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The 5 best used cars for college students: Edmunds

Shawn M. Carter

Whether they’re a freshman leaving home for the first time or a grad student commuting from class to work, many college students rely on cars as their main mode of transportation.

And considering that nearly 70% of students took out loans in 2018, according to Student Loan Hero, with an average debt of nearly $30,000, most college commuters may be in the market for something affordable.

A used car might be the most practical option. According to Edmunds, “purchasing a vehicle that's about 3 years old will save you perhaps 30% to 40% off the purchase price compared to buying a new version of the same car.”

The site took a look at fuel economy, value, safety and ease of parking, for a number of slightly used vehicles, to find the best used cars for college drivers. The prices listed are the averages paid at a franchised car dealership in the second quarter of 2019.

Here are Edmunds’ picks for top 5 best used cars for college drivers.

2016 Toyota Prius

Best “long-distance commuter”

Average transaction price: $18,909

Fuel economy: 52 to 56 miles-per-gallon in combined city-highway driving

This car has sharp handling, high fuel economy and great comfort, Edmunds says.

2016 Mazda 3

Best “sporty commuter”

Average transaction price: $13,717

Fuel economy: 29 to 33 miles-per-gallon combined

Fuel economy drops compared to the smaller engines, but this is still a fairly frugal choice.

2016 Volkswagen Golf

Best “laundry hauler”

Average transaction price: $14,596

Fuel economy: 29 miles-per-gallon combined

This car’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides both power and fuel. Most Golf models come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, too.

2016 Ford Edge

Best “winter-weather transport”

Average transaction price: $22,500

Fuel economy: 20 to 24 miles-per-gallon combined

The Edge is roomier than many other crossover SUVs, Edmunds noted. “It's perfect for getting you and your friends to a ski resort, but not so bulky that it's difficult to drive or park.”

2016 Acura RDX

Best “all-in-one luxury ride”

Average transaction price: $25,960

Fuel economy: 22 to 23 miles-per-gallon combined

The RDX “combines many qualities of the other vehicles, including performance, a big interior and all-wheel drive.” And per Edmunds, it’s “versatile enough to handle many diverse tasks and upscale enough to look sharp on campus without being ostentatious.”

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