What Small Cars Are Within the Price Range of College Grads

What Small Cars Are Within the Price Range of College Grads
  • Opening Intro -

    Recent college grads with new job in hand may have a problem on their hands.

    Unless they can take mass transit to work, virtually everyone will need to have access to a car.

    Your college ride may have been sufficient, but after four years of slogging back and forth to campus, your hand me down from Grandma is about through.


Current models offer plenty of value for the money.

Besides, you no doubt realize that a 1999 Buick LeSabre just won’t impress anyone…perhaps it is time for you to shop for a new car?

Equipped, Not Stripped

There is plenty of good news for today’s car shopper, particularly the recent college grad who can’t afford a BMW, but can find a well equipped car for under $20,000, with several models retailing for thousands less, but still offering air-conditioning, an automatic transmission and even a navigation system. Cars are today are better equipped than when you first set off for college and they’ve got many of the safety amenities you want including traction control, side curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes.

The following is our list of some of today’s current affordable favorites, cars that offer maximum value for a minimum price:

Hyundai Elantra — All new for 2011, the Elantra has raised the bar in the compact car segment by offering class leading fuel economy of 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, across all model lines. Whether you choose an Elantra equipped with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, you’ll get the same gas mileage. Moreover, the Elantra is stylish, offers many amenities and optional equipment such as rear heated seats not found in any other cars in this segment. Priced from about $15,000, you can drive a well equipped Elantra for under $19,000. New this fall is the Hyundai Accent, a subcompact that will lead that segment in price.

Chevrolet Cruze — Who would have thunk that Chevrolet would ever have a player in the ultra-competitive compact car segment? After years of Cavalier and Cobalt sales, good as they were for some years, the Cruze demonstrates that GM can build a car that competes well and offers plenty of sedan for the money. A large cabin, excellent fuel economy and five trim levels allows the buyer to choose a car ranging in price from about $16,000 to just over $23,000. Even base trim models are nicely equipped. Choose the optional 1.4-liter turbocharged four paired with a manual transmission and you’ll get 42 mpg highway. New this fall is the Chevy Sonic, a high mileage, low-price subcompact model and successor to the Aveo.

Ford Focus — One of the better styled small cars is the 2012 Focus, a European designed small car that is big on looks, but small on price. This Focus makes the previous generation model look absolutely drab inside and out, a vehicle offering seating for five passengers, 40 mpg highway fuel economy and several technology features including SYNC. Fully equipped, you’ll pay under $20,000 for the Focus.

Ford Fiesta — The Focus occupies the compact car slot, with the Ford Fiesta positioned as a subcompact. Powered by the same 1.6-liter four cylinder engine found in the Focus, the Fiesta is budget pleaser, with a base sticker price of under $15,000. You get 10 airbags, 40 mpg highway and your choice of hatchback or sedan. Most well equipped Fiestas can be had for under $18,000, offering one of the best bargains on the market.

Honda Civic — All new for 2012, the Honda Civic is one of the higher priced compact cars in its class, but base models can still be had for under $20,000. Rock solid Civic quality brings buyers back year after year and, with an HF model now available, the Civic gets 41 mpg on the highway. Alternatively, consider the subcompact Honda Fit, which is priced thousands of dollars less and competes against the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent.

Other Models

Several other models are worth considering although some aren’t new. The Toyota Corolla is the perennial sales leader and the Nissan Altima is also a strong seller. The Mazda3 competes well with the Ford Focus as does the Mazda2 with the Ford Fiesta. The Volkswagen Golf offers German engineering and value, providing a competitive option for people who want to drive something different. Scion’s line presents a reasonably priced alternative to Toyota.

Lastly, most manufacturers offer a “recent college graduate” rebate on top of whatever other deals they have going. Rebates generally range from $400 to as much as $1,000 on select Scion models. Speak up too — your sales associate may not know that you recently finished college.


SayLending: Auto Loan Tools

Auto Trends Magazine: 2011 Hyundai Elantra Specs & Overview

CNET; 2011 Ford Fiesta Review; Wayne Cunningham; July 28, 2010

AutoWeek; 2012 Ford Focus SE 5-Door, an AW Drivers Log Car Review; May 12, 2011

Car and Driver; 2012 Honda Civic Sedan and Coupe – First Drive Review; Tony
Quiroga; April 2011

The Auto Writer; First Drive: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze; July 31, 2010

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Categories: Campus Cars