Low interest rates and pent up demand are two of the biggest factors driving consumers to the car lot right now, which is probably why car sales for June were positive for most car manufacturers. If you're in the market for a new car for yourself, or your college-aged kid, there are plenty of options out there to choose from.
SEE: 5 Tips For Dealing With Car Dealers
Many sub-compact and compact cars make our list of best cars for college students, but don't let those classifications conjure up thoughts of a bare-bones piece of metal with four wheels. Many of these vehicles come with a good amount of standard options and great gas mileage, all for a price that will leave enough left over for student loan payments.
If you've never stepped foot on a Hyundai car lot, you should. Great styling, long warranties and dependable vehicles have won Hyundai a lot of attention. The least expensive of the manufacturer's lineup is the Accent, which was fully redesigned for the 2012 model and offers great styling and a good price.
The 2013 base model (car models run a year ahead) retails for around $14,545, which isn't the cheapest on our list, but it comes with a six speaker sound system, air conditioning, auxiliary and USB ports, and much more. To top it all off, you won't be topping it off very often. The vehicle gets an estimated 30-mpg city and 40-mpg highway.
With the 2013 Fiesta, you can choose from the sedan or sporty hatchback. The MSRP for the sedan starts at roughly $13,995, and you'll have to kick in an extra $1,000 if you want the hatchback version. If your college student is looking for connectivity in the car, which he or she probably is, Ford's SYNC and SYNC APP features allow you to link a smartphone to the car for hands-free calling, incoming texts read out loud, music streaming from the phone and the option of adding turn by turn directions.
You'll either pay extra for the SYNC package or have to upgrade to more than the base model to get the SYNC standard features. All the models get 29-mpg in the city and 39-mpg on the highway, except for the SFE package, which will make it an even 40-mpg on the highway.
SEE: Ways To Save Money At The Pump
If you're looking for some of the best storage capacity for a small car, look no further than the Honda Fit. The Fit only comes as a hatchback and starts at a base price of about $15,325. The engine has slightly less power than some of the other cars on this list, with only 117 horsepower offered in both models, but the Fit comes with a long list of standard features. Air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows and locks, and cruise control all come standard on the base model.
Fuel economy for the Fit isn't as impressive as some other cars in its class, but it's certainly not bad. The manual transmission will get 27-mpg city and 33-mpg highway, with the base model automatic transmission doing a little better at 28-mpg city and 35-mpg highway.
If you're looking for one of the least expensive cars for your college student, then be sure to swing by the Nissan dealership. The sedan version of the Versa starts at just $10,990 and offers air conditioning, traction control, ABS, six airbags and class-leading leg room.
If you're a college student and are looking at the hatchback version, expect to pay about $4,000 more. The hatchback will include a larger and more powerful engine and some extra standard options not found on the base sedan model. The sedan models will bring you 30-mpg city and 38-highway, while the hatchbacks will bring in a maximum of 27-mpg city and 36-mpg highway.
SEE: What Determines Gas Prices?
Starting at $16,800, the 2012 Chevy Cruze is the most expensive on our list, but take into consideration that it won "Best Compact Car for the Money" from U.S. News and World Reports. The Cruze offers an optional turbo-charged engine and an optional 42-mpg eco package, so it's potentially one of the sportiest and most gas sipping as well.
The base model offers air conditioning, power windows, axillary audio input and three free months of SiriusXM Satellite radio. Depending on which model you choose, the fuel economy will vary. The best you'll do is 28-mpg in the city and 42-mpg in the city with the eco package, but even the base model will get you 36-mpg on the highway.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking to buy an inexpensive car for your college student, or yourself, there are many cars available for you to choose from. Other cars not listed here, but that may be worth looking into are the Mazda2, Honda Civic, Toyota Yaris and the Kia Forte. With so many options in compact and sub-compact categories, you're sure to find the right fit if you are a college student.
More From Investopedia