We all know that one student who drives a Porsche or an Escalade to school, and we have to wonder exactly where their priorities lie. Also, who’s car is it, really. We can’t all be so *cough* fortunate, so what’s a starving college student to do? Skipping school is out of the question, and not everyone can live on campus or take public transportation, if it even exists.
How to Choose a Good Car
We’ve all heard people say “That’s a good car,” but you have to take those statements with a grain of salt, or maybe a cup-full. One person’s definition of “good” might be different. Maybe their “good” car has leather seats and power windows, but they need to take it to the shop every month. Here are some things you should look for in a car, a good car for you, starving student with limited budget and, we hope, big aspirations after graduation day.
- Upfront Cost – This is usually the first thing that people consider, and it’s an important one. How much you’ll spend up front might have to do with how much you have in your piggy bank or how much your parents are willing to help you out with. Maybe they’ll go 50/50 with you and you can get something a little nicer or newer. We don’t suggest financing, because payments and mandatory insurance will surely be out of your budget, even if you have a really nice allowance and a part-time job. Stick with cash.
- Age – The average age of the American car is just under 12 years old, and there are a lot of nice cars in this range. Still, keep in mind that, the older a car is, the more problems it will experience. Generally, cars younger than 10 years of age are a pretty good bet, as long as they’re from a reliable brand and have been maintained and driven well.
- Reliability – This depends on at least a couple of factors, including who made it, how well it’s been maintained, and how nicely they’ve been driven. The most reliable brands include Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Acura, Porsche (really?), GMC, Chevrolet, Ram, Buick, and Lincoln. Dodge, Ford, Audi, BMW, and others don’t even make the top 20! Look for one- or two-owner cars if possible, and look for cars that have maintenance records.
- Fuel Economy – Once you’ve bought the car, of course, you’ll have to drive it, and putting gas in the tank is going to take a lot out of your budget. Look for economy cars that get at least 25 mpg. Some non-hybrid affordable and reliable economy cars are pushing 36 mpg, which is a real bargain.
Some Great Options for a Starving Student
- 04-09 Mazda 3 is a fun car and includes some nice technology and comfort features. It’s fairly reliable, though you’ll have to be really light on the pedal to get better than 24 mpg.
- 02-06 Honda CR-V is a nice compact SUV that gives you some extra space in case you like camping on the weekends. It’s also all-wheel drive, which is great if you’re schooling in northern climes.
- 05-10 Scion tC might seem counter intuitive, because it’s a coupe, but it’s also affordable and super-reliable (it’s a Toyota)
- 06-09 Toyota Prius is going to save you money at the pump, fuel economy estimates up to 46 mpg. Be aware that the battery might require replacement or conditioning at some point, which can cost from $800 to $3,000.
- 10-13 Kia Soul is a distinctive vehicle, and you won’t lose it in a sea of Civics and Corollas. Base models include some nice tech, such as USB ports and satellite radio, but upper trim levels will include things like Bluetooth and keyless entry.