By on August 18, 2009

KBB is ever-so-sensible. Here’s their “top ten back to school cars:” 2010 Kia Soul, 2010 Mazda3, 2009 Ford Focus, 2007 Suzuki SX4, 2006 Honda Civic, 2005 Chevrolet Silverado. Wait! That’s only six! I’ve got to click from the press release to the website to get the last four? The suspense is killing me/you/no one . . . 2009 Nissan Cube, 2007 Suzuki SX4, 2005 Ford Escape, 2009 Honda Fit, 2005 Scion xB. So how did kbb pick their winners? They like them! Mind you, “Every new car listed on this year’s Back-to-School list features New Car Blue Book Values that start at under $18,000. Every used car identified has a Kelley Blue Book Suggested Retail Value of less than $12,000.” I guess they never heard of Beverly Hills 90210. Or college kids with a grand in the hand. So it’s time for YOU to pick TTAC’s top ten “back to school” cars, price no object, on either end of the spectrum. UPDATE: Wow! You guys are a serious-minded bunch. Here are some of your wilder choices and some of mine. Tell me what should stay and what should go (in its place), and why. Or not. Either way, thanks for the help.

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72 Comments on “TTAC’s Top Ten Back to School Cars...”


  • avatar
    findude

    Give the kid your old car and buy the “back to school” special for yourself.

  • avatar
    mattb

    Corvette ZR1

  • avatar
    menno

    Low end cars for those college kids who haven’t been born with a silver spoon in their mouths/nor have their parents (stream of consciousness random but logical, one hopes):

    Consideration one: low resale value cars rule
    Consideration two: reliability rocks (college is hyper expensive and breakdowns “suck” money better used elsewhere)
    Consideration three: want some luggage space (for “stuff” including clothes which have been dirty for weeks, stuffed into the car for “mom” to wash on the occasional trip home for money)
    Consideration four: good gas mileage (in case gas goes up to $4.25 a damn gallon, again)
    Consideration five: cars somewhat invisible to cops (just in case)
    Consideration six: relatively safe / crashworth (hey, a bad day above ground level beats a sunny day 6′ under any time)

    1. Geo/Chevrolet Prizm. Reliable, cheaper than the nearly identical corresponding Toyota Corolla, just roomy enough…

    2. Suzuki Esteem/later Aerio. Reliable, option of all wheel drive on Aerios.

    3. Daewoo Nubira. Just make sure the cam-belt is changed already if the car has over 70,000 miles. Super-cheap to buy; orphan (but parts are still available/the descendent was sold as a Suzuki Forenza).

    4. Hyundai Sonata. Especially from about 2002 to 2005; these are reliable, inexpensive and have the dubious distinction of very slightly looking like a Jaguar sedan (if you squint/are high/drunk, in which case you should just look, not drive) – especially fetching/ersatz Brit look in burgundy red with the factory alloys (i.e. the car actually looks classy enough to non-car guy eyes). The V6 sounds pretty Alfa like/good when revving, doesn’t do badly with MPG’s.

    5. Mitsubishi Galant. Boring, but pretty good and cheap on the used market. Pretty reliable. The four cylinder cars are more reliable and econmical and cheaper to buy than the overpowered V6’s.

    6. Buick LeSabre (3.8/V6). Extremely boring, with known “issues” (coil packs, for one) but reasonably reliable and surprisingly economical for the size – which is huge inside. Try to find one last driven carefully by a granny (ok that’d be about 70% of them…) If you have farm country near you, go out and look for one for sale in front of a farmhouse. Cheaper than buying from a dealer.

    7. Isuzu minivan. It’s really a Honda, if found, can be found cheap (“orphan”). Lots of room, pretty reliable. Good for those road-trips to Florida (spring break) – gives you a place to crash if you don’t have a buddy with grandparents and don’t want to sleep on the beach. Invisible (to cops) when driven like a minivan (not hooned).

    8. Mercury Villager minivan. It’s really a Nissan, pretty commonly available cheap. Lots of room, pretty reliable. Nissan Quest versions don’t cost a ton extra, if any; not the norm for dual-badged vehicles. See Isuzu minivan.

    9. 1980’s or early 1990’s GM E-cars (Riviera, Toronado). Skip any with the 4100 V8 (absolute drek) or diesel V8, but 307-V8 cars are reliable, front wheel drive, unique, reasonable good given their limitations. Can be had CHEAP, especially ex-diesel cars with engine transplants.

    10. 1980’s or 1990’s Ford Panther cars (best: Mercury Grand Marquis, since so many Ford Crown Victorias were cop cars and abused, or taxicabs and abused even more). Avoid the Lincoln Town Car as excessively complex/liable to have something break which is expensive (i.e. air suspension).

  • avatar

    What the best back to school car is depends on where you’re going back to school and what kind of school. A high school junior to school in Itta Bena, Mississippi would certainly have a different idea of what would be the “best” vehicle from someone attending an ivy-league university. I agree with findude. Give your the kid your clunker, then buy the new ZR1 for yourself.

  • avatar

    Any V8, RWD domestic grandpa sedan of the last 25 years (e.g. Grand Marquis, Caprice, Diplomat). Cheap to buy, cheap to insure, cheap to repair, runs forever. Not cheap at gas pump, of course, but nothing’s perfect…

  • avatar
    Old Guy Ben

    Humvee. Not a Hummer, but an honest-to-God may have been shot at in the desert Humvee.

    Because SOMEONE has to rule the university parking garage, that’s why.

  • avatar
    bodyonframe

    Well, I guess this will be part of the “truth” section. I’m graduating Eastern Mich. Univ. this Dec. and here’s the list of cars I’ve had from freshman to now: 1982 Pontiac Firebird (still have it, cost $1750 but required much more work) 1988 Ford F-150 (don’t have it anymore, but it lasted from freshman yr. to jr. year and only cost $875, probably the best buy I made) 1992 Ford Explorer 4wd (this thing I only had for soph. yr. before selling, complete POS cost $1600). 2006 Ford F-150 4wd (leased for 2 years and turn in, great truck but the payments sucked) and finally the current sled a 1996 Ford Explorer 4wd that I payed $2000 for a year ago, it’s had some minor issues but the drivetrain has been bulletproof. Anyway, you asked for back to school cars, and here they are, 5 vehicles that have all been driven back and forth to a school in reality land, hangtag, parking garages and all. They don’t really match KBBs description but hey, I guess I’m not as sensible as they are (or rich).

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    1987 Nissan Stanza.

    That was my first college car so it should be their first car also dammit!!!

  • avatar
    alfred p. sloan

    Money an object $1000 price limit:
    1.1978 Ford E150 6 CYL
    (Money left for beer)
    2.1981 Plymouth Reliant Sedan
    3.1989 Honda Civic 3-Door
    4.1990 Nissan Sentra 4 Door
    5.1986 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport (what the hell)
    6.1992 Dodge Grand Caravan
    7.1984 Nissan Pickup
    8.1995 Kia Sephia
    9.1986 Civic Si 3 Door
    10.1980 Plymouth Fire Arrow

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    If the kid lives within walking distance from campus a preowned BMW.

  • avatar
    ajla-

    1. 1984 GMC Vandura. These are cheap and hold tons of stuff, which can be a big help when moving in and out. Plus you can give it a rattle-can black paint job, paint the rims red, and suddenly you have an A-team van! Your nickname can be Mr.T! Awesome!

    2. 1972 AMC Gremlin. Because kids love irony.

    3. Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. Driving up to a fraternity party in a police car and making all the pot smokers and under-21 party goers scatter into the woods is lots of fun.

    4. Smart ForTwo. It is easy to park around town. Also trendy and European.

    5. 2007 Buick Lucerne. Keep rowdy visitors in-line by telling them they have to “be cool” because your grandma is visiting you. “Didn’t you see the Buick out front?”

    6. 2000 Honda Insight. It’s a vehicle that shows you still care about the environment, but isn’t as mainstream as the Prius.

    7. 2000 Dodge Ram 3500 4×4 8.0L V10. Because you want to show that pansy across campus with the 2000 Insight that just because you get 5MPG doesn’t mean you can’t tow his house 100 miles away. Pickup beds can also be useful.

    8. 2009 Mini Cooper. *squeal* Because omigod it’s so cute!

    9. 1984 Volvo 240. Score points with professors by having the same car that they do.

    10. Vespa Scooter Stupid pending DUI charges…

  • avatar
    05gt

    I dont understand why do all of the “back to school” cars always have to be brand new? What college (much less highschool) kid has 10k+ on a brand new car? I nominate any late 90s sedans like the Ford Contour or Dodge Stratus or Toyota Camry. They can pretty much be bought with the summer job savings and insured for very cheap, and can pretty much carry 4 friends in comfort. Not to mention they arent gas guzzlers.

  • avatar
    thanh_n

    i’d recommend a late ’90s honda civic due to it’s affordability and reliability.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Most of the cars on my list are the “clunkers” being summarily morted thanks to congress. Too bad because a) it costs way too much to insure under-25 year olds on new or nearly new cars, and b) new cars become clunkers, anyway, very quickly when exposed to the perilous combination of neglectful young drivers and university (or high school) parking lots. And having two (19 & 16) that fall into this category, I’m acutely aware of how this works.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    ajla – thank you. I needed the laugh!

    I wonder if a smart fourtwo will fit in the dormroom?

    Does the van have the worn out mattress in back? That combined with mood lighting = SCORE!

    I actually knew someone at college that had a jacked-up Super Duty pickup. Gas damn near drove him broke…but at least it was always covered in mud and the remains of any Geo Metros that got too close.

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    Top Ten under $3k on Cars.com: (not in order)
    Corolla/Prism, Cavalier/Sunfire, Sentra, LeSabre, Grand Am, SL2/SC, Neon, Accent, Caravan/Voyager, Taurus.

    Bottom Ten under $3k on Cars.com: (not in order) Nubria (part avail), Breeze (electrical), Malibu/Cutlass (gremlins), 626 (trany), 3series (part costs), Explorer (too tall), Blazer (diff), Maxima (induction), Cadillac (oil leaks), Jetta (oil leaks).

    Top ten metrics: cheap to buy, fix, insure, and operate, either small so less friends or big and boring for hauling college shit, part availability in recycler yards, likely hood of being beaten, and so on.

  • avatar
    AKM

    If the list is “what car would you give your kid when he/she goes to college”, the answer is: a hands-me-down car, preferably pretty slow and full of airbags. A hatch would be a plus. My VW golf would qualify, so would a used Volvo, or a Ford panther platform car (no hatch, but the trunk is gigantic).
    Corvette ZR1 only if I want the kid to pass away before I do…

  • avatar
    twotone

    Back-to-school used cars should be $3 – $5k, anything less may cost more to keep running, anything more is a waste of money. In no particular order:

    Honda Civic/Accord
    Subaru Legacy/Outback/Forester
    Mazda
    Nissan Maxima/Sentra
    Toyota
    Hyundai Sonata
    Ford Contour/Escort

  • avatar
    slateslate

    encourage your kid to be a moocher, lol.

    there’s always at least one kid who’s willing to be the doormat and serve as the designated driver for everyone he/she knows.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    jdizzle:
    Any V8, RWD.

    FIXED!

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Live in the dorm and get someone else to drive.

    In college, I was that “someone else”, driving 8- to 11-year-old cars.

    Today? Get a used Hyundai, but a used Chrysler will be the cheapest ride.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    Any TJ Wrangler. Pick the model year & drivetrain to fit your budget!

    Convertible, can haul your shit in a trailer, good in the snow, easy to park, what’s not to like?

    Plus, you’re too young and foolish to care about NVH, and you won’t be driving often enough to care about fuel economy.

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    Any Pre-1995 Volvo looks right at home on a college campus.

    Added Bonus: Late night, drunken, car-meets-tree episodes will be survivable.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Ford F150 or full-size Bronco (or Chevy/Dodge equivalents). Old, preferably 2-door, 2wd because they’re cheaper and less to break or 4×4 because they’re more common, doesn’t matter. Smaller V8 or even V6/I6.

    The small commuter/sub-compact cars only work if the kid is living at home and commuting to school. Any parent wants their kid to maximize their success in life and therefore should kick their kids at least further than drop-in distance. They’ll need to haul stuff to school and home again for the summer and won’t be driving around much during the semester. Bonus points for reg cab trucks because that limits passengers and therefore limits externally-influenced trouble.

  • avatar
    walksatnight

    Send the kid off in one of those vicious looking Dodge Magnum’s.

    If I recall correctly there was an AWD drive version, there should be plenty of room to haul crap around in and by now the depreciation should have dropped the price on ’em nicely.

  • avatar
    Monty

    What exactly are the metrics here? I ask because I live in the Great White North, and a college student here is going to have a completely different set of wants and needs compared to a college student in say, North Carolina.

    Here, you need reliable starting (try starting a Fiat 128 in -40F cold for a quick lesson in frustration!), durability (again with the -40F) and cheap to buy and repair (because insurance costs will eat up the difference). It also needs a really good HVAC system (again with the -40F, and also the +105F in the summer on occasion) and plenty of rrom to haul stuff and friends, and friends stuff, and beer and etc.

    In my part of the continent I nominate the following (older vintages only):

    -Grand Marquis/Crown Vic

    -Tahoe

    -Cherokee

    -F150 (club cab only)prefereably with the 300 cid I6

    -Suburban

  • avatar
    don1967

    ’86 Lada Samara. Three reasons.

    1. It’s affordable to buy, but requires a lot of effort to keep running. A good lesson in life.

    2. It provides protection against Professor Elbowpatches’ political brainwashing. No kid who must drive a Lada will ever believe a word of that hardcore socialist crap.

    3. It keeps little Timmy focused on his studies, by preventing him from ever having sex.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    I’d say ’01-’05 Civic. It’s reasonably inexpensive, takes a beating, and will last forever with little maintenance. Good fuel mileage and decent insurance rates (on sedans) are nice bonuses.

  • avatar

    Nice cars for students. The real answer for those of us who needed to pay our own bills was of course whatever used car that could be bought cheaply and wasn’t in terrible shape.

  • avatar
    Old Guy Ben

    I survived four years with a used Datsun B-210. It held all my laundry and yes, you can also have sex in the back (assuming you are semi-flexible).

    If you needed to haul stuff, at least half of your friends will have full size pickups or SUV’s. The ones that are always bumming rides places because “your car gets better mileage,” so they owe you a favor when it’s time to move your junk out of the dorm for the summer.

  • avatar
    colin42

    I wish I had $18000 to by a car (and I’ve been graduated from college for 7 years!)

  • avatar
    midelectric

    1986 Olds Cutlass Supreme with a V8. 2 doors, adequately sized yet sufficiently obscured back seat, simple as dirt yet capable of donuts, low insurance and invisible to cops. Plus, 1986 was the first year of the CMHSL, hence far safer than those deathtrap CMHSL-lacking older models.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    Give the little scion a Royal Enfield. It will teach him or her the virtues of patience and advance planning (i.e., how can I maintain enough momentum to get this thing up that next hill?). Do not give him or her a Scion. Those are grandmother cars, much to Toyota’s chagrin.

  • avatar
    brapoza

    What a country. Times have changed. My first college car way back in 1966 was a $300, 1959 Ford Custom. A black,four door,stick six, stripper with no radio and recap tires. I drove it back and forth from Louisville, KY to Warwick, RI several times on vacation. In the winter.

  • avatar
    lowmanjoe

    A compact pickup is all a student really needs, my ride was a 86 Datsun/Nissan 720 King Cab Pickup 2WD 5-speed with the Z24 4-banger. Great reliabilty and durabilty (caught some air in it many times!), reasonable fuel economy (I saw as high as 30mpg hwy), easy maintenance, and cheap. I had a hand-me-down ST with power everything, sunroof and mag wheels. Practical as hell too, can easily get all of your stuff into the bed for the inevitable “I hate my roommate and am moving out” scenario. Not fast by any stretch, can barely do 80 flat out, but not dangerously slow thanks to its adequate torque. Fairly low to the ground for a pickup so you don’t have to worry too much about rollovers. Trust me, it takes a LOT to roll one of these provided you don’t understeer into a utility pole first ;) No glamour (or seating room) means that your kids’ friends won’t want a ride anywhere. Back seat is useful for keeping groceries dry and not much else. If you’re the student worried about how tiny the rear seats are, put on a canopy with tinted windows for some quality back seat action (mattress not included). To this day I wish I still hadn’t wrecked it, farmer I sold the remains to fixed it up and replaced the radiator and is probably still using it now five years later.

  • avatar
    nikita

    VW microbus, incredibly slow, but economical, tracks well in snow and can hold a lot of stuff.

  • avatar
    black turbo

    I’ll be going to school 200 miles from home in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be driving a ’92 Saab 9000. No turbo, 5-speed hatchback. The seats fold flat, I’ll get 30mpg on the highway, and insurance is pretty cheap. And I only paid $1200 for it about a month ago.

  • avatar
    John R

    $3k-5k is agreeable also.

    2000-2004 Civic

    2000-2004 Accord (V6 Accord coupe of the same vintage if you want to treat your kid)

    2002-2005 Altima

    1st gen Mazda6

    1st gen Mazda3 (hatchback preferably)

  • avatar
    threeer

    @ Alfred: Bonus points for mentioning the Fire Arrow…just try finding one these days (I’ve owned two Arrows, and my best friend actually had a 1979 Fire Arrow…man, was I jealous!). As for a good college car, I am also of the mind that giving an 18-year old ANY car approaching $18,000 requires that the parent go back to school and learn something about economics! I’d pull for a late 90’s Honda Civic to start with. An older Accord would work, as well. A Geo Prizm/Toyota Corolla would be reliable and frugal. After that, maybe a Panther platform (Crown Vic/Grand Marquis)…a bit bigger, but also plod dull and usually reliable.

    And agreed, I probably wouldn’t spend much more than $3-5k for a beater college car. Lucky for me, my son attends the US Air Force Academy and can’t have his car right now, anyway (which, BTW, is a 1997 Toyota Tercel which I now drive).

  • avatar
    ckb

    My former beater: 1992 Volvo 740 turbo wagon. Virtually indestructable and can move an entire dorm room in one trip. Got mine for $1000. Of course it failed MD’s state inspection but thats all the more reason to get your parents to send you out of state!

  • avatar
    V6

    90’s maxima/camry v6

  • avatar
    gslippy

    +1 don1967!

    Hey talkstoanimals, I moved up to a Scion! :)

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Very timely.

    I just bought my own back-to-school car (with my own money, no less!). Since my previous car, a 2002 Diamante, was totalled.

    It is…

    get ready…

    One-owner (!), 1995 Infiniti G20 Luxury. 200,664 mi when the title was signed to me. Every single maint. record since new. Found it on Craigslist. What did I pay? $1400.

  • avatar
    ChristyGarwood

    I remember several weeks ago talking about the same thing, but okay.

    A hand me down but it depends on how far they will travel and how often.

    Our kid happens to get a 2003 Saab 9-5 2.3t with over 100K miles – it is what hubby drove for four years, bought new with a GM employee discount, mine. Sonny boy will only be 50 miles from home and not driving much. (Saab head/ tail lamps burn out often and this one needed a new fuel pump at 75K miles, but otherwise, this has been a reliable vehicle)

    I also had a hand me down, but I was driving 300 miles every six weeks, for five years, long before there was road side assistance, cell phones, through lots of snowbelts in fall-winter-spring. My dad put me in a year old, 1975 Chevy Nova, 4-40 A/C (manual roll down windows going 40 mph), black vinyl interior, no radio (I paid to install an eight track for those that remember). It was an auto trans but manual steering. If I accelerated through a turn like my older bro taught me, it felt like power steering. Dad paid for the car and insurance, I paid my tuition and living expenses at school. I kept that Nova until 1986 and then parked it in southern Indiana, where it was used by my brothers to teach our nephews how to drive in the early 1990’s. It was never much trouble except when condensation froze in the cat converter (too many short trips in below freezing temps)- an old German mechanic figured it out, drilled a tiny hole in the CC, charged me $30 ($50 in today’s $$) and sent me on my way.

    @bodyonframe – my son starts at EMich this year, any tips? And congrats on finishing.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I’ll give my list of college cars I wanted when I was in school in the early 90’s:

    Nissan 300ZX Turbo, Dodge Stealth R/T, Chevy Corvette, Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra Turbo, Cadillac Seville STS, Mercedes 300E, Acura NSX, Hummer, and GMC Typhoon.

    Instead, I made due with a 84 Hyundai Pony and 76 Pontiac Grand Prix. How humiliating. Ironically, I miss those cars.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    College was a period in life when people moved house every semester and tried to fit 7 people in a Civic coupe because well, not everyone had a car (we got caught with 7 in the Civic – one in the trunk – and the driver got an unbelted passenger ticket after a thorough search for drugs or alcohol). Therefore a wagon was best, even if it was an old Saturn. Oh, and it should be stickshift because otherwise too many people will want to borrow it.

    Safety and reliability, the usual favorites, aren’t so important because the car probably isn’t a daily driver.

  • avatar

    WaftableTorque – Hyundai Ponys are great if equipped with a manual gearbox. Rear wheel drive hatch that is dead simple to repair. Shame they rusted so badly.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    A Volvo wagon when Volvo was smart/dumb enough to make them with 3 pedals.

  • avatar
    twotone

    “colin42 :
    August 18th, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    I wish I had $18000 to by a car (and I’ve been graduated from college for 7 years!)”

    English major?

    Twotone

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    For booze cruises around campus nothing beats the Centurion four door Ford Bronco:

    http://www.supermotors.net/getfile/304395/original/dsc00623.jpg

  • avatar
    ajla-

    @RF:

    Slightly off-topic, but I see that one of your choices for the gallery is a Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3.

    I’ve been reading TTAC for awhile now and that seems to be your favorite car. I would guess with your connections you could find one in decent shape for under $40K pretty fast. Or, in “running” shape for under $15K if that’s your thing.

    Is there any reason why you don’t own one? Or do you have one and just don’t ever write about it?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    A Volvo 240, 740 or 940 wagon is the perfect back to school car if you can find one in really cherry condition. They are getting harder to find. Avoid the turbos and six cylinder 960s.

  • avatar
    cmus

    that Fire Arrow is awesome. I’d trade my xB for that :)

  • avatar
    stuki

    As long as it has decent crash ratings, front airbags, ABS brakes and stability control, the kids should be OK. Anything rattier (or racier) than that I would not feel comfortable sending them away in.

  • avatar
    threeer

    YES!!!! The Fire Arrow made the list! Bring on the 2.6 liter 4, the 5 speed (with factory standard hand-burning metal shift pattern medallion on the shift knob)…the houndstooth interior…and those crazy side louvers! Man, do I miss my Arrow (both of them)…

  • avatar
    fincar1

    In his junior year, my brother had Pop’s VW bus, a weird one with some kind of a Porsche industrial engine, but the cool thing: it had double doors on both sides, great for parking out in a field for picnics with the doors open. Senior year, 55 Ford pickup, six-stick, with a camper he built himself. That damn thing was heavy; I helped him move it onto his truck.

    My first two years I didn’t have a car. Then last two years I commuted from home in either Pop’s new 61 vw, his 50 Packard, or my 48 Ford 2-door with the built flathead engine; whichever was available and had gas in it….

    My daughter – 10 years ago – brought her red Civic hatchback that she already had used in her senior year in high school. It worked fine for her.

  • avatar
    1600 MKII

    How come I haven’t seen the old stand by…the Ford Taurus? They’re virtually free and last nearly as long as a Camry…

  • avatar
    bodyonframe

    @ChristyGarwood – it’s a good school, but they keep bumping the tuition up a bit every year(quietly though – 3 or 4 percent a year), which isn’t cool. Otherwise I’m sure he will have fun there, and the Saab should work well for him, but good luck with parking, it can really be a pain for resident or commuter. Hope he has fun and if he’s lucky they’ll field a better football team for him than me. Go Eagles!

  • avatar
    Sam P

    My school cars (graduated from high school in 2000, from undergraduate in 2004 with a degree in a finance-related field, and with my master’s degree in 2009) have been:

    High school. Anything I could borrow from the parents (Saab 900, Volvo 740 Turbo, but mainly I got stuck with the 3rd car – 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera wagon). Beggars can’t be choosers.

    College. I went to college in a large city (600,000 population in metro area of 3+ million. First two years of undergrad, I had a bus pass and lived in the dorms. It worked great – and if I needed to use a car, I hit a friend with a car up.

    In my junior year of college, I began using the Volvo 740 Turbo (now my parents’ 3rd car). Reasonably good fuel consumption, great power, and it was fairly reliable. The worst thing that happened to me was that an alternator belt snapped. Got that fixed at the local Volvo dealer for a reasonable (surprisingly) price.

    I have no idea why college kids think they need really awesome wheels, even if they’re enthusiastic petrolheads like yours truly. I got along great with a paid off and well maintained 15 year old Volvo.

    Now I have a Subaru Outback with a 5 speed manual transmission (purchased used when I got my first real job, shortly after I graduated from college). I drove it through grad school. May replace it with an 05+ Subaru Legacy GT (2.5 liter turbo, 5MT) or a used Infiniti G35x in a couple years.

  • avatar
    B-Rad

    I’m getting ready to start my second year at THE Ohio State University and I looked around for a decent Volvo but I couldn’t find what I wanted in my price range (I wanted a third row, manual, no turbo, and a few other smaller things). I was probably being too picky but either way I’m just going to buy the 1998 Grand Prix out of my dad’s fleet for more than 50% off KBB. It’s a screaming deal for a well-kept, decent vehicle and, thus, hard to pass up.

  • avatar
    crush157

    @ ajla-

    Here ya go for the mercedes:

    ’86 Merc 560SEL $3800
    http://www.cars.com/go/search/detail.jsp?tracktype=usedcc&csDlId=&csDgId=&listingId=29111423&listingRecNum=6&criteria=prMx%3D4000%26sf1Dir%3DDESC%26prMn%3D0%26mkId%3D20028%26stkTyp%3DU%26rd%3D30%26crSrtFlds%3DstkTypId-feedSegId-mkId-pseudoPrice%26zc%3D60134%26rn%3D0%26PMmt%3D1-0-0%26stkTypId%3D28881%26sf2Dir%3DASC%26sf1Nm%3Dprice%26sf2Nm%3Dmiles%26alMkId%3D20028%26rpp%3D50%26feedSegId%3D28705&aff=national

    ’88 Merc 560SEL $2988
    http://www.cars.com/go/search/detail.jsp?tracktype=usedcc&csDlId=&csDgId=&listingId=26098661&listingRecNum=13&criteria=prMx%3D4000%26sf1Dir%3DDESC%26prMn%3D0%26mkId%3D20028%26stkTyp%3DU%26rd%3D30%26crSrtFlds%3DstkTypId-feedSegId-mkId-pseudoPrice%26zc%3D60134%26rn%3D0%26PMmt%3D1-0-0%26stkTypId%3D28881%26sf2Dir%3DASC%26sf1Nm%3Dprice%26sf2Nm%3Dmiles%26alMkId%3D20028%26rpp%3D50%26feedSegId%3D28705&aff=national

    Stylish, a tank, and un-affordable to go very far…. Doubles as the “extra room” when your room-mate has the sign up for “DND”.

    P.S. Don’t buy these as I need them as winter drivers….

  • avatar
    N85523

    A guy at my alma mater, the University of Wyoming, a freshman showed up in a flat-bed Deuce-and-a-half with a Jeep strapped to the bed.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    KalapanaBlack :

    Welcome to the G20 family. Enjoy.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Given how much my oldest son needed to avail himself our our health insurance while he was in college, my wife and I considered a 1979 Dodge Ambulance. He went to boot camp and never got a scratch.

    I do like the Lada samara for three reasons. 1) It was a hand me down car when it rolled off the assemblyline making it a purpose built school car. 2) It disproves the efficacy of communism in a way that no college sociology prof can refute. 3) It’ll run like crap longer than a lot of cars will run well-this builds character in the driver (ah, Solex carburetors).

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Miata, anyone?

    Or perhaps a Maserati BiTurbo?

    A friend of mine in high school had an 86 Jaguar XJ-S his parents bought him for about the cost of a mid-range computer back in 1999. It taught him invaluable lessons in value.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    well first i agree with the first post, hand him down the old jelopy (if it applies) and get yourself a new one. but if the old jelopy is a brand new 911 GT2 or anything higher in price than a Jetta these are my choices:

    -Toyota Urban Cruiser
    -VW Polo, Beetle, Golf
    -any type of minivan if he’s got a lot of stoned friends to haul around
    -Volvo C30, S40, XC60 (if you are worried)
    -Any American, American built car (to stimulate national economy)
    -a buss pass
    -the local car pool club
    -a bycycle
    -oh and the classic pick up, preferably American brand
    -Dacia Sandero (i know it’s not available in the US, but that’s what i would go for for sure)

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    I think the only “vehicle” I want to impart on my son is the “drive” to earn enough money to buy his own vehicle. (Of course I’d co-sign for his first.) He’d definitely go further in life with that than any car I could just hand over to him.

    However, if he inherits my taste in vehicles (and occasional violent tendencies) I might have to bail him out of jail after he beats the living f*ck out of the first guy that calls his vehicle “white trash” or whatever stereotypes American cars will be associated with in the future.

    Money well spent though.

  • avatar
    findude

    @carlisimo

    . . . it should be stickshift because otherwise too many people will want to borrow it.

    Very true. Most people in the USA under 50 (seriously, I mean a majority) do not know how to use a manual transmission. It’s even more true with the younger generation–it’s pretty much only the Miata/S2000 and small pickup (Ranger, S10) crowd that has any idea about stickshift.

    I recall that fewer than 5% of the vehicles sold in the USA, including trucks, have manual transmissions.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    My son got and 86 528e with about 175k miles on it. Battered but damn reliable, good on gas,reasonably safe.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    Hell, I’m 9 years removed from college and some of the cars being discussed here really appeal to me as 3rd/weekend/WTF/beater cars. I’d love a regular cab Ranger or Mazda B series to haul stuff to the dump, trips to Home Depot etc.

    Another thing to think about– my oldest kid is 5 right now, so conceivably, my next new car purcahse (pretty soon) will most likely be his first “hand-me-down” car.

  • avatar
    WildBill

    1966 Plymouth Belvedere II sedan. Worked for me it’ll work for today’s snot noses!

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    College kids need cheap and durable.
    Crown Vic/Grand Marquis
    Taurus
    Buick Century (or an old Cutlass Ciera)
    An old Accord/Civic/Camry/Corolls is good but more expensive.
    If looking for something a little older/more unique, can’t beat an old Valiant/Dart with a slant 6 and a Torqueflite. If you can find one not from the rustbelt, they are simple and nearly indestructable. Good ventilation system, so you won’t need a/c, either. (yes, I had one of these in college, so I know firsthand.)

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