Question Of The Day: What Would Be The Best Car For A College Student?

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
question of the day what would be the best car for a college student

Every time you see them, a big smile shines across your face.

Full scholarship. Nice as can be. A good heart. Your wunderkind of a young adult has given you so much over the years and is now on the way to making this world a better place.

You want to help them by getting them some wheels for their new home away from home.

Will you pay for all of it? Pay for a portion of it? It’s a tough call. Decisions like these are never easy. Safe. Fun. Durable. Where can you find all three without spending too much?

You don’t want to spoil them. That’s for sure. But as an auto enthusiast who knows that a great car can be a reward all in itself, you do want them to experience a feeling of joy and satisfaction for their first solitary set of wheels.

Oh, one more thing. They have driven for several years without so much as an accident or a ticket. The big man upstairs says, “You’re welcome!”

So what would you buy? Better yet, should you buy?

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6 of 166 comments
  • Swilliams41 Swilliams41 on Oct 26, 2012

    We bought my son a new GTI after he completed his sophomore year. That was our agreement, also he has to keep his grades above a 3.0 or the car comes home. I notice he doesn't drive it much at school, (in Houston)), probably because the campus is great for walking or cycling. He loves cars and has an appreciation for driving dynamics and assembly etc.. It seems to be a good fit for him. He also keeps it clean and takes it in for maintenance.

  • TheDward TheDward on Oct 26, 2012

    I'm obviously coming from a highly biased position here, because my debut contribution to Curbside Classic is this: I bought my Sable in 2004, which for me was senior year in high school. When I went away to college about 110 miles away, I was living off campus. The car was great for loading up my three roommates for a trip to the grocery store, and the spacious trunk fit everything we bought. The 1996-2007 Taurus/Sable are great choices for several reasons. The Vulcan 3.0-liter V6 is a bit slow, but decent enough for highway trips. It can also get near 30 mpg on the interstate. Pretty much every mechanic can fix these cars no problem. And if you are forced to go to a dealer while away from home (like I did) the Ford techs can pretty much work on them in their sleep. They're also cheap to insure, and can be had for very good prices. Don't forget about bad weather traction either, these things are unstoppable with the right set of tires.

  • RatherhaveaBuick RatherhaveaBuick on Oct 26, 2012

    I am currently a college student with a lot to say on this topic... Now...I go to a community college...and you'd be amazed at what's in the parking lot. It's as if these kids' parents took the money they saved on tuition and used it to buy their kid a shiny new car. -Obscene amount of WRX's. Every kid who has one thinks he has the only one. -GTI or Golf dressed up like a GTI. -Early 00's to new BMWs (its like Bangle city...) -Civics up the ass (obviously) -New Camaros -New Mustang's all of which are loud as hell with great sounding exhausts and hood scoops, driven by douchebags at 50mph from speed bump to speed bump. -C6 Vettes As to be expected, and much to my chagrin, the parking lots are also packed with appliances such as newer Corollas and Accords, but that's a given in that environment, as some other posters have pointed out their efficiency. This is not to say that there aren't lots and lots of other old beater cars all over the place, because there are. Camrys, Bonnevilles, Buicks, Olds', Panthers, Jeeps, molested 90's Lexus', Hyundais, Integeras, and a lot of Volvo's. Some girl has a mint 86' XJ Cherokee, I've seen a kid with a perfect '76 Ford Maverick (if there is such a thing), looked at a nice '84 E30 the other day, and occasionally a few tastefully modified 3rd Gen's roll around. Personally, the best car I think someone my age should have is either a Volvo 240 (VERY trendy in the city amongst 20 somethings) or a car once owned by an elderly person. Nicely maintained, clean, cheap to insure, reliable, durable, and mid-size. Something like a GM A, W or H body. This is why I drive a 93 Buick Regal GS that has never *knock on fake wood grain* let me down. And yes, I paid for it.

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Oct 28, 2012

      +1 on the Volvos, although its getting more difficult to find them in well kept condition (irrespective of miles on the clock). I think Buick is a solid buy for a college student (or really anyone) at least until the '09 MY. Evidently people outside my sphere of life have way too much money... no child deserves a C6 Vette... good way to get your kid killed either by speed, poor road conditions, or carjacking.

  • Qest Qest on Oct 28, 2012

    I don't understand why anyone would put their kid in a RWD car without stipulating advanced driver training. I plan on putting my kids into zero-down leases with gap insurance. When/if they crash/wreck it, my kid will have the protection of a modern car in the crash, and then it'll be the bank's problem. The payment is low enough that the kid can pay part or all of it reasonably easily if that's your thing. Plenty of options starting around $200-250/mo.

    • El scotto El scotto on Oct 28, 2012

      Back in the day "stipulated advanced driver training" was a summer drivers-ed class taught by a high school coach. FWD is not that superior over RWD that advanced driver training is needed. After my kids went through drivers-ed in a FWD automatic, I had to teach them how drive on an 5 speed RWD car. I think the Miata helped.