The 5 Best Cars for 5 Types of College Students

The 5 Best Cars for 5 Types of College Students

You're young and it's time to claim your independence. The perfect way to do that is by getting behind the wheel and driving off in your own car. To help you narrow down your seemingly unending list of choices, here are five of the best cars for college students—depending on your specific college student personality.

Take note, we’ve only included cars that are affordable on a student budget. This means they cost less than $20,000 for a new 2018 model and typically don’t require frequent repairs on used models. Also, we want you to stay safe, so we’ve only listed cars with high safety ratings.  

1- For the Social Student, Buy a Mazda CX-3

The Mazda CX-3 has excellent safety credentials, but this “critics’ favorite” also has awesome and engaging performance since it handles like a smaller car. If you’re a social butterfly that likes to zip your friends from study sessions to fabulous festivities, this may be the car for you.

red mazda cx 3


  • MSRP: $19,960
  • MPG: 29 City / 34 Highway
  • 146hp, 2.0L four cylinder engine


What the Expert Says:

“The CX-3 relies on its sport-tuned suspension and creative weight-saving measures to maintain Mazda’s unique brand of driving pleasure. The cabin is equally well designed, with high-quality materials such as leather and faux suede and modern driving aids.” -Car and Driver

2- For the Global Student, See the Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 has style and sexiness down to a science. The unmistakable Italian exterior draws you in (and turns heads), but the surprisingly spacious interior keeps students wanting to stay in the driver’s seat even over cobblestones and through the tight turns of university towns.

fiat500 blue


  • MSRP: $15,990
  • MPG: 33 City / 38 Highway
  • 101 hp, 1.5L MultiAir I4 Engine

What the Expert Says:

“In town, the compact 500 is designed to excel. It’s small and easy to see out of, thanks to curved A-pillars that don’t lurk too close to your head. The clutch is light and if you opt for the 0.9-litre two cylinder Twinair (you should) there’s a good wodge of torque and not that much lag.” -Top Gear

3- For the Individualist Student, It’s the New Nissan Kicks

Brand new for 2018, the Nissan Kicks is a crossover that’s big on excitement, both inside and outside the cabin. If you’re bold enough to be the only student on campus who owns this car, here you go.


  • MSRP: $17,990
  • MPG: 31 City / 36 Highway
  • 125 hp, 1.6L MIVEC DOHC engine

What the Expert Says:

“For a vehicle that is self-consciously chasing an ideal of “expressive style,” it doesn’t look that self-conscious. That in mind, this is a very trendy design that may not age well. . . . However, Nissan isn’t chasing buyers looking at their last new-car purchase, but people making their first.” -Car and Driver

4- For the Savvy Student, Try the Toyota Yaris

If you’re the type of student interested in investing in a vehicle that keeps its value and is as reliable as they come, look no further than the Toyota Yaris.


  • MSRP: $15,635
  • MPG: 30 City / 36 Highway
  • 106 hp, 1.5L four cylinder engine

What the Expert Says:

“The Yaris’ small overhangs and standard rearview camera make maneuvering in parking lots and parallel parking a breeze. It’s also one of the few cars in its class to offer the latest in advanced driver safety aids, including lane departure warning, automatic high-beam activation, and forward collision warning and mitigation. Of course, the Yaris is also a hatchback, so you can fit more cargo than you could otherwise in a sedan.” -Edmunds

5- For the Tech-Acute Student, Test Drive the Kia Soul

Whether you’re a computer science major or not, sometimes the more technically advanced car the better . . . especially when it comes to getting a killer infotainment system.


  • MSRP: $16,200
  • MPG: 24 City / 30 Highway
  • 130 hp, 1.6L I4-GDI engine

What the Expert Says:

“With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, your infotainment system will always be as up to date as the latest smartphone. Both systems allow you to access everything on your phone, such as the iPhone’s Apple Music or Android’s Google Maps. . . . The pulsating speaker lights are pure whimsy.” -Kelly Blue Book

Make a Statement

It’s not uncommon for young adult college students to identify with more than one of the above types. That’s okay! Now is the time for you to explore your options and figure out what you really want in life, and that includes which type of car you love to drive. Don’t be afraid to go out there and test drive a variety of makes and models in order to find out what you really love. Now is the time to claim your independence by driving yourself wherever you want, in whatever you want.

If you already have your car but are ready to really make a stronger statement, check out these accessories!

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