Creating Memories On A Budget: Best 7 Used Cars For College Students in 2021

Creating Memories On A Budget: Best 7 Used Cars For College Students in 2021

As a student, the focus of your budget is education and living expenses. You certainly don’t want your mode of transportation to throw off that delicate balance. When deciding which car is the one for you, you may want to ask yourself if you truly need a car for college in the first place. If you do, your next steps are to search for the best, affordable car and insurance for you as a college student. 

With so much on your to-do list before you go off to college or university, we’ve put together a list of seven of the best cars for students to help you compare different makes and models with a focus on budget, efficiency, and safety.

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Honda Civic

Honda Civic

Popular among car “tuners” for decades, the compact Honda Civic is also first-rate fresh off the production line. Gearheads seek out the small sedan for the same reasons a non-enthusiast would. Civics come in various body types and trims, and parts that aren’t tricky to find. They’re reliable, they’re affordable, and their sporty aesthetic is undeniably cool. However, you don’t need to be fast or furious to drive a Civic.

Even in base models, you can expect to find some driver-assistive tech to help keep you alert, such as forward-collision detection, a rearview camera, and lane-keep assist, among others. Many models hold a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

With a two-liter, four-cylinder engine, the Civic achieves a fuel efficiency of 29 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, making it one of the most fuel-efficient used cars. A new model starts at $21,700, which might seem within your budget. However, you’ll notice as you add features, the price climbs. You’re likely to find more value in a used Civic, with models listed for as little as $6,950. It’s safe to say the Civic, among the other vehicles listed here, meets all criteria of a good used car for students.

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Honda Civic

Popular among car “tuners” for decades, the compact Honda Civic is also first-rate fresh off the production line. Gearheads seek out the small sedan for the same reasons a non-enthusiast would. Civics come in various body types and trims, and parts that aren’t tricky to find. They’re reliable, they’re affordable, and their sporty aesthetic is undeniably cool. However, you don’t need to be fast or furious to drive a Civic.

Even in base models, you can expect to find some driver-assistive tech to help keep you alert, such as forward-collision detection, a rearview camera, and lane-keep assist, among others. Many models hold a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

With a two-liter, four-cylinder engine, the Civic achieves a fuel efficiency of 29 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, making it one of the most fuel-efficient used cars. A new model starts at $21,700, which might seem within your budget. However, you’ll notice as you add features, the price climbs. You’re likely to find more value in a used Civic, with models listed for as little as $6,950. It’s safe to say the Civic, among the other vehicles listed here, meets all criteria of a good used car for students.

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Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek

When it comes to going the distance, the Subaru Crosstrek can handle rougher terrain and nasty weather conditions. All-wheel drive comes standard on every model, as well as a suite of driver-assistive tech, including a pre-collision braking system, lane departure, sway warning, and adaptive cruise control with lane centering. This compact SUV delivers a powerful, confident driving experience, a sporty aesthetic, and a comfortable interior. All Crosstreks rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association earned a five-star safety rating. 

The Crosstrek sports a turbocharged, two-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes for a fuel efficiency of 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. It costs at least $22,245 to get into a new edition, but keep in mind that’s for a base model. You’re likely to find a more loaded model within your budget, with used Crosstreks going for $21,250.

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Subaru Crosstrek

When it comes to going the distance, the Subaru Crosstrek can handle rougher terrain and nasty weather conditions. All-wheel drive comes standard on every model, as well as a suite of driver-assistive tech, including a pre-collision braking system, lane departure, sway warning, and adaptive cruise control with lane centering. This compact SUV delivers a powerful, confident driving experience, a sporty aesthetic, and a comfortable interior. All Crosstreks rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association earned a five-star safety rating. 

The Crosstrek sports a turbocharged, two-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes for a fuel efficiency of 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. It costs at least $22,245 to get into a new edition, but keep in mind that’s for a base model. You’re likely to find a more loaded model within your budget, with used Crosstreks going for $21,250.

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Honda Fit

Honda Fit

The Honda Fit is likely to fit into your lifestyle, thanks to its versatility. This subcompact car holds a surprising amount of cargo in its functional interior, making it suitable for trips home on weekends or holidays or daily use around campus. Drivers can switch between four modes suited for any trip: tall, long, utility, and refresh. Many of the models rated by the NHTSA hold four to five stars.

Powered by a lean 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, the Fit offers a fuel efficiency of 31 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. While Honda discontinued the Fit in 2020, used models are a wise choice for student budgets, with prices as low as $7,200. The closest option to this sleek-looking subcompact is the sporty Honda HR-V, a subcompact SUV.

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Honda Fit

The Honda Fit is likely to fit into your lifestyle, thanks to its versatility. This subcompact car holds a surprising amount of cargo in its functional interior, making it suitable for trips home on weekends or holidays or daily use around campus. Drivers can switch between four modes suited for any trip: tall, long, utility, and refresh. Many of the models rated by the NHTSA hold four to five stars.

Powered by a lean 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, the Fit offers a fuel efficiency of 31 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. While Honda discontinued the Fit in 2020, used models are a wise choice for student budgets, with prices as low as $7,200. The closest option to this sleek-looking subcompact is the sporty Honda HR-V, a subcompact SUV.

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Kia Soul

Kia Soul

This unique-looking subcompact SUV has a utilitarian vibe to it, which is suitable given its practicality. The Kia Soul offers drivers a roomy interior, with ample room for the driver, passengers, and cargo. While the base model doesn’t come with Kia’s suite of driver-assistive tech, you can find it in the following trim level. The NHTSArated Souls hold four to five stars depending on the model.

With a two-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood, you can expect a fuel efficiency of 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. When buying new, you can get a Soul starting at $17,590. At nearly half the price, you can get into a used model for $8,800. It’s one of the best used cars you can get for under $15,000.

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Kia Soul

This unique-looking subcompact SUV has a utilitarian vibe to it, which is suitable given its practicality. The Kia Soul offers drivers a roomy interior, with ample room for the driver, passengers, and cargo. While the base model doesn’t come with Kia’s suite of driver-assistive tech, you can find it in the following trim level. The NHTSArated Souls hold four to five stars depending on the model.

With a two-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood, you can expect a fuel efficiency of 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. When buying new, you can get a Soul starting at $17,590. At nearly half the price, you can get into a used model for $8,800. It’s one of the best used cars you can get for under $15,000.

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Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 is comfortable for long-distance driving yet practical for everyday use. It offers the bold and sophisticated aesthetic of a luxury vehicle with a touch of youthful sportiness. The interior is spacious, and it comes loaded with driver-assist features such as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise control, and collision warning with brake support. CX-5s rated by the NHTSA earned a four to five-star rating. 

The CX-5’s 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine achieves a fuel efficiency of 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. New models of the compact SUV start at $22,245, but you’re bound to find a more loaded model within your budget, with used CX-5s going for $12,950.

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Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 is comfortable for long-distance driving yet practical for everyday use. It offers the bold and sophisticated aesthetic of a luxury vehicle with a touch of youthful sportiness. The interior is spacious, and it comes loaded with driver-assist features such as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise control, and collision warning with brake support. CX-5s rated by the NHTSA earned a four to five-star rating. 

The CX-5’s 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine achieves a fuel efficiency of 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. New models of the compact SUV start at $22,245, but you’re bound to find a more loaded model within your budget, with used CX-5s going for $12,950.

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Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

This compact SUV goes well with any landscape, whether on campus or taking the backroads home. The Toyota RAV4 can handle almost any weather the forecast throws its way. If you live in an area with all types of unpredictable weather, you’re covered. You can also step it up a notch by finding a used RAV4 Trail or RAV4 TRD Off-road if you like to play in the mud during the summer months. However, each model offers perks and a pleasant driving experience. Models rated by the NHTSA since 2012 hold a four to five-star rating.

With a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, drivers of the RAV4 can expect a fuel efficiency of 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. It also features a suite of driver-assist features so you can drive with confidence. With new RAV4s priced at $26,250, even with Toyota offering student car deals, you’ll find one you love for less, with used models listed at $13,400.

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Toyota RAV4

This compact SUV goes well with any landscape, whether on campus or taking the backroads home. The Toyota RAV4 can handle almost any weather the forecast throws its way. If you live in an area with all types of unpredictable weather, you’re covered. You can also step it up a notch by finding a used RAV4 Trail or RAV4 TRD Off-road if you like to play in the mud during the summer months. However, each model offers perks and a pleasant driving experience. Models rated by the NHTSA since 2012 hold a four to five-star rating.

With a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, drivers of the RAV4 can expect a fuel efficiency of 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. It also features a suite of driver-assist features so you can drive with confidence. With new RAV4s priced at $26,250, even with Toyota offering student car deals, you’ll find one you love for less, with used models listed at $13,400.

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Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra is as athletic as it appears. With a two-liter, four-cylinder engine, it can achieve a fuel efficiency of 33 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, making it the most efficient vehicle on our list. This compact car comes loaded with Hyundai’s lineup of safety and driver-assistive tech such as collision avoidance, blind-spot collision avoidance, and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, among others.

While the $19,850 price tag of a new Elantra is seemingly lucrative, for as little as $11,100, you can get into a used model.

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Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra is as athletic as it appears. With a two-liter, four-cylinder engine, it can achieve a fuel efficiency of 33 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, making it the most efficient vehicle on our list. This compact car comes loaded with Hyundai’s lineup of safety and driver-assistive tech such as collision avoidance, blind-spot collision avoidance, and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, among others.

While the $19,850 price tag of a new Elantra is seemingly lucrative, for as little as $11,100, you can get into a used model.

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Best of luck

When talking about used cars, the cheap ones listed for sale by the owner in your local paper may come to mind. However, used cars can be new and exciting too. With Shift, you literally have thousands of options available at your fingertips. They offer fair prices based on algorithms and data, and you won't need to step foot into a dealership – or three – to browse or buy, saving you both money and time. You can also double-check each vehicle's safety rating on the NHTSA website.

If your budget is limited, you can also check out this list of the best used cars for under $10,000. Without a doubt, somewhere out there is a perfect used car that's just as good as new for you. It's just a matter of sitting down, scrolling Shift's inventory, and finding it.

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Author
Shift Editorial Team