On many college campuses, public transportation is not an option. Housing and academic departments may be located too far away from each other for walking, especially in inclement weather. And of course, having parents drive students to classes and activities isn’t cool even if it’s feasible — which is almost never the case. The solution is for parents to send their college students off in their own cars. The best cars for college students include a number of features to maximize safety and reliability in addition to affordability.
Safety and Handling Features for New Cars
While college students usually have a few more years’ experience behind the wheel than younger teens, they are still relatively new drivers. Many of the features that are desirable for a teen’s first car are still desirable in a car for college students. Specifically, late model midsize sedans provide the optimal combination of stability and maneuverability, even though they may not look as cool as a sporty car or a hefty SUV. Midsize cars offer more crash protection than smaller cars, while SUVs and pickups are harder to handle and are more prone to rollovers than sedans. Safety features to look for include a forward collision warning system, crash notification system and backup camera with rear cross traffic alert, according to Consumer Reports.
The price tag for new midsize sedans is also more affordable than sporty coupes, high performance vehicles or SUVs — with base models priced at less than $25,000. The following five models are among the best for college students in terms of price and safety:
- Kia Soul: The boxy Soul is roomy and features optional forward auto-braking, blind spot and lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control. Priced at about $18,000.
- Hyundai Elantra: The Elantra is compact yet stylish with 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Optional features include forward auto-braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping and blind spot monitoring features. Price is also about $18,000.
- Subaru Impreza: Available as a sedan or hatchback, the Impreza features standard all wheel drive. Optional features include adaptive cruise control, forward and reverse auto braking, lane departure, lane keeping and blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and adaptive headlamps. Price is approximately $20,000.
- Toyota Corolla: The trusty Corolla includes several standard safety features including forward auto braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlights. Base price is about $20,000.
- Kia Sportage Crossover: This crossover is stylish and features automatic transmission and optional all wheel drive. Other options features include blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning system. The base model is around $25,000.
Tips for Buying Used Cars
After paying for tuition, room, board and books, many parents — not to mention students — are financially tapped out. Purchasing a new car is simply not in the budget. However, it’s still advisable for parents to purchase a newer used car that includes at least some safety features. In addition, Edmunds recommends that used car buyers should always insist on a vehicle history report and an inspection by a reputable mechanic as a condition of purchasing any used car. If the seller balks at either of these requests, buyers should walk away.
The following five used cars are highly rated for reliability and feature many important safety features, with price tags that average below $22,000:
- 2014 Honda Accord is spacious and features a standard rearview camera and addition right-side blind spot camera. Available features include lane departure and forward collision warning systems. Average price is just over $16,000.
- 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid features a fold-down rear seat for added cargo space, air bags and available inflatable seat belts. Prices range from about $15,000 for a basic model to about $18,500 for a model with more bells and whistles.
- 2013 Volkswagen GTI is available as a two-door or four-door hatchback with available automatic or standard six-speed manual transmission with precise steering and handling on the road. The average price is only about $14,000.
- 2014 Mazda 3 is fun to drive and features dash mounted screen and graphics along with available blind spot monitoring, rearview camera and forward collision warning. The average price is only about $13,000.
- 2016 Toyota Rav4 crossover has a roomy interior, which is ideal for hauling dorm room stuff, along with available all-wheel drive, which is useful in snowy conditions. It’s a more expensive used car with an average price of about $21,000.
Protection for New and Used Cars
Many parents and students opt for new cars that include important safety features along with manufacturer or dealer warranties. However, limited budgets often require parents and students to choose used cars that have safety features but often do not carry warranties. In such cases, investing in an aftermarket extended vehicle protection plan such as the Ambassador Policy from Protect My Car translates into long-term savings by relieving parents and students from the burden of paying for expensive car repairs and maintenance out of pocket. Good luck!