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 ” 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 ), 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 )