10 Best Cars for College Students

Posted by in Education | Updated on November 9, 2022

If you’ve come to the U.S. to study from abroad, you may be surprised by 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 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 across three categories:

  • Best Small Cars for College Students
  • Best Midsize Cars for College Students
  • Best SUVs for College Students

Read on to learn about the best cars for college students in each category!

Best Cars for College Students Overview

Here are some of the best cars for college students currently available:

  • Best Small Cars for College Students: Hyundai Elantra, Kia Soul, Toyota Prius, Honda Fit
  • Best Midsize Cars for College Students: Nissan Altima, Subaru Outback, Hyundai Sonata
  • Best SUVs for College Students: Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Best Small Cars for College Students

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. Our Top 4 small cars for college students are:

  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Kia Soul
  • Toyota Prius
  • Honda Fit

Each model is discussed in more detail below.

Hyundai Elantra

hyundai elantra

With an MSRP of $20,500 and up to 42 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.

>> Learn more about the Hyundai Elantra

Kia Soul

kia soul

The first thing anyone is going to notice about the Kia Soul is the way it looks—its 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 $19,790, 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.

>> Learn more about the Kia Soul

Toyota Prius

toyota prius

The Toyota Prius is far and away from the most expensive small car on this list, with an MSRP of $25,075. 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 58 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.

>> Learn more about the Toyota Prius

Honda Fit

honda fit 2013

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.

>> Learn more about the Honda Fit

Best Midsize Cars for College Students

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. Our Top 3 mid-sized cars for college students are:

  • Nissan Altima
  • Subaru Outback
  • Hyundai Sonata

Each model is discussed in more detail below.

Nissan Altima

nissan altima

The Nissan Altima is a decent all-around car. With an MSRP of $25,290, it is neither the cheapest nor 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.

>> Learn more about the Nissan Altima

Subaru Outback

subaru outback

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 $28,395, 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.

>> Learn more about the Subaru Outback

Hyundai Sonata

hyundai sonata

The Sonata is both affordable and comfortable. At $24,950 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.

>> Learn more about the Hyundai Sonata

Great SUVs for College Students

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. Our Top 4 SUVs for college students are:

  • Honda Pilot
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Each model is discussed in more detail below.

Honda Pilot

honda pilot

At $31,080 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.

>> Learn more about the Honda Pilot

Hyundai Santa Fe

hyundai santa fe

The Sante Fe is a great, affordable SUV, starting at $28,200 MSRP. It comes with cloth 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

>> Learn more about the Hyundai Santa Fe

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

toyota rav4 hybrid

With an MSRP of $27,575, 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.

>> Learn more about the Toyota Rav4

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