You’ve shopped for weeks and you’ve packed for hours. Now, you’re finally ready to load your trunk and pull out of the family driveway toward your next stage in life.
Which set of wheels will accompany you on your rite of passage into the grown-up world?
Yes–you’ve chosen your college, your major, and perhaps your roommate. Now it’s time to choose your car.
There are loads of factors at play when making this decision, though.
First, you’ll need to determine if it makes more sense for you to lease or to purchase a car.
Leasing offers flexibility. It’s the perfect choice for those who aren’t ready to commit to a car for long-term usage. It’s also more practical if you can’t afford to be solely responsible for a car’s maintenance and repairs. Monthly lease payments – even with repair warranties and liability waivers – also tend to be cheaper than payments on a purchased vehicle.
Of course, a lease won’t net you anything of value in the long run. When your lease is up, you’ll be out the thousands of dollars you spent “renting” the car, and have nothing to show for it. Also, if you max out the annual mileage limit, you may end up paying a small fortune in fees.
Purchasing a car, on the other hand, is a commitment that pays off in the long run. If you can afford the down payment, monthly fee, and can foot the bill for any repairs (talk to your credit union about affordable coverage for mechanical breakdowns), it may be the choice for you. Remember, though, that cars depreciate as soon as you take them for their first spin. It’s also hard to predict which vehicle will serve you best a few years down the line.
If you do decide to purchase a vehicle, first determine exactly what you can afford. Don’t take on a monthly payment that’s going to squeeze your budget. Building and maintaining a good credit history is crucial – at every stage in life.
Be sure to do extensive research before signing on a car. As a cash-strapped college student, you need to make the most cost-effective decision possible – but that doesn’t mean buying the cheapest car you can find. Your vehicle should serve its purpose without draining your wallet on fuel costs and repairs.
Carefully screen every car you’re considering for fuel efficiency, safety, warranty inclusion and coverage, and cargo capacity.
To make your search a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the top six cars for the budget-wise college student. Each one is fuel-efficient, offers excellent cargo capacity, and is well-priced. (Cargo capacity listed is with the rear seats folded.)
1.) 2016 Kia Soul
Starting price: $15,900
Cargo capacity: 24.2/61.3 cubic feet
Fuel economy: 27 mpg combined
2.) 2017 Honda Fit
Starting price: $15,990
Cargo capacity: 16.6/52.7 cubic feet
Fuel economy: Up to 36 mpg combined
3.) 2017 Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback
Starting price: $18,455
Cargo capacity: 19/47.7 cubic feet
Fuel economy: 32 mpg combined
4.) 2016 Mazda 3 Hatchback
Starting price: $18,545
Cargo capacity: 20.2/47.1 cubic feet
Fuel economy: 33 mpg combined
5.) 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT
Starting price: $18,800
Cargo capacity: 23/51 cubic feet
Fuel economy: 27 mpg combined
6.) 2017 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback
Starting price: $19,895
Cargo capacity: 22.8/52.7 cubic feet
Fuel economy: 29 mpg combined
Before heading to the dealer’s shop, it’s best to get pre-approved. This way, you’ll know exactly what you can afford, and you’ll be taken more seriously by the dealer. Be sure to drop by Destinations Credit Union for your pre-approval and auto loan! [Our credit union offers low rates on pre-owned vehicles, so call 410-663-2500 or apply online.
Your Turn: Are you a college student with a new set of wheels? We’d love to hear all about your car! Share your pick with us in the comments.