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The Ultimate Guide to Car Discounts for College Students and Grads

college car deals

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.

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.

  1. You are a current college student or recent grad
  2. You have a job or a job commitment

Let’s look at the specifics.

Education Requirements

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.

Buick, GMC, and Chevrolet all go through the same GM College Discount Program and this special applies to:

  • Current college and graduate students
  • Graduated within the past two years from a two or four-year college.

Ford and Lincoln offer discounted pricing to active college students and recent grads. But they extend the discount to:

  • 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

Toyota, Lexus, Acura are the only manufacturers to list that nursing school students are applicable for their deals.

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

what to bring to dealership for student discountAll 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

best student and graduate discountsOut 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.

Below are some of the best car deals for new graduates.
ManufacturerProgram NameSpecial Offers & DiscountsEligibility & RequirementsExpiration
AcuraAcura College Graduate Program$500 off purchase/lease on 2019 or newerGraduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitmentOngoing
AudiAudi College Graduate ProgramEligible for flexible terms and ratesGraduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment1/2/20
BMWBMW College Graduate Program$1,000 off purchase/lease on new or pre-ownedGraduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Debt-to-income ratio of 20% or lessOngoing
BuickGM College DiscountUp to $1,500 off purchase/lease on 2018 or newerCurrent college student or graduated in the past 2 years1/2/20
GMCGM College DiscountUp to $2,500 off purchase/lease on 2018 or newerCurrent college student or graduated in the past 2 years1/2/20
ChevroletGM College DiscountUp to $3,000 off purchase/lease on 2018 or newerCurrent college student or graduated in the past 2 years1/2/20
FordFord Drive U$500 off purchase/lease on 2019/2020Current college/trade student or graduated in the past 3 years, High School Seniors1/2/20
HondaHonda College Graduate Program$500 off purchase/lease on 2018 or newerGraduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment3/31/20
HyundaiHyundai College Grad Program$400 off purchase/leaseGraduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment1/2/20
LexusLexus College Graduate Program$1,000 off purchase/leaseGraduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment1/6/20
LincolnLincoln College Plan$500 off purchase/lease on 2019/2020Current college/trade student or graduated in the past 3 years, High School Seniors1/2/20
NissanNissan College Grad Program$500 off purchase/lease on 2019/2020Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitmentOngoing
SubaruSubaru College Graduate ProgramEligible for special finance and lease offersRecent and soon-to-be graduatingOngoing
ToyotaToyota College Grad Program$500 off purchase/leaseGraduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment1/6/20
VolkswagenCollege Grad Bonus$500 off purchase/lease on 2018/2019Graduated in past 2 years or next 6 months, Full-time employment or commitment1/2/20
VolvoVolvo Graduate ProgramEligible for flexible financing optionsRecent graduatesOngoing


STOP! Don’t choose a car based on incentives alone.

Use my free service to Check Discount Car Prices from several dealers at once.   Start a bidding war to get yourself the lowest possible price.

 

Updated: November 18th, 2019 (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.)

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