How to Choose The Best Car for College Students

Their senior year of high school zipped by with college applications, photos, and graduation. Now it’s time to find a car to take to college. Even if your student has access to on-campus transportation, some students need cars to get to off-campus jobs or to travel back and forth each semester. There are a lot of considerations to make before purchasing, so here are a few tips to help guide you.

Research the weather in the college city

They may only be there for four years, but it makes sense to narrow down your car search with the driving conditions in mind. For example, you wouldn’t purchase a convertible with a soft-top for a city known for epic snowstorms.

Weather isn’t exactly the same year to year, but researching the normal precipitation and driving conditions of their new temporary home is a good place to start. Avoid the temptation to purchase a four-wheel drive truck for icy conditions, as the unweighted rear causes many young, inexperienced drivers to be overconfident. If your student lives in a city with frequent snowfall, a front-wheel-drive compact or a midsize sedan like a Ford Fiesta with good tires is a better bet.

Student parking is almost always outdoors, so buy with potential weather-related damage in mind. Look for a practical model with an intact undercarriage that can withstand the de-icing salt spread in icy conditions without degrading, as it’s unlikely your student will have easy access to cleaning equipment.

Consider the route driven home from school

First-year college students often struggle to adjust to their new living conditions and head home more often than you think they should. Even those who adapt quickly will make the drive back home each semester.  

A small compact or subcompact car is an inexpensive way to get around town and gets great fuel economy, but make sure it’s safe enough to make the drive home. If your student is battling high-speed, dangerous interstate highways on the trip, consider a sturdier midsize vehicle with a “Top Safety Pick” designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.The rating ensures advanced safety features like auto-braking systems and acceptable crash test results. A midsize car with safety features will be big enough to haul all of their possessions safely to and from school, but small enough to park on campus easily.

Don’t forget reliability and dependable condition

Safety and economy are important features, but the single most important thing is dependability. It’s not safe or economical if a car breaks down and leaves you stranded roadside.Look for a car in good condition with better-than-average reliability ratings. Review the service schedule before sending your child off to college and mark key dates on a shared calendar.

You don’t want to spend too much on a car, but you also can’t have it breaking down in another city. A cool car that won’t break the bank is a 2008-2010 Ford Mustang, and you can always find a dependable Ford dealership for excellent service and repair. This classic car balances iconic style and fun rear-wheel driving experience with easy to manage repair, maintenance, and slow depreciation.

Each college experience has unique requirements

Although many colleges are quick to assure you that no one needs a car on their campus, a college experience often isn’t complete without wheels. Start your search for a new student car with a focus on reliability and safety. Figure out what you can afford, including the ongoing cost of ownership. Then determine how you’ll meet the weather requirements of the new location without breaking the bank. The last thing to consider is how it looks, and any bells and whistles that aren’t safety related. Once you find a vehicle that intersects all of these qualities, strike the best bargain possible.

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