The Ultimate Guide to Car Discounts for College Students and Grads
After graduating college, one way to start building credit is by purchasing or leasing a car. Fortunately, most car brands offer cash incentives to students and recent college graduates to win over brand loyalty early in life.
Let's take a closer look at how to qualify and the requirements for each of these college auto savings programs. At the bottom we also list all the current discounts for students and grads offered by each manufacturer.
Related: See our picks for best cars for students
Table of Contents
How to Qualify for a Student Discount
To qualify for a student car discount you typically have to meet two main requirements.
- You are a current college student or recent grad
- You have a job or a job commitment
Let's look at the specifics.
Qualifications vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but they generally apply to those who have graduated in the past two years or will graduate within the next six months.
- Current college and graduate students
- Graduated within the past two years from a two or four-year college.
- Active Trade School, Community College, Graduate Students
- High School Seniors or Recent High School Graduates with a letter of intent to attend university
- Medical Student residencies
While most require diplomas from a two or four-year college or university, Ford, Lexus, Lincoln, and Toyota specify that any student from a technical or trade school is also eligible for their discounted program.
Employment & Credit Requirements
Most, if not all programs require that graduating or recently graduated students have a job or an employment commitment after graduation. The employment period must start within a range of 90-120 days of contract. You will need to show proof of employment (pay stub) or proof of firm commitment from an employer.
Some companies do not ask for employment but will make sure your monthly payment doesn’t exceed your total monthly income (along with living expenses). For example, BMW will make sure your debt-to-income ratio does not exceed 20%.
Not many of the manufacturer bonus programs ask for a credit requirement, but those that do specify your credit must be in good standing with no adverse history and typically at least 6 months of credit history. Audi is the only program to offer deals to graduates with no credit history and without a co-signer.
What to Bring to the Dealership
All national dealerships should recognize manufacturers' recent graduate discount programs. You will need to bring the following with you:
- Valid driver’s license
- Proof of insurance and insurance agent contact info
- Copy of your degree or transcript and contact info of your College/University
- Proof of income or full-time employment and contact info for your HR or payroll of company or
- Proof of commitment to full-time employment
- A few dealerships may ask for personal references
GM College Discount requires an authorization code before purchase which can be obtained through their site.
Best Deals for College Students and Graduates
Out of all the different bonus programs for students and graduates, GM College Discount (Buick, GMC, Chevrolet) offers the widest range of discounts. They also make the deals eligible for current college or university students.
Lexus offers the program to the widest range of students including nursing and trade school students, and it has a higher than average cash back deal of $1,000.
The main caveat to most of these student discounts is that you are required to finance or lease through the manufacturer’s financial service.
|Manufacturer||Program Name||Special Offers & Discounts||Eligibility & Requirements||Expiration|
|Acura||Acura College Graduate Program||$500 off purchase/lease on 2019 or newer||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment||Ongoing|
|Audi||Audi College Graduate Program||Eligible for flexible terms and rates||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment||Ongoing|
|BMW||BMW College Graduate Program||$1,000 off purchase/lease on new or pre-owned||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Debt-to-income ratio of 20% or less||Ongoing|
|Buick||GM College Discount||Up to $1,500 off purchase/lease on 2018 or newer||Current college student or graduated in the past 2 years||1/4/21|
|GMC||GM College Discount||Up to $2,500 off purchase/lease on 2018 or newer||Current college student or graduated in the past 2 years||1/4/21|
|Chevrolet||GM College Discount||Up to $3,000 off purchase/lease on 2018 or newer||Current college student or graduated in the past 2 years||1/4/21|
|Ford||Ford Drive U||$500 off purchase/lease on 2019 or newer||Current college/trade student or graduated in the past 3 years, High School Seniors||1/4/21|
|Honda||Honda College Graduate Program||$500 off purchase/lease on 2018 or newer||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment||3/31/20|
|Hyundai||Hyundai College Grad Program||$400 off purchase/lease||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment||1/4/21|
|Lexus||Lexus College Graduate Program||$1,000 off purchase/lease||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment||1/4/21|
|Lincoln||Lincoln College Plan||$500 off purchase/lease on 2019 or newer||Current college/trade student or graduated in the past 3 years, High School Seniors||1/4/21|
|Nissan||Nissan College Grad Program||$500 off purchase/lease on 2019/2020||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment||Ongoing|
|Subaru||Subaru College Graduate Program||Eligible for special finance and lease offers||Recent and soon-to-be graduating||Ongoing|
|Toyota||Toyota College Grad Program||$500 off purchase/lease||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment||3/31/20|
|Volkswagen||College Grad Bonus||$500 off purchase/lease on 2018/2019||Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment||Ongoing|
|Volvo||Volvo Graduate Program||Eligible for flexible financing options||Recent graduates||Ongoing|
These offers may vary based on location, credit score, and financing terms and are not guaranteed. So use my free service to Check Discount Car Prices to get the best prices that include current manufacturer offers and incentives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Buick, GMC, Chevy, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Subaru, Toyota, and several others.
Discounts range from $500 to as high as $3,000 depending on the brand.
Terms vary by brand but generally you must be graduating within the next six months or have graduated within the past two years.
Here are some of the best cars for college students:
- 2020 Mazda3
- 2020 Subaru Impreza
- 2020 Honda Civic
- Check out the full list of the best cars for college students
Ford and Lincoln extend student discounts to high school seniors or recent high school graduates with a letter of intent to attend a university.