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Best Used Cars for College Students

Posted By Jim On 02/26/2009 @ 7:41 am In Cars | 34 Comments

I never had a car in college and I never really wanted one because our student IDs doubled as free bus passes (the cost was rolled into our student fees). In fact, there were only a handful of occasions where I really wanted a car and those were cases where the bus ride would take an hour and a half (from CMU to Monroeville, which is really just a 20 minute care ride away!). I was fortunate to live in a city where public transportation was pretty good, but what about colleges where the public transportation isn’t as good or where you need a car just to get to class? You need a reliable used car.

Every year, Edmunds.com puts out a list of their “Used Car Best Bets [3]” where they look at models over a five year span and select what they believe is a good choice based on reliability, safety, and availability. I only looked at sedans because the other categories didn’t seem to fit for a student. For 2008, they limited the model years to 2001-2008.

  • Compact Sedan: They named the Hyundai Elantra the best bet in this category and the true market value of a 2001 used model GLS manual at just under $3,500.
  • Midsize Sedan: The Toyota Camry won out this category because of its reliability scores, with the Honda Accord taking a close second. Midsize sedan is pricer though, with a ’01 CE manual just under $6,000 and the 02′ LE just under $7,500 (the design changed between ’01 and ’02).
  • Large Sedan: Ford Crown Victoria at $5,000 for a 2001 model tied the Mercury Grand Marquis ($5,500 for the ’01 GS) for the large sedan category. One thing to be aware of is that these cars are V8s built during a time when gas was cheap though both have listed fuel economy scores of 18 mpg.

If the Elantra, Camry, or Crown Vic isn’t your style, you can always go with a Honda Civic, a car that was rated an A+ for College Students by Forbes in the “Small Car” category a few years ago. The listed base price is $15,000 for a new model but Edmunds says you can get a 2001 Honda Civic DX for a little over $5,000.

What was your first car? Mine was a used 2001 Acura Integra that was eventually totaled by a Dodge Durango that blew through a red light. It wasn’t a “beater” though I would argue that you don’t fully appreciate a reliable car until you’ve driven a beater for a few years, that’s the problem I have with many of the “best cars for students” lists out there (like this one from Forbes [4]), they list brand new cars! A student should get a brand new car unless they pay for it themselves (and even then, it’s probably not a good use of their limited resources!).

(Photo: wickenden [5])

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[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/best-used-cars-for-college-students.html

[3] Used Car Best Bets: http://www.edmunds.com/reviews/bestbet/articles/

[4] this one from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2007/08/14/cars-college-best-forbeslife-cx_bh_0815cars.html

[5] wickenden: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wickenden/3693742013/sizes/m/

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