factor in narrowing down your list is a budget. But safety features and ratings should quickly follow.

Cost and safety


Most college students are on a tight budget, so finding an affordable car is a top priority. You can typically knock a few thousand dollars off the purchase price if you buy a used car in good condition instead of buying a new car. Consider whether you'll be getting any financial help when making your purchase.

Fuel economy

Gas costs can vary significantly over time, depending on oil prices and other economic factors. Selecting a car with good fuel efficiency and good gas mileage can help you keep the overall cost of owning a vehicle down.


Younger drivers are more likely than experienced drivers to be involved in an accident, so car safety data is crucial when considering the best cars for college students. You can check out crash test ratings and vehicle safety records through the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Selecting a vehicle with safety features such as anti-lock brakes, airbags, stability control, and a backup camera can help keep you safe on the road.

Commuting and parking

Parking on college campuses can greatly vary, from ample on-campus options for all students to limited or no parking. Beyond figuring out where to park, think about if you need a car to get to and from an off-campus residence or a car that is best for road trips back home.


Will you be parking your car in a lot, garage, or on the street? It's important to understand the options available to you. For example, if you go to school in an urban area where street parking is your only alternative, buying a truck or SUV may not be your best bet. You may consider buying a small SUV or sedan . Don't forget to find out how the permit process works at your college or university. Without one, you may be unable to take your car to school.

Cargo space

If you live on campus, you need enough space to take your belongings back and forth between your home and dorm room or apartment a few times a year.

Insurance and warranty

Insurance rates

Cars are at the top – or close to the top – of the list of the most valuable things we own, especially for college students. Auto insurance and a warranty can protect you from financial risk.

One of the factors car insurance companies use to determine your car insurance cost is the make and model of the vehicle you drive. Some cars cost more to insure than others. Since insurance can be a significant expense when buying a car, consider getting an auto insurance quote before purchasing a vehicle. Learn more about car insurance for college students .


The costs of being a college student can add up, but a car warranty can help you avoid unexpected repair bills. Warranties vary between car manufacturers, so find out how long your warranty lasts and what it covers. Learn more about the difference between a car warranty and car insurance .

Considerations for post college plans

You can't say for certain what your post-college plans will be, but if you don't want the added expense of buying another car when you graduate, it's worth thinking beyond college. When considering good cars for college students, think about the type of vehicle you might need once you leave campus permanently, and choose one that not only meets your needs now but will continue to meet them in the future.