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Best Cars for College Students in 2021

Best cars for college students

When it comes to the best cars for college students, opinions are like belly buttons: everyone has one. The real problem with creating a collection of such picks is weighing the qualifiers.

That is, measuring requirements like safety options against fuel economy and price against utility. Several considerations should influence a buying decision when shopping for cars for college students, but sometimes they conflict.

We are going to help you tiptoe through this minefield.

Jump ahead to our list of cars for college students

Things to Consider When Buying a Car for College

There are so many variables to weigh in picking any car, let alone one for a college student. The process can be overwhelming. We started with a price ceiling of $25,000. That may seem high, but we wanted to include some new models. You can find several picks among our used cars that cost much less than that ceiling.

Other factors to weigh include car ownership costs, safety, technology, and practicality.

Do You Need a Car in College?

When considering a car for the college-bound, need versus want is the first hurdle. Does this particular college experience require a car? If it doesn’t, a car will simply be another fuel, insurance, and maybe parking expense. It will also be a distraction.

Some colleges don’t allow first-year students to have cars. Many colleges limit parking on campus through permits. A car at college can be a real hassle. If a personal car isn’t necessary for getting to a job or to and from an off-campus residence, it may be more of a want than a need. If so, consider skipping it, at least for the first couple of years.

What Is Unique About Buying a Car for College?

Chances are a young adult heading to college will still be relying on family for at least some degree of financial support. This is not always the case. But more often than not, it is. So, car buying will be somewhat of a balancing act between what your student wants and what the family, maybe already stretched thin by college expenses, can afford. Everyone involved should be ready for some compromise.

When making a pick, remember that this car may also need to continue as the main mode of transportation after college and into the first few years of building a career. Put a little time into thinking about what that may look like in terms of cost of ownership, commuting needs, and lifestyle.

Can I Afford a Car in College?

An affordable payment is a function of a vehicle’s cost. Whether it’s the parents or the student shouldering the monthly payments, those payments need to be kept low. Most carmakers use a captive financing company, such as Ford Credit or Honda Financial Services, that offer financing deals on new and certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles. This is a good place to start.

If you are securing a loan outside of captive financing, all things being equal, you will almost always score a lower monthly payment on a used vehicle than a new one. Credit unions are known to offer lower-percentage-rate car loans. With interest rates going up these days, it’s something to consider.

Check out the Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own tool to compare different car models side by side, taking into account the costs to maintain the vehicle and depreciation.

How Much Will Car Insurance Cost a College Student?

Insurance cost is a key contributor to the total cost of ownership. It’s no secret that some vehicles cost less to insure than others. Auto insurance is highly competitive, and shopping around can save you money.

However, premiums are influenced by several personal factors, such as driving record, annual mileage, place of residence, and so forth. Historically, drivers younger than 25 years of age can expect insurance to be an even greater factor in the total cost of ownership. Involve your insurance costs in your purchase decision.

RELATED STORIES: Average U.S. Car Insurance Costs by State for 2022

Does a Car’s Fuel Economy Matter at College?

Gasoline is one of those monthly costs that can vary wildly from year to year. It all has to do with fluctuations in the price of oil. You should seek out vehicles delivering better fuel economy, especially if you are operating on a tight budget.

Even if you can afford to keep a truck or large car fueled with current pump prices, what if the per-gallon price increases by $1 over the next year or so?

Other than the occasional trip home for a weekend, college students tend to do most of their driving in an urban setting. Although a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) might not be practical for dorm or apartment living, a traditional hybrid (HEV) will certainly save a few trips to the pump. HEVs tend to cost a bit more than gasoline-fueled cars. Therefore, a used HEV may be a better choice.

What Role Does Safety Play in a Car for College?

Safety features and ratings should always be a key qualifier in purchasing a vehicle for anyone, regardless of age or purpose. As you narrow your choices, check out the crash-test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Our picks scored high with most of them. You can see what crash tests entail in our story on the best cars for teens.

There are certain safety features that you don’t want to do without. If you stick with 2013-or-newer models, that’s the first year anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control were all mandated by the government. If a backup camera is important to you, the government mandated them beginning in 2018. However, many cars already had them by then.

The newer the model, the more likely you will find other key safety and driver-assist features like automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring. If you need more information about which trim levels include exactly the safety features you want, go to Kelley Blue Book’s Expert Reviews for new and used vehicles.

What Other Factors Impact a College Car?

Features like four doors, creative storage solutions with places to hide laptops, easy parking manners, and so forth are important, particularly if the vehicle will make the jump from college to first-job transportation.

Technology features are critical on several levels. Voice recognition, for example, allows for vocalizing commands to change the music or temperature level without taking your eyes from the road. But staying connected is of maximum concern for most college-age people.

At the very least, they expect to be able to charge and integrate their devices into a vehicle’s infotainment system. Here again, the newer the model, the more connectivity options will be available.

Car Shopping in Today’s Market

Several factors have conspired to reduce inventories of both new and used cars. The microchip shortage and issues with the supply chain remain two of the primary culprits. Inventories of new and used cars are the lowest in modern history. The results mean stubbornly high prices and limited choices.

Your vehicle-buying dollars may not stretch as far, and you will probably need to make a few compromises on car color and content to secure the type of car you want. If you are shopping for a new car, you may find a better deal among your dealer’s certified pre-owned (CPO) cars or on the used car lot. In other words, stay flexible.

Best New Cars and SUVs for College Students

1. 2022 Toyota Corolla

Starting Price: $20,425 | Rating: 4.4

2022 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is one of several vehicles on this list that’s an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+. It also boasts low cost-to-own figures and historically good reliability. The Corolla’s starting price reflects the entry-level L model. You can step up a trim level to the LE for a measly $450. It offers significantly more standard equipment like automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, and a rear-seat center armrest.

Every Corolla comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0. This is a suite of driver aids that includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane centering, traffic-sign recognition, and high-beam assist.

Moving up to the LE also makes available a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert as part of a $1,150 option package. Connectivity features include Bluetooth, voice recognition, one USB port, Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Wi-Fi capability. The government-estimated combined fuel economy is 33 mpg. See Toyota Corolla models for sale near you

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2. 2022 Honda Civic

Starting Price: $22,550 | Rating: 4.7

2022 Honda Civic

We made the Civic one of our picks for several reasons, not the least of which is that it has been a frequent Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award winner. In addition, the all-new 2022 model retook the throne as our Compact Car Best Buy. The IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick+ and earned a 5-Star rating from NHTSA. It also gets a government-estimated 35 mpg in combined driving.

Every Civic arrives with the Honda Sensing suite of driver aids, including forward-collision warning, auto emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Connectivity technology includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two USB ports, and Bluetooth connectivity. Honda typically doesn’t offer option packages. To gain more content, you must move up the trim-level ladder. And look to the hatchback model for more cargo space. See Honda Civic models for sale near you

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3. 2023 Hyundai Elantra

Starting Price: $20,500 | Rating: 4.6

2021 Hyundai Elantra

Two years ago, Hyundai completely redesigned the Elantra. For the modest price of the entry-level SE, you not only get an estimated 37 mpg combined mileage but Hyundai’s SmartSense suite of safety driver-assist goodies. Included are forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, lane centering, driver-attention warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Other standard features include high-beam assist, an 8-inch touchscreen, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, and two USB ports. These are some of the reasons why it’s a past KBB Compact Car Best Buy.

As of this writing, the government has not crash-tested the 2023 Elantra, but the 2022 model earned a 5-Star rating, and we expect the 2023 to perform well, too. The IIHS has tested the 2022 model and named it a Top Safety Pick. Since there are no changes to this car for 2023, we expect it to perform just as well. See Hyundai Elantra models for sale near you

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4. 2023 Honda HR-V

Starting Price: $23,650 | Rating: 4.7

2023 Honda HR-V

Larger, more powerful, and more refined for 2023, the revamped Honda HR-V is an excellent choice. Highlighted by its large interior, the Honda HR-V delivers a respectable 28 mpg in combined city-highway driving. While neither the government nor the IIHS has announced crash-test results yet, the HR-V is based on the Honda Civic, which earned a 5-Star rating and is a Top Safety Pick+. Because of that, we expect the all-new HR-V to perform very well in safety testing.

The price here is for the entry-level LX trim, which comes standard with the Honda Sensing Suite of driver aids like forward collision warning, auto emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. However, you have to move up to the EX to get the blind-spot monitoring system with cross-traffic monitor.

The base HR-V also comes with a 7-inch touch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB charging ports, and one USB interface port. The LX also comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. See Honda HR-V models for sale near you

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5. 2022 Mazda3

Starting Price: $21,150 | Rating: 4.0

Mazda earned a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS for the Mazda3. It’s also good for a government-estimated 31 mpg in combined city-highway driving. Boasting excellent handling, the Mazda3 can be fitted with all-wheel drive (AWD). Its optional AWD is also why we named this one of our Best Cars for Snow.

Inside, the Mazda3 feels more expensive than it is. Although you must move up to the Select grade to get blind-spot monitoring, the entry-level Mazda3 comes with forward collision warning, emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, and high-beam assist. Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, an 8.8-inch touchscreen, and two USB ports come standard. Look for a Mazda3 hatchback for up to 47 cubic feet of cargo space. See Mazda3 models for sale near you

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6. 2023 Subaru Crosstrek

Starting Price: $23,645 | Rating: 4.2

2023 Subaru Crosstrek in blue.

Subaru’s go-anywhere Crosstrek comes standard with all-wheel drive (AWD). While the Crosstrek comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, spending an extra $1,350 to get the continuously variable transmission (CVT) adds some key safety features. The CVT-equipped Crosstrek also comes with a system where you can choose between optimizing fuel economy or power. When equipped with the CVT, fuel economy is better, too. The combined mileage is 30 mpg, compared to 25 mpg with the manual.

An IIHS Top Safety Pick, the base Crosstrek provides Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology when you opt for the CVT. With the CVT, the Crosstrek also comes with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is optional, or standard on upper trim levels. Connectivity includes one USB port, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, and hands-free phone integration. See Subaru Crosstrek models for sale near you

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7. 2023 Kia Seltos

Starting Price: $22,840 | Rating: 4.8

2023 Kia Seltos in gold, driving.

The Kia Seltos is a surprisingly roomy subcompact SUV. An IIHS Top Safety Pick, every version of the Seltos comes with a full suite of safety features that include forward collision warning with emergency braking, driver attention warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane centering, and high-beam assist. To add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, you must move up to the S grade, adding a mere $50 to the bottom line.

Connectivity features include Bluetooth with voice recognition, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and one USB port. With a second-row seat large enough to accommodate adults, Seltos also provides class-leading cargo space. See Kia Seltos models for sale near you

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8. 2023 Hyundai Kona

Starting Price: $21,990 | Rating: 4.2

The Hyundai Kona is a subcompact SUV that offers tremendous value. Its small size means it’s easy to park on campus, and the rear cargo area is well suited to carry gear. In addition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity come standard. Fuel economy is as good as 35 mpg with the gas engine. (An EV is also available.)

The Kona has been on the market for a few years and has proven reliable. In addition, it’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick. There is plenty of value here, as even the base SE model comes standard with blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic collision warning. See Hyundai Kona models for sale near you

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9. 2022 Nissan Sentra

Starting Price: $19,950 | Rating: 4.1

2021 Nissan Sentra

The Nissan Sentra offers practicality, upscale styling, and a bit of sportiness. This compact car has “zero gravity” seats that are designed to be comfortable on the drive to school or to your job. The Sentra delivers fuel economy as good as 39 mpg on the highway (33 mpg combined), so trips to the gas station won’t be too costly. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all models.

In addition to 10 airbags, even the base grade comes with the full suite of SafetyShield 360 driver aids, including auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic braking, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, and high-beam assist. The 2022 Nissan Sentra is a Top Safety Pick and received a 5-Star NHTSA rating. See Nissan Sentra models for sale near you

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10. 2023 Kia Soul

Starting Price: $19,790 | Rating: 4.4

We like that the roomy Kia Soul has the most affordable base price on this list. But it isn’t only on this list because of price. It also offers impressive value. Forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and driver attention warning all come standard. If you move up to the S trim level (adding $2,500 to the bottom line), you’ll gain lane-departure warning, blind-spot collision avoidance, automatic high beams, and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, all of which are optional on the LX. The Soul was an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2022, and we expect the 2023 model to perform just as well.

Connectivity features in the base model include Bluetooth (no voice recognition), Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and one USB port. Armed with an automatic transmission (CVT), the Soul delivers up to 31 mpg in combined driving. See Kia Soul models for sale near you

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Best Used Cars and SUVs for College Students Under $20,000

11. 2015-2017 Toyota Camry

Price: $14,600-$18,000 | Rating: 4.5-4.6

The IIHS gave these model-year Toyota Camry sedans the nod as a Top Safety Pick+. As for fuel economy, their government-estimated combined mileage was 24-28 mpg, depending on the powertrain. This was by no means class-leading, but respectable.

Standard equipment included Bluetooth connectivity, one USB port, and the Entune infotainment interface with a 6.1-inch touchscreen. For the first time in a Camry, the 2015 edition had a rearview camera as standard. Optional driver aids were blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, and high-beam assist. Another plus: You should be able to find the excellent Camry hybrid in this price range. See Toyota Camry models for sale near you

12. 2016-2017 Honda Accord

Price: $17,200-$19,000 | Rating: 4.6-4.7

2016 Honda Accord

An IIHS Top Safety Pick+, the midsize Honda Accord offers loads of space. This generation of the Accord provided a rearview camera, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. Available driver aids included forward collision warning and lane-departure warning. Bluetooth connectivity is standard in these years as well. Pandora capability and one USB port also made the grade. Look for an Accord EX or higher to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. See Honda Accord models for sale near you

13. 2017-2018 Toyota Corolla

Price: $16,800-$17,800 | Rating 4.2

The Toyota Corolla has consistently offered excellent reliability, low ownership costs, and good fuel economy. This roomy and comfortable sedan is also known for its safety. The 2017 model is a Top Safety Pick+, and the 2018 is a Top Safety Pick. Toyota Safety Sense-P is standard on all Corolla models for these years, which adds automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. See Toyota Corolla models for sale near you

14. 2015-2018 Mazda CX-5

Price: $12,500-$19,600 | Rating: 4.7

The Mazda CX-5 is a compact 5-passenger SUV that offers good looks and a fun driving experience. But what’s most important for college students is that this vehicle offers very good fuel economy — as much as 33 mpg on the highway — has plenty of safety features, and offers impressive reliability.

This range of years covers two different generations of the CX-5. The 2017 and 2018 have the same muscular styling as the current model. These years offer more upscale features and more advanced safety, too. But whichever year of the 2015-2018 Mazda CX-5 fits your price range, you’re getting an IIHS Top Safety Pick+. See Mazda CX-5 models for sale near you

15. 2012-2015 Toyota Prius

Price: $12,000-$17,000 | Rating: 3.9-4.0

2015 Toyota Prius in red.

For the 2012 through 2015 model years, the Toyota Prius boasted combined mileage between 46 and 50 mpg. It scored high in safety tests, and the IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick for 2012 and 2013 and a TSP+ for 2014-2015. Bluetooth connectivity and one USB port came standard. The rearview camera came with the Prius Three from 2012-2014, and standard with the Prius Two in 2014-2015. We highly recommend shopping for a Prius Five with the available Advance Technology Package, which came with lane-keeping assist, a pre-collision system, and adaptive cruise control. Fortunately, 2012-2015 Prius Fives currently range from $14,000-$19,000, which is still comfortably within the $20,000 budget. See Toyota Prius models for sale near you

16. 2014-2016 Toyota RAV4

Price: $15,200-$19,000 | Rating: 3.4-4.6

Posting a government-estimated 25-26 mpg in combined driving, the 2014-2016 model years of the Toyota RAV4 were IIHS Top Safety Picks. Every RAV4 came with a rearview camera. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and high-beam assist were on the options list. Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition and one USB port were standard issue. See Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you

17. 2015-2016 Honda CR-V

Price: $16,000-$18,100 | Rating: 4.8-4.9

In 2015, the Honda CR-V received a major refresh with a more powerful, more fuel-efficient engine, updates to the design, and more convenience features. These years are also IIHS TSP+. Combined mileage was an estimated 29 mpg in front-wheel-drive models.

The 2015 model year introduced the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety features, including collision mitigation braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning. To get those, you’ll have to look for a 2015 or 2016 Touring — but it’s worth it. Besides, you’ll also get a fully loaded, reliable, comfortable SUV. See Honda CR-V models for sale near you

18. 2016-2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Price: $15,600-$19,700 | Rating: 4.4-4.7

In 2016, the Subaru Crosstrek dropped the “XV” from its name and received updated styling. This subcompact SUV has impressive ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive, a combination that’s tailor-made for weekend adventure as well as all-season safety. Adding to the safety quotient is the Crosstrek’s Top Safety Pick+ rating, its available blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, and EyeSight safety tech. Its diminutive size makes it easy to park on campus or in the city. The Crosstrek was all-new for 2018, so seek out this year for standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, more safety features, and more refinement. See Subaru Crosstrek models for sale near you

19. 2016-2018 Mazda3

Price: $14,900-$17,500 | Rating: 4.4-4.5

As is the case with many of this company’s cars and SUVs, the Mazda3 is sporty, stylish, and has an upscale interior. The Mazda3 is available as a sedan or hatchback, with a choice of engines that allow you to choose more efficiency or more power.

The hatchback provides more than 47 cubic feet of cargo space, plenty of room to stow your stuff on moving day. The Mazda3 is a Top Safety Pick+. Higher trim levels come with safety features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. The hatchback has a higher Fair Purchase Price than the sedan, but you should be able to find 2016-2018 hatchbacks for less than $20,000. See Mazda3 models for sale near you

20. 2016-2018 Honda Civic

Price: $15,900-$17,000 | Rating: 4.7-4.8

Historically, Honda has offered its Civic in multiple configurations propelled by assorted powertrains. For 2016-2018, those powertrains delivered 30-36 mpg in combined driving. (That doesn’t include the performance Type R model.) Fulfilling the connectivity needs, these Civic models provided Bluetooth, one USB port, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, even in the entry-level trim. On the standard features list for the top trims and available as an option on most others was Honda Sensing. It included forward collision warning with auto emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. In addition, the Civic was an IIHS Top Safety Pick for these model years. See Honda Civic models for sale near you

21. 2017-2019 Kia Soul

Price: $14,100-$17,600 | Rating: 4.3

The Kia Soul takes the idea of the hatchback and makes it modern and cool. It has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an optional feisty turbocharged engine. The interior has stylish contrast piping and pulsating speaker lights.

The Soul is about more than just looks, however. These model years have shown impressive reliability, and received excellent ratings from the IIHS — the 2018 and 2019 received the top-tier TSP+ safety rating. The Soul is also available with several advanced safety features. This Kia can carry over 60 cubic feet of gear with the rear seats folded down, and there’s even a hidden storage space under the cargo floor. The Soul has fuel economy as good as 30 mpg with the gas engine. (An EV is also available.) See Kia Soul models for sale near you

22. 2015-2019 Honda Fit

Price: $12,700-$19,500 | Rating: 4.6-4.8

Although Honda has discontinued the Fit, it’s still a viable choice for a college car. It doesn’t come as fully loaded as larger, more expensive models, but it’s safe, easy to park, and gets solid fuel economy. It may be a small car, but its Magic Seat interior makes it easy to carry large items like a TV inside with the liftgate closed.

A rearview camera came standard, as did a blind-spot camera on the passenger side for the EX grade. On the technology front, Bluetooth connectivity, streaming capability, and one USB port were standard. In combined driving, the Fit achieved 32-36 mpg. In addition, the Fit was an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Newer models are available with the Honda Sensing suite of safety features, which you should look for when researching a used Fit. See Honda Fit models for sale near you

Best Cars and SUVs for College Students Under $15,000

23. 2012-2014 Toyota Camry

Price: $10,300-$12,000 | Rating: 3.7-3.8

The Toyota Camry received a major overhaul for 2012. Already known for its comfort, high resale value, and excellent reliability, the improvements with this generation improve fuel efficiency and an all-new hybrid system. If you can find a hybrid that fits your budget, you’ll benefit from fuel economy as good as 42 mpg in the city.

There is a connectivity system in this generation called Entune, which has satellite radio compatibility. Bluetooth comes standard. Ten airbags come standard, too, as does the Star Safety System, which includes electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert was optional, so look for a higher trim level to find one equipped with it. These years were all IIHS Top Safety Picks. See Toyota Camry models for sale near you

24. 2007-2014 Honda CR-V

Price: $6,800-$13,800 | Rating: 3.7-4.5

We’ve included a wide range of CR-V model years because the Honda CR-V is a highly recommendable model for college students. Honda totally redesigned the CR-V for 2007. One safety enhancement was the addition of tire pressure monitoring. Side-curtain airbags were also standard. Most connectivity and any driver-aid features are found on the top-end EX-L grade during these model years. Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera, for example, were options for the EX-L. Government-estimated combined mileage was 26 mpg.

The next generation of the CR-V, starting with the 2012 model, adds more convenience features, including a 5-inch color screen in the center stack. It includes an updated all-wheel-drive system and is more fuel-efficient. One of the nicest details of the 2012-2014 CR-V is its easy-folding rear seats. On both sides of the cargo area, there is a pull-type handle. One yank and one side of the 60/40 rear seat collapses nearly flat. And there’s even more cargo space in the 2012-2014 models than before. Both of these generations of the CR-V scored well in crash tests. It earned 4 or 5 stars with government crash tests, and most of these model years earned IIHS Top Safety Pick status. See Honda CR-V models for sale near you

25. 2011-2015 Honda Accord

Price: $8,300-$14,800 | Rating: 3.9-4.7

The 2011 and 2012 Honda Accord didn’t have much in the way of standard connectivity. It came with USB connections, and to get Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio capability, you had to move up to the EX-L. Traction control, anti-lock brakes, and stability control, however, were standard. The government awarded Accord with a 5-Star overall score and the IIHS gave the 2011 and 2012 a Good rating.

And even though the 2011-2012 Accord is an easy-to-recommend car for college students, the 2013-2015 models are even better. It was all-new for 2013, and its safety rating went up to TSP+. Its government-estimated combined mileage numbers are as good as 35 mpg on the highway (33 mpg combined) with the 2013-2015 models. They’re also more spacious, more efficient, and have more safety features such as LaneWatch and adaptive cruise control. See Honda Accord models for sale near you

26. 2011-2014 Toyota Corolla

Price: $9,100-$11,500 | Rating: 3.0-4.3

The Toyota Corolla compact sedan is a great car for college students because of its excellent reputation for reliability, its strong resale value, and its impressive safety features for this era. It has a roomy interior for its size and some connectivity features including a USB port and Bluetooth. These model years are all IIHS Top Safety Picks. See Toyota Corolla models for sale near you

27. 2013-2015 Honda Civic

Price: $9,400-$12,900 | Rating: 4.0-4.6

The Honda Civic has a solid reputation for comfort, safety, and reliability. It offered a great value when it was new, and that continues as a used model. However, as you travel back in model years to score a more affordable vehicle, you will find yourself making compromises. For example, neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto was available in the Honda Civic during these model years, but Bluetooth and Pandora streaming are standard.

While active driver aids like forward collision warning aren’t available, you can find 2014 and 2015 models with the Honda LaneWatch blind-spot camera system, and a rearview camera came standard. For these model years, the Civic scored high in crash tests. The IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick+. In addition, its combined government-estimated mileage was 31-34 mpg. See Honda Civic models for sale near you

28. 2009-2012 Toyota RAV4

Price: $8,800-$10,800 | Rating: 4.4-4.5

Despite its compact size, this generation of the Toyota RAV4 was available with a small third row of seats. This is a feature that can definitely make it easier to carpool to events off-campus. And when that third row is folded down, there’s plenty of space for your gear.

The RAV4 is known for reliability, strong resale value, and safety. This SUV comes with the Star Safety System, which includes traction control, stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, ABS, and brake assist. It also has hill-start assist and downhill assist control. The RAV4 performed well in government and IIHS crash testing. See Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you

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