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Best Car for a College Student

ClarkAlumClarkAlum Posts: 182Registered User Junior Member
edited February 2010 in Parents Forum
Our daughter starts school in New England in the fall. As a freshman she will be allowed to have a car on campus. We'd like to buy her a used car, preferably a late model one with relatively low mileage and 4-wheel drive. Our preference would be a sedan, not a coupe or convertible, and definitely not an SUV. Taking price out of the equation, and with a focus on safety, reliability and style, what would people recommend as the best used car for a college student in New England?
Post edited by ClarkAlum on
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Replies to: Best Car for a College Student

  • Flipper519Flipper519 Posts: 812Registered User Member
    Toyota Corolla (with the safe gas pedal), Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord,
  • geeps20geeps20 Posts: 3,250- Senior Member
    4 wheel drive non SUVs really narrows the choices. Subarus would fit your criteria.

    Why are you ruling out SUVs when you stated safety and style as important factors?
  • hudsonvalley51hudsonvalley51 Posts: 2,396Registered User Senior Member
    Well, a 1966 Chevy Corvair worked fine for me. Not that I am recommending it to my daughter. When the time comes I will be looking at a Mazda 3 hatchback. My in-laws have one as their second vehicle and it has performed very well for them, including during the winter. Then again, we live south of Albany outside the Upstate NY snow belts.
  • KinderteacherKinderteacher Posts: 64Registered User Junior Member
    I would echo geeps query, why not an SUV? Much better handling in the snow, sturdier, I'd go with a Honda CRV or, gasp, Toyota Rav4, despite their current issues. Check Consumer Reports for reliability data.
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,580Registered User Senior Member
    The OP is quite right to rule out SUVs for safety (and for fuel economy).
    As a class, the SUV has been one of the stupidest car trends in automotive history.

    Public Citizen | SUVSafety - SUV Safety Hazards

    A more sensible choice, safer and with just as much cargo-carrying capacity, would be a station wagon made by Volvo or Subaru. My own Volvo wagon gets 31 MPG highway, has one of the best safety ratings on the road as well as super comfortable, supportive seats, and is well designed to switch easily from people hauling to cargo hauling. I've had almost 100K in it with little maintenance other than routine fluid changes.

    Wagons are built on unibody car frames, not truck frames, hence are subject to the stricter safety standards of a passenger car. They are quieter, with a smoother ride.

    All Subarus come with 4WD/AWD. Volvos are available with it, but then you sacrifice fuel economy. Unfortunately, to satisfy American tastes (and since being bought by Ford) even in 2WD the recent models have gone to 6 cylinder engines that don't get such great fuel economy.
  • ClarkAlumClarkAlum Posts: 182Registered User Junior Member
    We are very aware of all of the controversy around safety or lack thereof of SUVs. On the whole, if they are driven properly, they're probably safer than any sedan that weighs 1500+ lbs less. However we do not like the aesthetics of SUVs and we hate the lack of fuel economy. We tend to agree with tk21769's view of SUVs as a class.

    Not sure how my daughter would feel about a wagon. My best friend has driven Volvo wagons for the last 2 decades and loves them.
  • Burb ParentBurb Parent Posts: 2,100Registered User Senior Member
    Look into a used Audi A4 or A3. Audi has a good safety record and has been offering all wheel drive quattro for decades.
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,580Registered User Senior Member
    Other decent wagons are made by VW. The Jetta and the larger Passat are available in diesel models. Diesel engines get much better fuel economy and are more durable than gas engines. VWs have pretty good safety design. For instance ESP (skid control) has been available for years as a relatively low cost option. The diesel Jetta is a fun car to drive, easy to park, and (to my eyes anyway) does not look like a mommy mobile.
  • Syyan4Syyan4 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    For me at least this is a no brainer, A late model VW Jetta TDI. Those jettas get upwards of 30MPG CITY, and have tons of torque which is exactly what you need in the snow. If your daughter can drive a stick i definitely recommend it over the automatic because the stick is way more fun. It may seem that the diesel factor maybe be a bit concerning, however i assure you that diesels run just as well and cleanly as regular gas engines.
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,580Registered User Senior Member
    ^ Yeah, we have one of those. A wagon with manual tranny. It will run not only on regular petro diesel, but also bio-diesel if you can find it. The bio-diesel exhaust smells like pop corn. My son wants to modify it to run on recycled vegetable oil.

    Another approach would be to buy her a big, ugly, used American car. Maybe an old Crown Vic, something she would be ashamed to drive except when absolutely necessary, and then never with a crowd of friends. Good for safety, good for economy, good for her grades.
  • pugmadkatepugmadkate Posts: 5,807Registered User Senior Member
    The Pontiac Vibe comes in AWD, it's inexpensive, has a stellar safety rating and gets great gas milage. Worth checking out, in my opinion.
  • livesinnewjerseylivesinnewjersey Posts: 620Registered User Member
    I used to have Audi A4; they are very fast, (you could be driving 60-70 mph w/out realizing it) I would no want a kid driving it.

    I currently have an Honda CRV-- completely love it. It is a SUV about 18 mpg, outstanding handling and really not that big but big enough. With the snow & hills - I want SUV

    Found it on Vehex.com where it was listed by a used car NJ dealer.
  • mafoolmafool Posts: 6,453Registered User Senior Member
    You state you want AWD. I do not argue, but I wonder why. What kind of driving will she be doing that it will be necessary to drive in very challenging circumstances? Recalling my college years and speaking of my son's, the car sat for long periods of time because of parking issues. And when nasty weather descended, the car was not used.

    I live in West Michigan, where we get our share of snow. Husband has an AWD vehicle, and our thought was that I would use that for my longish commute when the weather got bad. I have used it only once in 2 years, preferring my smaller and more nimble front wheel drive car (which gets much better mileage).

    Just some observations...
  • anxiousmomanxiousmom Posts: 5,307Registered User Senior Member
    I'd vote for NO CAR!!! Save you lots of money in terms of gas, insurance, car cost, maintenance, school parking fees and peace of mind. That's 6,000$ you don't need to spend. JMHO! (We've saved thousands and thousands from not giving our kids cars... we can afford to pay our college costs in part because of decisions like these.)
  • menloparkmommenloparkmom Posts: 8,223Registered User Senior Member
    when we were thinking our son would decide to go to Dartmouth, hubby did a lot of research into cars and read a lot of car forums and said the Suburu wagon would be the best car for NE. inexpensive compared to most 4WD's, & great safety record. We saw a LOT of Suburu's on the road in NE when doing college visits
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