What are the Best Cars for Students?


High school students who are new to driving or college students who have only been driving a few years might be looking for their own car so they don’t have to rely on driving the family car(s). Parents might help pay for this new purchase or teens/young adults might save up to afford their first car.

There are so many models on the market that young drivers might not know which car is the best for their needs. What are the best cars for students? Look for models that are:

  • Affordable
  • Safe
  • Fuel-efficient
  • Dependable

These are the Most Affordable Cars for College Students

College students who are attending school away from home might need a car on campus to ensure they always have reliable transportation. College students might not drive long distances during the school year, but they might need to travel hours on their trip back home for holidays or during summer vacation.

If college students are paying for their purchase without the help of their parents, they might be focused solely on a model’s affordability. What are the most affordable vehicles for 2023? The least expensive models include smaller vehicles; the five most affordable cars for are:

The 2022 Chevrolet Spark is the most affordable option for new cars. However, General Motors has announced that the Spark ended production this past summer. This means that options for new Spark models are limited. The Hyundai Accent also is being discontinued after the 2022 model year.

While there are still several affordable options for new model in 2023, the prices are a bit higher. Buyers can expect to pay more than $16K for the least expensive 2023 models. Although the most affordable vehicles are some of the more fuel efficient options on the market, college students that want to go greener and optimize their fuel might shop for hybrid vehicles.

The Best (Cheapest) Hybrid Models for 2023

Hybrid vehicles could get more than 50 MPG. For college students who might need to commute back and forth to a campus that is more than 30 miles away, a fuel-efficient hybrid could help lower the fuel budget. While hybrids are more expensive than the compact non-hybrid models, college students still might find a few 2023 hybrids that are economically priced.

The most affordable hybrid models for 2023 that are less than $25K are:

  • Toyota Corolla Hybrid $22,800
  • Hyundai Elantra Hybrid $24,500

The Hyundai Ioniq model also could be less than $25K, however the price of the 2023 model was not yet announced.

What are the Most Fuel Efficient Non-Hybrid Cars?

College students who need a car that can drive hundreds of miles on a tank of gas might not have the budget for a hybrid. There are many affordable standard vehicles that can get more than 35 MPG. The most fuel-efficient non-hybrids are:

Again, the Accent will not be available for the 2023 model year. Those who want to purchase this model might need to act fast. However, the 2023 Rio and the 2023 Mirage also are priced in the $16K range. These two vehicles could be among the most affordable options as both the Spark and the Accent are not long going to be produced.

Cars for Students

What are the Safest Cars for College Students?

Safety features of models might be an important consideration to drivers who don’t have many years of experience on the road. College and high school students can research the safety rating of any model by visiting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) websites. Both offer an easy search query tool to access safety reports and ratings. Just enter the make and model of the vehicle (and the model year) to retrieve information.

The IIHS designates the safest vehicles with the Top Safety Pick+ rating/award. This designation is noted at the top of the vehicle’s safety report / crash test data. The NHTSA uses a star-based safety rating system to denote safety; the safest vehicles are those that receive a five-star rating.

Top Safety Pick+ vehicles included more than 90 different models for the 2022 model year. However, the list of vehicles that received a five-star rating from the NHTSA was far less extensive.

Students can review these lists to better understand which cars are noted as the safest. Then they can focus on the models that fit in their shopping budget.

Which Cars are the Most Dependable?

A reliable car won’t leave the owner visiting the mechanic multiple times per month. As a vehicle ages, wear and tear accrues. Some vehicles can handle the added mileage and wear better than others. Which cars are known as the most dependable?

J.D. Power releases its list of vehicles that are named the most dependable in their category, and the winners are models that are three years old. Reliability and dependability data is based on the scores of tens of thousands of vehicle owners related to their three-year old vehicle; owners assess their scores based on the previous 12 months.

Students can review the list of winners for each year. They can even look back at the scores and winners from previous years. This data might help them find models that seem to have a reputation as the most dependable.

In addition, iSeeCars also researched which vehicles are considered the longest-lasting; this was based on the percent of models that could hit 200K miles on the odometer. The longest-lasting vehicles were found to be:

  • Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Toyota Sequoia
  • Chevrolet Suburban
  • GMC Yukon XL
  • Toyota 4Runner

These models are all large SUVs. The starting prices for these vehicles might be out of the range that students are willing to pay for a new car. In addition, their large size might make them more difficult to navigate for less experienced drivers.

Cars for Students

Used Options for Students

Students who have a tighter budget for a new car also could decide to focus their search on the used market. Since the average sales price of a new car is now more than $48K, the used market could be the best place to find more vehicles on a budget.

For example, a young college student might not be able to afford a new SUV model, but they could find an affordable used small SUV. Hybrids also could be less expensive when shopping.

The used inventory varies per market. The prices also could vary, too. Students shopping for used vehicles will find that the prices are influenced by the following factors:

  • Make/Model
  • Age
  • Condition
  • Mileage

If students have a tight budget, they might need to make concessions on one of these factors. They might opt for an older vehicle or maybe choose a less expensive make/model.

Shopping for used cars also could lead buyers to wonder about the vehicle’s history; after all, someone drove the car before it went on the market. To better understand a vehicle’s history, buyers can request a Carfax. This report shows buyers the number of previous owners, any prior accidents and additional info.

Students also can ask to have a third-party inspect the vehicle before buying it. This inspection can help buyers uncover any issues that could be costly repairs in the future.

Taking a test drive of the vehicle also can help buyers understand how the car drives. The test drive also helps buyers find out if they like driving the car.

What is the Best Car for Students?

There are many different new models available for 2022 and 2023 that could be great options for high school and college students. The budget could drive the purchase decision, though. Before shopping for a vehicle, students should determine how much they can spend for their vehicle.

Some parents are willing to help their child purchase a vehicle. However, some students are on the hook for the full cost of the car. Experts recommend spending less than 10 percent of monthly take-home income on a car payment. Some students, though, might have saved money to purchase a car in full and don’t have to worry about financing.

The best car for students also could be a model that’s fuel efficient. There are many standard vehicles that can get more than 35 MPG. However, hybrid models are the most fuel-efficient vehicles available. Many can get more than 50 MPG.

Safety also is an important consideration. Students can research the safety ratings of the cars they are considering by visiting either the IIHS or the NHTSA website. Search by the make/model/year to find safety data and crash test scores.

The best car for students might be the model that fits their budget and that is best suited for their driving habits. However, some buyers perceive a vehicle to be a reflection of the driver, and students might choose a model that fits their personal style or personality, too.

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