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If you’ve come to the U.S. to study from abroad, you may be surprised how necessary a car can be. This is especially true if you are not in a big city. There are lots of ways for international students to buy or lease a car and to get an international student car loan. But which car is right for you? Below we’ve listed our choice of the best new cars for college students.
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At most campuses, parking space is at a premium. The experience of squeezing into an overcrowded lot is one reason students opt for a smaller car. Small cars are cheaper, too, so your car payments won’t empty your bank account. Below we’ve listed four of the best options in this class.
With an MSRP of $16,950 and up to 40 miles per gallon, the Hyundai Elantra is an affordable, compact car. It would be an excellent choice for the college student on a budget, or for someone who just wants a practical vehicle to get around town. At the same time, the Elantra still boasts decent horsepower and cargo space.
The first thing anyone is going to notice about the Kia Soul is the way it looks—it’s unique, box-like design really makes it stand out. Inside, you’ll find it has great storage space for a car its size. Reviewers have also praised the interior tech and comfort of its cabin. With an MSRP of $16,940, the Soul is very affordable. But it does come up a bit short in terms of gas mileage compared to other cars in its class.
The Toyota Prius is far and away the most expensive small car on this list, with an MSRP of $24,685. What do you get for the price? Primarily, the fact that the Prius is a hybrid gas and electric car. Hybrids have incredibly good gas mileage (up to 53 miles per gallon) and are also environmentally friendly. Inside, the Prius is quite spacious. On the other hand, for a car in its price range, reviews of the comfort and quality of the interior are mixed.
The Honda Fit is the most affordable of our choice of cars. It has an MSRP starting at $16,190, as well as excellent fuel economy. It even has a quite spacious interior for a car its size. Of course, with that price, you won’t get everything. Acceleration is a bit slow, and reviewers have also reported that the transmission is quite noisy at highway speeds.
A compact can be great for commuting to school or fitting into a tight parking space. But if you need a little more room—but still want something smaller or with better gas mileage than an SUV—a midsize car might be best for you.
The Nissan Altima is a decent all-around car. With an MSRP of $23,260, it is neither the cheapest or the roomiest of the cars in this section. That said, it does have particularly spacious, comfortable seats, and you can upgrade the base engine to a responsive, 3.5L V6. Looking for something a little more stylish? With the engine upgrade and its sporty, streamlined look, the Altima would be a great choice.
Subaru’s best-selling vehicle, the Outback is a rugged, large midsize sedan. It would be a good fit for students interested in the outdoors, but who want something a little more practical than an SUV. At $26,345, it is a little expensive, but you get a lot of features for the price. And though the new Outbacks have the same sturdy-looking exterior, Subaru has upgraded the interior with an extensive, user-friendly infotainment system and increased safety features.
The Sonata is both affordable and comfortable. At $22,050 it is cheaper than both the Altima and the Outback, with significantly more space than the Altima. It also features add-ons such as heated and ventilated seats, micro-climate (so two parts of the car can have different temperatures) and a heated steering wheel.
An SUV is great for students interested in exploring the outdoors, or those who simply want the ability to drive all their friends around. While they are more expensive and don’t have the gas mileage of other classes, you can still find affordable and fuel-efficient SUVs.
At $31,450 MSRP, the Honda Pilot is the priciest of the SUVs reviewed here. But you get a lot for that price—eight seats, a smooth-as-silk ride and better gas mileage than almost any other SUV other there. The Pilot would be a great choice for students interested in a spacious, quality vehicle with great safety features.
The Sante Fe is a great, affordable SUV, starting at $24,950 MSRP. It comes with cloths seats designed to repel stains and odors, a bevy of smart safety features, and a six-speaker sound system. It also comes with one of the longest warranty coverages of a car in its class. It would be a great car for a student looking to get outdoors. Thinking about starting a family after college? With its extended warranty, you could buy a Sante Fe now, for use as a family car after graduation
With an MSRP of $27,385, the Toyota RAV4 is a solid, affordable SUV that also gets decent gas mileage. But, unlike many SUVs in its price range, it also comes fully equipped with all-wheel drive. The RAV4 would be a great car for a student looking for something affordable, but who also wants to get off the beaten path and go exploring.
As you can see there, are many attractive options for international students looking for a new car. After you’ve chosen a car, you’ll have to decide if you want to buy or lease and arrange for car insurance. Choosing a car is a big decision, but the resources above should get you started.