Best Cars for College Students to Buy Right Now [2023 Edition]

Best Cars for College Students

There's lots to consider when evaluating cars for college students. Whether you’re a student yourself or helping your child purchase a new vehicle we're here to help.

We've chosen our top car picks for college students based on cost, safety ratings, fuel efficiency and other maintenance costs.

Also Read: Car Discounts for Students and Recent Graduates

So if you're a student looking for a new vehicle for your commute or simply desire the flexibility of having your own car on campus, check out this list of the top ten cars for college students.

Best Cars for College Students

What Features Should a Student Look for When Buying a New Car?


One of the most important considerations when buying a new car is the initial cost. Take the time to read our guide, how to buy a new car at the best possible price.  You can always negotiate below the MSRP by requesting prices from multiple dealerships and asking dealers to beat the best price.

It's also important to take into account the long-term costs of car ownership when budgeting for a new vehicle. Some additional monthly costs to consider are fuel costs, maintenance, and car insurance.

Vehicle Size

Car types are usually categorized as subcompact, compact, mid-size, or large. Subcompact and compact cars tend to be the cheapest models available, while mid-size sedans, large sedans, and compact SUVs are usually between $20,000 - $30,000.

Some factors that can influence the decision on car size are lifestyle, parking availability, and budget. If traveling frequently, it would make more sense to find a larger vehicle with more cargo space. If you attend an urban college, it might be more beneficial to find a more compact vehicle to make parking easier.

Fuel EfficiencyFuel Efficiency

Since the price of gas is always fluctuating, it is always recommended to look at the vehicle's EPA mileage ratings. The average MPG for a vehicle right now is around 25 MPG combined.

If you can afford it, hybrid and all-electric options are becoming more efficient and may come with federal and state tax incentives. Most popular models have a hybrid option as well and they greatly increase the fuel efficiency.

Recommended: See our picks for the best commuter cars. 

Safety Features and Rating

Crash testing and rating is administered by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). The NHS gives out ratings of up to five stars, while the highest rating for IIHS is Good in six different crash tests.

Safety is a crucial consideration so it's important to note what technology and features come standard on a vehicle. Rearview cameras, emergency braking, and lane assist are becoming more of a norm across new vehicles.

Insurance Costs

There are many factors that go into determining the cost of car insurance. Some of these include value of the vehicle, personal driving record, residence, state laws, and even the car's safety features.  You should get insurance quotes from an online before you buy a vehicle to know what you're getting yourself into.

Related: How to Buy a Car Without a License


Most manufacturers offer a 36-month or 36,000-mile limited warranty coverage (which covers all components other than normal wear and maintenance items). The powertrain coverage is usually for 60 months or 60,000 miles.

Hyundai still offers one of the best new car warranty programs. A limited warranty for 60 months or 60,000 miles and a powertrain warranty for 10-years or 100,000 miles.

Discounts for College Students

A majority of manufacturers offer current students or recent graduates discounts on new vehicles. Most offer up to $500 off or flexible financing options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best cars for college students?

Here are some of the best cars for college students:

  • 2022 Kia Forte
  • 2022 Subaru Impreza
  • 2022 Honda Civic

What car companies offer student discounts?

A majority of manufacturers offer some type of discount to college students and recent graduates. This includes Buick, GMC, Chevy, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Subaru, Toyota, and several others. Here are all the current student discounts.

How much is a student discount?

Discounts range from $500 to as high as $1,000 depending on the brand. Some also offer flexible financing and lease options. Here are all the current student discounts.

What should a college student consider when choosing a car?

There are plenty of factors to consider in general when choosing a new vehicle. But college students should pay more attention to the price, safety ratings, insurance costs, and size.

Is it better for a college student to lease or buy a car?

Leasing a car does result in lower monthly car payments. But for most college students and car buyers, it makes more financial sense to buy a car outright than to lease. In the long-term, leasing a car will be more expensive than buying. Learn more about the reasons to buy or lease a car.

How can a college student get approved for a car loan?

At a minimum, you will need an established credit history and a steady source of income in order to qualify for a car loan. Some ways to improve your chances are to save up for a down payment or consider a co-signer.